Focus below the line: Guardian readers ‘reflect’ on Israel and the Jews

cifThough the large volume of articles and op-eds at the Guardian and its blog ‘Comment is Free’ (CiF), and elsewhere in the UK media, containing distortions or false claims naturally keep us pretty busy, we have also – since our founding in 2009 – regularly monitored reader comments below the line at ‘CiF’ to see if the moderation process is fair and consistent with their ‘community standards‘.  

This post is part of a series which will re-focus on the problem of biased moderation at CiF – particularly, reader comments which are off-topic, ad hominem or antisemitic, and yet not deleted by moderators.

Today we focus on a ‘CiF’ contributor with the moniker MikePilgrim, who left quite a few comments over the last few days.

(The following comments were not deleted by CiF moderators at the time this post was published.)

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Guardian fails to reveal that Brit arrested for terror is ‘Comment is Free’ contributor

As we first learned from Guido Fawkes, Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who became a spokesman for the “human rights” group Cageprisoners, was arrested by British police on Tuesday morning for terror offences which he is alleged to have committed in Syria.

Begg is widely believed by American intelligence officials to have been a jihadist involved with Al-Qaida and reportedly attended terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the UK “so he could assist in waging jihad against enemies of Islam.”  Begg reportedly assisted several prominent terrorists, recruited young operatives for jihad and provided financial support for terror camps.

AdditionallyBegg is believed to have been associated with the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki, the senior al Qaeda recruiter who was involved with planning operations for the group, and later killed by U.S. forces.  Al Awlaki helped motivate at least three terrorist attacks inside the U.S. (Begg’s group actually lobbied to free Al Awlaki from Yemeni custody after he was detained in 2006, broadcast his live messages and reproduced his propaganda on their website.) 

Begg – who, you may recall, was promoted by the NGO Amnesty International – is also a frequent contributor to the Guardian’s blog ‘Comment is Free’, having penned 20 essays at the site since 2006, most of which were aimed at casting himself as an innocent victim of US and British intolerance and Islamophobia. 

profile

Interestingly, the Guardian’s report on Begg’s arrest by  (Moazzam Begg among four arrested in Birmingham terror raids, Feb. 25) didn’t even note this extremely inconvenient relationship.

While we don’t yet know the details of Begg’s alleged terror activity in Syria, if it turns out that he was fighting for jihadists it wouldn’t be at all surprising.  

As we’ve demonstrated previously, the Guardian is a media group which often promotes and defends Islamist extremists, and frequently welcomes into their ‘ ‘liberal’ salon ‘demopaths‘ such as Begg – those who cynically exploit the language of democracy when it serves their interests, and demand stringent levels of human “rights” of the West yet don’t apply these basic standards to their own behavior.

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Are Jews a “privileged” class?

A few months ago Louise Mensch was attacked at ‘Comment is Free’ for dismissing the idea of “privilege checking”.  Mensch had argued the following:

“Check your privilege”, for example, is a profoundly stupid trope that states that only those with personal experience of something should comment, or that if a person is making an argument, they should immediately give way if their view is contradicted by somebody with a different life story.

Laurie Penny is an absolutely prime example; she does it all the time. The other day on Twitter she told people not to rise to what she felt was a race-baiting article by Rod Liddle in the Spectator. She was quite right. Everybody with a blog knows what “don’t feed the trolls” means. However, she was angrily contradicted by the black comedian @AvaVidal who told her that people of colour were striking back and they should rise to it. Instead of defending her position, Penny caved, recanted, and commented mournfully that “having your privilege checked” was painful.

Here are the relevant passages from an essay by Laurie Penny, contributing editor at The New Statesman. 

Louise Mensch is confused. The erstwhile MP and professional gadfly has published a blogpost decrying “privilege checking”, and longing to return to a species of “reality-based” feminism where everyone would stop bothering her about class, race and money.

Actually, “privilege” isn’t at all hard to understand. It just means any structural social advantage that you have by virtue of birth, or position – such as being white, being wealthy, or being a man. “Check your privilege” means “consider how your privilege affects what you have just said or done.” That’s it.

Privilege is not the same as power. Nor is it a game whereby only the least privileged people will henceforth be allowed an opinion – the last time I checked, the political conversation was still dominated by rich white men and their wives. These are the people who go into spasms of outrage at the very notion that a black person, or a woman, or a working-class person might have as much right to an opinion as they do on matters that affect them.

Whilst the idea of ‘privilege’ is intellectually suspect for a host of reasons (many of which Mensch explored in her blog post), it’s quite interesting that Jews, of all people, are often considered among “the privileged” within this paradigm.  Not only has the post-Holocaust taboo against antisemitism been eroded, but Jews, who represent a fraction of 1% of the world’s population, are – in a manner evoking classic tropes about Jewish control – typically portrayed, by virtue of their relative success, as an elite, powerful, and privileged class. 

