Harriet Sherwood wants Israeli Jews to feel the ‘pain’ of exclusion

A few hours before the Israeli government was set to approve a new deal with the Palestinians to extend peace talks till 2015 – which involved the release of the final batch of pre-Oslo prisoners,  hundreds of additional prisoners and a partial curb in construction beyond the green line – the Palestinians signed letters seeking acceptance to 15 UN treaties and conventions, reneging on their agreement of July 2013 to refrain from making unilateral moves. 

The last-minute breakdown throws the possibility that talks will proceed past the April 29 deadline into serious doubt, and was followed by additional Palestinian demands. These include Israeli recognition of the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital, the release of 1,200 more prisoners (including Marwan Barghouti), a complete cessation of settlement construction, the imposition of PA sovereignty over Area C, a halt to Israeli anti-terror operations in PA-controlled territories, and a lifting the arms blockade on Gaza.

Anyone who’s been closely following negotiations would understand that Palestinians were counting down the days until the April 29 deadline when they would be free to execute what Jerusalem Post correspondent Herb Kenion refers to as their Plan B – waging diplomatic warfare against Israel to isolate it, delegitimize it, and eventually force it through international pressure to give in to their maximalist demands.

Such a plan of political warfare is largely inspired by what’s known as the Durban Strategy, a declaration adopted in the 2001 NGO Forum of the UN’s Durban conference. The Durban campaign – itself the political successor to the Arab boycott launched in 1945, three years before Israeli statehood – featured numerous expressions of antisemitism, focused on labeling Israel an ‘apartheid state’ guilty of ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘genocide’, and ‘war crimes’”, and adopted a resolution calling for the “complete and total isolation of Israel…the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, [and] the full cessation of all links between all states and Israel.”  

What’s known today as the modern BDS movement – which singles out the Jewish state, alone among the family of nations, for a coordinated campaign of boycotts, sanctions, divestment and social exclusion – was essentially born on that day.

Though the Guardian’s coverage of the region has consistently legitimized, amplified and provided succor the BDS movement, an op-ed published at ‘Comment is Fee’ (A boycott can jolt Israelis from their somnolence on Palestine, April 4) explicitly endorsing BDS was noteworthy in that it wasn’t written by an anti-Zionist activist, but rather by one of their ‘serious journalists’ – their outgoing Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood.

To those of us familiar with Sherwood’s brand of activist journalism, it is not at all surprising that she has expressed her support for BDS, nor that – despite glaring evidence attesting to Palestinian refusal to budge on vital topics such as the long-term final agreement issues of refugees, mutual recognition, or even the demand that a final peace agreement include an end to all Palestinian claims against Israel – would be ignored.

What largely stands out in her polemical attack is the contempt she seems to possess for average Israelis.  While she has eloquently expressed her affection for Palestinians, Israeli Jews – even after all this time in the country - clearly seem to stand beyond the limits of her imaginative sympathy. 

The op-ed – illustrated with photo of privileged Israelis “soaking up the sun on a Tel Aviv beach”, oblivious to “the daily grind experienced by more than 4 million Palestinians” – begins by citing a few recent BDS victories before contending that BDS, in protest of its “47-year occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza”, is gathering steam.  Sherwood repeats a quote by Israel’s prime minister which attacked Europe and its “dark history” and demanded that “the boycotters must be exposed for what they are… classical antisemites in modern garb”, to which the Guardian journalist responds:

“This is a serious charge, and one that causes deep discomfort to many who want to bring pressure to bear on the Israeli government over its policies towards the Palestinians, but who also vigorously oppose antisemitism in any form. Opposing the occupation does not equate to antisemitism or a rejection of Jews’ right to, and need for, a homeland. The repeated accusation of antisemitism does not make it true, however frequently it is leveled by those who defend Israel unconditionally.”

Of course, Sherwood – who has never, in nearly four years of covering the region, addressed the issue of the extreme (and quite real) expressions of Judeophobia within Palestinian society – fails to explain why precisely the “accusations of antisemitism” against boycott advocates who often defend Palestinians unconditionally, are unfair.  And, though she draws a distinction between BDS advocates who merely support boycotting ‘settlement’ goods and those who call for a complete boycott of the state, she doesn’t acknowledge that those who support the latter approach largely reject the right of the state to exist within any borders.

Finally, Sherwood writes about the increasing frustration felt “by Israel’s intransigence…and the failure of the international community to back up critical words with meaningful actions”, before concluding that “only when Israeli citizens and institutions feel the consequences of their government’s policies will they force change from within”.  She argues that Israelis are “shielded from the [daily grind] of occupation”, before reaching the conclusion that “economic pain, isolation and global opprobrium” will surely force Israelis “to take notice”.

First, like so many journalists covering the conflict, Sherwood seems to take as a given the benign nature of Palestinian intentions despite so much evidence to the contrary, and doesn’t acknowledge that Israelis overwhelmingly support two-states for two peoples while refusing to ignore the failure of previous ‘land for peace’ guarantees and, therefore, remaining skeptical that the creation of a Palestinian state will actually bring peace.

More pertinent to the theme in Sherwood’s op-ed, Israelis – and most Jews around the world – indeed view current calls to exclude Israeli Jews from the international community in the context of the dark history of such measures.  Such Jews naturally question the motivation of sophisticated (putatively progressive) Europeans who see the unimaginable violence and brutality meted out to Arabs by other Arabs in the Middle East – which includes the systemic violation of the rights of women, gays and political dissidents, and (in some cases) industrial-scale killing and torture – and yet believe that the only country whose citizens deserve to be boycotted just so happens to be the only one with a Jewish majority.

The duplicity of pro-Palestinian activists is represented not merely by the manner in which they gain support from the liberal-left despite the decidedly illiberal nature of the Palestinian national movement, nor the way they promote an understanding of the dispute which conflates cause (the more than 70 year Arab war against the Jewish state) with effect (the territorial dispute which only came about as the result of that war).  No; their supreme deceit relates to how they manage to convince so many within the opinion elite that – unlike every other time in history - this time those campaigning for the exclusion of Jewish professionals, academics and artists are morally justified; that this time a small community of Jews can truly represent an organic obstacle to peace and progress; that this time it truly is malevolent Jewish behavior that brings about measures singling out Jews for opprobrium and sanction.

However, though many Zionists are secular, most thankfully are imbued with a rich and edifying tradition which explains that ‘What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun’.  Try as they may, no degree of sophistry employed by boycott proponents can possibly convince us to accept the supremacy of the au courant morality over the ethics of our fathers, to not see this latest political attack through the lens of Jewish history, nor to avoid reaching the conclusion that - as in every generation – resistance to their assault will be fierce and, in time, succeed.

