Guardian

Very Troubling Indeed


On the Lerman thread yesterday, a certain poster going by the name of ‘verytroubled’ posted this:

verytroubled

14 Jan 2010, 1:14PM

I’ve been reading the Guardian’s CIF for some time now, and I still can’t understand why the Guardian seems to be making every effort to pretend that anti-semitism just isn’t a problem.

Are the owners and editors of the Guardian Jewish? Have they experienced hatred due to their religious beliefs?

Is anti-semitism any less offensive than any other form of hatred or racism? Should Jews, particularly after everything they have experienced in the world, feel that anti-Jewish rantings, threats, firebombings belittling of their problems, calling them apes and pigs, and so on, just ignore all of this hatred?

Why does the Guardian continue to insist that anti-semitism is an experience created by Jews for Jews?

Shortly afterwards, Matt Seaton himself responded:

mattseaton

14 Jan 2010, 2:33PM

Staff

@ verytroubled:

I’ve been reading the Guardian’s CIF for some time now, and I still can’t understand why the Guardian seems to be making every effort to pretend that anti-semitism just isn’t a problem.

Are the owners and editors of the Guardian Jewish? Have they experienced hatred due to their religious beliefs?

Is anti-semitism any less offensive than any other form of hatred or racism? Should Jews, particularly after everything they have experienced in the world, feel that anti-Jewish rantings, threats, firebombings belittling of their problems, calling them apes and pigs, and so on, just ignore all of this hatred?

Why does the Guardian continue to insist that anti-semitism is an experience created by Jews for Jews?

I’m not sure how you can stand up that assertion, verytroubled. Where, even, in this article by Tony Lerman is the statement that ‘antisemitism just isn’t a problem’. To be sure, he’s expressing sympathy with the implicit thesis of Shamir’s documentary that antisemitism is too broadly defined and applied by some; but nowhere here will you find any suggestion that antisemitism is not a problem and is not to be taken seriously.

If you don’t like Lerman’s take on this film, fine: you won’t have to wait long for an alternative and more critical view here from David Hirsh (inter alia, clarifying the context of his own appearance in the documentary).

More broadly on Cif, we’ve recently run excellent articles by David Cesarani and others on antisemitism in eastern Europe, and just last week a fine essay by Dovid Katz on the pernicious ‘double genocide’ argument ? which, if you watched the documentary, was the same issue Abe Foxman of the ADL was seen raising with officials of the Ukrainian government in Defamation.

As editor of Cif, I’ve represented Cif at an international conference on antisemitism (in 2009) convened by members of the all-party parliamentary group on antisemitism and others. I have had meetings and regular contact with members of the Community Security Trust (and we have published relevant articles by CST staff here). Frankly, I should put more time and effort into similar outreach concerning other forms of hate speech, but believe me, we take antisemitism entirely seriously.

@ AllyF and others:

Re: Norman Finkelstein. I know what Ally means. I’m not sure if I found him ‘terrifying’, though ? except in the sense that I feared for his wellbeing and sanity. He seemed like a very angry man. He may always have had a streak of that. But his way of dealing with vilification for his views is evidently to come out swinging, with ever more strident gestures and rhetoric. I was frightened for him, to be honest.

That aside, I personally found the documentary too long for the degree of insight it had to offer. I didn’t quite believe Shamir’s ingénu persona. And I felt that it relied on too many easy ‘gotcha’ moments to score rather simplistic, polemical points. Much as I respect Antony’s view on these things, I didn’t feel that Shamir had done a tremendous service to the cause of critiquing ‘the new anti-Semitism

However, ‘verytroubled’ appeared not to be satisfied by Mr. Seaton’s placations.

verytroubled

14 Jan 2010, 3:04PM

To mattseaton:

I appreciate your detailed and extensive response. However the simple fact is that between reading articles that again and again seem to suggest that jews claiming antisemitism are hysterical and have no right to do so, and by doing so only perpetuate antisemitism themselves, and seeing the regular and offensive comments I have to strongly disagree with you.

My comments aren’t directed towards a specific author or commentor, my comments address the collective sense that I, as a Jew get from reading material in this forum.

