Anything But Free – The Guardian’s CIF under Seaton
Anything But Free – The Guardian’s CIF under Seaton
It’s one of life’s few delights, prick the tender skin of a censor and the same bureaucratic language comes forth. And none come more delightful than a Grauniad censor, puffed up with the best of liberal conscience and well-meaning sentiment. But at the end of the day, even the most ‘liberal’ censor is, well, still a censor.
Matt Seaton, with all the self-importance that comes with being Censor-in-chief tells me not to call him after he’s just sent me an e-mail out of the blue, confessing he’s ‘dropped the ball’. A prize chump by any measure.
And one of the cardinal rules of being a Censor, sorry Moderator, is never ever give a reason for what you do, because that means entering into a debate and dialogue. And that is not what censorship is about.
I have therefore reproduced some of my correspondence with assorted Censors (Moderators) as well as the censor-in-chief, Matthew Seaton. I was probably being somewhat hard on poor Adam, who in the best of traditions complains of ‘lack of resources’.
Quite by coincidence I was reading Martin Gilbert’s ‘Auschwitz & the Allies’ recently [a book that doesn’t once ask ‘why’ Auschwitz remained ‘undiscovered’ but that’s another story] about how inmates at the death camps were quite easily able to fool the censor through the combined use of German and biblical references. Because another attribute of a censor is stupidity. It goes with the job and if you’re not stupid then the job will make you stupid.
But enough of poor Adam, who is to the editor Matthew Seaton what a footstool is to a fallen man.
The message is clear. Whatever Israel does, and whatever slogans its settlers or soldiers daub on Palestinian walls [‘gas the Arabs’ ‘we have come to annihilate you’] you must not make comparisons between the Zionists and the Nazis. After all they might cause offence, upset someone, and make someone feel threatened. It is fortunate that Seaton was in short pants when the anti-Apartheid struggle was at its height, otherwise he would have thrown a wobbyly everytime someone mentioned that John Vorster was interned during the war for Nazi sympathies or that he was typical of the Nationalists.
And it’s no good pointing out that the emperor has no clothes because, in the best traditions of British hypocrisy, Matthew Seaton will swear blind that they are clothed, that nakedness is in the eye of the beholder and anyway we are discriminating against those who can’t afford clothes.
After all, the cardinal rule is not to offend or upset people with our honesty:
‘Adolf, why are you killing the Jews.’ ‘Herr Sir, I find your language most upsetting. My concentration camps are exactly that – facilities for concentrating and re-educating. Haven’t you read the ‘community standards’ that we all adhere too? What’s happened to the famed British stiff upper lip? I find your anti-German racism unacceptable. It is the whole German volk you are attacking’.
But enough of that. I include the correspondence with the Guardian’s censors in the interest of openness, although I understand that Seaton has previously complained about such practices!
>>Adam, I realise that being a censor must be an onerous and time consuming job. However there is a point of principle which even a lowly hack like you might be expected to understand – but then again not. 1. Tony Lerman pens an article on why comparisons with Nazis and what Israel is doing may, note may, be offensive but not anti-Semitic. 2. I contribute a comment which cites the use of such comparisons by Zionists and I cite someone whom I’m sure you have no knowledge of, because censors are as a rule ignorant of all but the obvious. 3. You come back with twaddle about not respecting other people’s views and beliefs, which if taken to its logical conclusion should mean you are out of a job and CIF is shut down. 4. You suggest I consider their impact. Whatever that means I would hope it sets some people thinking, as most pungent debate is supposed to, rather than the anodyne, feel-good liberal platitudes that you obviously feel comfortable with. 5. You then suggest that ‘others might find [it] extremely offensive or threatening without giving any reason why this should be so, though clearly people who support the use of phosphorous bombs against schools may indeed take exception. The major point is that at a time when civil liberties are under unprecedented attack, rather than defend Voltarian principles you seek comfort in weasel words and meaningless phrases. At least you should be honest and change the title, because Comment is Free. And as for your implied threat of suspending my ‘privileges’ – I always assumed the right to comment and contribute was a right, or is it now based on a Guardian journalist’s expense account? They had a word for you Adam at the time of Vietnam. Police-state democrat.