Whilst reasonable people can agree or disagree with attempts to explain disparities in economic, educational and social outcomes in terms of one’s ‘privilege’, it seems difficult to avoid including Jews among those who are “historically disadvantaged” when honestly exploring its political implications.

So, for those who fancy the specious argument that you can quantify privilege in terms of one’s race, ethnicity, gender, etc., here’s some food for thought – a list of the advantages (privileges) of waking up in the morning as a non-Jew – the daily effects of non-Jewish privilege.

1. You likely don’t have your people’s right to national self-determination questioned or characterized as racist.

2.  You are not characterized as racist for the alleged sin of caring more about your own people’s safety and welfare than that of other groups.

3.  You are not accused as a group – by virtue of by your current alleged “immoral behavior” – of having betrayed the memory of coreligionists who were victims of genocide.

4.  You are not accused of being more loyal to a foreign state than to the interests of your own nation.

5.  You are likely not held personally responsible for the actions of others who share your religion or ethnicity.

6.  You are not likely to be targeted for terrorist attacks by extremists simply because you happen to share the same religion as the majority population in one foreign state.  

7.  You likely don’t have to avoid expressing your religious identity when visiting Middle Eastern or even European countries for fear of violence.

8.  You are likely never accused of being part of an international conspiracy to control the world.

9.  You are not accused of exercising disproportionate control over the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

10. Your success and personal achievements – and other fruits of your hard work – aren’t turned upside down and characterized as evidence of your ‘privilege.

To be clear, none of this is meant to suggest that we subscribe to the facile theory that groups should be divided between the ‘privileged’ and the non-privileged.  However, for those who do give this paradigm credence, it does seem to represent an egregious moral double standard to impute ‘privilege’ to such a historically persecuted, disenfranchised and marginalized minority as Jews.   

CiF Watch prompts correction to ‘Comment is Free’ claim on Gaza rocket attacks

On July 21st we demonstrated that ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Giles Fraser made a significant error when purporting to cite the number of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza during ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’ in November.

Fraser’s post – a relatively interesting meditation on both the efficacy and spiritual dimension of Western missile (and missile defense) systems – included this passage:

These days, bitachon doesn’t so much mean the Lord Almighty. It means Iron Dome, the missile defence system, designed to intercept rocket attacks on Israel. During operation Pillar of Defence,in 2012, during which Hamas fired over 100 rockets from Gaza into Israel, Iron Dome was seen to have been about 85% successful. The technology is impressive and is set to get even more so. Iron Dome is a game-changer.

As we noted in our original post, however, while during the first 24 hours of the war roughly 100 rockets were fired into Israel, during the entire eight-day conflict, which ended on Nov. 22, Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups launched approximately 1,500 rockets at Israel.

We contacted Guardian editors, alerting them to the error, and, last night, the passage was revised to accurately note that the number cited (100) represented the rockets fired only during the first 24 hours of the war.  The Guardian wrote the following in the correction section of the paper:

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We commend Guardian editors on the prompt correction.

‘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.

BREAKING: Guardian readers ‘opposed’ the Iraq War

This just in from London:

breaking

Long wrote:

Guardian readers responded with vigor to Ambassador John Bolton’s column yesterday, which defended the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Nearly everyone who took the time to comment disagreed with the war, its motives and many of Bolton’s claims.

As the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war approaches on 19 March, the Guardian is running a series of analyses about the invasion and rebuilding of Iraq.

Given that Ambassador Bolton’s views are contrarian to most on Comment is free, we specifically reached out to readers to respond. (Click here to see the reader responses they published.)

Shocking!

Who would have thought that those who fancy the polemical musings at the Guardian’s London salon which serves as the intellectual hub of the Red-Green Alliance – an alliance which manifested itself in a mass demo in 2003 organized by the “progressive” forces of the Islamist Muslim Association of Britain and the neo-Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party – would have opposed the US led war to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

In other news:

PressTV viewers: We don’t like Zionism so much.

New York Times readers: We believe that Roger Cohen, Nicholas Kristof and Tom Friedman possess valuable insight into how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

Glenn Greenwald fans: We think that the use of drones to target jihadists may be problematic. 

‘Comment is Free’ editors finally suspend user privileges of white supremacist

On Jan. 16 we posted about a Guardian reader whose commenting privileges were not suspended despite the fact that he made racist remarks, including the promotion of Holocaust denial, beneath a Guardian story about Holocaust education in the UK.  We additionally noted how peculiar it was that his user profile remained at ‘Comment is Free’ despite the fact that it contained a link to a white supremacist site called ‘British Resistance‘.

