One of the more common questions we get pertains to how CiF Watch is making an impact or, indeed, how we quantify that success.
Our many supporters are typically quite curious regarding the degree to which our efforts at combating antisemitism at the Guardian are producing results.
In response we typically point to our increased web traffic; our greater presence, and overall “buzz”, on Twitter, Facebook and other social media; ‘Comment is Free”s relative improvement in more promptly removing antisemitic comments beneath the line; as well as the curious absence over the last year or so, on the pages of ‘Comment is Free’, of some of the more notorious antisemitic commentators.
However, a recent post by the Guardian’s Chris Elliott, the paper’s Readers’ Editor, “On averting accusations of antisemitism“, Nov. 6, was an even clearer indication that our blog is indeed making an impact.
Specifically, Elliott sought to address “complaints that it is carrying material that… lapses into language resonant of antisemitism or is antisemitic”, citing “organisations monitoring the Guardian’s coverage” which “examine the language in articles – and the comments posted underneath them online – as closely as the facts.” [emphasis mine]
While there is much in Elliott’s polemic which is off the mark – and he doesn’t nearly go far enough in calling out the frequent antisemitic tropes found at the paper – he did single out a few especially egregious examples of antisemitic rhetoric by Guardian writers for opprobrium: namely, Deborah Orr’s mocking use of the phrase “the chosen” (to evoke the notion that Jews are inherently racist), and their deletion of the term “slavish” (used to describe the US relationship with Israel) from two CiF essays.
However, regarding the former, as Harry’s Place noted, though the Guardian now appears to admit that it is antisemitic to use the phrase Chosen People falsely to attack Jews as supremacists, here is Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, the play which is online, in print and video, at the Guardian’s own website:
“…tell her we’re better haters, tell her we’re chosen people, tell her I look at one of their children covered in blood and what do I feel? tell her all I feel is happy it’s not her.”
As Anthony Julius wrote of the play:
“In this play, Jews confess to lying to their own children and killing Palestinian children. They also confess to something close to a project of genocide. And they freely acknowledge the source of their misanthropy to be Judaism itself.”
And, as I noted in my Jewish Chronicle essay today, another dangerous dynamic at the Guardian, which Elliott didn’t address, is the licensing of commentators with an undeniable record of antisemitism, while justifying their politics as merely anti-Zionist or pro-Palestinian.
For instance, Ben White, published regularly at CiF, wrote that, given Israel’s behavior, he can certainly understand why some people are antisemitic, condemned the “widespread bias and subservience to the Israeli cause in the Western media” and recommended an essay by a well-known Holocaust denier.
An even more egregious example is the Guardian’s decision to publish a letter by Gilad Atzmon – a writer who has accused Jews of literally controlling the world and frequently advances other odious Judeophobic narratives which are indistinguishable from far right antisemitism.
Indeed, another troubling issue which Elliott didn’t discuss is the paper’s continuing antisemitic sins of omission in their characterizations of Israel’s opponents.
As the prolific Tom Gross pointed out for The Commentator,:
“Hamas master terrorist Nizar Rayan, who directed suicide bombers (including his own son) to murder and injure dozens of Israeli civilians, and who described Jews as a “cursed people” whom Allah changed into “apes and pigs,” was portrayed in The Guardian as someone who was “highly regarded” and “considered a hero” (Jan. 3, 2009).”
Further, the Guardian’s coverage of the UK’s detention of Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement’s northern division in Israel, was as obsessive as it was at pains to white wash (or ignore) the extremist preacher’s undeniable record of antisemitism – which included a sermon where he advanced the blood libel and an interview in which he endorsed antisemitic conspiracy theories about 9/11.
Indeed, one of Salah’s chief defenders in the UK has been CiF contributor Daud Abdullah, director of the Islamist, openly pro-Hamas, organization MEMO. In 2009 Abdullah signed the so-called the Istanbul Declaration which included a passage justifying attacks on Jewish communities all around the world.
Elliott concluded his post, thusly:
“I have been careful to say that these examples may be read asantisemitic because I don’t believe their appearance…was the result of deliberate acts of antisemitism: they were inadvertent. But that does not lessen the injury to some readers or to our reputation…Reporters, writers and editors must be more vigilant to ensure our voice in the debate is not diminished because our reputation has been tarnished.”
As Simon Plosker observed for Honest Reporting, the Guardian seems “more concerned that anti-Semitism appearing on The Guardian’s pages is bad for the paper’s reputation rather than concern about anti-Semitism itself.”
As such, Gross, in his Commentator essay, notes, “The [Guardian] likes to think of itself as a bastion of liberalism, fairness and anti-racism…”
So, while we certainly welcome the Guardian’s acknowledgement that the arguments this blog advances have merit – and, indeed, in my communication with Elliott, I’ve always found him to be fair, professional, and respectful – it still doesn’t seem that his institution can wrap their mind around the notion that those of a leftist persuasion can be afflicted with anti-Jewish racism.
As Anne, of the blog Anne’s Opinion’s, wrote about the Guardian semi-apology:
“Let us hope that this marks the beginning of a recalibration of their editorial standards.”
In the meantime, however, our work monitoring the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ for antisemitism continues unabated.
CiF Watch is dedicated to the modest proposition that expressions of hatred against Jews, whether emanating from the right or the left, are never justified, is inherently inconsistent with genuine progressive thought, and must always be exposed and fiercely combated.
Additional articles on Elliott’s post on antisemitism at the Guardian:
- They just don’t get it – tolerance of Jew-hate set to live on (My essay for The Jewish Chronicle)
- Guardian: ‘reputation tarnished’ (The Jewish Chronicle)
- The Guardian acknowledges a degree of antisemitism (Tom Gross for The Commentator)
- The Guardian’s strange response to antisemitism (Harry’s Place)
- The Guardian acknowledges antisemitism..or does it? (Honest Reporting)
- Guardian Readers’ Editor’s half-hearted apology for antisemitic reporting (Anne’s Opinions)
- UK Guardian owns up to inadvertent cases of antisemitism (Ha’aretz)