The Independent apologises for Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s “mortifying blunder”.

Ken Loach (far right) attacking Israel, Israelis and Ben Gurion at Amnesty International in 2010
Ken Loach (far right) attacking Israel, Israelis and Ben Gurion at Amnesty International in 2010

Posted by Richard Millett

The Independent has apologised for mistakes in Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s article Fling mud if you must, but don’t call Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite in last week’s Independent (read our piece about it here). Lizzie Kirkwood, the Independent’s Readers’ Liaison Assistant, wrote in response to my email to the Indy:

“I am sorry you felt that Yasmin Alibhai Brown’s piece was inaccurate. In regard to your first point that Ms Brown ‘intimates that the Jewish Chronicle called Jeremy Corbyn “anti-Semitic”’ – to clarify, she doesn’t actually state in the piece that the Chronicle has called him ‘anti-Semitic’. It is clearly her analysis that the sum of their repeated criticisms and warnings about Mr Corbyn should he become Labour leader amounts to the fact that she believes they regard him as possessing anti-Semitic sentiments due to his associations with certain individuals. As such, I do not believe that we need to amend this aspect of the piece.

However, in regard to your second and third points – you are correct about both. We have amended the text to clarify who exactly expressed that point about Carlos Latuff in the Jewish Daily Forward. The third point is slightly more embarrassing – you are quite right that Ken Loach is not Jewish. Ms Brown was in fact referring to Mike Leigh. I can only apologise for this rather mortifying blunder, and I am grateful to you for bringing it to our attention.”

On the first point even the heading of her article Fling mud if you must, but don’t call Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite suggests that Alibhai-Brown is making just that accusation. Alibhai-Brown then writes: “Is Jeremy Corbyn the enemy of Israel and British Jews? That is what the The Jewish Chronicle, some MPs and various sections of the media would have us believe”.

Surely, “the enemy of British Jews” is as close as you can get to accusing someone of claiming Corbyn is “anti-Semitic” without directly calling Corbyn “anti-semitic”, but point taken.

The second point is straightforward and needs no more comment apart from the fact that Alibhai-Brown’s reliance on Wikipedia for her article shows a lack of professionalism. The first advice to any student writing an essay or dissertation is to not rely on Wikipedia.

As for the third point, Alibhai-Brown confusing Leigh and Loach isn’t really the main issue here. It’s sad that Alibhai-Brown seeks to divide Jews in to Good Jews and Bad Jews at all; if some Jews accord with her views on Israel then they are “Good” or, as she put it in her article, “conscientious and ethical British Jews”. If they don’t then the presumption is they aren’t.

I can understand why Alibhai-Brown had Loach on her mind though after I had the displeasure of witnessing him in action at Amnesty International in 2010. He challenged Israel’s existence because it was based on race, made a subtle comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany, accused Jewish settlers of polluting Palestinian vineyards with their effluence and quoted Ben Gurion out of context to make him look like a monster prepared to sacrifice the lives of Jewish children.

Meanwhile, no one should be targeted because of their race or religion the way Alibhai-Brown targets certain Jews. And the less she did that and the less she relied on Wikipedia the less mortifying blunders she would make in future.

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