There can be a million and one debated on anti-semitism, and there are, dafka here, in the Guardian. And it seems that with the over abundance of discussion of antisemitism, and the accusations that fly, the subject is becoming desensitized, and comments that negate Jew’s feelings seem not only acceptable, but the norm.

“Antisemitism is too broadly defined?” you say? I say it is not. And Anthony Lehrman, in himself does not get to define anti-semitism. It is a term that is defined by an entire people, those it is perpetrated against. Quite honestly, I’m not too impressed by your credentials either. Any discussion of anti-semitism in the UK is already polluted with the rhetoric and intimidation of historic proportions. And anybody who dares to equate anti-zionism with anti-semitism is attacked from all sides.

Well my dear friend, Israel being the Jewish state in the world makes it very relevant to the discussion of anti-semitism. And the british use of the term anti-zionist has been proven as the ultimate tool to express some deep seated hatred or bias towards jews in a way that is acceptable across the UK.

Today you see your academic institutions, hospitals, and trade unions all pushing to boycot the state of Israel. And for what, because of the “colonialst enterprise?” But forced female circumcision which is prevalent across the arab world, rape which is used as a tool of war in the congo, genocide in Sudan, or the lack of free speech in China, Russia and Iran are acceptable to you?

Not only do you regularly attack Israel and its legitimcy as a country, you more often than not support the ideas and actions of Hamas, a terrorist organization that straps bombs to their children’s bodies to kill other children, that have openly declared, again and again their goal of killing Jews and destroying Israel.

And yet it is Israel you boycott?

And then you attack anyone that has the odacity to suggest that this completely asymmetrical attack you are conducting on the State of Israel while ignoring the atrocities taking place in the Muslim world in particular is antisemitism?

If you wanted to help the discussion on anti-semitism, I suggest that you stop posting articles on how Jews take everything too hard and have a persecution complex.

In fact, why don’t you stop obsessing about Jews period. Because your regular and reoccuring obsession and attacks as an international publication on Israel and Judaism makes it clear to the entire world one thing, that your interest isn’t in protecting innocent Palestinians or returning stolen land (like that of 750,000 Jews that were ethnically cleansed from more than two dozen arab and muslim nations), your interest is in deligitimizing the international symbol of the Jewish people, whether they support it or not: Israel.

Many of us will be able to understand where ‘verytroubled’ is coming from and indeed share his or her frustrations. Mr. Seaton may well have attended the All Party Parliamentary Group conference on combating anti-Semitism held in London in February 2009, but one wonders if he happened to miss this address  entitled ‘The Internet is Making Anti-Semitism Socially Acceptable’ by Christopher Wolf, because the very next day, CiF published this piece by none other than Antony Lerman.

In my eyes, the most interesting sentence in Mr. Seaton’s reply to ‘verytroubled’ is this: “ Frankly, I should put more time and effort into similar outreach concerning other forms of hate speech, but believe me, we take antisemitism entirely seriously.” which roughly translates as ‘Oy, those pesky Jews! They think they’re a special case and they’re never satisfied with what they’re given.’

Well. Mr. Seaton, I’ll tell you a short true story which will maybe help clarify where we’re coming from. I have a friend who, on Kristallnacht, was sent by her mother, together with her brother, to hide at the house of cousins just outside Leipzig after the mob had smashed up their family business. Soon after they arrived at the cousin’s house, there was a knock on the door – the Gestapo – and my friend and her brother had to hide in a wardrobe as, in the rush to get out of the city, they had not brought their identification papers with them. The Gestapo arrested the cousin’s husband (who was never seen again) and as he was being led away he asked ‘What am I supposed to have done?’ to which came the reply ‘Jews don’t get to ask questions’.

Well now we do, and we will continue to ask questions until we get answers with which we are satisfied, no matter how annoying or time-consuming that makes us.

72 replies »

  1. Andy Gill,

    “If you had posted a similar accusation on Cif, which claimed that Cif was rife with racism, it would have been removed by the moderators.”

    That, disgracefully, is the case.

    “But this isn’t Cif. So you are lucky.”

    Truly blessed!

    “You have a chance to provide some evidence to justify your remark. I am very interested to see what you come up with.”

