An op-ed at The Independent by their Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk (Jared Kushner’s connection to an Israeli business goes without scrutiny – imagine how different it would be if that business was Palestinian, Jan. 11) includes the suggestion that American Jews working in the White House as Mid-East peace negotiators would be more loyal to Israel than to their own government.  

Robert Fisk

In the first paragraph, Fisk expresses concern that “the four principle US peacemakers” under Bill Clinton “were all Jewish Americans” and derides as fanciful “the myth that American peacemaking in the Middle East was even-handed, neutral, uninfluenced by the religion or political background or business activities of the peacemakers”.

There was a time when we all went along with the myth that American peacemaking in the Middle East was even-handed, neutral, uninfluenced by the religion or political background or business activities of the peacemakers. Even when, during the Clinton administration, the four principle US “peacemakers” were all Jewish Americans – their lead negotiator, Dennis Ross, a former prominent staff member of the most powerful Israeli lobby group, Aipac (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) – the Western press scarcely mentioned this. 

(Fisk actually gets a detail wrong. Whilst most of Clinton’s Mid-East peace advisers – Dennis Ross, Aaron David Miller, Robert Malley and Daniel Kurtzer – were indeed Jewish, one, Gamal Helal, was Arab.)

In further support of his argument, Fisk then quotes Israeli Meron Benvenisti writing, in Haaretz in July 1993, that “it is hard to ignore the fact that manipulation of the peace process was entrusted by the US in the first place to American Jews…” and warning of “the tremendous influence of the Jewish establishment on the Clinton administration”.

Fisk then adds:

But lest they be accused of antisemitism, said Benvenisti, the Palestinians “cannot, God forbid, talk about Clinton’s ‘Jewish connection’…”

Of course, whether you’re a Jew like Benvenisti, or a non-Jew like Fisk, complaining that Clinton’s Mid-East peace advisers are Jews, and warning of the undue influence these Jews have on the US President, is the definition of antisemitism.

Whilst Fisk’s criticism of Ross’s AIPAC connections is legitimate (as are questions about Jared Kushner’s Israeli financial and business ties), questioning the loyalty of Ross and the other Jewish peace negotiators – suggesting they can’t be trusted to negotiate fairly with the Palestinians because of their faith – crosses the line.

The “dual loyalty” charge is codified as antisemitic by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Antisemitism which was adopted by the British government. Here’s the relevant section:

Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

As CST wrote, “the ‘dual loyalty charge is one of the oldest antisemitic canards” – one, we believe, that is inherently inconsistent with the values of any respectable media organisation. 

We’ve complained to Indy editors about Fisk’s evocation of this toxic calumny, but haven’t yet received a reply.