The CiF Routine

CiF-veterans knew what to expect when the Guardian published Harold Evans’ critique of the Goldstone report, which Evans condemned as “A moral atrocity”. Obviously, this sound verdict could only elicit howls of protest by the assorted antisemites and Israel-bashers who are drawn to Cif for their daily fix of “down-with-Israel” delirium.
And it was equally obvious that CiF wouldn’t wait long to provide what the crowds were clamoring for: The next day, Michael Lerner – excuse me: RABBI Michael Lerner – dismissed Evans’ piece as a “screed” and opined that the “global choir of ethical cretins who condemn Goldstone’s Gaza report do Israel no favours.” If you are offended by the “ethical cretins”, you simply demonstrate your inability to appreciate political correctness a la GWV, and in any case, Georgina Henry herself made an appearance to assure everyone that it wasn’t meant “to offend”, it was just “colloquial” and “general”, and the “Guardian’s style guide” (oh-la-la) would ponder the question just how stylish Rabbi Lerner’s general colloquialism/colloquial generalism really truly was.
Naturally, the commentariat adored the good Rabbi’s pious pc-stylishness, but just to be on the safe side and to really make up for allowing Evans to call a spade a spade, CiF also wheeled in none other than Richard Goldstone himself.
True to form, Goldstone opened his piece with the bold claim: “Five weeks after the release of the report of the fact-finding mission on Gaza, there has been no attempt by any of its critics to come to grips with its substance.” Well, it’s not the first time Goldstone makes a claim that would be kind of difficult to support by facts: Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has set up a website that perhaps doesn’t quite “come to grips” with the “substance” of the Goldstone report, but it does show that there isn’t all that much “substance” to it, and a group of bloggers have set up a website that offers many detailed and devastating rebuttals of Goldstone’s report from a variety of sources.
And then there is of course this authoritative verdict about the Goldstone report: “If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.” Quite so.
Oh, you wonder who said this? Well, this is the eminently venerable (?) Judge Goldstone  judging the Goldstone report in a recent interview with the Forward…
And Goldstone was good enough to elaborate why his report wasn’t really worth all that much: referring to a similar report that had been prepared in the 1990s for Yugoslavia, Goldstone reminisced:

“We couldn’t use that report as evidence at all […] But it was a useful roadmap for our investigators, for me as chief prosecutor, to decide where we should investigate. And that’s the purpose of this sort of report. If there was an independent investigation in Israel, then I think the facts and allegations referred to in our report would be a useful road map. […] I wouldn’t consider it in any way embarrassing if many of the allegations turn out to be disproved.”

You see how simple it is: Richard Goldstone wouldn’t be embarrassed if it turned out that the outrageous accusations he leveled against Israel and the IDF were shown to be baseless. And you know what: Richard Goldstone is right. Frivolous accusations against Israel is all that it takes – they quickly take on the aura of “facts” and dominate the headlines for weeks and months on end, generating floods of enraged comments and talkbacks demonizing Israel, and when it turns out that there was no evidence to back up the allegations, it won’t be much more than an obscure news item placed in a not too conspicuous spot. We have been through this, and there is a good name for it: the “Jenin massacre syndrome”.
Remember Jenin? Back then, a Guardian editorial opined that “Israel’s actions in Jenin were every bit as repellent as Osama Bin Laden’s attack on New York on September 11.” That was in April 2002. But what do you know: it took just some six years, and presto, there was this follow-up – in the Jerusalem Post: “‘Guardian’ editor apologizes for Jenin editorial.”
This belated apology came during a session at the 2008 Jewish Book Week, where Alan Rusbridger even said that Israel is a “moral necessity” – which is obviously a view that would be news to most Guardian/CiF readers who come to the site because it can always be relied on to describe whatever Israel did and didn’t do as “repellent”. And whoever doesn’t agree can be dismissed as an “ethical cretin”.
The poisonous atmosphere that is thus created is not unique to the Guardian or CiF, but it is of course their editorial choice to endorse and reinforce this kind of atmosphere through a relentlessly negative coverage of all things Israeli and, by inevitable extension, of many things Jewish. As Mark Gardner emphasized in a recent post on the CTS blog:

“It is plain that if the Jewish state is regarded as a pariah, a compulsive serial abuser of human rights, then Jews everywhere will suffer by (real or imaginary) association.”

Mark Gardner makes this point in his analysis of the undignified reaction of Human Rights Watch (HRW) to the criticism of the organization by its founder and long-time chairman, Robert Bernstein, who recently wrote in the New York Times:

“Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

HRW is for sure not the only organization that “has lost critical perspective” when it comes to Israel, and the evasions and distortions that Mark Gardner highlights in HRW’s response to Bernstein’s criticism will be familiar to anyone who has followed a few debates on CiF’s Israel-related threads. Indeed, as Mark Gardner points out:

“There has long been an instinctive reaction from groups such as HRW to savage their critics as being antagonistic pro-Israel lobbyists. There is no way that Robert Bernstein fits that ugly ethnic profiling, and yet HRW’s public reaction effectively treats him as just another pro-Israel snake in the grass. This suggests that HRW’s public reaction to Bernstein reflects an institutionalised inability to deal fairly and squarely with any concerns that are raised by Jews who don’t spend half their lives condemning Israel. The suspicion is strengthened when you contemplate the behaviour of the many groups, politicians and media that share HRW’s milieu. It is as if the constant drip, drip, drip, of their attitude to Israel has gradually eroded all of the sense and sensibility that such parties ever had towards the mainstream of the Jewish community.”

CiF is certainly among the “media that share HRW’s milieu”: on CiF, the “antagonistic pro-Israel lobbyists” are dismissed as the GIYUS brigade, or the paid-per-comment Hasbara rent-a-crowd; the “pro-Israel snake in the grass” is easily translated into something “colloquial” and “general” like the “global choir of ethical cretins”; and if “Jews who don’t spend half their lives condemning Israel” want to raise any concerns about this kind of atmosphere – well, tough luck: they will find out that Jews who don’t spend half their lives condemning Israel are not entitled to have any valid concerns when it comes to anything even remotely related to Israel.

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