‘Comment is Free’ contributor Antony Lerman plays ‘Israel-Nazi’ card

Antony Lerman is a ‘Comment is Free’ contributor. 

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Lerman lectured on ‘The Revival of Jewish Culture in Europe’ at Cambridge University on Feb. 28.  I know this because I saw his Tweet to this effect.

Though Lerman is not a frequent Tweeter he found time today to retweet this lovely 140 character ‘meditation’ by David Sheen.

lerman

Sheen is referring to Israel’s interior minister, Eli Yishai, and is presumably responding to news that Yishai recently confirmed that more than 2,000 migrants in Israel have recently been repatriated back to Sudan.

I had never heard of David Sheen, but this Zionism – Nazism analogy was not a one-off, as you can see by looking at his Tweets for the day.

In fact, he was kind enough to post the following graphic on his Twitter page to help illustrate the ‘comparison’ between Yishai and Adolf Hitler.

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Sheen, a filmmaker, is quite prolific in the social media world, as you can see by the bio on his website.

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Here’s a photo of the “documentarian”:

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While one of his videos was briefly noted in a Guardian live blog on the Nov. war in Gaza, Sheen hasn’t formally contributed to the Guardian or ‘Comment is Free.  However, he has contributed to Mondoweiss and Electronic Intifada, and has worked as a reporter and content editor at Haaretz.com.

Lerman, a far-left British Jew who has used his position at ‘Comment is Free’ to justify antisemitism, penned his most recent essay at CiF, titled The abuse of dissenting Jews is shameful.  In the post, he complained of being ostracized, and smeared by the UK Jewish establishment due ‘merely’ to the fact that he’s an opponent of the Jewish state’s continued existence.  He ended with the following flourish:

That dissenting Jews are still demonised is shameful and undermines Jewish pluralism. But it’s manageable. Because the Jewish diaspora’s support matters so much to Israel’s leaders, the quest for serious, open and civil debate among Jews about what is really best for Israel must continue.

Evidently, Lerman’s expansive understanding of what constitutes “civil debate” about Israel includes not only calling for the state’s dissolution, but likening an Israeli government official to a Nazi.

Matt Seaton’s caricature of courage

The highly criticized cartoon published in The Sunday Times on Holocaust Memorial Day – depicting mangled, tortured Palestinians being buried over with bricks laid by the bloody trowel of a sinister Israeli leader – was defended by  in Haaretz on Jan. 28 as “grossly unfair” but “not antisemitic”.

Here’s the cartoon by Gerald Scarfe that we posted about yesterday, and which The Sunday Times editor has since defended as “typically robust“.

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While much has been written about the cartoon – and the timing of its publication – the Haaretz contributor offers a dissenting view, one which, though I believe to be misguided, is nonetheless clearly thought through, well-informed and serious.

However, one particular word used by a Guardian editor on Twitter to characterize Pfeffer’s defense of Scarfe’s work caught my eye.

Here’s the Tweet by Matt Seaton, the Guardian’s editor of the US edition of ‘Comment is Free’.

Seaton’s Tweet, suggesting that it took ‘courage’ for Pfeffer to defend Scarfe, represents a good illustration of the moral conceit often displayed by such contrarians – those whose opinions about Israel, antisemitism and other issues place them outside the mainstream of Jewish opinion and thus must face some level of opprobrium for their views. 

However, whether we’re discussing Peter Beinart’s advocacy for boycotting Israeli companies across the green line, Ben Murane struggling with the ‘chauvinism’ of Jewish particularism, or even Antony Lerman’s polemical assaults against the very right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, the truth is that such Jews can confidently dissent from mainstream opinion with impunity.

Similarly, the only penalty that the contributor for the leftist Israeli daily will have to face for arguing that Jews, and others, are mistaken in their characterization of the Scarfe cartoon as antisemitic is, of course, dissenting opinions from those who take issue with his view.

Writers who trade in unpopular ideas within the political safety net that liberal, democratic societies provide them shouldn’t be so thin-skinned as to expect that freedom of speech requires freedom from criticism, and so vain as to fancy themselves, or their political fellow travelers, courageous for having to withstand such critiques.

The Guardian offers another CiF columnist the opportunity to fantasize about Israel’s destruction

Ghada Karmi

UK pro-Palestinian activist, and academic, Ghada Karmi has never hidden her rejection of Israel’s right to exist.  

