CiF readers blast Jonathan Freedland’s critique of Guardian Left orthodoxies on Syria, Iran & Israel

Jonathan Freedland may be the closest thing the Guardian has to a sane, non-ideologically extreme, liberal voice on Israel.

Sure, his views on Israel are closer to the European Left brand of Zionism – convinced, it seems, that peace with the Palestinians would be at hand if not for the obstinate obstructionism of the leadership in Jerusalem, and buying into the leftist chimera of an Israeli democracy under siege – but, from what I’ve read, Freedland seems squarely in the Zionist tent.

Freedland has also not shied away from condemning antisemitism, seemed to acknowledge the malice which drives much anti-Zionist activism and, based on what I hear from those who know him, he is no AsaJew, and seems to identify genuinely, and unapologetically, with the British Jewish community. 

As such, Freedland’s quite heterodox polemic in CiF on Feb. 10, Syria is not Iraq. And, it is not always wrong to intervene, quite clearly bucked Associate Editor Seumas Milne’s “Straight Left” inspired concern for the survival of the Syria-Iran anti-imperial resistance, by arguing that the West should consider intervention to stop the bloodshed in Syria.

Moreover, Freedland launched a broadside on the belief among many on the left – terming it “nonsensical” – held with something approaching religious intensity, that true “progressives” must oppose the use of military force in every case.

Freedland also condemns “similarly blanket thinking on Iran…[which] refuses to recognise there might even be a problem, namely the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon”, and derides their myopic view which “dismisses all talk of the issue as neoconservative warmongering.’

Adds Freedland:

It is natural for Israel to feel threatened by the prospect, given Iran’s rejection of Israel’s right to exist as Israel, and the slogans reportedly daubed on Iranian missiles, promising to wipe the country off the map. Carne Ross says Israel’s security concerns are “entirely legitimate” and that were we in their position, we would be just as worried as they are.

The anti-war camp [which he argues is blinded by Iraq] needs at least to acknowledge the existence of a problem here, that while military action to thwart Iran would have terrifying consequences, so too would an Iranian nuclear weapon. Nor will it do to oppose not just force but every other step the west is taking to prevent a nuclear Iran, including sanctions and sabotage. If anything, the anti-war movement should be the loudest advocate of non-violent alternatives to military action

Of course, as Freedland may have guessed, his over 1000 word missive, so openly challenging Guardian orthodoxy, produced a fury of attacks beneath the line.

Thus far, Freedland’s piece has elicited 888 comments.

Here’s a quick accounting of the most frequently used words:

Israel: 782

Jew: 126

Zionist: 34

Total number of references to Jews , Zionism, or Israel: 942

Syria: 553

Iran: 467

Here is a brief sample of the comments posted below the line thus far:

Freedland is a war-monger (566 Recommends)

Bashar al-Assad inspired conspiracy theory (291 Recommends)

Freedland’s commentary represents a Trojan Horse to furtively advance his Zionist views. Israel would like to see the world destroyed.

Berchmans’: It’s obvious that Syrian rebels are being set up by the West, Saudis, and Israel (41 Recommends)

And, finally, a commenter using the moniker “aljabha”, whose profile includes a photo depicting the Soviet Hammer and Sickle in a Palestinian Flag (A Seumas Milne or PFLP production, no doubt), with the requisite “Zionism is Racism”.

One of my standard quips to folks who aren’t familiar with the degree of anti-Zionism at the Guardian is that the paper makes the New York Times look like  Arutz Sheva.

Similarly, I may have to add that Guardian readers increasingly make Jonathan Freedland look like Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

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