Independent flubs key passage in story about Natalie Portman & the Sony hacking scandal

The Independent published a story on December 24th, by their Deputy People Editor Ella Alexander, about the ongoing Sony hacking scandal.

Here’s the headline, photo and strapline.


So far so good.

As Alexander reports, “Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Seacrest were among a select few to receive emails from Relativity Media CEO and The Social Network executive producer Ryan Kavanaugh about anti-Semitism in relation to the Gaza conflict”.

However, in attempting to explain the nature of those emails (a reply-all chain argument leaked by Sony hackers about Gaza, featuring Russell Simmons, Portman, Scarlett Johansson, and Ryan Seacrest) from Kavanaugh, who is Jewish and a passionate Israel supporter, the Indy reporter gets a serious element of the story wrong.

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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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Hate emerges from beneath the surface: Antisemitism in the UK (July 2014)

Cross posted from The CST

July 2014 now joins January 2009 as a month when war between Israel and Hamas caused antisemitism to spew forth across Britain. If this latest round of Middle East violence has now ended, then we may expect the antisemitism to gradually diminish: but this hatred has again been revealed, even if most of the time it lies beneath the surface. Are British Jews (and those elsewhere) to be forever held hostage to a seemingly intractable conflict in which totalitarian Jihadists are sworn to destroy Israel at whatever cost?

Members of the public expressing fears and concerns to CST have referenced this in different ways. One said she felt “stuck in a swamp“. Another said that the hatred had come from “ordinary people, not what or who we expect it from…its the underlying antisemitism, and now that they’ve put it out there, how are we supposed to put it back?“. It may sound trite to speak of Jews defriending others on Facebook, but anecdotally, this seems to be happening again and again, with Jews deeply upset by what this conflict has revealed about those whom they believed to be their friends (in all meanings of the word).

Bare statistics do not, cannot, explain the emotion that many people are feeling right now: but they are stark. CST has now recorded over 200 antisemitic incidents for July 2014, making it very clearly the second worst month we have seen since our records began in 1984. (The worst was Jan’ 2009, when 288 incidents were recorded. The second worst was Feb’ 2009, with 114 incidents.) The July 2014 total is not yet finalised, because it takes time to properly analyse and categorise all of the reports reaching us from throughout Britain right now, so the figure of 200 is an absolute minimum.

Of course, antisemitic incidents occur every day, week and month of the year. CST recorded 304 between January and June 2014 (a rise of 36% from 2013). We now have over 200 in one month, so the maths are clear. Not every July incident relates to the Israel-Hamas conflict, but the majority do. Without listing every one of them, it is almost impossible to convey the scale and the impact of the invective, but each and every incident involves at least one victim and at least one perpetrator. They come randomly at Jews and Jewish locations throughout the country. Many of them appear to be perpetrated by Muslim youth and adults, but by no means all. That this racism is perpetrated in the name of human rights (for Palestinians) is bizarre, but nothing new: although it does help explain the deafening silence from the self-titled anti-racism movement. (Hope not Hate does not fit this category and is a strong exception.)

The hatred is showing clear trends. Shouting “Free Gaza” on a pro-Palestinian demonstration is not antisemitic: but obviously is when yelled at a random Jew in the street, or when daubed on a synagogue wall.  The same goes for screams of “child murderer”, shouted at Jews or pinned on a synagogue. Then, there is the ever present antisemitic fixation with Nazism. This comes two ways, Jews being told that they are the new Nazis, or Jews being told that “Hitler was right” (a phrase that trended on Twitter).

Child murderer has a long history in antisemitism, almost 2,000 years longer than Nazism does. The accusation of Jews having killed Jesus, the embodiment of innocence, moved into medieval blood libels. Some Jews perceive sections of the UK media as having focussed to such an extent upon Gazan child victims in this latest conflict that it somehow indicates that these blood libels still lurk somewhere deep. Others would counter that this kind of ‘unconscious antisemitism’ argument is ridiculous and that the media could not focus upon dead and injured children if they did not actually exist, nor in such numbers. The fact remains: British Jews are being called child-murderers.

The Nazi slanders and threats are not in mainstream media, but the question ‘why didn’t Jews / Israel learn the lessons of the Holocaust?’ has been. This is surely repellent to the overwhelming majority of Jews. It comes posed as a question, but really it is a demand. Whatever its motivation, it smells of Jew-Israel-Nazi equivalence and ‘we are holier than thou’.

The super-heated arguments of how the media covers Israel are not strictly CST’s business; and neither are boycotts of Israel. Nevertheless, it is impossible to discuss how Jews feel right now without noting how both things impact upon antisemitism, upon how Jews are perceived and how Jews themselves feel.

One need not be a dyed in the wool defender of Israel, nor even a Zionist, to suspect that no other country on earth appears to evoke such passion and hatred. We need not cite Syria right now, nor Sri Lanka in 2009, because Britain itself has killed civilians in the Middle East in recent years, children included. Yet it is only one section of British society that is called “child-murderers”, or “Nazis”, or is told that Hitler should have wiped them all out.

