Did Robert Fisk just call himself a “bigot”?

It's impossible to get into the mind of Fisk, but it strains credulity to conclude that, after more than 40 years as a journalist, the curmudgeonly anti-Israel reporter is now Semitically 'woke', having had some sort of moral awakening about the toxicity of such 'dual loyalty' canards over the course of twelve months.

Robert Fisk’s latest piece at the Independent (Bernie Sanders could be US president in 2020 – and this is what it means for Israel and the Middle East, Jan. 17) praises the former Democratic Senator and presidential candidate, and takes aim at his critics:

if this liberal intellectual is going to be a serious candidate for 2020, he’s going to meet plenty of latent anti-Semitism in the United States. It took long enough for John Kennedy, the first Catholic American to become president, to shake off the claim that he would be more loyal to the Pope than to America.

Just imagine how Sanders will have to confront the same bigots when they insinuate that he’s more loyal to Israel than to his own country. He’s not – as one television presenter once suggested – a dual national. He’s not an Israeli. He’s the child of Polish Jewish immigrants.

Though Fisk is of course right about the racist nature of the ‘dual loyalty‘ trope, let’s recall a piece he wrote early last year, “(Jared Kushner’s connection to an Israeli business goes without scrutiny – imagine how different it would be if that business was Palestinian, Jan. 11, 2018), that included that very charge.

In the first paragraph of that piece, 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”.

Here’s the paragraph in full:

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. 

In further support of his argument, Fisk then quotes Israeli Meron Benvenisti writing in Haaretz in 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’…”

Though we complained to Indy editors, they refused to amend the article and denied that it was antisemitic.

So, to recap:

  • In Jan. 2018, Fisk questioned the loyalty of Dennis Ross and other Jewish-American peace negotiators, suggesting they can’t be trusted to negotiate fairly with the Palestinians because of their religious background, and mocked accusations of antisemitism against those who engage in such dual loyalty charges.
  • In Jan. 2019, Fisk condemns as “bigoted” those who would accuse a Jewish American government official or politician of dual loyalty.

So, what do we make of this?

Did Fisk ‘forget’ about the article he wrote last year?

Or, is he now implicitly acknowledging his past bigotry?

It’s impossible to get into the mind of Fisk, but it strains credulity to conclude that, after more than 40 years as a journalist, the curmudgeonly anti-Israel reporter is now Semitically ‘woke’, having had some sort of moral awakening about the toxicity of such canards over the course of twelve months.

Whatever his reasons, we’re still of course glad he denounced the charge that Jews are inherently disloyal citizens in the countries where they reside – an antisemitic idea that sadly still often resonates, even within mainstream media circles.

 

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