— On Tue, 4/14/09, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Dear Tony, Thanks for your comments. I’m afraid we do not have the resources to enter into lengthy debate over moderation issues, but please note that moderators’ decisions are final and your post will not be reinstated in this instance.
this is the kind of gobbledydook that one comes to expect from those schooled in the McCarthyite/police state mentality. My comment infringed ‘community standards’. What does that mean? Which part of the comment? Citing from the 7th Million by Tom Segev?
Which precious and parochial little conscience was offended? Chapter and verse please if you are up to it. Or have you forgotten that the point of debate is that sharply differing opinions are aired rather than the anodyne, ‘non-offensive’ and meaningless platitudes offered by politically correct worthies like yourself?
My comments had nothing to do with respect for other peoples’ views but why do you think it is a mark of disrespect to express strongly held views that are anti-racist. Do you have a problem with saying what you think rather than skirting the issues? Does it make you feel good to know you have had a discussion that says nothing because people feel too intimidated to say what they mean?
Your response is on a par with New Labour’s pathetic spin whenever confronted with reality. To repeat there was nothing ‘divisive, threatening or toxic to others’ in what I wrote and only a complete vacuum head could think otherwise.
I suggest you reread 1984.
On Tue, 4/14/09, email@example.com wrote: Subject: Re: Comment is Free (Except when we Censor sorry Moderate it)
Your comment was removed as it directly contravened our community standards. I refer you to the following passages: Please respect other people’s views and beliefs and consider their impact when making your contribution. We understand that people often feel strongly about issues debated on the site, but we will consider removing any content that others might find extremely offensive or threatening…
We don’t want to stop people discussing topics they are enthusiastic about, but we do ask that users find a way of sharing their views that does not feel divisive, threatening or toxic to others.
Please be aware that, should you continue to disregard these, your posting privileges may be withdrawn.
Adam Community Moderator
tony greenstein 11/04/09 01:09 To: firstname.lastname@example.org cc: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Comment is Free (Except when we Censor sorry Moderate it)
Matthew Seaton, Editor Guardian Comment Is Free
Dear Mr Seaton,
I refer to the article published by Antony Lerman in the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog last Thursday 2nd April. The article argued that the cartoon by Pat Oliphant, showing a ‘headless Nazi-like, goose-stepping, jackbooted figure, with one arm raised and outstretched, holding a sword, and the other wheeling a head in the form of a Star of David’ may have been offensive but it was not anti-Semitic.
Lerman argued that ‘political cartoons are often very offensive, and offensive – even when it involves comparing Israelis with Nazi’ but that ‘does not automatically mean antisemitic.’ It is an argument which is, I would have thought self-evident. Especially when, as Lerman goes on to point out:
‘The effect of the complaints of antisemitism made by the American Jewish organisations is to attempt to protect Israel from legitimate, if deeply unpleasant, criticism…. All it seems to be doing is devaluing the currency. If the ADL and the Wiesenthal Centre don’t like or agree with the comparison, why can’t they just argue that it’s wrong?.. This only makes it increasingly difficult to raise concern about genuine instances of antisemitism and to develop effective means to prevent them.’
This was a well argued article about the pernicious effects of labelling critics of Israel and Zionism as anti-Semitic. I therefore wrote in to support the main thrust of the article and to point out the hypocrisy of those who label others as anti-Semitic when they don’t hesitate themselves to make comparisons between their opponents and the Nazis. In particular I highlighted:
The fact that Israeli soldiers returning home from Gaza had tee-shirts printed legitimising the killing of children and in particular one which showed a pregnant woman in the cross-hairs of a rifle with the slogan ‘one bullet, two kills’. The Nazi mentality behind such thinking should be obvious to all.
