Thoughts on the Guardian while at the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism

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Along with my CAMERA colleagues, I’ve been participating in the Global Forum for Combating Antisemtism, a three-day conference in Jerusalem organized to allow activists from around the world the opportunity to strategize on best practices in combating the various manifestations of anti-Jewish racism.

During one of the plenary sessions, I was able to ask Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch if he could shed some light on a phenomenon addressed often at this blog: the Guardian’s consistent failure, when reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, to report on the pervasive  antisemitism within the Arab and Muslim Middle East – what we’ve characterized as their glaring antisemitic sins of omission.

Marcus replied to my query concerning the putatively liberal media group’s silence in the face of such bigotry by suggesting that Guardian contributors may find it easier to accept the ‘grievance excuse’ rather than acknowledging the existence of hateful, violent ideologies.  Those who embrace the ‘grievance excuse’ argue, with varying degrees of explicitness, that it is indeed Jewish (or Israeli) behavior which often incites anti-Jewish racism and violence.

One moral corollary of the grievance excuse for antisemitism pertains to the similar tendency to contextualize terrorist attacks by radicalized Muslim citizens of Western countries  as understandable responses to U.S. or UK foreign policy – a narrative advanced, among others, by Glenn Greenwald, Seumas Milne and Rachel Shabi.  

Though the lethal terror attack against Lee Rigby in London by Michael Adebowale did not have an antisemitic component, the failure by these Guardian commentators to deal honestly with the extremist, reactionary interpretation of Islam which inspired his unimaginable savagery follows the same antisemitic logic, denying moral agency to the perpetrator while demanding a moral accounting from the victim.

‘Jews’, the Israeli Holocaust Studies professor Yehuda Bauer insisted during his keynote speech at the Forum, just a few minutes ago, “don’t cause antisemitism’.  ‘Only antisemitic logic and ideology causes antisemitism’, he declared.

While we should acknowledge our inability to know with any degree of certainty whether Judeophobia haunts the thoughts of the Guardian contributors we scrutinize, the intellectual poverty which feeds their polemical obfuscations and moral abdications in the face of even the most grotesque expressions of Jew hatred is undeniable, and shameful.

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