Nor has she been reluctant to advocate what’s called a “one state solution” – the radical reconstitution of the world’s only Jewish state into a majority Muslim state in which Jews would be a minority dependent on the ‘benevolence’ of the non-Jewish majority.

Karmi also believes Israel’s supporters in the U.S. exert a dangerous influence on the American political system.

Karmi, for instance, once referred to pro-Israeli advocates, for instance, as “intellectual terrorists“.

She also wrote the following at CiF about such pro-Israeli activists in the U.S:

“…People [in the U.S.] are hardened or resigned to having their freedom of expression limited by the pro-Israel lobby.”

Also, she wrote:

[Due to pressure from the Jewish lobby] Presidents…will…do anything to support Israel.

In this YouTube clip, she address a crowd on the question of why the U.S. supports Israel, and says:

“The U.S. is not free.  It is constrained by the power of the [Jewish] lobby.”

Not surprisingly, she also has co-operated with the International Solidarity Movement – the group which harbored suicide bombers in Israel.

Yet, in the Guardian’s jaundiced view of what constitutes left-wing and right-wing thought, Karmi is evidently a left-leaning progressive in good standing, and her latest essay represents her 16th entry at ‘Comment is Free’ since 2002.

Her latest post, Sept. 20, represents more of the same, and is titled, ‘Palestinians need a one-state solution‘.

As it often the case with Israel haters, truth is always subservient to the greater narrative, and Karmi’s following claim is a perfect illustration.

“The colonisation process continues unabated, and to date Israel has resisted every call for a settlement based on a two-state solution.” [emphasis added]

The fiction of Israeli intransigence, in contrast to peace-loving Palestinians, represents such an extreme inversion of reality that the following must be noted:

  • In 1967, after defending itself against another war of annihilation, the Israelis voted unanimously to return the vast majority of territories it had captured in exchange for peace. The Arab response was unequivocal: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it”.

Further, Karmi, in her CiF piece, mocks Mahmoud Abbas’ intention to seek statehood (unilaterally or otherwise), and argues for “a reassessment of Palestinian political strategy”, one which “think[s] beyond the two-state solution.”

Karmi writes:

“This situation demands a new Palestinian strategy, a Plan B that converts the Palestinian struggle for two states into one.”

The demand, of course, for the Jewish state’s dissolution – by Karmi, Ben White, Ali Abunimah, Omar Barghouti, Antony Lerman, Moussa Abu Marzouk, or other commentators whose anti-Zionist fantasies are given legitimacy on the pages of the Guardian – will never, ever be accepted by Israelis.

This is not 1937.  The Peel Commission has adjourned.

The end of one-state dreams died when the nascent Jewish state miraculously emerged victorious after the Arabs launched a war of destruction in 1948.

Israeli Jews will never, ever entertain the politically regressive suggestion that they return to the status of a subjugated (or, at best, tolerated) minority, dependent on the benevolence of a historically hostile majority.  

Any attempt to ‘impose’ such a solution will be met by fierce, uncompromising Jewish resistance.

While most Israelis are willing, in the event of a serious peace proposal by the Palestinians, to be extremely flexible, and make painful territorial compromises, our freedom and national sovereignty – which Jews suffered and sacrificed unimaginably over the ages to finally achieve – is simply not negotiable. 

The use of ‘AsAJews’ like Antony Lerman to legitimize ‘one-state solution’ proposals is shameful

“abusive references to ‘Zionism’ … go far beyond direct reference to Israel. An ideology of national self-determination, applicable in one tiny part of the world, has become a universally applied epithet, a fundamental evil responsible for most of the world’s problems…. The ways in which Zionism is referred to are so far-fetched and have such little bearing on the real world that what is needed is a correct meaning and use of the word…. The distortion of Zionism is deliberate and calculated and not just a product of sloppy thinking.” – Antony LermanResearch Report No. 20, “The Abuse of Zionism,” published by the Institute of Jewish Affairs in December 1981.