‘This too shall pass’. 

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The stateless people in the Middle East you’ve never heard of

The following was written by Ben Cohen and first appeared at JNS.org.

Here’s the setting: a Middle Eastern state filled with skyscrapers and luxury hotels, and blessed with a booming business environment and the close friendship of the United States. Here’s the problem: a substantial segment of its population lives with the constant threat of deportation hanging over it.

Its members cannot obtain birth or marriage certificates, or identity cards, or driving licenses. They are banned from access to public health and education services. Their second-class status means they have no access to the law courts in order to pursue their well-documented claims of discrimination. And on those rare occasions that they summon the will to protest publicly—as they did in 2011, when demonstrators held signs bearing slogans like “I Have a Dream”—the security forces respond with extraordinary brutality, using such weapons as water cannons, concussion grenades, and tear gas with reckless abandon.

All this is depressing enough, but what really saddens me is that many people reading this will quickly conclude that I am talking about the Palestinians. After all, doesn’t what I’ve outlined here sound suspiciously like the “apartheid” system which Israel’s enemies insist has been imposed upon both Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank?  Isn’t this further evidence of the righteousness of the campaign to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel?

The truth is that the Palestinians do not have to endure this kind of raw discrimination. The situation I’m describing is located in Kuwait, and the people in question are known as Bedoon jinsiya (also spelled “Bidoon” or “Bidun”)—around 120,000 human beings who live without nationality and with none of the rights that flow from citizenship.

Like the other Arab governments, the Kuwaitis are a harsh, unsentimental bunch. Ironically, the Palestinians know this only too well: in 1991, after a U.S.-led coalition liberated oil-rich Kuwait from Iraqi occupation, the entire Palestinian population there was accused of having collaborated with Saddam Hussein. The fact that some did and that many others did not didn’t matter. Over a six-month period, around 200,000 Palestinians were booted out of the emirate in a campaign of violence and terror. PLO leader Yasser Arafat, in a rare moment of candor, asserted that Kuwait’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians was “worse than what has been done by Israel to Palestinians in the occupied territories.”

The Bedoon have faced a similar but more gradual onslaught, albeit without the extensive media coverage which the Palestinians receive. Human rights organizations aren’t in the habit of paying attention to them: a recent article in the Arab newspaper Al Akhbar cited a Human Rights Watch report on the Bedoon from 2011, adding that such documentation is “rare.” As a result, not only do most of us not know who the Bedoon are, but it’s probably also safe to say that the vast majority of westerners have never even heard of them.

Ethnically Arab, the Bedoon are drawn from three main sources. Firstly, those who failed to apply for nationality or lacked the right documentation when Kuwait attained independence in 1961. Secondly, those who were recruited to work in the Kuwaiti security forces during the 1960s, many of whom arrived in the emirate with their families. Thirdly, the children of Kuwaiti mothers and stateless or foreign fathers.

As Human Rights Watch noted, “regional political instability” during the 1980s led to the removal of the meager benefits—which did not include the right to vote—that the Bedoon had enjoyed thus far. They became “illegal residents” and were thus completely excluded from the social services accessed by Kuwaiti citizens. Those who slander Israel’s Law of Return as racist should know that Kuwait operates one of the most restrictive nationality

Sheikh_Sabah_IV

Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah. When Bedoon leader Abdullah Atallah declared that the emir was to “blame” for the plight of his people, he was promptly arrested for the “insult” and now faces a five-year prison sentence. Credit: The White House.

laws in the region, amended many times since it was first passed in order to make the requirements for citizenship more stringent. It has now gotten to the point where Kuwaiti women cannot pass on their nationality to their children, even when those children are not eligible for their father’s nationality.

Kuwait’s official position is that there is no problem of statelessness in the emirate. Half-hearted attempts by the government to address the situation of the Bedoon have come to nothing, and over the last month, many Bedoon have begun protesting again. When one Bedoon leader, Abdullah Atallah, bravely declared that Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah was to “blame” for the plight of his people, he was promptly arrested for this “insult,” and now faces a five-year prison sentence. Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti authorities have threatened that further protests will result in the deportation of those involved.

It’s high time that Kuwait be held accountable for enforcing a system that looks like, well, apartheid. But no one is doing so. I haven’t seen, for example, students at the elite Dartmouth College protesting against their university’s “American University of Kuwait” program. I’m not aware of any campuses hosting “Kuwaiti Apartheid Week” events.

There’s a whole Division of Palestinian Rights at the U.N., but that organization is silent on the Bedoon of Kuwait.

We can whine about the double standards. Or we can press our own Jewish leaders to raise cases like the Bedoon with their government interlocutors, in the name of both universal human rights and protecting Israel’s democratic reputation. It is time to go on the offensive.

(Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for JNS.org. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications.)

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A very ugly map: Examining Saeb Erekat’s claim to Obama regarding settlements

According to a report in the Guardian on March 18th, Mahmoud Abbas showed President Obama a “very ugly map” during their meeting on Monday.

maps

Here are the first few passages of the story by Paul Lewis:

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas showed Barack Obama what his negotiator called “a very ugly map” of recently constructed Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, amid concern peace talks may be about to fall apart.

His chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who was present at the meeting between Abbas and Obama at the White House, said on Tuesday that the encounter had been “candid” and “difficult”.

Erekat said the Palestinian delegation showed the US president a map showing 10,589 housing settlement units he said were built on Palestinian-claimed territory since negotiations began less than eight months ago.

We put a map to president Obama – showed him the extent of what happened since we began in July,” Erekat said, showing the same map to an audience at the Wilson Center think-tank in Washington.

It is a very ugly map.

Though we haven’t seen Erekat’s map, the numbers he presented to the American President were, at best, extraordinarily misleading.

First, it’s unclear whether Erekat was referring to completed homes or merely construction starts. Either way, based on numbers available at the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, it appears as if Erekat was not telling the truth.

If ’10,589′ was meant to represent the number of completed homes in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and east Jerusalem, then, as the chart below showing completed homes by region in all of 2013 (a longer period than the 8 months Erekat is referencing) shows, this is simply not true.  

graph 1

As you can see, the chart shows that the number of construction starts for all of 2013 in the West Bank was 2,534, and the number of construction starts in ALL of Jerusalem (not merely east Jerusalem) was 4,625.  So, even taking into consideration the fact that the these stats include west Jerusalem as well – a part of the city not claimed as “Palestinian land” – the total number of construction starts in the West Bank and ALL of Jerusalem was only 7,159, far lower than the 10,589 claimed. 

