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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Focus below the line: Profile of ‘anti-Zionist’ Guardian commenter Eileen Kuch

We first noticed commenter ‘Eileen Kuch’ on a ‘Comment is Free’ thread about the Ukrainian-Russian crisis in April, where she vehemently supported Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

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This comment, putting aside the “Zio-controlled” trope (that can be explained off as some kind of anti-Zionism – she didn’t write “Jewish controlled”; did she?), reminded us of a crazy conspiracy theory – on some completely off the mental spectrum website – alleging that Barack Obama’s stepfather Lolo Soetoro must have been Jewish because “soetoro” is a Hebrew word used in the Hebrew Bible.

We were mildly surprised that the Guardian allowed such a bizarre claim on their site, and, wishing to understand the very generous flexibility of the moderators, searched for her other comments.

Reading her writings taken from her public profile on CIF is a beautiful example of the level of racist hate speech that the World’s Leading Liberal Voice is evidently ready to tolerate, completely disregarding their own ‘community standards’. Here are a limited number of examples of her comments, along with the ‘source’ of her knowledge.

Israel and its puppet the USA are the instigators of all ongoing unrest and upheaval in the world:

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Another comment puts some light on her ‘sources’.

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Her suggested useful reference on the mass murder of “Christians” by the hands of Lenin and Trotsky is a book of a certain Estonian author – Juri Lina – titled ‘Under the Sign of the Scorpion‘. To illustrate what she considers ‘an important source’, we will only quote the well-known neo-Nazi and conspiracy theorist Henry Makow: 

Estonian journalist Juri Lina has examined the recently opened Soviet archives and documented the connection between the Bolshevik Revolution and Jewish Illuminism in his book “Under the Sign of the Scorpion.” (1994)

I will probably devote a separate column to this book. Suffice to say here that Communism was the outcome of the plan outlined in Protocols. No wonder this book was banned in the USSR on pain of death! Its informal ban in America is a measure of our condition.

Karl Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, were all Jewish Freemasons, dysfunctional losers who were employed by the Illuminist bankers to hoodwink the masses. Lenin for example had been an unsuccessful lawyer who had only six cases in which he defended shoplifters. He lost all six cases. A week later he gave up the law to become a highly paid revolutionary.

Ms Kuch can’t be fooled; she knows the real name of the players in Ukraine:

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An appeal to Owen Jones: don’t associate with anti-Semites

This is cross posted from the blog of The CST, and was originally titled ‘Opposing antisemitism: an appeal to put words into action’.

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Owen Jones

The past two months have seen the number of antisemitic incidents in Britain approach record levels Much of this has been due to extreme reactions to the conflict between Israel and Gaza that reached its latest ceasefire yesterday. This problem, and its link to extreme manifestations of anti-Israel sentiment, has been covered extensively in the British media.

Some pro-Palestinian activists have recognised this problem and spoken out against it. 

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has said that antisemitism has no place in its activities, and Owen Jones wrote a column for the Guardian in which he warned of the need to take antisemitism seriously. In particular, he wrote:

Antisemitic themes are depressingly constant: of Jews being aliens, lacking loyalty to their countries, acting as parasites, wielding disproportionate influence. Sometimes this hatred is overt, other times more subtle and pernicious.

We welcome these statements from supporters of the Palestinian cause, just as we previously welcomed PSC’s rejection of the equation of Israel with Nazi Germany. And because we consider these statements to be important and necessary, we hope and expect that the people who made them will live up to their words and the sentiments behind them.

It is for this reason that we appeal to PSC and to Owen Jones to reconsider the inclusion of Tim Llewellyn as a speaker at a PSC meeting tomorrow evening, 28th August, on “Gaza: let down by the BBC and mainstream media?” We appeal to PSC as the organiser of the meeting and to Jones as one of the other speakers.

Our objection is not to the meeting itself. We do not oppose your right to hold public meetings in support of the Palestinians, or to criticise Israel, or to critique media coverage of the conflict between the two.

Our objection is specifically to the inclusion of Llewellyn as a guest speaker on this topic because he has a record of statements that illustrate exactly what Jones warns against: themes “of Jews being aliens, lacking loyalty to their countries, acting as parasites, wielding disproportionate influence.”

For example, last year at a meeting in London that was also about media coverage of Israel, Llewellyn claimed that the BBC is intimidated by the “Jewish lobby”. When he was challenged on this by the chair of the meeting, he resisted criticism of his choice of phrase. The full exchange ran as follows and can be viewed here on the CST Blog:

Llewellyn: “Is it because… I can see it in the BBC. They’re frighten’, these people are quite aggressive, right. The Jewish Lobby is not much fun. They come at you from every direction.”

Off camera, another speaker says “no”, then, “its the pro-Israel lobby”. It is not exactly clear who says what after this, but it includes the chair Mark McDonald talking over Llewellyn, stating:

“I mean that’s a very important thing to say, that it’s not a Jewish lobby. Can I interrupt a second. It’s not a Jewish lobby. It might be a Zionist lobby. It may be a pro-Israel lobby.”

Llewellyn replies: “Yes, but they use Jewish connections to get you.”

