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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Indy TV critic decries attack on free expression by ‘powerful pro-Israel lobby’

In monitoring the UK media’s coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we’ve previously noted the curious dynamic in which even culture critics (journalists who don’t cover politics or world affairs) manage to adopt the hard left party line on Israel and the perceived power of the ‘Israeli lobby’. 

A case in point is a review at the Independent, by TV critic Gerard Gilbert, of the upcoming BBC2 mini-series The Honourable Woman starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.  The series centers on “Nessa Stein, the daughter of a murdered Zionist arms dealer who now runs a charitable London organisation seeking a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

Half-way through the largely positive review, Gilbert adds the following, seemingly out of nowhere:

The Honourable Woman’s fair-minded take on the savagely divisive Palestinian question would presumably make it nigh-on impossible to get made in America with its powerful pro-Israel lobbies.

Of course, Gilbert doesn’t bother to cite an example of any previous “fair-minded” take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was nixed due to the “powerful pro-Israel lobbies” and, indeed, the critical success of the pro-Palestinian film 5 Broken Cameras suggests that such advocacy art isn’t adversely affected by such ‘pressure groups’.

Quite interestingly, this broadside against the Israel lobby isn’t a one-off for the culture critic.

In 2011, Gilbert similarly expressed his frustration with the power of the lobby in an article at the Indy.

Here’s Gilbert’s take on a BBC programme about the controversy that surrounded Monty Python’s Life of Brian in 1979, and what he argued was the steady erosion, since that time, of the artistic freedom to engage in such criticism of religion:

Freedom of speech can be a much tougher call in the polarised 21st-century than it was in the fag-end of liberal Seventies Britain, and if BBC4 wanted to take a moment from our recent past to shed light on the present, then there are plenty of controversies of younger vintage available to them.

How about the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie in 1989 over his novel The Satanic Verses, a death sentence that remains in place today, and that led to Rushdie spending almost a decade in hiding, as well as the violent attacks against various translators and publishers (including an arson attack at a cultural festival in Turkey that left 37 people dead)? Perhaps Sanjeev Bhaskar could play Rushdie.

Or how about a drama about the Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad, and the subsequent worldwide protests, or the play Behtzi, which sparked riots by Birmingham Sikhs in 2004. Or how about, for that matter, the remorseless attacks on journalists and academics in any way critical of Israel

In response to Gilbert’s complaint about such “remorseless attacks” on the media and academia by powerful forces, The CST’s Mark Gardner observed the following:

I am unaware that the Chief Rabbi (of Britain, Israel, or anywhere else for that matter) has issued a death sentence against the Guardian, the Independent, the University and College Union, or any other “journalists and academics in any way critical of Israel”.

I am unaware of pro-Israel lobby groups having incited deadly riots against BBC offices around the world. I am unaware of British anti-Israel academics being burnt and bombed when they venture abroad.

I am unaware of rioting by Jews in Golders Green, or Tottenham, or Salford, or Gateshead, in response to British media and academic criticism of Israel.

The Indy’s Gilbert, like other UK commentators, absurdly conflates mere criticism – and other forms of legitimate political activism – by Jews and pro-Israel groups (over what’s deemed to be anti-Israel bias or even antisemitism in the public sphere) with the kind of threats or intimidation (or even violence) exhibited by some groups which truly threatens freedom of expression in the West.

Guardian report on IDF rocket seizure includes gratuitous reference to ‘powerful Jewish lobby’

We’ve commented previously on the Guardian’s tendency to see the nefarious machinations of AIPAC (and the broader pro-Israel lobby) in a myriad of US foreign policy decisions which run afoul of their far-left ideology.  Usually, their contributors don’t go as far as blaming Jews as such – instead, merely characterizing this political force, which evidently wreaks havoc on the US and the world, as merely AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, or the Israel lobby. 

However, they typically aren’t shy about imputing the worst motives to the organized pro-Israel community, often suggesting their members have a thirst for war.  At times, there’s even the thinly veiled charge that Americans who associate with such lobbies are more loyal to Israel than their own country.

