Toxic mix: The Guardian, British actress Miriam Margolyes and antisemitism

On Oct. 28th the Guardian published an article focusing on British actress Miriam Margolyes and her views on antisemitism and the recent war in Gaza. (Harry Potter star Miriam Margolyes: Israel lets people vent antisemitism)

headlineThe Guardian quotes Margolyes from a recent interview on Radio Times thusly:

Actor Miriam Margolyes has criticised Israel for “allowing people” to vent prejudice against Jews, who she claimed: “I don’t think people like”.

The Harry Potter star, 73, who is Jewish, said there had been a “troubling backlash” against Jews following the recent, 50-day Gaza conflict.

She told the new issue of Radio Times: “I loathe Hamas, but they were democratically elected and Israel’s behaviour is not acceptable. There’s been a troubling backlash.”

The actress said: “I don’t think people like Jews. They never have. English literature, my great love, is full of greasy and treacherous Jews.

“I’m lucky they like me, and one always needs a Jewish accountant. Antisemitism is horrible and can’t be defended, but Israel is stupid for allowing people to vent it.”

While Margolyes predictably blames Israel for causing antisemitism, a brief look at the actress suggests a troubling blind spot about her own contribution to legitimizing such Jew hatred.

In addition to the fact that Margolyes supports the cultural boycott of Israel (and signed a letter, published in the Guardian in 2012, protesting the decision by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London to invite Israel’s National Theatre, Habima to perform The Merchant of Venice), she opposes the continued existence of a Jewish state and has participated in a reading of Seven Jewish Children, a play which vilifies Jews and Judaism.

As Anthony Julius observed:

In this play, Jews confess to lying to their own children and killing Palestinian children. They also confess to something close to a project of genocide. And they freely acknowledge the source of their misanthropy to be Judaism itself.

Additionally, Margolyes has suggested that Israeli treatment of Palestinians in Gaza was sub-human and morally comparable to the Nazi treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.

Margolyes also delivered a recorded speech to an extremist-affiliated anti-Israel rally in London in 2007, a gathering which included a speech by Ismail Haniyeh – political leader of Hamas, the antisemitic movement Margolyes claimed to “loathe”. 

In short, when you evoke Israel-Nazi analogies, participate in a play which vilifies Jews and Judaism and are willing to share a stage with the leader of an extremist movement that explicitly calls for the murder of Jews, you forfeit the assumption of good intentions when condemning the rise of antisemitism.

The chosen blog? Guardian gives a shout out to “pressure group” called CiF Watch

Though the Guardian has implicitly alluded to our presence on one or two occasions, they seem to have an unwritten policy of never explicitly referring to us by name. Indeed, even the most benign references to ‘CiF Watch’ in the comment section of ‘Comment is Free’ (‘CiF’) are still routinely deleted by their moderators, and, in 2012, this writer had his commenting privileges below the line at ‘CiF’ permanently suspended for some still unknown violation of their ‘community standards’. 

So, we were a bit surprised – to put it mildly – when a column written by the Guardian’s readers’ editor Chris Elliott, in the print and online editions of the paper (The many pitfalls when covering Israel/Palestine issues, Oct. 27th) devoted some space to addressing one of our recent complaints concerning a truly reprehensible column in the Guardian by discredited anti-Zionist historian Shlomo Sand titled ‘I wish to resign from being a Jew.

Specifically, we objected to Sand’s use of the term ‘chosen people’ to suggest that Jews treat Palestinians poorly due to a belief in their own racial superiority, and noted that Elliott himself had previously acknowledged (in upholding a CiF Watch complaint in 2011 against an article by Deborah Orr) that such pejorative references to the “chosen people” – widely understood as a Jewish requirement to uphold high standards of moral behavior – are typically used by antisemites as code for ‘Jewish supremacism‘.

Here’s the passage from Sand:

By my everyday life and my basic culture I am an Israeli. I am not especially proud of this, just as I have no reason to take pride in being a man with brown eyes and of average height. I am often even ashamed of Israel, particularly when I witness evidence of its cruel military colonisation, with its weak and defenceless victims who are not part of the “chosen people”.

Elliott’s reply can be found in the highlighted section of his article below (Click Image to Enlarge):

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Guardian contributor suggests Leon Klinghoffer’s murder wasn’t motivated by antisemitism

When it comes to the issue of antisemitism and Israel, ‘diversity’ at the Guardian generally signifies merely giving voice to contributors with differing reasons on why something or someone is not antisemitic, and the precise reason why Israel is of course in the wrong.   

