Written by Gilead Ini, with research assistance from CAMERA Arabic
It was in July 2019 that the Guardian published a letter, said to have been signed by more than 100 “prominent members of the Jewish community,” about the antisemitism crisis roiling the British Labour party.
The letter didn’t take issue with the antisemitism itself. Rather, it criticized those raising concerns about the problem. Casting opponents of antisemitism as the real villains, the co-signers charged the mainstream British Jewish community and its allies with using the guise of fighting antisemitism to “undermine not only the Labour party’s leadership but also all pro-Palestinian members.”
It was also in July 2019 that the Guardian pulled the letter from its website.
The signatories, it turned out, included hardcore antisemites, defenders of hardcore antisemites, collaborators with hardcore antisemites, non-Jews posing as Jews, and people purporting to speak for respected organizations without authorization. One signer, Michael Morgan, had previously accused Jews of pedophilia, blamed wars on Jewish financiers, charged Jews with deicide, laughed at the expulsion of Jews, and referred to Zionists as animals to be exterminated.
It was a fiasco.
Or, in Guardian speak, there were “errors in the list of signatories provided.”
One might expect the incident to have left Guardian editors somewhat chastened. Before publishing another letter lecturing the Jewish community about antisemitism, surely they would pause, if only long enough to ensure the signers have credibility and authority on the topic.
On Nov. 29, 2020, about a year and a half after its bungled letter, the Guardian ran a similar letter by “122 Palestinian and Arab academics, journalists and intellectuals,” which again took aim at those leading the fight against antisemitism. This letter focused its ire on a working definition of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which has been endorsed by a number of countries and organizations. In an echo of the earlier letter, the new one suggested that this definition of antisemitism, drawn up by Jewish experts, is used as a “stratagem” to harm Palestinians.
CAMERA UK addressed the content of the second letter elsewhere.
Here, with the help of CAMERA’s Arabic department, we take a closer look at some of the signers to reveal that, yet again, the Guardian allowed people who have disseminated, defended, and denied antisemitism to talk over the Jewish community on the topic and to accuse those genuinely concerned with antisemitism of malfeasance.
In recent years, signers of the Guardian letter had accused Jews of dual loyalty; of using their control over the media and banks to manipulate others; of “whining” about the Holocaust and pedaling “fairy tales” about the Final Solution; and of being part of a “pampered religion.” They had celebrated terrorists who targeted and murdered innocent Jewish civilians. And they had excused those responsible for vile antisemitism, including the claim that Jews use Christiadn blood in their rituals, Holocaust denial, and calls to “kill the Jews.”
- Subhi Hadidi: Jews forever disloyal to home countries
One co-signer, Subhi Hadidi, justified the persecution of Jews living in the Arab world by insisting their expulsion underscored a “higher truth”: that Jews are disloyal and insular.
In the London-based newspaper al–Quds al–Arabi, Hadidi took issue with historian Geoffrey Alderman’s criticism of the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab lands. It seems Alderman placed blame on the wrong side. The expulsions, Hadidi wrote, were “a textbook case of a greater truth: the failure of most Jewish communities to assimilate into any national culture, their unwillingness to meet a high or sufficient standard of citizenship sense and participation in society, and raising [their] loyalty to Israel, even before it was born, above all loyalties.”
The charge of dual loyalties is something of a habit for Hadidi. After the US ambassador to Israel criticized Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas for saying the Holocaust was provoked by the Jewish role in society — “usury and banking and such” —Hadidi insisted the real reason for the ambassador’s criticism was that the he was “a Jew before he is an American.” He has also cast Judaism in general as being pampered — in his words “a very spoiled [religion] on a global scale.”Despite this history of flagrant antisemitism, the Guardian felt it was appropriate for him to instruct readers on what is and isn’t appropriate language about Jews.
- Mohamed Alyahyai: “Jewish media machine” abuses Holocaust
Hadidi is hardly the only hen-house guard that looks suspiciously foxy.
Mohamed Alyahyai, another co-signer of the letter, has blamed the “Jewish media machine” for planting guilt in European minds about the Holocaust.
- Ali Fakhrou: Jewish “whining” about Holocaust includes lies, fairy tales, exaggerations.
Ali Fakhrou, a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, has taken such arguments even farther. If his co-signer Hadidi insisted the persecution of Jews in the Arab world is the fault of the Jews themselves, Fakhrou flatly denied any such mistreatment occurred, writing in al-Quds al-‘Arabi of a “false Zionist claim that the Arab Jews were persecuted.”