Here are a few examples:

elements of the lobby vilify Jewish critics of Israel and intimidate the media – ‘Comment is Free’, Antony Lerman, Nov. 20, 2009 (Affirming comments made by Peter Oborne, presenter of Channel 4’s Dispatches documentary Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby)

“Just as important is the pressure that pro-Israel campaigners put on the mainstream US media. They warn people off the very word Zionist as though only antisemites use it and demand Israel be treated as a special country whose politics deserve more sympathy than others….In fact US publishers, editors, and reporters carry the biggest responsibility for the rotten state of US policy in the Middle East. The pro-Israel lobbies are powerful and Obama weak mainly because Americans rarely get an alternative view.” - Guardian, Jonathan Steele, Aug. 10, 2010

What do Nebraska and Iran have in common? Not much – but enough to cause big trouble for former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, whose possible nomination to be secretary of defense is being challenged by the powerful bomb-Iran-yesterday lobby.”…Militarists in Washington, taking their cue from pro-Israel lobbyistsare trying to derail the appointment because Hagel doubts the wisdom of starting another war in the Middle East.” - Comment is Free, Stephen Kinzer, Dec. 31, 2012

The Israel lobby has a “stranglehold” over the American debate about Israel – Glenn Greenwald, Dec. 22, 2012 (You can see Greenwald’s history of scaremongering about ‘the lobby’ here)

Obama…established a position his critics may find hard to assail. He forced those many members of Congress and beyond who have conflated America’s interests with Israel’s on to the back foot by saying that on Iran there are differences – and he will serve US interests first. – Guardian, Chris McGreal, March 9, 2012

“President Obama must show America’s pro-Israel lobby that he is tough somewhere in the Middle East - Guardian, Simon Jenkins, Jan. 3 2012 (On why Obama imposed economic sanctions on Iran)

But the failure of an Aipac-supported effort to pass legislation blocking Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran has led to a reassessment of the fabled ability of its lobbyists to wield a veto over US policy when it comes to matters of Israeli security. - Guardian, Harriet Sherwood and Dan Roberts, March 2, 2014

Interestingly, not only did the Guardian manage to slip in a negative reference to ‘the lobby’ in a March 5 story, by Ian Black and Martin Chulov, on the IDF’s interception yesterday of an Iranian shipment of rockets destined for Gaza, but let the veil of respectability slip in neglecting to use the familiar euphemism:

The high seas interception is the fourth of its kind by Israel in the past 12 years and the first since the start of the Syrian civil war three years ago. It comes after a spate of air attacks on weapons warehouses and arms convoys in the past 18 months that officials in Tel Aviv had hinted were destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The seizure follows a visit this week by the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to Washington, where he used a meeting with Barack Obama and a stump speech to the powerful Jewish lobby AIPAC to underscore his reservations about a nuclear deal with Iran.

Of course, AIPAC is not a Jewish organization, as anyone familiar with their racially, ethnically and religiously diverse membership – which includes African-Americans, Latinos, and evangelical Christians – would understand. Moreover, it’s telling that even the most prolific promoters of ‘AIPAC root cause theory, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, use the term ‘Israel lobby’ (and not ‘Jewish lobby’) when speaking of AIPAC and other assorted groups they claim are distorting US foreign policy.

More broadly, writers who chronicle the evolution of political thought may one day look back at our era and marvel over the popularity, among presumably “enlightened” voices, of narratives which impute to organized Jewry both immense power and disloyalty – those characterized by Leon Wieseltier as “the herd of fearless dissidents who proclaim in all seriousness, without in any way being haunted by the history of such an idea, that Jews control Washington”.  

Perhaps such intellectual historians will explain how Judeophobic tropes typically associated with the far-right became politically fashionable at a paper which – no matter how risibly – continues to claim the mantle of the ‘world’s leading liberal voice‘. 

Finally, it’s worth recalling an article titled ‘Averting accusations of antisemitism‘, published in 2011 by Guardian Readers’ Editor Chris Elliott, which in many ways vindicated the work of this blog, and included explicit warnings to their reporters and commentators to stay clear of “language long associated with antisemitic tropes such as Jews having too much power and control”.

Evidently, Black and Chulov didn’t get the memo.

(UPDATE: The Guardian revised the article early this afternoon, and deleted the original reference to “powerful Jewish lobby”.)

