A personal reflection on our one-year anniversary

Almost exactly 4 years ago, a conflict ignited on the Lebanese-Israeli border when Hezbollah terrorists attacked an Israeli border patrol convoy, which led to a 30 day war between the Jewish state and the Iranian backed terror group. I watched it unfold on CNN, as well as on the local news – reports suggesting that Israel was intentionally killing Lebanese civilians in its response to the provocation.

That narrative was a usual one when discussing wars involving Israel and Arabs despite that, by this time, we have seen the Coalition invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq unfold and have seen the tactics deployed by Jihadists seeking martyrdom. As a matter of course, they were hiding behind civilians, civilian structures, and even dressed like civilians when ambushing American, Canadian and British soldiers who were seeking out the enemy among an undeniably unfortunate civilian population.

Yet when Israel responded to the kidnappings and rocket barrages of Hezbollah, the media reported Hezbollah casualties as “civilians”. Each day, 100, 200, 300 “Lebanese civilians” died while Hezbollah declared (and the media reported) that they lost 3 or 5 fighters on a given day. It sounded insane. I recall one report near the end of the war which stated that Israel lost 138 soldiers, but killed 1200 Lebanese civilians, while Hezbollah lost 15 fighters. No sane person would believe such nonsense so why, I asked myself, was this on the news.

Something seemed out of tune here. Something seemed really wrong with that picture.

Like many of us, 9/11 changed me. I was always aware of terrorism and radical Islam but starting that day, I entered the online world of news and commentary, and discovered scholars, experts and personalities who‘s work probably did not matter as much on September 10, 2001. During those long nights sitting at the computer reading people like David Horowitz, Robert Spencer and Steven Emerson, to name a few, I plunged into a new world. A world where I have discovered issues and conflicts similar to the ones my father told me about when he was growing up during WWII. One of those issues was anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews. Not long after the attacks on New York and Washington, conspiracy theories were spreading that Jews were the actual culprits and Israel was the one benefiting from this and that Bush was under the control of a Jewish cabal and as such needed to declare a war on Muslims.

I found these ideas so silly that I laughed at them and assumed nobody could possibly believe such nonsense. I was wrong. Many have, and many more believed other, even crazier, conspiracy theories. I also realized that these 9/11 Jewish conspiracies were not created in a vacuum but were the culmination of a long and steady effort of demonizing Israel and the Jewish people, which started before I really cared to notice. The internet was always a crazy place. Conspiracy theories were all over it for years. How those ideas managed to find themselves in mainline publications was the question I needed answering.

In 2006 when the Lebanon war coverage was taking up most of the afternoons on CNN, and occupied most of the space on the popular blogs (which I read but never commented on seeing no real purpose to do so), I read a couple of articles and exposes on the Guardian and its comments section which was, according to these reports, filled with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and Islamist propaganda. In fact I recall the Guardian being in the news when it was revealed that CiF contributor Inayat Bunglavala had praised Osama Bin Laden.

During the start of the Lebanon war, I started to read the blog of the Guardian, called ‘Comment is Free’. I was curious to find out what the fuss was about as much was written about CiF on American Blogs, exposing the often explicit anti-Semitism and, at times, apparent sympathy for terrorist movements.

What I found was more than I could have ever bargained for. Comments about the inhumanity of Jewish fighters during the 1948 war, and even rhetoric about the “savagery” of the Jewish fighters during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising (according to SS officers) caught my eye. This was a rude awakening.

What I saw was the complete and perfect merger of anti-Israel rhetoric with old anti-Semitic tropes. It was like reading a magazine from 1936 Germany but instead of “Jew”, “Zionist” and “Israeli” were the descriptive words.

“Israel is stealing water from Palestinians”, “Israel is polluting Palestinian terrorizes…Zionists control the media …Israel is killing children as a matter of course and Israel is stealing money from the Palestinians. Old anti-Semitic tropes of the “Jew poisoning the well”, “The Jew killing our children…” “The Jew embezzling the collective wealth” and the Jew controlling our leaders and armies.

What I also discovered was that the articles in CiF seemed to inspire such comments, as the tropes they employed inevitably led their readers down a path of hate and vitriol. Much like when one starts to learn to swim or ride a bicycle, they held onto these ideas, not crossing ideological lines which commenters were ready to cross, who were merely following the direction of the writer – who then could wash his/her hands of bigotry knowing that the nastiness was taken up by someone else under the cover of anonymity.