“the…Community Security Trust reports a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic incidents since the beginning of the Gaza war. This is not a new phenomenon. For some decades, incidents have increased at times of high tension or violence in Israel-Palestine. Jewish leaders and commentators are indignant at the implication that Jews worldwide are responsible for Israel’s actions. Don’t conflate Jews and Israel, they say. But matters are far more complicated. Most Jews support Israel; they feel it’s part of their identity; official Jewish bodies defend Israel when it’s criticised….But we can’t have it both ways. If you’re close to Israel, you can’t just own your connection with the country when all is quiet; you have to own it when what Israel does provokes outrage. The consequence of this is recognising that by provoking outrage, which is then used to target Jews, Israel bears responsibility for that anti-Jewish hostility.” Antony Lerman, ‘Must Jews always see themselves as victims‘, Independent, March 2009.

How Antony Lerman was transformed from an outspoken critic of those who demonize Israel to a proponent of the hideous logic that Israel is responsible for antisemitism is a vexing question.

While a conclusive answer would be difficult to ascertain, it is clear that his comment in 2009 was not a one-off.

In September 2008 Lerman attacked the widely accepted Fundamental Rights Agency Working Definition of Antisemitism (accepted by the US State Department and the UK Parliamentary Committee on Antisemitism). He wrote that the working definition “puts out of bounds the perfectly legitimate discussion of whether increased anti-Semitism is a result of Israel’s actions.”

In 2006 Lerman attacked the Board of Deputies (The representative organisation of British Jewry) for lodging a complaint against then London Mayor Ken Livingstone for telling a Jewish reporter that he could have been a guard in a concentration camp.

On June 25th, 2010 – on the pages of CiF - Lerman accused Israeli leaders of “taking Jews back to the perceived ghetto mentality of diaspora Jews that Zionism was meant to eradicate.”

So Lerman’s recent return to ‘Comment is Free’, after a two-year absence, represented a  reprise of his Guardian role ‘AsAJew’ to decry the “abuse” which “dissident Jews” like himself are subjected to by the Jewish establishment, (Abuse of dissenting Jews is shameful, August 20th).

Lerman begins by arguing that “[Israeli] governments have taken support [for Israel by diaspora Jews] for granted for decades” and then explains why many, like himself, feel disconnected from the Jewish state:

“[Israelis] should stop accusing [diaspora Jews] of disloyalty, succumbing to “Jewish self-hatred”, and being “fellow travelers” of antisemites…[those] Jewish critics with radical ideas for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…

Of course, the radical idea he’s referring to – and for which he has advocated before - is what is known as a ‘one-state solution’: the end of the world’s only Jewish state.

Jews who oppose Israel’s existence as a Jewish state within any borders are, per Lerman, “subjected to a process of vilification, demonisation and marginalisation.” Lerman then argues that “The Jewish establishment in the UK…is highly experienced at such [exclusion].”

While Lerman does concede that, of late,  opportunities for expressing dissent appear to have grown, he nonetheless warns:

“… right-wing Zionists staged a media-savvy fightback, using the usual accusations of disloyalty and “giving succour to our enemies”, especially targeting liberal Zionist Jewish critics.”

Who are these “right-wing Zionists” with their media-savvy silencing tactics?  Lerman explains:

“The latest charge is ‘Jew-washing, Jews using their Jewishness to give token cover for [boycotting Israel] and even antisemitism” – a calumny, itself redolent of antisemitism, promoted by the Israel-based, rightwing NGO Monitor. Spearheading this crusade is an assortment of columnists, bloggers and thinktankers of an aggressive and apocalyptic mindset who smear their targets to the edge of actionable defamation.” [emphasis added]

It is not at all surprising that Lerman would decry the term ‘Jew-washing’ because the term – referring to the cynical use of token Jews to legitimize antisemitism and the demonization of Israel – is exactly what the Guardian does by using commentators like him to impute liberalism to such inherently illiberal views.

Lerman not only seeks the end of Jewish national sovereignty, but feels entitled to do so without any corresponding critical scrutiny or public opprobrium.  He not only believes that the first sovereign Jewish state in 2000 years needs to be radically reconstituted into an Arab/Muslim state – with Jews, once again, the minority at the mercy of a hostile majority - but wants respect from Zionist Jews and even the very Israelis whose state he believes is illegitimate. 

Lerman ends thus:

“…the tectonic plates of Jewish diaspora awareness of Israel’s self-destructive path are definitely shifting…the Jewish diaspora’s…quest for serious, open and civil debate among Jews about what is really best for Israel must continue.”

Indeed, in an essay at Ha’aretz in 2008, Lerman bizarrely suggests that “advocacy of a one-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict” is not “prima facie anti-Zionist”.

