General Antisemitism

Jonathan Freedland’s illusions about the nature of modern antisemitism

Jonathan Freedland is one of the more decent and reasonable Guardian journalists.


It’s sad that, at the Guardian, being a Zionist who takes anti-Jewish racism seriously warrants such a tribute, but in contextualizing antisemitism and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy at the Guardian and Comment is Free, it’s important nonetheless to make moral distinctions. For sure, Freedland is not Chris McGreal, and he certainly is not an ‘as-a-Jew’.

His recent essay, however, published at Peter Beinart’s site, Open Zion, titled ‘What US Jews don’t get about European Antisemitism‘, Jan. 14, displays the characteristic intellectual ticks evident in self-styled progressives who comment on antipathy towards Jews.  Freedland sets the tone early by ridiculing a few of the widely discredited stories about antisemitism in Europe, such as the false report six years ago that British schools had banned the teaching of the Holocaust.

In fact, Freedland spends a remarkable amount of space – nearly 25% of his essay – providing examples of what isn’t antisemitism, and mocking those who, he alleges, exaggerate the threat to Jews in the UK and the rest of Europe. 

Freedland writes:

“We are getting used to the fact that U.S. Jews seem ready to believe the worst of this part of the world. In the two cases I’ve mentioned, many Americans were all too willing to accept that British Jews were about to become latter-day Marranos, driven underground by an anti-Semitic government and its jihadist allies, huddling together to teach their children about the Holocaust in Hebrew whispers.”

Finally, getting to “real” antisemitism, Freedland notes the importance of making distinctions “between Western Europe on the one hand and Eastern and Central Europe on the other.

Freedland correctly cites the rise of the Hungarian neo-fascist party Jobbik, as well as Greece’s Golden Dawn party as an ominous indication of a dangerous cultural lurch towards classic European right-wing antisemitism.

Interestingly, Freedland spends little time, however, discussing Islamist antisemitism in Western Europe, and not a word is mentioned about the Judeophobia of the European left.

He writes:

“The most extreme case is surely last year’s multiple homicide—the victims, three children and a rabbi—in Toulouse, apparently by a jihadist maniac. Others have long been alarmed by the case of Malmö, Sweden, a city whose 45,000 Muslims make up 15 percent of the population and where Jews have been on the receiving end of persistent anti-Semitic attacks.”

Then Freedland engages in an egregious obfuscation, positing a stunning moral equivalence between victim and perpetrator, by adding the following:

“So, yes, in Western European countries the tension between established Jewish communities and emerging Muslim ones can be perilous.”

First, it’s important to establish that – based on a comprehensive study at Yale, on antisemitism in ten European countries, by Charles Small and Edward Kaplan – Muslims in Europe are dramatically more likely to harbor antisemitic views than non-Muslims.

While Freedland correctly notes that there “is a surge in anti-Jewish hatred whenever the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians escalates”, the implied cause and effect is erroneous.

The empirical data which Small and Kaplan analyzed strongly indicated that – contrary to what Freedland implies – anti-Israel sentiment consistently predicts the probability that an individual already harbors strong antisemitic views.

However, beyond the statistics, Freedland’s suggestion that there is anything resembling parity in attacks by Muslims against Jews and attacks by Jews against Muslims represents a staggering inversion.

Freedland only included two examples of Muslim antisemitism, but, of course, there are hundreds more he didn’t note. Here are a few plots to murder Jews by Muslim extremists in 2012.

  • In October, A former Portsmouth Football Club player was among a group of 11 alleged Islamic convert terrorists arrested in France for targeting Jews – 7 months after Mohammed Merah murdered Jewish children in Toulouse.
  • In July, Mohammed Sadiq Khan and his wife Shasta Khan were convicted of planning to bomb Jewish targets in north Manchester.
  • In March, Italian police arrested Mohamed Jarmoune, an Italian of Moroccan origin, who they suspected of planning an attack on a synagogue, at his home in Brescia.

Moreover, in the UK in 2011, 31 out of 92 total violent antisemitic attacks in the UK in 2011, according to the CST, were committed by Muslim/Islamist perpetrators – an extremely disproportionate number when you consider that Muslims make up roughly 4.8% of the population in England and Wales.

Would Freedland suggest that there are (evidently unreported) Jewish or Zionist terrorist cells engaged in similar plots and attacks against Muslim targets? Are there synagogue versions of the radical East London Mosque? Are there Jewish neighborhoods in London, such as Golders Green, understood to be no-go areas for religious Muslims? 

