Matt Seaton’s caricature of courage

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guardian caves in to bullying on Josh Trevino

A joint press statement just published announced that Joshua Trevino and the Guardian “have mutually agreed to go [their] separate ways”.

So, the Guardian has rounded off a week and a half of despicable treatment of a new employee (including a torrent of deliberately un-moderated abuse under his debut article) by caving in to the organised bullying campaign executed by Ali Abunimah and his minions.

Joshua Trevino

Whilst the press statement regarding the Guardian’s parting of ways with Joshua Trevino cites another patently ridiculous reason for the termination of what could possibly be the shortest contract in the history of journalism, it is all too obvious that the real background is the recent high-profile – and often vicious – campaign against Trevino. 

Strikingly, the Guardian does not even have the guts to admit that it has succumbed to the pressures of extremists and instead, cynically contrives a breach of conflict of interest under its editorial code as the pretext for terminating Trevino while ignoring  the real reason behind his termination. 

No doubt Abunimah and company will soon be crowing from the rooftops, but their ‘victory’ is a Pyrrhic one because it has exposed once and for all the fact that their favourite Trojan horse of terror-condoning extremism in the guise of a mainstream media outlet is susceptible to pressures from a tiny, but vocal, minority which includes Hamas supporters, terror excusers and racists

One doubts very much that the majority of the Guardian’s already drastically dwindling print readership will be content with the knowledge that freedom of speech in their newspaper of choice is dictated by a tiny cult of extremist cranks. Not only has Ali Abunimah succeeded in exposing the sad truth that comment is anything but free, he has in addition proved that facts are far from sacred. 

He has also exposed himself and his fellow travellers for the crude bullies that they are. Had Josh Trevino tweeted anti-Semitic comparisons between Israel and the Nazi regime, support for a proscribed terror organisation or the annihilation of a certain sovereign state, he would have kept his job and inevitably become a darling of the anti-Israel crowd.

Instead, Abunimah has made a mockery of the right to freedom of expression by insisting that anyone who holds opinions different to his own not only forfeits the right to be heard, but also forfeits the right to employment – at least at a newspaper which anti-Israel campaigners appear (not without reason) to think they control.  

One cannot but conclude that ultimately, Joshua Trevino will thank his lucky stars that he got out of an association with a media outlet which meekly allows itself to be dictated to by the likes of Ali Abunimah. But this whole mismanaged farce also makes one wonder about the current quality of relations between the Editor of CiF America, Matt Seaton and  Guardian US Editor in Chief, Janine Gibson (who only ten days ago was proudly announcing the addition of Trevino to the US team) and their London-based colleagues who so clearly and very publicly undermined that acquisition by publishing the letter of complaint headed by Sarah Colborne of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.  

After all, the bottom line of this story is not about a writer named Joshua Trevino, but about the Stalinesque silencing of certain brands of opinion by intolerant extremist bullies.  

Has the Guardian backtracked on Josh Trevino?

The Guardian’s August 15th announcement of Joshua Trevino’s joining its US politics team provoked a rather tedious, if predictable, rash of faux outrage (considering that Trevino has been writing for the paper since February 2011) from several of the internet’s prime anti-Israel campaigners. 

One of the first out of the blocks was every ‘one-stater’ racist’s favourite; Ali Abunimah – who took to the pages of the non-democratic, human-rights-abusing Qatari regime’s pet media outlet Al Jazeera, as well as his own electronic Intifada site, to protest Trevino’s new post. 

Not far behind was MJ Rosenberg, with other eccentrics such as Tony Greenstein, Richard Silverstein and ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’ (JfJfP) quickly jumping on the band-wagon. 

The main gripe of all of the above is the now famous flotilla-related Tweet by Trevino in June 2011 – one hundred and six characters which, according to Abunimah & co. represent “incitement to murder”.

Whilst one may certainly be able accommodate the notion (given his track record) that Richard Silverstein would believe that the IDF devises policy based on unsolicited advice from Twitter pundits, clearly anyone aspiring to be perceived as a serious commentator on the Middle East would not be making much of the issue if he did not have a much bigger axe to grind. 

Of course none of the above holier than thou ‘anti-racists’ ever put finger to keyboard when the Guardian provided column space for Azzam Tamimi – a man who really does support the indiscriminate murder of civilians by suicide bombing. Neither have any of the above seen fit to object to the fact that the Guardian has repeatedly published articles by senior members of Hamas – who, whilst their social media skills may be lacking, actually do engage in mass murder. 

