Steve Bell has fun with antisemitic tropes

 

Here’s a Steve Bell cartoon published on Feb. 4, in response to an apology by Sunday Times’ owner Rupert Murdoch over the controversial Gerald Scarfe cartoon.

bell (1)(The second frame is a reference to a comment by Murdoch in November, complaining that the “Jewish owned media” is consistently anti-Israel.  The final frame is a reference to Sooty, a popular glove bear and TV character from the 50s.)

As we noted in our post, the cartoon could arguably be interpreted as suggesting that Zionists have a significant degree of control over the media.

Today, Feb. 5, Bell revisited the trio of Murdoch, Bibi and Sooty, and published this, titled ‘On Murdoch, Netanyahu and the little bludger.

bell

If, Bell is indeed perplexed – or, perhaps, amused – with the notion of “antisemitic tropes”, I know just the right person to help him understand its significance.

Guardian readers’ editor Chris Elliott – who criticized Bell’s cartoon in Nov. which depicted Netanyahu controlling Blair and Hague like puppets, and warned: “…using the image of a puppeteer when drawing a Jewish politician inevitably echoes past antisemitic usage of such imagery” – wrote the following in Nov. 2011, in a post titled ‘On averting accusations of antisemitism“:

[Comment is Free] moderators…are experienced in spotting the kind of language long associated with antisemitic tropes such as Jews having too much power and control, or being clannish and secretive, or the role of Jews in finance and the media.

However, regardless of whether Bell understands (or takes seriously) the lethal history of such racist tropes employed against Jews, a bit of research into his work may provide some insight into why (per his BBC Radio debate with Stephen Pollard) he was so dismissive of accusations that the Scarfe cartoon arguably evoked the antisemitic blood libel.

These cartoons are on Bell’s website: (Below each cartoon is the exact caption used by Bell to identify and date the image.)

2002, blood motif.

1745-12-4-02SHARONBLOODFLAG

1745-12-4-02SHARONBLOODFLAG

2001, blood motif.

1560-7-2-01_SHALOMSHARON

1560-7-2-01 SHALOMSHARON

 

2001, blood motif

1561-8-2-01_WAILINGWALL

1561-8-2-01 WAILINGWALL

Finally, here are two Bell cartoons which evoke an entirely different trope.

1998, Jews as ‘Chosen People’. 

4291-4-5-98_GODSCHOSEN

4291-4-5-98 GODSCHOSEN

1998, Jews as ‘Chosen People’:

4293-4-5-98_GODSCHOSEN

4293-6-5-98 GODSCHOSEN

Here’s another relevant passage from Chris Elliott’s post on antisemitism noted above:

“Two weeks ago a columnist [Deborah Orr] used the term “the chosen” in an item on the release of Gilad Shalit, which brought more than 40 complaints to the Guardian, and an apology from the columnist the following week. “Chosenness”, in Jewish theology, tends to refer to the sense in which Jews are “burdened” by religious responsibilities; it has never meant that the Jews are better than anyone else. Historically it has been antisemites, not Jews, who have read “chosen” as code for Jewish supremacism.”

More than a cartoon: What Jews talk about when they talk about antisemitism

The Gerald Scarfe Sunday Times cartoon controversy has followed a familiar pattern, with some arguing that the depiction of the bloody trowel wielding Israeli Prime Minister torturing innocent souls – published on Holocaust Memorial Day – evoked the classic antisemitic blood libel, while others (including Guardian contributors and cartoonists) dissented, claiming that Scarfe had no racist intent and was merely critiquing the policies of a head of state who happened to be a Jew.

In response to some who have noted, in Scarfe’s defense, that he had previously depicted Syria’s Assad using a similar blood motif, Stephen Pollard of The JC aptly noted: “But there’s never been an anti-Alawite blood libel, and the context matters. The blood libel is central to the history of antisemitism.”

Though Scarfe may have indeed possessed no antisemitic intent whatsoever, Pollard is stressing that the effect of the cartoon simply can’t be ignored, and that historical context matters.

When we talk about antisemitism at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ on this blog we’re not claiming to possess some sort of political mentalism – a piercing moral intuition which grants us access to the souls of their journalists and contributors.  Similarly, we’re not suggesting that we can ever tell with any degree of certainty that, when we argue that criticism of Israel crosses the line to antisemitism, the writer who’s the focus of our ire is necessarily haunted by dark Judeophobic thoughts.

Rather, many of us who talk seriously about antisemitism are skilled at identifying common tropes, narratives and graphic depictions of Jews which are based on prejudices, stereotypes and mythology and which have historically been employed by those who have engaged in cognitive or physical war against Jews.

Though I’m now an Israeli, an apt analogy on the moral necessity of understanding and being sensitive about the racist context of seemingly benign ideas can be derived from my experience growing up in America.

Those who grew up in the US and inherited not the guilt but the moral legacy of slavery and segregation intuitively understand that we owe African-Americans an earnest commitment to strenuously avoid employing the linguistic, cultural and political currency of racism’s tyrannical reign.  Though race relations have matured immeasurably by any standard, and codified bigotry all but eliminated, there are, nonetheless, unwritten prohibitions against language which, even though often unintended, hearkens back to the past, evoking the haunting memory of the nation’s past sins.

In America, comedians avoid black-face routines, in which white performers create a stereotyped caricature of a black person.  A mainstream newspaper wouldn’t publish a cartoon depicting an African-American as lazy and shiftless, nor would any publication present a black public figure (in any context) as  a boot licking  ‘Uncle Tom.  And, someone using the N-word (in public or private) would be rightfully socially ostracized or at least stigmatized as crude racist.

Such political taboos in America have developed organically over time in response to a quite particular historical chapter, and are recognized by most as something akin to an unwritten social contract on the issue of race.  White Americans can not ever fully understand black pain, the learned cognitive responses from their collective consciousness, but it is reasonable of them to expect that we not recklessly tread, even if without malice, on their sacred shared memory.  

