We wish all of our readers celebrating Hanukkah a very happy holiday!
We wish all of our readers celebrating Hanukkah a very happy holiday!
If you want to see a good example of the Guardian Left’s malign anti-Zionist obsession, and the capacity of some advocates for peace and progress to become nearly deranged when contemplating the Jewish state, look no further than this letter published by the Guardian on Dec. 11th, praising Bradley Manning’s defense of transgender rights.
The question was raised in the context of a Guardian report by Peter Beaumont on the day Abu Ein died which almost entirely focused on Palestinian claims that he died as the result of either a punch, kick or gun butt to the head, or by the impact of a tear gas canister administered by an Israeli soldier.
Sure enough, Peter Beaumont’s Dec. 12th follow-up story on Abu Ein failed to clearly report on the autopsy results.
The Guardian tradition of tendentious, misleading editing in stories involving Israelis and Palestinians is again revealed in a comparison between a Dec. 9th Associated Press (AP) story on an American Christian indicted in Israel on charges of trying to blow up Muslim holy sites, and the Guardian version of that same story.
For every letter published at the Guardian, presumably there are hundreds which, due to space limitations and editorial decisions, don’t get published. Thus, their letters editor must carefully choose a select few based (one would think) the seriousness of the argument, and conversely omit letters which promote or excuse racism, or otherwise fail to abide by their community standards.
Yet, as we have exposed on several occasions, they have sometimes chosen letters from writers with extremist and/or racist views.
Here are a few examples:
Today (June 25th) the Guardian published three letters all taking aim at a recent op-ed published at the Guardian’s blog, ‘Comment is Free’, by Noreena Hertz warning of an upsurge in antisemitism in the EU (Europe must face up to the new antisemites, 21 June), and included one letter by a Londoner named Benedict Birnberg.
Here’s the full text of his letter:
Antisemitism is an age-old phenomenon long preceding the emergence of Israel – with the role of churches playing a part – and Noreena Hertz is right to talk of individual responsibility in combatting it (Europe must face up to the new antisemites, 21 June). But it is odd that she is silent on Israel’s own responsibility in fomenting antisemitism and that she castigates leftists for “kneejerk anti-Zionism”.
Israeli policies have often fanned the flames of antisemitism with their obdurate denial of justice to the Palestinians and, indeed, a large part of the radicalisation of Muslims and “the increasingly violent cadres of Islamic extremists”, which she describes as one of the three prongs of antisemitism, can be attributed to Israeli government policies. It is the kneejerk responses of Israel towards the Palestinians that bear a heavy responsibility for antisemitism today. The Israeli journalist Ari Shavit has recently spoken of Israel sitting on a volcano; it behoves individual Jews, wherever they happen to be, to use their influence to change Israel’s policies.
First, per the final sentence of the letter, Birnberg holds Jews worldwide responsible for the actions of Jews in Israel – a doctrine (“accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group”) codified as antisemitic by the EUMC Working Definition.
Moreover, in blaming the Jewish State for “fomenting” (inciting) antisemitism and the radicalization of violent Islamist extremists, he’s both infantilizing antisemites and Jihadists by denying them moral agency, and, most troubling, implicitly blaming Jewish victims of European antisemitism (most of whom, remember, are Zionists) for the hatred directed at them.
Birnberg’s screed is simply a textbook case of antisemitism, and represents a perfect illustration of the racist impulse to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.”
It’s instructive to wonder if Guardian editors would have published a letter which, say, excused Islamophobia as a rational response to Muslim behavior around the world, or blamed ‘immodestly dressed’ women for inciting men to commit rape.
As the late Norman Geras said in the context of condemning the Guardian’s appalling editorial on the Toulouse Massacre which avoided so much as mentioning the word “antisemitism”, but which reflected the media group’s broader ideological blind spot:
It is “incomprehensible” that “a liberal newspaper, committed to racism’s never being acceptable anywhere, can find the words to name the poison that is rightwing anti-immigrant xenophobia, but not the word for hatred of Jews”.
We look forward to the day when the Guardian Left applies universal standards to their professed opposition to racism in all its forms, and becomes as intolerant towards rationalizations, excuses and alibis for antisemitism as they are towards senseless hatred directed towards all other historically oppressed groups.
