Jonathan Cook is a former Guardian reporter who is highly critical of the Israeli government. Based in Nazareth, capital of the Palestinian minority in Israel, he appears to have a unique perspective among Western writers.
And, judging from his comments on his former paper’s censorship of Steve Bell, too few people are reading his work.
In his latest article (link below), Mr Cook tells us the cartoon “indicts the immoral calculations made in the pursuit of political power, the terrible price paid by the victims, and our – the viewer’s – collusion in a system that privileges the powerful and ignores the powerless. In other words, it represents all that is best about political cartoons, or what might be termed graphic journalism. It holds power – and us – to account.
“And yet the Guardian has decided its readers need shielding from this message. It has preferred to side with the powerful against the powerless, and to prioritise the sensitivities of a nuclear-armed state over the suffering of a stateless people held captive by their occupier.”
Mr Cook draws significant conclusions from this: Showing Palestinians as sacrificial victims, according to The Guardian, is anti-Semitic.
But this can only serve to fuel anti-semitism, he says. With good reason.
When harsh critiques of Israel and its leaders are silenced, writes Mr Cook, Israel is being treated as a special case. “It is benefiting from a kind of reverse anti-semitism, or philo-semitism.
“When a standard caricature of Netanyahu – far less crude than the caricatures of British and American leaders like Blair and Trump – is denounced as anti-Semitic, we are likely to infer that Israeli leaders expect and receive preferential treatment. When showing Netanyahu steeped in blood – as so many other world leaders have been – is savaged as a blood libel, we are likely to conclude that Israeli war crimes are uniquely sanctioned. When Netanyahu cannot be shown holding a missile, we may assume that Israel has dispensation to bombard Gaza, whatever the toll on civilians.
“And when we see the furore created over a cartoon like Bell’s, we can only surmise that other, less established cartoonists will draw the appropriate conclusion: keep away from criticising Israel because it will harm your personal and professional reputation.”
In circumstances where Israel is treated as a special case, above criticism no matter what is done by its government and people, then organisations like The Guardian are playing into the hands of the anti-Semites, writes Mr Cook – and we can see that he is right.
“When we fail to hold Israel to account; when we concede to Israel, a nuclear-armed garrison state, the sensitivities of a Holocaust victim; when we so mistake moral priorities that we elevate the rights of a state over the rights of the Palestinians it victimises, we not only fuel the prejudices of the anti-Semite but we make his arguments appealing to others. We do not help to stamp out anti-Semitism, we encourage it to spread. That is why Viner and the Guardian have transgressed not just against Bell, and against the art of political cartoons, and against justice for the Palestinians, but also against Jews and their long-term safety.”
That is why we need to be more critical of the raving paranoiacs who level these accusations at innocent commentators like Mr Bell or Gerald Scarfe (or, for that matter, myself). Blinkered by their own political views which support Israel no matter what it does, they see anti-Semitism wherever they expect to see it and demand hysterical witch-hunts in the press that can only harm their cause, as Mr Cook has explained.
There is no such thing as an unintentional anti-Semite – but authorial intentions are routinely ignored by the witch-hunters who demand that their interpretation is the only one possible. In that respect, as the author Neil Gaiman has pointed out, they are always wrong.
That means Kath Viner was wrong about Steve Bell; The Sunday Times was wrong about Gerald Scarfe (and me, as was the so-called Campaign Against Antisemitism); their accusers were wrong about Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein… The list goes on and on.
And Mr Netanyahu gets away with mass murder.
But Mr Cook is right – these attitudes only fuel real anti-Semitism among those who draw the only logical conclusion about what’s going on in the media, which is that the Establishment is protecting the Israeli government against censure for its crimes.
It suggests to me that all those involved in this charade have been creating problems that will come back to harm all of us in the future.
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