Further, whites who honor this implied covenant – and avoid evoking such narratives and imagery – by and large don’t bemoan the so-called “restrictions” placed on their artistic or intellectual expression, or complain that African-Americans are stifling their free speech.  Rather, such unwritten rules, social mores and ethical norms about race are typically understood to represent something akin to a moral restitution for a previous generation’s crimes.  While in the US, the First Amendment affords legal protection to those who would engage in anti-black hate speech, it is largely understood that responsible citizenship often requires self-restraint – the greatness of a people measured by what they are permitted to do, but decide not to in order to preserve national harmony, what’s known in Judaism as Shalom bayit.  

When Jews talk seriously about antisemitism they are asking those who don’t wish to be so morally implicated to avoid needlessly poisoning the political environment which Jews inhabit.

They are appealing to the better angels of their neighbors’ nature by asking them not to carelessly conjure calumnies such as the “danger” to the world of Jewish power or conspiracies , Jews’ “disloyalty” to the countries where they live, that Jews share collective guilt for the sins of a few, that they’ve come to morally resemble their Nazi persecutors, or that Jews intentionally spill the blood of innocents.

In short, we are asking that decent people avoid employing canards which represented the major themes in Europe’s historic persecution of Jews, and which, tragically, still have currency on the extreme left, the extreme right, and, especially, in much of the Arab and Muslim world today.

The Scarfe/Sunday Times row is about more than the cartoon itself, and it is certainly not about the “right” to offend. It’s about sober but passionate pleas by a minuscule minority that decent people not afflict the historically afflicted, and to recognize their moral obligations to not provide aid and comfort to anti-Jewish racists.  

We are asking genuine anti-racists to resist becoming, even if unintentionally, intellectual partners or political fellow travelers with those who trade in the lethal narratives and toxic calumnies associated with the resilient Judeophobic hatred which has caused us immeasurable pain, horrid suffering and indescribable calamities through the ages. 

A place where Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell can find “real” antisemitism

On the ‘Today programme on BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 29th January, there was a debate between Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle and Steve Bell, political cartoonist for the Guardian, over the Gerald Scarfe cartoon in the Sunday Times published on Holocaust Memorial Day – depicting mangled, tortured bodies being buried over with bricks laid by the bloody trowel of a sinister Israeli leader.

Pollard advanced an argument similar to the one he made so eloquently in The JC today, arguing that the cartoon slips into antisemitism because it invokes the blood libel, and while papers should always have the right to publish offensive material, possessing such freedom to offend doesn’t mean that it is always the correct decision to do so.

Bell disagreed, and argued as follows:

“Apologising for this cartoon – for once it wasn’t a bad cartoon – I think Stephen Pollard invokes terms like “the blood libel” and kind of ‘genocidal hate rage’…. he’s attributing this to a cartoon which is actually … it’s sort of like a mirror image of the cartoon Scarfe did the week before … President Assad clutching the head of a baby … not a squeak about that …

The problem with the State of Israel and the Zionist Lobby is that they never acknowledge the crime of ethnic cleansing upon which the State was founded …”

Bell’s fictitious history of Israel’s founding is as characteristic as it is malicious, as it was the tiny Jewish state which was forced, a couple of years after the Holocaust, on the day of its founding, to defend against five invading Arab armies intent on extinguishing their presence from the river to the sea.  Bell’s revisionism also excludes the shameful episode after Israel’s founding, in which hundreds of thousands of Jewish citizens of Arab countries were punished for the crime of Israel’s continued existence by being systematically expelled – that is, ethnically cleansed – from land where their ancestors had lived for hundreds of years.

Also during his debate with Pollard, Bell the historian also warned against using “the term ‘blood libel’ loosely and ridiculously”, and then added:

“Extraneous notions like ‘blood libel’ are dropped in and sensitivities are talked up .. the very word ‘antisemitic’ becomes devalued .. ‘they’ throw it around with such abandon, if there really is antisemitism it’s actually getting ignored.”

So, what does Steve Bell know about “real” antisemitism? My guess is that he doesn’t know too much. 

While Bell was all too willing to publish a cartoon (during Israel’s military operation in Gaza) depicting weak, cowardly British leaders being controlled like puppets by a powerful Jewish leader, when has he ever employed such graphic agitprop to mock “real” antisemites who occupy the landscape of the Arab Middle East?

Did the “populist” liberal satirist ever fancy the idea of caricaturing Egypt’s President Morsi, for instance, who characterized Jews as descendants of apes and pigs, and who told his fellow citizens to nurse their children on Jew hatred?

Additionally, has he ever thought to ridicule Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for engaging in Holocaust denial?

Finally, has it ever occurred to Bell to mock the ubiquitous commentators and clerics in the Arab and Muslim world who still peddle in the most bizarre Jewish conspiracy theories, such as the charge that Jews use the blood of non-Jewish children to bake their ‘Sabbath’ bread? 

If he ever decided to do so, Bell could have used text from an actual poem by a radical and quite well-known Islamist preacher – demonstrated in a UK Immigration Tribunal ruling on Feb. 8, 2012, to be a clear reference to the antisemitic blood libel - which included the following: 

“We have never allowed ourselves, and listen carefully; we have never allowed ourselves to knead the bread for the breaking [of] fasting during the blessed month of Ramadan with the blood of the children.  And if someone wants a wider explanation, then he should ask what used to happen to some of the children of Europe, when their blood used to be mixed in the dough of the holy bread.”

Of course, if Bell did decide to direct his righteous ire at those who engage in such “real” antisemitism – and perhaps even at arrogant, hypocritical media groups which have actually championed the cause of such crude and unrepentant racists – he’d be hitting just a wee bit too close to home.

A ‘Comment is Free’ essay by the extremist who evoked the “real” medieval blood libel cited above, Raed Salah, was published on April 19, 2012, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial day.

salah

The moral necessity of despair when Arab teachers object to the humanization of Jews

Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard once commented that, sometimes, the only proper reaction to a particular event is despair.

The following represents such an example.