An article published in their music section, titled ‘We took four New Yorkers to the Metropolitan Theater’s production of The Death of Klinghoffer: what was their verdict?‘, aired the views of four contributors, all of whom arrived at the inevitable conclusion: The Death of Klinghoffer is not antisemitic, and doesn’t justify terrorism or humanize terrorists.

Whilst we encourage you to read a review of the opera (based on the 1985 Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking and terrorist murder of a wheelchair bound Jewish passenger named Leon Klinghoffer), by CAMERA Senior Analyst Myron Kaplan, which provides one of the better arguments among those morally offended by the production, a passage in one of the Guardian reviews, by Brooklyn College professor Moustafa Bayoumi, is especially worth noting as it aptly represents the quintessentially Guardian tick of obfuscating antisemitism.  

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Guardian claims Israeli officials dismiss European critics as “Nazi-hugging antisemites”

Do Israeli officials or those closest to Binyamin Netanyahu dismiss European critics of Israel as “Nazi-hugging antisemites”?  

The Guardian makes such a claim in an analysis (MPs’ vote on Palestine state recognition is part of growing international trend, Oct. 13) co-written by their Middle East editor Ian Black and Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont.

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Shlomo Sand’s sickening Guardian article slams both Israel and Judaism.

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By Richard Millett.

There are times when something is so obviously wrong that it shouldn’t even need pointing out. That the Guardian thinks there is no problem promoting someone who wants to “resign” from Judaism shows how little respect its editors have for Judaism.

Last Saturday the Guardian allowed Shlomo Sand, a Tel Aviv university professor, to write a lengthy piece in its pages about how he has had enough of being Jewish (see above).

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Guardian fails to report antisemitic comment by Tory MP

Last night in London, British lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution recommending that the “Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”  

While the most morally obtuse comment during the debate belongs to Sir Richard Ottaway, who said that Israel’s “annexation” [sic] of 950 acres of the West Bank outraged him “more than anything else” in his political life – suggesting that terror attacks by Islamists on Western civilians, mass slaughter and systemic repression of human rights in the Mid-East come are less outrageous than the ‘horror’ of potential Israeli homes on a small stretch of land near the green line – another MP’s comments represented an altogether different level of political pathos.

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“Neo-Nazi” talks at Max Blumenthal’s anti-Israel event in Parliament: Clip Update.

Cross-posted by Richard Millett.

Last week I posted about David Thring, considered a “neo-Nazi”, who spoke at a Max Blumenthal event in the British Parliament about Israel. The event was sponsored by Jeremy Corbyn MP.

Thring’s past behaviour probably needed more of an explanation so here is a clip of some of his past activities. In the beginning is audio of one of the organisers of the event warmly inviting Thring up to the stage to speak.

Pertinent questions that the clip asks is why was a “neo-Nazi” invited by the organisers to speak at an anti-Israel event in Parliament and when will opposition to the Jewish state be seen for what it really is.

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Rev. Stephen Sizer speaks at antisemitic conference in Iran

Cross posted from the blog of The CST

The Rev Stephen Sizer is a Church of England vicar with a long record of anti-Israel activity. In 2012 the Board of Deputies made a formal complaint to the Church of England about allegations that Sizer had used his website to link to antisemitic material from other websites. This complaint was resolved through mediation and a Conciliation Agreement was accepted by both parties, which included Sizer accepting that “on occasions his use of language has caused offence to some and agrees that he should have reflected on his choice of words more carefully.” Sizer also stated:

I care passionately about the safety of the Jewish people and the right of Israel to exist within internationally agreed borders. I have always opposed racism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial as well as Islamophobia and the denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination and will continue to do so.

Sizer’s presence at an antisemitic conference in Iran this week brings into question whether he is honouring the spirit of this Conciliation Agreement in good faith.

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Guardian silent about Labour candidate’s suspension for racist tweets

British Labor Party Parliamentary candidate Vicki Kirby was suspended on Saturday by Party leaders after it emerged that she was responsible for a series of hateful Tweets about Israel.

One tweet read:

“We invented Israel when saving them from Hitler, who now seems to be their teacher.”

Another claimed:

“Hitler might be the “Zionist God”

And, one pledged:

“I will never forget and I will make sure my kids teach their children how evil Israel is!”

