The Guardian: More from Julie Burchill and others

December 09, 2003

CONTENTS

1. "The hate that shames us," (By Julie Burchill, Guardian weekend supplement, Dec. 6, 2003)
2. The Guardian "Letters" (Weekend section, Dec. 6, 2003)
3. "No, anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism" (By Brian Klug, Guardian, Dec. 3, 2003)


“WHERE THE POLITICAL IS PERSONAL”

[Note by Tom Gross]

This is a follow-up to the dispatch of Sunday, November 30, 2003 (The Guardian discovers modern anti-Semitism.)

In that dispatch, I noted that on November 29, the Guardian (the newspaper of choice for much of Britain's intelligentsia, which has more than 1.2 million readers in the UK and beyond) contained not one, but two articles in effect attacking its own record of Israel reporting.

These were (1) "Anti-Zionism is anti-semitism. Behind much criticism of Israel is a thinly veiled hatred of Jews," by Oxford University lecturer Emanuele Ottolenghi.

And (2) "Good, bad and ugly" by Julie Burchill, in which the non-Jewish columnist revealed she was leaving the Guardian in large part because of its "quite striking bias against the state of Israel" which was not "entirely different from anti-semitism." Burchill defined such anti-Semitism: "where the political is personal, and the personal pretends to be political, and those swarthy/pallid/swotty/philistine/aggressive/cowardly/comically bourgeois/filthy rich/delete-as-mood-takes-you bastards always get the girl."

FOLLOW-UP BY BURCHILL, AND TO OTTOLENGHI’S ARTICLE

In this dispatch, I attach (1) Burchill's follow-up article from last weekend ("The hate that shames us"); (2) a rebuke of Ottolenghi's article ("No, anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism," by Oxford University philosophy researcher, Brian Klug); and (3) readers' letters to the Guardian reacting to Burchill's first article.

The Guardian has carried one or two other features more understanding of Israel recently, but at the same time it has continued to fill its pages with many hostile articles and photos. For example, today, when much of the world's media article focused on the fact that Russian democracy "has been endangered" as a result of the "rigged" elections "Russian elections 'distorted'," as the main headline in today's Financial Times put it the Guardian carried a large type headline running across all 8 columns at the top of its front page, reading "Israel trains US assassination squads in Iraq." (In recent days the Guardian has carried several other articles singling out Israel, for example, claiming its universities are "racist" even though, for example, the number of Arabs studying medicine at Tel Aviv University, has in fact increased six fold recently, whereas it is actually Sephardi Jews who are grossly under-represented.)

EUROPEAN ANTI-SEMITISM REPORT

Since my last dispatch on The Guardian, the suppressed EU 112-page "anti-Semitism report" has been widely leaked on the Internet, and published on the websites of several Jewish organizations and of the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz newspapers. That report specifically mentions "the two quality papers, the Guardian and the Independent," whose reporting on Israeli policy "is spiced with a tone of animosity, 'as to smell of anti-Semitism' as The Economist put it."

OTHER CRITICISMS OF THE GUARDIAN

Among the numerous criticisms leveled against The Guardian in the last year:

The Guardian's opinion page has featured a commentary titled "Israel simply has no right to exist."

When Ariel Sharon visited the Western Wall the day after winning the prime ministerial election, the Guardian ran a cartoon depicting him leaving bloody handprints on Judaism's holiest site.

And (as I have pointed out in dispatches last year) the Guardian's Middle East editor, Brian Whitaker, moonlights as the Web master for "Arab Gateway," an online portal for all things Arab.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

HYPOCRITICAL HATRED

1. "The hate that shames us," (By Julie Burchill, The Guardian weekend supplement, December 6, 2003). "... As I said last week, I have come to believe looking at how anti-semitism is the only form of racial prejudice that unites both left and right, from the KKK to the PLO that loathing the Jews is more about the personal than the political, despite the phoney, anticolonial cant of the anti-Zionists. For instance, I've noticed that some people use the Jews as a sort of warped magic mirror, accusing them of things that they themselves are obviously guilty of. When the Old Etonian Tam Dalyell claimed that there was in this country a Jewish "cabal" of politicians wielding disproportionate influence, did he not consider the fact that, since time immemorial, the country has been run by overprivileged public schoolboys such as himself, allowing barely a look-in for equally (or, perish the thought, more!) electable and capable citizens of working-class origin?

... Then there is Tom Paulin, he of the Ulster Protestant heritage... you've got to wonder if his refusal to see anything wrong with the murder of American Jews who settle in Israel means that he'd be equally sanguine if his relatives in Northern Ireland were murdered by looners whose nationalist creed dictated that Ulster Protestants were asking for it by settling in a country not "theirs".