Less rhetorically, we must note that antisemitic incidents will subside along with the images on people’s television screens, but the long term damage to Jews of anti-Israel boycotts will persist. Dry statistics help us to measure the raw impact of this. If someone engages in “criticism of Israel” then 6% of British Jews consider that person “definitely antisemitic” and 27% answer “probably antisemitic”. If that person supports a boycott of Israel, then 34% of British Jews consider them “definitely antisemitic” and 33% “probably antisemitic”. So, boycott of Israel is a tipping point for most Jews in regarding criticism as being antisemitic or not. One consequence of this latest Israel-Hamas war will be a lot more boycotts, either through choice (such as trade unions and cultural venues) or through intimidation (such as commercial outlets). Just as Israel is being singled out for scrutiny and boycott, so many Jews are going to feel the same way.

When the Jewish Film Festival is given a ‘ditch your Israeli Embassy link’ ultimatum by the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, it betrays how British Jews’ connections to Israel are the measure by which others judge them. The same applies to the National Union of Students decision to boycott Israel, which promises no end of trouble and intimidation for Jewish students. Then, there are the mass intimidations of supermarkets that dare to sell Israeli goods, some of which have actually been forced to briefly stop trading as a result. (As cheerfully relayed here by a Labour MP.)

Finally, two antisemitic incidents out of over two hundred, giving the merest hint of recent events. The first speaks volumes of how Jews risk being expected to behave: and the reactions they risk upon refusal.

1. Street in Bradford, evening of 26th July. A Jewish man and his wife were driving when they became caught in slow moving traffic due to an accident up the road. Every car in the queue was being stopped by a group of apparently Muslim men and women, carrying buckets and asking for money for Gaza. The Jewish man politely declined to donate, whereupon “you f**king Jewish bastard!” was shouted at him. Then, another man used a loudhailer to also shout “you f**king Jewish bastard!” at him. Next, “Jewish bastard coming down the road!” was shouted down the street to alert each of the other collectors.

2. Synagogue in Hove, 2nd August (photo by F.Sharpe)

Hove shul


The dangerous mainstreaming of Max Blumenthal’s antisemitism

Anti-Israel activists who promote BDS campaigns and smear the Jewish state as uniquely evil were provided a gift when Max Blumenthal’s book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel was published last October.

Max-Blumenthals-Goliath-197-X-298The book, which strongly suggests parallels between Zionism and Nazism, was attacked as supremely dishonest and hateful by one well-known leftist commentator, derided as a work of fiction by another and included on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s 2013 list of “Top 10 Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Slurs”.

So, we were glad to hear that Petra Marquardt Bigman just published a Research Article at The Louis D. Brandeis Center (LDB) examining Blumenthal’s book, which (as we’ve noted previously at this blog) has been praised by Jew-haters such as Gilad Atzmon and David Duke (and, of course, by Glenn Greenwald).  

The paper by Marquardt-Bigman highlights the danger posed by the mainstreaming of such hate: Blumenthal is an occasional ‘Comment is Free’ contributor, and his book was promoted at an event hosted by the mainstream “liberal” think tank New America Foundation in December.


Blumenthal at the New America Foundation book launch

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Nicolas Anelka and Dieudonne: the quenelle is an antisemitic salute

Cross posted by Dave Rich from the blog of The CST

The quenelle salute given by West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka when he scored in their Premier League match on Saturday is an antisemitic gesture, and he should be punished accordingly by the FA.

In the Luis Suarez and John Terry cases the FA established the ‘zero tolerance’ principle, that a player’s intention does not excuse the use of racist language. The same principle must be applied in this case. Anelka says that he is not racist or antisemitic and that he did not intend his quenelle to have an antisemitic meaning, but this is beside the point:  just as the FA accepted that Luis Suarez is not a racist person while banning him for eight matches after he used racially abusive language towards Patrice Evra.

That the quenelle is antisemitic is beyond dispute. In France it has become part of a social media craze in which people find ever-more offensive places to insult Jews by doing a quenelle: this blogpost shows photographs of people performing quenelles at Auschwitz, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, at the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, outside synagogues and Jewish shops and at dozens of other Jewish sites. There is even a photograph of someone doing a quenelle outside the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, where Mohammed Merah murdered three children and a teacher in March 2012:


If the people in these photographs did a Nazi salute at any of these sites they would risk instant arrest and prosecution. The quenelle is a way of getting around the law, while still getting the same thrill of breaking the taboo against antisemitism.

The quenelle was invented by French comic Dieudonné Mbala Mbala. Anelka has excused his quenelle by saying that it was “just a special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonné”; but this is no excuse, it just confirms the offence. Dieudonné has numerous convictions for antisemitism in France. One of these was for a sketch in which he gave a heroism award to French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson. The ‘comedy’ was that the award was presented by a man in a concentration camp uniform, complete with a yellow star.

Dieudonné claims that the quenelle is anti-establishment and anti-Zionist, not antisemitic. This is true, but also misleading – because Dieudonné believes that the establishment is run by “Zionists”. He told Iran’s Press TV:

The Zionist lobby … have taken France as hostage and we are in the hands of ignorant people, who know how to structure themselves into a mafia-like organisation and… have now taken over a country.

This is not the anti-Zionism of people who think that the Palestinians get a raw deal from Israel: it is the anti-Zionism of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, of a conspiracy theory that believes “the Jews pull all the strings”, as French extremism expert Jean-Yves Camus put it. (There is more background about Dieudonné’s political journey here).