According to a recent reportrumors of a UN decision to introduce Holocaust studies in schools in Palestinian refugee camps run by UNRWA  have outraged Jordanian teachers, who say they will refuse to teach history that “harms the Palestinian cause.”

Roughly two million Palestinian refugees are registered with UNRWA’s Jordan offices, and they operate 172 schools in 10 refugee camps across the kingdom.

The Executive Committee of UNRWA teachers in Jordan responded to news that Holocaust studies would be added to the curriculum on ‘conflict resolution’ by issuing a statement which reads in part: 

“We condemn this decision, which equates the butcher and the victim,” [emphasis added]

The teachers’ statement demanded instead classes on the Palestinian “right of return” to Israel.

The statement continued:

‘Teaching UNRWA students about the so-called ‘Holocaust’ as part of human rights harms the Palestinian cause … and changes the students’  views regarding their main enemy, namely the Israeli occupation.”

“We shall monitor the curriculum being taught under the title ‘concepts of human rights’ [which is] aimed at reducing [Palestinian] students’ awareness of the right of return…” 

The reaction by Jordanian teachers follows a decision last year, by the association of UNRWA employees, to ban the introduction of Holocaust studies in UNRWA schools.

Remember that these are not Islamist extremists we’re talking about, but middle class Jordanian educators, ordinary men and women who evidently are outraged by “rumors” of a UN decision to teach children about the Nazi slaughter of one out of every three Jews on earth.

Identifying with six million victims of Nazi genocide is evidently seen as harming the Palestinian cause.

Moreover, it’s important to understand that though the Holocaust did not come close to putting an end to antisemitism across the world, news of the unspeakable horrors in extermination camps such as Auschwitz, Sobibor, Treblinka and Majdanek did attach to expressions of Judeophobia, in most of the enlightened world, a significant moral stigma. 

Holocaust memory in our times creates a bulwark of sorts against the most virulent expressions of antisemitism, as it demonstrates the potential deadly consequences of unchallenged racism against Jews – and, indeed, against other minorities.

It is indeed telling that the central address of antisemitism in modern times is the Arab and Muslim Middle East – where the cultural antibodies against Jew hatred have failed to materialize.

If the citizens of the Middle East were to internalize the lessons of the Holocaust they would be forced to confront their own society’s often homicidal  antisemitism – a self-reflective habit of mind which the honor-shame culture of the Arab world does not promote.

The reaction by Jordanian teachers to the suggestion that they educate Palestinian children about the unspeakable crimes committed against Jews is, therefore, not surprising, as such a curriculum would necessarily turn a mirror on their own extensive moral and cultural shortcomings.

Finally, how can anyone seriously contemplate Palestinian peace with living Jews if they are often unable to reconcile themselves with even the humanity of murdered Jews?

The only healthy response to such stories is simply despair.

Guardian publishes clarification of its Jewish Chronicle smear.

Two days ago Adam Levick wrote here on the smearing of the Jewish Chronicle and its editor Stephen Pollard by Guardian Diary Editor Hugh Muir, blogger Richard Silverstein and MPACUK over a BNP member’s use of the JC open blogging platform. 

The Guardian has now issued a clarification:

“In a Diary item about the presence of blogs by Carlos Cortiglia, the BNP’s mayoral candidate, on the Jewish Chronicle website we stated that the blogs were still available on 23 November. We went on to say that this “conflicts” with the account of the Jewish Chronicle’s editor, Stephen Pollard, “that he became aware of Cortiglia’s blog and deleted all trace of it ‘last September’”. To clarify: he told the Guardian’s reporter that “in September we were alerted to the fact that Cortiglia had set up a user blog and the moment we were told, we blocked him and changed [the] entire system”. Mr Pollard has asked us to point out that this was not meant to imply that all traces of the blogs had been deleted in September – in fact the measure he took at that time was to block Cortiglia’s access. He ordered the blogs to be deleted more recently (20 April, page 35).”

Whilst it is good to see the Guardian correcting the record, one also hopes that this incident will serve as a reminder of the fact that when a mainstream news outlet finds itself following the lead of such dubious interested parties as Richard Silverstein and MPACUK, some serious questions regarding judgment calls need to be asked. 

But then again, those questions should also have arisen long ago when Silverstein was a regular contributor to ‘Comment is Free’. 

The Guardian & Richard Silverstein’s battle to see who can most smear the UK Jewish community

In the Guardian Diary, on their Op Ed Page, on April 19th, with the grossly misleading headline, “A BNP bigwig writing for the Jewish Chronicle. Some mistake surely?, , writes:

With their party in laughable disarray, most members of Nick Griffin’s far-right BNP seem content to keep their heads down. But others have careers to build and division to sow. Thus, even in this period of hibernation, they seek a profile. One such is Carlos Cortiglia, who needs to put himself about, not least because he is standing as the party’s mayoral candidate for London. But platforms are hard to find. What to do? His solution has been nothing if not canny; he has been blogging on the Jewish Chronicle. It was easy, for until recently the paper had a system where any reader could set up their own blog and publish their thoughts. He penned at least three blog posts there, all moderate by the standards of JC bloggers, in fact “completely innocuous” as described by editor Stephen Pollard. Unacceptable nevertheless. For although it boasts a Jewish councillor in Essex, the BNP never seems far from the whiff of antisemitism. Griffin, we know, received a conviction in 1998 for distributing material likely to incite racial hatred, and in the course of the prosecution made statements denying the Holocaust. Recently antisemitism appeared to fuel a row between activists on the south coast. “Hitler had a purpose with the Jews,” tweeted one local organiser approvingly. That’s the least offensive quote I could find. The BNP and the Chronicle were never a good fit.

Cortiglia’s blog project endured until Wednesday when the Muslim Public Affairs Committee [MPACUK] put out a story claiming that the BNP man had been hired as a columnist. He never was. But a screenshot taken that morning shows his name at the top of the list of JC bloggers. Google’s cache records that his words were still available then. One blog was dated 23 November. That conflicts with Pollard’s account that he became aware of Cortiglia’s blog and deleted all trace of it “last September”. Still, by Wednesday afternoon the purge was indeed complete and the site amended to explain that only approved people can blog for the Chronicle. [emphasis added]

Of course, the suggestion that the Jewish Chronicle would knowingly associate with a BNP member is beyond ludicrous, and the innuendo that Pollard knowingly employed the services of an open BNP blogger is a smear, and grossly defamatory.