    Haven’t I already pointed people in the direction of the “first I stoke the fires” thread?

    “/sound of crickets chirping …..”

    I’m not sure that sound effects really work here, but it’s a nice idea.

  2. VacuumCleanersStillSuck said “Don’t exaggerate, I didn’t say you were being hysterical. ”

    But you did. You said I was lashing out. I work as a writer and I studied linguistics. I can tell you that calling my description of ExiledLondonner lashing out is linguistically identical to calling me hysterical.

    This is one of the little games people like you often use. Jews are always lashing out, hysterical, emotional, unable to see past their own history, whatever it is, no matter what their argument. However, any argument on the other side is always rational and reasonable, and lost in a flurry of quotations from other left wing nuts and Jews and Israelis that are critical of Israel.

    So do us all a favor and save the lesson on semantics for another time.

  3. “I’m not sure that sound effects really work here, but it’s a nice idea.”

    I think a cicada “chirping” is more appropriate for you, Mr. ex-Londoner.

  4. Herzl’s Daughter, to ExiledLondonners’ comment “Maybe you could explain how only Jews can say what is anti-semitic?”

    You said “Richard didn’t say that, you arse.”

    I thank you for your support, but that is exactly what I said. It is well known that only a minorty can define the aspects of persecution against them. Jews define anti-semitism, and not the anti-semites. Blacks define anti-black racial prejudice. And yes, muslims get to define anti-muslim sentiment.

    Anybody that doesn’t belong to a minority of course is welcome to their own opinion. But in practice, one that cannot experience the prejudice and hatred of another can’t understand its emotional impact and subsequently can’t define it.

    That’s what’s so utterly absurd about a British newspaper doing article after article on anti-semitism and trying to establish the real meaning of anti-semitism.

  5. Richard,

    “I thank you for your support, but that is exactly what I said.”

    Thank you for confirming that.

    “It is well known that only a minorty can define the aspects of persecution against them. Jews define anti-semitism, and not the anti-semites. Blacks define anti-black racial prejudice. And yes, muslims get to define anti-muslim sentiment.”

    In what way is it “well known”? In all western systems of justice the opposite is true – accusations of defamation (of which anti-semitism is one form) are judged by people removed from the alleged wrongdoing.

    The logical (and intended?) result of your position is that accusations of racism, including anti-semitism, are impossile to defend against – one is an anti-semite because one has been accused by a Jew of being an anti-semite – that becomes the defining feature of anti-semitism. Like accusations of witchcraft in the 17th century, there is no defence.

  6. exiledlondoner said “In what way is it “well known”? In all western systems of justice the opposite is true – accusations of defamation (of which anti-semitism is one form) are judged by people removed from the alleged wrongdoing.”

    Exiled Londonner, I understand you think you know what is anti-semitism better than any Jew, but believe me, you’re making an ass out of yourself. Just like you don’t have any idea what persecution Samoans experience. Sure you can do your google search, and read about it in Wikipedia, but short of converting to Judaism, walking around in a skull cap in London, and trying to board an airplane with the name Goldstein on a flight to Syria, there’s really no chance in hell.

    Furthermore, its obvious that all of your comments are politically motivated.

    There is absolutely nothing more absurd than believing that you have any right, in any way, shape or form to contribute to the debate about anti-semitism. No matter how much you try to argue.

    You are wrong, dead wrong. And the sooner you realize this, the less of an ass you will make yourself.

  7. richard

    “Exiled Londonner, I understand you think you know what is anti-semitism better than any Jew”

    Come on, Richard — you’re exaggerating again. No one here has claimed any such thing. And you’re still using the fact that you are Jewish to bolster your argument.

  8. Richard,

    You seem to have abandoned defending your position, in favour of putting words in my mouth. I asked some perfectly sensible questions.

    “Exiled Londonner, I understand you think you know what is anti-semitism better than any Jew, but believe me, you’re making an ass out of yourself.”

    I haven’t said anything of the kind.

    You said that only Jews could define anti-semitism, and I questioned that. I am asking why, as a gentile, you think that I cannot define anti-semitism? I have not claimed any superiority in that respect – it is you who have done that.

