What is ‘Comment is Free’?
‘Comment is Free’ is the online home of the Guardian and Observer that carries articles designed to engender debate and discussion through a post-moderated comment thread. The Guardian is one of the most influential media outlets in the world and the ‘Comment is Free’ blog is among the most popular blogs on the internet.
The Guardian newspaper is a respectable and mainstream news outlet. How is it possible that there is antisemitism on ‘Comment is Free’?
Despite the fact that the Guardian is a mainstream news outlet, it has allowed ‘Comment is Free’ to become a platform where antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel thrives.
Antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel manifests itself most frequently on the section of ‘Comment is Free’ known as “CiF Middle East”. There Israel is the subject of regular rebuke and moral opprobrium in a manner quite out of proportion to any other country in the Middle East or the world for that matter. The Guardian’s own data confirms their disproportionate coverage of Israel.
The two core problems at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ remain:
- A consistent sanctioning of voices opposed to Israel’s very existence; and
- Silence in the face of undeniable evidence of antisemitism when covering a story or editorializing on a particular issue – what we often refer to as their glaring antisemitic sins of omission.
The Community Security Trust, a British charity established to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community in the UK, in its 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 reports on Antisemitic Discourse in Britain, singled out the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ as a significant purveyor of antisemitism in the mainstream media.
In Antisemistism on Guardian Comment is Free Jonathan Hoffman authored a 57-page report dedicated to exposing examples of antisemitism on ‘Comment is Free’ which was submitted to the UK Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism in 2008 and more recently in 2010 a paper in the MERIA Journal on Anti-Zionist and Antisemitic Discourse in the Guardian’s Comment is Free Website by Hadar Sela was published.
‘Comment is Free’ editors often commission essays by extremists who are not only hostile to Israel, but opposed to the very existence of a Jewish state within any borders. A report in 2011, published by Just Journalism, documented how “The Guardian instinctively promotes the views of those who oppose the very concept of two states for two peoples.”
Among the results of the six month study:
- Three of the Palestinians who contributed op-eds during this period were either members of Hamas or strongly affiliated with it, and have endorsed terrorist attacks.
- Four further Palestinians were secular nationalists who also reject Israel’s legitimacy and endorse policies that would turn it into an Arab majority state.
In short, the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ has become a platform for the expression of antisemitic and anti-Israel hate-speech and the proliferation of such speech in such a widely respected mainstream news outlet lends credence to such extreme views, poisoning the public debate. As Andre Oboler eruditely pointed out in Online Antisemitism 2.0, “[w]hat in the mainstream-media era was clearly viewed as offensive is now so prevalent that it is increasingly gaining acceptability.” As we know all too well from experience, acts of antisemitic violence are always a step or two behind the vilification of the Jews in the print and online media.
How do you determine if something is antisemitic?
We use the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism to determine whether an article, editorial or post on ‘Comment is Free’ is antisemitic.
The EUMC Working Definition is the most widely used definition of antisemitism and has been relied upon by the UK All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism and the US State Department.
Please visit How We Define Antisemitism for more on the Working Definition.
By labelling something antisemitic are you not shutting down debate on what is perhaps a legitimate subject of debate?
Absolutely not. We support vigorous and open debate about Jewish related issues, including issues of controversy, however we object to speech which is in accord with the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism.
In particular, it bears emphasizing that we support open and honest debate about the Israel-Arab conflict including harsh criticism of Israel as long as the criticism of Israel is similar to that leveled against any other nation of the world.
What is CiF Watch’s Mission Statement?
We at CiF Watch hold the Guardian directly responsible for openly facilitating and encouraging such a platform in which antisemitism can thrive.
As one of the most popular mainstream news sources in the world, the Guardian has an elevated responsibility to ensure that it presents a balanced picture of the Israel-Arab conflict in accordance with prevailing journalistic standards. They also should implement a zero-tolerance antisemitism and anti-Israel bigotry from its reports, commentatries and comment threads.
By documenting and exposing antisemitism and anti-Israel bigotry on ‘Comment is Free’, we at CiF Watch are committed to holding the Guardian accountable for its complicity in spreading hate-speech. Specifically, we demand that the Guardian adequately confront and address the problem of antisemitism and anti-Israel bigotry on ‘Comment is Free’ by taking, at the minimum, the following actions:
- employ the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism as the standard for identifying antisemitism and ensure that moderators understand what constitutes antisemitism and in particular that certain criticism of Israel is antisemitic; and
- ensure factually based, historically accurate, and balanced reporting on the Israel-Arab conflict.
Who is CiF Watch?
We are an independently supported project of CAMERA – the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America – run by our Managing Editor, Adam Levick, and Assistant Managing Editor Hadar Sela and a dedicated group of volunteers including the intrepid Richard Millett who contributes on the ground reports from London.
How can we get in contact with you?
If you wish to contact us “offline”, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome your comments and suggestions.
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How can we complain about a misleading, factually inaccurate or antisemitic ‘CiF’ commentary or Guardian report?