And just as co-signer Alyahyai charged the Jews with running the media and misusing the Holocaust, so too did Fakhrou, who expanded on the argument by raising doubts about Holocaust historiography.
In response to the conviction of a Holocaust denier in Germany, Fakhrou railed about “the Zionist media and financial octopus, which has been spectacularly successful at blackmailing the conscience of the Western societies and casting them into a pit of guilt, fear, and humiliated begging.” (Translation by MEMRI.)
Perhaps Fakhrou is so animated by the conviction of a Holocaust denier because he sees him as a kindred spirit. The Jews, he argued in his piece, aren’t merely guilty of blackmail with all their droning about the Holocaust, but worse, blackmail reliant on “myths, exaggerations, and crocodile tears.” We need to “expose the lies and fairy tales used by the Zionists to blackmail the world,” Fakhrou argued.
Fakhrou is careful to note that there was indeed something called a Holocaust. But whatever it actually involved, it wasn’t nearly as bad as what Jews are doing today. The “Zio-Nazi Holocaust in the lands of occupied Palestine,” he wrote, is “worse than” the Nazi treatment of Jews. The descendants of Holocaust survivors “have no right to speak so opportunistically and brazenly” about antisemitism and the Holocaust because they perpetrate similar crimes today throughout Arab and Muslim lands, “in an even more barbarous and terroristic manner” than the Nazis, he continued.
Which leads us to his motivation in signing the Guardian letter: Fahkrou wants to inform the world that although the Jews “whine” about the Holocaust, they are in fact the new Nazis: The Jews’ whining over an episode of history that has come and gone, and what they [themselves] are doing today to the Palestinian victims, should be the topic of an Arab campaign addressing the Western world.
In the shadow of such hateful rhetoric, it’s easy to miss that Fakhrou doesn’t understand (or at least doesn’t want his readers to understand) even the definition of antisemitism. The word was coined centuries ago to describe hostility to Jews, and today means the same. But Fakhrou redefined the term entirely when accusing the Zionists of “antisemitism against Arabs and Muslims everywhere.
In short, the man presented by the Guardian as an authority on antisemitism not only dubbed Jewish accounts of the Holocaust “fairy tales,” and not only engaged in Holocaust inversion — the charge that Jews are the new Nazis, which Deborah Lipstadt has described as a form of “soft-core [Holocaust] denial” that “lessens by a factor of a zillion what the Germans did” — but seems ignorant even of the basic meaning of antisemitism.
- Lakhdar Ibrahimi: More Holocaust inversion and Jewish control
Another signer of the Guardian letter, Lakhdar Ibrahimi, flirted with Holocaust inversion when parroting the charge that Israel has put Gazans into “concentration camp.” And like many of his co–signers, he sees Jewish power in control of world governments, charging the “Jewish lobby” and “Zionist lobby” – he uses the terms interchangeably – with “real control” over American politics.
- Hassan Nafaa: Jews not from Judea, but Yemen?
Co-signer Hassan Nafaa, meanwhile, pedaled fabricated versions of Jewish history when he approvingly quoted a “researcher” who argued that biblical Jerusalem was not in the Holy Land, but rather in Yemen.
Naffaa has also sought to inflame readers by pedaling falsehoods about Jews. In an August 2019 article, he claimed that Jews visiting the Temple Mount for the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av went on a violent rampage against Muslim worshipers. “Jewish settlers,” he insisted, “stormed” the site and “assaulted the worshipers, spreading terror and chaos everywhere.” Such claims have frequently been used to incite attacks on Jews.
But according to the Associated Press, it was the Jews who were attacked.
“Large numbers of Palestinians had gathered at the gates of the compound early Sunday after rumors circulated that police would allow Jewish visitors to enter the site,” AP reported. “The protesters chanted ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest) and threw stones at police,” who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. When Jews were then allowed to visit, “Muslim worshippers began throwing chairs and other objects at the group. The Jewish visitors left the compound shortly thereafter.”
Nafaa has absurdly claimed, too, that every Israeli government from the founding of the country until today has insisted on “rebuilding the ‘Temple of Solomon’ on the ruins of Al-Aqsa Mosque,” echoing another libel that has historically led to anti-Jewish violence.
