Jewish, proudly British and increasingly concerned about rising antisemitism

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

He begins by providing some important context, stressing the fact that “in the long history of the Jews, there are very few better places or times to live than right here, right now”.

So there we were, a handful of Jews, sitting on either side of the House of Lords in our ermine, waiting for the Queen to get robed up and open parliament. And across the chamber, one of my co-religionists calls out the question that Jews have asked each other since the most ancient of days: “Where shall we go for lunch?” I wanted to tell you that story before I got going with this piece so that you understand, before you read the rest of it, that I know what this country is.

Finkelstein then sets up the larger narrative.

Last weekend, the guy in charge of chopped fish in Sainsbury’s in Holborn, central London, panicked. He moved the gefilte fish balls and the rollmop herring to a different refrigerator in a well-meaning, if misconceived, attempt to keep the New Green cucumbers from being entangled in a political row with some demonstrators. It was a bad moment and one I will come back to.

He then writes evocatively about his family’s history, and his love for his country.

When I took the oath to the Queen in the House of Lords, my mother, a refugee from the Nazi death camps, was sitting just a few feet from me. 

Every Jew I know comes from a family that at some point, not all that long ago, was driven out from somewhere else. Almost all have a story of a family member who was killed, a large portion of them within living memory. To be able to become an actuary and settle in Radlett, occasionally striking out on an intrepid adventure to eat at the Delisserie in Stanmore, marks a high point in Jewish civilisation, in my opinion.

So for all that I am about to write, I know what this country is and I love it.

And, yet…

Yet just recently, things are a bit different. Almost every Jew feels it.

For most of my life, antisemitism was not an issue. 

Something has changed.

Two things changed this. And the first was 9/11.

When baffling events happen, planes coming out of a clear blue New York sky, people look for an explanation, a wrong that can be righted, an appeal that can be made to reason. And very often in history, the answer involves doing something about the Jews. I’m just saying. It does.

So it was after the twin towers came down. I had just started writing for The Times and I began to get antisemitic correspondence.

When I was a child, the synagogue bought some walkie-talkies as a security measure…The purchase became a bit of a family joke…

No one would joke about that now. It would be unthinkable to organise a Jewish event of any kind without really quite strict security….My child goes to school behind several sets of very high, electronically controlled gates and bars, and a guard. None of the parents regards that as unnecessary.

More recently.

Within the last week, just to give you a feel for it, I have been sent two separate tweets with different content by people claiming the “Jewish Holocaust is a hoax” — one, tellingly, providing a link from the Iranian television website. And another tweet about how “they” are “well funded and own the media”.

Gaza has made things worse.

Anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

It is absolutely and definitively not antisemitic to criticise Israel.

Yet at the same time much anti-Zionism is entangled with antisemitism and it is important to make that clear, too. 

It is antisemitic to suggest that the world is being dominated by the great pariah state of Israel, defending its own interests through money and power. It is antisemitic to suggest that the “Zionists” control the media. It is antisemitic to elevate the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians high above all the wrongs being done, not least to Palestinians, by neighbouring states.

And when someone throws a rock at a Jew, who is going to pick it up and ask: “Hold on, can we just be a clear? Was this an anti-Zionist rock or an antisemitic rock?”

Whatever the protesters intended, they bounced Sainsbury’s into closing the kosher food counter. They managed to exile the Jewish Film Festival. They hold out the implicit threat that you can live here in peace — here, in Britain — but not if you want to support Israel. Who cares if they mean to be antisemitic?

I worry — for the first time in my life, I do, I worry — about walking to synagogue on the Jewish new year.

A gathering storm?

This is a great country to live in and in many ways it is getting better…Yet most of us Jews, wherever we are in the world, have a niggling feeling that perhaps it might be a good idea to keep a suitcase packed, and many of us have had, at least once, a conversation about where we would go if we had to.

I don’t have such a suitcase. I won’t need it, I know I won’t. But If I told you that I didn’t understand it, I’d be lying.

USA Today, not the Guardian, gets ‘1000 acres of land’ story right

Cross posted from CAMERA’s blog Snapshots

picNews media often refer erroneously to the West Bank as “Palestinian land” or “Palestinian territory” and Israeli acquisition or development there often get reported as “land grabs.” For example:

Referring to Israel’s decision to declare almost 1,000 acres adjacent to the West Bank community of Gva’ot as state land, The Guardian (U.K.) wrote, “Israel has published tenders to build 283 homes in a West Bank settlement, days after announcing its biggest land grab on occupied Palestinian territory [emphases added] for three decades.” (“Israel to build 283 homes in West Bank”, Sept. 5, 2014)

USA Today, by contrast, eschewed hyperbole for context. Special Correspondent Michele Chabin reported of Gva’ot and the newly-designated state land that “this community of 17 Israeli families, apartments for disabled adults, a school for disabled children, several horses and a petting zoo is accustomed to solitude. So [Rachel] Pomerantz, who rents a small prefab home here, was surprised by the sudden international attention on the settlement since … the Israeli government announced it would designate a swath of land next to Gva’ot as state-owned property.”

Gva’ot is close to the 1949 Israeli-Jordanian armistice line and the adjacent 988 acres at the center of the media-diplomatic dust-up lie between it and the Gush Etzion settlement bloc just south of Jerusalem. As USA Today tells readers, “the Gush Etzion bloc’s core communities [in the West bank] were founded before Israel’s establishment in 1948 on land purchased by Jews in the 1920s and 1930s.