This statement by Llewellyn was not a one-off. It fitted a long record of statements and writings that mix “Jewish” with “Zionist” while alleging that both hold undue and nefarious influence in British public life. For example, in 2006, Llewellyn wrote the following in the Foreword to a new edition of Publish It Not: The Middle East Cover-Up by Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew:

No alien polity has so successfully penetrated the British government and British institutions during the past ninety years as the Zionist movement and its manifestation as the state of Israel…the Zionists have manipulated British systems as expertly as maestros, here a massive major chord, there a minor refrain, the audience, for the most part, spellbound.

…this cuckoo in the nest of British politics…

… Israel had worked its spells well, with a lot of help from its friends: these lined the benches of parliament, wrote the news stories and editorials, framed the way we saw and heard almost everything about the Middle East on TV, radio and in the press. History, the Bible, Nazi Germany’s slaughter of the Jews, Russian pogroms, the Jewish narrative relayed and parlayed through a thousand books, films, TV plays and series, radio programmes, the skills of Jewish writers, diarists, memoirists, artists and musicians, people like us and among us, all had played their part.

…the fervent Zionist Labour MPs, some of them little better than bully-boys, Richard Crossman (not a Jew), Ian Mikardo, Maurice Edelman, Emmanuel “Manny” Shinwell, Sidney Silverman, Konni Zilliacus et al, are, mercifully, not only no longer with us but have not been replaced, not in such virulent form.

… the Union of Jewish Students, which elbows and induces Zionistically inclined undergraduates towards influential positions in British public life, especially the media, the banking sector and information technology.

Llewellyn mixes “Zionist” with “Jewish”, describing both as “alien” to Britain; and alleges undue and negative influence and manipulation of the media, politics and “the banking sector”. These allegations all have clear antecedents in antisemitic conspiracy theories.

Another example: in 2004, Llewellyn was quoted in the Jewish Chronicle as describing former US ambassador Dennis Ross in these terms:

He also denounced broadcasters who invited the “insidious” former US ambassador to the Middle East Denis Ross, without fully identifying him.

Mr Llewellyn said: “What a lovely Anglo-Saxon name! But Denis Ross is not just a Jew, he is a Zionist, a long-time Zionist… and now directs an Israeli-funded think tank in Washington. He is a Zionist propagandist.”

The suggestion that broadcasters should identify an interviewee as “a Jew”, lest their viewers be fooled by an “Anglo-Saxon name”, is scurrilous and prejudiced.

In 2012, Llewellyn wrote of

massive media distortion, and … Zionist penetration and manipulation of our institutions – the media, universities, local education, political parties…

He went on to describe as Britain’s

real enemies… the ambitious and greedy British politicians and insidious political influence, in this case spawned by an alien state and strengthened by its friends in our midst, people who put Israel’s interests above that of their own nation.

(From The Battle for Public Opinion in Europe: Changing Perceptions of the Palestine-Israel Conflict, eds. Daud Abdullah & Ibrahim Hewitt, not online). Again, this echoes the classical antisemitic allegation of ‘dual loyalty’, whereby British Jews are accused of lacking loyalty to the country of their birth.

If the important and welcome statements by PSC, Owen Jones and others about their opposition to antisemitism and determination to exclude it from pro-Palestinian activism have real meaning, then there should be no place for Tim Llewellyn at a PSC meeting. This is not an abstract argument: the sharp increase in antisemitism in Britain in recent weeks demonstrates that fact. Words lead to actions, good and bad. We now invite PSC and Owen Jones to put their valuable and worthy statements and principles into practice. A discussion of media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict must not give room to those who believe that there is a Zionist conspiracy to control, manipulate or influence the British media, politics, banking and education, as Tim Llewellyn has suggested. Nor should pro-Palestinian activism be a home for those who believe that Jews are an alien presence, disloyal to Britain, who change their names to disguise their true loyalties.

Put your words into action, and remove Tim Llewellyn from your platform.

Mira Bar-Hillel falls for phony ‘IDF’ tweet ‘admitting’ to murdering children

For those unfamiliar with the British ‘journalist’ Mira Bar-Hillel (who contributes to the Independent), here are a few facts about her views on Jews and Israel:

  • She complained that Jews smear people unfairly with the charge of antisemitism to “gag into submission any critic of Israel”.
  • She evoked Nazi Germany in characterizing Israeli racism and IDF military actions in Gaza.
  • She accused British Jews (collectively) of ‘bombing Gaza’.
  • She bizarrely argued that British Jews don’t criticize Israeli actions in Gaza out of fear of being “ex-communicated” from the Jewish community. (She later admitted that she had no evidence to back this claim up.)
  • She has admitted to being “prejudiced against Jews”. (See her exact words)
  • She believes that “the message” of Jews controlling America is “entirely true” and “increasingly so”, and that Jewish lobbyists appear to be picking up some of the ideas from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and using them.

Now, the latest.

Here are two tweets from today by Bar-Hillel, which included a graphic purporting to represent an “IDF tweet”:

Here’s Bar-Hillel’s first tweet, with the “IDF tweet” attached.

