Tony Greenstein | 27 August 2018 | Post Views:

The ‘i’ refuses
to allow responses to Superficial Simon Kelner or Dishonest Ian Birrell –  When it comes to ‘anti-Semitism’ the ‘i’ clings to the tabloid/BBC narrative
On its
masthead the ‘i’ boasts that it is ‘Quality,
Concise – the Future of Independent Journalism’
.  If true then the British press does not have
a very rosy future  ahead.
The ‘i’s
main claim to fame is that it drove a nail into the coffin of The Independent
as a print newspaper. Set up to provide a condensed version of The Independent,
originally at 20p (30p Saturday s) its success as a low cost alternative to the
Indie guaranteed the latter’s closure. As the price has continued to rise as
its journalistic standards have fallen.

Ian Birrell’s Dishonest Take on Labour’s Anti-semitism Row
I must confess
that the only reason I take the ‘i’ is that I get it free from a local hotel! However
being a regular reader I responded to the bilge it was printing. In common with
all of the press (bar the Morning Star) the ‘i’ has covered Labour’s fake anti-Semitism
crisis in line with the fable of Labour being overrun with anti-Semitism.

Patrick Coburn – the Indepdendent’s Middle East Columnist
This is despite
sharing with The Independent Britain’s two best Middle East correspondents,
Patrick Coburn and the legendary Robert Fisk. 
Given the way that Fisk has repeatedly spoken out about Israel’s crimes
against the Palestinians it is inconceivable that he could support the dishonest
coverage by the ‘i’ of the fake anti-Semitism allegations directed against the Labour
Party and Jeremy Corbyn.  I very much
doubt that Fisk in particular looks upon the scurrilous false anti-Semitism allegations
surrounding Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party with anything but distaste if
not horror.

Robert Fisk  the Independent’s Middle East correspondent is unlikely to be happy with the ‘i’s trite coverage of Labour ‘antisemitism’
Coburn, who comes from a distinguished journalistic family, has never to my
knowledge commented upon the Establishment generated crisis surrounding the Labour
Party. Given the meticulous nature of his writing it is doubtful if he
subscribes to the ‘i’s editorial line.
My attention
was recently drawn to two opinion pieces – one by former editor Simon Kelner
and the other by Ian Birrell.  Birrell is
a right-wing journalist, who apart from writing for The Guardian, Independent
and Mail, was a speech
for David Cameron.
On 19th
July Kelner penned an article Labour’s
leaders must listen to the Jewish community.
Kelner has always struck
me as a superficial journalist and this is amply demonstrated in both the title
and body of the article. It never ceases to amaze me that those who purport to
be concerned about ‘anti-Semitism’ indulge in it without a seconds thought.
Contrary to
Kelner’s assertions, the Jewish community doesn’t speak with one voice. It
doesn’t have a view on either the Labour Party or the International Holocaust
Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.
states that the IHRA is ‘a commonly
accepted definition of what constitutes anti-Semitic behaviour’.
Yes it is ‘commonly
accepted’ not least by the anti-Semitic Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban
and the equally anti-Semitic Law and Justice government of Poland.

Kelner’s  Superficial Attack on Corbyn – it repeats the same themes of all the Westminster ‘journalists’
IHRA has been savaged by academics and lawyers such as Professor David Feldman,
Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemism, described the
IHRA as ‘bewilderingly imprecise’. Hugh Tomlinson QC said that
it was having a ‘potentially chilling effect’ on free speech and Sir
Stephen Sedley, the former Court of Appeal judge, who is himself Jewish, wrote
in the London Review of Books (Defining
how the
IHRA ‘fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite.’
never ceases to amaze is that the pundits who flit from one newspaper to
another are incapable of anything other than repeating superficial clichés. Kelner’s
argument for supporting the IHRA was that ‘it seems to me (a Jewish person),
a fairly uncontroversial document, which states that anti-Semitic behaviour in
public life includes “calling for… the killing or harming of Jews in the name
of a radical ideology”
yes.  Calling for the killing of someone
because they are Jewish is anti-Semitic. 
Why add the ‘radical ideology’
tag?  If you were to call for the killing
of a Jew in the name of a conservative or socialist ideology would that be
acceptable? Does radical not really mean Muslim?  Is that not significant?