This argument is not only morally obscene, but also fundamentally illogical.

A one-state solution is, by definition, anti-Zionist, as Zionism merely refers to support for the existence of a Jewish state.

As Gerald Steinberg and Yitzhak Santis argued in their essay on ‘Jew-washing’:

“While the term “Jew-washing” is an ugly expression, the practice is not only much uglier, but extremely dangerous to real Jewish lives.”

Those arguing for a one-state solution are legitimizing the logic of ethnic cleansing. They are saying, in effect, that the Arabs were right in emphatically opposing Israel’s existence, and that Jews were wrong to demand sovereignty in their ancient homeland.  

Lerman’s logic suggests that the Arabs (both state and non-state actors) who sought Israel’s destruction in 1948, and in subsequent wars throughout the Jewish state’s first 64 years, were justified and that Jews who have insisted on arduously protecting political freedom, based on legal and moral right, as well as a keen understanding of Jewish history, have been on the wrong side of history.

While Lerman has the right to advocate policies which, by definition, endanger six million Jews – only with breathtaking hubris can he believe that he can do so while enjoying moral impunity.

The appalling moral blind spot of the Guardian’s Michael Tomasky

One of the defining characteristics of the hard/Guardian-style Left is their moral vanity, as well as an unwillingness to engage in the same level of self-reflection that they’re often demanding of others.

By moral vanity I’m referring the desire to not just pursue justice in the world, but be seen as pursuing justice in the world – as influenced by the desire to maintain the mantle of righteousness as they are by the wish to engage in the just act itself.

The second dynamic – the absence of self-reflection – allows those who have become accustomed to believing that they possess this political advantage from engaging in serious thought about their own moral imperfections or blind spots.

Thusly, many who see themselves – and those they view as their political allies – as upholding progressive values of anti-racism, have become so accustomed to the social benefits this halo effect affords them that they don’t respond well when their moral edifice is challenged.

These dynamics seem quite evident in Michael Tomasky’s post regarding revelations that Nir Rosen found humor in the brutal sexual assault of CBS News Reporter Lara Logan. (CiF, Feb. 17)

While Tomasky correctly points out that another commentator, Debbie Schlussel, also engaged in horribly insensitive remarks about Logan’s horrific ordeal, its in his gross mischaracterization of Rosen’s political views – describing them as merely “controversial” – where the intellectual tick described above is most glaring.

Indeed, Tomasky’s blog posts at the Guardian often show him quite uncomfortable with the notion that those on the political far-left can be as hateful and intolerant as those on the far-right.  He, like many on his end of the political spectrum, seem desperate to hold on to the illusion that progressive thought is inherently resistant to the hatred and bigotry they are so fond of exposing on the right.  Thus, Rosen’s long and well-documented flirtations with political extremism, and rank bigotry, can be whitewashed as merely “controversial”.

Indeed, looking at Rosen’s Tweets, and commentary, suggests the fundamental truth of the axiom that left-wing and right-wing hate are merely flip sides of the same coin.

As we noted in our post yesterday, Rosen’s political leanings demonstrate a palpable animosity towards progressive democracies (like the United States and Israel) and, inversely, an appalling empathy for reactionary terrorist movements.

Just a few of Rosen’s comments along this vein should have long disqualified him as a “progressive” in good standing.  (You can find his Tweets here.)

He Tweeted, on the anniversary of 9/11, that:

“[It's] hard to disagree with much of the Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan [Taliban] Statement Regarding The Anniversary Of The 9/11 Event.”

He then linked back to the Taliban statement.

Many of his Tweets are given over to expressions of hatred of Israel, and the desire for its destruction. One, which we posted yesterday, refers to Israel’s very existence as a “blight upon the nations”, and in another Tweet he hoped for Israel’s “speedy demise”.

He also openly advocates for violence against Israel, Tweeting:

“Yes to a 3rd Intifada. This time hopefully with the support of the Palestinians citizens of ‘Israel.”

And, there was this Tweet, from December 3rd, 2010:

“On Hannuka, Just think, if only the Greeks had been better at counterinsurgency we wouldn’t have these problems today. Where was Petraeus?”.

As Jeffrey Goldberg noted, “Hanukkah marks the defeat of a Syrian-Greek empire by a Jewish insurgency. If the Greeks had won, the Jews would have been slaughtered.”

