Guardian reviews of ‘Homeland’ reveal failure to understand antisemitic motives of extremists

The U.S. drama ‘Homeland’, based on the Israeli series Hatufim, was the subject of a column by Peter Beaumont on Oct. 13.  The series stars Claire Danes as a CIA officer who believes that a U.S. Marine held captive by Al-Qaeda as a POW was turned by the enemy and now threatens the U.S.

Though the show has received much critical acclaim, Beaumont (foreign affairs editor of the Observer, sister publication of the Guardian) published a piece, ‘Homeland is brilliant drama but does it present a crude image of Muslims, expressing a dissenting view.

Beaumont found the show’s depictions of Muslims “crude, childish, offensive” and “Islamophobic” which he blamed in part on the fact that the show was “rooted in its genesis as an Israeli drama, where the view of the surrounding neighborhood is more paranoid and defensive.”

Similarly, the Guardian’s Middle East editor, Ian Black, was also offended by the show. In ‘Homeland: does it give an accurate picture of Middle East politics?‘, Oct. 25, Black sums up his concerns, thus:

“Homeland purports to portray a nuanced version of the “war on terror” but the story is still told through a national security prism and (as Peter Beaumont pointed out recently in the Observer) with more than a touch of Islamophobia — from Brody’s badly pronounced “Allahu Akbar” while praying secretly in his garage, to the portrayal of all the Muslim characters as devious and cruel.

Strikingly, the cast has not (yet) included any Palestinians – important players in the contemporary Middle East. Like it or not their grievances are highly relevant to Arab/Muslim hostility to Israel and its US protectors. You don’t have to be Abu Nazir to observe that neither are simply the passive victims of evil and motiveless terrorists.”

In Beaumont’s narrative, Israelis possess a large degree of paranoia about Muslims, irrational hostility which arguably informs and influences the Islamophobia present in the American show.  And, for Black, the show’s failure stems from the absence of context which would instruct the viewer that Arab/Muslim violence can be explained, in large part, by legitimate Palestinian grievances against Israel.

Both Beaumont and Black illustrate the most glaring antisemitic habit present on the Guardian Left: the failure to take modern Jew hatred, manifested in Judeophobic propaganda throughout the Arab/Muslim world, or in terror attacks against Jewish targets, seriously as an unjustifiable form of racism.

The reason why the obscene, often demonic, portrayal of Jews – seen routinely in Arab and Muslim newspapers, caricatures, websites, TV news, films and educational materials – is almost never reported by the Guardian is arguably related to their belief that such hatred stems not from traditional antisemitism, but is merely a reaction to the politics of the Jewish state. 

The narrative which ties global antisemitism to Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians, which has its roots in the far left, has tragically found fertile ground within the mainstream left, and among Western policy makers.

Speaking at a Jewish conference on antisemitism organized by the European Jewish Union (EJU) last December, Howard Gutman, the US Ambassador to Belgium, argued that a distinction should be made between traditional antisemitism, which should be condemned, and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Gutman’s stunning moral logic – echoing narratives advanced in the Guardian – posits that the West must be careful not to impute Jew hatred to Muslims in the Middle East whose animosity towards Jews may be merely informed by anti-Zionism.

Such rationales would suggest that demonic depictions of Jews, the belief in Jewish global conspiracies, Holocaust denial and blood libels should not be condemned as dangerous signs of cultural pathogens which evoke the darkest periods in antisemitic history, but, rather, should be contextualized – their “root causes” understood and rationalized.  

It’s as if imputing antisemitism to Muslims who express hatred towards Jews either demonstrates a lack of political sophistication or could even itself suggest a form of ‘Islamophobia’. 

Nobody with a good understanding of the history of antisemitism should be surprised that, once again, antisemitism has found fertile ground.

What is surprising, however, is that many of the most highly educated Western elites fail to understand the most fundamental lesson of centuries of anti-Judaism and antisemitism (and indeed on all forms of racism): that such hatred is always a commentary on the haters – their moral and intellectual failures – and never on the object of such hate.

In every generation there are those who find new reasons to engage in antisemitism, and there are those who will invariably argue that, this time, such hostility towards Jews may be justified – insidiously asking the question, in one form or another, “What have Jews done to make people hate them so much”?

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