If, on the other hand, Erekat’s number of 10,589 was meant to represent completed homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, then the degree of inaccuracy was even greater, as this chart from the CBS demonstrates:

chart 2 again

Arrow on the right points to Jerusalem. Arrow on the left points to the West Bank.

This chart shows that the number of completed homes in 2013 in the West Bank was 1,365, while the number of completed homes in ALL of Jerusalem – again, not merely east Jerusalem – was 3,652.  This brings the total number of completed homes in the territory to 5,017 – less than half of Erekat’s number.

Either way – whether Erekat’s claim refers to completed homes or construction starts – the numbers just don’t add up.

Moreover, contrary to broader claim by Erekat (and the U.S. administration) that Netanyahu is engaging in ‘aggressive settlement expansion’, we can see that the number of completed homes in the West Bank and ALL of Jerusalem in 2013 was slightly higher than in 2012, but decidedly lower than the figures recorded for 2011 and 2010.  Even the number of construction starts in the territories – which spiked in 2013 after artificially low numbers were recorded in the three previous years, due in part to Israel’s construction freeze – have been lower during Netanyahu’s years than under his predecessors.

Add to this mix the fact that the overwhelming majority of new homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem have been built within existing settlement boundaries – most of which would remain under Israeli control, even based on maps representing Olmert’s generous offer in 2008 – and you can see that the settlement issue is a red herring which has little relevance in the context of the more serious issues the parties must address for a final status agreement to be reached. 

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Guardian report on IDF rocket seizure includes gratuitous reference to ‘powerful Jewish lobby’

We’ve commented previously on the Guardian’s tendency to see the nefarious machinations of AIPAC (and the broader pro-Israel lobby) in a myriad of US foreign policy decisions which run afoul of their far-left ideology.  Usually, their contributors don’t go as far as blaming Jews as such – instead, merely characterizing this political force, which evidently wreaks havoc on the US and the world, as merely AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, or the Israel lobby. 

However, they typically aren’t shy about imputing the worst motives to the organized pro-Israel community, often suggesting their members have a thirst for war.  At times, there’s even the thinly veiled charge that Americans who associate with such lobbies are more loyal to Israel than their own country.

Here are a few examples:

elements of the lobby vilify Jewish critics of Israel and intimidate the media – ‘Comment is Free’, Antony Lerman, Nov. 20, 2009 (Affirming comments made by Peter Oborne, presenter of Channel 4′s Dispatches documentary Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby)

“Just as important is the pressure that pro-Israel campaigners put on the mainstream US media. They warn people off the very word Zionist as though only antisemites use it and demand Israel be treated as a special country whose politics deserve more sympathy than others….In fact US publishers, editors, and reporters carry the biggest responsibility for the rotten state of US policy in the Middle East. The pro-Israel lobbies are powerful and Obama weak mainly because Americans rarely get an alternative view.” - Guardian, Jonathan Steele, Aug. 10, 2010

What do Nebraska and Iran have in common? Not much – but enough to cause big trouble for former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, whose possible nomination to be secretary of defense is being challenged by the powerful bomb-Iran-yesterday lobby.”…Militarists in Washington, taking their cue from pro-Israel lobbyistsare trying to derail the appointment because Hagel doubts the wisdom of starting another war in the Middle East.” - Comment is Free, Stephen Kinzer, Dec. 31, 2012

The Israel lobby has a “stranglehold” over the American debate about Israel – Glenn Greenwald, Dec. 22, 2012 (You can see Greenwald’s history of scaremongering about ‘the lobby’ here)

Obama…established a position his critics may find hard to assail. He forced those many members of Congress and beyond who have conflated America’s interests with Israel’s on to the back foot by saying that on Iran there are differences – and he will serve US interests first. – Guardian, Chris McGreal, March 9, 2012

“President Obama must show America’s pro-Israel lobby that he is tough somewhere in the Middle East - Guardian, Simon Jenkins, Jan. 3 2012 (On why Obama imposed economic sanctions on Iran)

But the failure of an Aipac-supported effort to pass legislation blocking Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran has led to a reassessment of the fabled ability of its lobbyists to wield a veto over US policy when it comes to matters of Israeli security. - Guardian, Harriet Sherwood and Dan Roberts, March 2, 2014

Interestingly, not only did the Guardian manage to slip in a negative reference to ‘the lobby’ in a March 5 story, by Ian Black and Martin Chulov, on the IDF’s interception yesterday of an Iranian shipment of rockets destined for Gaza, but let the veil of respectability slip in neglecting to use the familiar euphemism:

The high seas interception is the fourth of its kind by Israel in the past 12 years and the first since the start of the Syrian civil war three years ago. It comes after a spate of air attacks on weapons warehouses and arms convoys in the past 18 months that officials in Tel Aviv had hinted were destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The seizure follows a visit this week by the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to Washington, where he used a meeting with Barack Obama and a stump speech to the powerful Jewish lobby AIPAC to underscore his reservations about a nuclear deal with Iran.

Of course, AIPAC is not a Jewish organization, as anyone familiar with their racially, ethnically and religiously diverse membership - which includes African-Americans, Latinos, and evangelical Christians - would understand. Moreover, it’s telling that even the most prolific promoters of ‘AIPAC root cause theory, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, use the term ‘Israel lobby’ (and not ‘Jewish lobby’) when speaking of AIPAC and other assorted groups they claim are distorting US foreign policy.

More broadly, writers who chronicle the evolution of political thought may one day look back at our era and marvel over the popularity, among presumably “enlightened” voices, of narratives which impute to organized Jewry both immense power and disloyalty – those characterized by Leon Wieseltier as “the herd of fearless dissidents who proclaim in all seriousness, without in any way being haunted by the history of such an idea, that Jews control Washington”.  

Perhaps such intellectual historians will explain how Judeophobic tropes typically associated with the far-right became politically fashionable at a paper which – no matter how risibly – continues to claim the mantle of the ‘world’s leading liberal voice‘. 

Finally, it’s worth recalling an article titled ‘Averting accusations of antisemitism‘, published in 2011 by Guardian Readers’ Editor Chris Elliott, which in many ways vindicated the work of this blog, and included explicit warnings to their reporters and commentators to stay clear of “language long associated with antisemitic tropes such as Jews having too much power and control”.

Evidently, Black and Chulov didn’t get the memo.

(UPDATE: The Guardian revised the article early this afternoon, and deleted the original reference to “powerful Jewish lobby”.)