... Attacks on Jews in this country [the UK] have risen by 75% this year; and since 2000, there has been a 400% increase in attacks on synagogues... To contemplate the thought processes of such individuals makes any decent person want to wash their hands until the slime of hypocritical hatred is swept away. But when whole sections of society peddle such lies, it's scarier still. And when carriers of the disease are shielded by those who govern us, you start to believe the lunatics have taken over the asylum: the EU's racism watchdog recently suppressed a report on the rise of anti-semitism because it concluded that Muslims were behind many incidents. What sort of world do we live in, when racism is "allowed" to be reported only if it comes from the white and the right? What about a stubborn, shimmering little thing called truth?..."

2. The Guardian "Letters" (Weekend section, December 6, 2003). (See below, under "Full Articles.")

3. "No, anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism" (By Brian Klug, The Guardian, December 3, 2003) "... Should it become a "post-Zionist" state, one that defines itself in terms of the sum of its citizens, rather than seeing itself as belonging to the entire Jewish people? This is a perfectly legitimate question and not anti-semitic in the least. When people suggest otherwise as Emanuele Ottolenghi did on these pages last Saturday they simply add to the growing confusion.

... You do not have to be an anti-semite to reject the belief that Jews constitute a separate nation in the modern sense of the word or that Israel is the Jewish nation state... Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is no fantasy. Nor is the spread of Jewish settlements in these territories. Nor the unequal treatment of Jewish colonisers and Palestinian inhabitants.

... But isn't excessive criticism of Israel or Zionism evidence of an anti-semitic bias? In his book, The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz argues that when criticism of Israel "crosses the line from fair to foul" it goes "from acceptable to anti-semitic"... People who take this view say the line is crossed when critics single Israel out unfairly; when they apply a double standard and judge Israel by harsher criteria than they use for other states... is [this] necessarily anti-semitic? No, it is not..."

[Note: Klug, who is senior research fellow in philosophy at St Benet's Hall, Oxford, and a founder member of the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights, does not answer many of the points Emanuele Ottolenghi raised in his article.]


FULL ARTICLES

THE HATE THAT SHAMES US

The hate that shames us
By Julie Burchill
The Guardian
December 6, 2003

www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,3605,1099727,00.html

In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr published his Letter To An Anti-Zionist Friend: "Anti-Zionism is inherently anti-semitic, and ever will be. What is anti-Zionism? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the globe. It is discrimination against Jews... because they are Jews. In short, it is anti-semitism." MLK what a mensch! A saint in the street; a superman in the sack. And this being so, no reason at all to be envious of the Jews.

As I said last week, I have come to believe looking at how anti-semitism is the only form of racial prejudice that unites both left and right, from the KKK to the PLO that loathing the Jews is more about the personal than the political, despite the phoney, anticolonial cant of the anti-Zionists. For instance, I've noticed that some people use the Jews as a sort of warped magic mirror, accusing them of things that they themselves are obviously guilty of. When the Old Etonian Tam Dalyell claimed that there was in this country a Jewish "cabal" of politicians wielding disproportionate influence, did he not consider the fact that, since time immemorial, the country has been run by overprivileged public schoolboys such as himself, allowing barely a look-in for equally (or, perish the thought, more!) electable and capable citizens of working-class origin?

Similarly, George Orwell could write in 1940 that he had nothing against Hitler, and follow up this gem with the declaration that European Jews would prefer the Nazi social system to that of Britain, "if it were not that they happen to persecute them". This would be the same Orwell (another Etonian!) who was revealed as spying and squealing on his leftwing friends for the CIA in the immediate postwar period, would it? Mmm, he'd have been quite at home in Nazi Germany himself, then.

Then there is Tom Paulin, he of the Ulster Protestant heritage, who has always seemed so unsuited to the dignity and stoicism of this ill-used, long-suffering tribe. Never mind: by shrieking away about the "Zionist SS" who gun down "a little Palestinian boy/In trainers, jeans and a white T-shirt", Paulin can be teleported to the moral, or at least fashionable, high ground and find himself the hot hunk of the humanitarian hop. Still, you've got to wonder if his refusal to see anything wrong with the murder of American Jews who settle in Israel means that he'd be equally sanguine if his relatives in Northern Ireland were murdered by looners whose nationalist creed dictated that Ulster Protestants were asking for it by settling in a country not "theirs".

