Guardian evokes ‘Bibi puppeteer’ controlling Trump’s policy towards Iran

The trope in the Guardian/Observer editorial concerning Israeli puppeteers controlling the foreign policy of a US president is based on toxic historical calumnies about the Jewish people, and in fact is characterised as antisemitic by the Working Definition on Antisemitism recently adopted by the UK government.

An official editorial in The Observer – sister site of the Guardian – focused on President Trump’s recent visit to the Middle East (The Observer view on Donald Trump’s Middle East visit, May 28th).  The editorial was, unsurprisingly, highly critical of the US president’s performance, but also somehow managed to tie in Israel in to one component of Trump’s views on the region – concerning the threat posed by Iran.

Here are the relevant paragraphs:

Ignoring the fact that most of the region’s terror victims, for example in Iraq, are Shias, ignoring the reality that both al-Qaida and Islamic State are hardline Sunni groups and ignoring Saudi complicity in the spread of extremist beliefs, Trump chose instead to direct his fire at Shia Iran. All “nations of conscience”, he said, should band together to isolate Iran and “pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve”.

Does Trump understand what he is saying? Was he aware that days before he spoke, Iran held nationwide, democratic polls and re-elected a reformist president? Does he really believe that Iran, not Isis, is the foremost sponsor of terrorism? 

First, if Trump “really” believes that Iran is the foremost sponsor of terrorism, that’s because this is precisely what the most recent US State Department Report on Terrorism in fact concludes that “Iran remained the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in 2015, providing a range of support, including financial, training, and equipment, to groups around the world – particularly Hizballah”. 

The Observer editorial then  suggested that Trump’s view on Iran’s involvement in global terror may have a foreign root cause.

Or is he responding blindly to middle America’s perennial need for international bogeymen, to his own irrational hatred of Obama’s landmark nuclear deal and to overstated Saudi and Israeli fears? Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s fiercely anti-Iran prime minister, must be in the running for string-puller of the year. Trump is a bit big to be a puppet but he certainly acts like one at times.

Readers of this blog would of course recall that this odious suggestion, that Israeli and or Jewish politicians pull the strings of US foreign policy, was criticised by the Guardian’s own readers’ editor following the publication of this 2012 cartoon by Steve Bell.

The Guardian’s then readers’ editor Chris Elliott wrote, in response to criticism of the cartoon, that “the image of Jews having a disproportionate influence over the US and British governments” has a clear antisemitic history.  He concluded by cautioning Guardian journalists and cartoonists to avoid the language (including but not limited to visual language) of antisemitic stereotypes in the future.  (Note also that such narratives evoking the idea of Jewish control over non-Jewish world leaders are considered antisemitic under the Working Definition of Antisemitism recently adopted by the British government.)

The text in The Observer editorial may not pack the same emotional punch as the imagery in the Bell cartoon, but the tropes within the former – based on historical calumnies about the Jewish people – are no less offensive than the latter.  We have lodged a complaint with The Observer readers’ editor and will update this post when we receive a reply.

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