But if
Kelner was merely superficial then Ian Birell’s article on 7th
August ‘Why Corbyn is unfit for office’ was
positively dishonest. Apart from being one long adhominem against Corbyn it treated its readers as being as stupid
as its author.
to Corbyn chairing a meeting addressed by Hajo Meyer, an anti-Zionist Jew who
was also a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Birrell wrote that Corbyn ‘hosted
an event on Holocaust Day at which someone compared Israel to Nazism, then
turned on Jewish dissenters
.’  In an
email to the Editor  of the ‘i’, the
appropriately named Oliver Duff I wrote that
‘The dishonesty is breathtaking
and if the ‘i’ has any sense of ethical journalism then Birrell should be
barred from ever writing another article. The ‘someone’ referred to
above happened to be Hajo Meyer, a survivor of Auschwitz who also happens to be
Jewish. The ‘Jewish dissenters’ happened to be regular disruptors of
Palestinian meetings.  I was there,
Birrell wasn’t
Suffice to say Oliver Duff never replied. 
Tony Greenstein
Copies of Correspondence
send to the ‘i’ newspaper concerning the articles of Simon Kelner and Ian
23rd July 2018
to online,
Inewspaper, Inewspaper
Dear ‘i’
I sent the following letter in to the ‘i’ 4 days
ago in response to Simon Kelner’s piece supporting the IHRA.  Nothing has appeared in your letter columns in
response to his article and nor has my letter
Is there some reason that you are afraid to publish
anything on this issue that counters the mainstream narrative?
Kelner’s superficial piece didn’t of course ask why
the anti-semitic governments of Poland and Hungary are happy to sign up to this
definition. Instead he just repeated all the same talking points about a
definition that antisemites have little problem with.
In other words you are happy to maintain the bias
against understand that runs through our mainstream media.
If you don’t want to take a letter I am happy to
provide a response of equal length to Kelner’s.  Or is the idea of a genuine debate to
difficult to handle?
Tony Greenstein
July 2018
Dear Sir or
Kelner cites
the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis as saying that it is ‘astonishing that the
Labour Party presumes itself more qualified to define anti-Semitism than the
Jewish community.’
[Labour’s leaders must listen to the Jewish community]
Yes it would
be if it was true.  The Jewish community
has not defined anti-Semitism it is the pro-Zionist leadership of it that has.
I doubt if one in a hundred Jews in this country has even read it.
Many Jews,
especially those most active in anti-racist work and radical politics, reject a
definition whose sole purpose is to conflate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
is a very simple concept.  According to
the OED it is ‘hostility to or prejudice against Jews.’ The IHRA definition,
including 11 illustrations, is over 500 words.
Of course
calling for the harming of Jews or Holocaust denial or  making demeaning generalisations about Jews is
anti-Semitic however we don’t need the IHRA to tell us that. Kelner is being
disingenuous in not pointing out that the IHRA also deems calling Israel a
‘racist endeavour’ anti-Semitic.   This on the day that Israel became officially
an apartheid state, by passing the Jewish Nation State Law.
What Kelner
refers to as the IHRA is in fact a series of 11 illustrations. The actual
definition, some 38 words, has been described by Professor David Feldman of the
Pears Institute as ‘bewilderingly perplexing’ and by Jewish former Court of
Appeal Judge, Sir Stephen Sedley as not even a definition, since it is open
article is part of the wall to wall one-sided media coverage of this issue,
which is Orwellian in its unanimity.  Perhaps Kelner would like to explain why the
38 word IHRA definition is superior to the OED definition? Opponents of the
IHRA do not support anti-Semitism it’s just that we don’t support Zionism
Tuesday, 07 August
Letters Editor,
The ‘I’
Dear Sir or Madam,
Ian Birrell’s ‘Why Corbyn is
unfit for office’ should have been retitled ‘Why Ian Birrell is unfit to be a
journalist’.  Never was there a more
dishonest hatchet job than this.  Lacking
any trace of originality, it merely echoed received opinion.
Birrell alleges that Corbyn
hangs out’ with holocaust deniers.
Nowhere is this libel substantiated.