In an essay he wrote in 2002, for the radical site Dissident Voice, he said the following:

“I find myself in the unique and painful position of calling for international sanctions against Israel and wondering if a punitive bombing of Tel Aviv, the city I love, until it complies with international law, might be a good (albeit quixotic) idea.”

I don’t know how much clearer the case needs to be.  Those who express sympathy towards Hezbollah and the Taliban and openly wish for the destruction of Israel – even if they’re self-styled “progressives” - aren’t merely “controversial”.

They’re vile racists.

What about that doesn’t Michael Tomasky understand?

(Update: Here are some snapshots of Rosen’s Tweets and Facebook comments quoted above)

 


The Guardian and America’s “slavish subservience” to Israel

This is cross posted from the blog of the CST.

The myth of Jewish power dominates antisemitism.

The myth finds its strongest mainstream resonance in grotesquely overblown claims about Zionists, or Israel, controlling America.

For example, the Guardian Comment is Free website saw fit to run an article on 29 December 2010 that stated America has

slavish subservience to Israel

Indeed, the article was sub-headed (presumably by Comment is Free staff, taking this as the salient part of the article)

Nations covering 80-90% of the world’s population recognise Palestine as a state. The US, subservient to Israel, stands out

The purpose of American enslavement to Israel?

Israeli-American global domination.

The shape of things to come?

One might hope that the United States could still pull back from the abyss and recover its own independence, but all signs are pointing in the opposite direction. It is a sad ending for a once admirable country.

I emailed the Guardian Readers Editor on 30 December to ask how they could publish such garbage about Israel controlling America. My email said

Can you please explain to me how this notion that the USA is subservient / slavishly subservient to Israel is any different in its rationale to the old antisemitic myth about Jews running the world through domination of politicians, finance and media?

I do not mean this as a joke, although it does read like a sick joke when it appears upon the website of a publication such as yours.

I received an automated reply, saying that the Readers Editor would return to work on 4 January 2011. I have received no further response. Instead, the original article and its sub-header remain under the Guardian banner.

Antisemitism reveals the mythical Jew of the antisemitic imagination, not actual Jews. Yes, you can point at real Jews to try and defend your claims, but that doesn’t prove a conspiracy theory. For example, Jewish Communists didn’t make Communism a Jewish conspiracy any more than Jewish bankers made capitalism a Jewish conspiracy. Today, the USA is the country (barring Israel) with the highest numbers of politically and economically active Jews; and today, the USA is the primary target for the acceptable modern variations of the old, nasty, Jewish conspiracy theory.

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The Guardian’s anti-Israel Jews, and a letter to my teenage nephew

CiF’s Jewish Israel defamers

When joining the team here at CiF Watch, and attempting to understand why Jewish writers for the Guardian are often among the most vociferous in expressing their contempt for Israel, and so willing to demonize the state’s Jewish supporters, I had to get up to speed on the termTheobald Jew.”

I soon learned that:

According to the Benedictine monk Thomas of Monmouth in his The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich (1173), it was an apostate Jew, a certain Theobald, who, swore that Jews had killed twelve-year old William, a tanner’s apprentice, to fulfill their “Passover blood ritual” in the fateful year of 1144—the first recorded such episode in a long line of murderous defamations.

The CiF contributors I refer to include Naomi KleinNeve Gordon, Richard SilversteinAntony LermanSeth FreedmanTony Greenstein, among others.  These Jewish writers don’t merely critique Israeli policy, but routinely engage in hyperbole, vitriol, and gross distortions.  Their rhetoric is often spewed with hate towards the Jewish state, all but ignoring the behavior of her enemies - the terrorist and reactionary movements who openly seek her annihilation.  Such commentators often infer that the democratic Jewish state (the most progressive nation, by far, in the region) is almost always in the wrong, is usually motivated by a hideous malevolence, and represents a national  movement which they, as Jews, are ashamed to be associated with.

Freedman, for instance, has suggested that Israel is a theocracy – one which is on moral par with Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. Gordon has on several occasions accused Israel of ethnic cleansing - once advancing such an ugly calumny in the radical anti-Zionist magazine, Counterpunch.  Tony Greenstein has ardently defended the ugly comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany, typically advanced by extremists. Richard Silverstein has called the behavior of Israelis serving in the IDFsubhuman“, and has defended Hamas from “charges” that they are an extremist movement. Naomi Klein actually accused Israel of being so cruel and sadistic as to “bury children alive in their homes.”

