Owen Jones is an Oxford-educated, millennial Guardian columnist, and self-described socialist and anti-fascist. He was an ardent Jeremy Corbyn supporter who consistently defended the Labour leader and party members who were criticised or suspended over antisemitism. Though he doesn’t seem to know much about antisemitism, the Jewish community or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he, as Ha’aretz journalist Anshel Pfeffer wrote on Twitter, seems to have a “weird obsession with Jews”, and that “nearly every take” of his on these subjects are “wrong and offensive”.
Undeterred, Jones’ latest Guardian op-ed on Israel (“Denied a state, Palestinians are now denied a say in their own future”, Nov. 19) focuses on Keir Starmer’s address to Labour Friends of Israel. Though Jones praises the new Labour leader for condemning “the evil of antisemitism”, he then criticises Starmer for saying he’s a friend of both Israel and Palestine, and for rejecting the “Manichean view of the conflict” in which one side of the conflict is seen as good and the other evil.
By trying to find equivalence, [Starmer] downplayed the human rights issues at hand. He mentioned the killing of Israeli citizens in terror attacks, but only the “daily humiliations, constraints and restrictions” endured by Palestinians, even though 22 times as many Palestinians were killed between 2008 and 2020.
By Jones’ specious moral reasoning, the disparity in Israeli and Palestinian deaths during that time period should in part determine where our sympathies must lie – suggesting, it seems, that if the disparity was reversed, Israel would be more deserving of political support. The fallacy in this logic is that it obscures the fact that it’s not for lack of trying that Palestinian terrorists haven’t killed more Israelis. If antisemitic extremist groups like Hamas had their way, and Israel was less successful at defending its citizens, the Jewish death count would be astronomical.
It’s baffling how any serious commentator could conclude that Israel should be morally penalised for their relative success at preventing deadly attacks. Moreover, Jones’ moral calculus regarding the disparity in deaths doesn’t factor in that Palestinian terrorists usually target Israeli civilians, whilst the IDF targets terrorists.
Jones also falsely characterises Israeli control of the West Bank as “illegal”. Whilst there’s a broad agreement by most countries and international bodies that settlements built in the disputed territories are “illegal”, there is no such legal consensus on the occupation itself. And, in fact, CAMERA and CAMERA UK have prompted corrections at multiple media outlets on this very claim.
Jones then takes aim at Starmer’s opposition, during his speech, to BDS, claiming that the Labour leader’s condemnation of the movement for targeting only the world’s sole Jewish state “echoes claims from Benjamin Netanyahu to the Trump administration that BDS is antisemitic”. But, as we’ve noted previously, it isn’t merely these two former leaders who view BDS as intrinsically antisemitic. In fact, most Jews share this view.
A major EU poll of European Jews (including Britons) conducted in 2018 showed “82% of Jews classed calls by non-Jews to boycott Israel or Israelis as anti-Semitic”, and a poll of British Jews by Campaign Against Antisemitism in 2020 found that “83% felt intimidated by tactics used to boycott Israel”. Polls of US Jews have produced similar results.
Jones then writes:
BDS is a strategy called for by Palestinians that seeks to end the occupation, grant the fifth of Israeli society who are Palestinian equal rights, and achieve justice for Palestinian refugees.
Jones then writes that the “2018 ‘nation state’ law enshrined the inferior rights of Palestinian citizens”, another falsehood. In fact, the president of the left-wing Israeli organisation ‘Israel Democracy Institute’, whilst opposing the law, characterised it as merely “symbolic and educational” with “very little problematic implications”. Jones couldn’t name one political right that Arab citizens of Israel lost as a result of the nation-state law – which is why, in the years since the law was signed, the internationally respected human rights organisation Freedom House has continued to label Israel a free and democratic state.
Here’s the penultimate paragraph in Jones’ op-ed:
Indeed, this refusal to listen to Palestinian voices poses a serious question: if people support a Palestinian homeland, what does the path to it look like? Would a future Labour government tut a little louder about annexations as it continues to arm and back Israel and, if so, what incentive would there be for Israel’s rulers to change course?
Implicit in this paragraph and, in fact, his entire piece, is that blame for the failure to achieve peace between the two parties rests solely on the decisions in Jerusalem. Nothing in his piece even alludes to Palestinian responsibility for the conflict. Erased from the narrative is Hamas’s eliminationist antisemitism and the Palestinian rejection of multiple Israeli peace offers that would have created, for the first time in history, a sovereign Palestinian state.
Here’s one recent example of how the PA indoctrinates its youth to embrace Palestinians who murder Jews: a show aired on a state-controlled TV show for kids, O Children of Our Neighborhood, showing very young children addressing terrorists who killed Israelis as “heroic”. (Palestinian Media Watch has translated hundreds of such videos)
In Jones’ world, Palestinians aren’t adults in possession of agency, but are solely victims – standard liberal racism peddled by Guardian commentators, most of whom know little of what they speak, yet fancy themselves moral authorities on the sins of Israel and, by extension, Jews.