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Telegraph posts 3 stories on settlers’ Kerry spoof, but ignores PA incitement

If you go to the Israel page of The Telegraph, you’ll find three separate stories (and over 1100 words of text) devoted to one short satire produced by the Yesha Council (umbrella organization of councils of ‘settlements’ in Judea and Samaria) that is critical of US Secretary of State John Kerry.

telegraph

Two of the stories were filed by Robert Tait (the paper’s Israel correspondent) within three hours of each other. One characterized the poke at Kerry as “a deliberately disrespectful spoof depicting America’s top diplomat”, while the other editorialized that the clip “undermin[es] a plea from the White House for Israeli politicians to desist from personal attacks on the US secretary of state”, ignoring the fact that the the Yesha Council is a settler’s advocacy group, not a political party.

Here’s the video:

While one can reasonably find the video objectionable, it’s curious that Tait would frame one short (and relatively benign) YouTube clip as somehow injurious to peace efforts while, like most of this fellow British journalists, failing to devote serious coverage to genuine incitement to violence by high level Palestinian politicians.  

Indeed, just a few weeks ago, the Telegraph failed to even note a disturbing clip of PA President Abbas applauding a PA Minister of Religious Affairs after he called for jihad in Jerusalem. 

Videos such as these, attesting to dangerous incitement to violence by Palestinian officials and explicit antisemitism in the state-controlled PA media, are ubiquitous and easily accessible for journalists genuinely concerned with actions on either side which undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

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CiF Watch prompts correction to false Indy claim that US views settlements as ‘illegal’

A Feb. 2 story at The Independent by Jonathan Owen, titled ‘Scarlett Johansson split with Oxfam may deter celebrity charity work‘, included the following passage:

One of SodaStream’s main factories is in Ma’aleh Adumim, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank which bodies such as the UN, the EU and the US government say are illegal under international law.

However, while it is true that UN and EU officials typically characterize Israeli communities across the green line as “illegal” – based on extremely specious legal logic – this is not true of the US, which has consistently refrained from rendering a legal decision about their status, opting instead recently for the more generic term, “illegitimate”.

Even the New York Times has acknowledged this distinction:

The United States has not taken a position on the settlements’ legality for several decades, saying instead, according to the State Department, “We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.”

The Indy’s own Middle East reporter, Robert Fisk, acknowledged it, as did ABC News, Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera and Al-Alam, just to name a few.

As Elliott Abrams, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations, explained: 

The U.S. position has fluctuated over time. In the Reagan years, the United States said the settlements were “not illegal.” The Clinton and George H.W. Bush administrations avoided the legal arguments but criticized the settlements frequently. President George W. Bush called the larger settlement blocs “new realities on the ground” that would have to be reflected in peace negotiations.

More recently, the official U.S. attitude has been more critical. In 2011, the Obama administration vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling the settlements “illegal” but former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice then denounced “the folly and illegitimacy” of continued Israeli settlement activity. “The United States of America views all of the settlements as illegitimate,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in August 2013.

The United States is the main broker of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, so American officials have tended toward pragmatic approaches. U.S. officials have viewed settlement expansion as an obstacle to peace talks and the conclusion of a comprehensive peace agreement, and opposed it on those practical grounds.

U.S. officials have tried to avoid an argument over the legal status of the settlements, instead urging that expansion is a bad policy. The use of the term “illegitimate” rather than “illegal” suggests a desire to express disapproval as a political judgment without getting bogged down in arguments over the international legal status of the Palestinian territories and Israel’s actions in them.

After we contacted Indy editors to complain about their characterization of the US position, they agreed to revise the passage in question.  It now reads:

One of SodaStream’s main factories is in Ma’aleh Adumim, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank which bodies such as the UN and the EU say are illegal under international law.  The US government regards such settlements as ‘illegitimate’.

We commend Indy editors for their prompt decision to correct this false claim.

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The UK media again show their obsession with the ‘Israel lobby’

Just yesterday, we posted about a cartoon published at the Economist on Jan. 18 (which they later retracted) with imagery suggesting that pro-Israeli (or Jewish) interests control US Congress.  We noted that such narratives, on the injurious influence of organized Jewry (and their money), have become something akin to an enforced orthodoxy within many circles, especially among the “enlightened” British opinion elite.

Additionally, Donald Macintyre (Jerusalem correspondent for the Independent) published a report on Jan 21 titled ‘William Hague swims around the fishy issue of Iran‘, which began thus:

To contrast the attitudes of the US Congress and the British Parliament, start with Iran. Today, the palpable welcome by MPs for Tehran’s suspension of high-level  uranium enrichment was matched only by anxiety about the UN excluding Iran from the Syria talks that start today in Switzerland.

The unease emanated not only in Labour but on the government benches. John Baron, who pressed William Hague for early “normalisation” of UK-Iran diplomatic relations after an “encouraging start” to nuclear negotiations, is his own man. But he was backed by fellow Tory Phillip Lee who deplored the “overnight debacle” of the cancelled invitation and wanted “a Gorbachev-like” approach to “reform-minded Iranian politicians”.

Many MPs, in other words, want to go further, faster in rapprochement, with Iran. Contrast that with Congress, where many members have been pressing for sanctions to be tightened. All of this makes it hard not to conclude that one difference is the much greater power wielded by the Israel lobby in the US legislature than in its British counterpart.

First, the Indy journalist conflates two separate issues: talks taking place in Switzerland today aimed at resolving the Syrian Civil War (known as Geneva II) on one hand, and an interim nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers (the P5+1) on the other.  While the role played by the ‘Israel lobby’ in influencing Congressional support for increased US sanctions against Iran is itself far less than clear, there is no evidence of any such lobbying on either side of the Atlantic to scuttle Iran’s participation in Geneva II.

More importantly, it’s quite remarkable that Macintyre – a journalist known for his exclusive investigations - failed to provide even a hint of evidence to back up his claim that only the contrasting strengths of the US and British ‘Israel lobbies’ could explain the differing government approaches to issues related to Iran. It’s as if, for Macintyre and those similarly subscribing to “the party of Mearsheimer and the clique of Walt“, no other explanation is even conceivable.  

A more astute observer of the American political scene, however, would of course recognize that the “power” of the lobby is primarily merely a reflection of the organic popularity of the issues they’re campaigning for. In fact, polls of American public opinion consistently demonstrate that Israel is extremely popular among all groups, while Iran is consistently disliked.  The following poll of Americans conducted by Gallup in 2013 reveals that Iran is in fact the least popular foreign country, while Israel is the sixth most popular foreign country.

gallup

Such data indicating that Iran is extremely unpopular would of course help contextualize more recent polls indicating that a plurality of Americans disapprove of the agreement between the U.S. and Iran over its nuclear program due, it seems, to their skepticism that Tehran would actually abide by the terms of any such deal.  Gallup reported that “62% of those polled believe that Iranian leaders are not serious about addressing international concerns about their country’s nuclear enrichment program compared with just 29% who think they are serious.”

