Are Jews a “privileged” class?

A few months ago Louise Mensch was attacked at ‘Comment is Free’ for dismissing the idea of “privilege checking”.  Mensch had argued the following:

“Check your privilege”, for example, is a profoundly stupid trope that states that only those with personal experience of something should comment, or that if a person is making an argument, they should immediately give way if their view is contradicted by somebody with a different life story.

Laurie Penny is an absolutely prime example; she does it all the time. The other day on Twitter she told people not to rise to what she felt was a race-baiting article by Rod Liddle in the Spectator. She was quite right. Everybody with a blog knows what “don’t feed the trolls” means. However, she was angrily contradicted by the black comedian @AvaVidal who told her that people of colour were striking back and they should rise to it. Instead of defending her position, Penny caved, recanted, and commented mournfully that “having your privilege checked” was painful.

Here are the relevant passages from an essay by Laurie Penny, contributing editor at The New Statesman. 

Louise Mensch is confused. The erstwhile MP and professional gadfly has published a blogpost decrying “privilege checking”, and longing to return to a species of “reality-based” feminism where everyone would stop bothering her about class, race and money.

Actually, “privilege” isn’t at all hard to understand. It just means any structural social advantage that you have by virtue of birth, or position – such as being white, being wealthy, or being a man. “Check your privilege” means “consider how your privilege affects what you have just said or done.” That’s it.

Privilege is not the same as power. Nor is it a game whereby only the least privileged people will henceforth be allowed an opinion – the last time I checked, the political conversation was still dominated by rich white men and their wives. These are the people who go into spasms of outrage at the very notion that a black person, or a woman, or a working-class person might have as much right to an opinion as they do on matters that affect them.

Whilst the idea of ‘privilege’ is intellectually suspect for a host of reasons (many of which Mensch explored in her blog post), it’s quite interesting that Jews, of all people, are often considered among “the privileged” within this paradigm.  Not only has the post-Holocaust taboo against antisemitism been eroded, but Jews, who represent a fraction of 1% of the world’s population, are – in a manner evoking classic tropes about Jewish control – typically portrayed, by virtue of their relative success, as an elite, powerful, and privileged class. 

Whilst reasonable people can agree or disagree with attempts to explain disparities in economic, educational and social outcomes in terms of one’s ‘privilege’, it seems difficult to avoid including Jews among those who are “historically disadvantaged” when honestly exploring its political implications.

So, for those who fancy the specious argument that you can quantify privilege in terms of one’s race, ethnicity, gender, etc., here’s some food for thought – a list of the advantages (privileges) of waking up in the morning as a non-Jew – the daily effects of non-Jewish privilege.

1. You likely don’t have your people’s right to national self-determination questioned or characterized as racist.

2.  You are not characterized as racist for the alleged sin of caring more about your own people’s safety and welfare than that of other groups.

3.  You are not accused as a group – by virtue of by your current alleged “immoral behavior” – of having betrayed the memory of coreligionists who were victims of genocide.

4.  You are not accused of being more loyal to a foreign state than to the interests of your own nation.

5.  You are likely not held personally responsible for the actions of others who share your religion or ethnicity.

6.  You are not likely to be targeted for terrorist attacks by extremists simply because you happen to share the same religion as the majority population in one foreign state.  

7.  You likely don’t have to avoid expressing your religious identity when visiting Middle Eastern or even European countries for fear of violence.

8.  You are likely never accused of being part of an international conspiracy to control the world.

9.  You are not accused of exercising disproportionate control over the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

10. Your success and personal achievements – and other fruits of your hard work – aren’t turned upside down and characterized as evidence of your ‘privilege.

To be clear, none of this is meant to suggest that we subscribe to the facile theory that groups should be divided between the ‘privileged’ and the non-privileged.  However, for those who do give this paradigm credence, it does seem to represent an egregious moral double standard to impute ‘privilege’ to such a historically persecuted, disenfranchised and marginalized minority as Jews.   

Guardian’s handling of Josh Trevino story exposes its fault lines.

According to an article by Helen Lewis in the New Statesman, the Guardian’s handling of the disproportionately vocal protestations from a small group of well-known anti-Israel activists (with Ali Abunimah at the helm) to the appointment of Joshua Trevino as part of its US team, is becoming downright bizarre. 

Lewis recounts Abunimah’s version of the story (as previously discussed here), including the amended press release which apparently went from describing Trevino as a member of the editorial team to a member of the commentary team. 

“As this screen capture shows, the Guardian edited its original press release. This is the new one:

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.

And this is the old one:

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.”

Lewis then approached the Guardian herself:

“I contacted the Guardian, and a spokesperson told me “this really was just a straightforward error, albeit an unfortunate one”, adding:

I can confirm that there has been no change in Josh Trevino’s terms of employment – the contract has not been altered and he has most certainly not been “demoted” as some articles have suggested. In fact, a simple mistake was made in the press release and this was later corrected. It was clumsy but there is no change to Josh’s position.”