We identified the right-wing extremist – who uses the online moniker of ‘CorshmCrusader’ – as Mark Kennedy, a Nazi sympathizer who is actually the deputy editor of ‘British Resistance’, and asked CiF Watch readers to consider contacting ‘Comment is Free’ editors to inquire why he hadn’t been banned.

Today we finally learned that ‘CorshmCrusader’s profile has indeed been removed by ‘Comment is Free’ editors.

Here’s what you see when try to open the user’s link:

profile not available

Many thanks to those of you who responded to our request, emailed CiF editors and helped us get this extremist removed from the Guardian.

 

CiF Watch reader emails the Guardian asking why white supremacist isn’t banned

On Jan. 16 we posted about a Guardian reader whose commenting privileges were not suspended by the editors, despite the fact that he promoted Holocaust denial in the comment section under a Guardian story (on Jan. 14) about Holocaust education in the UK, and the fact that his user profile contained a link to a white supremacist site called British Resistance.

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As we revealed, not only was the commenter, who uses the moniker ‘CorshmCrusader‘, a fan of ‘British Resistance’, but actually serves as the site’s deputy editor – a Nazi sympathizer named Mark Kennedy.

We asked our readers to consider emailing the Guardian’s ‘Comment Editor’ asking for an explanation regarding why someone who clearly violates ‘Comment is Free’ “community standards” has not been banned.

Today we were contacted by a fan of our blog, a Holocaust educator and author named Dan Hennessy, copying us on the email he sent to the Guardian.

Here it is, with Mr. Hennessy’s permission:

To the editors:

As a Holocaust educator, it is disturbing that you treat the individual using the moniker “CorshmCrusader,” who is known to be a white supremacist, as you would any other “contributor” to your periodical; and yet, you [ban others] who obviously disagree with you. Who is allowed freedom of speech in your domain? Everyone? Or just those who toe the line with regard to your ideological bias?

I just taught 1984 by George Orwell in an upper division secondary English class. Your decisions in this regard seem quite in line with Ministry of Truth standards.

~ Daniel Hennessy

Again, here’s the email for the Guardian editor if you also want to inquire about the status of CorshmCrusader.

comment.editors@guardian.co.uk

CiF contributor asks: Does Israel depend on the support of right-wing antisemites?

The cognitive gymnastics necessary for a Guardian journalist or ‘Comment is Free’ contributor to claim being ‘shocked’ by antisemitism are quite impressive.

Those engaging in such faux outrage must somehow ignore the fact that ‘Comment is Free’ has arguably published more commentary by Islamist extremists with explicitly (and often violent) antisemitic ideologies than perhaps any other mainstream, widely distributed, Anglo news site.

They’d also have to reconcile their claim to championing anti-racist values with the Guardian’s continuing sanctioning of largely secular, Western extreme left commentators who advance or defend Judeophobic tropes and narratives about Jewish control, dual loyalty and even Jewish supremacy.

It was only after recently re-reading Michael Wolff’s CiF commentary from Nov. 19, Rupert Murdoch and the Jews, in which he lashed out at Murdoch’s critique of Jews in the media, that one line in particular caught my attention.

wolff

Wolff, who’s a Murdoch biographer, was commenting on a widely reported story about a Tweet by the News Corp CEO which asked: “Why is Jewish owned press so consistently anti-Israel in every crisis?”.  

While the offensive nature of the Tweet itself is not in doubt – though it’s quite interesting that the theme explored by Murdoch is typically posed, inversely, in a manner complaining of the Jewish-owned media being too pro-Israel – Wolff’s contextualization of the Tweet is enlightening.

He writes:

“From the biographer’s point of view, this continues to be a curious and open-ended question: what does Murdoch really think about the Jews?

Murdoch’s inopportune phrasing also goes to the larger question of the right’s odd relationship to Israel, and its own feelings, more generally, about the Jews. Does being pro-Israel absolve you of your suspicion about Jews? Can you be an antisemite and still support Israel? (More provocatively: does Israel, in some sense, depend on the support of rightwing American antisemites?)”

Wolff’s “provocative” query – which represents a meme actually advanced previously by CiF contributor Slavoj Žižek is nearly unintelligible and certainly intellectually unserious.  

Where are these rightwing antisemitic Zionists that are Wolff is referring to? 

An understanding of the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the interplay between the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ in America would suggest that Wolff is possibly alluding to the enormous support for Israel among US evangelical Christians – a dynamic which is often cited by leftist anti-Zionists to discredit Israel’s American friends.

However, while many of these Christian Zionists may indeed be motivated by eschatology rather than ideology, the fact is that polls by ADL demonstrate that rates of antisemitism among Evangelical Christians are merely on par with the national average – which, at 15%, represents one of the lowest national rates of Judeophobia in the world. (Hispanics/Latinos and African-Americans have the highest rate of antisemitism in the U.S.)