While, for the Guardian, employing the services of Theobald Jews serves to inoculate them from charges of anti-Semitism, such Jewish writers, in return, receive the progressive and universalist credentials they so eagerly seek.

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Katharine Viner nails her colors to the mast (head)

This is a guest post by AKUS (Update below)

In April, Israeli Nurse wrote of the impending changes at the Guardian, following the departure of Georgina Henry to the “Culture” section of the Guardian, which apparently was in need of extra clicks that can only be ensured by posting the anti-Israeli, pro-Palestinian articles that are so successful in bringing out the Israel-bashers on CiF’s Middle East section.

Although Georgina Henry was a hard act to follow for sheer malice and double-talk, the Guardian appears to have scored a home-run with the idea of bringing in  a feminist Jewish editor to replace Georgina – Katharina Viner (see also ‘She never hated men’ – “But the death at the age of 58 of ‘the most maligned feminist on the planet’ has deprived feminism of its last truly challenging voice, says Katharine Viner”).

We now have a female as-a-Jew leading the charge for endless articles intended to delegitimize and denigrate Israel. Viner sees herself as the torchbearer for Rachel Corrie, the American inadvertently killed  as she tried to protect an arms-smuggling tunnel with her body in Gaza.

Viner has quickly equipped herself with a stable of equally biased, fringe female Jewish contributors. There is the deplorably uninformed Mizrachi Shabi. Viner introduced us to new face on the block (see the parrot on Viner’s shoulder), Florida native Guarnieri,(“a Tel Aviv  based journalist”), an ultra-leftist new arrival in Israel thoroughly disgraced in her CiF debut by chortling CiFers when she revealed a total lack of understanding of the issue of global foreign worker regulations – and Israel’s adherence to widely accepted policies. A  US native, and now, apparently, Israeli immigrant taking advantage of the right-of-return to condemn her new country, as-a-Jew  Guernieri performed the remarkable feat of avoiding any mention of what is happening to Mexicans back home in Arizona in her eagerness to condemn Israel for proposing to implement the same rules applied across the Western world.

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Oliver Stone on “Jewish domination of the media”

Occasionally, thinly veiled covers for anti-Semitic invectives wear down, and the explicit hate is laid bare for all to see. Many of us have noted a disturbing ideological trend, in which classic anti-Semitic tropes about the dangers of Jewish power and influence in politics have become increasingly popular by some on the Left - rendering such bigotry nearly banal within some circles.

Typically, this narrative is advanced using the rhetoric of human rights and anti-imperialism, and carefully avoids making such charges against Jews as such – referring instead to the injurious effects of the “Israel Lobby.”

Glenn Greenwald,  who blogs at Salon.com, (and is a member in good standing of the Walt and Mearsheimer brigade of “dissidents” who bravely “expose” the injurious effects of the organized Jewish community on the American body politic) has honed such furtive rhetoric to an art.

However, even his respectable veneer has occasionally been eroded.  In 2007, he said

“…the influence of self-proclaimed “pro-Israeli” American Jewish groups in helping to push the country into what looks more and more every day to be an inevitable conflict with Iran is very significant and cannot be ignored.”

Antony Lerman, writing in Comment is Free, in defense of C4s documentary which “investigated” The Israel Lobby, stated cooly that wealthy British Jews are indeed linked to “payments of large sums of money to politicians, power and influence.”

And, as any reader of CiF Watch is well aware, reader comment threads in response to almost any Israel-related essay at Comment is Free often reveal a slew of vile accusations that the UK is held captive by the organized Jewish community.

Oliver Stone – film-maker, conspiracy enthusiast, and ardent defender of South AmericaNarco-Terrorist Movements - has recently “revealed” the real reason there is so much “talk” about Jewish victims of The Holocaust.  (Hint: It apparently has nothing to do with natural human compassion for the millions of innocent victims, which included 1.5 million children, slaughtered by the Nazi regime.)

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A long week in Loch Wobegon

This is a guest post by AKUS

There’s a well-known radio show in the US  featuring Garrison Keillor called “A Prairie Home Companion” that has a weekly roundup of generally depressing news from a little town called Lake Wobegon, “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” There were a few things happening in a couple of our favorite British media sources that for some reason made me think of Lake Wobegon – the home of some of the “frozen people”, as Garrison likes to call his fellow Lutherans.