It should be clear to the Indy journalist that Congressional support for Iran sanctions accurately reflects American public opinion on the issue, and, more broadly, that the conventional wisdom about supposed ‘root causes’ of US policy – which risibly often passes as ‘progressive’ political thought – is facile, often tinged with bigotry and empirically inaccurate. 

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Do ‘sophisticated’ Brits at the Economist believe Jews control Washington?

The Economist’s goal is to take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.” (Economist mission statement)

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the czarist forgery purporting to reveal a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, may not, argued Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee, “be acceptable dinner conversation any more”.  However, he added, “repackage the sentiment as criticism of Israel, and say that the Jewish lobby controls U.S. foreign policy against ‘true’ American interests, and voilà, you are no longer dabbling in nasty old tropes about sinister Jewish power, but in bold political analysis.” 

As we’ve documented previously at this blog, the argument that the power, money and influence of Jewish or pro-Israel groups undermine peace in the Middle East (or even erodes US democracy) is something akin to conventional wisdom within a segment of the British and European Left.

Political cartoons represent an efficient way to transmit such prejudices, and often have a more immediate impact in reinforcing negative stereotypes about Jews than lengthy essays.  And, though the largest output of antisemitic cartoons nowadays come from the Arab and Muslim world, antisemitic motifs advancing canards about Jewish power also appear in Western, putatively liberal, publications.

Interestingly, the Economist article in question (A big gap to close, Jan 18), which provides analysis on the “joint plan of action” negotiated recently between Iran and six world powers “to temporarily freeze Iran’s nuclear programme” doesn’t use the words “Jew”, “lobby”, or “AIPAC”, and the only allusion to the Peter Schrank cartoon editors chose to use in the article can be found in the text we highlighted in the opening passages:

AFTER several weeks of unexpectedly hard and often tetchy bargaining, six world powers and Iran reached an agreement on January 12th that sets out the details of a “joint plan of action” (JPA) to freeze Iran’s nuclear programme for six months. The implementation of the JPA, originally negotiated in November, will begin on January 20th…

However, the clock is now ticking on efforts to achieve a comprehensive long-term pact. Even supporters of the interim deal rate the chances of success as low.

Though hailed as an historic breakthrough by some and a terrible blunder by others (notably Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister), the November deal may be best seen as a six-month truce to buy time. Gary Samore, who was Barack Obama’s adviser on arms control until last year and is now at Harvard’s Belfer Centre, points out that neither side has given away any of its big bargaining chips. Most actions being taken are reversible; the trickiest issues have been kicked down the road.

Their reference to the Israeli prime minister takes on relevance further in the piece:

A series of extensions will happen only if those hostile to the interim deal on both sides hold their fire. Yet support has grown in Congress for legislation to bring in new sanctions against Iran. With support in the Senate getting close to the 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto (which would otherwise be exercised), they remain distinctly possible, though the White House doubts that Democratic senators would go so far while an accord was still in place. Mr Samore reckons that Congress, having a version of the “Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act” ready as a threat, might put useful extra pressure on Iran. But were the sanctions now to become law, “it would just kill the interim agreement”. 

Schrank’s cartoon then is arguably designed to illustrate the forces – on both the US and Iranian sides – who are conspiring to “kill the interim agreement’.

cartoon

Schrank, a cartoonist with The Independent and Economist, by use of the Star of David on the left, is suggesting that Israel, the pro-Israel lobby, or Jews are controlling Congress and working against a peace agreement between the U.S. and Iran – echoing a disturbing, if familiar, tradition of antisemitic imagery

Cartoonist, Zapiro, (South African) Mail & Guardian, Nov. 2012

Cartoonist: Zapiro. (South African) Mail & Guardian, Nov. 2012

Muslim Observer, Oct. 27

Cartoonist: Muslim Observer. 

jewlobby_carsale

Cartoonist: Bendib. Posted at website of David Duke

Cartoonist: Carlos Latuff.

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Used to illustrate article at PressTV: Dec. 23, 2012

Ad-Dustur, January 30, 2012  Headline: "Obama emphasizes  ironclad commitment to Israel's  security". Written on the iron  ball: "Zionist Lobby in America".

Ad-Dustur (Jordan), January 30, 2012
Headline: “Obama emphasizes
ironclad commitment to Israel’s
security”. Written on the iron
ball: “Zionist Lobby in America”.

Ar-Rai, January 14, 2012  The American is holding a  document titled: “Israeli terror."  On the iron ball: "The Zionist  Lobby."

Ar-Rai (Jordan), January 14, 2012
The American is holding a
document titled: “Israeli terror.”
On the iron ball: “The Zionist
Lobby.”

arab cartoon 3

Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), March 7, 2012
Headline: “Netanyahu in the
US.”

Whilst Schrank’s imagery may not be as explicit as the other examples we’ve cited, all (to varying degrees) convey to readers the unmistakable message that Jewish elements are dictating and shaping American foreign policy for their own malevolent ends.  Such a world view echoes well-established Judeophobic calumnies, and we would hope that evoking such crude stereotypes would be considered a liability by any serious mainstream media outlet – especially one which fancies itself a sophisticated, enlightened force battling the “timid ignorance” which “obstructs our progress”.

Regardless of the Economist’s intent, it’s difficult not to be dispirited by the fact that less than 70 years after the Holocaust, with Jews representing less than 2% of the U.S. population, tropes and graphic representations warning that Jewish ‘pressure groups’ are too powerful are once again becoming fashionable amongst the opinion elite – the herd of ‘independent minds’ who carelessly reinforce the idea, without being haunted by its lethal history, that Jews control Washington. 

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AIPAC root cause theory: ‘CiF’ again blames Israel lobby for…stuff they don’t like

Anyone who follows this blog would surely know that blaming the Israel lobby for the decisions of US political leaders is a frequent theme at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’.  So, it was not at all surprising when ‘Comment is Free’ contributor  published a commentary on Jan. 13 titledInvading Iraq was dumb enough. Now Congress wants to derail the Iran deal‘, which included the following:

This week’s accord with Iran, which was signed by five other powers in addition to the US [P5+1], is the first step in what could become a process that will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and allow it to work with the west in confronting serious security threats. Beyond that, it lays the basis for a process that could turn Iran into a normal country that respects basic human rights at home and exports stability instead of instability. There is no chance that America’s longstanding Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, could evolve that way. Yet this deal has evoked passionate opposition in Washington. Why?

