In her op-ed published at the i newspaper (“Our fear of criticising Israel makes us complicit in a devastating year of Palestinian suffering”, Dec. 20), columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown begins with the conceit that it’s brave – and, evidently, rare – to vilify Israel in the British media.
I am on edge as I write this. Like other journalists, I know the invective that will come my way. There will be attempts to smear me and some invitations will be cancelled. It happens every time I write on Israel’s systemic oppression of Palestinian people.
Here are a few examples:
In a 2006 Independent op-ed, she claimed that Israel’s war against Hezbollah was motivated primarily by (Nazi-style) racism against Arabs, and further decried “hardened Zionists” who are so blinded by this hatred that they’re “unmoved by photos of dead infants in Beirut”.
At the Independent in 2014, she attacked “hardline Zionists”, accusing them of engaging in “paranoia, indiscriminate loyalty and odium towards any person or group opposed to Israel’s violent oppression of Palestinians”. She also seemed to compare jihadist attacks with the actions of the IDF, and accused Israel of engaging in something akin to genocide.
In a 2015 op-ed in the Independent op-ed titled “Fling mud if you must, but don’t call Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite”, the columnist defended both Corbyn and antisemitic cartoonist Carlos Latuff, and wrote the that “The right, Blairites and hard Zionists have formed the most unholy of alliances to slay the reputation of the next likely leader of the Labour Party.”
In 2016, at the i newspaper, she wrote about “rampant censorship” in Britain, decrying “hardline Zionists” as an example of “minority communities” that “can be authoritarian and frighteningly controlling”.
Here are a few tweets by the journalist to provide more context:
In 2014, she tweeted the following, holding Jews responsible for the actions of Israel during their war with Hamas, the terror group proscirbed by the British government.
Should we not be asking non-extremist rabbis to condemn Israel's massacres? And British Jews who I know are appalled, to protest en masse?
— Yasmin alibhai-brown (@y_alibhai) July 25, 2014
A few days later, she evoked the antisemitic Israel-Nazi analogy and the blood libel:
Jews were massacred by Nazis & good Germans did nothing. Now Israel massacres Gaza infants & good Israelis do nothing. Wrong lessons learnt.
— Yasmin alibhai-brown (@y_alibhai) July 31, 2014
Despite this record of venom, which we’ve called out on these pages, she’s never – fromwhat we can tell – been ‘cancelled’ in any sense of the word. In fact, she’s a respected member of the journalist elite, and was even awarded Broadsheet Columnist of the Year at the 2017 Press Awards.
— i newspaper (@theipaper) March 15, 2017
The fear of such backlashes, she claims in today’s op-ed, is the reason why “much of the media is wary of covering what has been the deadliest year for Palestinians since 2015″, which suggests that she’s never so much as glanced at the Israel page of the Guardian.
However, to the degree that she’s not published more often on the issue of Israel, it may have more to do with her evident disregard for the principle of accuracy. For instance, she complains, in her column, that Israel deported the French-Palestinian human rights lawyer, Salah Hamouri”, but omits that he was convicted of plotting to assassinate a prominent Israeli rabbi, and belonged to a proscribed terror group.
In another paragraph she commends the “beautiful new Netflix film, Farha” which “tells the story of a 14-year-old Palestinian girl living through the Nakba in 1948”, but fails to note that the film, which includes a scene depicting Jewish soldiers murdering Palestinian children, is a work of fiction. Alibhai-Brown also claims that “hardline Zionists want the film banned”, when no such ‘Zionist campaign’ to “ban” the film exists. Even the most anti-Zionist sites have only cited Israel’s (“unfair”) criticism of the film.
She later writes that “Arab friends tell me photographs and written testimonies [of the Nakba] are being destroyed by Israel, because Israeli right-wingers want to uphold the myth that the land it is occupying has always belonged to Jewish people”, hearsay which she doesn’t bother backing up with a source.
Later in the op-ed, she alleges that “the Israeli government believes it can do whatever it chooses because worthy individuals and international bodies do not hold it to account”, ignoring that the UN and UN Human Rights Council are both obsessively critical of Israel.