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Did the Guardian once again cave to intimidation from ‘the lobby’?

We recently learned that the Guardian changed the headline to a Feb. 26 ‘Comment is Free’ op-ed by , of the far-left group J Street, arguing that the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC should do more to back John Kerry’s efforts to promote a two state solution.

Here’s the headline as it currently appears, with AIPAC being characterized the America-Israel lobby:

now

However, here’s how it looked a few hours earlier, with AIPAC originally being characterized as the American-Jewish lobby:

earlier

There is no footnote or editor’s note on the page to indicate why they made the change, but – in the view of many faithful Guardian Left readers – they may have tried to ‘avert charges of antisemitism‘ and thus, in effect, caved to intimidation from the Jewish lobby  Israel lobby CiF Watch.

Finally, in case anyone thinks our characterization of J Street as “far-left” is unfair, you may want to watch the following clip of attendees at the group’s 2011 national conference telling us how they really feel about Israel, the Palestinians, Hamas and the greatest impediments to peace in the Middle East.

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The Economist: We do not believe Jews control Congress

Last week we posted about the following cartoon by Peter Schrank published at The Economist – used to illustrate an article about negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 – which evoked the antisemitic narrative on the supposed injurious influence of Jewish power on U.S. foreign policy.

cartoonOur blog post included the following headline:

headline

Later in the day we learned that The Economist had removed the cartoon from the online edition of the article, and issued the following addendum:

Today, we noticed that they revised their editor’s note and addressed the specific question posed by this blog and several other commentators:

update econ

While it’s unclear what Peter Schrank believes about the criticism directed towards his cartoon, we’re of course glad that editors at The Economist distanced themselves from such racist (and increasingly prevalent) beliefs about the ‘corrupting influence’ of Jewish power.

h/t Gidon 

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The UK media again show their obsession with the ‘Israel lobby’

Just yesterday, we posted about a cartoon published at the Economist on Jan. 18 (which they later retracted) with imagery suggesting that pro-Israeli (or Jewish) interests control US Congress.  We noted that such narratives, on the injurious influence of organized Jewry (and their money), have become something akin to an enforced orthodoxy within many circles, especially among the “enlightened” British opinion elite.

Additionally, Donald Macintyre (Jerusalem correspondent for the Independent) published a report on Jan 21 titled ‘William Hague swims around the fishy issue of Iran‘, which began thus:

To contrast the attitudes of the US Congress and the British Parliament, start with Iran. Today, the palpable welcome by MPs for Tehran’s suspension of high-level  uranium enrichment was matched only by anxiety about the UN excluding Iran from the Syria talks that start today in Switzerland.

The unease emanated not only in Labour but on the government benches. John Baron, who pressed William Hague for early “normalisation” of UK-Iran diplomatic relations after an “encouraging start” to nuclear negotiations, is his own man. But he was backed by fellow Tory Phillip Lee who deplored the “overnight debacle” of the cancelled invitation and wanted “a Gorbachev-like” approach to “reform-minded Iranian politicians”.

Many MPs, in other words, want to go further, faster in rapprochement, with Iran. Contrast that with Congress, where many members have been pressing for sanctions to be tightened. All of this makes it hard not to conclude that one difference is the much greater power wielded by the Israel lobby in the US legislature than in its British counterpart.

First, the Indy journalist conflates two separate issues: talks taking place in Switzerland today aimed at resolving the Syrian Civil War (known as Geneva II) on one hand, and an interim nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers (the P5+1) on the other.  While the role played by the ‘Israel lobby’ in influencing Congressional support for increased US sanctions against Iran is itself far less than clear, there is no evidence of any such lobbying on either side of the Atlantic to scuttle Iran’s participation in Geneva II.

More importantly, it’s quite remarkable that Macintyre – a journalist known for his exclusive investigations – failed to provide even a hint of evidence to back up his claim that only the contrasting strengths of the US and British ‘Israel lobbies’ could explain the differing government approaches to issues related to Iran. It’s as if, for Macintyre and those similarly subscribing to “the party of Mearsheimer and the clique of Walt“, no other explanation is even conceivable.  

