This is a guest post from Jonathan Hoffman
He called the concept “bogus and bankrupt”. Many respectable commentators of course would disagree.
What astonished me – having read Robin Shepherd’s excellent new book, reviewed here recently – was Lerman’s misrepresentation of the book. Lerman says
And Robin Shepherd, of the Henry Jackson Society, in a thoroughly wrong-headed book out this month subtitled Europe’s Problem With Israel, uses the concept to explain why leftwing Jews “publicly turn against Israel”.
Shepherd says nothing of the sort. He explains Jewish anti-Zionism by suggesting that there are some Jews whose identity as members of the ‘radical Left’ dominates their identification with the Jewish State.
And look how Lerman avoids giving the full title of the book (‘A State Beyond The Pale’) – he only gives the subtitle – how nasty is that! Civilised authors reference all books to which they refer, even those with which they disagree.
Of course the misrepresentation gets compounded in the comments below the article. Here is the first one from “Lord SummerIsle”:
Whenever I hear the words ‘self hating Jew’ used seriously in an argument I tend to assume the speaker is both anti-semitic and stupid. It is a truly moronic assertion for one person to make about another.
So Shepherd is defamed on the basis of Lerman’s misrepresentation!
You would have thought that the Guardian would have been only too willing to offer Shepherd the ‘right of correction’, wouldn’t you? Especially as they always tell us they are looking for articles to show that they are not institutionally antisemitic. But look what happened when Shepherd asked for the ‘right of correction’.
First, Shepherd asked for the right of reply. This arose – he said – from a disgraceful distortion of the arguments in his book. More broadly, he said, his book is a civilisational critique which argues that European civilisation is so weakened, relatavistic and enervated that it simply cannot deal with the issues the Israel-Palestine conflict throws up. Clearly (he said) the thrust of his thinking goes right against the grain of most of the Guardian’s contributors. He added that Lerman’s failure to mention the book’s title was clearly a way of attacking the book and its author while not giving readers the proper reference point so they can make up their own minds. These – he said – are the tactics of the propagandist, not the respected journalist. He suggested that the Guardian should have known better than to allow this. Or – he wondered – did it just slip through the cracks?
However the Guardian rejected his offer to write a piece even though Shepherd had made it clear that the piece would not be a full response piece on the single misrepresentation issue.
Shepherd had a debate with Lerman on the book on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Nightwaves’ last Wednesday. Shepherd pointed out to the Guardian that Lerman had made the same false allegations on that and a host of other issues about the book. But at least – Shepherd said – he had had on Radio 3 the opportunity to expose Lerman, while providing listeners with an alternative point of view on Europe, Israel and the Jews. Lerman paid the price – said Shepherd: something he can avoid inside ‘Comment is Free’, and he knows it. Shepherd asked the Guardian if he should draw the conclusion that the robustness of his position and its political leanings are too difficult for its readers and/or journalists to cope with? He noted that the Guardian had said nothing about Lerman’s failure to reference his book properly. He suggested it was a cynical ploy designed to make it difficult for the reader to look at the book and make up his/her own mind.
The Guardian’s response – of course – was to accuse Shepherd of bullying:
You can draw whatever conclusions you like, but you might reflect whether this kind of approach – which I would characterise, putting it mildly as browbeating – is more or less likely to get you the commission you seek.
Shepherd’s closing was to suggest that the Guardian knows the reason why his and other offerings are almost always turned down. It is because the editors are quite well aware that their stable of Israel-bashers is not analytically strong enough to shoulder the burden of serious debate. A serious challenge would expose them and expose the Guardian. So they run away from it, apart from very occasional items from a more pro-Israeli position in order to preserve the veneer of being a “broad church”.
Shepherd told them that he was not looking for crumbs from their table. The writing on this topic in the Guardian – he said – is as shameful as it is shallow. He was asking for a right to reply and offering an alternative point of view. Serious media outlets understand the point, he suggested. He expressed gratitude for such useful evidence to back up his long-standing observations about the Guardian.
What an indictment of the third word (‘Free’) of ‘Comment is Free’!
What better evidence could there be of The Guardian’s institutional bias against Jews and Israel and its unwillingness to confront antisemitic discourse?
Yet again: Shame on you, Seaton, Whitaker and Henry!