The Guardian, a paper at Loch Wobegan known familiarly as the Daily Groan for its rich helpings of Lutheran-like misery-guts reporting, where it often seems to me that none of its women (or men) are good-looking, even if they are strong, and certainly many of its columnists are not above average, had one of its faux-pas moments when it printed a report by the Press Association on a fascinating study of the attitudes of British Jews towards Israel just released by the British research group, JPR . (Yes – that JPR – the one Antony Lerman spends so much of his time attacking after he left). The study included the responses from 4081 self-selecting Jews out of a population of, say 300,000, a number which provides a margin of error of only 1.5%.

To put the rigor of the JPR study in context, many polls carried out in the US regarding important issues such as, say, the President’s popularity or Lindsey Lohan’s jail time will include less than 1,500 responses and have a margin of error of 3%. The JPR survey is far more rigorous than the incredibly cooked and utterly unrepresentative effort put together in the US by JStreet which has been so widely circulated. It was puffed up by the Guardian – e.g., this article by none other than Antony Lerman. CiF Watch noted a poll the Guardian ran “under a picture of a torn and tattered Israeli flag” about JStreet at Enforcing the GWV: the Guardian J Street Poll . That JStreet study had 800 respondents representing a population of 3 million US Jews. The small sample size, unlike the large British sample size, did not permit a really good breakdown by various Jewish subgroups, and on two of the most critical questions about the I/P issues only 354 responses were collected. The margin of error is at least 5%, very significant when so many responses on critical issues involving Israel in that study hovered around the 50% mark.

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Readers Revolt as Tariq Ali Scrapes the Barrel

This is a guest post by Bataween of Point of No Return

When Georgina Henry moved from the Comment is Free Middle East desk to edit the Culture Section at the Guardian, CIF Watch predicted that Henry would turn her new fiefdom into a cesspool of antisemitism masquerading as anti-Zionism. And so it has come to pass. Henry’s latest commission: Tariq Ali’s review of “The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives” by Gilbert Achcar scrapes the barrel of malevolent ignorance and Orwellian misrepresentation. But wonder of wonders, the readership aren’t having it.

The book in question, is itself a scurrilous work of revisionism, intended by a ‘professor of International Relations at SOAS’ partly to demolish the sacred cow of Arab complicity with the Nazi Holocaust. Like all anti-Israel propaganda, it tries to turn fact into controversy – declaring, as the book’s subtitle denotes, a ‘war of narratives’. Downplaying Arab antisemitism and support for the Holocaust exonerates Arabs from any responsibility for Israel’s establishment.

Tariq Ali, venerable Pakistani Marxist anti-Zionist and warrior against US imperialism, applauds Gilbert Achcar’s ‘systematic and scholarly refutation of the simplistic myths that have arisen from the formation of Israel’. The book, which is being published in an Arab edition, is a ‘valuable corrective’, drawing on such ‘objective’ sources as Tony Judt, Norman Finkelstein, Gabriel Piterberg and Amira Hass. But Ali’s review does not make clear where Achcar’s opinions begin and Ali’s views end.

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Plaiting Sawdust

Reading Antony Lerman’s latest CiF offering was about as productive as plaiting sawdust.

Lerman’s attempts to present Zionism as some sort of reactionary stance which is toxic to any green shoots of peace in the Middle East by citing supposed foundations for his view from sources such as Moshe Arens, through the World Zionist Congress to Peter Beinart fall as flat as an under-baked soufflé due to his usual stubborn insistence upon avoiding any mention of the full range of factors which have contributed to the failed peace-making attempts of the past two decades.

“Israel may show all the signs of being a typical westernised, post-ideological society. But in response to growing international pressure over recent years and with the country’s centre of political gravity drifting to the far right, Zionist ideology appears to be playing an increasingly important role in decision-making and in determining the face that Israel presents to the world. “

With typical sleight of hand, Lerman in this opening paragraph attempts to persuade the reader that there is a link to be made between Zionist ideology and the ‘far right’, thereby attempting to discredit the former by linking it to something the reader will instinctively reject. This does not stand up to scrutiny from any angle: Zionism is something which transcends or precedes political viewpoints for most Israelis and is the mesh which holds this truly multi-cultural and far from ‘post-ideological’ society together.