Of course, he certainly knows the answer to these questions.

However, there is a more important point which needs to be addressed.

Right-wing antisemitism in Europe  – certainly within the mainstream media, and at the Guardian – has been properly delegitimized in a way Islamist antisemitism has not.  When the BNP, EDL and other like-minded right-wing extremists march in London, there is something approaching moral unanimity on the racist, xenophobic danger they present.  However, such a moral consensus does not exist when demonstrations in the UK are held by sympathizers of Hamas, Hezbollah and other violently antisemitic movements.

Finally, sometimes CiF Watch is asked why we spend so much time condemning Islamist antisemtism and less amount of time condemning right-wing or neo-Nazi racism against Jews.  

The answer is simple.

White supremacists, and other extreme right-wing groups, don’t have a platform at ‘Comment is Free’, while Islamist extremists who are affiliated with groups openly calling for the murder of Jews (and, no, not merely Zionists) are routinely provided a platform by Guardian editors – evidently motivated by the risible belief that such violent radicals are giving voice to genuinely “progressive” values.

While I’d like to give Jonathan Freedland the benefit of the doubt that he sincerely is intolerant towards all forms of antisemitism, it’s difficult not to conclude that he lacks the fortitude necessary to confront the dangerous legitimization of Islamist inspired Judeophobia in the UK – particularly at the media institution where he’s currently employed.  


58 replies »

  1. BBC backs anti-Israel activist claim

    The BBC Trust has upheld a complaint from a leading anti-Israel activist that a Radio 4 report inaccurately described the impact of the creation of Israel on Palestinians.

    A “lack of clarity” had been evident in the coverage of West Bank protests last May which marked “Nakba Day”, when Palestinians mourn the creation of Israel, the BBC investigation found.

    The report breached the Corporation’s accuracy guidelines by failing to note the “degree of force or coercion in the manner of the departure” of Palestinians, the Trust concluded.

    Ben White is a campaigner who accuses Israel of being an apartheid state and who wrote in 2002 that he could “understand” why people were antisemitic.

    He encouraged his Twitter followers to protest against Israeli theatre company Habima last May by posting a picture of Jewish author Howard Jacobson, saying the Booker Prize winner’s face was “another reason to support the boycott”.

    Mr White complained to the BBC, claiming that the introduction to the news report was “deeply offensive” to Palestinians who had “lost everything as a result of ethnic cleansing”.

    Read it all…

    • Poor Ben White. : (
      The Arabs suffered a catastrophe while attempting to carry one out on Ben’s least favorite people.
      Of course Jews were also driven from their homes. An oversight on Mr. “White’s” part, I’m sure.
      Ben’s people are great sufferers and now world-famous for all the suffering they do.
      It’s hard work, but somebody’s got to do it.

      • addendum:
        “The Arabs suffered a catastrophe while attempting to carry one out on Ben’s least favorite people.”
        Many of them are still trying to carry out that catastrophe, with Ben’s help.

  2. I grew up with his father,in Luton,where there was always plenty of antisemitism in the 40`s and 50`s although I`m sure Micheal would deny this. Some of us were fighters some were not. Guess who wasn`t


  3. The Jewish community should reach out to Muslims – not join in with the despicable demonisation of the right. That’s what Liberal Judaism does and extremism is given short strift – on both sides

    As Rabbi Hillel said “Do not do to others what is detestable to you”

    • John, ‘CIF Watch’ is not a website for the Jewish community, it is a website for activists supporting the settlements built by the Government of Israel in the Palestinian territory in contravention of international humanitarian law.

      ‘CIF Watch’ reflect the views neither of the Jewish community, nor of Israel.

      There is a clear majority among the Israeli public that supports a Palestinian state existing side by side with a Jewish one, and a vast majority among the Jewish community that support peace and coexistence with Christians and Muslims.

      • You wouldn’t know that it represents a minority view by the tone it takes. Fortunately, most Jews and most Israelis don’t support this kind of militancy.

        • Why do you think you are qualified to know what most Israelis think?? Oh, right, you are the Sanctimonious Knight of Hypocrishire.

          • SerJew, there is a clear majority among the Israeli public that supports a Palestinian state existing side by side with a Jewish one, and a vast majority among the Jewish community that support peace and coexistence with Christians and Muslims.

            This website only reflects the ideas of a minority of activist settlers who call for a bi-national state.