Unsurprisingly, research indicates that there is a close correlation between anti-Israeli views and anti-Semitic views in the West.

Specifically, the study by Edward Kaplan and Charles Small linked to in the previous passage suggests that those who espouse hateful views about Jews are also dramatically more likely to hold explicitly antisemitic views.  

Most interestingly, Kaplan and Small conclude that negative views about Israel don’t represent a “cause” of antisemitism but, rather, “predict” pre-existing (a priori) Jew hatred.

While there may be an extremely marginal number of Zionists who are also antisemitic, one 140 character complaint by one well-known American conservative – regardless of what he actually feels about Jews – doesn’t change the fact that Wolff’s query represents the inverse of reality.

Those opposed to Zionism rely on the passion of avowed antisemites, while the Jewish state continues to depend on the overwhelmingly passionate support it receives from its unabashedly philosemitic friends.

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My appearance on Tamar Yonah’s show: Building in E-1, poll on Israeli Arabs & my banning at CiF

I was interviewed by Tamar Yonah yesterday on her Israel National Radio show, discussing the Guardian’s misrepresentation in reports on Israel’s plan to build homes between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim, the results of a poll about Arab citizens of Israel, and my banning at ‘Comment is Free’.

Banned by the Guardian: My journey at ‘Comment is Free’ comes to an end

Over the course of nearly three years I went from ‘Comment is Free’ contributor, to CiF commenter in good standing, to permanently pre-moderated CiF commenter, to banned user. 

It was a good run, but my personal ‘Comment is Free’ journey seems to have come to an end.

It started well enough.  Through my previous work with NGO Monitor I was able to get an essay published at Comment is Free in Feb. 2010, commenting on an appalling anti-Zionist rant by a far left extremist named Jody McIntyre which was published in the youth magazine of the UK charity organization, Christian Aid – at the now evidently defunct ‘CtrlAltShift‘.  

cif essay

The resulting row motivated Christian Aid to take down McIntyre’s piece (and all of his other Israel related blog posts) and apologize “unreservedly” for their error.

When I first joined CiF Watch, I was pleasantly surprised that the editors at ‘Comment is Free’ allowed me comment beneath the line using my real name – and I was even permitted to note in my user profile that I was the managing editor of a group dedicated to exposing antisemitism at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free.

Here’s how my profile looked:

profile

I was never a frequent commenter, as there is enough offensive material at the Guardian and CiF to comment at greater length at our CiF Watch blog – and there are quite a few Zionist, philo-Semitic commenters who do a fantastic job of responding (with wit and wisdom) to the antisemitic and anti-Zionist propaganda appearing below and above the line.

However, occasionally I sensed that I may have annoyed the CiF moderators by violating the Guardian Prime Directive: Thou shall not write the name ‘CiF Watch’ or link to it the site in any way beneath the line.  Such reader comment apostasy typically gets the comment deleted, and can result in a Guardian purgatory called “pre-moderation” – a place of uninterrupted darkness, where your every comment has to be pre-approved by some sort of CiF committee of Elders before it gets published.

Sure enough, one day, I woke up and thought to comment on a CiF piece, and (in my utter horror!) saw this.

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The ideological algorithm which CiF moderators use to determine what gets deleted and what doesn’t get deleted has always been a bit of a mystery to the supporters of this blog (a topic we’ve commented on quite frequently), and the question of what can and can’t be written while in pre-mod was even more vexing, and I largely avoided even attempting to comment.

So, I was a bit perplexed to say the least when I considered submitting a comment under a CiF thread last night, only to find the following:

disabled

Here’s what’s left of my profile:

adam banned

All my comments over the years have been permanently deleted from their site.

Why indeed did the ‘comrade Guardians’ decide to ban me completely from the site, and erase all traces my two-year presence at CiF?

Well, their comment FAQ’s state the following:

rules

While I’ll likely never learn why I fell out of favor with ‘the Party’, my guess is it may have something to do with our continuing counter-revolutionary commentary exposing their Judeophobic biases, their licensing of the most extremist, antisemitic voices and a pervasive hostility towards the Jewish state at their site.

As a CST Report on Antisemitic Discourse in the UK observed:

 Jewish Chronicle by its deputy editor, Jenni Frazer, appeared to capture the feelings of many Jews and mainstream UK Jewish communal bodies towards the Guardian. She wrote: “…I cannot count the number of complaints we have had from readers who do not understand the Guardian’s obsession with Jews and Israel, the poisonous letters or op-eds it publishes.”

One thing is certain: Above the line or below the line, CiF Watch will continue attempting to explain, name and shame the Guardian’s malign obsession with Jews and Israel.

 CiF Watch, by use of the evidently “abusive” and “offensive” trolling tactics of facts, history, logic and moral reasoning, will continue trying to influence the debate about Jews and Israel below the line and above the line at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’