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And, then, 8 minutes later she asks a few more of her Zionist nemeses to justify the ‘IDF tweet':

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We’re not sure if anyone out there, except Bar-Hillel and her motley crew of retweeters, could possibly believe in the authenticity of this “IDF” tweet “acknowledging” child murder, but, briefly:

It was clearly photoshopped from this real IDF tweet from Aug. 21:

And, the graphic was almost certainly taken from this IDF tweet

Mira Bar-Hillel wants so badly to believe that Israel murders children that she was willing to believe this absurd hoax tweet.

Tell us again why Bar-Hillel continues to pen op-eds for British newspapers (on the topics of Israel and antisemitism!) and lands interviews with the BBC and Sky News, on similar topics, as a ‘representative’ of the British Jewish community.

Everything you always wanted to know about media coverage of Israel but were afraid to ask

In carrying out this blog’s mission, we often attempt to contextualize Guardian/UK media coverage of Israel and the Jewish world by explaining not only what they get wrong, but also why they get it wrong.

eye_stardavid400x246_3k8lxgc5Tablet Magazine just published a long and extremely important article (by former AP correspondent Matti Friedman) which masterfully dissects such institutional bias against Israel – in the broader Western media – and we strongly encourage those who’ve thought seriously about the subject to read the 4,000 word essay in full.

Here are some excerpts:

Intro:

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

How Important Is the Israel Story?

Staffing is the best measure of the importance of a story to a particular news organization. When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined

To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel.

What Is Important About the Israel Story, and What Is Not

A reporter working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel. If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate

Israeli actions are analyzed and criticized, and every flaw in Israeli society is aggressively reported. In one seven-week period, from Nov. 8 to Dec. 16, 2011, I…counted 27 separate articles, an average of a story every two days….this seven-week tally was higher than the total number of significantly critical stories about Palestinian government and society, including the totalitarian Islamists of Hamas, that our bureau had published in the preceding three years.

The Hamas charter, for example, calls not just for Israel’s destruction but for the murder of Jews and blames Jews for engineering the French and Russian revolutions and both world wars; the charter was never mentioned in print when I was at the AP

What Else “Isn’t” Important?

In early 2009..two colleagues of mine obtained information that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had made a significant peace offer to the Palestinian Authority several months earlier, and that the Palestinians had deemed it insufficient. This had not been reported yet and it was—or should have been—one of the biggest stories of the year. The reporters obtained confirmation from both sides and one even saw a map, but the top editors at the bureau decided that they would not publish the story….

This decision taught me a lesson that should be clear to consumers of the Israel story: Many of the people deciding what you will read and see from here view their role not as explanatory but as political. Coverage is a weapon to be placed at the disposal of the side they like.

How Is the Israel Story Framed?

The Israel story is framed in the same terms that have been in use since the early 1990s—the quest for a “two-state solution.” It is accepted that the conflict is “Israeli-Palestinian,” meaning that it is a conflict taking place on land that Israel controls—0.2 percent of the Arab world—in which Jews are a majority and Arabs a minority. The conflict is more accurately described as “Israel-Arab,” or “Jewish-Arab”—that is, a conflict between the 6 million Jews of Israel and 300 million Arabs in surrounding countries…

The “Israeli-Palestinian” framing allows the Jews, a tiny minority in the Middle East, to be depicted as the stronger party

The Old Blank Screen

For centuries, stateless Jews played the role of a lightning rod for ill will among the majority population. They were a symbol of things that were wrong. Did you want to make the point that greed was bad? Jews were greedy. Cowardice? Jews were cowardly. Were you a Communist? Jews were capitalists. Were you a capitalist? In that case, Jews were Communists. Moral failure was the essential trait of the Jew…

Like many Jews who grew up late in the 20th century in friendly Western cities, I dismissed such ideas as the feverish memories of my grandparents. One thing I have learned…is that I was foolish to have done so. Today, people in the West tend to believe the ills of the age are racism, colonialism, and militarism. The world’s only Jewish country has done less harm than most countries on earth, and more good—and yet when people went looking for a country that would symbolize the sins of our new post-colonial, post-militaristic, post-ethnic dream-world, the country they chose was this one.

Who Cares If the World Gets the Israel Story Wrong?

Understanding what happened in Gaza this summer…requires us to understand what is clear to nearly everyone in the Middle East: The ascendant force in our part of the world is not democracy or modernity. It is rather an empowered strain of Islam that assumes different and sometimes conflicting forms, and that is willing to employ extreme violence in a quest to unite the region under its control and confront the West. Those who grasp this fact will be able to look around and connect the dots

Israel is not an idea, a symbol of good or evil, or a litmus test for liberal opinion at dinner parties. It is a small country in a scary part of the world that is getting scarier. It should be reported as critically as any other place, and understood in context and in proportion. 

Read the rest of the essay here.

Economist uses ‘Fagin the Jew’ to illustrate article on criminal behavior

Cross posted from the blog of David Porush

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I’m usually the one around the Old Jews poker table who counsels my oversensitive friends not to over-react to perceived slights. As a former English prof, I abhor PC censorship of literature (banning Twain for his use of the”N-word” is but one example.) I’m a fan of brilliant writers who are also dyed-in-the-wool anti-Semites, such as Pound, Celine TS Eliot and, yes, DIckens. Further, paying attention to intentional hatred or sniveling bigotry just stirs the toilet and makes it smell worse.