Over the past year or so, we’ve been exposing anti-Israel bias, and the legitimization of antisemitism, at UK news sites other than the Guardian – examining coverage at The Independent, Daily Telegraph, The Times, Financial Times and the Economist. So, when interest was expressed by some concerned readers about the Daily Mail (the most popular newspaper in the UK), specifically an article published by Max Hastings examining the role Western policy has played in the extreme violence taking place in the Middle East, we decided to take a look.
Though, in fairness, his conclusion – save one throw-away line about the alleged injurious impact of Israel’s birth – is measured, and admirably avoids the Guardian Left narrative by holding Arabs responsible for their own political dysfunction, in briefly examining Hastings’ past writings we encountered a decidedly ‘Guardianesque’ op-ed on antisemitism published at the Guardian’s blog ‘Comment is Free’ in 2004.
Indeed, his conclusions about the root cause of the rising tide of antisemitism which plagued Europe in the early to mid-2000s overlapped perfectly with an op-ed by the Guardian’s new Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont which we fisked recently at this blog.
Our post last month, titled ‘Why the Guardian’s new Jerusalem correspondent won’t take Palestinian antisemitism seriously‘, highlighted an op-ed he wrote for the Observer (sister site of the Guardian) in 2002 titled ‘The new anti-Semitism?’ which suggested that Israel’s “heavy-handed” response to the al-Aqsa intifada fomented anti-Jewish racism across the continent.
So, it was quite interesting to read Hastings own 2004 Guardian op-ed titled ‘A grotesque choice‘, which included a strap line (“Israel’s repression of the Palestinian people is fueling a resurgence of antisemitism”) that perfectly comports with Beaumont’s view. In addition to arguing that the “Israeli government’s behaviour to the Palestinians breeds a despair that finds its only outlet in terrorism” and accusing some in the Jewish community of cynically using the charge of antisemitism to silence critics of Israeli policy (The Livingstone Formulation), which he blasts as a form of “moral blackmail”, he makes the following argument:
If Israel persists with its current policies, and Jewish lobbies around the world continue to express solidarity with repression of the Palestinians, then genuine anti-semitism is bound to increase.
This chilling line perfectly embodies the moral calculus which has been employed by defenders of antisemitism for ages, one which grotesquely assigns blame for antisemitic attacks not on the perpetrators of such racist violence, but on the behavior of Jews themselves – an insidious example of blaming the victim which overlaps with Ben White’s notorious 2001 CounterPunch essay titled ‘Is it possible to understand the rise in antisemitism?“.
We have only just begun to monitor the Daily Mail’s coverage of the Middle East, but as we do so, we will – consistent with our posts on the Guardian – avoid looking at their reports and op-eds in a vacuum. Instead, as this expose of Hastings’ shameful justification of antisemitism demonstrates, we believe it is far more instructive to contextualize their reports and op-eds by attempting to explain how their often pronounced ideological biases color their coverage of Israel and the Jewish people.
The New York Metropolitan Opera will open their production of ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ on October 20th, an opera based on the 1985 hijacking by Palestinian terrorists of an Italian cruise ship named the Achille Lauro, in which a 69-year-old wheelchair-bound Jewish man named Leon Klinghoffer was shot in the head before being thrown overboard.
Though the opera will be staged as planned, The Met recently cancelled plans for a cinema simulcast of the production, citing fears that it may inadvertently incite antisemitism due to what’s been characterized as its sympathetic view of the terrorists.
On June 18th, the Guardian’s classical music critic expressed his outrage at The Met’s decision in the following article, in which he dismissed “concern in the international Jewish community” about the opera’s propensity to “fan global antisemitism”.
So, we thought it would be helpful to reproduce an open letter written to the New York Metropolitan Opera by Myron Kaplan, a senior research analyst at CAMERA who also happens to be a serious opera fan.
Dear Mr. Gelb,
As a longtime fan of grand opera, I have attended numerous superb live Met performances both at Lincoln Center and via live Saturday matinée performance HD transmissions to theaters (not to mention listening to numerous Met Saturday matinée live radio broadcasts)—and have greatly admired your accomplishments at the Met. So it was with great dismay and disappointment that I learned that the Met had scheduled for the 2014-2015 season its first-ever performances of John Adams’s “The Death of Klinghoffer.” Mediocre music is the least of the work’s problems. Even more serious is a tendentious story line and an inflammatory libretto that falsely maligns Israel and the Jewish people.