    “Sure you can do your google search, and read about it in Wikipedia, but short of converting to Judaism, walking around in a skull cap in London, and trying to board an airplane with the name Goldstein on a flight to Syria, there’s really no chance in hell.”

    So answer my points above.

    You are claiming that the mere fact that you say someone is anti-semitic, makes them anti-semitic. The mere fact that a muslim says that someone is an Islamophobe, makes them an Islamophobe. Presumably, If I were to say that you were racially prejudiced against Europeans, then you are incontrovertably racially prejudiced against Europeans?

    This is truly insane – far from preventing racism, it bolsters it. It means that all Jews are Arab-haters (Hamas said so), all Arabs are Jew-haters (that’s been said too), and when you get to cosmopolitan cities like London and New York, everyone hates everyone else….

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but to ‘define’ is something different. Definitions of wrongdoing and crime are quasi-legal instruments – they are the work of dispassionate bodies. They require clear-cut tests to satisfy the criteria – “Richard said so” isn’t good enough.

    “Furthermore, its obvious that all of your comments are politically motivated.”

    Political in what way?

    “There is absolutely nothing more absurd than believing that you have any right, in any way, shape or form to contribute to the debate about anti-semitism. No matter how much you try to argue.”

    Because I’m not Jewish?

    “You are wrong, dead wrong. And the sooner you realize this, the less of an ass you will make yourself.”

    But you can’t explain why I’m wrong, can you? Apart from that my race is wrong……

  9. exiledlondoner,

    The fact that you not “get it,” just goes to prove how insensitivity to another’s persecution excludes them from being able to determine the definition of that persecution.

    You could let hitler define anti-semitism, or Stalin, or the Queen of England. But their definitions don’t mean a damn, because they don’t know what its like to feel when someone says to them “hitler didn’t finish the job” or what its like to feel as a jew in Iran when someone says that all Jews are the decendants of apes or pigs. Or what its like to be kidnapped off the streets of paris, be held for ransom as people put cigarette butts out on you, have to tell your children to wear baseball caps instead of yarmulkes when outside for fear of being attacked, or be shouted down and intimidated by British academics for defending Israel’s right to defend its own citizens.

    So in short, “why, you a gentile, cannot define anti-semitism?”

    The simple answer, because it’s never been perpetrated against you.

    And that’s the only point of yours I’m going to answer.

    If you don’t understand that simple premise, there’s really nothing more do discuss.

  10. Exiled. Don’t you have anything better to do than to exchange inanities with posters here.

    Is CI(F) so boring?

  11. VacuumCleanersStillSuck said “Come on, Richard — you’re exaggerating again. No one here has claimed any such thing. And you’re still using the fact that you are Jewish to bolster your argument.”

    By the way, where’s pretzelberg?

    The fact that I am Jewish in this particular argument is completely relevant. If we were discussing, on the other hand, the plight of the alaskan eskimos, I guess it wouldn’t be.

    Though i guess if you, like ExiledLondonner, can’t see how my being Jewish is relevant to my right to define anti-semitism, while saying that an anti-zionist (which is more often than not used as a cover for an anti-semite) does not have that right, I guess you’re just as clueless as he is.

    G-d forbid that those that are looking to deligitimze the Jewish state and isolate the Jewish voice just because they voice support for Israel to protect their citizens (as is their responsiblity being a democratically elected government), actually get the right to define a term that belongs to this same people in a effort to deligitimze their very existence, and their right to live in their own country.

    I’m sure you’ll try to convince the world that everybody has a right to decide what the Jews, and Israel should do, and how they should define themselves, and how they should categorize the hate perpetrated against them. Such as calling strapping bombs to children to kill other children “resistance.”

    But we, the Jews, and the Israelis will never, as much as it is in our power, enable those that dispute our right to our existence define who we are as a people, or define the perseuction that we experience.

    You are, for lack of a more delicate way of stating it, an enemy of the Jewish people. For you think that you have the right to decide who we are, and believe you can use your rhetoric to convince others the same. And attempt to use this as a weapon against us.

    Always remember, an obsessive fixation on Judaism and Israel in a negative manner when you are not a Jew is anti-semitism. There’s really no other way to explain it.

