Deputy Editor of ‘Comment is Free’ expresses concern for Ben White’s “reputation” on Twitter

The most infamous essay of CiF contributor Ben White was a 2002 CounterPunch piece titled, “Is it possible to understand antisemitism?”.

First, there was this passage:

I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are. There are, in fact, a number of reasons. One is the state of Israel, its ideology of racial supremacy and its subsequent crimes committed against the Palestinians. It is because Zionists have always sought to equate their colonial project with Judaism that some misguidedly respond to what they see on their televisions with attacks on Jews or Jewish property.

And he further linked the rise of antisemitism with “the widespread bias and subservience to the Israeli cause in the Western media”. 

But, equally as pernicious was this:

[There was a] controversy in Germany over alleged anti-Semitic remarks made by Jürgen Möllemann, the deputy leader of the FDP party, when he compared the Israeli government’s actions to those of the Nazi regime. Since his remarks Jewish groups have taken to the streets to call for Mr Möllemann’s resignation.

Comparisons between the Israeli government and the Nazis is unwise and unsound, since the Israelis have not (at the time of going to press) exterminated in a systematic fashion an enormous percentage of the Palestinians. Cold-blooded killings, beatings, house demolitions, vandalism, occupation, military assaults, and two historical pushes at ethnic cleansing–yes. Full fledged genocide–no.

However, the comparison is not anti-Semitic. It does not make racist assumptions, nor does it smack of bigotism. 

(Also of note, White has recommended an essay by Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, in his book on “Israeli Apartheid”.)

Regarding the Israel-Nazi analogy, White has also employed language which at least evokes this political parallel, such as in the following passage from an essay posted on his website:

“Palestinians, who, in the name of a ‘social-democratic experiment’, had to endure massacres, death-marches, and ethnic cleansing…”

In addition to such comparisons being intellectually unserious, such morally obscene comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany are codified as antisemitic by the EU Working Definition

Flash to a Twitter exchange yesterday which involved Sunny Hundall, editor of Guardian partner blog, Liberal Conspiracy, Louise Mensch, British MP, and David Shariatmadari, deputy editor of ‘Comment is Free’.

The row began after White posted an essay at Liberal Conspiracy, titled “Mensch to speak at ‘extreme’ Israeli conference“, which criticized Mensch’s upcoming appearance at a Stand With Us conference, and leveled simply unserious accusations that StandWithUs “donors accused the group of having “a web of funders who support organisations that have been accused of anti-Muslim propaganda.”  

There was, of course, quite a bit of vitriol below the line, which included defenses of the Israel=Nazi Germany comparison after one commenter brought attention to White’s defense of this view.

Here is a snippet from the Twitter exchange which followed. 

Mensch:

Then when Ben White joined the exchange, taking issue with Mensch’s characterization of his views, Mensch responded thusly:

Then, Comment is Free editor, David Shariatmadari, chimes in:

So, the Guardian’s Shariatmadari evidently finds it morally relevant whether or not White was defending comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany broadly (not as bad), or whether there was a specific charge that Israel exterminates Palestinians in Auschwitz-like concentration camps.

Mensch responds clearly:

Did Mensch really have to Tweet this morally intuitive argument to the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ deputy editor?  

Further, Shariatmadari’s grave concern about Ben White’s “reputation” speaks volumes about a media group who continually licenses commentators who may possess a liberal veneer but are morally compromised by an undeniable antipathy towards Jews.