Here was Pollard’s Tweet in response to the Guardian post:

Further, I spoke to Pollard on the phone on Friday, and here’s what else the Guardian blogger got wrong.

  • Pollard, who was interviewed about the story by the Guardian’s ‘Belief’ editor, Andrew Brown, never claimed he became aware of Cortiglia’s blog and deleted all trace of it “last September”, only that he learned of it sometime in autumn. He made clear that the JC blocked the BNP member as soon as it was alerted to his presence on the site. 
  • Muir’s suggestion that Pollard misrepresented himself in the timeline of events is an outright falsehood.
  • Even more insidious is the suggestion that Cortiglia’s BNP’s affiliation was known ahead of time by the Jewish Chronicle.  As Pollard clearly and unambiguously informed the Guardian, they absolutely did not. As soon as they were alerted to the man’s BNP membership they immediately barred his access to the Jewish Chronicle site.  They didn’t remove his post then. They blocked him from posting again, but his three existing posts did remain in the archive. They said Pollard lied about this because his posts were still searchable, but Pollard NEVER claimed he removed them.
  • And, Muir’s most gratuitous, tendentious, and misleading line was this: “The BNP and the Chronicle were never a good fit.”  It never was a good fit because Cortiglia’s BNP affiliation was never to known to the Chronicle when he was blogging.  The JC had a system of open access blogging, through which anyone could register and immediately set up their own blog. Their was no provision for checking the political affiliations of any blogger, any more than the Guardian checks out the affiliations of people who leave comments on CiF. Once the JC realized that their system had been abused by the BNP, they changed the entire system and removed the open access. Blogs are now only hosted from those invited to blog by the paper. [emphasis added]
  • The BNP and the Jewish Chronicle are as far removed ideologically as possible and to suggest otherwise, by innuendo and rhetorical obfuscation, is the height of irresponsible journalism, and represents yet another smear by the Guardian of the UK Jewish community.

By comparison to U.S. blogger Richard Silverstein’s coverage of the The JC, however, the Guardian’s journalistic indiscretions are less egregious.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Silverstein, taking the lead of  Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPACUK), outright lied about Pollard and the Chronicle.  While anyone even remotely familiar with Silverstein shouldn’t be surprised by anything published at the blog of the former Comment is Free contributor, the following truly should win an award for outright dishonesty.

Here’s the revised version of Silverstein’s original story about the row over Cortiglia, which originally contained a headline similar to the MPACUK lie, which suggested that the BNP candidate had been hired as a columnist by The JC.  (subsequently removed, but confirmed by Pollard)

Notice, Silverstein is still shamelessly writing (in the caption under the photo of Cortiglia) that The JC “offered” the white supremacist a blogging platform, which is a complete and total lie.

Plus, notice the similarity between Silverstein’s headline and that of MPACUK.

Briefly, MPACUK‘s extremism and antisemitism is well documented. They have promoted the idea of a worldwide Zionist conspiracy and used material taken from neo-Nazi, white nationalist, and Holocaust denial websites. A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism also notes the CST’s assertion that “[t]he use of ‘Zionist’ as a replacement for ‘Jewish’ is common on the MPACUK website” and that MPACUK has articulated antisemitic conspiracy theories through the language of anti-Zionism.

In a later post, Silverstein weighed in on the contrasting versions of events between Pollard and the Guardian’s Muir, thusly:

[All of  this] leaves one wondering who to believe: an Islamophobic pro-Israel ultranationalist or a reporter for one of England’s most distinguished newspapers.

Silverstein calling Pollard “Islamophobic” and “ultra-nationalist” just means, of course, that he, and his paper, supports Israel’s right to exist, and isn’t afraid to condemn Islamist antisemitism when they see it.

As far as Silverstein’s characterization of the Guardian as “one of England’s most distinguished newspapers”? Well, if by “distinguished” he means, unique in conflating reactionary, violent, antisemitic Islamism with progressive thought, he’s correct. In this category, the UK broadsheet is truly in a class by itself.

As recently as April 19, Yom HaShoah, they provided a platform to radical Islamist preacher Raed Salah, promoter of medieval blood libels, who proceeded to accuse the UK Jewish community of being “supremacists”.

Inayat Bunglawala, an Islamist who believes that the the BBC and the rest of the media are “Zionist controlled” was a contributor to ‘Comment is Free’.

A six month study by Just Journalism published in August 2011 demonstrated that three of the Palestinians who contributed op-eds to ‘Comment is Free’ during a six month  period [during the 'Palestine Papers' series] were either members of Hamas or strongly affiliated with it, and have endorsed  terrorist attacks.” The report concluded:

“The decision, by ‘Comment is Free’ [editors] to repeatedly offer a platform to signed-up Hamas members is the logical, if distasteful, outcome of its preference for those who fundamentally disagree with Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.” 

Again, bear in mind, these hateful extremists were  not blogging in an open blogging platform, but were approved and published by Guardian editors.

Here are excerpts from an email Pollard sent to Silverstein in response to his baldface lies.

Mr Silverstein,

I did not bother to respond to your earlier post in which you simply made up a story, that the JC had announced a new columnist – the BNP candidate for mayor. Quite why you would choose to post a lie, which you must have known was a lie – since you made it up – is your problem, not mine

I suggest that you preface any posts about me and the JC with the words: “This post is made up and has no basis in fact”.

Stephen Pollard

Some final thoughts.

Silverstein is one of the more shrill, dishonest, and hateful extreme left commentators in a very crowded anti-Zionist blogosphere, and, as the title of his blog, Tikkun Olam, (To heal the world), continues to make a mockery of such self-styled progressives bloggers.

Several months ago, for instance, he thought nothing of exposing the identity of a Zionist blogger, including his address, potentially placing his entire family at risk.