So emboldened by the filthy free-for-all, the danse macabre of resurgent Judeophobia attacks on Jews in this country have risen by 75% this year; and since 2000, there has been a 400% increase in attacks on synagogues are the ignorant armies of darkness that even Germans are opening their yaps on a subject that you'd have thought they'd have the sense, if not the decency, to keep away from. Just a few weeks ago, a German MP was forced to resign after claiming that the Jews were responsible for Soviet army "atrocities" against the defeated Nazi state (makes you want to go back and bomb Dresden all over again, only properly this time). And in a sort of Hate version of the Eurovision Song Contest, Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis weighed in with his carefully considered view that the Jews are at the root of all evil. So, presumably, he won't be wanting the royalties from one of his most notable works, which documents the tragic love story of two young Jewish inmates of a concentration camp. Or maybe he can rejig it, to show how evil this pair were, and how they deserved what they got.

To contemplate the thought processes of such individuals makes any decent person want to wash their hands until the slime of hypocritical hatred is swept away. But when whole sections of society peddle such lies, it's scarier still. And when carriers of the disease are shielded by those who govern us, you start to believe the lunatics have taken over the asylum: the EU's racism watchdog recently suppressed a report on the rise of anti-semitism because it concluded that Muslims were behind many incidents. What sort of world do we live in, when racism is "allowed" to be reported only if it comes from the white and the right? What about a stubborn, shimmering little thing called truth?

I don't care who's doing it white, brown or pink-and-purple paisley-patterned if they're picking on the Red Sea Pedestrians, they're wrong 'uns, like all racists. Make no mistake, the Jews are not hated because of Israel; they are hated for their very modernity, mobility, lust for life and love of knowledge. Their most basic toast, "L'chaim!" (To Life!), is a red rag to those who fetishise death because they have failed to take any joy from their life on earth.

"Not our Jews! Leave our Jews alone! " yelled the locals who turned out to fight the Mosleyites in Cable Street. It may be politically incorrect to call this ancient people "ours", but what the hell: they're tough, they can take it. And they are still our Jews, in that if they are wiped out, in Israel or anywhere else, we will be wiped out, too, one day, all of the modern world and its achievements swept back into the Dark Ages mulch from whence we came. The cry of Cable Street still rings true. Not our Jews! But, this time, "our" means mankind, and the very future of our species.

 

OVER TO YOU

Over to you
Letters
The Guardian
December 6, 2003

Dear Weekend

What a cruel irony that Linda Grant should finish her article, What The War Does To Us, November 29), by offering to be a human shield against the hate and demonisation of the Israeli army. Had she read the UN and NGO reports, she would have discovered that this has been the fate of Palestinian civilians forced at gunpoint to become human shields during the army's incursions. Perhaps Grant should volunteer herself for this: we are sure many a Palestinian would happily give up their place.

Paul and Lynne Timperley
Bracknell, Berkshire

In a week when news comes from Israel of leading army and former Shin Bet officers stating that Israeli policies are wrong and self-defeating, Bomber Burchill writes with her usual lack of perspective about anti-semitism (November 29). Did she bother to read Linda Grant's article?

Richard Morris
London SW18

Well done, Julie Burchill. When will European Jews and Israelis stop confusing anti-semitism with condemnation of their treatment of the Palestinian population? An equal revulsion of Palestinian guerrilla action is, seemingly, conveniently ignored. To continue along this path only increases their already well-honed potential for self-alienation.

Mark Walker
London N7

It's difficult to see what people find so offensive about Julie Burchill. She expresses her opinion, and it's a fairly conventional one. Readers no doubt feel that their opinions are more intelligent and that they are better informed. What's new? Don't we all?

John Gladwyn
Castle Douglas, Dumfries

Hooray! What excellent news that Julie Burchill is returning to work for Rupert Murdoch. I guess her communist principles helped in making that decision. She will be missed, like acne. Her contribution to reasoned discussion will undoubtedly be recorded in the annals for posterity, an achievement similar to Herod's contribution to baby-sitting.

Sean Finlay
Wilmslow, Cheshire

Guardian Weekend, 119 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3ER. Email: weekend@guardian.co.uk. Fax: 020-7239 9935. A postal address must be supplied. Letters should reach us by first post Tuesday for inclusion on Saturday, and may be edited.

 

NO, ANTI-ZIONISM IS NOT ANTI-SEMITISM

No, anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism
Comment

www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1098542,00.html

As an idea, a Jewish homeland was always controversial. As a reality, Israel still is and it is not anti-Jewish to say so

By Brian Klug
The Guardian
December 3, 2003

From the beginning, political Zionism was a controversial movement even among Jews. So strong was the opposition of German orthodox and reform rabbis to the Zionist idea in the name of Judaism that Theodor Herzl changed the venue of the First Zionist Congress in 1897 from Munich to Basle in Switzerland.