            • So, “nat”, as you are one of the most constant poster in this blog, one can only conclude that you are a right-wing evil militant settler. Are you, mr fraudster?

  4. Great piece Adam. Jonathan Freedland is first and foremost leftwing. Everything else takes second place including identifying antisemitism from Islamist or leftwing sources.. To his credit though he did disassociate from Livingstone last May.

  5. So an American who moved to Israel knows more than a Jewish Briton about antisemitism in the UK? Even a Jewish Briton who lived in the UK all his life? Of course! Why didn’t I see it? The self-appointed (or maybe appointed by others, we don’t know) police against all other views in the UK media dictates that it must be so!

    • Hello, Sanity. May I say, as a British Jew who has lived in Britain all my life, that on this I completely agree with Adam Levick’s article. I personally admire (and slightly know) Jonathan Freedland, and think he generally does a good job in providing a counterbalance to the usual lunacy at the Guardian, but on this topic, the minimisation of Islamic antisemitism in Britain was an error and deserved to be called out.

      Besides, Adam has quoted the CST and others in his article. Are you suggesting that Freedland – one British Jew – knows better than the authoritative body on British antisemitism? Of course! Why didn’t I see it?

      Finally, nowhere does Adam Levick or CifWatch “dictate” or act as the “police against all other views in the UK”. If indeed that was its role, you (and Nat, Hadara, Steve, realzionist etc) would have been banned long ago. CifWatch merely presents ITS point of view and gives other a forum to discuss it. Why do you have such a problem with that?

      • Hello Labenal. I agree with you that: a) it’s great that you have a view on antisemitism in the UK and people should take note of your views countrebalanced of course by the views of other Jews in the UK (prioirty) and other residents of the UK. b) CifWatch is perfectly entitled to a view of the topic, but Americans writing about the UK are generally wrong (for example, they think Britons are obsessed with class, which has bever been my experience). c) CiF Witch(Hunt) is kind enough to allow people with different views to comments, though it does nothing to stop the hostility that some commenters display towards those with different views.

        However, I don’t think that CST is ‘the’ authoritative body on British antisemitism. On the contrary, I think it is a self-appointed unrepresentative slightly militant body. I would much rather count on the Board of Deputies or the Pears Institute though neither of those is representative. At least their funding and structure are clear and transparent.

        Finally, Adam Levick’s tone is completely aggressive. For example, he writes: “ Freedland engages in an egregious obfuscation“. Is this the tone of someone who thinks that all British Jews should have a voice in deciding what antisemitism is? Doesn’t sound like it to me. Sounds like someone who is trying to discredit a fellow Jew for the crime of what? Having a different view? I would have though that other Jewish Brits would be on the side of Freeldland and hs right to an opinion above the views of a strident Jewish American / Israeli. But that’s just my opinion.

        • Sanity, you repeatedly fail to see the difference between criticising someone’s opinion and objecting to their right to have one. They are clearly not the same thing.

          In fact, what you are suggesting is that Freedland has a right to his opinion (which nobody, least of all Adam Levick is disputing) but Levick does not – on the spurious grounds that some Americans are “wrong” (in your opinion) when they write about the UK.

          Finally, your characterisation of Levick’s tone as “completely aggressive” is entirely false. In fact, he goes out of his way to say that he generally considers Freedland to be “one of the more decent” voices at the Guardian, and that he would like to “give him the benefit of the doubt”. He would not write such things about Milne or Greenwald, would he?

          • Labenal, actually, what I said was: “CifWatch is perfectly entitled to a view of the topic“. I meant it. I think that an organisation or a person with no connection to the UK will have a less informed view than someone who is not from the UK. Therefore I would discount the American view accordingly. I give your view much more weight than CiF Witch(Hunt)’s view, for example.

            We must agree to disagree on the tone. In fact the strident, even militant, tone of this site speaks for itself. That you consider the comments towards Freedland to be “generous” is telling. It’s clear that Adam Levick thinks that Freedland is a thorn in the side of Jews, just as Beinart is a thorn in the side of Jews. Which is kind of bordering on the path to antisemitism in itself. Almost like Rio Ferdinand calling Ashley Cole a “choc-ice”.

            • “In fact the strident, even militant, tone of this site speaks for itself. ” sanitarium

              Says the Knight of Hypocrishire…

        • Sanity.
          Adam “aggressive”? “Sounds “aggressive?