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Let’s play: Are you an anti-Semite?

This graphic/flowchart on antisemitism, created by A.B. Landis, is being circulated on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Imgur, and we thought it was definitely worth sharing. (Click graphic below to go to the original image at Imgur, and then click again to enlarge.)

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Jewish, proudly British and increasingly concerned about rising antisemitism

Daniel Finkelstein, associate editor at Times of London, provided an extremely lucid, measured and penetrating look into antisemitism in the UK, in a column published in August.  It’s behind a pay wall, and we thought it was valuable enough to provide excerpts.

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A bit less righteous: The moral fall of Yad Vashem medal winner Henk Zanoli

In August, multiple British media outlets (including The Economist, Independent and The Telegraph) covered the story of a Yad Vashem Righteous Gentile, Henk Zanoli, 91, who returned his award after the IDF – during Operation Protective Edge – bombed the house of his relative (Ismail Ziadah, who married Henk Zanoli’s father’s great niece) who lived in Gaza, killing six.

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Guardian ‘forgets’ to mention Steven Salaita’s most hateful Tweets

Steven Salaita is a former Virginia Tech professor who accepted a tenure-track position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – an appointment which was later withdrawn by the university after a series of Tweets about Israel, Jews and antisemitism came to light.  The Guardian’s report on the row and Salaita’s recent efforts to get his appointment reinstated (Professor fired for Israel criticism urges University of Illinois to reinstate him, Mark Guarino, Sept. 9th) was compromised by serious omissions.

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Matti Friedman discusses ‘An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth’

The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the [Gaza] war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues. – Matti Friedman (former AP correspondent)

On Aug. 26th we published excerpts from a masterful, widely shared article about media bias against Israel (in Tablet Magazine) by former AP correspondent Matt Friedman, titled ‘An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth‘. Recently, Friedman joined Yishai Fleisher for in-studio interview to discuss his article, and shed further light on the question of why the media gets the Arab-Israeli Conflict so consistently wrong.

Top 7 anti-Jewish comments by The Independent’s Mira Bar-Hillel

Mira Bar-Hillel is a journalist for the London Evening Standard and op-ed contributor for The Independent, who’s also been interviewed by both the BBC and Sky News on the topics of Israel, British Jewry, and antisemitism – this despite the fact that Bar-Hillel acknowledged being prejudiced against Jews and has a record of engaging in anti-Jewish racism.

Here is a list of her anti-Jewish claims, which we’ve compiled during the course of frequent posts about her op-eds, media appearances and Tweets:

1. She admitted to being “prejudiced against Jews”. Here are her exact words:

The Jews of today scare me and I find it almost impossible to talk to most of them, including relatives. Any criticism of the policies of Israel – including the disgraceful treatment of Holocaust survivors as well as refugees from murderous regimes – is regarded as treason and/or anti-Semitism. Most papers and journals will not even publish articles on the subject for fear of a Jewish backlash. Goyim (gentiles) are often treated with ill-concealed contempt, yet the Jews are always the victims. Am I prejudiced against Jews? Alas, yes.

2. She complained  (in an op-ed at The Independent) that Jews smear people unfairly with the charge of antisemitism to silence and “gag into submission any critic of Israel”. 

3. She evoked  (in an op-ed at The Independent) the ugly Nazi-Zionism analogy in characterizing Israeli racism and IDF military actions in Gaza. 

4. She accused British Jews (in a series of Tweets) collectively of ‘bombing Gaza’.

5. She argued (during a BBC interview) that British Jews don’t criticize Israeli actions in Gaza out of fear of being “ex-communicated” from the Jewish community.

6. She expressed (in a series of Tweets) her belief that “the message” of Jews controlling America is “entirely true” and “increasingly so”, and that Jewish lobbyists appear to be picking up some of their ideas from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and using them.

7. She complained (in an op-ed at The Independent) that the pro-Israel lobby is multi-tentacled. (Indy editors later removed the words “multi-tentacles”)

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Snapshot of cached version of passage from Bar-Hillel’s op-ed

As we’ve argued previously, it’s truly difficult to understand how a reputable publication like The Independent (which claims to take antisemitism seriously) can continue publishing op-eds by someone with such a well-documented history of advancing explicitly antisemitic tropes.

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Headline from official Independent editorial on Oct. 4, 2013, denying that the paper engages in antisemitism