General Antisemitism

Jews & the charge of ‘Dual Loyalty’: CiF’s Rachel Shabi excuses a classic antisemitic canard

Rachel Shabi

Rachel Shabi is a journalist who writes for ‘Comment is Free’ and Al Jazeera whose contempt for the Jewish state, and seeming indifference to antisemitism, is consistently demonstrated.

Shabi has blamed Zionism for the ethnic cleansing of 900,000 Jews from Arab lands; characterizing their plight as being caused “either by agitating Zionist emissaries, or by the shockwaves that Zionism sent through the Middle East.” [emphasis added]

She has accused those who raise the issue of the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab lands of engaging in cynical “political point-scoring”, and has even mocked the notion of historic Arab antisemitism.

She also dismissed Israeli concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) – writing that the MB was merely “perceived as…anti-Semitic – characterizing the Jewish state’s fear of the Islamist group’s rise (a movement whose spiritual leader literally called for Allah to murder every last Jew on earth) as evidence of Israeli racism!

In addition, while Shabi has carved out a successful journalistic niche as a Jewish critic of Israel I have found nothing Shabi has written on the subject of antisemitism, and absolutely no indication that she is at all burdened by the malign Jewish obsession which is normative in the Arab world – all of which provides relevant context to her latest essay at ‘Comment is Free’, False accusations of antisemitism desensitize us to the real thing“, Feb. 17.

Shabi, in arguing that “rightwing pro-Israelis [have] sucked the oxygen out of any conversation about the country”, argues: 

a broader rash of pouncing-upon from rightwing pro-Israelis that has sucked the oxygen out of any conversation about the country – especially in the US. Witness the recent storm over the phrase “Israel firsters”: used to accuse people of putting policy on Israel above US interests, it sparked a row among liberal commentators on whether it carries connotations of dual loyalty that feed into antisemitic tropes. This was just another attempt to smear liberal American critics of Israel,

Yet the real danger in all this is that the rush to throw charges of antisemitism…and silence…people who criticise Israel will desensitise vigilance over the real thing. Such tactics are meant to intimidate and paralyse, choke and divert the discussion over Israel’s occupation and policies in the Middle East.

Briefly, the controversy Shabi is referring to arose when it was discovered that Zaid Jilani, who blogged for a Center for American Progress (CAP) website, ThinkProgress, used Twitter to call US supporters of the Jewish state “Israel Firsters” –  evoking the antisemitic narrative that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country.

As several progressive commentators observed following the row, “liberal” voices who defend this dual loyalty canard are evidently unaware of or unburdened by the fact that the idea that diaspora Jews are insufficiently loyal to the country where they reside has a decidedly reactionary pedigree.

The charge of dual loyalty was central in the Dreyfus Affair through the Nazi’s rise to power – and, indeed, this notion in large measure underlay the failure of European emancipation.  In the 1920s American industrialist Henry Ford published The International JewThe World’s Problem where it was asserted that disloyal American Jews were pushing the U.S. into WWII, though the war was not in the national interest.

While after WWII manifestations of this charge often remained on the fringes of American society, Paul Findley, a former Republican U.S. Congressman, wrote a book in 1985, They Dare to Speak Out, which became a best-seller. In it, Findley maintained that American Jews utilized “tactics which stifle dissent in their own communities and throughout America” to benefit not their own country but, rather, Israel.

Paleoconservative commentators, not surprisingly, have similarly championed this narrative. Pat Buchanan wrote in 2008 that “Israel and its Fifth Column in [Washington , DC] seek to stampede us into war with Iran”, and has previously written that Jews “harbor a ‘passionate attachment’ to a nation not our own that causes them to subordinate the interests of their own country and to act on an assumption that, somehow, what’s good for Israel is good for America.”

As liberal columnist Spencer Ackerman noted on the term “Israel-firster”:

It turns out white supremacist Willis Carto was reportedly the first to use it, and (former KKK Grand Wizard) David Duke popularized it through his propaganda network…It is a term that Charles Lindbergh would [have been] comfortable using.

As David Bernstein observed upon researching the term:

The “Israel-firster” slur was not used in “mainstream” discourse until the last few years.

