The Guardian’s Chris McGreal casually advances anti-Semitic canard

Here’s a thought experiment.  Imagine you went online after the 2008 US Presidential elections and found a site with an article stating the following:

“Barack Obama was just elected President of the United States, causing concern among some who feel that his father’s Kenyan Muslim background will influence Obama to be too sympathetic to Muslim and African nations around the world, and not sufficiently loyal to the United States.” 

No doubt you’d casually dismiss such a patently offensive charge, and consider it bigoted to assume that a US citizen who happens to have African and Muslim heritage would be more loyal to foreign countries which he happens to share racial or ethnic ties with than to America.

Not only would such an argument be dismissed, but the publication advancing such an assertion would rightly be considered reactionary or racist – and certainly not progressive.

In yesterday’s Guardian, Chris McGreal, in a straight news story (Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu tells US: Palestinians blocking peace deal, May 24), commenting on Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress, added the following in the context of the implications Netanyahu’s address had for the peace process:

“[Taking] Mitchell’s place [as US Middle East Envoy] is his deputy, Dennis Ross….Ross has been criticised as being too close to Israel. His deputy at earlier negotiations, Aaron David Miller, once described him as acting as “Israel’s lawyer”.

While it might be tempting to refute such a charge by pointing to Ross’s role as President Clinton’s chief negotiator during the Camp David talks in 2000 (negotiations which came close to reaching a deal) such an argument would represent a legitimization of the charge that Ross may be “too close to Israel”, and the broader narrative that Ross, who McGreal knows is Jewish, is more loyal to Israel than to his own country – an insidious charge against Jews in the diaspora known as “dual loyalty”, one which has a long and dangerous legacy.

Indeed, even before the birth of the modern state of Israel, Jews have stood accused of not possessing sufficient loyalty to the nations where they reside.  Its contemporary manifestation however almost always centers around the charge that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own nation.  Often, such charges of dual loyalty are infused with a narrative imputing enormous power to Jewish communities which typically represent a tiny fraction of the overall population.  Such a synthesis of disloyalty on one hand, and exaggerated power on the other, allows the accuser to charge the Jewish community of working to undermine their nation – often alleging that such Jews are dangerous aliens who represent nothing short of a Fifth Column.

One of the earliest examples of this fusion of “Excessive” Jewish Power with Dual Loyalty was the suspicion in parts of medieval Christian Europe that Jews were in league with some Muslim powers.  The charge of dual loyalty could be seen in the Dreyfus Affair through the Nazi’s rise to power – and, indeed, this notion in large measure underlay the failure of European emancipation. 

In the US, during the 1920s, Henry Ford published The International JewThe World’s Problem where it was asserted, along with other calumnies, that Jews were pushing the United States towards war for financial reasons and to achieve world domination.

While, after WWII, manifestations of this charge often remained on the fringes of American society, Paul Findley, a former Republican U.S. Congressman whose 1985 They Dare to Speak Out, an attack on the “Israel lobby,” became a best-seller. In it, Findley maintained that many American Jews utilized “tactics which stifle dissent in their own communities and throughout America” to benefit Israel.

More recently, academics considered to be foreign policy “realists”, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, wrote of the “stranglehold” which the Israel “Lobby” exercises over Congress; of the “manipulation of the media”; and of a “Lobby” working hard to “squelch debate”; and argued that the 2003 Iraq war wouldn’t have been possible without the influence of the Israel lobby – which included the implicit assertion that prominent American Jews who supported the war did so not because they saw the war as in America’s best interest but due to their belief that the war was in Israel’s interest.

While paleoconservative commentators, not surprisingly, have championed this narrative – Pat Buchanan wrote in 2008 that “Israel and its Fifth Column in [Washington , DC] seek to stampede us into war with Iran” – some Liberal columnists have engaged in similar rhetoric.  For instance, Joe Klein asserted on Time Magazine’s ”Swampland” blog that Jewish neoconservatives “plumped” for the war in Iraq and are now doing the same for “an even more foolish assault on Iran” with the goal of making the world “safe for Israel.”  In the ensuing controversy, many progressive bloggers jumped to Klein’s defense.

The anti-Semitic nature of such charges have been codified by both the U.S. State Department and the EU – the former defining as anti-Semitic: “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”

As with those who would question President Obama’s loyalty to the US due to his religious, racial, or ethnic heritage, McGreal’s casual suggestion that a Jewish American by the name of Dennis Ross may be more loyal to Israel due to his religious background is an ugly, xenophobic, and racist assertion.

Those who fail to unequivocally, and without qualification, condemn such a historically lethal anti-Semitic narrative – especially those who claim a progressive or liberal orientation – are guilty of supreme hypocrisy and, more importantly, a profound and shameful moral abdication. 

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