But The Economist just published a story entitled “To Have and Have Not: A disturbing study of the link between income and criminal behavior” that pushed me over the edge. Atop the piece is very large picture of Fagin the Jew from a movie version of DIcken’s Oliver Twist.

Type “Fagin the Jew” into Google (Images or Web) and you will see how viral and anti-Semitic this character portrait is historically.

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Fagin is used by Dickens as symbol of explicitly Jewish criminality and his portrayal even in the 1948 (!) film, from which this image is taken, truly captures Dickens’ animus. See this discussion of Dickens’ anti-Semitism:

The Oxford Dictionary of English Literature describes Dickens as nationalistic often both stigmatising foreign European cultures and taking his attitude to “colonized people” to “genocidal extremes”,[3] albeit based mainly on a vision of British virtue, but not on any concept of heredity. One of the best known instances of this is Dickens’ portrait of Fagin in one of his most widely read early novels Oliver Twist, which has been seen by some as deeply antisemitic, though others such as Dickens’ biograper “G.K.Chesterton” have argued against this notion. The novel refers to Fagin 257 times in the first 38 chapters as “the Jew”, while the ethnicity or religion of the other characters is rarely mentioned.

The Economist article itself resurrects traditional anti-Jewish libels of inherent or congenital criminality by gratuitously placing a photo of a Jew to accompany a report  about a study in Sweden. The study has not one mention of Jews, literature, Dickens, the 19th century, or even crime in England. But it does suggest:

“…a family’s culture, once established, is “sticky”—that you can, to put it crudely, take the kid out of the neighbourhood, but not the neighbourhood out of the kid. Given, for example, children’s propensity to emulate elder siblings whom they admire, that sounds perfectly plausible. The other possibility is that genes which predispose to criminal behaviour (several studies suggest such genes exist) are more common at the bottom of society than at the top, perhaps because the lack of impulse-control they engender also tends to reduce someone’s earning capacity.”

This is either dumbfounding insensitivity or gratuitous stereotyping, especially at a time when passions are aroused against Jews in the UK, the EU, and elsewhere. In its choice of images, The Economist has either purposefully inflamed matters or merely, casually, offhandedly confirmed its good old upper crust Brit anti-Jew bigotry.

Further, even if it’s just a poor or thoughtless choice, it’s part of a pattern. The Economist‘s anti-Israel agenda has been clear for a long time. However, they now make clear that their bias blurs the distinction between anti-Israel and anti-Jew. Maybe I’ve gone over the edge and have become enamored of the view from here. Look, I’ll tell on myself: I cancelled my subscription to The New York Times for its clear bias after five decades of reading it religiously. Yup, this former liberal Brooklyn Jew has become a bit unnerved.

Or maybe I’m not crazy. Maybe The Economist‘s cool posture of civil, rational analysis obliges it to be held to a higher standard. Maybe I just can’t abide the UK’s and EU’s pretenses and get some bad boy frisson from ripping off their masks.

Please join me in protesting to The Economist directly at letters@economist.com and asking for an apology.

Also feel free to use any verbiage herein to help make your point.

David Porush

Independent posts op-ed by Ilan Pappe calling Israel a ‘supremacist’ Jewish state

The Times of Israel recently published a story titled ‘Israeli soldiers sperm in hot demand‘, which reported an increase in the number of Israeli women seeking sperm donors with a military background, likely reflecting the fact that the war in Gaza may have given many of the women new insights into the value of heroism and patriotism.

However, as we’ve seen time and time again, the most popular anti-Zionists among British news editors tend to be those who can take a relatively innocuous fact about the Jewish State, and manage to impute the most malevolent and racist motives.

To boot, an Aug. 17th op-ed at the Indy by the anti-Zionist Israeli historian Ilan Pappe (What a rising demand for the sperm of IDF soldiers and a “fun” questionnaire reveal about Israel) takes the Times of Israel story about sperm donation trends into a predictable direction.

Here are the relevant passages in Pappe’s op-ed:

The first is the present drive among infertile Jewish parents to seek the sperm of the combatant elite units who fought in Gaza. This is to ensure the purest and most supreme DNA possible for their prospective children. And it is fully supported by the official Israeli Sperm Bank.

To be honest, these soldiers did not do too well in the battlefield. Conventional armies are inept when it comes to battling face-to-face with desperate guerrillas dug deep in tunnels and bunkers. Possibly the HAMAS DNA would have been a bit more fitting for this purpose, if one wishes to take ad absurdum this Israeli Jewish obsession with human engineering.

It was bad enough to base the whole Zionist idea on the wish to create an exclusive and supremacist Jewish democracy, in a land where the Jews were not and are not going to be ever such a majority (unless they genocide the local population).

There are other enormously problematic elements of Pappe’s op-ed, but the charge leveled against Israel that those Jewish Israeli women who want the father of their children to be Israeli soldiers reflects some sort of endemic Jewish racism should briefly be put in context.

