Fallout over Michael White’s Jew-baiting Tweet to Times journalist Daniel Finkelstein has reached the Guardian offices in London.
As we reported, here and here, Guardian assistant editor Michael White responded to a completely innocent Tweet by Finkelstein asking why BBC radio hadn’t yet reported a story about Lord Ahmed’s suspension from the Labour Party due to allegations that the life peer blamed his 2008 conviction for dangerous driving on a Jewish conspiracy.
White replied to Finkelstein thusly:
“I agree it’s a stinker and typical of double standards. Pity about the illegal settlements though. Best wishes”
Finkelstein responded by asking White what his Tweet, or the broader issue regarding Lord Ahmed, had to do with Israel.
Indeed, as we noted, Finkelstein is a British Jew and not an Israeli. White’s reflexive reply evokes the antisemitic narrative of holding Jews collectively responsible for the perceived sins of the state of Israel – an association he’s made on at least one other occasion, in a column about Sasha Baron Cohen at the Guardian.
Today, March 17, the Jerusalem Post reported the following:
On Friday, the Guardian told The Jerusalem Post that White’s remarks had been misrepresented and that no offense had been intended.
“[Michael White] sought only, in exchanges with Daniel Finkelstein, to explain why the Times story about Lord Ahmed’s remarks had not been instantly picked up. No offense was intended,” a spokesman for the Guardian News and Media told the Post
The Guardian’s explanation doesn’t make sense. If White was only trying to explain why the Times story about Lord Ahmed’s remarks wasn’t picked up by the BBC, what possible reason would he have for taunting the non-Israeli named Finkelstein about “the illegal settlements” in Israel?
Interestingly it looks like the Guardian is simply parroting White’s own defense on Twitter, where he’s been complaining that his comments have been “doctored” or “corrupted”. Here’s a recent exchange between White and another Tweeter.
Again, here’s a snapshot of the exchange.
White’s defenders, however, must answer two questions:
1. What did Daniel Finkelstein’s Tweet have to do with Israel or Israeli settlements?
2. How was the Guardian journalist’s Tweet doctored, distorted or in any way misrepresented?
In fairness, though, Finkelstein has recently defended White on Twitter, arguing that he is not antisemitic.
However, as we’ve argued previously, the question of whether someone is, by nature, antisemitic is not the point. Antisemitism’ isn’t something you can test for, nor is it some sort of immutable character trait. It is, rather, more aptly described as the willful embrace of narratives which have the effect of vilifying Jews. One need not possess any visceral or emotional antipathy towards Jews as such to, nonetheless, succumb to classic antisemitic tropes.
The EU working definition on antisemitism specifically characterizes as antisemitic holding Jews collectively responsible for the state of Israel as, historically, persecution against Jews has often included the automatic imputation of collective Jewish guilt for the perceived crimes of other Jews anywhere in the world.
Holding British citizens – be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim – responsible for the actions of their co-coreligionists abroad is bigoted and morally indefensible.