Since 2015, there have been 125 condemnatory resolutions against Israel at the UN General Assembly, more than the combined total of all other country-specific condemnatory resolutions. And, since 2006, there have been 99 condemnatory resolutions against Israel at the UN Human Rights Council, more than the combined total of all other country-specific condemnatory resolutions.
Let’s also not forget the ongoing investigation by UN’s new Commission of Inquiry, which has been given a wide-open mandate with no time limit in order to investigate Israeli “crimes”. The COI, wrote CAMERA’s David Litman, was gifted a budget of $11,812,700 for just the first three years, and $5,475,600 for each subsequent year, and “continues the tradition of creating slanted inquisitions that predetermine the results” of the “investigation.”
Alibahi-Brown later risibly complains that Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh, killed last May, hasn’t been given the same “respect and honour” given to other slain journalists, before noting that Abu Akleh’s family and Al-Jazeera submitted a complaint to the International Criminal Court. It is “a bold move”, she writes, before expressing her “fear” that “Israel is above international law and, in Britain, more influential than it has ever been”, suggesting, it seems, that Israel’s ‘influence’ in the UK will thwart efforts to hold Jerusalem accountable in the Hague.
The columnist’s airing of grievances against the Zionist influence in the UK continues when she alleges that “several Jewish Labour Party members have reportedly been expelled from the party because they are pro-Palestinian“.
However, the only recent report of a Jewish member expelled is Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, co-founder of Jewish Voice for Labour, whose expulsion was reportedly due to her support of organisations, such as Resist, proscribed by the party. Resist, founded by the disgraced anti-Semite Chris Williamson, was banned by Labour for downplaying claims of antisemitism in Labour, even after the EHRC report finding the party guilty of unlawful discrimination against and harassment of Jews.
Another Jew expelled in recent years is Tony Greenstein, who was ordered by a court to pay £68,000 after unsuccessfully suing for libel after being correctly called a “notorious antisemite” by Campaign Against Antisemitism.
So, contrary to Alibahi-Brown’s claims, Jewish members have not been expelled from Labour merely because they were “pro-Palestinian”.
Finally, in the op-ed’s penultimate paragraph, she claims that “more and more people today within and outside Israel oppose that state’s oppressive, apartheid policies and its betrayal of Jewish history”, before citing the following alleged quote by the late Israel Shahak: “The Nazis made me afraid to be a Jew and the Israelis made me ashamed to be a Jew.”
First, Shahak’s “Jewish Religion, Jewish History”, often cited by anti-Semites to affirm their hatred of Israel, CAMERA has noted, is a rehash of antisemitic themes going back to medieval times, including the claim that when Orthodox Jews engage in the ritual washing of their hands accompanied by special blessings, “on one of these two occasions he is worshiping God … but on the other he is worshiping Satan …” (p. 34). As Paul Bagdanor observed, Shahak argued that “Israeli Jews, and with them most Jews throughout the world, are undergoing a process of Nazification.”
This is who Alibhai-Brown decided to cite in order ‘prove’ Israeli villainy.
Moreover, the quote about Israel making Jews ashamed to be Jewish – attributed to Shahak by Alibahi-Brown – is likely fake, as we’ve been unable to locate a primary source. Tellingly, Gilead Atzmon used that quote in his antisemitic book ‘The Wandering Who?’, but failed to include a footnote.
Alibahi-Brown was most certainly not “on edge” when she wrote this latest diatribe against Israel and Zionists, as she knew full well that it would be published by i editors and that no harm would come to her career. In fact, the only negative outcome likely to be elicited by her column is the critical scrutiny in this post.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown fancies herself some sort of political dissident boldly speaking truth to power, when all she’s doing is regurgitating a variation of the same anti-Zionist agitprop peddled continually by global media outlets, well-funded NGOs and within academia.
Though she’s of course free to continue doing so, it can’t be stressed enough that denouncing Israel is practically de rigueur in Britain. It most certainly is not brave.