Birrell complains that the ‘widely accepted’ IHRA definition of
anti-Semitism has been rejected by the Labour Party. Unfortunately it hasn’t
but if Birrell were seriously interested in honest or accurate journalism he
might at least have mentioned the fact that academics, lawyers and anti-racist
groups have objected to the IHRA because of the danger it poses to freedom of
Even its author, Kenneth
Stern, in written
to the House of Representatives in November 2017 complained that
the IHRA ‘was being employed in an
attempt to restrict academic freedom and punish political speech.’

But if we want an example of
Birrell’s dishonesty none betters his description of the  Holocaust Memorial Day meeting that Corbyn
chaired in 2010. Birrell states that Corbyn ‘hosted
an event on Holocaust Day at which someone compared Israel to Nazism..’’
 A terrible thing to be sure comparing an
apartheid state with Nazi Germany.
Who would have thought that
this ‘someone’ just happened to be
Hajo Meyer, a Dutch Jewish survivor of the Auschwitz extermination camp? Hajo being
an ethical person, sought to understand why a state formed as a consequence of
the Holocaust had emulated it in many respects. 
Clearly an argument Birrell finds difficult.  A state where demonstrators march to the
chant of ‘Death to the Arab’s in an echo of the old refrain ‘Death to the Jews’
which used to be heard in the Europe of the 1930’s.
If, as I suspect, this
letter will be refused publication on the grounds that letters to the ‘i’ are
only ever expected to deal with trivia then it shall be treated as an Open
Letter and published on social media instead.
Yours faithfully,
Tony Greenstein
Tuesday, 07 August 2018
Oliver Duff,
The ‘I’ Newspaper,
Dear Mr
I understand
that you are the editor of the ‘i’ newspaper, which I happen to take.
On 19th
July I sent a letter in response to Simon Kelner’s article on the IHRA definition
of anti-Semitism ‘Labour and Anti-Semitism’ whose thesis was that‘Labour’s
leaders must listen to the Jewish community’
. It was not printed.  No letter criticising Kelner’s article was
thesis was that it was ‘astonishing that the Labour Party presumes itself
more qualified to define anti-Semitism than the Jewish community.’
In other
words Kelner had nothing to say about the substance of the definition itself.  We were presumed to judge the IHRA definition
by who supports it (the Sun? Telegraph? Mail?).  Kelner said nothing about why supporters of
the Palestinians and anti-Zionists opposed it.  Kelner ignored the views of secular and
progressive Jews and focussed on the Zionist Establishment support for the IHRA
definition. It was a deceptive and dishonest argument since it is unlikely that
one in a hundred Jews in this country have actually read, still less understood
it, the IHRA definition.
article conveniently ignored the weight of academic and legal opinion
criticising the IHRA’s threat to freedom of speech.  Nowhere in his article did Kelner even
referred to any criticism. All that matters is who supports it as if it were a
question of which football team to support.  This is the quality of the arguments in favour
of this false ‘anti-racism’ of the rich and powerful.
I refer to,
for example, Professor David Feldman of the Pears Institute for the Study of
Antisemism, who said the IHRA was ‘bewilderingly imprecise’ or Hugh Tomlinson QC who described it as having a ‘potentially chilling effect’
on free speech or Sir Stephen Sedley, the former Court of Appeal judge who is
himself Jewish who in a coruscating article Defining Anti-Semitism described how the IHRA ‘fails the first test of
any definition: it is indefinite.’
None of
these or other criticisms of the IHRA has ever appeared in anything in the ‘i’
yet you manage to devote space to articles supporting this definition.
The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is over 500 words in length.  It has 11 examples, which are not part of the
actual definition (which Kelner also failed to mention), 7 of which refer to
Israel. The OED definition of anti-Semitism, ‘hostility to or prejudice against Jews’
takes up only 6 words. Kelner of course did not bother to explain why a
definition of racism requires 500+ words nor have any of its supporters.
Of course
Kelner is entitled to put forward his arguments but any paper worthy of the
name which pretends to have any commitment to democratic debate should at least
acknowledge that there is another side to the argument.  This you have signally failed to do. At no
time has the ‘i’ even acknowledged the opposition of groups like Liberty to
this pernicious definition.
Today Ian
Birrell compounded this problem in writing a wholly perjorative article which
substituted a personal attack for any discussion of the actual issue itself.