Ah! So it’s all down to an administrative mistake. Well, I suppose the Guardian would very much like everyone to believe that, but such a claim does nothing to explain Trevino’s clarification article on the subject of his flotilla Tweet which appeared on August 16th – the day after Ali Abunimah began  his campaign against Trevino with his first post on the subject at ‘electronic Intifada’. 

Had the Guardian itself considered Trevino’s Tweet problematic, surely either Trevino would not have been hired in the first place or an article of clarification would have appeared before or in conjunction with the press release of August 15th announcing his new position. 

But neither of those scenarios took place, which appears to indicate that the Guardian did not view Trevino’s appointment as a ‘hot potato’ until Abunimah began his crusade, with others soon tagging along. Only then did the damage control begin, in the form of the revised press release, the clarification article, the publishing of a letter protesting its own hiring policy and now, per Lewis, the “error” story. 

It is all too apparent that not only does the Guardian (or at least parts of its editorial team) not have the courage of its own convictions, but that it has allowed itself to be influenced and dictated to by an anti-Israel lobby determined to scupper the appointment of a writer it considers to be too ‘pro-Israel’, even though he was hired to write about a subject completely unrelated to the Middle East.  

Put in simple terms, the Guardian has reduced itself to the level of a phone-in reality show in which audience participation dictates who stays and who goes. 

Of course the Guardian’s track record shows no comparable sensitivity to public opinion when protests are voiced concerning anti-Israel contributors – even when they are members of a proscribed terror organization. 

But at least one thing is now crystal clear: for some reason the Guardian ascribes importance to the opinions of a bunch of fringe campaigners who aspire to bring about the dismantling of a UN member state and thereby deny one nation alone the right to self-determination. 

Be that because of an organizational culture of sympathy for that ideology or out of fear of losing its niche as the anti-Israel campaigner’s paper of choice, the fact remains that the Josh Trevino story has placed a useful spotlight on the Guardian’s fault lines. 

The cowardly Zionism of Jonathan Freedland

Cross posted by our friend Richard Millett

In his piece Yearning for the same land in this week’s New Statesman magazine prize-winning author and columnist Jonathan Freedland cites four shades of Zionism: secular, religious, left-wing and rightist.

Make that five shades: Freedland Zionism – sitting in one’s comfortable diaspora home while joining in the delegitimisation of Israel.

A May issue of the New Statesman was devoted to Who Speaks for British Jews? This week’s issue asks Israel: the future – Is the dream of a two-state solution dead?

Israel is unique in being the only country whose future, or lack of, is constantly under discussion. And who knew that ripping the heart out of Judaism by giving up places like the Machpelah in Hebron is considered a “dream”?  A necessity in return for an elusive peace maybe, but no dream.

Freedland puts himself among the “left-leaning Zionists”. These are “true Zionists” who think that “the 45-year long occupation is jeopardising the founding Zionist goal of a Jewish, democratic state.”

Freedland doesn’t tell us why the “occupation” is threatening Israel’s Jewish and democratic status but it sounds like the scaremongering of J Street and Yachad.

Yachad, for example, claims that if Israel doesn’t withdraw from the West Bank then by 2020 the Palestinians between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea will outnumber Jews. Minority autocratic rule by Jews over Palestinians will follow or, as Mick Davis, a British Jewish community leader put it recently, “Israel is heading towards an apartheid state”.

Those who cite this thesis never back it up with a source, but that is because it is just more anti-Israel propaganda; a ploy to force Israel to dangerously concede more land.

Yoram Ettinger shows how the numbers of Palestinians on the West Bank are regularly artificially inflated by at least one million and argues that Palestinians and Israeli Arabs can never make up more than 30% of those living between the River and the Sea. Freedland wouldn’t want facts to get in the way of a good story.

Freedland claims to support Israel’s right to exist. He just doesn’t like how Zionism was implemented or current Israeli policy. And he believes that “the security, viability and even the ethical character of the Jewish state matter more than its size.”

He contrasts this position with that of the “hawkish Zionists, heirs of the revisionist tradition of Vladimir Jabotinsky who are territorial maximalists, eager to fly the Israeli flag over all of the West Bank”.

So just how small does Freedland think Israel should have been?

The Peel Commission of 1937 offered the Arabs 80% of British Mandate Palestine and the Jews 20%. The Zionists accepted but Arab leaders rejected this leaving Europe’s Jews to their fate in the gas chambers.

Freedland states “Israel needs to look plainly at the circumstances of its birth and understand why Palestinians regard the event as a catastrophe.” But Arab leaders having rejected, this time, 45% of British Mandate Palestine in 1947 went on to commence hostilities against the Jews instead.

So who are the real “territorial maximalists” here?

In fact the seeds for Arab defeat in 1947-1949 were self-inflicted having been sown during the 1936-39 Arab uprising in British Mandate Palestine which was brutally crushed by the British leaving the Arabs bereft of leaders, fighters and weapons while Zionist militias used the time to build up their reserves.

Freedland then complains that there were no takers in Israel for a “national memorial day to mark the Arab dispossession”.

But why would Israelis commemorate an attempt by Arab leaders to kill them?