    And you, ExiledLondonner, with no doubt, have an obsessive fixation with Israel, and apparently Judaism as well.

  12. richard

    “You are, for lack of a more delicate way of stating it, an enemy of the Jewish people.”

    Look, I’m sure you’re a very nice guy. Just chill out a little — I am not your enemy, that’s ridiculous!

    And let me repeat what I wrote to you earlier:

    You identify fiercely with being a Jew. Fine, no worries from me whatsoever. Personally, I identify solely with being a human (having shed all other tribal allegiances) — and in my opinion, using Jewishness (ie: the fact of being a Jew) as an intellectual weapon to bolster an argument or to silence critics — is completely out of order, sir.

    One doesn’t need to be a Jew to have a deep and authentic empathy for the victims of the Holocaust, one doesn’t need to be black to have a deep and authentic empathy for the victims of the slave trade — and one can be an Outer Mongolian Taoist and have a perfectly valid understanding of anti-Semitism or other forms of racism, and be able to express that perfectly valid understanding. Being Jewish doesn’t give you any exclusive right to understand or to express that understanding

    Okay, Richard..?!!

  13. Richard,

    “So in short, “why, you a gentile, cannot define anti-semitism?” The simple answer, because it’s never been perpetrated against you.”

    So I can’t define murder, rape or a big hug from Jennifer Lopez either?

    “And that’s the only point of yours I’m going to answer.”

    Was that an answer?

    “And you, ExiledLondonner, with no doubt, have an obsessive fixation with Israel, and apparently Judaism as well.”

    No, just an obsessive fixation with extremists masquerading as anti-racists – like the founders of this site, I believe that it needs to be challenged. Unlike the founders of this site, I can identify racism on both sides of the debate….

    Jerusalem Mite,

    “Exiled. Don’t you have anything better to do than to exchange inanities with posters here.”

    Obviously not, though I would hardly describe challenging those who promote ethnic cleansing as “exchanging inanities”….

    Is there anything better to do than that?

    “Is CI(F) so boring?”

    To tell the truth, ever since CW started, there’s been a distinct lack of Zionist extremists on CIF – though for the Jihadi mob, it still delivers the goods (though nowadays, you have to be quick to catch them….)

    Why do you ask? Would you rather I wasn’t here?

    The few opposing voices here are the only thing that stops CW descending into a self-congratulating clique of back slappers (Great post IN!) – to his credit, I think that AKUS probably understands that….

  14. “For the record — lashing out and throwing around accusations of moral corruption is just about as desperate as it gets on an internet forum.”

    As is engaging in your sort of repetitive nonsense.

    richard, I agree with you. That’s why the likes of Matt Seaton and La Henry lack the layer of intelligence and empathy to be able to recognise the nasty effects of what they are doing. They care no more for the Palestinians than they do for Israel – the “poor Palestinians” are a convenient means to draw in the bigoted, the racist and the frankly disturbed who want to bash Jews, and every hit means money for them.

    I really do believe that this is true. I heard earlier that the UN aid spokeswoman in Haiti had said that this was the worst humanitarian disaster they had ever been confronted with (which means that the Haitians have it incalculably worse than Gaza and yet will receive a mere fraction of the aid allocated to them).

    Haiti’s government’s human rights record is not good although it is much better than that of Hamas. The Haitian people are dirt poor but have no long history of mindless hatred, nor the inbuilt belligerent self-pity engineered by a Hamas-like government which would mean that they would sit in their misery and blame everyone else for it , nor have they the attention of the world in order to (and probably nor would they want to) bleat and bleat and become rivals to Hamas for perpetual paid victim status.

    And yet only one article about Haiti is on CiF. One would think that even Berchmans’ emphasis on “gentle” would encourage the Guardianistas to do something to raise awareness and begin fundraising.

  15. A PS to exiled:

    “Why do you ask? Would you rather I wasn’t here?”

    Yes. You know I think I would.

  16. SarahLeah

    “As is engaging in your sort of repetitive nonsense.”

    Bless…

    “richard, I agree with you.”

