Why Does Jonathan Freedland Feel the Need to Lie to The Guardian’s Readers?
Why Does Jonathan Freedland Feel the Need to Lie to The Guardian’s Readers?
The Guardian’s ‘Antisemitism’ Campaign Against Corbyn Continues Unabated
The latest Freedland anti-semitism nonsense
I’ve long since lost
count of the number of anti-Corbyn articles concerning ‘anti-Semitism’ that the
Guardian has run in the past 3 years. Five filters have done a
remarkable job in collating some of the more tedious attacks by Guardian
columnists on Jeremy Corbyn. I have added a couple more on the ‘anti-Semitism’
Guardian and Jonathan Freedland’s tedious Campaign against Corbyn. Prominent
amongst Jeremy’s critics has been Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian’s Zionist gatekeeper
and a senior Guardian editor
Jonathan Freedland and a few of his articles on Corbyn and the Labour left and antisemitism
Contrast that with
Britain’s Jewish community. Not one of
them have been deported. They are on
average considerably better off than the average white person, there is no
police violence against Jews or economic discrimination. The only section of
the Jewish community that has suffered racist attacks is the Orthodox Jewish community
who are visibly different. Physical attacks on Jews as Jews are extremely rare
compared to Muslims and Black people In
short there is no evidence of institutionalised anti-Semitism in Britain
compared to the endemic racism against Black and Asian people. Yet the media is deluged with rubbish
articles, of which Freedland’s is one, about anti-Semitism. You would be hard put to find a Freedland
article on Windrush or anti-Roma prejudice.
It is because Jews in
Britain today are a comfortably off sub-section of the White population that
Britain’s racist tabloids, two of whom employed the poisonous Katie Hopkins,
are so concerned about ‘anti-Semitism’.
The very same papers who demonise asylum seekers.
yesterday fits into this. Erroneous,
self-centred, dishonest. You name it
then Freedland has managed it. The only Opinion piece in The Guardian which has a balance of contributors is here.
90 York Way
London N1 9GU,
This is just a few of the Guardian and Jonathan Freedland’s attacks on Corbyn
Jonathan Freedland speaking at Chatham House, where the great and the good meet to discuss foreign policy on a non-attributable basis
I realise that this letter, a response to Jonathan Freedland’s latest propaganda
blast, is over the normal word limit for a letter, but as the
saying goes, a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can
get its boots on. If you feel that it is
too long it can always be referred to the Comment Editor or is that Mr
What I find surprising is
that Jonathan Freedland, a senior Guardian Editor, whose views on Israel are
allowed to dominate the Opinion pages without let or hindrance, feels the need
to emulate the principle that if you repeat a lie long enough it is likely to
be believed. To deal with a few of Freedland’s points.
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
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
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.
In which other liberal democracy would you have demonstrations against minority ethnic groups buying a house in an ethnically pure city
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.
Saying Israel is a racist endeavour is antisemitic
xiii. 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
Once again Freedland abuses his editorial position in order to wage a
propaganda war against opponents of Zionism and Palestine solidarity campaigners.
Not once has the Guardian granted a right of reply to Freedland’s critics.
Freedland repeatedly suggests that the IHRA is the only safeguard
against anti-Semitism. He knows that this is a lie but he still repeats it in an
article high on verbal flatulence. You don’t need a definition of anti-Semitism
to recognise the beast. Kenneth Stern described
how a group of Jewish students were subject to anti-Semitic harassment on a US
campus which included verbal abuse, chants of “Heil Hitler” and being kicked on
a “Kick a Jew Day.” Action was happily taken against the perpetrators. Stern notes
that ‘there was no need to consult a
definition to make this determination.’
Where someone is attacked because they are Jewish there is no need to
study a 500 word definition before taking action. Jonathan Freedland knows this
very well yet he continues to treat the Guardian’s readers as if they were
idiots. The IHRA is about curtailing free speech.
Hundreds dmonstrate in Afula recently against the sale of a house to an Arab in a town which is wholly Jewish
Like all too many of his fellows, Jonathan Freedland no longer
understands the difference between journalism and political propaganda and
mendacious prse. We know that diplomats are sent to lie abroad for their
country but does that have to be of Guardian journalists?
are angry – because Labour hasn’t listened or shown any empathy | Jonathan
The row over how to define antisemitism is not just about nuances of
phrasing. Failure to consult Jewish opinion has destroyed all goodwill
This week I was in a house of mourning for an evening of prayers for the
dead, part of what Jews call a shiva. We were there to remember a woman who had
come to this country as a child refugee, having survived the Nazi concentration
camp at Terezín, in what is now the Czech Republic. But I was struck by the
words of the ancient prayers themselves, wondering what an outsider might make
of them. For certain words kept recurring, as the holy texts invoked “the
people of Israel” and asked that those grieving be comforted “among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem”.
I found myself thinking that it would be useful for those following the
ongoing, apparently neverending row about antisemitism and the Labour
party to see what I was seeing. For they would have learned two relevant
things. First, that if Jews are hyper-alert to threats, with a radar acutely
sensitive to the early signs of danger, that is partly because the Holocaust,
the murder of 6 million Jews, is, for us, a very recent memory: part of our own
lived experience, barely one generation away. Second, that while so many may
wish to draw a clear, bright line between Jews and Israel so that you can hate
the latter while showing no hostility to the former, it is a bit fuzzier than
that. Because the idea of Israel – not the concrete reality, but the idea of Israel and Zion
and Jerusalem – is so deeply woven into Jewish tradition and culture that it’s
there in the very words we utter at the most intimate moments of our lives.