Birrell’s full page article ‘why Corbyn is unfit for office – His selective
approach to rights is exposed by the anti-Semitism row.’
contains nothing
which could not have appeared in the tabloid press. I understood that the ‘i’
was not simply a replication of the tabloid press, perhaps I was wrong.  Birrell’s article is a model of journalistic
i.                Birrell complains that Jewish MPs have been
targeted for disciplinary action, failing to mention that thousands of Labour
Party members, myself included, have also been so targeted without any campaign
against the abuse of our democratic rights.
ii.              Birrell says that the IHRA definition of
anti-Semitism ‘supposedly stymies criticism of Israel.’  At no stage does Birrell stoop to explain why
this criticism might be wrong although he infers that the criticism is
iii.            Birrell writes off Corbyn’s parliamentary career in
a sneering and condescending fashion: his ‘biggest decision’ being what
vegetables to grow ‘while he spent those long years fighting loss causes as
a backbencher’.
Birrell doesn’t give us the benefit of his inside knowledge
as to what these lost causes might be. Apartheid in South Africa?
iv.            Birrell tells us that ‘Corbyn’s view on Israel
goes to the very core of his political personality.’
having been formed in
the context of anti-colonial struggle.  And that is it.  We are not told why his views are wrong, what
those views are in substance still less what the relevance of it is to
v.              Apparently though Corbyn’s support for ‘murderous
terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah’
was the reason for Corbyn’s
anti-Semitism.  This is a good example of
the imperialist mindset, the ingrained racist ignorance that informs Birrell’s
world view.  There is no evidence that
Birrell knows anything about either of these two groups.
a.       If Birrell were to consult more knowledgeable
colleagues such as Robert Fisk or Patrick Coburn, he would learn that Hamas was
virtually a creation of Israel. He could break the habit of a lifetime and
actually learn something about the subject he is writing about.  For example he could take time out to watch
Mehdi Hassan’s Blowback: How Israel Helped Create Hamas.
b.      Hezbollah was a consequence of Israel’s genocidal
invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Hezbollah was to Lebanon what the Maquis was to
France in the second world war.  They led
the resistance to Israel’s attempt at colonising the south and in that they
were successfull.
Birrell’s journalism is typical of those who
explain nothing and assert everything, who chose to echo received wisdom as to
who the baddies in any situation are.  It
is a form of journalism which is both childish and demonising.
vi.            It is in his reference to the Holocaust Memorial
Day meeting in 2010, which Corbyn chaired, that Birrell’s dishonest and devious
methodology is best evinced. He states that Corbyn ‘hosted an event on
Holocaust Day at which someone compared Israel to Nazism, then turned on Jewish
.’  The dishonesty is
breathtaking and if the ‘i’ has any sense of ethical journalism then Birrell
should be barred from ever writing another article.
The ‘someone’ referred to above happened to
be Hajo Meyer, a survivor of Auschwitz who also happens to be Jewish. The
‘Jewish dissenters’ happened to be regular disruptors of Palestinian meetings.  I was there, Birrell wasn’t. Hajo happened to
believe that his own experiences of fascism gave him a unique insight into an
apartheid state which relegates its Arab citizens to the margins of society.  Hajo was perfectly entitled to compare
features of Israeli society to Nazi Germany as do many Israelis and Jews.  Comparisons don’t therefore mean that Israel
is the same as Nazi Germany.
vii.          The suggestion that Corbyn’s ‘tribalism’ has
clouded his judgement and that his opponents are waging an anti-racist struggle
on behalf of Britain’s Jews is laughable.  No one has yet pointed to any substantive
evidence of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Corbyn’s opponents are the same
people who supported Theresa May’s 2014 Immigration Act, whose ‘hostile
environment’ policy led to the Windrush Scandal.
Birrell’s article is a disgrace and I would therefore like to request
equal space in order to rebut the hackneyed and repetitious nonsense that
constituted his article.  Nonsense that
can be found in virtually every other British newspaper today.