    Oh no, Sarah dear — I don’t have to repeat myself again, do I..?!!

    Go on then — in what way do you agree with Richard?

  17. (By the way and off topic, I loved verytroubled’s ‘davka’ – a wonderful example of the use of yiddish which would have pleased Leo Rosten. Onward with the education of Hyman K*a*p*l*a*n!)

    Language is a wonderful thing – I learned my Spanish in Bogota (considered by many as the ‘purest’ form of the language) although my first language was Ladino – AKUS, we talked about language on one of the CIF threads, remember?

  18. Personally, I enjoy exiled’s contributions – exiled enjoys a good argument and that is why he comes here. We’ll make a Jew of him yet – he is well advanced in pilpul – now he needs to study more and deeper.

  19. But we, the Jews, and the Israelis will never, as much as it is in our power, enable those that dispute our right to our existence define who we are as a people, or define the perseuction that we experience.

    You are, for lack of a more delicate way of stating it, an enemy of the Jewish people. For you think that you have the right to decide who we are, and believe you can use your rhetoric to convince others the same. And attempt to use this as a weapon against us.

    Always remember, an obsessive fixation on Judaism and Israel in a negative manner when you are not a Jew is anti-semitism. There’s really no other way to explain it.

    Well-put, Richard!

  20. Richard,

    You have fought the good fight, but perhaps I can help. It is certainly true that the enemies of the Jewish people throughout history have tried to tell us who we are, what we are, what we should believe, how we should live, and they have always and ever told us that we were responsible for their hatred of us. It is highly irritating, but it is not new.

    Exiledlondoner may be able to define anti-Semitism, and he may even, on occasion, be able to catch a fleeting sense of what it means, but he will never really understand it because he will never experience it. He doesn’t have to worry about attacks on his children, and unless he upsets the Guardia Civil he will never have to fear the knock in the night.

    Someone mentioned not having to be raped to understand it. I have been very lucky, I am 57 and it has never happened to me. But a number of my women friends have been raped, and I would never be so arrogant as to tell them that I know how they feel – I don’t. I can imagine it, but only that. In the same way, it is impossible to understand what it means to be a parent until you actually have a baby of your own. Only Jews can understand anti-Semitism because we are the only ones who can experience it.

    On November 9, 1938, my grandfather, who had previously been a prominent businessman in Darmstadt, Germany, was arrested. He was imprisoned for a month until my great-uncles raised enough money to bribe the right people and got him out. Something terrible must have happened during that month because none of them would ever discuss it. I think my father knew something, but he went to his grave refusing to tell me.

    Exiledlondoner can have only a small idea how this story feels to you or me. He may try to be empathetic, although I suspect he doesn’t try very hard. When he goes to worship services he doesn’t have to be guarded by the police, which we have to be, even in the generally calm Midwestern city where I live. There is no point in trying to convince him because he is already convinced that he knows more about our lives than we do. As I said, it is irritating, but it is not new.

  21. richard:

    G-d forbid that those that are looking to deligitimze the Jewish state and isolate the Jewish voice just because they voice support for Israel to protect their citizens (as is their responsiblity being a democratically elected government), actually get the right to define [anti-Semitism]

    – You make it sound like anyone not-Jewish meets the above description.

    You could let hitler define anti-semitism, or Stalin, or the Queen of England. But their definitions don’t mean a damn, because they don’t know what its like to feel when someone says to them “hitler didn’t finish the job”

    – You don’t need to be Jewish to see the latter as constituting anti-Semitism. I hope the queen would agree as well (best not consult her husband though).

  22. To my comment: “G-d forbid that those that are looking to deligitimze the Jewish state and isolate the Jewish voice just because they voice support for Israel to protect their citizens (as is their responsiblity being a democratically elected government), actually get the right to define [anti-Semitism]”

    Pretzelberg said “You make it sound like anyone not-Jewish meets the above description.”

    I don’t know how you come to that conclusion, unless you believe everyone not jewish looks to deligitimze the Jewish state and isolate supporters of Israel.

    I know that’s the norm at the Guardian CIF, but luckily its not in the rest of the Western world. I think you’re spending way too much time listen reading that good ole’ guardian rhetoric.