It is a safe bet that many of members of Congress, including more than a few of the 59 senators now trying to kill the US-Iran peace process, would struggle to identify Iran on a map. Many, however, cling to the belief that the only true test of any American foreign policy is whether Israeli leaders support it. The Israel lobby in Washington has turned the Iran deal into a life-or-death struggle.  It is no accident that leaders of the war party, like Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, have received huge amounts of campaign money from that lobby.

First, in addition to the fact that Kinzer grossly mischaracterizes the intent of the bill (which ties sanctions relief to Iranian compliance with their nuclear deal with the P5+1) he’s just plain wrong on the role of the “Israel lobby”.  As Elder of Ziyon noted in a recent post about another false characterization of the pro-Israel lobby’s influence, AIPAC evidently hasn’t put any pressure on lawmakers over the

Politico reports:

Despite growing support in the Senate for Iran sanctions legislation, Democratic leaders have yet to feel insurmountable pressure to bring the measure to the floor.

One major reason: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is mostly keeping quiet.

The powerful pro-Israel lobby has not engaged in a shoe-leather lobbying campaign to woo wayward senators and push Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to schedule a vote on the bill, according to several key senators and aides. While the group supports the bill — authored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — it is not yet putting its political muscle behind a push for an immediate vote.

“I don’t know where AIPAC is. I haven’t talked to anybody,” said Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who opposes any vote for additional sanctions at this time.

As of now, the Menendez-Kirk bill has 59 public supporters, including 43 of 45 Senate Republicans. But dozens of Democrats remain publicly undecided on the bill and seem unlikely to cross the Obama administration and openly back the legislation at this time. And AIPAC isn’t yet twisting Democratic arms.

A number of senators on both sides of the sanctions debate said they’d heard little from AIPAC on the issue, suggesting that wavering lawmakers are feeling little pressure from the group. With its clout on Capitol Hill and ties to deep-pocketed Jewish donors, the group’s muscle could be enough to change the political calculation over how to proceed on the contentious issue.

“I don’t know what they’re doing,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leading defense hawk and strong supporter of getting a vote on the bill.

…California Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Jewish Democrat, said she’s met with AIPAC “many times” on the issue of Iran. But asked if the group had been pressing her to support the Iran sanctions measure, she replied “not at all.”

“They respect my position, which is that sanctions are totally appropriate if this fails,” she said, referring to the diplomatic talks.

But other senators have not yet heard from the group and indicated they were entirely unaware of AIPAC’s activities on the Hill.

“I really have not talked to AIPAC about it,” said Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, a Jewish liberal and one of the few Senate Democrats publicly backing the Kirk-Menendez legislation.

Further, as a Washington Post foreign policy analyst recently argued in the context of dismissing AIPAC root cause theories:

it [is]  likely that senators are supporting Iran sanctions because doing so is squarely in their political self-interest. Iran is very unpopular in the United States. Republicans are already signaling that they may use the Obama administration’s Iran outreach as a weapon in coming elections. Any lawmaker who votes against new sanctions, even if it is for very sound foreign policy reasons, is taking a big political risk. That’s doubly true if the Iran deal fails. And if the Iran deal succeeds, all the credit will go to the Obama administration, so there’s little political incentive for individual members of Congress to support diplomacy.

Indeed, if Kinzer would see past his characteristic Israel lobby obsession, he’d note recent polling data which shows that “lopsided majorities of Americans from both political parties” are distrustful of Iran’s intentions during the nuclear talks, and “overwhelmingly favor deepening sanctions against the Iranian government, regardless of current negotiations.” That is, the support in Congress for the proposed sanctions bill is thoroughly consistent with US public opinion on the issue.

But, of course, who needs empirical research and critical thinking when you can fall back on lazy, disproven arguments which assign blame to the usual suspects.

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Lunacy by Robert Fisk: Indy journalist blames Israel for US abuses in Iraq

Robert Fisk’s latest exploration into the Israeli heart of darkness for The Independent (An obsessive’s documenting of Israeli war crimes in Lebanon can show us how the West lost respect for international law, Dec. 8) begins thus:

Odd [Norwegian journalist] Karsten Tveit was always a very obsessional chap. Every story he covered, he always wanted to dig deeper, study further, hear one more tale of horror, one more joke, one more historical fact.  We all covered the story of Israel’s wars in Lebanon, in 1978, in 1982, in 1996, in 2006. Over the years, I covered the story of Israel’s torturers in Khiam jail in southern Lebanon, the massive Ansar prison camp in 1982, the frightful interrogation of Lebanese and Palestinian inmates.

However, while the extent of Israeli involvement with the Khiam prison during the Lebanese Civil War is debatable, it’s clear that Khiam was run by the South Lebanese Army, and that the torturers were almost certainly Lebanese.

Nevertheless, such misleading suggestions of Israeli guilt are not the worst part of his story.  The most egregious examples of Fisk’s tortured logic can be seen in the following passages:

And I wondered, reading this shameful narrative [of Israeli brutality], why we were so surprised when we found that the American military were torturing and killing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Karsten says at one point that Israeli soldiers in the occupation zone in southern Lebanon – the Israelis called it a ‘security zone’, a description that many newspapers gutlessly repeated – were joint Israeli-American nationals. Did any of them also serve in the American army in Iraq?

The mass prison camp at Ansar sounds like a hot version of Guantanamo. And when the US repeatedly vetoed UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel’s treatment of Lebanese civilians, I wonder whether somehow that’s when American governments lost their respect for international law – as they showed in their treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan (or the Iraqi invasion itself).

No word other than lunacy can fairly characterize such a conclusion.  Fisk is claiming that the alleged Israeli brutality in Lebanon arguably influenced US abuses of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo – as well as the country’s loss of “respect for international law” more broadly!

His sole piece of evidence? The possibility that a few American-Israelis (“joint Israeli-American nationals”) who served in southern Lebanon in the early 80s may have returned to the US and then served in the US Army in Iraq (20 years later!) in the early 2000s, infecting US troops with their ‘odious’ Israeli values. 

If serious questions arise from the fact that Fisk’s rant was published as a ‘serious analysis’, it relates to the following spirited defense by Indy editors to charges leveled by Alex Brummer. Here’s part of what they wrote in an Oct. 4 editorial titled ‘Neither Israel nor the broader Jewish community is demonised by this newspaper’.

In a throwaway remark on Radio 4’s Today yesterday, Alex Brummer, City Editor of the Daily Mail, said: “In comparison with The Guardian and The Independent, which frequently demonises Israel, and in so doing demonises the broader Jewish community, [the Daily Mail] is right behind them.” The Guardian can speak for itself. In relation to The Independent, Mr Brummer’s claim is false, myopic, wilfully ignorant, an offence against the integrity of our staff, and an insult to you, our readers.