Despite all this Arab rejectionism Freedland then, incredibly, goes on to portray Jews and Arabs as drowning nations clinging to the same piece of driftwood. He thinks the Jews who were “gasping for breathe” were right to cling to it in 1948. After 1967, he claims Israel pushed the Palestinians off the shared driftwood and into the sea.

Freedland doesn’t bother analysing what the situation might have been like today had Israel not been in West Bank.  One need only look at the aftermath of Israel’s pullout from Gaza: rockets slamming into Tel Aviv, anyone?

Like in his piece This is Israel? Not the one I Love in the Jewish Chronicle last November Freedland doesn’t like to complicate the issue by mentioning Hamas or Islamic Jihad. No mention of Hamas’ call to kill Jews in its charter or of Hamas’ beliefs that Israel is an “Islamic waqf” and that peaceful solutions are invalid.

Freedland never asks, or answers, why he thinks the Palestinians, who rejected 80% of the territory in 1937 and 45% in 1947 would accept 22% now. In fact he doesn’t criticise the Palestinians once.

Luckily for Freedland he has never had to take a life or death decision. Sadly, he takes the coward’s way out and criticises those unlucky Jews forced to. He yearns for the perfect Israel and until then won’t stop his constant delegitimisation of the Jewish state.

But it gets worse. Alongside Freedland’s piece is a piece by Ali Abunimah.  Abunimah calls for a one state solution and the ending of “Israelis’ demand for the supremacy of Jewish rights over those of the Palestinians”. While Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in his book review How the dream died, describes the American “pro-Israel official ‘Jewish establishment’” as “elderly, rich and right-wing”.

“Supremacy of Jewish rights”, Jews described as “rich”? The New Statesman obviously has no problem with keeping sickening anti-Semitic stereotypes alive.

Will Jonathan Freedland stand with Jews & oppose those, like Mehdi Hasan, rationalizing antisemitism?

In my post on Mehdi Hasan’s ‘Comment is Free’ essay (We mustn’t allow Muslims in public life to be silenced, July 9th) I focused on his claim that the UK is infested with “Islamophobia”, that Muslims are being cowed into silence as a result, and his broader suggestion that the media tolerates racism towards Islam to a degree that it would never allow towards any other group.

I pointed to the fact that, for instance, the largest media institution in the UK – the BBC – contrary to Hasan’s contention, admits to treating Islam more sensitively than other faiths.

However, there was another component of Hasan’s essay which I did not address: his complaint that he is often personally subjected to abusive, racist commentary beneath the line of his polemics for ‘Comment is Free’, The New Statesman and other publications.  

While such attacks are never justifiable, I did not address that issue because here at CiF Watch we spend a lot of energy combating the unending stream of Jew hatred below the line at ‘Comment is Free’ and because Hasan, by shamefully offering a rationalization for antisemitism (and opposing the very existence of the Jewish state), has forfeited the moral high ground on the issue of racism.

Yesterday (July 10th), the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland came to Hasan’s defense, in a passionate polemic titled, “I stand with Mehdi Hasan against the torrent of Islamophobic abuse“.

 Freedland wrote:

“Mehdi…focused on the abuse he and other prominent Muslims regularly endure when they enter the public square, with insults often hurled via the medium of the online comment. Sure enough, many of those who disagreed with Hasan’s essay piled on to the discussion below the line to use language and imagery so vile it instantly confirmed the very case he had been making.”

Freedland, after proceeding to cite examples of anti-Muslim commentary beneath the line of Hasan’s essay which, he argued, vindicated Hasan’s argument, acknowledged the following:

“I and other Jewish writers have had more than a taste of the treatment Mehdi describes…And I recognise his lament that the tiniest thing can set off the haters…I’ve also grown used to a variant of that progressives’ prejudice, by which “card-carrying liberal lefties”, as Mehdi calls them, in their rush to defend Palestinian rights end up banging out the old, nasty tunes about the Jews.”

Though it is refreshing that Freedland acknowledges the vicious rhetorical assaults on Jews below the line at ‘Comment is Free’, it is quite dispiriting that he fails to hold Hasan, the protagonist in his tale, responsible for his own record of indifference towards Judeophobia.

While Freedland states his disagreement with Hasan’s defense of Lord Nazir Ahmed who, he noted, “has an awkward record of inviting known antisemites to the House of Lords” and writes that he felt “uneasy” when Hasan “…describe[d] non-Muslims as ‘people of no intelligence’ and as ‘cattle'”, he nonetheless fails to confront the elephant in the room: The following 2009 essay by Hasan.

Here’s the money quote from the piece:

“I do find it both tragic and ironic that the state of Israel – created ostensibly to protect Jews from across the world from hatred, prejudice and violence – through its actions today, and through its self-proclaimed role as the leader and home of world Jewry, provokes such awful anti-Semitic attacks against diaspora Jews.”

Interestingly, Freedland revealed the following in his CiF essay regarding his sympathy towards Hasan:

 “Each time I come across the kind of abuse he cites I mentally replace the word “Islam” with “Judaism” and “Muslim” with “Jew”.”

