Is ‘OpenDemocracy’ closed to Zionists?

A guest post by Fritz Wunderlich, loyal CiF Watch reader

[Editor’s Note: We often get emails from supporters who ask us to publish posts about antisemitism and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy at newspapers and sites other than the Guardian. While we typically don’t have much time to devote to monitoring other media, Mr. Wunderlich offered to introduce our readers to what he felt was an institutional bias against Israel (and the state’s supporters) at the site, OpenDemocracy, and we agreed.]

OpenDemocracy (OD) is a UK-based “progressive” site for opinion and news about international affairs, politics, and culture. OD was founded in 2000 by Anthony Barnett, David Hayes, Susan Richards and Paul Hilder. OD has been funded by a number of philanthropic organisations, including the Ford Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, and others.

This is not a general assessment of OD, but merely a snapshot meant to address what I feel is OD’s institutional hostility towards Israel and climate of tolerance towards thinly veiled anti-Semitic tropes employed by commenters. While promoting the values of free speech this e-zine often doesn’t hesitate to censor voices which challenge its bias.

To begin with I initially visited OD when I was under the impression that it was another outlet for thoughtful, reasoned debate.  But I soon discovered it was something completely different.

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OD claims to advocate free speech, but not personal abuse.  However, the working reality is different.

In addition to the downright anti-Semitic comments at OD, those who raise objections to the dominant anti-Zionist narrative are often mocked or ridiculed.

When you challenge the dominant Palestinian narrative you’re often called a racist, fascist and so on.  Or, classic anti-Zionist invectives are employed, such as ‘Israel is a colonial power’, ‘terrorism is legitimate resistance’, ‘Israel is an apartheid system’, ‘Zionism is a racist ideology’, and ‘the Jewish state has no moral legitimacy’.

Both the editors at OD, and most commenters, don’t like the concept of nation-state, (especially the Jewish one), at all. However, when I’ve asked why contributors and commenters support Palestinian nationalism, they often respond by arguing that such oppressed people are entitled to be nationalistic under their particular circumstances.

Many commenters consider themselves advocates of all peace seeking Israelis and Palestinians, complain vociferously about racist Zionists and constantly denounce Israel as the main obstacle to peace in the region, a terror state and so on.

Here are a few comments worth noting: (None of these have been deleted by OD moderators.)

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When I comment about anti-Semitism (or simply lies and smears about Zionists) below the line at OD the moderators typically dismiss the complaint and my post is typically deleted while the offensive comments are not. I’ve even written to the editors, which typically elicits a less than serious and thorough response.

Unsurprisingly, OD mainly publishes articles (above the line) criticizing and demonizing Israel, by writers such as (former CiF contributor) Antony Lerman, Paul Pogers, and a Palestinian named Sameh Habeeb. 

Finally, here are some essays at OD by Habeeb, who is the founder of The Palestine Telegraph. If you recall, The Palestine Telegraph made news in 2010 when they posted a video message on their home page by former KKK leader David Duke calling Israel a terrorist state.

(Remarkably, this was too much for even Baroness Jenny Tonge, who subsequently withdrew her patronage of the paper.)

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