The only reasonable conclusion, therefore, is that the objection of Abunimah and friends to Trevino’s appointment at the Guardian is in fact a product of their anti-Zionism – which of course so often goes hand in hand with selective anti-racism and curious definitions of ‘free speech’ – and their in-built knee-jerk antipathy to anyone perceived as ‘pro-Israel’.  

So what has been the Guardian’s reaction to this minor squall in a tea-cup cooked up by known (and in some cases, professional) anti-Israel campaigners? Well, if Ali Abunimah is to be believed, it seems that they may have succumbed to pressures from those who wish it to remain an unchallenged, homogenous, echo-chamber of anti-Zionism. 

According to an August 18th post by Abunimah, the Guardian has now downgraded Trevino from member of their editorial team to member of its commentary team.   

“If you look at the Guardian’s 15 August press release as it appears now it begins:

Today the Guardian announced the addition of Josh Treviño to its commentary team in the United States. Formerly of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Treviño will be the newest commentator for the Guardian’s growing US politics team through his column On Politics & Persuasion which launches on Monday 20 August.

But that is not what it said on 15 August, when I quoted it. Here is how it began then (emphasis added):

Today the Guardian announced the addition of Josh Treviño to their editorial team. Formerly of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Treviño will be the newest Correspondent for the Guardian’s growing US politics team through his column “On Politics & Persuasion” which launches on Monday, August 20.

Note the disappearance of the terms “editorial team” and “correspondent.” The Guardian also changed the headline from “The Guardian adds Josh Treviño to growing editorial team” to “The Guardian adds Josh Treviño to growing US team.” “

If correct, Abunimah’s claim has interesting implications. Trevino was appointed, according to Matt Seaton, to write about US domestic politics – not the Middle East. His opinions on Israel should, therefore, have nothing to do with his ability to do the job to which he was hired.

Despite that, it now seems that the Guardian may be susceptible to pressures from what it apparently perceives as being opinion-shapers among a large enough portion of its readership to matter. In other words, the Guardian apparently considers it prudent to appease some punters of particular ideological bent – even at the expense of diversity of opinion and expertise on its pages. 

The test of that theory, of course, would be to see what happened if four or five bloggers wrote articles protesting the Guardian’s also recent addition of author and anti-Zionist blogger Glenn Greenwald to its stable of writers. 

My money would be on a response resembling a collective yawn from Guardian HQ – perhaps accompanied by some anodyne statement about ‘representation of a diversity of views’  – just as protestations regarding the repeated provision of a platform for terrorists and their supporters have been greeted in the past. 

The bottom line of the as yet still cloudy ‘affair Trevino’ certainly seems to going in the direction of confirming that as far as the Guardian is concerned, whilst all opinions are equal, some opinions are more equal than others. 



Plaiting Sawdust

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

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

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

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

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

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Seaton: Still digging after all these years…..

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

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

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

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

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Guardian supplies ovine apparel

“It takes in reality only one to make a quarrel. It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism, while the wolf remains of a different opinion.”

William Ralph Inge; Outspoken Essays: First Series (1919) ‘Patriotism’

There is so much that is just so fundamentally wrong about Azzam Tamimi’s CiF article of May 4th that by the time I had finished reading it for the third time, my built-in bullshit detector was in overdrive. In a way, this piece represents the essence of the Through the Looking Glass-style malaise which appears to have colonised worryingly large sections of contemporary British society.

Here the Guardian provides the sheep’s clothing which enables the despicable Tamimi not only to present himself as though he were some kind of moderate voice of reason, but also to play the victim card. Tamimi commences by recounting his version of a 2002 event recorded by the BBC, but no link to the programme or transcript of it is provided; a fact which does not appear to worry Matt Seaton in the slightest. In other words, the Guardian apparently has no problem publishing something it cannot verify, at least when it comes from this particular, but hardly uncontroversial, source – a fact which in itself speaks volumes.

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Anti-Israel Bias: March 2010 Stats

Inspired by our friends at TheBrothersofJudea who track antisemitsm at the Huffington Post, we have collated some statistical data for the month of March to demonstrate the extent of the anti-Israel bias and Israel-obsession at “Comment is Free”.