So, I think it’s fair to read Hasan’s passage about Israel “provoking” antisemitism and ask if Freedland would ever tolerate a commentator who argued that the actions of Muslims in the Middle East justify or provoke anti-Muslim racism in the UK?  Similarly, would he give credence to those who rationalize attacks on Muslims in the U.S. as merely a natural response to the attack by Islamist terrorists on 9/11?

Of course he wouldn’t!

Surely Freedland must know that Hasan’s apologia for antisemitism – blaming Jews for provoking others to hate them – represents a narrative with a long and tragic history for the Jewish people.  As Tablet reported recently about the increase of antisemitism in Malmo, Sweden:

“On Dec. 27, 2008, as the IDF launched Operation Cast Lead, the Jewish community of Malmö held a demonstration in the city’s main square to express sympathy for “all civilian victims” in Gaza and the Jewish state. They were soon confronted by a much larger counter-demonstration, consisting mainly of immigrants from the Middle East. The Jews were singing hine ma tov, but was their song was overwhelmed by chants of “damn Jews” and “Hitler, Hitler, Hitler!” A glass bottle flew through the air and hit a Jewish girl in the back. When a homemade bomb was fired straight into the Jewish group, the police decided to evacuate them. The Jews fled from the square but were followed by kids who used cellphones to report back to the counter-demonstration with which direction “the Jews” were heading. 

When [Malmo’s mayor] Ilmar Reepalu was questioned about these events, he chose to criticize the Jews of his city for not taking a firm stand against the policies of the state of Israel.”

Finally, a video at an event I attended last year in Jerusalem, to mark the 19th year since former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s death, included a conversation Begin had with interviewer David Frost.  Begin, strongly objected to Frost’s description of Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem as “provocative”, and noted that during his youth in Poland, he asked a group of Poles why they felt a need to beat up Jews, and they responded that the very presence of Jews was a “provocation.” 

No doubt Jonathan Freedland would agree, broadly, that acts of racism are never a commentary on the behavior of victims of such bigotry but rather on the hate in the soul of the perpetrator.

If so, consistency (and moral integrity) would demand that he hold Mehdi Hasan accountable to this intuitive anti-racist principle.

More equal than others: ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Mehdi Hasan is not a victim.

We, of course, can’t see into Mehdi Hasans soul.

As such, we will then never know for sure what he was thinking when he blamed the rise of antisemitism on Israeli actions, rather than on the antisemites who target innocent Jews. Nor will we ever truly understand with certainty why he singles out the Jewish state (and no other state) as unworthy of existence within any borders.

However, we can assume it didn’t occur to the former New Statesman political editor how hypocritical it is for him to complain (in a ‘Comment is Free’ essay titled, We mustn’t allow Muslims in public life to be silence, July 9) that you can “say things about Muslims in polite society…that you cannot say about any other group” while himself rationalizing the hatred of Jews, and negating the rights of Jewish self-determination.

And, we’ll also never know for sure what was in Hasan’s heart when he claimed (below) that “the kaffir, the disbelievers, the atheists who remain deaf…to the teachings of Islam [are] people of no intelligence”, [like] “cattle,” and another suggestion that non-believers “live their lives like animals”. 

However, we can assume it didn’t occur to Hasan that such demonization of non-believers would undermine his complaint (in the same ‘Comment is Free’ essay) about lazy “stereotyping” and prejudice in the UK media. 

Click image to go to video

Click image to go to video

As Harry’s Placed argued, in the context of Hasan’s words, seen in the video above:

“Ask yourself how you would react if a prominent white, non-Muslim journalist gave a talk to a primarily white audience on the need for greater education in which he argued that “we whites should educate ourselves and embrace knowledge, otherwise we will be no better than Muslims” in which he also compared Muslims to “cattle” and “animals”.”

Do we really even have to ask?

Hasan’s essay evokes the risible specter of a Britain infested with anti-Muslim racism and, indeed, he would have us believe that there is nothing short of political witch-hunt against those who practice Islam in UK.  

Writes Hasan:

“The mere mention of the words “Islam” or “Muslim” generates astonishing levels of hysteria and hate on the web.”

Later, he writes:

“From my perspective, the British commentariat can be divided into three groups. The first consists of a handful of journalists who regularly speak out against the rising tide of anti-Muslim bigotry – from the Telegraph’s Peter Oborne to a bevy of Guardian columnists, including…Seumas Milne.”

Of course, it likely didn’t occur to Hasan that he would have a bit more credibility if he didn’t promote the “liberal” virtues of Seumas Milne, the (former?) Stalinst who has defended Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and characterized Islamist terror groups as representing legitimate, and justified, anti-imperialist “resistance”

Hasan continues:

“[The] group that concerns me most [are] those commentators who boast otherwise impeccable anti-racist credentials yet tend to be silent on the subject of Islamophobia; journalists who cannot bring themselves to recognise, let alone condemn, the growing prevalence of anti-Muslim feeling across Europe – or acknowledge the simple fact that the targeting of a powerless, brown-skinned minority is indeed a form of racism

Here, Hasan plays to Western guilt, and the media’s racially based hierarchy of victimhood, impeccably.