Also, for those unfamiliar with his brand of “liberalism”, and self-styled promoter of “social justice”, it includes expressions of support for a one-state solution, repeated defenses of terror groups like Hamas, and characterizations of IDF soldiers as “bestial” and “subhuman.  

And, he has even likened Israel to Nazi Germany.

Finally, the very notion that the UK Jewish community could even conceivably find common cause with the BNP would be dismissed out of hand by all but the supremely dishonest or those ideologically conditioned to find such implausible alliances politically convenient enough to advance.

The behavior of both Silverstein and the Guardian in this episode (demonizing a mainstream UK Jewish publication, while finding ways to legitimize the most reactionary political forces in the world today, under the absurd veneer of “progressive” thought) demonstrate what this blog has argued continually.  

Much of the the modern Left is in a deep ideological crisis, one which they don’t seem prepared to acknowledge, yet alone overcome.

CiF Watch Gossip of the Day: Harriet Sherwood “Head Spinning” Edition

Via a highly reliable source, there was a truly quality moment at the 2012 Herzliya Conference todayat the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) – as the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood evidently unwittingly sat next to Simon Plosker of HonestReporting in the IDC cafeteria 

If you recall, the Guardian was the winner (in a landslide!) of HonestReporting’s 2011 Dishonest Reporter Award – an award attributed to, among other factors: Sherwood’s bizarre and unprofessional diatribe directed towards the Jewish Chronicle’s Stephen Pollard in response to a JC essay she disagreed with, her false claim that the Knesset was built on the ancestral farmland of the abandoned Palestinian village, as well as the journalist’s activist’s fishing expedition on board a Palestinian vessel (more than 3 nautical miles) off the coast of Gaza.

While I’m not sure if Sherwood knew she was seated next to one of her many Zionist nemeses while at the IDC, my guess is that this photo, from a couple of years ago, would accurately represent her possible reaction if so informed.

CiF essay by The JC’s Stephen Pollard elicits vitriol against Israel and ad hominem attacks against Pollard

Stephen Pollards CiF piece, (Gaza flotilla II: This time, Israel took the diplomatic route, July 8th) expressing relief that this year’s flotilla wasn’t marred by violence elicited more than a few vicious personal attacks on Pollard and vitriol against Israel.  Though some were deleted after being flagged as falling outside their “community standards”, so we’ll how much support they would have garnered (“Recommends” by fellow readers), it is worth noting that Pollard’s piece, noting the hateful views of many who attempted to participate in this flotilla, as well as Israel’s overall diplomatic success in preventing the flotillas from sailing, was met with some vicious attacks.  Also, of note, for some reason, CiF editors decided to juxtapose Pollard’s piece with a link to Cindy Corrie’s piece (which we commented on here):

Here are a few of the comments:

Zionist regime is every bit as bad as the regimes in Sudan, Congo, and Zimbabwe, and even worse because it gets “welfare” checks from the U.S. and EU. (192 Recommends)

Zionists are “smug” or indifferent to the suffering of 1.5 million Palestinians who suffer under a “barbaric blockade”. (A blockade which we noted, was deemed legal by the UN.

Palestinians (in Gaza?) live in “bantustans” (a typical reference to Apartheid under South Africa) behind a barbed wire wall.

The fact that Stephen Pollard is Jewish and/or works for a Jewish publication tells the reader everything he/she needs to know about the merit of his essay.

Pollard is an “armchair psychopath”. 

Should the British Spectator Bow to Lawfare?

A guest post by AKUS

It is now common knowledge among those who care about these things that Melanie Phillips will no longer write for the UK Spectator newspaper and has started her own blog.

I have no more information than Melanie has made available on her blog (Why I left the Spectator) and in the two notices that have appeared about this change. One is an apology apparently issued under legal duress by the Spectator  and the other is at CiF Watch  as an update to an article  that dealt with the UK expelling an Israeli diplomat over the Dubai incident (see both notices below).

Melanie writes the following in her new blog about the Spectator’s apology, and that is all I intend to mention regarding the actual severing of ties:

For legal reasons, I cannot go into the details. Suffice it to say the apology misrepresented my post and has thus given rise to the false assumptions that are now being published. Those interested to learn more can do so in the update on this CiF Watch post, the original quote from which led to this apology.

What concerns me is an issue of even greater importance. This the use of lawfare  in the UK to shut down the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press that is particularly and primarily invoked whenever Israel is involved, even obliquely, or an article sets off the now standard  hair-trigger response from Moslems over a perceived slight against their religion.  Since I thought this issue interesting, especially the apology provided by the Spectator and Melanie’s response, I tried to find the article which apparently resulted in Melanie severing her ties with the Spectator. 

It turns out that it was not that easy to find Melanie’s article.

After a great deal of searching, I found it on the internet at sites not affiliated with the Spectator or Melanie Phillips (remember – “the internet never forgets”). It was apparently an article headlined “Well, There’s a Surprise”. You can try to find it at the following link to the Spectator’s website:

http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/6654264/well-theres-a-surprise.thtml

And here is an even greater surprise – the link leads to a completely blank webpage. Try it for yourself. Click on the link or paste it into your browser’s address line.

So here is the real issue, as bad as it is that the Spectator has suffered a significant loss of a brave alternative voice. A British newspaper has apparently agreed to remove published content from its website under duress.

The use of the English law of libel, the most hostile in the world to press freedom and the most loaded in favour of the complainant and against the writer, has been used as a means of shutting down debate, particularly in matters to do with Israel or Islam. Lawfare achieves this by simply causing so much difficulty for publications, by tying them up in often ludicrously expensive lawsuits which are so very difficult to win that they become reluctant to publish anything at all on the subject.