What I concluded was that the Guardian was incubating what Melanie Phillips called the ‘New anti-Semitism” It was also incubating the alliance between the radical Left and Islamism.

Now I understood the power of comments sections. Before I never really cared, as I thought they were just a new version of ‘letters to the editor’. Now I understood what they could be used for. They often served as a gateway between the mainstream media and the conspiracy peddlers – bigots inspired by “respectable” writers who would advance tropes which carefully skirted around the edges of acceptable commentary.

We have since covered, and exposed, many examples of this phenomenon during the last year on CiF Watch. We commented on the Guardian’s defense of Saddam Hussein.  We demonstrated how they attempted to defend the comments of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – arguing that he didn’t actually call for Israel to be “wiped off the map” – and make excuses for, or rationalize, the malicious propaganda which not only was targeting Israel and Jews, but also America and the West.

I am still posting on CiF. Came close to being banned and do not expect to stay much longer. During that first summer, I felt almost alone in the sea of hate. A part of me enjoyed my contrarian position and I felt that at least this asymmetric situation will make me a better debater and will sharpen my mind.

However I wasn’t alone. There were others there on my side. I slowly started to watch out for kindred spirits who, like me, were immersed in a sea of hate and posting relentlessly in attempts to debunk the nasty and hateful posts which were attempting to spread such vile ideas.

It was on one of those days that I was invited to communicate with another poster who was part of a small group of commenters always re-appearing under moniker after moniker after having been banned by CiF moderators apparently more concerned about towing the ideological line, and defending their writers, than monitoring the hate speech appearing on their blog.

We assisted each other by alerting one other when a thread was open, and we helped each other in the many side debates which occurred between ourselves and posters attacking us. We were never part of, or working on behalf of, any government or non government agency, though we were continuously accused of it. Those accusations came not only from lunatic posters obsessed with Israeli spies infiltrating their sacred lair, but also by editors like Brian Whitaker who accused posters defending Israel of being part of a conspiracy.

Slowly our group grew and around late 2007, I suggested that we create our own blog and expose the Guardian for what it is – an incubator of radical Leftist apologists for radical Islam and the snake pit of the new anti-Semitism.

The first person to respond was Medusa. She said, “I would write for it.” Others joined in the discussion and the idea morphed into this watch site.  Those discussions took a long time, as most of us being Jewish, just could not agree on a format which could address the issues all of us, liberals, conservatives, religious and secular cared about  – which says quite a bit about the merit of Jewish conspiracy theories.

The only common denominator was the moderation policy – and radical slant of the Guardian which we found to be a nesting place for anti-Semitism as well as a conduit through which such toxic ideas, typically the domain of extremist groups, end up in main stream political discourse.

This idea was tossed around and we decided to launch CiF Watch after Hawkeye and AKUS joined the original group of Medusa, Louise, Peter, Omar and Yours truly.  The reason it became CiF Watch, and not something else, was due to the moderation at CiF, which we tried to influence with letters and meetings to no avail. That was what motivated all of us and that was what the Guardian promised to improve – but clearly failed to do.

The anti-Semitism kept coming, as did the rhetoric which clearly fostered it.  And, the stories were sometimes accompanied by simply vicious cartoons – imagery which could have appeared in Der Stürmer 70 years ago.

This Martin Rowson cartoon appeared in the Guardian in 2006
This cartoon, by Steve Bell was published in the Guardian in 2009 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall,
This Steve Bell cartoon appeared in the Guardian in 2009
The Guardian published this Steve Bell cartoon during the flotilla incident

We kept going back to threads and posted, on our new blog, nasty comments from CiF, which survived CiF moderation as well as those comments which exposed the hatred and bigotry at CiF, which the moderators subsequently deleted.

“Why was this deleted” became like the obituary section of our “publication” as it kept being filled with reasonable posts calling out anti-Semitism or factual errors in Guardian pieces.  It was also voluminous like a major city newspaper obituary section.

What did the Guardian do?

Well they thanked us for assisting in their moderation.

Ironic as, according to them, we were fast becoming an unpaid moderation service for them.

That would have been tedious and boring and serving them not us so we embarked on a more aggressive task to writing pieces about the stories the Guardian manipulates to serve its agenda – and ended up becoming reporters in the process.

We have covered rallies for Hamas where we exposed Jew haters singing Christmas carols and covered press conferences by the IDF during the Flotilla incident.