He conflates European attitudes about Islamism and Islamist terrorism with that of Muslims more broadly, and imputes racism (of “browned skinned” people) to non-Muslims who legitimately fear the former.  

Indeed, what many in the UK and elsewhere are fearful of, the rise of radical Islam, is a quite rational response to a very real terrorist threat.  Per the U.S. National Counter Terrorism Center’s (NCTC) website, radical Islamic groups were responsible for approximately 70% of all terrorism related deaths worldwide (9,092 out of 13,186) in 2010, representing an astonishing 98% of all religiously inspired attacks.

While, naturally, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world are not terrorists, it is simply undeniable that the overwhelming majority of terrorists are individuals motivated by political Islam.

Hasan also advances the simply risible claim that Muslims – who represent, for instance, roughly 10% of the total population in France, Austria, Belgium and Sweden – are powerless.  In fact, the Muslim population in Europe in 2010 was 44 million, a number which is predicted to rise by 32% in the year 2030.  

Indeed, belying the claim that European Muslims are weak were the results of the French elections, where an extraordinary 1.7 million French Muslims (93% of the total number of Muslim voters) cast their ballot for François Hollande, arguably giving Hollande the election.  And, in the UK, many attributed George Galloway’s victory in the Bradford West by-election to the overwhelming support he received from Muslim voters.

Just compare Muslim political strength in Europe with that of Jews, whose population is 1.4 million, representing 2/10 of 1% of the European population.

Hasan continues:

“But if those of us who try to participate in public life and contribute to political debate are constantly painted with a broad brush of suspicion and distrust, then what hope is there for the thousands of young British Muslims who feel alienated and marginalised from the political process?”


“I should throw in the towel and go find a less threatening, more civilised line of work. But that’s what the trolls want. To silence Muslims; to deny a voice to a voiceless community.”

The suggestion that Muslims are being “silenced” and “marginalized” represents one of those memes which, though possessing little basis in fact, has come to represent conventional wisdom among the political and cultural elite in the UK.  

Hasan himself is a perfect example of a Muslim who is anything but “marginalized”, having been political director at the New Statesman, and routinely being offered a platform at ‘Comment is Free’ (a forum with no shortage of Muslim and Islamist voices) where he is read by millions of UK readers. 

More broadly, an internal memo in 2006 provided a glimpse of the prevailing political culture in the UK by revealing that BBC officials deemed it acceptable to show a Bible, but not a Koran, being tossed into the garbage.  

BBC also reportedly canceled a film on the 2005 London 7/7 transit bombings because they found the script “Islamophobic” — discounting the opinions of the terrorists’ own parents who backed the show’s portrayal of their children.

During a recent interview in February outgoing BBC director general Mark Thompson admitted that Christianity receives less sensitive treatment because it is “a broad-shouldered religion, compared to religions in the UK which are closely identified with ethnic minorities.”  He added that Islam in Britain is “almost entirely a religion practiced by people who may already feel in other ways isolated, prejudiced against, and where they may well regard an attack on their religion as racism by other means.”

So, if the director of the BBC, a taxpayer financed media empire whose programming is viewed by a staggering 97% of the UK public, acknowledges to privileging Islam over other religions in their decisions regarding programming content, on what basis can Hasan claim that Islam is actually singled out for a disproportionate degree opprobrium? 

At the very least, it seems reasonable to conclude that someone who demonizes non-believers in the crudest, most dehumanizing terms, as Hasan has done, will necessarily not take kindly to even the most sober public scrutiny of his faith and the actions of his fellow believers. 

So, as long as Hasan and his allies continue to effectively play upon the guilt and moral vanity of the British left, as he’s done again in the Guardian, we will be assured that the BBC, and much of the media, will continue to abide by the unwritten rule of the PC gatekeepers: all faiths are equal but some are more equal than others.

Comment is (apparently far from) Free.

Many a CiF Watcher landed on these pages as a result of having been censored, banned or both on the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ website and therefore has first-hand experience of just how ‘free’ comment there actually is. But an aspect of the title we do not often address in relation to the Guardian’s website is the financial one. It now appears that far from being free, comment may actually be downright expensive. 

Guardian writer Ally Fogg, in a piece from April 26th, raised the subject of a recent article in the New Statesman which estimates that the Guardian spends half a million pounds a year keeping ‘Comment is Free’ going. 

“One of the most active cheerleaders of commenting is the Guardian, which employs a dozen or so moderators, plus another dozen “community co-ordinators” who monitor Facebook, Twitter, Tumblrs and so on (the paper doesn’t give out an exact number). Assuming these people are on a modest £20,000 each, that’s nearly half a million pounds a year spent on making sure that the “community” – 1 per cent of readers – is well-served.”

Whether or not the New Statesman’s calculations are correct is anyone’s guess; Ally Fogg isn’t telling. But he does claim to have identified some vacancies in CiF’s stable of commenters. 

Of course the Guardian’s dire financial straits are common knowledge, with the paper (together with the Observer) having reported losses of £33 million in 2010 and £34.4 million in 2009. 

