As propogandists for the pro-Israeli government, pro-Zionist, anti-Jew lobby go, Jonathan Freedland is actually quite handy.
His latest article certainly does its bit in trying to set British Jews apart from the rest of our society and increase hatred against them, under a headline that claims an attitude for all British Jews that they do not have, and a response from the Labour Party that it did not make.
But in fact all he really achieves is the provision of useful information for commentators like me.
He’s my useful idiot – a propagandist for my side of the anti-Semitism argument who doesn’t understand what he is doing.
I’m not going to go into all the reasons his article is wrong-headed. I’ve got what I wanted from it and don’t need to, because someone else has done it for me.
Here’s Tony Greenstein: Like me, he has been smeared as an anti-Semite – probably because he makes very good points about the people for whom Mr Freedland works.
Here, he makes very good points about Mr Freedland’s … claims:
- Yes Zion is an integral part of the Jewish religion. However it has never had, until the late colonial period, any political significance. That was why when Zionism arose in the late 19th Century its fiercest opponents were Orthodox Jews.
- If the idea of Israel/Zion had more than a spiritual significance why was it when the great emigration of two and a half million Jews from Czarist Russia occurred from the mid 19th century to 1914, barely one percent went to Palestine? There were no borders stopping them. The religious significance of Zion is not and never has been a justification for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Palestine was not a land without a people for a people without a land. That is a colonial myth.
- Jews in Britain are not an ethnic minority, they are a religious minority and part of white British society. They are not in any way an oppressed group.
- Nowhere does Freedland explain why the Oxford English Dictionary definition of anti-Semitism, ‘hostility to or prejudice against Jews’ is not sufficient to deal with genuine 24 carat anti-Semites. This six word definition is more than adequate to deal with those who talk about a ‘hook-nosed, bloodthirsty Jew’. There is also the definition drawn up by Brian Klug of Oxford University, in his lecture ‘What Do We Mean When We Say ‘Antisemitsm’? Echoes of shattering glass at the Jewish Museum in Berlin on the anniversary of Kristallnacht. Klug’s defined anti-Semitism as ‘a form of hostility to Jews as Jews, where Jews are perceived as something other than what they are.’ Is 21 words.
- Nowhere does Freedland explain why the IHRA definition, 500+ words, including 11 ‘examples’ of anti-Semitism, 7 related to Israel, is necessary.
- Freedland says that the IHRA definition is ‘near universally accepted’. This is untrue. The IHRA definition is rejected by anti-racist, Muslim, Palestinian and civil society groups such as Liberty and the University College Union. It is though universally accepted by state bodies and governments, including the anti-Semitic governments of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Austria. Yes, anti-Semites have no problems with a definition of anti-Semitism that is based on support for Israel. Today the favourite refrain of anti-Semites and neo-Nazis such as the founder of the Alt-Right Richard Spencer, who defines himself as a White Zionist, is that however much they dislike Jews they love Israel.
- Surely Freedland cannot be unaware that the Trump administration, which combines anti-Semitism and ultra-Zionism, also supports the IHRA? An administration that contained anti-Semites such as Steve Bannon, who objected to his children attending school with ‘whiny Jewish brats’ and Sebastian Gorka with his membership of the neo-Nazi Vitezi Rend?
- Even leaving the aforementioned aside, why does Freedland feels the need to insult the intelligence of Guardian’s readers? Does Freedland really have such contempt for their intelligence that he treats them like the Daily Mail treats their readership? Leaving aside Freedland’s cheap reference to Thereisienstadt concentration camp or the gauche picture of the Warsaw Ghetto, although we know that comparisons with Nazi Germany, when made by Israel’s critics, even if they are Jewish, are ‘anti-Semitic’ according to the IHRA.
- Freedland states that ‘the IHRA text explicitly says that if you criticise Israel the way you criticise other countries, it “cannot be regarded as antisemitic”. Most readers will not check the IHRA’s wording and will trust that what Freedland says is accurate. After all senior editors of the Guardian don’t lie, or do they?
- In fact the IHRA contains two references to criticism of Israel. The first states that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic’. The only problem is that Israel is a unique ethno nationalist state which is a state of the ‘Jewish people’ wherever they may reside but not of its own citizens. This is entrenched in the Jewish Nation State Bill.
- The second reference states that anti-Semitism consists of ‘Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.’ I fail to understand why, even if someone did expect higher standards of Israel (e.g. because it claims the Holocaust as its moral legacy) that that would be anti-Semitic. Racism is about people not states.
- Israel is not a democratic nation, indeed it is not a nation. There is no Israeli nationality. It maintains a military dictatorship over 5+ million Palestinians and when they protest it guns them down. Israel is a state that uses torture, imprisons and abuses young children and locks people up without trial. Arabs are effectively tolerated guests not even second class citizens of Israel. A situation where Arab Israelis do not have access to 93% of the land, where Israeli Jews demonstrate against an Arab family moving into the Jewish city of Afula is not a democracy.
- The IHRA has, according to Hugh Tomlinson QC, a ‘potential chilling effect’ on freedom of speech . No less a person that Kenneth Stern, the author of the IHRA, in a written deposition to the House of Representatives in November 2017 described how the IHRA had been used to ‘restrict academic freedom and punish political speech’ and that it had‘chilled pro-Palestinian expression.’ How strange that Freedland omitted the above in is heart wrenching tale of Jewish suburbia.
If you really want to read some of Freedland’s screed, the link is below. Then, I expect, you’ll be able to think of your own objections to his claims.
Personally, I looked up The Guardian‘s page on Facebook and reported the article as fake news.
It’s also anti-Semitic – claiming that Jews as a people have responsibility for the offensive behaviour of a small group.
And it is offensive to try to force the rest of us into supporting a policy that forbids criticism of a foreign government’s homicidal – if not genocidal – activities. Just ask the United Nations.