It is true that, since its founding in 1986, The Independent has championed Enlightenment values; and there have been times when the actions of the Israeli government have not  been driven by enlightened thinking.

Our coverage of Israel is led by our multiple award-winning Middle East Correspondent, Robert Fisk. Mr Fisk, in three decades reporting on that region, understands it better than most of those who slander him, and has been at pains to distinguish between opposition to Israeli policy and anti-Semitism. For 13 of his years at The Independent, he was edited by Simon Kelner, a man of Jewish provenance who has done a very great deal to support Britain’s Jewish diaspora.

Leaving aside the evidently exculpatory evidence pertaining to the “Jewish provenance” of Fisk’s editor, it’s unclear how any serious (“enlightened”) paper can publish such a fantastical account – one suggesting that torture by Arab soldiers at the Khiam jail in Lebanon in the 70s and the mistreatment by military police of the US Army in Iraq (presumably at Abu Ghraib) in 2003 has a Zionist root cause.

Though we of course have no idea if Fisk’s well-documented Israel obsession is influenced by antisemitism, we can certainly conclude that much of his work at the Indy doesn’t even resemble the professional journalism of a serious Middle East correspondent.

CiF Watch prompts correction to Economist claim about American Jewish views on Israel

We won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty of what it took to get the Economist to correct a false claim about Jewish American attitudes towards Israel, but suffice to say that the word “begrudging” seems apt in characterizing their willingness to acknowledge error.

econ header

As we noted in a post on Nov. 27, in an attempt to support their conclusion – in a story (Israel heads for a terrifying split, Nov. 25) about Israel’s opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran and the P5+1 – that Jerusalem may find itself  “at loggerheads with a large fraction of American Jews”, there was this passage (which we took a screenshot of at the time):

econ

However, when you actually open the hyper-link embedded in the text it’s clear that the ADL poll gauged the views of all Americans, NOT specifically American Jews.  

jta

If the Economist’s intent was to show that American Jewish support for Israel – in the context of the current crisis – has diminished, the poll cited (on the views, again, of ALL Americans) clearly did not demonstrate this.

Today, after a series of emails to editors at the magazine, the passage has finally been amended – and now reads:

An earlier poll by the Anti-Defamation League found that if Israel were to carry out a military strike against Iran, 48% of Americans think their country should take a “neutral” position, while just 40% would favour supporting Israel. 

The bottom of the article now also includes the following:

corexWe commend Economist editors on their decision to finally revise this unambiguously false claim.

The Telegraph’s 14 weaselly words about the power of ‘the lobby’

It’s less than clear how Telegraph Middle East correspondent Richard Spencer views the nuclear deal recently signed in Geneva, but in his latest report he certainly seems to take pleasure in the Israeli prime minister’s profound disappointment over the terms and implications of the agreement between Iran and the P5+1.

spencer

Spencer’s story, titled ‘Iran nuclear deal: Israel rages and no one cares‘, Nov. 24, begins thusly:

Everyone expected Israel‘s furious response to the Iranian nuclear deal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had used every weapon in his considerable diplomatic and rhetorical arsenal to oppose one, up to hand-drawn drawings at the United Nations Security Council of circular bombs with cartoon fuses to illustrate his “red lines”.

What fewer can have expected is that no one would listen.

 Then, after citing statements by UK Foreign Minister William Hague and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry he interprets as dismissive of Israeli concerns, he writes the following:

If ones takes Israel’s public position at face value, however, it is hard not to ask how it got itself into a position where its wishes could be ignored by its closest ally, the United States (an ally that according to popular opinion its Washington lobbies have in their pockets).

One answer might be the extraordinary, prickly, combative persona of Mr Netanyahu.

Of course, there is another answer to the question of why the American president didn’t take Israel’s concerns about the deal into consideration that Spencer didn’t explore: the possibility that the narrative suggesting that ‘pro-Israel lobbies have the U.S. government “in their pockets” has no foundation in reality, and represents the kind of crude, simplifying hypotheses fancied by weak minds, conspiracists and bigots who can’t grapple with the complexities of the world.  

ShowImage

Ar-Risala, June 22, 2008
Headline: “The Wagon [that gets you] to the White House.”

images

Two papers published the same cartoon: Al-Watan, June 10, 2008 and Arabnews, June 11, 2008

Zionist lobby with Obama and Clinton in pocket

Akhbar al-Khalij, June 9, 2008
The bearded man is labeled: “Zionist Lobby” and has then Senator Barack Obama in its pocket, and Obama has Senator Hillary Clinton in his pocket.

Though Spencer doesn’t explicitly endorse this ‘Zionist root cause’ scenario, his failure to dismiss it provides succor to the alarming number of putatively mainstream commentators who, as Leon Wieseltier wrote, continue to “proclaim in all seriousness, without in any way being haunted by the history of such an idea, that Jews control Washington.” 

Editor’s Note: The title was amended at 12:00 EST to more accurately reflect the substance of the post

The Guardian AGAIN falsely suggests that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital

As absurd as it may seem to those unfamiliar with the ideological bias which colors most Israel related items published at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’, up until the summer of 2102 the Guardian’s Style Guide stated that Jerusalem is NOT the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is”.  This false claim was only retracted after a complaint was filed with the PCC.  

In the August 7 edition of their ‘Corrections and Clarifications’ section, the Guardian accepted that “it is wrong to state that Tel Aviv – the country’s financial and diplomatic centre – is the capital”.

Here’s the Guardian Style Guide before the change:

jlem

And, now:

new-jlem

So, while reading the following opening passage, in a Nov. 8 article by the Guardian’s Middle East Editor Ian Black (Hawks squawk even before Iran nuclear deal is sealed), keep in mind that the paper has at least officially ‘acknowledged’ that Tel Aviv is NOT the capital of Israel and that the seat of government is located in Jerusalem.

Hardliners in Tehran, hawks in Tel Aviv and Washington, nervous Saudis and their Gulf allies are all alarmed at the prospect of a nuclear deal between Iran, the US and the international community.

The context makes it clear that Black is referring to the putatively “hardline” and “hawkish” political leaders within the governments of Iran, Israel and the United States.  Yet, while the cities (where the ‘seat of government’ is located) in Iran and the United States are correct, the paper’s Middle East “expert” bestows this status to the wrong Israeli city.

Jerusalem is of course where the Israeli Knesset, Supreme Court, Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office are located, and thus – by the Guardian’s own definition per it’s ‘amended’ style guide – is where the evidently ubiquitous ‘squawking’ Israeli ‘hawks’ routinely gather.

knesset

The Israeli Knesset, Jerusalem

The Guardian erred on a fundamental fact about the Jewish state – ‘a mistake they’ve made more than once’.