The comparisons that have regularly been made between Palestinians and Arabs and the Nazis by Zionists and gave Begin’s comparison of Arafat in Beirut with Hitler in his bunker as but one example.
I recalled the fact that even internal critics of Israel, Zionists themselves, had drawn comparisons to earlier massacres such as that at Kfar Quassem, and the Nazis. I cited Aharon Zisling, later to become a Mapam Minister in the Israeli government who said of the above massacre that ‘Nazi acts have been committed by Jews as well, and I am deeply shocked.’
I noted that on no occasion have those, like Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League ever criticised Zionist comparisons between Palestinians and the Nazis as anti-Semitic.
I drew attention to the trip that Baron von Mildenstein, Head of the Gestapo’s Jewish desk, made a journey in 1933 to Jewish Palestine for 6 months at the invitation of the Labour Zionist movement. Now I wouldn’t expect you to know this, clearly you don’t, but it is documented in Jacob Boas’ ‘A Nazi Travels to Palestine’ which was printed in the January 1980 edition of History Today, a journal which isn’t usually considered on the wilder fringes of the political spectrum.
And finally I drew attention to the fact that those who deprecate comparisons between Zionism and the Nazis have no hesitation in making just such comparisons themselves eg. between BDS campaigns against Israel today and the Nazi ‘Boycott’ of Germany in the 1930’s. Indeed the very same people who objected to Oliphant’s cartoon make this comparison.
I cited as a source for the Zisling and other quotes, the book, 7th Million, by ex-Haaretz journalist, Tom Segev, about the survivors of the Holocaust who emigrated to Palestine/Israel after 1945. I posted this comment at 1.09 pm last Saturday 4th April and, because of previous experiences of censorship at the Guardian’s Comment is Free site, took the precaution of saving it.
Sure enough, when the same petty-minded censors of CIF ( ‘moderators’) got round to dealing with the inevitable Zionist complaint, my comment was removed. Now I understand that moderators can fulfil a useful function of removing libellous, defamatory and generally ad hominem comments, whose only purpose is to disrupt debate. But my comment was a contribution to, not an attempt to disrupt, a debate. Clearly this is a difference you are having trouble with. Nor was it in any sense anti-Semitic, though its logic was certainly bound to offend our narrow minded opponents and your tiny-minded moderators.
There was a time when CIF, under Georgina Henry, had no hesitation in encouraging debate such as this. It would seem that you on the other hand were brought in as Editor of CIF precisely in order to clamp down on controversial debate, CIF having been subject to a concerted campaign by the Zionist Federation and their allies who were and are afraid of any debate they cannot control. I look forward to an apology for the deletion of this comment and failing that I would hope that you are honest enough to rename CIF to something more appropriate such as ‘Comment is Free Except When We Censor It’ or ‘Comment is Free (in moderation)’.
At the moment CIF is a tribute to Orwell’s Newspeak where censorship is called free debate.
Regards Tony Greenstein
The concern of Mr Foxman and all the other slavish apologists for Israel’s actions about a cartoon, stand in marked contrast to their silence, indeed their exculpation of the murder of over 400 Palestinian children in Gaza. Just imagine – 400 Jewish children slaughtered by an intensive air, land and sea bombardment in an attack against their ghetto (which is what Gaza is)? The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Oh we know the excuse. Hamas are hiding behind civilians – just like Haganah, the Zionist pre-state militia. Presumably the British would have been right to shell kibbutzim, synagogues (where weapons were definitely stored – see ).
But at least the soldiers who committed the atrocities in Gaza were honest. The children will only grow up to be ‘terrorists’ hence why killing them too is legitimate. The tee shirts Israeli soldiers were made up to ‘celebrate’ their deeds – such as the picture of a pregnant Palestinian woman in the cross-hairs of a gun sight – ‘one bullet 2 kills’ is indeed an example of the Nazi mentality. As are slogans such as ‘we have come to annihilate you’.