Thus a paper published in a Western democracy was apparently compelled to actually erase content to change the historical record in response to what was obviously some form of legal pressure. This is clearly a form of what has become known as “lawfare”. It is almost always selectively used in the UK against Israelis and supporters of Israel by Palestinian supporters (including Jews such as Daniel Machover) determined to delegitimize Israel and its citizens and those who support them.  For example, it has been used as a weapon to prevent Israeli politicians such as Tzipi Livni and others  from entering the UK under threat of arrest for “war crimes”, a charge in light of what the UK is doing every day in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya as to be ludicrous if not so serious. The threat of legal action includes the possibility of being forced to pay substantial damages and legal costs. Even if the suit were to be dismissed in court, the proceedings and costs may be enough to deter the defendant from making its case in court.

It is also not the first time lawfare has been used against the Spectator in connection with Islam and Hamas. An earlier case similarly involved a libel suit by Hamas supporter and Moslem Brotherhood member Mohammed Sawalha (see below) against the Spectator and Stephen Pollard for publishing an article called “Demos and Genocide”. In this case, too, the the Spectator apologized (and, as in this new case, the original article cannot be found on the web):

Lawfare in the UK: Who Is Behind It This Time?

Britain’s pernicious libel laws are in the spotlight again: recently the Spectator, a weekly publication focusing on politics, culture and the arts, settled an ongoing dispute with IslamExpo following legal threats. … Mohammed Sawalha is a Palestinian who fled to London in 1990 after discovering the Israeli authorities wanted to arrest him. An authoritative investigation for the BBC by John Ware – a formidable and robust journalist – made a series of startling revelations about Sawalha; they alleged that Sawalha “master minded much of Hamas political and military strategy” from London; then went on to describe him as a “fugitive Hamas commander.”

Sawalha never sued the BBC over those allegations; instead he chose to focus on the substantially smaller resources of the Spectator. Of course, there is little for Sawalha to actually complain about when the Muslim Brotherhood’s own website, IslamOnline, describes him as “manager of the political committee of the International Organization of the Brothers [i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood] in Britain.”*

In the Pollard case, the agreement also included payment of damages and costs, and removal of the offending article. In what many must have interpreted as a Churchillian bit of British humor, the Spectator’s apology read:   

Stephen Pollard and the Spectator apologise for the unintended and false suggestion in a blog published on 15 July 2008 that Islam Expo Limited is a fascist party dedicated to genocide which organised a conference with a racist and genocidal programme. We accept that Islam Expo’s purpose is to provide a neutral and broad-based platform for debate on issues relating to Muslims and Islam.

In yet another case, the same Mohammed Sawalha brought a similar suit against the Spectator and Melanie Phillips for an article (which has also been removed) published in 2008, “Just Look What Came Crawling Out”. The outcome in 2010 was an out of court settlement with another apology from the Spectator, complete with “substantial” damages. (The Guardian, of course, was only too willing to report the results of this case against its erstwhile employee).

Now, freedom of expression, and specially freedom of the press, is the cornerstone of what makes democracy work and what differentiates it most clearly from any other form of governance.  The ability to shine light into the dark corners of society is critical to society’s health. Even when commentary is mistaken, or even vehemently opposed to what a democratic society stands for, it is best to have it out in the open where it can be challenged rather than festering in the dark. The UK has been, till now, one of the foremost protectors of this basic right, as is the USA, of course.

Yet in the case of the Spectator we have an example where entire articles have “vanished” from a newspaper’s website. It is uncomfortably reminiscent of the period in the Soviet Union where history books were rewritten, photographs altered to remove undesirables, and newspapers firmly under control of political entities to ensure that only the “correct” information appeared.

Not only did Melanie (or the Spectator) not write the CiFWatch column which seems somehow to form the source of the Spectator’s decision to remove her article, the apparently offending comment was merely cited in her own article. CiFWatch denies the allegation apparently made to the Spectator about the intention of its article and points out in its “update” regarding the Spectator’s craven apology that:

 “The ‘allegation’ referred to in this apology refers to the post above from which Melanie Phillips quoted. As can be seen, however, this post made no such allegation.” 

So it appears that even citing something written by someone else was enough for legal pressure on the Spectator to cause the Spectator to apologize for something Melanie had not written and which had not appeared in its own paper, and to remove the “offending” article.

I do not believe that such an action could pass unchallenged in the USA. The only case that remotely parallels it is the cowardly decision by the Yale Press  to remove cartoons of Mohammed from a book it was publishing. The common thread is the confluence of references to Islam and Arab countries. As bad as Yale’s action was, it was due to the fear of violent and even murderous retaliation by Islamic extremists rather than a legal challenge. Nevertheless, after Yale took legal counsel, it was only willing to let the author see counsel’s recommendation under duress:

Aside from the disagreement about the images, Ms. Klausen said she was also disturbed by Yale’s insistence that she could read a 14-page summary of the consultants’ recommendations only if she signed a confidentiality agreement that forbade her from talking about them. “I perceive it to be a gag order,” she said, after declining to sign. While she could understand why some of the individuals consulted might prefer to remain unidentified, she said, she did not see why she should be precluded from talking about their conclusions.

There are strict laws that guard the freedom of expression and freedom of the press in the USA. In fact, in response to an attempt to enforce British lawfare on an Israeli-American researcher, Rachel Ehrenfeld, writing in the US, special laws have been passed  by States and Congress to further protect these rights after she was sued in the UK for her book “Funding Evil“. Dr. Ehrenfeld alleged that Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz had financed al Qaeda through his bank and charitable organization. He used the threat of expensive lawfare to force the removal of her book from, among other places, the Cambridge University Library in an action eerily predating the similar ban on books printed in Israel by Dunbartonshire – another use of lawfare, this time at the county level.

First passed in several states, in Congress, the law, also known familiarly as “Rachel’s law”, was passed as the SPEECH law S. 3518 and is designed to prevent foreign groups from undermining First Amendment rights of free speech by resorting to lawfare that contravenes the First Amendment. Incidentally, his law will, of course, protect CiFWatch against any attempt at such action by whoever is behind the legal action against the Spectator.

Now it is time for the British government and people to take action to put an end to similar pernicious activity in their own country. It undermines the British belief in freedom of expression and is allowing Islamic groups to insidiously and step by step institute the very restrictions we so abhor in the dictatorships of the Middle East. The previous British government indicated it would make the necessary changes, but this has not happened as yet.