As can be seen below, of the twenty-seven articles in “Comment is Free: Middle East” on Israel in the month of March, nineteen of them harbored anti-Israel bias in varying degrees.  Among the slate of anti-Israel articles there was one by anti-Zionist, Abe Hayeem attacking the Jewish right of return, a piece by Oliver Miles, the former UK ambassador who objected to the presence of two eminent Jewish historians on the Iraq War Enquiry Panel, two articles supporting the engagement of the Jew-hating terrorist group, Hamas, and two articles touting the launch of the anti-Zionist news outlet, JNews. In addition, the roster of anti-Israel articles featured several pieces on the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador for Israel’s purported role in the assassination of a senior member of Hamas and the growing tension between Netanyahu and the Obama administration.

And when we compare Israel articles as a whole with articles relating to the other 16 countries in the region in “Comment is Free: Middle East” we discover that over 40% of the articles in March covered Israel. This in a month when Yemen declared an end to its six-year conflict with Houthis fighters, terrorist attacks in Iraq killed scores of innocents, elections took place in Iraq, clashes broke out between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt, the Arab League held its annual summit in Libya, mass arrests of terrorists were made in Saudi Arabia,  Tantawi, Sunni Islam’s top cleric, died and in Iran the Persian new year was celebrated.

In this final pie chart you can see how the negative portrayal of Israel fits into “Comment is Free: Middle East” as a whole.

In a letter to the Jewish Chronicle on February 19 responding to my article in the Jewish Chronicle, outgoing editors, Matt Seaton and Georgina Henry, wrote:

[W]e remain resolutely committed to the CP Scott-inspired tradition of fairness and balance, and publishing a broad range of views (on the Middle East, as on all topics).

In the words of Geoffrey Alderman, “Pull the other one Matt”.

Spring Cleaning

We were recently informed that staff changes are to take effect at the Guardian with Matt Seaton moving to CiF America and a vacancy for a new CiF editor becoming available. Readers of this site will no doubt be asking themselves if some of the new brooms brought in to CiF will be up to the task of sweeping clean the Guardian’s website of its more unsavoury aspects such as the one-sidedness of its Middle East coverage, the hosting of some dubious above the line writers, the tolerance of below the line bigotry and antisemitism or the obsession ad infinitum with all things Israeli, no matter how banal.

Taking on the responsibility for comment is Katharine Viner, currently Deputy and Saturday Editor. Here, in her own words, is a glimpse into Ms. Viner’s world.

“I’d heard from American friends that life for dissenters had been getting worse – wiretapping scandals, arrests for wearing anti-war T-shirts, Muslim professors denied visas. But it’s hard to tell from afar how bad things really are. Here was personal proof that the political climate is continuing to shift disturbingly, narrowing the scope of free debate and artistic expression.“

In the above paragraph Katharine Viner is referring to the postponement of the showing of the play she co-edited with Alan Rickman ‘My Name is Rachel Corrie’. The ‘Times’ review of the play stated that “an element of unvarnished propaganda comes to the fore. With no attempt made to set the violence in context, we are left with the impression of unarmed civilians being crushed by faceless militarists.”

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The Useless Comments of the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” Editor

This is a cross-post from Judeosphere

Haaretz has just published an interview with Matt Seaton, editor of “Comment is Free” (CiF)—the opinion website of the Guardian, with 3 million unique users and 10 million page-views a month.

It has not gone unnoticed by critics that CiF—and the British media in general—has a bit of an obsession when it comes to Israel. Seaton reacts to this accusation:

We spend a great deal of time thinking how to cover the subject in a balanced and fair way and not in excessive quantity. It’s difficult to do that when the Middle East is setting the news agenda. The Arab-Israeli conflict is also a fault-line in the geopolitics of the region. That’s just a reality…..It’s a region of the world that generates so much news; we’re part of that, but it’s not of our making.

Actually, dude, it is of your making. The fault of the Guardian—and other media outlets and pundits—is constantly reinforcing the idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most important, central issue driving events in the Middle East. (The ongoing Sunni-Shiite dispute is arguably a larger, more influential geopolitical fault-line.)

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Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish

Yesterday the Guardian celebrated the fourth birthday of “Comment is Free”. For us however there was another cause for celebration – Georgina Henry, executive comment editor of “Comment is Free”, announced in the birthday thread that she is leaving CiF and moving to another role in the Guardian.