The term “Jewish supremacism” – an especially vile form of the ‘Zionism = Racism” charge – has been popularized by extreme antisemites such as former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke and a neo-Nazi style extremist named Gilad Atzmon. Indeed, the doctoral thesis written by Duke was titled ‘Zionism is a form of ethnic supremacism’. 

But, at the heart of Pappe’s charges is something much darker than merely a commentary on Zionism.  If you recall, back in 2011 the Guardian’s Deborah Orr achieved well-deserved notoriety for complaining that so many Zionists believe “that the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate [Palestinian] neighbors” – “Zionists” of course being a euphemism for “Jews”.

Such an ugly distortion of the Jewish ‘chosen people’ idea often suggests that the Jewish faith, in practice if not by theological design, arguably shares an ideological similitude with other odious, exclusivist 20th century ideologies in that they see their group as a superior race.

Ilan Pappe had to be aware of the ideological baggage associated with that the term “supremacist” in relation to the state of the Jewish people, and editors at the Indy – which claims to be a champion of enlightenment values – should certainly not have allowed its editorial pages to be used as a repository of such reactionary, racist notions about Jews and Israel.  

Guardian readers’ editor claims that Hamas ‘denies’ using human shields

Guardian readers’ editor Chris Elliott, in an Aug. 18th column on the Hamas ‘child sacrifice’ advert featuring Elie Wiesel, wrote the following in the context of suggesting that his paper’s decision to publish the ad was not a wise one.

whatever the intention, the biblical language, the references to child sacrifice, all evoke images of that most ancient of antisemitic tropes: the blood libel. The authors may believe that they have steered a careful course by aiming these matters at an organisation, Hamas, rather than all Palestinians, but the association is there. If an advertisement was couched in similar terms but the organisation named was the IDF rather than Hamas, I can’t imagine the Guardian would run it – I certainly hope it wouldn’t. I think that’s the issue.

Of course, the difference between charging soldiers of the Jewish State with a blood libel (the historic allegation that Jews murder non-Jews, especially children, and use their blood for religious rituals, part of a broader narrative regarding Jewish “murder-lust”) vs leveling such charges at Hamas is that there is no history of racist anti-Palestinian blood libel tropes.

However, there’s another claim in Elliott’s critique of the ad which is even more dubious:

Each advertisement has clearly got to be decided on a case-by-case basis, bearing in mind not just specific criteria but the context of the times as well. I entirely support the argument that freedom of expression means the freedom to offend. On that basis I don’t think it was wrong to run an advertisement that expressed a viewpoint, with which the Guardian has no sympathy, about the alleged use of human shields by Hamas, which the organisation has strenuously denied. But there are always limits. 

So, Hamas has “strenuously denied” the charge? Really?

Evidently, Elliott didn’t see this widely circulated MEMRI clip of Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri (from Al-Aqsa TV on July 8th) commenting on one of the many well-documented ‘human shield’ incidents.

Contrary to Elliott’s claim, the official Hamas spokesman couldn’t possibly have been clearer about the use of human shields: “We in Hamas call upon our people to adopt this policy“.  

CiF Watch prompts revision to Economist claim about MK Zoabi’s suspension

Earlier in the month we posted about a curious omission in an Economist article titled ‘Us and Them‘, Aug. 2.  

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Israeli MK Haneen Zoabi

To buttress their broader theme on the putative ‘erosion of Israel’s democracy’, the characteristically anonymous article made the following claim about Israeli MK Haneen Zoabi:

This week the Knesset banned an Arab member, Haneen Zoabi, for six months for “aggressive behaviour” in anti-war demonstrations.

However, as we noted at the time, this is an inaccurate statement as it omits key information about the suspension.

MK Zoabi was suspended for six months from the Knesset (while still maintaining her voting rights in the Israeli legislative body) for two reasons – one of which the Economist completely omitted. 

While Zoabi’s suspension was in part due to an incident with a police officer at a protest rally (as they noted), the main reason was related to her assertion, in mid June, that the kidnappers of three Israeli teens (Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah, and Gilad Shaar) were NOT terrorists – a comment she evidently didn’t amend, even after the boys’ bullet ridden bodies were discovered partially buried near Hebron on June 30.

Shimon Peres

We complained to Economist editors, and, in addition to slightly revising the text to note that Zoabi’s behavior at the protest was only one of the reasons for her suspension, they added the following addendum.

corexThough the text still doesn’t include the main reason for Zoabi’s suspension, editors’ acknowledgement that the original language was misleading is of course welcomed. 

Owen Jones, and the Left’s blind spot over antisemitism

Cross posted by Jeremy Havardi at The Commentator

Owen_Jones

Owen Jones

Leftists have long had a blind spot when it comes to antisemitism. This is partly because some have found comfort in this rank bigotry, seeing Jews as a privileged elite and a personification of the capitalism they abhor. But it is also because they like to define antisemitism on their own terms, showing disdain for how Jews themselves feel.

They recognise and condemn its more usual manifestations, particularly when it comes packaged with swastikas, jackboots and lethal rhetoric. But they refuse to recognise the other side of Jew baiting — the double standards, the conspiracy thinking, the Holocaust inversion and the anti-Zionism.