If all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to stay silent, how much more true is it if a newspaper agrees to be silenced?

I call on the Spectator to reinstate the article it removed as an example of its willingness to protect its own right to freedom of expression, and to lead a campaign to change the law in Britain to make sure that such an evil, anti-democratic, and pernicious act can never be forced on a British newspaper again.

Appendix: The apology posted by the Spectator to Alastair Crooke and CiFWatch’s update to an article posted on March 28, 2010:

The Spectator: (still visible on Sunday June 26th, 2011)

An apology to Alastair Crooke

A blog by Melanie Phillips posted on 28 January 2011 reported an allegation that Alastair Crooke, director of Conflicts Forum, had been expelled from Israel and dismissed for misconduct from Government service or the EU after threatening a journalist whose email he had unlawfully intercepted. We accept that this allegation is completely false and we apologise to Mr Crooke.

CiFWatch update to: The UK’s Disproportionate Response

(Note – the CiFWatch article was published on March 28th 2010, long before Melanie left the Spectator and had no connection to her or the Spectator).

UPDATE: The Spectator has published an apology on its site which reads as follows:

A blog by Melanie Phillips posted on 28 January 2011 reported an allegation that Alastair Crooke, director of Conflicts Forum, had been expelled from Israel and dismissed for misconduct from Government service or the EU after threatening a journalist whose email he had unlawfully intercepted. We accept that this allegation is completely false and we apologise to Mr Crooke.

The ‘allegation’ referred to in this apology refers to the post above from which Melanie Phillips quoted. As can be seen, however, this post made no such allegation. Insofar as an inference could be drawn to that effect, we would like to make it clear that no such implication was intended and no such inference should be drawn. However, neither CiF Watch nor Sheila Raviv made any such allegation, and consequently the Spectator’s statement is inaccurate.

Harriet Sherwood Selective Outrage Watch: Hamas Edition

Today, the Guardian saw fit to publish an essay at CiF by Musa Abumarzuq, the deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau (Welcome Hamas’s reconciliation with Fatah, May 24), an organization which openly supports the murder of Israeli civilians, calls for the Jewish state’s complete annihilation, and cites, in their very founding charter, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to “prove” that there is a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.  

Indeed, Abumarzuq complained bitterly, in his post, that the U.S. President is opposed to his group’s terrorist acts.

If you recall, just last week a morally outraged Harriet Sherwood called the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, to berate him over his paper’s decision to publish an essay by Geoffrey Alderman, which characterized the death of Hamas supporter Vittorio Arrigoni as a cause to celebrate – which begs the question: What are Sherwood’s thoughts over her employer’s decision to publish an official communique by an anti-Semitic, misogynistic, Islamist terrorist movement?

Is she equally as outraged at Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, and similarly berating him for giving license to a hateful and reactionary movement?  

Is she outraged at the thought that a spokesperson for the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was given a platform to assert his inalienable right to engage in violence against innocent Israeli civilians?  

In Sherwood’s phone call to Pollard, she asked hysterically: “But you’re the editor! You must think it worth publishing’.

So, in the spirit of moral consistency, I wonder if Sherwood is on the phone with Rusbridger as we speak, demanding that he account for his decision to publish such insidious terrorist propaganda.  

If so, I sure hope she remembered to tape the conversation with her digital recorder.  

The object of Harriet Sherwood's outrage, Professor Geoffrey Alderman

A legitimate voice at Comment is Free

In defense of Geoffrey Alderman

Geoffrey Alderman’s essay in The JC, This was no peace activist, which opined that the death of Vittorio Arrigoni, the extremist anti-Israel activist, caused him pleasure influenced at least one Guardian “journalist” to berate JC editor, Stephen Pollard, over the insensitivity of publishing such a “disgusting ” attack.

While I personally would not have used the language Alderman did, those who would lionize Arrigoni, as many have, as anything approaching a “progressive”, a “liberal”, or someone who sought “peace and reconciliation” is simply beyond absurd, easily refuted by the briefest research into his life, and are engaged in an egregious moral inversion – one employed constantly by the anti-Israel left.  

As we have noted previously:

Arrigoni was a supporter of Hamas, and a member of International Solidarity Movement, a group who has supported violent “resistance” and has forged links with known terrorist movements – such as their involvement with the group responsible for the terror attack in 2003 at Mike’s Place bar in Tel Aviv, murdering three people. 

Arrigoni posted anti-Semitic images on his Facebook account which included a cartoon depiction of Israelis murdering Santa Claus and one, recalling classic anti-Semitic tropes, showing soldiers of the Jewish state arresting Jesus Christ.  He also approvingly posted a sign in an Egyptian shop which read, “No Dogs or Israelis Allowed.”

In short, Arrigoni was a bigot.  And, merely because he claimed the mantle of “pro-Palestinian” doesn’t grant him immunity from his exceedingly reactionary record of expressing palpable animosity towards Jews and Israel.

Yes, I believe that Arrigoni’s murder at the hands of terrorists – members of Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (JTJ), an al-Qaida affiliate, in April - in Gaza was horrific, but it is worth noting that Harriet Sherwood, so outraged by Alderman’s remarks about Arrigoni, never found the time to direct such righteous moral outrage, anywhere at all in her blog or column in the month since his death, at the vile radical Islamist perpetrators of this ghastly crime – a selective outrage which continues to define the politics of the Guardian Left.

Geoffrey Alderman was right and courageous to say that Vittorio Arrigoni was nothing even approaching a “peace activist”, and thus I’ll continue to defend him, without qualification, from the sanctimonious and supremely hypocritical assaults leveled by Harriet Sherwood and her anti-Zionist political fellow travelers.

L’Affair Sherwood just got more interesting (Guardian reporter engages in possibly illegal phone recording)

L’Affair Sherwood has just gotten more interesting.

