“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” – Rabbi Hillel
Yesterday, Jonathan Hoffman, in a blog post titled “Just What Does it Take?“, asked the following of Mr. Vivian Wineman, who heads the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council in the UK:
Ron Prosor recently wrote: ‘Never has a British broadsheet so openly served the agenda of Middle Eastern extremism. The Guardian must be commended for its transparency — readers can no longer doubt its affinity for Hamas.’ Will you now call on the community to shun the Guardian, including withdrawing advertising?
We don’t support boycotts. Deputies can be trusted to choose their news sources accordingly.
An understandably exasperated Hoffman noted that such a response will be “taken by Rusbridger, Milne, Freedland and Co to mean that they can vilify and lie about Israel as much as they want – without major commercial consequences.”
In contrast, The Jewish Chronicle reported in September that, after leaders of Melbourne’s top Jewish bodies – Jewish Community Council of Victoria president John Searle and Zionist Council of Victoria president Dr Danny Lamm – attempted, without success, to address the “strident line” against Israel by the city’s major broadsheet, The Age, with the paper’s editor-in-chief, the community decided to sever ties with the newspaper, accusing it of “clear and consistent vilification of the world’s only Jewish state”.
Lamm and Searle said there was no one incident that triggered the boycott, but the paper’s coverage of the Mavi Marmara in May was the final straw. A front-page article in The Age on June 4 said the Israeli naval commandos “hunted like hyenas” before “tightening the noose.”
Of course, such incendiary remarks by The Age pale in comparison to what’s routinely peddled in The Guardian. During the “Palestine Papers” series alone, the Guardian likened the Jewish state to a “Moldovan nightclub bouncer“, provided a platform to a Hamas member (who issued a thinly veiled threat of violence), posted a political cartoon from a notorious anti-Semitic extremist, and published multiple letters explicitly justifying the use of suicide bombing against Jewish men, women, and children.
No longer merely a vehicle for anti-Israel activism, the Guardian (as this blog consistently demonstrates) is shamefully tempted by the most lethal political orientations – those which fetishize political extremism, and, most dangerously, sanitize, even romanticize, the use of violence against civilians to achieve political ends.
While reasonable people in the British Jewish community can certainly disagree over what tactics, on a case by case basis, are warranted in the continuing war against Israel’s legitimacy, when it comes to the Guardian the words of Charles Jacobs, co-founder of The David Project – an organization created in 2002 in response to the Jewish establishment’s failure to address anti-Israelism on America’s campuses – are especially apt.
The problem, as we saw it, was that Israel’s adversaries were portraying perpetual attacks on Israel as honest criticism – but were in fact carrying out well planned campaigns of vilification.
In fact, campaigns to delegitimize the Jewish state are impervious to facts, logic and reason; they actually thrive upon the Jewish community’s instinctive response, which is to defend and “explain” Israel’s conduct.
[Israel’s] adversaries have no interest in honest discussion. Indeed, each time you prove a claim to be wrong or an overreach, another claim is manufactured. This would have been obvious to Mark Twain, who remarked that “lies can travel around the world before truth puts its pants on.”
The most natural and effective response to a campaign of vilification is to announce to the world that you are being vilified, and to turn the finger of accusation back on the defamers. Who are these people who tell lies and photoshop the truth under the banner of journalism and academic freedom and human rights? To win, one has to break the silence about them, the defamers.
It’s heartening that the Melbourne Jewish community decided to break the silence about their defamers in the media, and we wait impatiently for the day when the British Jewish community will reach the conclusion that their strategy until now (though well-intentioned) simply has not worked, and decide to shift gears and boldly confront, without apologies or qualifications, the clear and present danger they’re facing.
The potential consequences of inaction, to both Israel and the UK Jewish community, are simply too dire. The time for debate and reflection has reached its end.
The time to act is now!