Neither is it any more true to say that Israel has moved to the right from a political point of view than to make the same statement about the United Kingdom based upon the results of the recent elections there. The party which received the most votes in the last Israeli elections was Kadima, but coalition building sometimes produces strange bed-fellows as the British people should now be finding out. Both the current Likud-led government and the vast majority of the Israeli people today accept and support the concept of a two-state solution; thirty years ago this was an eccentric fringe opinion in Israeli society. If anything, Lerman would be more correct if he pointed out that as in many European countries, the Left in Israel has caused itself to become increasingly less relevant and centrists either mildly to the right or left, but with little to distinguish between their policies and principles, command the majority vote.

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Seaton: Still digging after all these years…..

Tony Lerman is still Israel-bashing on CiF, and readers may judge for themselves whether he is telling us anything new or interesting.  The article reflects his own conflicted and tortured relationship with his Jewishness and Zionism (he used to be a youth leader in a Zionist youth group) when he tells us (yet again) that the “cherished assumptions of Zionism” are being questioned by Jews themselves  – nothing new here, Jews are nothing if not critical thinkers – and again he pushes his own agenda for a one state solution to the conflict.  There is precious little new there and I do not propose to go further into it.

The whole thread is, however, a prime example of the sort of confusion brought about when a moderator/staff member is allowed to comment freely and give opinions on the thread.  As I have argued elsewhere on this blog, this, from a person whose agenda is plain and who is more powerful than the commenters whose contributions he can easily get removed, is neither professional nor ethical.  Lerman seems unable or unwilling to defend himself, so Matt Seaton has once again taken upon himself the mantle of his rescuer. The result is highly educative about the “group mind” of CiF and is painful and hilarious by turns.  It seems that Seaton still has not learned to stop digging when he is in a hole.

There seem to be two parallel themes in this thread – one being the deletion of MarkGardner1′s post (Mark Gardner is Director of Communications at the Community Security Trust):  His post, which follows, was deleted but subsequently reinstated following an appeal to the moderators by Seaton:


Seaton’s comment about Mark Gardner’s post follows.  I would imagine that the moderators were wobbled by Mark Gardner’s notion that people should make up their own minds.  Note also that Seaton says that  the moderators “have exercised some latitude” presumably about what is or is not off-topic   It would appear so, otherwise most of Seaton’s subsequent comments to the following might have been deleted too:


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The Berchmans Drubbing

Oh dear it seems Berchmans (who comments here as Heres to Davy and Abandon Hope) got a bit of a drubbing on the Lerman thread from Mark Gardner, Communications Director of the CST.

Here’s the pertinent part of Mark Gardner’s response:

I remember Berchmans comment, the one you said “was something like…

‘Scotland in all it’s history never had a single recorded anti semitic incident until the 2006 Israel/Hezbollah war when a Jewish child was attacked’ “.

I remember it because I nearly fell off my chair when I read it. Not at all wishing to sound like someone who obsesses about his childhood, (because I really, really don’t, and my memories are overhwelmingly positive) but Berchmans obviously wasn’t there when my Jewish primary school cap used to get thrown into the traffic by kids from other schools, along with the antisemitic abuse.

Glad to hear he wasn’t hiding in the secondary school toilets when the other kids made disparaging remarks about my mis-shapen shmeckl; and obviously he wasn’t acting as a mere bystander when the local NF kid tried to beat me up in the corridor; nor was he in the park on the numerous occasions when I was subject to antisemitic abuse and threats of violence; nor in the Chinese takeaway when the same thing happened etc etc etc

I didn’t report any of the above to police, teachers etc, because I just thought it was normal. At school, there were casual antisemitic remarks on as many days as there weren’t. (I went to a pretty bad state secondary school.)

I repeat, I am not, to the best of my knowledge, psychologically scarred by it, or at all bothered by it, and this is the first time I’ve thought about it all for many years: because at the time it felt just like being called ‘specky’ or ‘plooky’ (trans: ‘spotty’) or whatever.

But the notion that there has been (and is) no antisemitism in Scotland is very very stupid indeed: and is far stupider than even Tony Lerman’s part-hidden underlying suggestion that those who express concern are merely some kind of Zionist frauds.

Funny how Berchmans went conspicuously silent and turned up in the thread a day later right at the end only to ignore Gardner’s comment.