Seumas Milne

Born in 1958, son of the former BBC Director-General, Alasdair Milne, Seumas has been with the Guardian for many years including as Labour Editor and Comment Editor.

Responding to accusations in an article by Benjamin Counsell – in the virulently anti-Israel Electronic Intifada – that the Guardian does not feature supporters of the one-state solution, Milne offered the following proof of the Guardian’s anti-Zionist credentials:

“In fact, from what [Counsell’s] written, it’s hard to believe that he can actually be a regular reader of the Guardian’s comment pages at all. Contrary to what he claims, we have had numerous articles supporting the Palestinian right to return (including by regular columnists) and, far from “censoring” or “closing down debate” over Zionism or the case for a single state solution, we have run a series of pieces on just those subjects.”

Milne added:

“More importantly, in the past three years, we have given more space to a wider range of Palestinian writers to speak for themselves than ever in the Guardian’s history – and than in any other mass circulation paper in the English language I am aware of (even since the Iraq war, when Iraq comment has inevitably dominated). We have also in the past year had pieces from mainstream British Labour figures and others calling for sanctions against Israel, articles by progressive Israelis — including non- and anti-Zionists — articles on the conflict by Islamists, pieces supporting Arafat’s leadership against the chorus of international denunciation and articles defending the Palestinian resistance. Given the constraints we inevitably work under and the pressure of space, I don’t think that’s a bad record. It’s also one which shows Benjamin Counsell’s claim that the Guardian’s comment pages have “closed down debate” to be ridiculous.”

In examining his own record of antizionism, Milne proudly states:

“In my own articles (for example, “Two late for two States?”, 24/1/04, and “Palestine is now part of an arc of Muslim resistance”, 25/3/04), I have explicitly raised the question of whether a two-state solution is still viable. And in relation to debate about the nature of the Israeli state, I have argued: “Those who insist there can be no questioning of the legitimacy of the state in its current form — with discriminatory laws giving a ‘right of return’ to Jews from anywhere in the world, while denying it to Palestinians expelled by force — are scarcely taking a stand against racism, but rather the opposite” (“This slur of anti-semitism is used to defend repression”, 9/5/02).”

Of course, subtle support for the one-state solution and accusing Israel of racism is only the tip of the iceberg.  Milne regularly accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing, is explicit in his support of so-called “Palestinian resistance” and whitewashes atrocities committed by the various Islamist and other rejectionist groups in the name of the Palestinian cause. He also completely downplays the antisemitic nature of Hamas – see for example this exchange with David Hirsh.

In an AJC publication entitled “Antizionism in Great Britain and Beyond: A “Respectable” Anti-Semitism?”, its author, Professor Alvin Rosenfeld, cited Seumas Milne as an example of someone who erroneously believes that he is free from the taint of antisemitism stating:

“Milne, for instance, cautions his colleagues on the left to “aggressively police the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism,” lest they fall prey to the very sins they claim to see and decry in Israel. But then Milne proceeds to accuse Israel of carrying on a decades-old campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against the Palestinians. He further argues that, if one is to “take a stand against racism,” a reversal of Israel’s “historic ethnic cleansing” is a necessity, because it calls into question the “legitimacy of the [Israeli] state in its current form.”57 All of this, no less, from a writer who insists he is alert to the evils of anti-Semitism, yet his condemnations of Israeli “racism” and “ethnic cleansing” bear out precisely Ahlmark’s caution that what begins with unfounded accusations against the Jewish state can, over time, end with calls for its liquidation.”

Like many on the extreme ‘Left’, Milne’s particular distaste of the Jewish state emanates from a Stalinist Weltanschauung that regards the collapse of Communism as a catastrophe which opened the door to US hegemony. When Al Quaeda murdered nearly three thousand people in the US on September 11, 2001, Milne attributed the upsurge in terrorism exclusively to Western policies and the ills of Western societies, including but not limited to support for Israel.

Milne’s diabolic transfer of all the world’s evils onto Israel was further evidenced when – in an article discussing the walkout of some European states from Ahmedinijad’s antisemitic rant during Durban II – Milne perversely argued that the “white-flight walkout” was a racist action since “throughout the Arab, Muslim and wider developing worlds, the idea that Israel is a racist state is largely uncontroversial.”

Of course none of this should come as a surprise since Milne sees a wholly different side to the Holocaust-denying Ahmedinijad as demonstrated by the following:

“That is also reflected in the western media, whose cameras focus so lovingly on Tehran’s gilded youth and for whom Ahmadinejad is nothing but a Holocaust-denying fanatic. The other Ahmadinejad, who is seen to stand up for the country’s independence, expose elite corruption on TV and use Iran’s oil wealth to boost the incomes of the poor majority, is largely invisible abroad.”

In a similar vein Milne is also active in defending the new dictatorships in Latin America, lead by Hugo Chavez who is openly antisemitic having called Jews ‘Christ Killers usurping wealth’ and who is responsible for the pogroms against Jewish centres.

