How the Guardian’s anti-Zionism inspired a British Jew to make Aliyah (First Person Account)

A guest post by Gordon Shifman

During my last years in England in the last 1970s, every day I would buy both the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. One reason for this was that I read the Guardian as an antidote to the Telegraph’s right-wing basis, and read the Telegraph as an antidote to the Guardian’s antisemitism.

The peak came in a combination of circumstances, and thanks to the Guardian led to me storming off to the Jewish Agency emissary in Manchester:

At the beginning of 1979, the Vietnamese boat people—boatloads of refugees fleeing the communist regime in Vietnam—were a major news item. To its credit, the Daily Telegraph published a leader article, stating that Britain should take in these refugees in order to atone for its having prevented Jews from escaping the Holocaust and reaching Palestine.

Shortly afterwards, the Guardian however chose to publish a front-page article entitled “How Britain Helped the 1948 Jewish Boat People”. The article itself was of course an insidious and utter twisting of the truth, and referred to an episode when the Royal Navy supposedly helped a boatload of Jewish refugees on the their way to Mandatory Palestine.

The facts of the incident reported may actually have been true, but to present the incident as consistent with the overall British policy towards Jewish refugees during that period was completely ahistorical.

I had already become increasingly uneasy about living in a country where many supposedly enlightened people whom I knew gobbled down the hostility directed towards by the Guardian. (I attended an elitist public school, many of whose graduates subsequently took up leading positions in the establishment and the economy). Concurrent with a similar incident at roughly the same time, this distortion was the straw that broke the camel’s back:

I was sitting with my parents in the kitchen one Sunday morning—at the time I was living in North Yorkshire, but visited my parents for the odd weekend—listening to a BBC radio program called “You Don’t Have to be Jewish”. The failure/refusal by the allies/the British to bomb the death camps was under discussion. The reason cited for this refusal was a quote from a Foreign Office document. The text quoted was of course written more elegantly, but the implication was that there would be nowhere for the rescued Jews to go, meaning that they would be a thorn in the side for British foreign policy…. (I have never been able to locate the document in question).

This broadcast and the issue of the Guardian headline led to an argument with a non-Jewish Guardian-reader, a former school friend. He attempted to defend this inaction as being in the interests of the Palestinians (he meant the Arabs; not the Jews), and claimed that out of a perpetually benevolent foreign policy, the British hostilities against the nascent Jewish state (via the Arab Legion, for example) were merely initiated in order to protect the Palestinians. Yes well, British inaction in the face of the Irish famine was of course merely out of solidarity with Irish weight-watchers; the British-initiated Opium War was intended to help the Chinese enjoy the medical benefits of opium.

Anyway, as I was saying, I managed to break down his argument and he conceded that the British inaction/Foreign Office sabotage thereof was intended to ensure that the Jews did not survive. However, he gave the inevitable coup-de-grace to such an argument by complaining that “We don’t like people who stick together”. I will rewrite that:

“We don’t like people who stick together”.

That night, I couldn’t sleep because of this revelation that a supposed friend denied me the very right to existence. The next morning, I resolved to leave England for Israel.

The fact is, the decision to live in Israel had already taken shape in my mind, but not without some considerable trepidation. So yoo-hoo the Guardian, you very kindly gave me the courage to finally leave for Israel!

Editor’s Note:

Shifman was born in London in 1955, went to City of London School, and earned a BA in Russian Studies from Manchester University.

He made Aliyah on July 15th 1979 and, after his IDF service, began working as a freelance writer and translator – which he has done for over 30 years – specializing in translating economics literature from Hebrew to English.

Shifman currently lives in Shoham. 

He also wanted to add that the following clip is what inspired him to contact CiF Watch with his story in the first place.  Writes Shifman about the video:

“The narrator explains that the pilots in the Israel Air Force fly-past above Auschwitz used aerial photographs that were actually taken of the site by the allies. These photographs clearly show the gas chambers, and a stick of bombs right above them. It was explained that when the bombs were dropped, they were actually aimed 3 or 4 kilometers past the site where they appear, in order to allow for airspeed. It was also explained that a single sortie (with the bombs of course dropped 3 or 4 kilometers backed from the site portrayed) would have destroyed the gas chambers. As to claims—as heard in the film clip—that innocent Jews would have been killed in such an attack, the elderly lady speaking in the film next to the IAF officer basically said “sucks”.”


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