The other thing they’d have heard if they had been at that shiva is a
room full of Labour-supporting Jews sharing their fears about the party they,
their parents and grandparents once called home. It’s the same conversation
that Jews are now used to hearing, around synagogues and sabbath dinner tables,
and which found expression in recent days in both Margaret Hodge’s outburst against Jeremy Corbyn, in
which she called the party leader an antisemite to his face, and in an unprecedented shared front-page editorial published
in three leading British Jewish newspapers, declaring that a Corbyn-led
government would pose “an existential threat to Jewish life in this country”.
How on earth has it come to this? How have we sunk to the point where
the mainstream Jewish community sees Labour this way, and when a longtime
anti-racist like Billy Bragg finds himself telling an
ethnic minority that they have “work to do” if they are to win back
Labour’s trust? Can it really be solely about Labour’s failure to adopt the
full text of the near universally accepted International Holocaust Remembrance
Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, including all its
illustrative examples, so that this is an argument about sub-clauses and paragraphs?
Is that all this is about?
No. The definition row is the eruption, but the volcano itself goes much
deeper. Churning inside are deep incomprehension and distrust, brewed over many
years, if not decades.
Start with the incomprehension. Part of the problem is that, for many,
all this has seemed rather abstract: people keep referring to antisemitism on
the left, but are rarely shown what it actually looks like. For them, the IHRA
definition must seem like a weapon to be used against a hypothetical threat.
But some of us see daily the tweets and Facebook posts, whether it’s the caricature of a hook-nosed, bloodthirsty Jew
posted by a Labour councillor in Derbyshire, the overt Holocaust denial –
“Holo-brainwashing”, in the words of a former Labour council
candidate in Kent – or the endless talk of Rothschilds, Jewish
control of the media, money and all the old tunes played against Jews for
centuries. We see it; we get used to it. But it’s not abstract.
The second level of incomprehension relates to Israel. Defenders of
Labour’s code of conduct say it was necessary because the IHRA
version conflates legitimate criticism of Israel with antisemitism. This makes
plenty of Jews want to slam their heads on their desks in frustration, partly
because the IHRA text explicitly says that if you criticise Israel the way you
criticise other countries, it “cannot be regarded as antisemitic”, and partly
because these Jews criticise Israel all the time themselves – never more
so than in the week after Israel passed an appalling nation-state law which, in effect,
officially confirms Arab-Israelis as second-class citizens.
Bragg worries that the IHRA will silence the pro-Palestinian voice. But
the only pro-Palestinian who needs to fear the IHRA is the one who wants to say
Jews are disloyal to their own countries, that Jews are Nazis and that the very
idea of Jews having a homeland of their own is “a racist endeavour”. You can
say all of those things more easily under Labour’s new code – the age-old
accusation of disloyalty, for example, is no longer classified as antisemitic – which is one
reason why the vast bulk of the Jewish community opposes it.
But the IHRA itself, properly applied, allows plenty of scope. You can,
if you want, say everything the state of Israel has done since its birth has been racist. All it
prohibits is branding as a racist endeavour “a state of Israel” – the principle that Jews, like every other people on
Earth, should have a home and refuge of their own. And if you want to make a
serious analogy with the historic past, you can do that too, because the IHRA
allows for context. Given all that, when Jews hear that the IHRA is not good
enough, so that Labour had to draw up a code of its own, they wonder: what
exactly is it that Labour wants to say about us?
Still, as I say, this is not really about clauses and paragraphs. If
there had been goodwill and trust, Labour could have sat down with the Jewish
community and ironed out any wrinkles, perhaps by adopting the IHRA’s
definition in full and then adding a couple of caveats explicitly protecting
free speech. The trouble is, there is no such trust, and Labour attempted no
such thing. Instead it drew up its code of conduct itself, without consulting
the organised Jewish community at all.
This, not any particular form of words, is what doomed Labour’s code.
It’s as if Labour unilaterally decided to rewrite a widely accepted set of
guidelines on sexual harassment, in defiance of opposition from every women’s
organisation and without consulting them, and delegating the task to a majority
male sub-committee, and then expected women to applaud the new document. Every
leftist, every Corbynite, would howl at the absurdity of the party thinking it
knew best. (They’d keep howling even if a handful of women intellectuals
sympathetic to the party leadership, but out of step with majority female
opinion, insisted on talking up the new code as an improvement.)
Yet, when Jews express their disquiet, they are not greeted with empathy
and solidarity from the army of self-described anti-racists. Instead, they face
an online horde shouting in their faces, accusing them of dishonesty, of
smears, of ulterior motives and hidden agendas, of shilling for an Israeli
government many of them oppose. And it ends in the dispiriting sight of a good
man like Bragg – no antisemite – taking up a position antagonistic to Jews,
telling them they need to behave, just to defend the party and the leader.
So yes, maybe that editorial printed in the Jewish newspapers was over
the top. But you know what? It reflects the anxiety that many, if not most, in
the Jewish community feel. And given our history and the hyper-vigilance it has
left us with, it might be an idea to stop wagging a finger and telling Jews,
yet again, that they’re wrong – and just listen.