It is also a political worldview that has led Dieudonné into a friendship with leaders of the far right Front National (FN). In 2006, Dieudonné attended the FN’s annual festival, and in 2008 veteran FN leader Jean Marie Le Pen became godfather to one of Dieudonné’s children.

Here is Le Pen (centre) with the FN’s Bruno Gollnisch (left) and friends, doing a quenelle:


The quenelle was unknown in Britain before this weekend, but it has been at the centre of a public storm in France due to the viral spread of people doing it at Jewish sites and posting the photos on social media. Government ministers are talking of banning Dieudonné’s public appearances because they believe that he incites hatred of Jews and poses a threat to public order. Dieudonné denies this, but when Nicolas Anelka did his quenelle during a match that was broadcast live on French TV, he inserted himself into a race row in his home country – on the side of the alleged racist.

This does not mean that Anelka intended to make an antisemitic statement, or even that he understood the meaning of what he did: but now that the quenelle has entered British football, the FA need to set a clear precedent by acting swiftly and unequivocally to punish those who do it.

News that Bugs Bunny may be Jewish sends Gilad Atzmon into a rage

CiF Watch contributor Gidon Ben-Zvi broke the news yesterday for the Algemeiner that a noted Jewish-British cinematic historian has claimed that Bugs Bunny may in fact be Jewish.



According to film scholar David Yehuda Stern, Bugs Bunny was created by a Jewish producer, lived in a Jewish neighborhood, has a distinctly New York/Jewish accent and uses his wit and sense of humor to avoid all attempts to eliminate him.

Stern, who watched thousands of animated shorts that feature Bugs Bunny, noted in his presentation that there are Jewish fingerprints all over the smart aleck cartoon character, including the very voice of Bugs Bunny – Jewish actor Mel Blanc.

The New York neighborhood Bugs grew up in is teeming with obviously Jewish characters, such as ultra-Orthodox Jews and other stereotypically Eastern European figures from the turn of the 20th century.

The Algemeiner’s cheeky Christmas ‘revelation’ about the “Wascally Wabbit” was shared widely yesterday on social media sites such as Twitter and, in fact, this writer’s link to the story on Facebook garnered more than few comments by Jewish and non-Jewish friends alike, all eager to dissect this animated genealogical controversy.

However, there was at least one antisemitic extremist who didn’t find the news at all amusing.


Writing at Veterans Today, an aggregator for conspiracy-oriented and right-wing extremist websites, Atzmon wrote the following:

On Christmas Eve the ultra Zionist Algemeiner decided to break out the news to the world -“Bugs Bunny might be Jewish”

The Jewish outlet reported today that, ‘a noted Jewish-British cinematic historian has claimed that the world’s most famous rabbit displays prominent Jewish characteristics.” According to the Jewish scholar David Yehuda Stern, Bugs Bunny was “created by a Jewish producer, lived in a Jewish neighbourhood, has a distinctly New York/Jewish accent and uses his wit and sense of humour to avoid all attempts to eliminate him.”

I guess that when we talk about Hollywood’s indoctrination in the context of Jewish Power, we should feel free to refer to the Zionist outlet as well as the ‘noted Jewish cinematic historian’.

Of course, Atzmon’s response to Ben-Zvi’s article wouldn’t come as a surprise to readers of this blog. As we’ve noted previously, Atzmon is a prolific anti-Semite who has engaged in ‘Holocaust Revisionism’ while simultaneously arguing that, if Hitler’s genocide did occur as historians “claim”, the mass murder of six million Jews can at least partly be explained by Jews’ villainous behavior.  On this latter note, he’s claimed that Hitler’s views about Jews may one day be vindicated.  

Atzmon also has explicitly charged that Jews are indeed trying to take over the world, and has endorsed of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, arguing about the antisemitic forgery that “it is impossible to ignore its prophetic qualities and its capacity to describe” later Jewish behavior.

He also once accused CiF Watch of being a “Jewish Supremacist” site after we influenced the Guardian to remove his book, The Wandering Who?, from their online bookshop.

Interestingly, Atzmon ends his piece at Veteran’s Today by posting the following YouTube clip of Bugs ‘shilling’ for what he terms the “USA propaganda machine”.

And, really, what self-respecting Jew hater wouldn’t be outraged by such an insensitive and stereotypical portrayal of Nazi mass murderers.

Finally, in light of Atzmon’s political sympathies, we did some research and found what we believe to be a suitable alternative to the dangerously Semitic toon – a rabbit who definitely could not be accused of being part of the Jewish power structure:


Naturally, the Jews who control Hollywood (and the Zionist lobby) would never allow American TV to air such marginalized genocidal voices.

Towards a new ‘liberation theology’: Will progressives ever learn to embrace Jewish success?

Here are the first few paragraphs of my Times of Israel essay published today:

If the progressive community was truly concerned about the fate of historically oppressed minorities, and sincerely moved by a passionate desire to find the social and economic remedies to ameliorate the condition of the marginalized, the example of Jews in the late 20th and early 21st centuries would serve as a model for all future campaigns.