So, taking Ally Fogg’s idea one step further, perhaps the Guardian could recuperate some of its losses by hiring out its existing regular commenters to other blogs and websites seeking to up their traffic. The advert might go something like this: 

Rent-a-comment: exclusive GMG service takes care of all your weblog commenting needs. Our reservoir of experienced commenters includes:

The former ISMer:

His expertise is the spinning of tear-jerking yarns about his jaunts to the West Bank, featuring evocative descriptions of Palestinian cuisine and hospitality, the ‘apartheid wall’, settlements which expand faster than the speed of light and 7 foot tall Israeli soldiers. Can throw in the odd word of cod-Arabic for added authenticity and has a suitably progressive profile photo featuring himself in a Viva Palestina T-shirt personally signed by George Galloway.

The amateur expert on International Law: 

Able to instantly prove any political point necessary by means of an unreferenced and/or misquoted clause from the annals of hallowed ‘international law’.  OK – he’s actually a community organiser in real life, but he did read the entire works of Ilan Pappe on his last summer holiday and once went to a talk by Daniel Machover. 

The dictator apologist: 

Cut his commenting teeth at Socialist Unity and gained added credits at the knee of Simon Tisdall. Post-colonial guilt, anti-Americanism and cultural relativism added liberally to every comment at no extra charge. 

The ‘asaJew’ anti-Zionist: 

Invaluable when the credibility of wobbly claims such as ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘apartheid’ is questioned. Can always be relied upon to lend ethnically-authentic support to the claim that ‘critics of Israel are invariably accused of anti-Semitism’. Conveniently located in north London and thus able to give first-hand accounts of Palestine Solidarity Campaign candle-lit vigils and Christmas carol services,  (except on Mondays when she’s at Friends House and Thursdays – volunteers at the Islington Interfaith Circle knitting raincoats out of recycled plastic bags for the Negev Bedouin).

The conspiracy theorist:

9/11? The financial crisis and the banks’ lost millions? Control of politicians and the media? Organ harvesting? He always knows who really dunnit. Prefers to be described as an ‘independent thinker’ (got that idea from David Miller at ‘SpinWatch’) and makes particularly proficient use of the words ‘sheeple’ and ‘hasbara’. 

The BDSer:

Since finding BDS (and getting a new asymmetric hairdo) her cup runneth over. No more boring bring and buys and flower-arranging at church for her: now it’s international fame and glory on the pages of the ‘Friends of Sabeel’ newsletter (circulation 493) and jazzy acronyms such as EAPPI. Almost takes her back to her ‘Age of Aquarius’ halcyon days… that keffiyah makes her feel so young and alive. But of course it’s not about her: everyone knows that this is the defining issue of our times and – as she was telling the hairdresser the other day, just before she went off with the girls to get filmed protesting about cherry tomatoes in Tescos – we all have to do our bit. 

On second thoughts, maybe relying on Auto Trader isn’t such a bad plan after all… 

Ben White BDS letter published on Guardian letters page.

Guardian contributor Ben White is well known for having built a career based upon his dedication to promoting anti-Israel falsehoods in print and through his activities in almost any and every organisation devoted to the anti-Israel cause, including the BDS movement for which he actively campaigns. 

On April 22nd the Guardian rather curiously published a letter from Ben White on its letters page, apparently indicating that the particular section is not only a forum for the general public’s expression of opinions and ideas, but also yet another venue for self-promotion by Guardian writers. 

 “The four MPs who criticise the call for a boycott of Israel‘s National Theatre were poorly briefed (Letters, 21 April). To say that Habima is a “non-government affiliated theatre group” is an odd claim, given it is state-financed and has received £10,000 from Israel’s foreign ministry specifically for the planned performance at the Globe. It meets perfectly the criteria for boycott, following the Palestinians’ call for international support in achieving decolonisation.”
Ben White

Anyone not versed in the world of anti-Israel campaigning (and let’s be honest – that includes the majority of the public) coming across that letter might reasonably presume that Ben White is just an ordinary person from Cambridge. No mention is made of his Guardian affiliations, his personal involvement in the BDS campaign or his employment by the Amos Trust

Neither is it made clear that whilst wearing his ‘electronic Intifada’ and ‘New Statesman’ hats, White has been busy promoting the campaign to boycott Habima to which he now lends supposedly disinterested and objective support.  

The publication of White’s letter does, however, underscore two points. 

One is the fact that the Guardian shows itself once again to be perfectly at ease with its role as enabler of those (including the BDS movement) who call for the dissolution of the Jewish State – exclusively among all sovereign countries. 

The second is that the BDS movement may already be hearing the usual collective public yawn in response to its campaigns yet again if it has to resort to self-promoting sock-puppet style letters from Ben White on home echo-chamber territory. 

As Islamic extremists take power in ME, New Statesman publishes vicious attack on Israel by Ben White

This was written by Robin Shepherd, the owner/publisher of @CommentatorIntl. You can follow him on Twitter @RobinShepherd1

Ben White has taken to the New Statesman to attack Israel yet again

Of all the bigotries in the world today, one stands out for special consideration. That is not simply because it is so odious, though it is certainly that. It is because it is the one bigotry that presents a clear and present danger of translating into a genocidal outcome. It is also the one form of bigotry that has been openly accepted and internalised by large sections of a British and West-European political intelligentsia that remains dominated by the liberal-Left.