“Arab soldiers destroyed the communities when they fought against Israel’s founding during the 1948 war” (“Quiet strip of land, a loud dispute”, USA Today, Sept. 5, 2014)

“To Pomerantz,” Chabin wrote, “the international outcry doesn’t take into account Jews’ religious and historical ties to the West Bank. Gva’ot appears in the Old Testament [Hebrew Bible], and ‘the biblical land of Israel is inseparable from the state of Israel,’ she said.

“ ‘On a practical level,’ Pomerantz added, ‘there is an acute shortage of housing, so construction is vital.’ ”

A picture of Pomerantz walking with her children [seen above] helps personalize the story for readers.

Additionally, a map accompanying the article showed Gva’ot’s location sandwiched between the Gush Etzion block and Israel proper. Most Israelis expect the block to remain part of Israel in any agreement with the Palestinian leadership. A small inset map showed tiny Israel in comparison to the rest of the Middle East. The two maps together amount to a visual commentary that perhaps there has been exaggerated international focus on Israel’s designation of the adjacent land territory, about the size of four or five Midwestern farms, as state land.

The Guardian’s “Palestinian territory” description contradicts the basics. Since the end of Ottoman rule in 1917 no country has been recognized as sovereign over the West Bank. It remains disputed land taken by Jordan in a war of aggression in 1948 and which Israel won in a defensive war in 1967.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, passed following the ’67 Six Day War, required withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from some but not necessarily all territories gained in the conflict. The authors of Resolution 242, U.S. Under Secretary of State Eugene Rostow, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Arthur Goldberg and British Ambassador Lord Caradon made clear at the time and subsequently that Jews and Arabs had claims in the disputed territories, which included the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Hence the need for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

News media err when, prematurely assuming the results of such negotiations, they mislabel the land as “Palestinian” and Jewish settlers and settlements as illegal when “close Jewish settlement on the land” west of the Jordan River is encouraged by the League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate, Article 6 and perpetuated by the U.N. Charter, Chapter 12, Article 80.

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

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

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CAMERA’s Tamar Sternthal: Media coverage of Israel during the war in Gaza

My colleague Tamar Sternthal, the Director of the Israel office of CAMERA, recently joined Josh Hasten for an in-studio interview at Voice of Israel to discuss media coverage of Israel during Operation Protective Edge.

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CiF Watch prompts correction to Telegraph claim about Unit 8200 letter

Unlike the Guardian, the Telegraph’s coverage of one protest letter by 43 Israelis – threatening that they’d no longer serve in the IDF’s 8200 intelligence unit due to their opposition to “Israel’s military occupation over the territories” – hasn’t been at all obsessive. In fact, they’ve only published one story on the row to date – an AFP piece titled ‘Elite Israeli soldiers refuse to fight against Palestinians‘, Sept. 12th.

However, the report did contain a clear error, in a passage suggesting that the Israeli soldiers complained, in their letter, of “targeted assassinations”.

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Guardian champions their favorite Israeli causes: Disloyalty and Insubordination

Former AP correspondent Matti Friedman, in his essay at Tablet on media coverage of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, explained that reporters “working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel”, whose “every action and flaw is analyzed, criticized and aggressively reported”, while, alternately, “Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate”.

The Guardian coverage of Israel and the greater region perfectly reflects this principle.

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Examining an alleged quote by Golda Meir about the Holocaust cited by Gideon Levy

(CAMERA senior research analyst Gidon Shaviv assisted in this post)

We recently posted about an Irish Times article by Lara Marlow which highlighted Haaretz’s Gideon Levy (“Holocaust makes Israelis think international law doesn’t apply,” Sept. 11th) in which Levy recycled a previously discredited quote by former prime minister Golda Meir.

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Miracle in Gaza: Power plant the Guardian declared “destroyed” comes back to life

Elder of Ziyon just published a fascinating update on the widely reported story from late July, in which Gaza’s only power plant was allegedly completely “destroyed” by an Israeli missile strike.   

Here’s how the Guardian covered the incident in a July 30th report by Harriet Sherwood.

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The Gaza War in 5 minutes: Richard Kemp explains what the media didn’t report

In the following video produced by Jerusalem U, Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, explains the egregious double standards in media coverage of Israel during the recent Gaza conflict.

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Gideon Levy recycles a likely fabricated Golda Meir quote for the Irish Times

As CAMERA has previously documented, in 2004 Gideon Levy claimed in a Ha’aretz column that “Golda Meir said that after what the Nazis did to us, we can do whatever we want,” but was later forced to admit that he had no source for the quote. In an email to CAMERA, he acknowledged: “Therefore we dropped the quotation in the original version in Hebrew and by mistake it was printed in the English version.”

He’s at it again.

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Guardian publishes repulsive letter evoking Israel-Nazi analogy

Alvin Rosenfeld, in a recent essay at The Forward (Moral Emptiness of Holocaust Survivors Who Took on Israel, Aug. 28), argued that “stamping” Israel-Nazi analogies “with the moral authority that supposedly belongs to Holocaust survivors does not turn these lies into truth”.

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

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

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BREAKING: Foreign journalist shows openness to criticism

Earlier today, we posted about an article in the Independent on Gaza post-war reconstruction which included the claim that the only construction materials permitted to enter Gaza are those which come from Israeli sources.

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Independent cites ‘EU source’ in baseless claim on Gaza import restrictions

A Sept. 5th story on post-war Gaza reconstruction in The Independent by Natasha Culzak, titled “Israel-Gaza Crisis: Reconstruction of flattened Gaza will cost £5billion, Palestinian officials say“, included the following claim:

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