Progressives who are unburdened by the fetishization of victimhood, and misplaced faith in ‘systemic’ root causes, would have to be inspired by the example of world Jewry – a community which not only survived the  Holocaust, but quickly re-established their communities and, within a short period of time, could boast of social, economic and political success (in Israel and the diaspora) quite ‘disproportionate’ to their miniscule numbers.

Howard Jacobson has forcefully argued that the world has never forgiven Jews for the collective guilt driven by memory of the Holocaust. However, it seems equally as urgent to acknowledge that the progressive movement seems not to have forgiven Jews for a success born largely of their own perseverance.

Read the rest of the essay here.

British “Intelligence” and Zionist Nazi analogies

In Douglas Murray’s latest piece for The Spectator, he asked whether Jews should leave Britain, a question prompted by a piece written by Israeli journalist Caroline Glick, which she wrote after participating in an Intelligence Squared debate about Israeli settlements.

The resolution they debated was titled: “Israel is destroying itself with its settlement policy. If settlement expansion continues Israel will have no future.”

Glick and Danny Dayan, outgoing head of the Yesha Council, were pitted against William Sieghart and Lord Levy’s son, Daniel Levy (one of the founders of J-Street).

The resolution passed by a ratio of 5-1.

Murray wrote the following:

“As Glick notes in her bitter farewell to London, the audience was so hostile towards her argument that when she even mentioned the matter of Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini and his involvement with the Nazis during World War II she was booed down by the audience. They – having been presented to her as open-minded – turned out to be so close-minded and partial that they would not even hear a historical fact about a Palestinian figure who was an actual Nazi.”

However, there was actually some applause from the audience in response to the following Nazi reference made by an audience member. (I edited the full video, which can be seen here).

The dilemma in responding to such a grotesque inversion – the insidious and intellectually bankrupt assertion that Israeli Jews are the practitioners of a Nazi ideology, a charge for which many “sophisticated” Europeans, weary of Holocaust guilt and increasingly hostile to Israel, seem to enjoy as a bit of moral Schadenfreude – is whether to dignify it with a response.

Murray, who didn’t mention that particular question from the audience, strikes the correct tone in his broader reply when he contextualized the tenor of the Intelligence Squared debate by citing MP David Ward’s evocation of ‘Jewish atrocities’ during his putative commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day, as well as the cartoon by Gerald Scarfe.

Murray wrote the following:

“There is absolutely no connection between, for instance, the liquidation of hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto and the treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank. There is absolutely no connection between the situation in Gaza and the herding of six million Jews into concentration camps. The wonder then is not over Scarfe or Ward’s sense of timing, but why at any point in any year they would be so keen to spread lies and to bait Jews by comparing the actions of the Jewish state with those of a genocidal doctrine of Nazism which sought to annihilate the Jews.”

While Glick’s gloomy and definitive prediction that there is no future for Jews in England seems a bit too glib, Murray’s slightly more restrained conclusion and haunting final question certainly seem sober, well-informed and depressingly apt:

“Glick’s question returns. What sort of future is there in Britain for Jews? I would submit that there is a future. But what is becoming increasingly clear is that the price of that future is that Jews will increasingly be expected to distance themselves from Israel. There is a fair amount of evidence from the Jewish community suggesting that this process is already underway. Once it is complete then those ‘good’ anti-Israel Jews will be able to proclaim victory. But the same force that they encouraged to come for their co-religionists will then just as surely come for them. And then where will they hide?”

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

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

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

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

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

profile not available

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


Guernica, Gaza and the Guardian


‘Guernica’ by Picasso

The following letter was not only chosen by editors at the Guardian as worthy of publication on Nov. 18., but even was featured in the  title.

What Leslie, a supporter of Independent Jewish Voices, is saying, in a polemic deemed meritorious by the Guardian is that, as a Jew who escaped Hitler’s attempt to exterminate all of the Jews on earth, he is in a privileged position to detect, and oppose, absolute evil – be it the evil of Nazism or the barbarity of the Jewish state.

The Nazis murdered six million Jews, and up to five million other “undesirables”, and launched wars which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions during WWII.

On April 26, 1937, the Nazis sent waves of bombers and fighter planes to the Spanish town of Guernica and dropped explosives, fragmentation bombs and incendiaries for 2 1/2 hours, literally razing the city to the ground.  Three days later, “they scorched the city and fired machine guns at the women and children who fled in panic.”

The IDF operation – targeting the Hamas terror infrastructure and aimed at putting a stop to incessant rockets fired at Israeli cities  – has included over 800 strikes on terrorist targets over five days.  It has resulted in 84 Palestinian deaths, half of whom are terrorists – an arguably unprecedented civilian to combatant death ratio of 1:1, especially in the context of Hamas’s practice of placing rocket launchers near civilians.  

The IDF is allowing Palestinian patients wounded in the fighting safe passage across the border to be treated at Israeli hospitals, and continues to send humanitarian supplies  into Gaza despite the constant rocket attacks from the territory.

I’m no emeritus professor, but to evoke Guernica in the context of the current conflict in Gaza represents an assault on truth, history and moral decency.

Guardian story on Alice Walker elicits support by readers for Israel – Nazi analogy

Our last post was inspired by a June 20th Guardian report on Alice Walker’s decision not to permit her book ‘The Colour Purple’ to be translated into Hebrew. Moreover, as we noted, Walker isn’t merely a proponent of BDS, but has characterized many of the state’s Jewish citizens as KKK-style racists, and Israel more broadly as morally beyond the pale.