          Freedland has a problem. Adam is not saying that he is egregious, but that he is ENGAGING in ” an egregious obfuscation”. He says that Freedland is falling into a trap that has been set a long time ago into excusing anti-semitism that emanates from a community that makes up 4% of the country but accounts for a third of all reported antisemitic incidents in this country, which Freedland chooses to ignore.It is that fact and others that draws us to agree or disagree with Adam. i happen to agree with it and not with you.

          • With respect, I don’t agree with you that Adam’s intent is quite so “academic”. But I respect that you disagree with me, and we must respectfully agree to disagree.

  6. Dear Mr Levick, as an American citizen currently residing in Israel who’s neither a journalist, nor a researcher, could you please clarify why you feel you’re qualified to comment on antisemitism on great Britain?

    • Would you mind clarifying what makes a paid Internet troll, — you — qualified to comment on anything?

    • Dear ‘Nat’ can you please clarify why you feel you are qualified to comment on anti-semitism in Great Britain?

        • The difference is, Steve, that Nat (and Sanity above) is the one who is questioning somebody’s “qualifications” to have an opinion and express it! It sounds to me like Nat (and Sanity) is an enemy of the freedom of expression that is universally valued as a fundamental human right (although of course not universally respected).

          • Not true. I have specifically said that CiF Witch(Hunt) is entitled to its opinion. I just don’t think it’s as valuable as that of a Jewish Briton.

              • Everyone is qualified to have an opinion and has a right to express it. The difficulty is weighing up people’s opinions and their evidence. I really don’t care what you think of my opnion since you’re a troll.

      • Dear Gerald, I have not commented on antisemitism in Great Britain.

        However I asked Mr Levick, an American citizen currently residing in Israel (who, to the best of my knowledge, is neither a journalist, nor a researcher) to clarify why he felt that he was qualified to comment on antisemitism on Great Britain.

          • What are your qualifications to hector about anything, oh Knight of Hypocrishire? BTW, who’s your employer?

              • You are just a paid troller, a fraudster and sock-puppeteer, “nat”. So you are already disqualified to demand anything at all. Just go away.

        • Dear ‘Nat’ in your humble opinion what qualifications does Mr. Levick, or anyone else, require to comment on anti-semitism in Great Britain?

          • Mr Levick is an American citizen currently residing in Israel. we’d like him to clarify why he feels qualified to comment on antisemitism in a country where, it seems, he never lived.

            • Dear ‘Nat’ my question to you is “what qualifications does Mr. Levick, or anyone else, require to comment on anti-semitism in Great Britain?”

              Would you like to attempt to answer the question put to you?

            • And who the heck are you to hector anybody here? You are a sock-puppeteer, a contumacious liar and a fraudster. A really bad curriculum, “nat”.

    • Fritz, defending democracy in Israel and advocating for peace and the two-state solution is not “antisemitism”.

      Are you familiar with the notion of libel, Fritz?

      • Dear ‘Nat’ I am shocked by your comment about the notion of libel.

        You ‘Nat’ who normally trumpets the virtues of International Law and yet you seem unaware of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted by the U.N. General Assembly during December 1966 and operative since March 1976.

        Can it be that you the champion of International Law is unaware of its provisions?
        Or are you a hypocrite who only cites International Law when they think it supports their case?

        Shame on you Dear ‘Nat’

          • ‘Nat’ are you going to explain why you the ‘champion of International Law’ and decisions of the U.N. General Assembly is prepared to contravene the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted by the U.N. General Assembly during December 1966 and operative since March 1976.

  7. Anti Semitism?
    No they just hate zionists that’s all.
    If you leave people alone they’ll soon forget about you!

  8. Surely the most perilous relationship between Muslim and Jew is in Gaza and the West Bank where either the murderous so-called IDF or Islamophobic settlers prey upon innocent and defenseless civilians including many children.  Why in Gaza alone  during the last month,there have been in excess of fifty violations of the so-called cease-fire by the IDF resulting in death,injury and damage to property. Of course the word perilous in these instances applies mainly to the welfare ( or lack of it!) of the indigenous Arab and Christian population


    • Meanwhile, in the real world, there’s an islamofascist gang in charge of Gaza, that kill their own people, apply sharia “law” and focus on launching “harmless rockets” at Israeli civilian population. In the WB there’s a self-perpetuating corrupt PA, led by a Holocaust denialist and contumacious liar. Of course, mr snottyville isn’t concerned with any of that, because, of course, he is soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo concerned with palarabs.