ON ANTI-JEWISH VIOLENCE
Other signers of the Guardian letter have defended the murderers of Jewish civilians, or even expressed support for the killers.
- Rana Barakat: 1929 anti-Jewish massacres were “resistance”
Rana Barakat, for example, recently authored an elaborate defense of those who led brutal attacks on Jews during the infamous 1929 massacres in Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed. The British High Commissioner at the time described the Arab attacks, which claimed 133 Jewish lives, as “savage murders perpetrated upon defenceless members of the Jewish population regardless of age or sex.” That they were. But in her extenuation of those convicted for their participation in the killing spree, and specifically three Palestinians sentenced to death for what the British described as “particularly brutal murders,” Barakat took care to avoid the word massacre and entirely concealed the overarching context of indiscriminate Arab attacks on Jewish neighborhoods and homes.
Instead, she referred to the slaughters of Jewish men, women, and children as “resistance,” stated that the ringleaders of the attacks became “martyrs,” and lamented their convictions as a part of the “criminalization of resistance.” Although the piece was freely critical of “brutal” British attempts to end the massacres, and of Jewish “provocations” that preceded the attacks, the author couldn’t spare a single word of criticism for the wholesale slaughter of innocent Jews.
- Haidar Eid: A serenade for the killer of septuagenarians
While Barkat’s advocacy for those guilty of anti-Jewish hate crimes took the form of an academic paper, Haidar Eid, another co-author of the Guardian letter, didn’t bother with such formalities. The Gaza professor instead performed a song to commemorate a Palestinian who murdered Jewish civilians.
The assailant, Bahaa Alian, entered a Jerusalem city bus and along with an accomplice killed three Jews, including a 78-year-old and a 76-year-old, before security officials shot him down. Eid’s tribute to the killer was made into a music video and uploaded to the internet by an organization founded by the professor.
Eid has also struck an ominous tone about the future fate of Jews in Israel. “We will bury Zionism sooner or later,” he wrote on Facebook, and when that happens the world “will beg us to be generous and merciful.” Would they show mercy? He avoided saying so, suggesting instead that the vanquished would deserve whatever they had coming. Merciful, he abruptly concluded, “is exactly what Zionist are NOT!”
- Fawwaz Traboulsi: Honoring a child-killer
Co-signer Fawwaz Traboulsi picked a particularly notorious terrorist to honor as a “martyr.”
Samir Kuntar is best known in Israel for infiltrating the country, kidnapping a 4-year-old girl, shooting her father before her eyes, and bludgeoning her to death. “He smashed my little girl’s skull in against a rock with his rifle butt,” the mother and wife later recounted. But after Kuntar was later killed in a rocket attack while working for the terror group Hezbollah, Traboulsi insisted he should be regarded as a “martyr of the Lebanese national resistance.”
- Elias Khoury: Terror spree was a “most wonderful heroic adventure.”
Co-signer Elias Khoury offered an even warmer tribute for Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who took part in the 1978 “Coastal Road Massacre,” the worst terror attack in Israeli history. Mughrabi, who infiltrated Israeli from Lebanon as part of a larger terror squad, set off the carnage when she murdered Gail Rubin, an American photographer taking nature photos on the beach. The terrorists then hijacked two busses, opened fire and threw grenades at passing cars, and engaged in a shoot-out with Israeli police officers who stopped the bus. In all, the attack claimed the lives of 38 civilians including 13 children.
Khoury, though, insisted Mughrabi should be praised for her “high revolutionary morals” and be seen as a “beacon of light.” She is the “rose of Palestine” who took part in the “most wonderful heroic adventured in the history of the resistance,” he wrote elsewhere, calling the deadly attack “a lesson to learn from and be inspired by.”
BLINDNESS TO ANTISEMITISM
- Leila Shahid defended Al Manar, Hezbollah’s propaganda television station, saying she “did not notice hatred in the programs.”
Her comment came only a month after the station charged “Zionists” with spreading AIDS across the Arab world, and several months after it depicted Jews as conspiring to rule the world and using the blood of Christian children to bake Passover matza.
Subhi Hadidi, who had written that Jews are spoiled and guilty of dual loyalty, doesn’t even regard Holocaust revisionism is antisemitic.
In a 2018 blog post, Hadid insisted that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas “is the last person to whom antisemitism can be ascribed.” To exculpate Abbas, Hadidi incredibly pointed to an interview in which the Palestinian president stood by his doctoral dissertation, which denied the use of gas chambers to kill Jews, argued the figure of six million Jews killed was a “fantastic lie,” and suggested the real number might be less than one million.