And in true Stalinist manner, Milne has also been prepared to overlook some of the atrocities committed by the USSR during the Stalin regime and conveniently overlooks the fact that both Germany and the USSR invaded Poland in 1939 when he stated:

“the number of victims of Stalin’s terror has been progressively inflated over recent years to the point where, in the wildest guesstimates, a third of the entire Soviet population is assumed to have been killed in the years leading up to the country’s victory over Nazi Germany. The numbers remain a focus of huge academic controversy, partly because most of them are famine deaths which can only be extrapolated from unreliable demographic data…… Nor did the Soviet Union launch the most bloody and destructive war in human history”

In short, Seumas Milne has played a leading – maybe the leading – role in the process of turning the Guardian into an incubator of the new antisemitism and the meeting place of the unholy alliance between the Islamists and radical left. As David T. poignantly observed following Milne’s replacement with Georgina Henry as Comment Editor of the Guardian:

“Milne’s greatest contribution to the Guardian Comment Pages has been to turn it into a soapbox for the RESPECT and Stop the War Coalition projects: a Red-Green-Brown alliance between Stalinists, Trotskyites, and Islamists associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Milne evidently regarded his appointment to Comment Editor as an opportunity to promote the obnoxious politics of this alignment.”

Below is a selection of statements made by Seumas Milne “in his own words”:

“Ariel Sharon’s decision to incinerate a 67-year-old blind quadriplegic cleric outside his local mosque will certainly go down as one of the most spectacularly counter-productive acts of violence in the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Quite apart from the morality of assassinating Sheikh Yassin, it is the Israeli people themselves who will suffer from certain retaliation. Israel has the right to defend itself, President Bush declares, while apparently denying the Palestinians the same luxury. But the killing can have no military value at all. Whatever his authority as the founder and figurehead of Hamas, the idea that Yassin was involved in planning armed attacks is preposterous. When Israel rocketed the apartment block he was visiting last September, the ailing sheikh was reported not to have even realised that an attack had taken place. And regardless of the domestic political calculations of the Israeli government, such attempts to destroy a popular movement by decapitation are doomed to failure.” Palestine is now part of an arc of Muslim resistance Guardian March 25, 2004

“It’s scarcely surprising that Palestinian enthusiasm for the two-state consensus is eroding. The Oslo agreement may have brought the Palestinian leadership home, but it also required them to act as security sub-contractors for Israel in what amounted to a souped-up colony. Now, many Palestinians have begun to wonder whether the kind of state Israel and its US champion are prepared to accept is really in their interests – or whether it will simply amount, as one PLO official puts it, to a re-arrangement of the occupation into a “collection of glorified Indian reservations”. If the “two-state moment has been and gone”, some ask, then why not instead fight for equal rights, South African-style, in the single binational state that has in practice existed in Palestine since 1967?” Too late for two states? Part II Guardian January 24, 2004

“But none of that excuses the smear that left or liberal support for Palestinian rights is somehow connected to resurgent anti-Jewish racism – an absurd slur which is itself being used as an apologia for Israel’s brutal war of subjugation in the occupied territories. All the evidence is that it is the far right, the traditional fount of anti-semitic poison, which has been overwhelmingly responsible for attacks on both Muslim and Jewish targets in Europe. Violence from the Islamist fringe no doubt also poses a threat, but not even in the wildest rantings of Israel’s cheerleaders has it been suggested that any group on the left could have had anything to do with, say, the trashing of the Finsbury Park synagogue. Nor is it hostile media coverage that is fuelling criticism of Israel, but what is actually taking place on the ground in Bethlehem, Nablus and Ramallah.

….

Last week, Dick Armey, the Republican leader in the US House of Representatives and a key Bush ally, called for Israel to annex the occupied territories and expel the Palestinian inhabitants. In other words, he was proposing the ethnic cleansing of the Arab population. His remarks aroused little comment, but coming at a time when 40% of the Israeli public, as well as cabinet ministers, openly support such a “transfer”, it can only be taken as encouragement by the most extreme elements in the Israeli establishment. Ethnic cleansing is not of course a new departure for Israel, whose forces twice organised large-scale expulsions of Palestinians, in 1948 and 1967 – as documented in the records and memoirs of Israeli leaders of the time – to secure a commanding Jewish majority in the territory under its control. But the refugees created in the process remain at the heart of the conflict. It was the tragedy of the Zionist project that Jewish self-determination could only be achieved at another people’s expense.