Owen Jones clearly has the blind spot just mentioned. In an article in Monday’s Guardian [Aug. 11], Jones discusses the menace of antisemitism in Europe. He recognises that it has spiked during the conflict in Gaza and argues that ‘attempts to belittle it are dangerous, allowing the tumour to spread unchecked’.

He dismisses those who try to deflect blame onto the Jews themselves. This, he says, is like ‘rationalising anti-Muslim prejudice as the inevitable consequence of Islamist fundamentalist terror’. So far, so good.

But then he gets unstuck. First, he raises the old canard that pro-Israel supporters accuse ‘pro-Palestinian’ protestors of being antisemitic in an attempt to silence criticism of Israel.

The danger is that the ‘meaning of antisemitism is lost, making it all the more difficult to identify and eliminate hatred against Jewish people at a time when it is rising’. He goes on to say that for some defenders of Israel’s governments, the ‘supposed special attention received by the conflict is itself evidence of antisemitism’.

In reality, he argues that these protestors are condemning the actions of a heavily armed state backed by the West.

The idea that Israel’s supporters routinely accuse their critics of antisemitism is essentially fictitious. The vast majority of these supporters can recognise the difference between criticism of Israeli policy and baseless hatred. Virtually no sane Zionist sympathiser would label someone antisemitic simply for criticising policy on the West Bank or settlements. These are matters of legitimate public discourse.

But what these supporters will argue, justifiably, is that the discourse on the conflict has become badly corrupted. Israel has been likened to a Nazi state that is engaged in a policy of wholesale extermination. Only recently, Lord Prescott labelled Gaza a ‘concentration camp’ in an article for the Mirror. Others, like David Ward and Lee Jasper, have used Holocaust Memorial Day to attack Israel and the Jews.

Cartoonists have routinely tapped into antisemitic stereotypes to depict Israeli leaders, the most popular of which evoke images of the blood libel. The ‘all powerful’ Israel lobby is accused of being an evil puppet master, manipulating western foreign policy for its own insidious ends. This taps into a centuries old stereotype of sinister and demonic Jews controlling the world.

Supporters of Israel have every reason to condemn such ugly displays of bigotry. Yet the accusation is trotted out that they accuse every critic of anti semitism, which is absurd. This is an attempt to silence and smear Zionists, not critics of Israel. Maybe Owen Jones should answer this question: How nasty must criticism of Israel become before it can be considered antisemitic, or at least bigoted?

Is it acceptable to portray Netanyahu as a hook nosed Jew revelling in Palestinian blood, as a latter day satanic Hitler or perhaps as an evil puppet master controlling western leaders? Unfortunately, images such as these have proliferated at anti-Israeli rallies around the world.

Jones is anxious to defend those who go on ‘pro-Palestinian’ rallies. But the unmistakeable sentiment from marchers is unmitigated hostility to Zionism and a Palestine free ‘from the river to the sea’. Yet Zionism is simply the acknowledgement that the Jews are a nation with a collective right to self-determination.

Anti-Zionists deny Jews this right while granting it to every other nation. That is why true progressives, like the great Martin Luther King, have long recognised the connection between hostility to Zionism and hostility to Jews.

Jones secondly fails to understand how antisemitism is often dressed up in ‘progressive’ form. He (rightly) mentions the danger from Front National, Jobbik and Golden Dawn, three extreme groups suffused with xenophobic prejudice against Jews, immigrants and Muslims. He condemns attacks on synagogues in Paris as well as other assaults.

But antisemitism is not just about jackboots and swastikas, torched synagogues and racist insults. It is about discriminating unfairly against Jews, Jewish institutions and Israelis.

It is about holding Jews to a different standard or demanding from them a unique level of behaviour. It is about calculated offence, such as abusing the memory of the Holocaust for political ends. Nor does antisemitism have to be intended for it to be real.

When we stop viewing this prejudice through far right tinted spectacles, we can understand why Kilburn’s Tricycle theatre has been accused of racism. Last week, the Tricycle boycotted the UK Jewish Film Festival after the latter refused to accept a condition that it first reject £1,400 of funding from the Israeli embassy.

The Tricycle suggested that UKJFF was being politicised by this money and, by implication, the theatre would be taking sides over the Gaza conflict.

Yet this condition has not been imposed in other cases where cultural institutions have received government funding. To take one example, the Tricycle hosted the London Asian Film Festival, even though it was financed by the Indian government, a party to the long running conflict over Kashmir.

Moreover, the Tricycle has happily taken a sizeable grant from the Arts Council, a government funded body. Yet British governments have recently been mired in controversial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is a blatant case of an egregious double standard applied to a Jewish cultural group. They, and only they, have been forced to sign up to a political credo (i.e. to dissociate from Israel) before they are deemed ‘acceptable’. In an attempt to appear self-righteous, the Tricycle’s organisers have engaged in a most pernicious form of bullying.

Had he cast his net further, Jones might have condemned George Galloway after his recent statement that no Israeli tourists were welcome in Bradford.

Galloway was saying that a boycott of Israeli goods and services was not enough; not one Israeli was welcome to step foot in his constituency either. By demanding that Bradford become Israelfrei, Galloway was not engaging in political debate. He was demonising an entire nation.