In the process of writing and researching our pieces we have learned a lot about the people inhabiting the Guardian world. Some of the stuff we dug up even shocked us, though we had no illusions going into this in the first place. We have exposed a totally incompetent editorial board, where editors and contributors often behave like the nasty critters who inhabited their comments section. We have exposed blood libels on organ harvests, Israel allegedly arming South Africa with nuclear weapons, poisoning Arab children, and unmasked supporters of terrorism and Islamic supremacy who were writing pieces decrying their victim status in the “Islamophobic world”: The Guardian continually  attempts to smear people who stand up to the most dangerous ideologies.

We have shown that it isn’t all about comments but an effort by a major, some call international, paper to de-legitimize Israel, the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, and unwittingly advancing the interests of extremists.

We have also learned a great deal about the stories themselves and learned – as we weren’t journalists but, rather, professionals from different fields – that journalism is a trade practiced with varying degrees of competency, and that what we encounter in our daily paper, in what passes for professional journalism, is often just propaganda or really, really bad reporting.

What was most painful to discover was the way the Guardian uses Jewish contributors to advance its anti-Israel narrative, and inoculate them from charges of anti-Semitism.

Writers were at the ready to deny the prevalence of the world’s oldest of hatred as soon as an incident made the news – such as Richard Silverstein, who actually suggested that Israel was to blame for the Mumbai attacks. It is one thing to discover Jonathan Cook being featured on David Duke’s website and quite another to read a Jew advancing tropes based on classic Jewish conspiracy theories.

The Guardian is not alone in this. The anti-Semitism of the 21st Century has infected the political left on both sides of the pond. The Daily Kos and Huffington Post are very similar in their comment sections, again proving that anti-Semitism is once again hip and mainstream as long as it is directed against the Jew of Nations, Israel.

Though, it needs to be said that often they don’t even bother with the Israel/Zionist label anymore. One can see, when looking through a Huffington thread, that Jews “this” and Jews “that” are back in full force.

Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of this often depressing endeavour is seeing other so-called “Watch sites” appears. Now Huffington and others need to take extra care, as they are also, a bit more frequently, exposed for harboring and providing license to such hate.

One may ask how we deal with this all day and every day. It must be boring and discouraging going through threads fishing for hate and bigotry. I admit that it is.

This is why we try not to take ourselves too seriously and inject humour, when possible, to lighten up. That has become another facet of who we are.  We love a good laugh and we especially love pointing out when our opponents’ commentary is blatantly hypocritical or even, at times, just plain ludicrous. They are so often such perfect targets of ridicule – such perfect self-parodies – that we chuckle all the way through writing a piece or researching some character.

In one year we have arisen from nothing – the proverbial business operating out of our parent’s basement – to become a leading watch site. We have attracted many Guardian readers and have offered a mirror debate for threads which some could no longer participate in for having been banned by CiF.  We have attracted reputable writers and contributors and have been featured in some of the leading pro-Israel mainstream blogs. We have been praised and vilified and we have been complimented and threatened with law suits.

It’s been an exciting ride and we are (quite unfortunately) confident that the Guardian will not cease to provide us with more goodies to denounce, debunk, dispel or mock.  The news continues and the stories are and will be bountiful.

The story which, for me, started with 9/11 and re-booted during the 2006 Lebanon war is still continuing. The Guardian still routinely vilifies Israel and America. We are mere little hell demons for now but our wings and horns are growing.  They blamed America for 9/11, Israel for anti-Semitism and now are defending Iran’s nuclear program. We will keep exposing their BS and we promise to keep our readers informed and give them a platform to speak their minds and discuss issues – allowing them to comment freely.

Special thanks to Adam Levick for taking up the task of being the only fully exposed face of our group. We often wish to emerge from our of anonymity but, unlike our subjects, we are not paid to do this and need to make a living elsewhere.  We are looking forward to our second year, we have shed our diapers and started to walk. We are happy that CiF Watch is clearly growing – both in terms of our web traffic, and our editorial scope – and are happy to see a unity of sorts between people who otherwise would be at different ends of the political spectrum. The Guardian managed to unite secular socialists with Ayn Rand individualists. That’s quite a feat, I must say.

Happy Birthday CiF Watch!  And, thanks to everyone who assisted, supported and promoted us.  You know who you are and we know who you are. If there is a birthday wish to blow the candle with, it would be that we should no longer be necessary.  This is, however, quite wishful thinking.

See you a year from now with another summary of events.

The Alchemist

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