Yours sincerely,
Tony Greenstein
8th August 2018
To:  Oliver Duff, [email protected], @olyduff
       The ‘i’ Newspaper
Dear Duff,
Although the
‘i’ was taken over by the predatory Johnson Press Group, whose only concern is its
balance sheet, the ‘i’ traces its antecedents back to The Independent.  Indeed it still shares the same switchboard
and correspondents with The Independent including Patrick Cockburn and Robert
 the ethical and insightful journalism of
Fisk and Coburn, the idea that what you write might bear some relationship to
what is actually happening around you, that you don’t mind offending those in
power with uncomfortable truths which they’d rather not hear, doesn’t t seem to
have rubbed off on you as the editor of the ‘i’.  You have all the charm and morals of a
toothless rattlesnake deprived of its venom.
The present
‘antisemitism’ campaign of the mainstream media, which is as good an example of
fake news as any, is a narrative that bears no relationship to reality. Its
talk of ‘antisemitism’ in the Labour Party does not square with actual experiences
of Jewish members of the party.  Nobody,
as far as I know, has been subject to racial epithets, violence or other
classical examples of anti-Semitism.
The only
people who talk of ‘antisemitism’ are those, such as members of the Jewish
Labour Movement, who are affiliated to the racist Israeli Labour Party.  In other words people whose main concern is
defence of Israel.
The fake
anti-Semitism campaign is an Orwellian campaign mounted by vested interests in
support of Britain’s foreign policy objectives. Its primary objective is the
removal of Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party because he is not seen as someone
who can be trusted with safeguarding the special relationship with the USA. He
is unreliable in respect of NATO and Trident. In particular even now he is too
critical of the West’s rabid, racist rottweiler in the Middle East, the apartheid
State of Israel.
attempts to row back on his previous anti-Zionist politics, Corbyn is still
seen as too supportive of the Palestinians. That is why there is a widespread consensus
– from The Sun to The Guardian that Corbyn has to go. That is why there has
been wall to wall sympathetic coverage of the Blessed Margaret Hodge,
expletives and child abuse included, when she accused Corbyn of ‘antisemitism’.
 Imagine if someone on the Left had
assailed the war criminal Tony Blair in similar terms.  It is barely conceivable that they would have
been a hero to the BBC and British Press.
Orwellian campaign, where anti-racism has become its opposite, has manifested itself
in the same boring, repetitious articles in the British press.  Most of these articles are so similar in
content and tone that they could, to quote Hannah Arendt, have come out of a mimeographic
I wrote to
you  two days ago concerning two such
articles in the ‘i’ by Simon Kelner and Ian Birrell. I suggested that you might
want to break with the habit of a lifetime and allow a challenge to their
repetitious nonsense. Let’s see if their monologues could stand up to scrutiny.
Given your failure to respond I assume that you didn’t have any confidence in
such an outcome. It is a cowardice born of political weakness.  For all their bluster you are not prepared to
see their fine bigoted phrases subject to challenge?
Kelner, who makes
even Melanie Philips seem thoughtful, repeated the same trite clichés that
the Labour Party presumes itself more qualified to define anti-Semitism than
the Jewish community.’
 If this idiot stopped to think for even one
moment then he would realise that there is no homogenous Jewish
community, still less with one viewpoint.  If ever there was an example of antisemitism
then that is it but Kelner is too dim to understand why his article attacking
‘anti-Semitism’ is anti-Semitic.
Birrell, in
a particularly loathsome article replete with all the clichés one would expect
of someone who seems incapable of original thought, attacked Corbyn for hosting
a meeting 8 years ago where Hajo Meyer, an anti-Zionist Jewish survivor from
Auschwitz spoke.  How was this written up
by this worthless ‘journalist’?  Corbyn ‘hosted
an event on Holocaust Day at which someone compared Israel to Nazism, then
turned on Jewish dissenters
I doubt if
even Josef Goebbels or the Prince of Darkness himself, Peter Mandelson, could
have bettered this description. The dishonesty is a wonder to behold. The ‘someone’ just happened to be a person
who survived an extermination camp whereas the ‘Jewish dissenters’ were well
known for disrupting Palestinian and anti-Zionist meetings across London.
Your behaviour
reminds me of Stanley Baldwin’s comparison of journalists and their masters to
prostitutes because no one should think you are a free agent:
“They are engines of propaganda
… Their methods are direct falsehoods, misrepresentation, half-truths, the
alteration of the speaker’s meaning by publishing a sentence apart from the
context…What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power
without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.
Written nearly
90 years ago as a description of your editorship it is difficult to better.
Kind regards

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Tony Greenstein

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