As we posted yesterday, Sherwood berated JC Editor, Stephen Pollard, for publishing a piece by Geoffrey Alderman last week expressing relief over the death of Vittorio Arrigoni - ISM activist, evident supporter of Hamas, and anti-Semite - who has been comically characterized by the Guardian and much of the mainstream media as a peace activist

As Pollard noted, simply publishing Alderman’s essay didn’t necessarily mean he supported it, a fact that a reporter for the Guardian – who has often published essays by Islamists who openly seek the murder of Jews, and even published a letter during the Palestine Papers openly justifying the murder of Jewish men, women, and children by Palestinian terrorists – should surely understand.

But, it get’s more interesting.  Per Pollard’s blog today:

UPDATE: Ms Sherwood left me a voicemail after seeing my initial post, complaining that she did not scream. And you know what, listening to the conversation, it’s a fair point and I’m happy to change that. It felt like screaming to me as her voice was very loud on my phone. I’ve edited the post to take that out. I’ve also changed the post so that it’s made up of verbatim quotes, now that I have been able to transcribe the conversation.

How did I listen to it? Because she recorded it. She casually dropped into the voicemail the news that she had an MP3 of it.

At no point did she tell me that she was recording it. So she has broken the law. What a fantastic piece of Guardian hypocrisy, to (rightly) lead the charge against phone tapping but then to break the law so casually in recording our conversation.

Sherwood is simply out of control. Not only has she demonstrated that she sympathizes with the most ardent, vile Israel haters – destroying any semblance of claim to journalistic objectivity – but she may have violated UK law recording of the call with Pollard without his permission.

 In her blog today, Sherwood again defended Arrigoni against charges that he was anti-Semitic.  How does she know this? Well, for one, she sought the sage advice of Jeff Halper, ICAHD director, and proponent of a one-state solution who employs the Nazi analogy in characterizing Israel’s behavior.  

However, in her rigorous research into the question of Arrigoni’s feelings towards Jews, she apparently didn’t bother to look at his Facebook page, where she could have found the following:

Or this:

Or this:

Yes, I think that when you support Hamas, post a picture which says “No dogs or Israelis allowed”, as well as cartoons showing the Jewish state characterized with a blood drenched Magen David, apprehending Jesus Christ and murdering Santa Claus, that qualifies as anti-Semitic. 

Sherwood’s profound moral confusion is expressed even more clearly in the closing passage of her blog:

“Scenes of Palestinian militants handing out sweets to celebrate suicide bombings or other deadly attacks are familiar – and sickening.

Now Alderman’s rejoicing in the death of a pro-Palestinian activist seems to me a new and repugnant development.”

That Sherwood is evidently more bothered by one insult to a radical anti-Israel activist than by her paper’s continuing tendency to grant license to writers who are affiliated with, or support, terrorist groups who seeks Israel’s annihilation speaks volumes of Sherwood’s radical pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel political orientation, and it simply can no longer reasonably be suggested that she is a journalist in any real sense of the word.

She is, like so many of her colleagues at the Guardian, an anti-Israel activist posing as a journalist.   

What Harriet Sherwood won’t scream about: 92 y/o Palestinian woman, on Hamas TV, wishes for the massacre of Jews (like in Hebron)

H/T Elder of Ziyon and Adam Holland

Here’s a “Nakba Day” inspired call for the slaughter of Jews which Harriet Sherwood may have missed while she was reaming into Stephen Pollard, of The JC, over remarks by Geoffrey Alderman critical of the pro-Hamas, anti-Semitic, “activist” Vittorio Arrigoni:

On Sherwood’s implosion

You can tell a lot about someone’s politics by what get’s them angry, and what moves them to rage and elicits highly emotive responses.  

Harriet Sherwood’s recent outburst at Stephen Pollard of The JC over Geoffrey Alderman’s criticism of  Vittorio Arrigoni, the ISM activist with a proclivity towards supporting Hamas and posting anti-Semitic images on his Facebook account, speaks volumes about the extremism which informs her “View from Jerusalem”, as well as the Guardian’s institutionalized animosity towards the Jewish state more broadly.

As we noted previously, while the Guardian saw fit to lionize the anti-Israel activist following his death at the hands of Islamists in Gaza in four separate pieces (here, here, here and here), several of which referred to Vittorio, comically, as a “peace activist”, there wasn’t even a brief mention of the death of Daniel Vilfic at the hands of a Hamas anti-tank missile fired at his yellow school bus.

Interestingly, back in 2006, when Sherwood was the Foreign Editor, she noted her aspiration to achieve objective reporting:

“The first thing we need to be absolutely sure of is the purpose of our news reporting from the region. Our correspondents are there to give our readers accurate information about Israel-Palestine. We are not there to bat for one side or the other, but to report on the situation on the ground as we find it.”

Sherwood, to be sure, has increasingly shown herself tempted by the most radical anti-Zionist voices and prone to advancing tropes about Israelis which assign maximum malice, liberally leveling accusations of racism against Israelis, using callous pejoratives when characterizing Israelis who live beyond the Green Line (even those who were victims of brutal terrorist attacks), and sanctioning the most unhinged charges against the Jewish state – such as her uncritical quoting of the notorious Richard Falk in accusing Israel of engaging in “ethnic cleansing”.  

And, indeed, an empirical analysis by Israelinurse in 2010 clearly documented her egregious bias against Israel.

Which brings us back to Sherwood’s highly unprofessional and, evidently, unintelligible outburst at Stephen Pollard over Geoffrey Alderman’s critical comments which were, rightly in my view, quite critical of the terrorist-abetting Arrigoni.  

I don’t know if Sherwood personally knew Arrigoni, but it’s utterly fascinating, not to mention exquisitely hypocritical, that she was able to find her moral voice in condemning Alderman but rendered mute over the Al Qaeda-linked Jihadist group who was evidently responsible for Arrigoni’s cold-blooded murder.

Like I said, you can tell a lot about someone by observing what elicits their political outrage.

As Pollard noted about Sherwood’s hysterical outburst:

“[It was] Utterly bizarre. Or maybe not, given what she writes in the Guardian.”