But of course this misses the point. For years Zionists and apologists for everything the Israeli state does to the Palestinians have done so in the name of fighting the Nazis. The settlers invoke the Nazis and ‘never again’ to justify their deeds, the attack on Beirut was likened by Begin to an attack on Hitler’s bunker.
And likewise the Israeli opponents of their State’s barbarism also resort, quite correctly, to analogies with the Nazis. ‘We must demand of the entire nation a sense of shame and humiliation. That soon we will be like Nazis and the perpetrators of pogroms,” wrote Rabbi Benyamin’. This was written after the cold-blooded murder of 46 Palestinians at the Kfar Quassem village just prior to the Suez War.
Likewise, after some of the events of the 1947-9 war Aharon Zisling, later to become Minister of Agriculture for the Zionist Mapam said at a cabinet meeting that ‘I have not always agreed when the term Nazi was applied to the British. I would not want to use that expression with regard to them, even though they committed Nazi acts. But Nazi acts have been committed by Jews as well, and I am deeply shocked.’ [Tom Segev, the 7th Million, pp. 300-1]
And yet I cannot recall Foxman or the Hoffmans of this world criticising the use of Nazi analogies to demonise the Palestinians because that is their view too. It is only when the victims use such analogies that they are verboten. Strange that.
But maybe the apologists for Israel’s latest slaughter in Gaza have forgotten that it was in 1933, when the Head of the Gestapo’s Jewish Department, Baron von Mildenstein visited the Yishuv, Jewish Palestine, for 6 months, that he not only wrote a series of laudatory articles in Der Angriff when he returned to Germany, having been the guest of Histadrut and the Kibbutzim, but he even had a coin minted – with the Swastika on one side and the Star of David on another. But this was when the World Zionist Organisation had decided that parleying with the Nazis was better than the anti-fascist boycott of them! But I forget – boycotts too have been compared these days to Nazi ‘boycotts’. And who has made the comparison? Ah yes, the same people who object to such comparisons when the Palestinians make them!!!
I posted the comment below yesterday morning to find that it has been deleted. Was it abusive? Crude? Ad hominem?What the hell are you scared of, apart from your own shadow? Are there now some arguments, viz. making comparisons between Israel today and similar regimes in the past that you find too difficult to handle?It’s not really worth arguing with you since you know nothing about the subject anyway but are applying a definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ that is itself the subject of contention and which I wrote about in previous CIF articles, before that is you began to start running scared. The posting below is well argued, referenced and to anyone except an idiot with a red pen and a stiff mind would be perfectly acceptable.
Creatures who are censors are of course renowned for lacking open minds or indeed the ability to argue beyond fixed positions mapped out for them in advance. What a moronic job you are performing if you are unable to discern the difference between serious argumentation and abuse, which was your original function.
Brian makes an important distinction between equating and comparing Israel with Nazi Germany. It would be churlish to list the Israeli writers who make/ or have made such a comparison. People such as the distinguishedwinner of the Israel prize the late Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz or indeedthe late Prof. Israel Shahak, a childhood survivor of both the Warsaw Ghetto and Belsen.
Or maybe the late Prof. Baruch Kimmerling, also of the Hebrew University who called Israel a ‘herrenvolk republic.’If you cannot compare the Nazis to other phenomenon what is being said is that it is unique. And if the Holocaust is unique then presumably Jews are also unique, which is the other side of the coin of being the chosen ones. The use of the Star of David, which was always a minor Jewish symbol incomparison with the Menorah (Candelabrum) with the Swastika first occured when the Nazis minted a coin with these 2 symbols on either side. And why? Because of the successful trip of one Baron Mildenstein, head of theGestapo’s Jewish desk to visit Jewish Palestine (Yishuv) in 1933 at the invitation of the kibbutzim, where he stayed for 6 months. So impressed washe that he wrote a series of articles in Goebbel’s paper Der Angriff.