A more astute observer of the American political scene, however, would of course recognize that the “power” of the lobby is primarily merely a reflection of the organic popularity of the issues they’re campaigning for. In fact, polls of American public opinion consistently demonstrate that Israel is extremely popular among all groups, while Iran is consistently disliked.  The following poll of Americans conducted by Gallup in 2013 reveals that Iran is in fact the least popular foreign country, while Israel is the sixth most popular foreign country.

gallup

Such data indicating that Iran is extremely unpopular would of course help contextualize more recent polls indicating that a plurality of Americans disapprove of the agreement between the U.S. and Iran over its nuclear program due, it seems, to their skepticism that Tehran would actually abide by the terms of any such deal.  Gallup reported that “62% of those polled believe that Iranian leaders are not serious about addressing international concerns about their country’s nuclear enrichment program compared with just 29% who think they are serious.”

It should be clear to the Indy journalist that Congressional support for Iran sanctions accurately reflects American public opinion on the issue, and, more broadly, that the conventional wisdom about supposed ‘root causes’ of US policy – which risibly often passes as ‘progressive’ political thought – is facile, often tinged with bigotry and empirically inaccurate. 

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The power of the mythical ‘Israel lobby’ on Michael Cohen’s political imagination

‘Comment is Free’ analyst Michael Cohen seems to be cut out of the same ideological cloth as Glenn Greenwald, imputing enormous power to the ‘Israel lobby’ – an evidently quite dangerous network of Americans who are more concerned about the interests of a foreign country than those of the United States.

The lobby’s use of smears and intimidation to coerce the US Congress into towing the pro-Israel line explains, for Cohen and his fellow political travelers at the Guardian, the difficulties Chuck Hagel has experienced during confirmation hearings in the Senate over his nomination to be Defense Secretary. 

Cohen, who’s been contributing to CiF since December, 2012, has already penned two pieces at CiF on the Hagel nomination, and the alleged hold the pro-Israel lobby has exerted on the process.  And, in his most recent post, Chuck Hagel’s confirmation and the orthodoxy of US debate on Israel‘, Feb. 14, Cohen positively cites the sage analysis of Stephen Walt, who noted that the Hagel row proved ‘the lobby’s iron grip on Congress – an influence which grossly distorts the debate over important foreign policy debates.

Cohen writes the following:

“Part of what is going on here is obviously politics. As Harvard Professor Stephen Walt has repeatedly argued, this is demonstrative of the extraordinary power that the Israel lobby holds over Congress and official Washington.”

Walt, in the Feb. 1 post linked to by Cohen, crows that the Hagel debate proves the wisdom of what he wrote – in a book on the ‘Israel Lobby’ –  when he warned “that AIPAC…has an almost unchallenged hold on Congress“.

So, is it true that Hagel’s troubles during the confirmation hearings prove AIPAC’s suffocating control over congress?

Interestingly, Cohen, in the very next line of his CiF essay, does a 180.

“But in the case of Hagel, the strongest pro-Israel lobby, Aipac, has been silent on the nomination.”

So, Cohen, over the course of two consecutive sentences in the same passage, approvingly cites Walt’s argument on AIPAC’s power over the Hagel process, and then makes an admission which completely contradicts Walt’s thesis.

How can an organization which has been “silent on the [Hagel] nomination” concurrently be exercising an “unchallenged hold” on the process?

Since it is uncertain, based on the passage, whether Cohen thoroughly read the short blog post which he cited, my guess is that he’s likely also unaware that Walt has defended John Mearsheimer, the co-author of his book on the Israel lobby, from charges of endorsing antisemitism.

Of course, the “smears” against Mearsheimer are based largely on his endorsement of a quite well-known Nazi sympathizer and Holocaust denier:

atzmon

Perhaps critics of the ‘Israel lobby’ would cause pro-Israel Jews a bit less “anguish” if they would not impute such a farcical degree of power to Americans who support the Jewish state and, at the very least, studiously avoid associating with those so clearly compromised by such deep-seated Judeophobic antipathies.  

Guardian’s Simon Jenkins suggests Obama’s sanctions against Iran caused by Israel lobby

Simon Jenkins

Writers who chronicle the history and evolution of political thought may one day look back at our era and marvel over the increasing popularity, among presumably “enlightened” progressive voices, of narratives which impute to organized Jewry both immense power and disloyalty – tropes typically associated with traditional right wing Judeophobia.