I am talking, of course, about anti-Zionism – a uniquely discriminatory agenda aimed at deligitimising the State of Israel and ending that country’s existence as the national homeland of the Jewish people.

In the context of Iranian threats to destroy the country, the loss of Turkey as an ally and the new pre-eminence of extreme, anti-Israeli Islamists in Egypt, the rantings of Western anti-Zionists have now acquired a new and more dangerous significance.

Think of it this way: it’s one thing to spout abuse about black people to a group of equally bigoted but basically passive racists when nobody else is listening; it’s quite another to do exactly the same thing in front of a frenzied, knife-wielding mob of skinheads heading towards a black neighbourhood.

I make no direct analogy, but enter Ben White, author of, “Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide”. On Sunday, he published an extensive piece in the leading weekly magazine of the British Left, The New Statesman. Essentially, it’s a trash job on Israeli democracy. It, perversely, charges a British pro-Israel grouping, BICOM, with having unwittingly revealed, in a series of recent essays, that Israel is not in fact a proper democracy at all: it’s a racist“ethnocracy“ run by and for Jews.

You’ve heard it all before, of course. And I will come to the “substance“ (if such a word is appropriate in the circumstances) in a moment.

But let me first re-emphaise the point made above, and make it relevant to the fate of Israel in the Middle East.

For there is nothing new about fanatical hostility to Israel in the British and European mainstream. The Guardian newspaper – the media-intellectual home of the British Left and, effectively, the house journal of the BBC – has been at it for years.

What is new is the context in the Middle East where Israel now looks set to be ensnared in a potentially deadly triangle of annihilationist regimes. On one point on that triangle is Turkey – a country that in little more than a blink of an eye has moved from being an ally to an enemy; a country whose leadership is increasingly using anti-Israeli rhetoric as a rallying cry and which has even gone so far as to threaten sending its warships to protect pro-Hamas “aid“ flotillas to Gaza.

Now draw a straight line from Ankara to Cairo for the second point on the triangle. Egypt’s parliamentary elections were resoundingly won by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists – both of which combine extreme forms of anti-Semitism with resolute opposition to the existence of the Jewish state. Together, they took over 70 percent of the seats.

Now go to Tehran, drawing the line necessary to complete the triangle from both Ankara and Cairo. (Iranian hostility to Israel surely needs no elaboration.)

Read the rest of the essay here.

Comment is Free moderators delete my comment pointing out the moral hypocrisy of Medhi Hasan

In a recent CiF Watch post I demonstrated the hypocrisy of New Statesman senior editor Medhi Hasan who, in a recent CiF piece, How the fear of being criminalised has forced Muslims into silence“, Sept. 8, sanctimoniously condemned post 9/11 bigotry against Muslims.

I noted that Hasan is on record referring to atheists who don’t believe in Islam as immoral, lacking intelligence, and similar to “cattle”.

Prior to my CW post, I made a similar point beneath the line in Hasan’s CiF commentary.



My comment eventually garnered more than 40 recommends before it was deemed inconsistent with Guardian “community standards”.

My comment wasn’t in any way ad hominem, and merely noted Hasan’s own words to demonstrate that he has absolutely no credibility when it comes to condemning intolerance. When you refer to non-believers as “cattle” you do more than merely demonize them, you suggest that they are subhuman.

So, please tell me, what possible justification was there for CiF moderators to delete my comment?


CiF’s Medhi Hasan, intolerant religious fundamentalist, provides commentary on post 9/11 bigotry

We’ve commented on CiF commentator – and New Statesman senior editor – Medhi Hasan on several occasions.

Hasan is opposed to the Palestinians’ Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) out of fear that in would deny an unlimited right of return to “nine million” Palestinian “refugees” living abroad, and because UDI would have the unintended effect of recognizing the of the right of the Jewish state to exist.

He also has opined that  Israel is to blame for rising antisemitism in Britain.

Recently, the Guardian included Hasan in their ongoing series of reports and commentaries on the significance of 9/11 – a list which includes George Galloway, Noam Chomsky, and  CiF’s .

While the premise of Hasan’s piece, “How the fear of being criminalised has forced Muslims into silence“, Sept. 8, that “in the UK, the effect [of the war against Islamist extremism] has been a chilling of speech inside Muslim communities” is easily refuted by the number commentaries published by Comment is Free who are either supportive of, or actively involved in, Islamist groups in the UK and abroad, his following passage is even more audacious given Hasan’s background.

Writes Hasan:

“I have lost count of the number of British Muslim students, activists and imams who have told me of their fear of being labelled as extremists or terrorists if they dare take an unconventional, unorthodox or radical position on a political or religious issue.”

So, Hasan not only wants the freedom of radical clerics and activists to advance extremist views, he also evidently believes that such views should be expressed with impunity from any social criticism – a view which is put into proper context by the following audio, posted at Harry’s Place in July of 2009.