As we noted, Walker even employed a not so subtle Israel-Nazi analogy in a prior Guardian piece defending her decision to participate in the pro-Hamas flotilla in 2011.

Sure enough, a few readers of the Guardian piece posted comments below the line which echoed Walker’s obscene Nazi narrative of the modern Jewish state.

The Israeli right has adopted Nazi ideologies of race (40 Recommends):

Nazi analogy has the tragic ring of truth (11 Recommends):

Jews in Israel learned wrong lessons (Nazi racial theories) from Holocaust (10 Recommends):

As of this post these comments have not been deleted by CiF moderators.

How could “liberal” Guardian give a platform to antisemitic fascists? (Essay by Lyn Julius)

The following was written by Lyn Julius, at Point of No Return. (A version of this also appeared at Times of Israel‘)

Hamas suicide bombers in training

From the 1930s – well before the creation of Israel – the Muslim Brotherhood was agitating against the Jews of Egypt, Palestine and Syria. By 1945 the Muslim Brotherhood had a million armed supporters in Egypt.

The Third Reich financed and trained the Muslim Brothers of Palestine and Egypt in terrorism. The Nazi concept of the Jews as the epitome of all-controlling evil was exported to the Arab world, where it is entrenched to this day. Hitler shared his plans to kill the Jews of Europe with the main ally of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine, the Mufti of Jerusalem. The Mufti ‘s machinations led to a pro-Nazi coup in Iraq, and the murder of hundreds of Iraqi Jews in the Farhud pogrom in June 1941. Meeting in Berlin a few months later, Hitler and the Mufti agreed a plan to exterminate all the Jews of the Middle East.

From 1947 Arab governments set about making the Arab Middle EastJudenrein. They applied Nuremberg-style laws, criminalising Zionism, freezing Jewish bank accounts, instituting quotas, imposing restrictions on jobs and movement. The result was the mass exodus and spoliation of a million Jews.

Nazi-style bigotry, coupled with traditional Islamic antisemitism, remains the driving force behind the marginalisation and exclusion of minorities from the Arab world on the one hand, and the unremitting campaign to destroy Israel on the other.

The ghost of Nazi-inspired, anti-Jewish fundamentalism was never exorcised from the Arab world. The Mufti of Jerusalem should have been tried as a war criminal at Nuremberg. He was indicted, tried and convicted by Yugoslavia for crimes against humanity. But the Allies shrank from offending the Arabs. That is why today in the Arab and Muslim world, antisemitism is epidemic.

The reason why The Guardian gives a platform to genocidal fascists is less easy to fathom. The Left has always dabbled in antisemitism – the ‘socialism of fools’. Israel has been cast as the US’s little imperialist helper. No-one seems to remember that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Iraq, Bahrain and much of the rest of the Arab world are also well within the US sphere of influence.

The so-called red-green alliance, for which The Guardian is a cheerleader, has bought into the myth that Israel is a colonial project. This brazen lie both denies the Jews’ 3,000–year-old connection to their ancestral homeland, and ignores the fact that 50 percent of Israel’s Jewish population descend from refugees indigenous to the Arab and Muslim world, predating Arab Muslim colonialism by centuries.

Then there is the misplaced belief that an extremist party like Hamas will be tamed by the responsibilities of power and needs to be engaged with. No sign of such moderation yet.

Finally, The Guardian’s decision to feature Haniyeh could simply be a hard-nosed, commercial one: controversy sells. Losing principled readers such as Charlotte of Digital Politico is evidently a price it is prepared to pay.

Israel boots Wagner: Harriet Sherwood chides state for uniting behind its Holocaust survivors

A guest post by Gidon Ben-Zvi, an Anglo-Israeli writer who blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind.

German Composer Richard Wagner

On Tuesday June 5th, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood reported that Tel Aviv University had denied the request of the Israel Wagner Society to have an Israeli symphony orchestra perform works by Hitler’s favorite composer Richard Wagner (Tel Aviv Wagner concert cancelled after wave of protest).

The university announced that it would not permit a scheduled Wagner concert to take place on its campus after vehement public protests.

Tel Aviv University accused Yonathan Livni – the founder of the Israel Wagner Society – of deliberately concealing the intention to perform Wagner compositions. The university also claimed that Livni did not mention the name of the organization he represented.

 Ms. Sherwood’s reporting of this story is riddled with subtle distortions and logical fallacies which should be examined.

First off, Ms. Sherwood repeatedly used the term ‘boycott’ without further elucidation. The ‘boycott’ is not official and in fact the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that it is not illegal to play Wagner in Israel. Rather, the ban is merely a custom that goes back to the founding of the Jewish state.

Next, she refers to this “unofficial boycott” of Wagner and draws an elegant parallel between it and the BDS Israel campaign which, after all, also has the word ‘boycott’ in it. Specifically, Sherwood quotes Mr. Livni, who responded to Tel Aviv University’s decision thus:

“The issue is that here is an academic institution that is threatened daily with boycotts because of Israel’s policy in the occupied territories doing exactly the same thing: imposing a boycott.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote the following:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

While the BDS Israel movement seeks to purge Israel, both inside and outside of the ‘Green Line’, of every last vestige of Jewish character and sovereignty, Israel’s unofficial Wagner ban serves as a crucial reminder that ideas have consequences — and that those who spread evil ideas should be held responsible for their consequences.