This story line can be characterized fairly as “Understandably aggrieved Palestinian Arabs wreak vengeance on disabled Jew standing in for all his perfidious co-religionists.” This is an obscene inversion of the reality that was the Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking and subsequent terrorist murder of passenger Leon Klinghoffer. In this regard, it must be noted that the librettist, Alice Goodman, during the writing of the opera rejected her American Jewish heritage by joining the Anglican Church, the leadership of which is known for its hostility toward Israel. Goodman is now a parish priest in England.
The most troubling aspect of the Met’s scheduling of “The Death of Klinghoffer” is the live HD transmission of this opera, set for November 15, 2014—one of 10 such transmitted opera performances planned for the coming season—to more than 2,000 theaters in 66 countries (including more than 700 U.S. theaters). This would make the live performance immediately available to hundreds of thousands of people (and potentially millions according to the Met), giving wide international distribution to what is, at its heart, an anti-Jewish slander.
I’m aware that it may not be feasible at this juncture to cancel all or any of the eight performances of this opera scheduled during the period of October-November 2014, but in order to minimize the harm, the Met should substitute another opera for the HD transmission.
As alluded to above, the opera is based on the 1985 murder of a helpless 69-year-old American Jewish man, Leon Klinghoffer, confined to a wheelchair—shot in the head while vacationing with his wife on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea. He was murdered by Palestinian Arab hijackers belonging to the Palestine Liberation Front, a component of Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, and his body dumped into the water. The choice of the title, “The Death of Klinghoffer” and not “The Murder of Klinghoffer,” signals the work’s moral evasion and misrepresentation. In a sense, it is consistent with the PLO’s initial comments on the murder, that either Klinghoffer had died of natural causes or his wife pushed him overboard to be able to claim life insurance. The title’s sanitizing of murder is, however, also consistent with the opera’s anti-Jewish tone. Instead of properly characterizing the Palestinian hijackers of the cruise ship as permanent prisoners of their own rage originating from cultural indoctrination, Adams/Goodman impart idealism to them.
The opera opens with these words sung by the Chorus of Exiled Palestinians: “My father’s house was razed—In nineteen forty-eight—When the Israelis passed—Over our street.” Here, Israelis are likened to the avenging Angel of Death in the biblical story of the original Passover, exacting punishment on the ancient Egyptians after Pharaoh, breaking a promise, refused to let the Jewish people leave Egypt. This amounts to an artistically licensed slander, falsely suggesting that the Israelis, besieged by the armies of five Arab countries and Palestinian Arab “irregulars” bent on driving them into the sea, exacted widespread revenge upon Arabs residing in the ancient Jewish homeland.
Hijacker Rambo invokes anti-Semitic canards: “Wherever poor men—Are gathered they can—Find Jews getting fat—You know how to cheat—The simple, exploit—The virgin, pollute—Where you have exploited—Defame those you cheated—And break your own law—With idolatry.” Rambo’s lyrics, with virtually no artistic embellishment, could have been lifted from Nazi publications like Der Sturmer, as even a casual glance at the archives would confirm.
Repeatedly, the Palestinians are portrayed as humane idealists. Hijacker Molqi sings: “We are—Soldiers fighting a war—We are not criminals—And we are not vandals—But men of ideals.”
Hijacker Mamoud appears gentle and grieving as he tells of his mother and brother: “She was killed—With the old men—And children in—Camps at Sabra—And Shatilla— Where Almighty God—In His mercy showed—My decapitated—Brother to me—And in His mercy—Allowed me to close—My brother’s eyes—And wipe his face.”
This tear jerker falsely implies that Israelis, rather than members of the Lebanese Christian Phalange militia, massacred hundreds of Palestinian Arabs on Sept. 16-18, 1982 in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee districts. It gives no hint that the Phalangists acted in retribution for massacres of Christian Lebanese by the PLO and the September 14 assassination of the country’s Christian president-elect, Bashir Gemayel.
Mamoud shows himself to be consumed with seemingly permanent hate and a vision of martyrdom: “The day that I—And my enemy—Sit peacefully—Each putting his case—And working towards peace—That day our hope dies—And I shall die too.” But even this negative portrayal is mitigated by Mamoud’s meditation on the birds in the air— which may encourage the viewer to sympathize with him.