Here’s a highlight of what he said:

“The kaffar, the disbelievers, the atheists who remain deaf and stubborn to the teachings of Islam, the rational message of the Quran; they are described in the Quran as, quote, “a people of no intelligence”, Allah describes them as; not of no morality, not as people of no belief – people of “no intelligence” – because they’re incapable of the intellectual effort it requires to shake off those blind prejudices, to shake off those easy assumptions about this world, about the existence of God. In this respect, the Quran describes the atheists as “cattle”, as cattle of those who grow the crops and do not stop and wonder about this world.”

This is truly remarkable. A secular left publication like the Guardian sanctions commentary sanctimoniously condemning bigotry by a writer who has literally likened non-believers to “cattle” – who possess no morality or intelligence.

Writing previously in the Guardian, Hasan complained:

“I grow tired of having to also endure a barrage of lazy stereotypes, inflammatory headlines, disparaging generalisations and often inaccurate and baseless stories.”

Evidently, Hasan isn’t quite so tired of such inflammatory, baseless, lazy generalizations and demonization of “non-believers”.  

Shlomo the Sandlout

The antisemitic lies of Shlomo Sand are a regular feature of “Comment is Free” in its I/P threads. Shlomo Sand is currently on tour promoting his book “The Invention of the Jewish People”. Below is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman sharing with us his experiences at one such event organized by the New Statesman.

On Monday night I went to hear Shlomo Sand who is doing three London meetings this week to promote the English translation of his book “The Invention of the Jewish People”. In the book Sand attempts to prove that the Jewish people never existed as a “nation-race” with a common origin. His thesis is that Jews are a rag-tag collection of flotsam and jetsam that at various stages of history just happened to adopt the same religion. He argues that for a number of Zionist ideologues, the mythical perception of the Jews as an ancient people led to racist thinking.

Tonight’s meeting was sponsored by the New Statesman magazine. Yes the same magazine of the ‘left’ that in February 2002 had to apologise for the antisemitic cartoon on its cover in an issue in January of the same year.

Tonight Sand was up against Denis MacShane MP who has written a book about antisemitism.

Sand had already given us a taste of his style (unbelievably he is a Professor of History at Tel Aviv University) on Start The Week on BBC Radio 4 on Monday morning.

I’m not a Zionist. I don’t define myself as an anti-Zionist …. but I’m not a Zionist …  I don’t put into question the existence of Israel. I compare when I am speaking before Arab students the birth of the Israeli state to an act of rape. But even the son that was born of the act of rape….. you have to recognise him … the existence of Israel I don’t put in question today, you understand me?

Andrew Marr and the other bien pensants on Start The Week (Hans Ulrich Obrist, Tony Marchant, Sue Brown) swallowed it all completely uncritically – fawningly even.

Unfortunately Denis MacShane was delayed by a vote in Parliament. Sand had ten minutes to present what Seth Frantzman called his “revisionist pseudo-history of the Jewish People” and then he was questioned – again uncritically – by Jonathan Derbyshire, the literary Editor of the New Statesman.

Eventually MacShane did arrive. He spoke about his visit to Israel as part of a trade union delegation and noted that the Sand event coincided with the anniversary of Kristallnacht. He did not feel qualified to get into the ‘Who Is a Jew?” debate but noted that the Hamas Charter was not particularly bothered about the precise definition. Disgracefully MacShane was interrupted by two people in the audience who felt he was not addressing the book.

Then to the Q+A. There have been plenty of critical reviews of the book. My favourite is Frantzman’s but there are also articles by Halkin, Greenstein, Bartal and Shapira. And Skorecki has done DNA research which shows that the same array of chromosomal markers was found in 97 of 106 Cohens tested (a Cohen is a descendant of the Priests in the High Temple). Sand claims that many Jews are descended from Khazars but the genetic research finds no link.

I had a chance to see the book before the talk. The final chapter is full of lies, here is an example:

Page 281: “The most important mission to be undertaken by the new state [of Israel] was the renewal, as best it could, of those who definitely did not regard themselves as Jews.”

And then he slips into the overtly antisemitic:

Page 292: “Jewish and Democratic – An Oxymoron?”

Page 313: “To what extent is Jewish Israeli society willing to discard the deeply embedded image of the “chosen people”?”

I told him his book was antisemitic, citing the “chosen people” trope. I asked him how it was that the Khazars could “demographically probably” be the fathers of the 3 million Polish Jews who existed in the 20th century, when they had no Khazar names, spoke Yiddish and contained numerous Cohens and Levis who could not possibly be of Khazar ancestry (such status is obtained from the patrilineal line and cannot be obtained via conversion). (Frantzman makes this point). I also asked him why he wrote the book – was it for notoriety or was it for money?

He failed to answer. He also failed to answer Richard Millett who pointed out that Hamas was not prepared to give the Jews any land area (Sand had said that the Jews were allocated too much land by the UN in 1947). Richard was heckled – uproar broke out. The meeting ended and I heard Sand got even more loutish later. It is a toss up between Sand and Caryl Churchill (of Seven Jewish Children) as to who distorts Jewish history more.

As Seth Frantzman writes: “If the Jews never really existed then why did Islam and Christianity spend so much time suppressing them?”