Before that, you can find it occasionally in the early 1980s and 1990s in sources such as Wilmot Robertson’s anti-Semitic Instauration journal, a 1988 anti-Semitic book called “The F.O.J. [Fear of Jews] Syndrome, and a 1998 anti-Semitic book “Rise of AntiChrist.” I also found a couple of references to “Israel-firsters” in the extremist anti-Israel publication, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs…

By the early 2000s, one can find “Israel-firster” being used by a variety of anti-Semitic “right-wing” sources like and the Vanguard News Network. As the decade wore on, the phrase occasionally pops up in far left anti-Israel sites that have ties to the anti-Semitic far-right or are known for playing footsie with anti-Semitism

Finally, over the last few years the term has become increasingly used on the anti-Israel far left

So the question is, does your average Progressive recoil at the use of terminology that migrated recent from the far-right racist kook fringe to refer to members of minority groups? They sure do. Should they recoil less if the terminology is aimed at Jews, as opposed to other minority groups? They sure shouldn’t–unless they are themselves prejudiced against Jews.

Rachel Shabi, a “progressive” commentator writing for a publication which fancies itself the “worlds leading liberal voice”, not only doesn’t recoil from such a malign narrative, questioning the loyalty of Jews but, rather, is outraged that those who engage in such Judeophobic tropes (popularized on the far-right) are being “smeared” as antisemites.

As A. Jay Adler concluded in a recent CiF Watch cross post about those, like Shabi, who would defend or excuse such a slur on Jewish Americans”.

They defend their use of the term because they believe that this time it is true. They believe that this time there really are divided loyalties, there really is a cadre of Jews exercising excessive, secretive power while aggressively attempting to suppress any exposure of it. And like all their reactionary forebears…they forget that the belief they cling to is the belief to which purveyors of anti-Semitic tropes of Jewish power always hold fast – it’s the essential marker of the tradition – that what they believe is true.

To this I’d add one more caveat.

Activists like Shabi, like so many others at ‘Comments is Free’, seem to believe that self-proclaimed “progressives” are ipso facto free of prejudice, and so should be granted a kind of impunity from accusations of racism even when trading in the most classic Judeophobic stereotypes.

Such supreme moral hubris continues to inform so much of the the commentary about Israel and Jews by Guardian reporters, contributors and their “progressive” fellow travelers.

28 replies »

    • As usual, M. Levick targets women who are journalists and work for far more prestigious media outlets than he. Pure and simple jealousy.

      • In addition to the ad hominem nature of your reply, which has no bearing whatsoever on my arguments that Shabi was indeed defending a classic antisemitic smear, for your accusation to hold up you’d likely need some, you know, actual evidence that I refrain from such criticisms regarding male CiF/Guardian contributors. If you take a look at my posts, you’d clearly see that nothing could be further from the truth.

        And, on a personal note, Hannah, I’m very very happy with my job, and proud to be associated with a blog which calls out antisemities without apologies.

        • Let’s see… over the past weeks Adam Levick attacked Hariett Sherwood, a woman journalist, then Phoebe Greenwood, a woman journalist, and finally Rachel Shabi, also a woman journalist. There’s definitely a pattern here. Jealousy, definitely.

          On a different note, we’re all happy to learn that M. Levick prefers working for “CIF Watch” rather than for The Guardian and for the NY Times. It’s good, as I guess journalists for The Guardian or the NYT would smile if asked whether they’d prefer to work for CIF. They will not swap.

      • Awww, the feminist card, eh? So, women now are free to be ignorant, mendacious, stupid, irresponsible and get away with it, just because they are poor, defenseless victims of the Western patriarchy.

        Man, the stupidity of “progressives” is truly boundless. But one can recognize that they are experts on shooting themselves in the foot.

  1. The nest of vipers Shabby doesn’t mind nursing:

    How can anyone look at a map with so much of the world in Arab possession – its having been given to them undeservedly – and want to take the tiny sliver that is Israel away from Jews?

    Where should Jews go, with so much Arab money ensuring them no comfortable home in the West? And how many greedy hands grasp that money?

    There isn’t a lot of help, judging by something Yisrael Medad wrote a couple of years ago.

    “Don’t rock the boat” hasn’t worked and isn’t working.

  2. To think that this woman was born to Iraqi Jewish parents,Just read her anti-Israeli articles and tweets,and discover who really are her “friends”.

    A sickening apologist brown nosed ass kisser…..A terrible ignorant journalist,who makes it up as she goes along.Perfect for the racist Anti-Semitic Guardian.She was cross because her buddy Ali Abunimah was mentioned in the JP……

  3. The Israel-Firster accusation is cut from the same cloth as the classic question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” He has already lost who attempts to engage that question on its own terms. Being so, the only response befitting it is a turn-around, tu quoque response such as “About the same time you stopped beating yours.”