Here are Abbas’s words from the interview as Hadidi recounts them:
I have written in detail about the Holocaust, and indicated that I do not wish to get into digits and numbers. I quoted a controversy among historians, where one of them said that the number is 12 million [Holocaust] victims, and another said that it [only] reached 800 thousands. I have no desire to debate [these] numbers, this is [nevertheless] an unforgivable crime against the Jewish people and against humanity. The Holocaust is a terrible thing, and no one can say that I denied the Holocaust.
Again: Hadidi, whom the Guardian platformed as an authority on antisemitism, pointed to Abbas’s Holocaust revisionism as proof that the man is not antisemitic.
- Khaled Hroub aimed higher, casting doubt on the antisemitism of one of the most notorious antisemites from the Arab world, Amin al Husseini.
Husseini, the Palestinian “Grand Mufti,” allied himself with Nazis, met with Adolf Hitler, and was close with Heinrich Himmler. During the Holocaust he based himself in Berlin, from where he broadcast over shortwave radio vile anti-Jewish propaganda. Jews, he said on the air, “lived like a sponge among peoples, sucked their blood, seized their property, undermined their morals.”
His broadcasts included explicit calls for genocide: “Kill the Jews wherever you find them,” Husseini told his listeners in the Arab world.
But Hroub pooh-poohed all this.
In a piece (correctly) rebutting the idea that Husseini convinced Hitler to exterminate the Jews, Hroub went on to cast doubt on Husseini’s intimate ties with Nazism by writing of an “alleged” alliance between Husseini and Hitler, referencing the “supposed” consultations between Husseini and Nazi leaders, and insinuating Husseini’s innocence by stating, for the sake of argument alone, that “even if we assume” Husseini supported the extermination of the Jews, it would be of little consequence to history.
In fact, Husseini not only supported the genocide — “Germany decided to find a final solution to the Jewish menace, which will end this misfortune in the world,” he approvingly said in a 1943 speech — but as noted above, he himself called for the extermination of Jews.
In his detailed defense of Husseini, Hroub appeared altogether unbothered by mufti’s antisemitism.
To the contrary, he implied the Palestinian leader was innocent by calling him, in the harshest criticism he could muster, “naïve.” And he falsely claimed that the overlap in values between Husseini and the Nazis was limited to a shared opposition to the British. Husseini had made clear otherwise, including when he stated that “in the struggle against Jewry, Islam and National Socialism come very close to one another.”
This isn’t the only example of Hroub’s indifferent to antisemitism.
He and some other signers of the Guardian letter — Elias Khoury, Ali Fakhrou, and Gilbert Achcar — are frequent columnists for the newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi, which regularly publishes egregiously antisemitic cartoons. One recent example depicts the warming of relations between Arab countries and Israel as a betrayal of an Islamic religious text that calls for the killing of Jews.
(“And the rocks and trees will cry out: ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him,’” reads the text.)
Achcar’s columns on more than one occasion appeared directly alongside cartoons that, in an echo of old anti-Jewish tropes, depict Netanyahu as a literal puppet–master who controls the American president. Did the signers protest these cartoons as vigorously as which they protested the IHRA definition of antisemitism? Did they protest at all?
It’s not hard to understand why so many of the signers would want to control the definition of antisemitism, and malign those who fight the hatred as pursuing a bad-faith “stratagem.”
Among their ranks are people who have openly charged Jews with disloyalty to their countries, with manipulating the world through a “Jewish media machine,” with “whining” and “lying” about the Holocaust, with behaving worse than the Nazis; people who described a slaughter of innocent Jews in 1929 as “resistance” and the murderer of a four-year-old Jewish girl as a “martyr,” who sang a commemoration for the murderer of Jewish septuagenarians, and who described the killer of an American Jew and a dozen Israeli children as a “beacon of light”; who defended a television station that revived the anti-Jewish blood libel, defended anti-Jewish incitement in textbooks, defended Holocaust revisionism, and shrugged at the man who called on people to “kill the Jews wherever you find them.”
It is clearly their interest to discredit those who might eventually shine a spotlight on their own contributions to “the oldest hatred.” Perhaps the Guardian’s editors should explain what motivates them, year after year, to offer its platform to such people.