Guardian columnist blames the persecution of Mid-East Christians on Israel’s creation

Yes, the Guardian’s religion blogger Andrew Brown really did blame Israel for the Arab persecution of Christians in the Arab Middle East.

brown

Here are the relevant passages in his latest post on former president George W. Bush’s recent work with a group of Messianic Jews: 

…there is widespread confusion among evangelicals about whether Israel is really a kind of America overseas – a recent poll for the Pew Foundation found that twice as many American Evangelicals as American Jews were unwavering in their support for Israel. This is something that successive Israeli governments have deliberately cultivated.

But the links between Zionism and Christianity go much further and deeper than that. The conversion of the Jews, and their restoration to Jerusalem, was a great enthusiasm among English evangelicals in Victorian times. Barbara Tuchman’s marvelous book Bible And Sword chronicles some of the consequences.

It’s fair to say that without the belief of Victorian upper class evangelical Englishmen – almost exactly the equivalents of George W Bush – there never would have been a Balfour Declaration. And without that declaration, there could not have been the Jewish immigration to Palestine that laid the foundations for the state of Israel.

Some people will see this as an example of the destructive craziness of religion, and perhaps it is, but it is also an example of the way in which theology is only powerful and important when it is wrapped up in identity. Because if there is one group that has suffered as a result of the establishment of the state of Israel and its support by Western Christian countries, it is the historic Christians of the Middle East – who are now the victims of persecution throughout the region and scapegoats of an angry nationalism.

Whilst Brown’s characterization of the foundation of Zionism and the establishment of Israel is completely ahistorical, the magnitude of Brown’s fabrication regarding the cause of anti-Christian racism in the modern Middle East is simply difficult to comprehend. 

Christians are facing systemic persecution throughout the Arab and Muslim Middle East to the point where studies have predicted that “Christianity will disappear from its biblical heartlands”, or will at least “effectively disappear from the region as a cultural and political force within our lifetime”.  As The Telegraph commented on a recent study by the think-tank Civitas, “the most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam”. The report estimates that “between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the Middle East have left the region or been killed in the past century.”  Some 2 million Christians have reportedly fled in the past 20 years alone.

Such racist oppression against the beleaguered Christians occurs daily in countries such as Egypt, Syria and Iraq – as well as in Palestinian controlled cities in the West Bank.  

Of course, the one country in the region where the Christian population is growing in total numbers is Israel.

Yet, the Guardian blogger not only ignores this statistical evidence, but views the disturbing news broadcast daily of Coptic churches being burned, Christians arrested for ‘blasphemy’, and clergy kidnapped and killed in Muslim dominated countries in the region, and somehow sees the root cause in Israel’s very creation.  

As Walid Phares, a Lebanese-American scholar who advises the U.S. on issues related to terrorism, said at a conference on protecting Christians in the Middle East in 2012 sponsored by CAMERA, the plight of religious and ethnic minorities in Muslim and Arab majority countries in the region is ignored due in part to political correctness, cultural relativism and a malign obsession with Israel.

In the future when we cite examples of how antisemitism manifests itself in unusual ways at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’, Brown’s astonishing moral inversion, in which Muslims persecute Christians but Jews are still to blame, will be near the top of our list.

Guardian evokes caricature of powerful Jewish state manipulating Western leaders

Last November we posted about a political cartoon at the Guardian by Steve Bell depicting British foreign minister William Hague and Tony Blair as puppets being controlled by Binyamin Netanyahu, in the context of expressions of support by these leaders during the war in Gaza.  Bell’s image evoked the canard of powerful Jews controlling western politicians for their own nefarious purposes and was hauntingly similar to more explicitly antisemitic cartoons routinely found in the Arab and Islamist world.  

Guardian: Nov. 15, 2012

The Guardian’s readers’ editor, Chris Elliott, addressed the row a couple of weeks later, and actually rebuked Bell for ‘unintentionally’ using the visual language of antisemitic stereotypes.

While such cartoons often have more of an immediate impact in reinforcing negative stereotypes about Jews than lengthy essays, the damage done by such toxic ideas regarding ‘Jewish control’, in any form, should be taken seriously.  The Guardian narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, in news reports and commentaries, often includes passages with the unmistakable  suggestion that Israel (and the pro-Israeli lobby) wields enormous power over ineffectual Western leaders – a theme present in a report by Harriet Sherwood and Julian Borger titled ‘Iran nuclear programme deal in danger of unravelling’, Nov. 11.  The story centered on nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) which ultimately unraveled largely due to concerns that the agreement would have eased sanctions on Iran without requiring that it cease enriching uranium.  

The report by Sherwood and Borger included the following:

In a bid to contain the danger, the lead US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, flew straight from the talks in Geneva to Israel to reassure Binyamin Netanyahu’s government that the intended deal would not harm his country’s national interests.

The hastily arranged trip represented an acknowledgement of Netanyahu’s power to block a deal through his influence in the US Congress and in Europe. Egged on by the Israelis, the US Senate is poised to pass new sanctions that threaten to derail the talks before they get to their planned next round in 10 days’ time.

More immediately, Netanyahu demonstrated over the weekend that he could sway the Geneva talks from the inside through his relationship with Paris.

These passages of course strongly suggest that US congressional leaders take their marching orders from Jerusalem and that the French government’s position was not motivated by what it saw as its own national interests but, rather, as a result of the influence of the Israeli prime minister.  

However, the deal was fatally flawed, according to many experts, due in part because it would have fallen short of the requirements in six resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council over the years which called on Iran to suspend ALL uranium enrichment – resolutions passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, rendering them binding under international law.

As Adam Chandler observed in an essay published at Tablet about the superficial analysis by Sherwood and Borger: 

[Their argument] smacks of that paranoid, evergreen charge that all wars and international campaigns are waged on behalf of Israel, a claim that devolves from Israel into “the Jews” as it goes through portal after conspiratorial portal. 

You don’t even need to believe that antisemitism is at play to nonetheless be contemptuous of the extraordinary myopia displayed in the Guardian report.  As Walter Russell Mead observed recently about the broader intellectual dynamic which unites antisemitism with anti-Zionism:

Weak minds…are easily seduced by attractive but empty generalizations. The comment attributed to August Bebel that anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools can be extended to many other kinds of cheap and superficial errors that people make. The baffled, frustrated and the bewildered seek a grand, simplifying hypothesis that can bring some kind of ordered explanation to a confusing world.

Guardian “journalists” may fancy themselves sophisticated, erudite and worldly, but their frequent ‘Zionist root cause’ explanations betray both their ideological bias and the extraordinarily facile nature of their reasoning.