Leon Klinghoffer’s aria expressing his humanity and railing against the terrorists is insufficient to mitigate the harmful impression left by Goodman’s biased libretto and may even be seen as unnecessarily agitating the terrorists: “I came here with—My wife. We both—Have tried to live—Good lives. We give—Gladly, receive—Gratefully, love— And take pleasure—In small things, suffer—And comfort each other—We’re human. We are—The kind of people—You like to kill—Was it your pal—Who shot that little girl—At the airport in Rome?—You would have done the same—There’s so much anger in you—And hate.”
Goodman’s biased libretto condemns Jews and Israelis as a group, while the Arab hijackers, when condemned, are characterized as violent or revengeful individuals without regard to their ethnic/religious group. If Adams/Goodman intended some semblance of balance in this respect then they would have included, as well as anti-Jewish canards, anti-Arab/Muslim charges such as “Muslims want to destroy all infidels—their Koran tells them to do this.” But there is no semblance of this in this opera.
Then there is the matter of the renewed cruelty this Met production, not so much fiction but rather propagandistically manipulated facts, is likely to inflict upon the Klinghoffer family. After the 1991 premieres of the opera, The Telegraph (London) reported that Mr. Klinghoffer’s two daughters, Lisa and Ilsa, attended a New York production of the opera in 1991, which they described as “appalling” and “anti-Semitic.” A New York Times article reported on the antipathy toward Adams/Goodman by Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer: “We are outraged at the exploitation of our parents and the cold-blooded murder of our father as the centerpiece of a production that appears to us to be anti-Semitic.”
If it’s necessary to provide at least one first-time HD transmission of a modern opera composed after 1930, there are two excellent candidates already in the Met’s 2014-2015 schedule: Shastikovich’s ‘Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk” and Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress,” both of which, according to critics, have excellent productions, conductors and singers. The Shastikovich substitution would involve merely a replacement of November 15 on the HD schedule with November 29 currently scheduled as a Saturday matinée performance of this opera. The Stravinsky substitution would involve replacement of November 15 on the HD schedule with May 9, 2015 already scheduled as a Saturday matinée performance of this opera.
Otherwise, classic operas already scheduled at the Met in 2014-2015, but not scheduled for HD broadcast, include “Aida”—currently scheduled for a Met evening performance on the same day, November 15, as the HD transmission. Why not substitute it on that day with the Adams opera? This magnificent Verdi opera is one of the favorites of opera fans worldwide. Certainly it would be a much greater drawing card than the Adams opera in all or nearly all of the countries. Other possibilities include “La Traviata,” “Magic Flute,” and “Barber of Seville.” For “La Traviata,” replace November 15 on the HD schedule with December 27, currently scheduled as a matinee performance of this opera. For “Magic Flute,” replace November 15 on the HD schedule with November 8, currently scheduled as a matinee performance of this opera. For “Barber of Seville,” replace November 15 on the HD schedule with November 22, currently scheduled as a matinee performance of this opera.
Mr. Gelb, I trust that you will reverse an unfortunate decision just as you did in 2012 when, displeased with Opera News reviews of Met productions, you barred the magazine from subsequent reviews. Following an uproar from opera fans, you reversed the brief ban, forthrightly admitting to having made a mistake. Live transmission of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” a slanderous anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli concoction, is much more grave than the contretemps over Opera News. Mr. Gelb, we urge you, for the sake of the Met’s reputation and the constant struggle against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, to at least provide an HD transmission substitution.
UK media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict typically imputes good faith to Palestinians – operating under the premise that most truly want a peaceful resolution with the Jewish State.
However, what if this assumption is misplaced?
How would media coverage of boycotts, lawfare and other forms of Palestinian ‘resistance‘ change if journalists took seriously the possibility that the Palestinians’ end goal was not to live in peace with their neighbors, but, rather, perpetual war, the only desirable end result being the elimination of the Jewish state?
Well, an independent Catholic news site asked that very question (Do Palestinians Want Peace?, June 19), in the context of linking to a Guardian report by their Middle East editor Ian Black about the forced resignation of a Palestinian professor who led a group of his students on a trip to Auschwitz.
Black – as Guardian editors are wont to do – framed the depressing episode, in which a Palestinian professor was vilified for merely attempting to evoke sympathy amongst Palestinians for Jewish victims of Hitler’s genocide, as a story of ‘competing narratives of victimization.