 A case in point is the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins, who published an essay at CiF, Jan. 3, “Why is Britain ramping up sanctions against Iran?” – a title meant as a rhetorical question, a vehicle to decipher political phenomena he finds disagreeable in a manner consistent with his biases and lazy intellectual assumptions.

Jenkins introductory passages go beyond merely questioning the wisdom and efficacy of economic sanctions imposed by the US and UK to confront the Iranian nuclear threat, but suggests that any such attempt to coerce Iran is obviously doomed to fail.  

Having established what every sane, reasonable person must surely know – that attempts to thwart the Islamist state’s nuclear ambitions, and quest for regional hegemony, will not succeed – Jenkins then pivots to the question of why, precisely, the U.S. has announced new commercial and financial sanctions on Iran:

“President Obama must show America’s pro-Israel lobby that he is tough somewhere in the Middle East.” 

Of course, for Jenkins, the U.S. President’s policy towards Iran isn’t the result of in-depth analyses of the situation with his top foreign policy advisers. It also couldn’t possibly be dictated by national security interests, nor reflect the values of the commander-in-chief of the most power country on earth.

But, rather, such a sanctions regime must be the result of pressure exerted by pro-Israel American Jews, which, per Jenkins, represents “belligerence that makes some western leaders vulnerable to the inevitability of war.”

The Israel lobby isn’t merely behind Western sanctions against Iran. They’re prodding an unwilling, feckless American President to a disastrous military confrontation.

Adds Jenkins:

Economic sanctions are coward’s diplomacy. They purport to high moral stance but are merely a low-risk way of bullying the world. The danger is that they encourage militarist lobbies to escalate the steps that lead to open conflict.

Let’s be clear. By “militarist lobbies” he’s referring to organized American Jewry.  And, by advancing a canard regarding the injurious effects of such “lobbies” he veers directly into the territory of xenophobia and nativism which he, as a liberal, presumably opposes.

The  most prolific paleoconservative and unabashedly antisemitic voice in the U.S., Pat Buchanan, wrote in 2008 that “Israel and its Fifth Column in [Washington , DC] seek to stampede us into war with Iran”.

For the sake of clarity, a “fifth column” refers to a group of people (typically ethnic minorities) who are perceived as clandestinely undermining a larger a nation from within.

When it comes to employing tropes regarding the nefarious influence of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy, Guardian Left commentators such as Simon Jenkins are increasingly indistinguishable from the those who explicitly advance the classically antisemitic view that Jewish citizens of the U.S. (or other Western countries) are more loyal to Israel than to the interests of their own nations.

That Jenkins could simply be ignorant of the lethal history of this facile narrative about Jewish power is certainly possible.  

But, one thing is certain. Sixty-five years after the Holocaust, with Jews representing less than 2% of the American population, it is horribly dispiriting that the charge that organized Jewry is too powerful (and is pushing the United States unwillingly to war) is not only fashionable and respectable but, evidently, considered consistent with “liberal” thought.

462 Guardian readers agree: The pro-Israel lobby is a threat to free speech

Alan Dershowitz’s Jan. 13th CiF column on the use of the term “blood libel” in American political discourse – beyond its usage in the context of the “theologically based false accusations against the Jewish people” –  produced an avalanche of hostile comments.

In the essay, Dershowitz defended the use of the term, arguing that, “no ethnic or religious group should claim ownership of language that might silence free speech.”

The following comment by ArseneKnows, received 462 “Recommends.”

My guess is that the irony of complaining about the pro-Israel lobby stifling free speech, while freely posting such an accusation in a paper read by millions of readers, was somehow lost on him.

Beyond that, its almost comical to argue that the pro-Israel lobby silences criticism of Israel in the very newspaper that habitually publishes the most incendiary and unhinged attacks on the Jewish state.

If the Israel lobby indeed attempts to stifle criticism of Israel, then even the most cursory review of the Western and non-Western media (not to mention International bodies such as the UN and UNHRC) – where vitriol directed towards Israel is simply legion – would  suggest that “the lobby” is doing a simply horrible job at achieving that objective.