Of course the Holocaust and the Nazis can be used as a comparison. And not just Israel, yes the slaughter of the Tamil people and the Rwandan genocideto name but two. I don’t accept that there has been an upsurge in anti-Semitism. The Community Security Trust from which all these allegations emanate is a virulently Zionist organisation which has a vested interest in conflating anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. It not only ignores abuse of anti-Zionist Jews by Zionist Jews but itself is involved in preventing the former attending meetings of the latter. Clearly they believe that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are the same thing.
When recently one Zionist spoke about ‘necklacing’ anti-Zionist ‘traitors’ Mark Gardener of the CST chose to applaud the e-mail in which these comments were written whilst denying he had approved the particular sentiments. Norman Finkelstein put his finger on what is happening in his ‘Beyond Chutzpah – On the Misuse of anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.”Put simply, the claims of a rampang new anti-Semitism are a sham… the hysteria over a new anti-Semitism hasn’t anything to do with fighting bigotry – and everyting to do with stifling criticism of Israel.’
It’s no coincidence that whenever the Israel state embarks on another round of mass murder of Palestinians or Arabs, then charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ quickly surface. If these claims are true then clearly Israeli actions are the cause. If not it is an example of the cynicism of Israel and Zionism’s apologists. As someone who is the No. 1 target on the neo-Nazi Redwatch South Coastsite, then I find it strange that Jonathan Freedland didn’t notice that the British National Party, a party led by a holocaust denier lest one forgets, is also, according to the Board of Deputies of British Jews the most pro-Zionist (4.10.09, ‘Ruth Smeed, of the Board of Deputies, said:
“The BNP website is now one of the most Zionist on the web – it goes further than any of the mainstreamparties in its support of Israel and at the same time demonises Islam andthe Muslim world.’
It’s strange that Jonathan didn’t notice. But I echo what Brian said about the virulent hatred of Zionists for anti-Zionists. We are ‘traitors’ (although we have never been loyal toZionism), ‘self-haters’ (a good Nazi phrase used against anti-fascist Germans) etc. As someone with more experience than most of the fascists I can honestly say that the anti-Semitism I have experienced from Zionists is FAR FAR worse than anything that I have had said by the BNP or NF. Comments such as: ‘It”s a pity Hitler didn’t get you’ are standard fare for these creatures.
And why? Because hatred (or what was termed negation of the Galut) of the Jewish Diaspora is a standard part of Zionist ideology. Anti-semitism arose as a natural reaction to the unnatural phenomenon of Jews living outside Israel. In fact Zionism has always welcomed such anti-Semitism. As Rabbi Yehudah Amital, Rosh Yeshiva of Har Etzion noted in the wake of the Lebanon War(1982):
The 3rd Red Light came when some elements, especially the ReligiousZionists, expressed satisfaction at the clear and open display ofanti-Semitism which took shape during and after ‘Operation Peace forGalilee’ …It is felt that the more overt anti-Semitism becomes, the more beneficial it will prove for the Jews, because through anti-Semitism, the Jews of the Diaspora will come to the realisation that they must move to Eretz Yisrael. ‘The Red Lights are Flashing’, Jewish Chronicle 15. 4. 1983.
From: tony greenstein [email@example.com]Sent: 07/02/2009 15:09 Subject: Idiot moderation
I posted the comment below early this morning to find that it has been deleted. Was it abusive? Crude? Ad hominem?
What the hell are you scared of, apart from your own shadow Mr Seaton? Typical liberal, despite all the pontification about free speech that is the very thing you are scared of. And the post underneath justifying mass murder in Gaza is allowed? What moronic value system is that I wonder?
The word ‘scared’ is yours not mine. However you have offered no substantive reason for turning this down and given Israeli peace groups are widely using the analogy it is a fair question – just what are you scared of, apart from your own shadow? Is the purpose of CIF to now confine debate within acceptable liberal parameters.
The only time I called you was at your suggestion, so there is no need to be obnoxious.