Equally bigoted was the decision of the Edinburgh Festival to axe ‘The City’, a play staged by Jerusalem’s Incubator Theatre. There were calls for its artists to publicly dissociate themselves from Israel’s policies in Gaza and the West Bank before being allowed to perform.

But again, such draconian demands have not been imposed on other nationalities. No other performers have been asked to pass a ‘values test’ before they can appear, nor should they be. Such behaviour is an outrageous affront to the principle of artistic freedom.

All three examples revolve around Israel and its conflict in Gaza. But Israel is the ‘Jew among nations’ and the country deserves equal treatment in the court of international opinion. Singling her out unfairly demands some form of explanation.

The motive for doing so is not always racist. Anti-Americanism and hostility to western power galvanise the left, and Israel is a bastion of democratic, western values as well as a staunch ally of America. It is also perceived, wrongly, to be a colonialist power. Hence it is a target of leftist discontent with western power. But the effect of such irrational discrimination and disproportionate focus is no less hurtful than a verbal insult.

It is still targeting the Jews.

It is only when we understand the many ways in which antisemitism manifests itself that we can start tackling it properly. It must be confronted warts and all, and with the blinkers and blind spots removed.

Jeremy Havardi is a journalist and the author of two books, Falling to Pieces, and The Greatest Briton

Economist curiously omits key reason for MK Zoabi’s Knesset suspension

Claims regarding the putative ‘erosion of Israel’s democracy‘ have long been a favorite among the anti-Israel UK media elite, and the mere absence of any evidence attesting to this descent into political darkness hasn’t weakened their appetite for this narrative.

To boot, an Economist article titled ‘Us and Them‘, Aug. 2, included a few factually-challenged claims on alleged attacks on the civil rights of Israel’s minorities. 

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, has warned the country’s civil-rights groups that they could be branded as delegitimisers if they insist on promoting rights for Israel’s Arab minority and oppose the definition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews. 

First, addressing the first part of the passage, the Knesset did not warn the country’s civil-rights groups that they could be branded as delegitimisers for merely “promoting rights for Israel’s Arab minority”. In fact it’s hard to know where precisely where the Economist even found such an absurd claim.  Further, the second part of the passage, regarding the alleged consequences for ‘opposing the definition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews’, again is not accurate.

They may be alluding to a proposed change in the Basic Law that would formally recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jews’, but the rights of non-Jews would not be affected, and there’s certainly nothing in the proposal which would, as the Economist claims, brand civil rights groups as ‘delegitimizers for doing so.

The Economist then adds the following:

This week the Knesset banned an Arab member, Haneen Zoabi, for six months for “aggressive behaviour” in anti-war demonstrations.

However, this also is an inaccurate statement as it omits key information about the suspension.

MK Zoabi, according to multiple news reports (and the official press release from the Knesset regarding the suspension), was suspended for six months from the Knesset (while still maintaining her voting rights in the Israeli legislative body) for two reasons – one of which the Economist completely omitted. 

While Zoabi’s suspension was in part due to an incident with a police officer at a protest rally (as they noted), the main reason was related to her assertion, in mid June, that the kidnappers of three Jewish teens in the West Bank were not terrorists. 

“They’re people who don’t see any way to change their reality and they are forced to use these means until Israel will wake up a little, until Israeli citizens and society will wake up and feel the suffering of the other,” Zoabi said in an interview on Radio Tel Aviv, adding that the kidnappers live under occupation.

Of course, two weeks after Zoabi’s statements, the teens – Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach – were found dead, having been murdered by the kidnappers she had earlier defended. 

The Knesset statement on the suspension noted that Zoabi’s offense centered on these comments, which many believed represented incitement, as it showed support for terrorist organizations and encouraged “acts of terror against the state and its citizens”.

To recap: both examples cited by the Economist – presumably to demonstrate an erosion of civil rights in Israel for its non-Jewish minority – are erroneous or, at best, extremely misleading. 

Finally, it’s interesting to note that a site called The Angry Arab News Service cited the Economist’s claim about the cause of Zoabi’s suspension under the heading: This Does Not Get Reported In The US Media.

Of course, it’s likely that such “news” hasn’t been reported in the US media because, as few Google clicks would have indicated, it’s not accurate.

Never Again: Jews don’t need lessons in morality from John Prescott

Last year David Ward MP decided to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day by grossly debasing Holocaust memory. He published a post on his website which included the following passage:

Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.

Though he later issued a pseudo apology, subsequent statements and Tweets by the Liberal Democrat from Bradford East suggest that his imperious lecturing to Jews about their myriad deficiencies represents his true views.

Now, just a few days ago, the British tabloid The Daily Mirror published an op-ed by former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott titled, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is a war crime and it should end.

prescott

John Prescott

His op-ed included the following charges.

Those who live in Gaza are kept like prisoners behind walls and fences, unable to escape the bombings, and an Israeli economic blockade has forced Palestinians into poverty.

Israel’s Iron Dome defence system easily intercepts missiles launched from Gaza. Three Israeli citizens have died from these ­primitive rockets, with 32 soldiers killed fighting Hamas.

Compare that to the toll in Gaza. Of the 1,000-plus to die, more than 80 per cent were ­civilians, mostly women and children.