Twenty years later, when the British foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour (sponsor of the 1905 Aliens Act to restrict Jewish immigration to the UK), wanted the government to commit itself to a Jewish homeland in Palestine, his declaration was delayed not by anti-semites but by leading figures in the British Jewish community. They included a Jewish member of the cabinet who called Balfour's pro-Zionism "anti-semitic in result".

The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 has not put an end to the debate, though the issue has changed. Today, the question is about Israel's future. Should it become a "post-Zionist" state, one that defines itself in terms of the sum of its citizens, rather than seeing itself as belonging to the entire Jewish people? This is a perfectly legitimate question and not anti-semitic in the least. When people suggest otherwise as Emanuele Ottolenghi did on these pages last Saturday they simply add to the growing confusion.

Ottolenghi contends that "Zionism comprises a belief that Jews are a nation, and as such are entitled to self-determination as all other nations are". This is doubly confused. First, the ideology of Jewish nationalism was irrelevant to many of the Jews, as well as non-Jewish sympathisers, who were drawn to the Zionist goal of creating a Jewish state in Palestine. They saw Israel in purely humanitarian or practical terms: as a safe haven where Jews could live as Jews after centuries of being marginalised and persecuted.

This motive was strengthened by the Nazi murder of one-third of the world's Jewish population, the wholesale destruction of Jewish communities in Europe, and the plight of masses of Jewish refugees with nowhere to go.

Second, you do not have to be an anti-semite to reject the belief that Jews constitute a separate nation in the modern sense of the word or that Israel is the Jewish nation state. There is an irony here: it is a staple of anti-semitic discourse that Jews are a people apart, who form "a state within a state". Partly for this reason, some European anti-semites thought that the solution to "the Jewish question" might be for Jews to have a state of their own. Herzl certainly thought he could count on the support of anti-semites.

What is anti-semitism? Although the word only goes back to the 1870s, anti-semitism is an old European fantasy about Jews. The composer Richard Wagner exemplified it when he said: "I hold the Jewish race to be the born enemy of pure humanity and everything noble in it." An anti-semite sees Jews this way: they are an alien presence, a parasite that preys on humanity and seeks to dominate the world. Across the globe, their hidden hand controls the banks, the markets and the media. Even governments are under their sway. And when revolutions occur or nations go to war, it is the Jews clever, ruthless and cohesive who invariably pull the strings and reap the rewards.

When this fantasy is projected on to Israel because it is a Jewish state, then anti-Zionism is anti-semitic. And when zealous critics of Israel, without themselves being anti-semitic, carelessly use language, such as "Jewish influence", that conjures up this fantasy, they are fuelling an anti-semitic current in the wider culture.

But Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is no fantasy. Nor is the spread of Jewish settlements in these territories. Nor the unequal treatment of Jewish colonisers and Palestinian inhabitants. Nor the institutionalised discrimination against Israeli Arab citizens in various spheres of life. These are realities. It is one thing to oppose Israel or Zionism on the basis of an anti-semitic fantasy; quite another to do so on the basis of reality. The latter is not anti-semitism.

But isn't excessive criticism of Israel or Zionism evidence of an anti-semitic bias? In his book, The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz argues that when criticism of Israel "crosses the line from fair to foul" it goes "from acceptable to anti-semitic".

People who take this view say the line is crossed when critics single Israel out unfairly; when they apply a double standard and judge Israel by harsher criteria than they use for other states; when they misrepresent the facts so as to put Israel in a bad light; when they vilify the Jewish state; and so on. All of which undoubtedly is foul. But is it necessarily anti-semitic?

No, it is not. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a bitter political struggle. The issues are complex, passions are inflamed, and the suffering is great. In such circumstances, people on both sides are liable to be partisan and to "cross the line from fair to foul". When people who side with Israel cross that line, they are not necessarily anti-Muslim. And when others cross the line on behalf of the Palestinian cause, this does not make them anti-Jewish. It cuts both ways.

There is something else that cuts both ways: racism. Both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim feeling appear to be growing. Each has its own peculiarities, but both are exacerbated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the invasion of Iraq, the "war against terror", and other conflicts.

We should unite in rejecting racism in all its forms: the Islamophobia that demonises Muslims, as well as the anti-semitic discourse that can infect anti-Zionism and poison the political debate. However, people of goodwill can disagree politically even to the extent of arguing over Israel's future as a Jewish state. Equating anti-Zionism with anti-semitism can also, in its own way, poison the political debate.

(Brian Klug is senior research fellow in philosophy at St Benet's Hall, Oxford, and a founder member of the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights)


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.