Dajani resigned from his post at Jerusalem’s Al-Quds University this week after failing to win the unequivocal support of his employers in a row which highlighted the darkest taboos of the conflict with Israel and each side’s enduring sense of victimhood.
The visit to the concentration camp was part of a project to study the Holocaust and teach tolerance and empathy. “It is about understanding the other,” Dajani told the Guardian during a conference in the Qatari capital, Doha. “You need to understand the other because reconciliation is the only option we have. And the sooner we do it the better. Empathising with your enemy does not mean you sanction what your enemy is doing to you.”
Organised in conjunction with three other universities, one German and two Israeli, the project also arranged for Israeli students to meet Palestinians living in refugee camps.
Dajani faced abuse, intimidation and death threats over the visit. Al-Quds dissociated itself from the project but defended his right to be involved. It insisted he had not been dismissed and supplied him with bodyguards. But in the end it accepted his resignation.
Implacable in the face of the uproar, he rejected accusations that he intended to promote the Zionist narrative of the conflict rather than respecting the primacy of the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) – the flight, expulsion and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that was the price of Israel’s independence in 1948.
Black then adds his own spin:
Propaganda that conflates antisemitism with opposition to Israel has also played a role. Israel’s foreign minister, Abba Eban, famously talked about the country’s “Auschwitz borders”. Menachem Begin, the prime minister who invaded Lebanon in 1982, described Arafat “cowering in his bunker” in Beirut like Hitler in Berlin.
Indeed, it’s the line about ‘conflating antisemitism with opposition to Israel’ where Black loses the plot and promotes the Guardian narrative – one which suggests that Jews cry antisemitism in the face of ‘mere’ anti-Zionism, or, in its more troubling form, that Jews cry antisemitism with the cynical intent of deflecting criticism of Israeli policies (The Livingstone Formulation).
However, a more holistic understanding of Palestinian attitudes – one which takes into account empirical data on Palestinian attitudes about Jews and Israel – would lead those not swayed by such pronounced ideological biases to contextualize the Palestinians’ “resistance” to Holocaust education in a much different way.
We’re alluding to a recent survey commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League demonstrating that Palestinians have the highest rates of antisemitic attitudes in the world – a survey consistent with polls about antisemitism conducted in previous years by Pew Global .
Here are the highlights from the ADL survey which, let’s remember, did NOT ask any questions about Palestinian attitudes about Israeli policy:
But, perhaps most troubling – even worse than the belief that Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars (an attitude consistent with libels found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion) – is the following:
Of course, on one hand, it likely stands to reason that those who believe that Jews control the world would justify ‘hatred of Jews’ by explaining it as a rational reaction to Jewish villainy. However, there’s a more important point about the 87% of Palestinians who believe that Jews are hated because of the way Jews behave, one which relates to Black’s article about Palestinian rejection of the ‘Holocaust narrative’.
Even the most parve forms of Holocaust education begin with the premise that 6 million murdered Jews were innocent victims of a grotesque manifestation of anti-Jewish racism, and that there is no justification whatsoever for the crimes committed in the name of Nazi ideology.
So, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Palestinians – who believe, per the poll results, that their own acceptance of historic antisemitic canards about Jewish perfidy is justified as a rational response to Jewish behavior – would reject efforts to encourage them to accept a Holocaust ‘narrative’ premised on Jewish innocence.
The manner in which Palestinians relate to the Holocaust has significance for those who wish to understand Israelis’ nuanced views of efforts to achieve a two state solution. Though the overwhelming majority of Israelis accept in principle a two-state solution, most are also skeptical, in light of the persistent problem of Palestinian incitement, terror glorification and antisemitism, that two states will actually result in peace.
Even if a treaty is signed by the two parties, why are we expected to possess confidence that Palestinians will stop inculcating their children with the values of resistance, and truly see the agreement as a final end to all historical claims?
Finally, what, in light of the Palestinian rejection of even the most benign efforts to humanize six million murdered Jews, should provide us with hope that a piece of paper signed by Palestinian leaders will actually result, after seven decades of hostility, in a diminution of Palestinians antipathy towards the Jewish other, and create a society which humanizes – and accepts the existence of – six million living Jews?
Whilst it is perhaps not surprising that UK journalists – those with the luxury of dealing with such matters as amorphous political abstractions – uniformly ignore such questions, those of us who will have to live the real-world consequences of Palestinian sovereignty cannot breezily dismiss this seemingly immutable Palestinian enmity, nor allow ourselves to be seduced by the chimera of peace.