And this dovetails into Ms Sherwood’s next logical evasion.

The tired “divide man from his art” cliché’ is invoked in this quote, once again courtesy of Mr. Livni:

I have no regard for the composer – he was the worst kind of anti-Semite and I despise him. But God gave him a wonderful gift with which he wrote this beautiful, sublime music.

Simply put, none of this is about Wagner’s music. Rather, it’s about the strength and corrosive influence of his ideas. While Richard Wagner lived decades before the birth of Nazism, his influence on the National Socialist movement and especially on its leader was enormous.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote that Wagner was one of “the great warriors in this world who, though not understood by the present, was nevertheless prepared to carry the fight for their ideas and ideals to their end.”

Wagner’s music was prominently featured at Nazi Party functions. And the operatic festival that he founded at Bayreuth in 1876 became a citadel of racism and reaction, and the cultural showpiece of the Third Reich and Hitler’s artistic centre.

Upon coming to power in 1933, Wagner’s works were used by the Nazi regime as part of its plan to ‘Nazify’ German culture.

In some Nazi concentration camps prescribed music was forced on the inmates by way of radio or gramophones that played over permanently installed loudspeakers.

The music, which included the works of Richard Wagner, was used along with propaganda speeches in order to re-educate the inmates. As such, the argument can be made the Wagner’s music served as soundtrack to many who lived through, and died during, the Holocaust.

Later in the article Ms Sherwood once again cites the eminently quotable Mr. Livni:

It was hypocritical of Israelis to boycott Wagner but ride on German-built trains and drive German-made cars, and for the state to buy German submarines…

The Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany  was signed in 1952 in order to:

“…address the calling for moral and material indemnity … The Federal Government are prepared, jointly with representatives of Jewry and the State of Israel … to bring about a solution of the material indemnity problem, thus easing the way to the spiritual settlement of infinite suffering.”

Although public debate in Israel was among the fiercest in the nation’s history, the aim of the reparations was undeniably to address and perhaps begin to come to terms with one of the great human tragedies ever known. While a blunt and highly controversial tool, reparations that sought to seek a smidge of redemption for an irredeemable act of cruelty were guided by a higher moral imperative.

What does this have to do with Wagner being performed in Israel?

Those who advocate for Wagner compositions being performed in the Jewish State usually rely on the ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ argument.  Whether or not one concurs, this focus on the aesthetically pleasing attributes of Wagner’s works is devoid of any appeal to redemption, forgiveness or spiritual healing.

By politicizing history in order to bludgeon Israel into illegitimacy, Ms. Sherwood does a disservice to the discipline, whose purpose is “…to reconstruct the past as accurately as the intelligence of the historian and the fullness of the historical sources permit…”

Guardian reader comment of the day: Where Greek neo-Nazis aren’t too concerned with Jews

Flag of Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party

Today’s ‘ Comment is Free’ piece “Open Letter: We are all Greek Jews” of May 28th, signed by Benjamin Abtan, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Elie Wiesel, Amélie Nothomb and others called on Europe to reject the Greek neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn, which entered the Greek parliament this month.

Golden Dawn’s leader Nikos Michaloliakos

The letter warns that “the [neo-Nazi Greek Golden Dawn] party is the lineal heir of the German national-socialist party that led Europe and the world into chaos and bloodshed.”

The specter of a resurgent neo-Nazi movement in Europe would seem, at first glance, an anomaly and almost reads as fiction. However, as the open letter notes:

“Greece is not the only country threatened by this revival of Nazi ideology. In Latvia this year, the president of the republic has for the first time supported the annual former Waffen SS march.

In Austria the FPÖ, an extreme right organisation that nurtures Third Reich nostalgia, is favourite in the polls for the next parliamentary elections. In Hungary, the Hungarian Guard Movement, descendant of The Arrow Cross party – the former militia responsible for the extermination of Jews and Gypsies – terrorises Jewish populations and holds direct responsibility for provoking deadly attacks against Roma people.”

The following is a recent interview with Nikos Michaloliakosis – the leader of Greece’s Golden Dawn movement which will occupy 21 seats in the Greek parliament after winning 7% of the vote in the May 6 elections.

While this blog has often argued that Guardian readers are much more comfortable condemning right-wing antisemitism than the Islamist variety, note that the following comment, greatly downplaying even the former, garnered 113 ‘Recommends’. 

Stunning, really: a reader who questions the antisemitic bona fides of an extremist European movement which possesses a swastika-inspired emblem, enforces a  Hitlerian salute, references Mein Kampf, endorses racist ideology, and trades in Holocaust denial.

It makes you wonder what precisely it would take for some Guardian readers to see the hideous Jew hatred squarely in front of their face. 

Former Nazi Gunter Grass & a ‘liberal’ broadsheet called the Guardian (Analysis of coverage)

As I noted in a previous post, an 84 year old former Waffen SS Nazi named Gunter Grass published a poem falsely accusing Israel of contemplating a nuclear assault on Iran, and therefore a threat to “already fragile” world peace.