    In like manner, the only fitting response to those who accuse you of being an Israel-Firster is to accuse them of being Islam-Firsters. You give me an “Israel Lobby” and I’ll raise you a “Saudi Petrodollar Caucus”; you give me a “serving Jewish interests” and I’ll raise you a “playing the useful idiot for the greater glory of shariah law.”

    • I think that works. ziontruth. In Britain anyone raising the “question” – accusation! – invariably follows it with WWII having been fought for the Jews.
      Then there’s a scenario of Britain at war with Israel.

      It’s a lot to knock down but even the rather biased site knows something:

      “The leaders of the Arab League had already pledged themselves to the extermination of any independent Jewish state.

      That was before 4 May 1947 and there are obvious omissions like the legal rights of Jews and the crushing and uncontrolled immigration of Arabs.

  4. Israel-firsters? I think that the socialists/communists need to look a bit closer to home. islam-firsters are the danger to our Western civilisation. And there are too many of them over here.
    Also – Progressive = Marxist.

  5. False accusations of apartheid desensitize us to the real thing as do false accusations of racism. Where can you find these? Try the Guardian, the U.N., pro-pal websites and publications, North American and European University campuses, the list goes on and on and is exhaustive.
    I’d like to see this woman face a large crowd of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and explain to them how they’re just trying to score “political points.”
    When they passed around the cool-aid this gal apparently downed the entire pitcher herself.

  6. Let me also just say that this was a fantastic post. You are doing a great job and I just want to thank you.

  7. A very light weigh ignorant “journalist” whose only distinction is her anti-Israeli articles,her repetition of how wonderful life was for the Jews that were living in the Arab states.Writing books on how wonderful life was for these Jews.Making money out of these Jews plight.

    She needs to face these Jews that were kicked out of the Arab states with just the clothes on their backs,those Jews that were not murdered of course.Those Jews who managed to escape the Arab pogroms.

    She has some really charming friends…….

  8. @john in cheshire: “progressive” does NOT = “marxist”. In fact, I am personally proof that “communist” doesn’t = “marxist”. Communism is (or should be) about the equal treatment of INDIVIDUALS, Marxism is about “groups” and “group rights” – philosophically nonsensical and morally disastrous.

    Not having a go at you, just pointing out that not everybody on the “left” is an idiot, even though a lot of people are. 🙂

  9. Open quote [I]n response to a simple policy statement from the Wiesenthal Center against returning to the indefensible 1948 borders, ThinkProgress’ Ben Armbruster called it a “far-right” organization and accused it of branding Obama a Nazi. The Wiesenthal Center had done no such thing and blasted CAP and Media Matters, the former home of Ben Armbruster, for conspiring to intimidate any group taking a pro-Israel position. endquote

    Note also the Truman National Security Project and Soros’ Open Society Institute amongst this litany of evil:

    open quote: The purge was unsurprising considering that John Podesta of CAP is on the advisory board at TNSP and Rachel Kleinfeld, TNSP’s executive director who fired Block, has consulted for Soros’ Open Society Institute. endquote

  10. Out of the 700,000 Jews forced from the Arab countries, I know of only one Jew who tried to return to the Arab country he was forced from.
    That was David Gerbi who was thrown out by Libya in the late 60s.
    After Gaddafi was overthrown last October, Gerbi tried to return to Libya to live there.
    You can read this article to see what happened. But ofcourse lets not talk about Arab aparthied.
    Remember, where only talking about 1 Jew living there.
    Following calls for deportation, Gerbi to return to Rome
    Angry protesters gather in Tripoli to demand deportation of Libyan Jew David Gerbi, who has been trying to reopen a sealed synagogue.

    A few hundred angry protesters gathered in central Tripoli on the eve of Yom Kippur on Friday, calling for the deportation of a Libyan Jew who has been trying to reopen a synagogue sealed since ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi expelled the country’s Jewish community in 1967.
    The protesters carried signs reading, “There is no place for the Jews in Libya,” and “We don’t have a place for Zionism.”

    • “The protesters carried signs reading, ‘There is no place for the Jews in Libya,’ and ‘We don’t have a place for Zionism.’ ”

      Those two statements combined are, logically speaking, a call for genocide, because taken together they mean there is no place for Jews anywhere in the world.

      • Well, who gives a sh*t? Who wants to live in an anarchic tribalistic self-destructing backwards hell-hole? I hope they´ll keep killing each other senselessly for decades to come, with the compliments of Obamamia and the wise EU.

  11. Given Shabi’s previous record, the article was hardly a surprise.

    But what I and others on the thread found particularly strange was that she didn’t directly actually refer to or investigate any of these false accusations.