From the horses mouth (literally):

I have to say that in reading this I have to agree with  Henry on one thing – her comment about ATL (above the line) and BTL (below the line) “bring[ing] out the best in each other”.  Take for example the Nicholas Blincoe ATL article a couple of months ago lambasting the settler movement that produced a comment from one of the BTL regulars calling for the slaughter of Jewish settlers down to the “last man, woman and child”. The anti-Israel venom pouring out of the Blincoe thread certainly brought out the best of William Bapthorpe, the commenter who made this statement. And the nurturing of the anti-Israel narrative is par for the course both above the line in the editorial selection of anti-Israel writers and below the line with biased moderators that stamp out any dissent challenging the conventional wisdom of the anti-Israel narrative.

In a prelude to the fourth anniversary of CiF, Henry made a telling admission in an article she penned:

“The one reliable truth about the internet is that it never stands still. Competitors come … and keep coming. Change is constant. You have to work harder to understand and retain the loyalty of your community.”

And peddling in the lies of the anti-Israel narrative is a sure way to help retain that loyalty given the make up of the CiF guardianista community.

In the same thread that Henry made her announcement, Matt Seaton posed the question “Does Cif make a difference? You tell us.” I prefer to phrase the question in a slightly different way as I did in my article in the Jewish Chronicle “What makes Cif different?” There I stated that the “Guardian’s flagship blog reeks of antisemitism”. Its a statement that holds true from the launch of “Comment is Free” four years ago right through to the present day. That is the true legacy of Georgina Henry.

The question is will Henry’s successor pick up from where she left off or will her successor be bold enough to clean house.

Perhaps the more intriguing question is what is the reason behind Henry’s departure and to what extent did CiF Watch play a role in all of this?

Methinks the Editor Doth Protest Too Much

This is cross posted from Jonathan Hoffman’s blog on the the JC website

The story so far: In last week’s JC, Professor Geoffrey Alderman revealed that Matt Seaton, editor of Guardian “Comment Is Free” (CIF), had given him a ‘gun at head’ ultimatum: choose between writing for CiFWatch (the brilliant forensic website that keeps tabs on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias on CIF) and CIF. In addition Alderman related that he was being premoderated by CIF (in CIFspeak “premoderating” is pretty much a synonym for “banning”). Further, he wrote “the fact is that the anti-Zionist contributions to CiF far outweigh the pro-Zionist ones”. Of the articles published on CIF he wrote “slowly but surely, CIF … has become a platform for the crudest propaganda that can only have been intended to foster a hatred of the Jewish state.“

Matt Seaton promptly demanded the “right of reply” in the JC. Quite why – when he has his own newspaper in which to “reply” – is unclear. It suggests an Editor who is profoundly unsure of his ground. Today his reply was published, but the JC gave Alderman the chance of a rejoinder.

Matt Seaton justified the premoderation by the risible claim that Professor Alderman had compared Palestinians to Nazis. A word of background: the comment in question was in the thread below an article by Seth Freedman on 22 January about the connection between Israel’s rescue work in Haiti and its alleged lack of concern for the Palestinians in Gaza. Alderman’s comment was deleted but in his rejoinder, he says that Seaton’s assertion is both “incorrect and mischievous”: he entered a debate on the balance between compassion for fellow human beings and the need to fight an enemy, arguing that “the fact that Nazis were human beings did not deter the wartime allies from destroying the Nazi state. I made an analogy, not a comparison”.

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What’s sauce for the goose…

Apparently, a certain someone is a bit bent out of shape as a result of revelations of how threats were made against Professor Geoffrey Alderman for writing for CiF Watch, as was reported by Professor Alderman in this week’s Jewish Chronicle.

Ahh. The hallowed right of reply. Just like the one that you gave to Robin Shepherd when Antony Lerman misrepresented Shepherd’s excellent book, A State Beyond the Pale?

Matt, your chutzpah knows no bounds and you should be utterly ashamed of yourself.

All I can say is that the chickens are coming home to roost and that if the Guardian was run like any normal organization, you, Georgina and Brian would all have been slung out onto the streets a long time ago.

Bapthorpe has been banned…finally

It appears that the Guardian has finally banned William Bapthorpe, the infamous commenter that publicly advocated the slaughter of Jews.  If you click here, you’ll see all his comments have been deleted.

I wonder why it took so long to do the decent thing and ban him? Well better late than never Matt.

While your at it though, how about Banning the Ant for Holocaust denial or is he/she too in your circle of trust?