I advanced a few arguments in the piece, the most basic of which were these:

That the spectacle of a former Nazi, a German who was complicit with history’s most lethal movement, is about the last person on earth to lecture Jews on morality; that it’s shameful to characterize as “brave” his promotion of the intellectually and morally unserious charge that the Jewish state represents a threat to world peace; and that Germans, if nothing else, have a profound responsibility to guard against the resurgence of Judeophobic discourse within their society.

You’d think even the Guardian would report the story in a manner.

However, they’ve published eight pieces on the row thus far, little of which suggest genuine moral outrage at Grass, and much of which vilify Israel for its’ reaction to the poem.

Here are some highlights:

1. Gunter Grass barred from Israel over poem, April 8, by Harriet Sherwood.

What title and narrative of piece evoke

Israel repressing freedom of expression, unfairly barring someone from entering the state due merely to an offensive poem.

Relevant passages, representative of story’s theme

Some Israeli commentators said Grass had raised an important issue and that criticism of Israeli policies was routinely portrayed as antisemitism.

Writing on the +972 website, Larry Derfner said: “Günter Grass told the truth, he was brave in telling it, he was brave in admitting that he’d been drafted into the Waffen SS as a teenager, and by speaking out against an Israeli attack on Iran, he’s doing this country a great service at some personal cost while most Israelis and American Jews are safely following the herd behind Bibi [Netanyahu] over the cliff.”

Gideon Levy, the Haaretz columnist, wrote that Grass and other critics of Israeli policies were “not anti-Semites, they are expressing the opinions of many people”. “Instead of accusing them, we should consider what we did that led them to express it,” he said.

By ending with two defenses of Grass, which characterize him as more deserving of moral sympathy than Israeli leaders, Sherwood is providing implicit support (or at least, legitimization) for such opinions.  The broader message is that Israel is the guilty party, not Gunter Grass. 

2. Letters: Israel, Gunter Grass and the right to artistic license, April 8

While there were two letters critical of Grass, there were also four strongly defending him and vilifying Israel: by Tim Llewellyn, John Severs, John Severs, Catherine Boswell. 

Tim Llewellyn: Zionist conspiracies, the tragically misunderstood Republic of Iran, and a compliant media that is manipulated into denigrating the great Grass.

“What is so exceptional about Günter Grass’s verse that it should provoke such political and media hysteria? He merely points out what anyone who studies the Middle East knows: that Israel is trying to bounce the United States into war with Iran by wildly exaggerating Iran’s alleged “existential” threat to Israel, regardless of the cataclysmic consequences.

Israel has nuclear weapons; Iran does not. Iran has not seriously threatened Israel: even rhetorically, the textual evidence of any real menace to Israel from Ahmadinejad is overinterpreted and exaggerated. Conversely, Israel is certainly threatening Iran.

Why do our commentators fall such easy prey to the machinations of the Israeli state and its supporters, and denigrate a great and wise writer who, after all, is only trying to give us due warning of a disaster in the making?”

Published by the Guardian: Conspiratorial narrative of a Jewish state so powerful it can goad an unwilling world super power into war with Iran; An incomprehensible lie that Iran has not threatened Israel; and the notion that commentators are manipulated by Zionists into denigrating a great and wise former Nazi.

John Severs: Three cheers, or more, to Gunter Grass!

Three cheers, or more, to Günter Grass for exposing the hypocrisy of Israel’s stance and continuing complaints, with no evidence, about Iran developing nuclear weapon capability. Israel has significant nuclear-warhead capability, and it is constantly threatening to bomb Iran or organise land-based raids, thus creating mayhem across the Middle East. Grass might well have also mentioned the shocking Israeli blockade of Gaza and their illegal appropriation of land and water, and destruction of huge tracts of olive groves and orchards on the West Bank.

I note that, once again, a critic of Israeli policy is branded anti-Jewish. Is it no longer possible to criticise Israel as a nation without being accused of being antisemitic?

The brave Gunter Grass, who speaks truth to power, and says what must be said: Iran is the victim of Israeli aggression, a Jewish state which not only threatens world peace but destroys olive groves as well!  Plus, bonus claim: Poor former Nazis are silenced, and can’t even level hysterical warnings of a Jewish state representing the greatest threat to world peace without being called antisemitic. 

Catherine Boswell: The Mossad targeted my husband for being critical of Israel!

“My late husband, the German poet Erich Fried, was a colleague of Grass. In 1974 Erich published a whole book of poems about the Arab-Israeli conflict entitled Höre Israel, which has been republished recently by Melzer Verlag.

Grass’s admission that he served in the Waffen SS in his teens serves as ready ammunition for the Zionists to use against him; for Erich it was the fact of being a Jew. For taking a critical stance of Israeli policies, he was dubbed an antisemite and even targeted by Mossad for a few years. It amazes me how this shameful – not to say quite illogical – equivalence can be so widely accepted.”

This letter is more proof you can engage in the most bizarre, unhinged, conspiratorial anti Zionist rhetoric and get published in the Guardian.  The notion that the Mossad was targeting her husband for engaging in criticism of Israel is so ludicrous as to be almost a parody.  