This post is part of a series which re-focuses on the problem of biased moderation at the Guardian’s blog ‘Comment is Free’ (CiF) – particularly, reader comments which are off-topic, ad hominem or antisemitic, and yet not deleted by their team of professional moderators. All of the following comments have been posted under ‘CiF’ op-eds which have nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Guardian commenter with the moniker, ‘NormBlunt‘.
Guardian commenter with the moniker, ferdous87
Guardian commenter with the moniker, ‘monkie‘.
Again, these comments have NOT been deleted by ‘CiF’ moderators.
A few hours ago we published our reply to a June 11th Guardian article which whitewashed the ethnic cleansing of over 800,000 Jews from Arab countries between 1947 and 1972 – consistent with a pattern of such historical revisionism at the London daily which manifested itself again in a June 16th op-ed by Sami Ramadani.
Ramadani made the following claim in a piece titled ‘The sectarian myth of Iraq‘:
[Nobody] has yet produced historical evidence of significant communal fighting between Iraq’s religions, sects, ethnicities or nationalities. Prior to the 2003 US-led occupation, the only incident was the 1941 violent looting of Jewish neighbourhoods – which is still shrouded in mystery as to who planned it. Documents relating to that criminal incident are still kept secret at the Public Records Office by orders of successive British governments. The bombing of synagogues in Baghdad in 1950-51 turned out to be the work of Zionists to frighten Iraq’s Jews – one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world – into emigrating to Israel following their refusal to do so.
There are two claims – one about the 1941 “violent looting” (known as the Farhud), and another about a specific synagogue bombing in Baghdad.
First, regarding the “violent looting of Jewish neighborhoods“, Lyn Julius, an expert on the issue of Arab refugees from Arab countries, provided a brief account of the incident in a recent essay:
The Farhud — a Kurdish word meaning “forced dispossession” — erupted at the peak of World War ll. Over two days of rioting coinciding with the Jewish festival of Shavuot, a frenzied mob, including Arab neighbors and policemen, murdered around 180 Jews in Baghdad and other cities (the exact figure is not known); 242 children were orphaned, scores of women raped, hundreds wounded, 900 homes and 586 Jewish-owned shops were looted. Although some Arabs did heroically defend their Jewish neighbors, stories abound of pregnant women eviscerated, babies mutilated and Jewish hospital patients refused treatment or poisoned. The dead were hurriedly buried in a mass grave.
Though the question Ramadani raises – whether the anti-Jewish riots were “a direct result of incitement and deliberate, organized, German-Nazi propaganda” – is an interesting one (one which Julius addresses in her essay), by focusing on the narrow issue of who ‘incited’ the riots, he deflects from the more pertinent fact: that a “frenzied mob” of Iraqi Muslims perpetrated the atrocity, and they bear most of the moral responsibility.
Regarding the 1951 synagogue bombing:
Evidence revealed in 2006 by Tom Segev (a historian not known for towing the ‘Zionist narrative’) demonstrated that Iraqis from the Muslim Brotherhood threw the deadly bomb – not Zionists, as Ramadani claims.
On January 14, 1951, at about seven in the evening, a bomb – or perhaps it was a hand grenade – was tossed into the open courtyard of the Masuda Shemtov synagogue in Baghdad. The courtyard served as a gathering place for Jews, prior to their departure for the airport, on their way to Israel. At the time of the terror attack, the place was filled with several hundred people. Four of them, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed; about 10 were wounded. The Iraqi authorities blamed two activists from the Zionist underground, and had them executed.
Now, a recent publication is shedding new light on the mystery. The revelations come from Yehuda Tager, an Israeli agent who operated in Baghdad, was exposed and spent about 10 years in prison there. According to Tager, the bombing of the Masuda Shemtov synagogue was not carried out by Israelis, but by members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Further, at Point of No Return (the blog on Jewish Refugees from Arab countries), further refuting claims that Zionist may have been behind the bombing, notes that by March of that year (1951), all but about 6,000 Jews had decided to register to leave Iraq – calling into question why ‘Zionists’ would go to such efforts to spur Aliyah when the overwhelming majority of Iraqi Jews had already decided to do so.
Also, Israeli historian Moshe Gat has argued that it is “highly unlikely the Israelis would have taken such measures to accelerate the Jewish evacuation given that they were already struggling to cope with the existing [mass] immigration”.