But who is to say some of the other 20 per cent weren’t ­innocent too? Israel brands them terrorists but it is acting as judge, jury and ­executioner in the ­concentration camp that is Gaza.

And Israel flouts international law by continuing to build illegal Jewish settlements. Why? Because it knows it can get away with it.

As if the grotesque and appallingly misinformed accusation that Israel is keeping Palestinians in a “concentration camp” isn’t bad enough, Prescott then doubles down on his Holocaust inversion, and asserts the following:

What happened to the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis is appalling. But you would think those atrocities would give Israelis a unique sense of perspective and empathy with the victims of a ghetto.

While his concentration camp comparison is contemptible, the “they-of-all-people” argument – the suggestion that Jews, having faced unimaginable persecution during the Holocaust, should know better than anyone not to be oppressors – is arguably much, much worse.

As Howard Jacobson argued about critics who lecture Jews on their sub-par post-Shoah moral performance:

“[For such people] the Holocaust becomes an educational experience from which Jews were ethically obliged to graduate summa cum laude, Israel being the proof that they didn’t.” 

But, I think the most eloquent refutation of such criticism leveled at Jews was written by Chas Newkey-Burden, who argued that those who employ the “they of all people” argument are essentially saying that, following the systematic extermination of six million, it is Jews, and not the antisemites, who have lessons to learn – that it is Jews, not the antisemites, who need to clean up their act.

One thing is certain: Jews do not need lessons in morality from John Prescott.

Finally, at at time when Israel is fighting a war with an extremist movement which openly calls for a new genocide; when synagogues are being attacked and the chant of ‘Death to Jews’ can be heard in ‘enlightened’ capitals in Europe; and when Jews are again fleeing the continent in fear of persecution, perhaps non-Jews who have previously mouthed the words ‘never again’ should think seriously about what precisely this ethical imperative demands.

Sky News asks admitted anti-Semite her views on the rise of UK antisemitism!

We haven’t been monitoring Sky News long enough to provide a broader analysis of their coverage of the war in Gaza, but their decision (yesterday) to interview Mira Bar-Hillel (a British journalist who has admitted to being prejudiced against Jews), on the question of whether antisemitism in the UK will rise as a result of the conflict, reads like something in the parody site, The Onion.

Briefly, for those unfamiliar with Ms. Bar-Hillel (who contributes to the Independent), here’s a few facts about her own views about Jews:

She has complained that Jews (per the Livingstone Formulation) smear people unfairly with the charge of antisemitism to “gag into submission any critic of Israel”.

She recently evoked Nazi Germany in characterizing Israeli racism and IDF military actions in Gaza.

She has accused British Jews (collectively) of ‘bombing Gaza’.

She bizarrely claimed that British Jews don’t criticize Israeli actions in Gaza out of fear of being “ex-communicated” from the Jewish community,

She has admitted to being prejudiced against Jews. Here are her exact words:

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

Now, let’s go the simply surreal Sky News interview:

Here are a few observations:

  • Bar-Hillel claims that the failure of British Jews to speak out about Israeli ‘crimes’ in Gaza is what causes antisemitism – a perfect example of holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel, an accusation defined as antisemitic by the EUMC Working Definition.
  • The female Sky News co-host asks a follow-up question (at roughly the 1:40 mark) to Bar-Hillel which parrots the claim that Jews label all criticism of Israel antisemitic.
  • Neither Sky News host challenges her when she smears the UK Jewish community, by suggesting that British Jews are culpable for not speaking out against Israel.
  • Neither Sky News host challenges her claim (at roughly the 5:05 mark) that the only reason why the West supports Israel is because of guilt over the Holocaust.
  • More broadly, note that in a Sky News program about antisemitism, they didn’t seek the expertise of The CST (the British charity tasked with protecting Jews against antisemitism), or any official body which actually represents UK Jews, but, rather, a marginal commentator who has admitted to not being part of the Jewish community. If, for instance, they would have asked representatives from The CST, they would have provided data demonstrating that antisemitism has indeed increased in the UK since the beginning of the war.

Finally, if you believe, as we do, that this Sky News segment not only had the effect of smearing the UK Jewish community, but violating Ofcom’s rules on impartiality in news and current affairs, please consider filing an Ofcom complaint.

Indy’s Mira Bar-Hillel complains on the BBC about Jews and CiF Watch trolls!

Briefly, here are a few highlights from our posts about Mira Bar-Hillel, a columnist at the Independent:

  • She complained that Jews (per the Livingstone Formulation) often smear people unfairly with the charge of antisemitism to “gag into submission any critic of Israel”.
  • She evoked Nazi Germany in characterizing Israeli racism and IDF military actions in Gaza.
  • She recently accused British Jews (collectively) of ‘bombing Gaza’.
  • She admitted to being prejudiced against Jews.

In the following BBC interview with Bar-Hillel, she claims that Jews don’t criticize Israeli actions in Gaza out of fear of being “ex-communicated” from the Jewish community, and criticizes this blog for ‘trolling’ her.

You can listen to the whole interview here:

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(See recent post at Harry’s Place about Bar-Hillel, here)