3. Gunter Grass and changing German attitudes towards Israel, April 5, by Hans Kundnani

Theme of commentary:

Grass’ poetical attack on Israel is not an isolated view in Germany, and represents increasing German anger at the Jewish state, due to its move right, and Germans’ feeling that they’re not allowed to say what they really think. (Kundnani doesn’t necessarily endorse such German and equivocates by use of words such as “rightly or wrongly” this is what Germans think.)

Key passages:

what makes the publication of the poem significant is that it expresses a sense of anger against Israel that – justified or not – many Germans seem increasingly to share. This anger is partly a response to Israel’s rightward shift during the past decade. But it seems also to be a product of developments in Germany and in particular the way that the Holocaust has receded in significance during the last decade. Increasingly, Germans seem to see themselves as victims rather than perpetrators.

A poll in January 2009 – during the Gaza war – suggested that German attitudes to Israel were in flux. Nearly half of respondents said they saw Israel as an “aggressive country” and only around a third of respondents said they felt Germany had a special responsibility towards Israel. Sixty per cent said Germany had no special responsibility (the figure was even higher among younger Germans and among those living in the former East Germany).

This anger against Israel is exacerbated by the sense some Germans have of not being able to say what they really think – as Grass suggests in the poem. This has created a pent-up resentment towards Israel that could at some point explode.

Last year, Germany voted in favour of a UN resolution demanding a halt to Israeli settlement expansion – an unusual break with Israel. Later in the year, Germany opposed the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN. But according to one poll, 84% of Germans supported Palestinian statehood and 76% believed Germany should act to recognise it – an even higher proportion in each case than in France or the UK.

An Israeli military strike on Iran could create a sudden rupture between Germany and Israel in the way that the Iraq war did between Germany and the US. My sense is that were Israel to launch a military strike on Iran, what remaining sympathy there is in Germany for Israel would evaporate almost overnight.

Again, in addition to the disturbing fact that, evidently, Germans now see themselves as victims, notice that Grass’ victimological conceit (that Germans can’t say what they truly feel about Jews and Israel without opprobrium) is, per the writer, arguably true, and shared by a large percentage of Germans.

4. Hit Gunter Grass with poetry not a travel ban, April 10, by , a blogger at the far left site (and Guardian partner blog) Liberal Conspiracy.

Major Theme: 

Banning Grass from traveling to Israel amounts to state censorship

Relevant passages:

On Sunday, the controversy surrounding Günter Grass’s poem Was Gesagt Werden Muss (What Must Be Said) escalated, with Israeli interior minister Eli Yishai confirming Grass was now considered a persona non grata in Israel, which amounts to a travel ban. This is a form of state censorship against an author, purely because of what he has written, which is wrong and an infringement on free speech.

Agree or disagree with the travel ban, such a restriction has absolutely nothing to do with censorship or free speech, which would be an apt description if, for instance, Grass’ poems were banned in Israel.  Grass is not a citizen of Israel and has no right to be allowed entry. His former role in the Nazi Waffen SS is enough moral justification for keeping him out of the country.

5. Pass notes No 3,156: Günter Grass, April 10 (no author cited)

Finally, the Guardian published a quite whimsical take on the row over the former Nazi’s poem. Here’s a sense of the light-hearted take on the topic: a brief bio of Grass, and a series of short answers to the questions surrounding the row:

Age: 84.

Appearance: Like a potato.

That’s a little unkind: OK, a potato with a pipe.

Occupation: Writer, sage, controversialist.

Most telling passage:

Do read: His early novels The Tin Drum, Cat and Mouse, and Dog Years (the “Danzig trilogy”, named after his birthplace), published in the late 1950s and early 60s.

Don’t read: All his other stuff.

That’s a ridiculous thing to say. Hey, this is Pass Notes, not the LRB. Like the Israeli government, in this case, we specialise in kneejerk reactions and blanket condemnation.

Israel, home to roughly 180,000 Holocaust survivors, is characterized (in the context of their condemnation of Grass’ poem) as a country specializing in “knee-jerk reactions and blanket condemnations”!

Overall conclusion of Guardian’s coverage: Main points.

  • Exceedingly more criticism of Israel’s reaction to Grass’ poem than of the former Nazi’s atrocious vilification of Israel.
  • No commentary on the antisemitic undertones of Grass’ characterization of the Jewish state as the biggest threat to world peace.
  • A paltry amount of outrage at Grass, and the fact that he hid his Nazi past for sixty years while assuming the role of moral “conscience” of Germany.
  • Israel’s travel ban on Grass characterized as “censorship” and a threat to free speech.
  • Publishing (editorial sanctioning) of letters not only supporting Grass, but containing thinly veiled antisemitic and anti Zionist conspiracy theories.

You’d think that, as a paper which fancies itself a liberal voice, the Guardian would be cautious in defending a former Nazi (who hid his role as a member of a Nazi unit, singled out by the Nuremberg Trials for engaging in crimes against humanity, for sixty years) who engaged in a scurrilous attack on the Jewish state – a moral inversion which juxtaposed Iranian “loudmouths” with sinister Israelis contemplating genocide.

Finally, the coverage of the incident again demonstrates that, for the Guardian, criticizing Israel provides impunity to even the most morally compromised commentators.