Leaving the one bombing aside, the broader fact that Jews in Iraq, once a community of 135,000, fled the country due to antisemitic persecution is undeniable, and the Guardian contributor’s suggestion that Zionist agitation caused their flight is simply a lie.
As Point of No Return has noted about life for Jews prior to the bombing in 1951:
Jews were leaving [Iraq] illegally at a rate of 1,000 a month in 1949. Jews fled because they were being persecuted, because of the execution of the anti-Zionist Jew Shafik Ades in September 1948, because they were sacked from the Civil Service, because they could not enroll in universities and colleges, because they could not travel, because money was being extorted from them, because they were being arbitrarily arrested and unfairly singled out as Zionists.
Here are the major antisemitic events, again, per Point of No Return:
All of these events of course wildly contradict Ramadani’s suggestion that there was no significant ethnic, sectarian or religious inspired violence prior to the Iraq invasion in 2003.
As Elder of Ziyon argued in his own excellent fisking of Ramadani’s op-ed, The Guardian whitewashes historic Iraqi antisemitism, “Comment may be free, but The Guardian has an obligation to fact-check what people write”.
Yiftah Curiel, spokesperson for the Israel Embassy in London, had a letter published at the Guardian on June 18th in response to Ramadani’s op-ed.
“Have you noticed how Arab nationalism can never be held solely responsible for the ethnic cleansing of the Middle East’s minorities”?, asks Point of No Return, a blog about Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
Indeed, as we’ve documented on numerous occasions, the Guardian continually whitewashes the ethnic cleansing of over 800,000 Jews from Arab countries between 1948 and 1972. Here are a few recent examples.
More broadly, argues Point of No Return, blame for the flight of Jews from Arab countries is typically cast on the “bêtes noires of trendy western elites” – colonialism and Zionism.
The most recent example of this politically correct habit of assigning blame for the ethnic cleansing of Jews either on Jews themselves or amorphous abstractions – rather than on antisemitic Arab leaders – can be found in a Guardian review by Christophe de Bellaigue of Justin Marozzi’s book Baghdad.
De Bellaigue writes:
“There were 80,000 Jews in Baghdad before the first world war, and they sat in the Istanbul parliament – halcyon days before the combined effects of British colonisation, Zionism and Arab nationalism ended the Jewish presence for good. When Marozzi arrived in Baghdad in 2004, the community was seven-strong.”
Point of No Return responds:
It is inaccurate to blame British colonialism for the end of the Jewish community. Quite the contrary: the 1920s under British mandate were the real halcyon days for the Jews – a time of great prosperity, when Jews staffed the civil service and provided the backbone to Iraq’s economy. The country’s first finance minister, Sasson Heskel, was a Jew.
Nor is it accurate to blame Zionism. The Jews were largely non-Zionist. Zionism was not the cause of their departure, but it provided a solution to their precarious plight following the savage 1941 Farhud pogrom in which at least 180 Jews were murdered. After 1948, the Jews, even the Communists among them, had somewhere to flee to – the new state of Israel.
Even if Israel had not been established it is plausible that the Jews would have been driven out of Iraq, in the same way as the Assyrians, Chaldeans and Mandeans.
Virulent Arab nationalism must therefore take the lion’s share of the blame for the demise of the Jewish community, as well as the persecution and exclusion of the other non-Muslim minorities.
That wave of nationalism has now been replaced by xenophobic [and violent] Jihadist Islamism.
We are now seeing the catastrophic consequences for Iraq’s ancient Christian heartlands, whose inhabitants are fleeing in droves.
Moreover, yet again, a Guardian contributor has attempted to expunge from the public record an indisputable saga regarding the ethnic cleansing of Jews – hundreds of thousands of innocent victims of Arab malevolence who, decades later, reluctantly assume the role of history’s forgotten refugees.
This post is part of a series which will re-focus on the problem of biased moderation at the Guardian’s blog ‘Comment is Free’ (CiF) – particularly, reader comments which are off-topic, ad hominem or antisemitic, and yet not deleted by their team of professional moderators.
All of the following reader comments have been posted under ‘CiF’ op-eds which have nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
It starts here with a commenter with the moniker ‘StephenStafford‘:
The thread continues with a commenter named Morgenrot.
Again, none of these comments have been deleted by ‘CiF’ moderators.