A two-state settlement is now the only possible way to secure peace in the forseeable future. But for such a settlement to stick there will have to be some reversal of that historic ethnic cleansing. Those who insist there can be no questioning of the legitimacy of the state in its current form – with discriminatory laws giving a “right of return” to Jews from anywhere in the world, while denying it to Palestinians expelled by force – are scarcely taking a stand against racism, but rather the opposite. They are also doing no favours to Israelis. The latest suicide bombings have demonstrated the failure of Sharon’s strategy for dismantling the infrastructure of terror. What is needed instead is a strategy to dismantle the infrastructure of occupation. Not only would that open the way to peace in the Middle East. It could also create the conditions for Muslims and Jews in Europe to realise their common interests.” This slur of anti-semitism is used to defend repression May 9, 2002

“The stories of brutality and destruction filtering out of the Jenin refugee camp have become increasingly ominous. While independent observers have been kept out – along with ambulances and UN blood supplies – the Israeli army has rampaged its way through the hillside shanty town, overwhelming desperate Palestinian resistance. Hundreds are reported killed, including many civilians. As in other West Bank towns and camps, reports of beatings and executions of prisoners abound, and Israel appears to be preparing the ground for evidence of atrocities.” Our friends in Jenin April 11, 2002

“It should be clear enough that no settlement is going to succeed unless it commands broad support or acquiescence on both sides: most obviously from the Palestinians, the victims of dispossession, ethnic cleansing and occupation, many of whom have little to lose. Recognising that basic reality, Britain’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee called on the government at the weekend to end its ban on talking to Hamas – echoing influential voices in the US and Israel itself.” There can be no Middle East settlement without Hamas July 29, 2002

Below is a selection of comments made by Seumas Milne on ‘Comment is Free’ “in his own words”:

“The rhetoric was certainly crude and inflammatory. Britain’s foreign secretary David Miliband called it “hate-filled”. But the truth is that throughout the Arab, Muslim and wider developing worlds, the idea that Israel is a racist state is largely uncontroversial. The day after Ahmadinejad’s appearance, the Palestinian Authority foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, echoed the charge in the conference hall, describing Israeli occupation as “the ugliest face of racism”. It’s really not good enough for Britain’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Peter Gooderham – who led the Ahmadinejad walkout – to say of the charge of Israel’s racism, “we all know it when we see it and it’s not that”. What credibility is there in Geneva’s all-white boycott? April 23, 2009

“Evidence of the scale of Israel‘s war crimes in its January onslaught on Gaza is becoming unanswerable. Clancy Chassay’s three films investigating allegations against Israeli forces in the Gaza strip, released by the Guardian today, include important new accounts of the flagrant breaches of the laws of war that marked the three-week campaign – now estimated to have left at least 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 13 Israelis dead.

The films provide compelling testimony of Israel’s use of Palestinian teenagers as human shields; the targeting of hospitals, clinics and medical workers, including with phosphorus bombs; and attacks on civilians, including women and children – sometimes waving white flags – from hunter-killer drones whose targeting systems are so powerful they can identify the colour of a person’s clothes.

Israel and others also accuse Hamas of war crimes. But while both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have echoed that charge, particularly in relation to the indiscriminate rocketing of towns such as Sderot, an exhaustive investigation by Human Rights Watch has found no evidence, for example, of Hamas using human shields in the clearly defined legal sense of coercion to protect fighters in combat. And as Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights, argued recently, any attempt to view the two sides as “equally responsible” is an absurdity: one is a lightly-armed militia, effectively operating underground in occupied territory – the other the most powerful army in the region, able to pinpoint and pulverise targets with some of the most sophisticated weaponry in the world.” Will Israel be brought to book? March 23, 2009 [This article was debunked here by Melanie Phillips]

“Most of those Palestinians are in fact refugees or the families of refugees from the towns of southern Israel, including Ashkelon and Ashdod, which have been targeted by Hamas – and from which they were ethnically cleansed when Israel was established in 1948.

But the bulk of the western media would have us believe that the cause of this war is Hamas’s firing of mostly home-made rockets into Israel – which no state could tolerate without retaliation. In this myopic fantasy land, there is no 61-year national dispossession, no refugee camps, no occupations, no siege, no multiple Israeli violations of UN security council resolutions and the Geneva conventions, no illegal wall, no routine assassinations, no prisoners and no West Bank.” Israel and the west will pay a price for Gaza’s bloodbath January 8, 2009

“Like any occupied people, the Palestinians have the right to resist, whether they choose to exercise it or not. But there is no right of defence for an illegal occupation – there is an obligation to withdraw comprehensively. During the last seven years, 14 Israelis have been killed by mostly homemade rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, while more than 5,000 Palestinians were killed by Israel with some of the most advanced US-supplied armaments in the world. And while no rockets are fired from the West Bank, 45 Palestinians have died there at Israel’s hands this year alone. The issue is of course not just the vast disparity in weapons and power, but that one side is the occupier, the other the occupied.” Israel’s onslaught on Gaza is a crime that cannot succeed December 30, 2008

“Like any other people, the Palestinians have the right to resist occupation – or to self-defence – whether they choose to exercise it or not. In spite of Israel’s disengagement in 2005, Gaza remains occupied territory, both legally and in reality. It is the world’s largest open-air prison, with land, sea and air access controlled by Israel, which carries out military operations at will. Palestinians may differ about the tactics of resistance, but the dominant view (if not that of Abbas) has long been that without some armed pressure, their negotiating hand will inevitably be weaker. And while it might be objected that the rockets are indiscriminate, that is not an easy argument for Israel to make, given its appalling record of civilian casualties in both the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.” To blame the victims for this killing spree defies both morality and sense March 5, 2008