General Antisemitism

In article on Syria, Deborah Orr again throws in antisemitic ‘chosen people’ slur


Deborah Orr evidently can’t help herself.  

orr

In 2011 the veteran Guardian journalist was forced to apologize after engaging in a gratuitous and ugly smear against Jews as inherently racist by completely distorting the concept of ‘the chosen people’ in a commentary on the Gilad Shalit prisoner release exchange. Here’s the infamous passage:

“At the same time, however, there is something abject in [Hamas’s] eagerness to accept a transfer that tacitly acknowledges what so many Zionists believe – that the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbors.”

Her apology – a quite mealy-mouthed one at that – included the following:

Last week, I upset a lot of people by suggesting Zionists saw themselves as “chosen”. My words were badly chosen and poorly used, and I’m sorry for it.

Remarkably, given the paper’s history with sanctioning such Judeophobic narratives, the Guardian’s readers’ editor wrote the following about Orr, two weeks after her column, in a piece titled ‘on averting accusations of antisemitism’:

Two weeks ago a columnist used the term “the chosen” in an item on the release of Gilad Shalit, which brought more than 40 complaints to the Guardian, and an apology from the columnist the following week. “Chosenness”, in Jewish theology, tends to refer to the sense in which Jews are “burdened” by religious responsibilities; it has never meant that the Jews are better than anyone else. Historically it has been antisemites, not Jews, who have read “chosen” as code for Jewish supremacism.

Though Orr has been relatively silent about issues pertaining to Jews and Israel since then, in an essay she penned yesterday, on the Jewish New Year, she managed to again revisit the ugly ‘chosen people’ smear. Though the article was ostensibly about Syria, (‘Russia is holding a lot of the cards in the Syria crisis. We should face that, Sept. 6), she was only able to stay on topic for eleven paragraphs, before pivoting inexplicably to Israel, ending with the following five paragraphs:

This would be a splendid time to try to get Egypt to sign the [chemical weapon] convention as well. And Israel, as yet, has not ratified. One can hardly blame Israel for this when two hostile countries on its borders haven’t even signed. However, one can blame Israel – and also the US – for going ahead with missile testing when the region is in crisis. The excuse given was that the exercise had been long-planned. Oh, dear. Could there be a more powerful declaration of the long-standing partisan interest the west has in the Middle East?

In the Middle East, people insist that all their troubles come back to Israel. It’s certainly true that some of them do. Israel, of course, is another country brought into being in the region largely by outsiders. Also, it was done without the agreement of either the majority of those living on the land at that time, or the neighbours, who have predictably proved to be so determinedly hostile. The creation of Israel has not been what anyone could call an unmitigated success, least of all the refugees whose descendants live until this day in camps, the product of a stalemate that has remained since 1948.

Israel has a right to exist, because it exists and because millions of people need it to continue to exist. But Israel’s creation was in part a response to another refugee crisis, after another terrible war. Just like all other religious groups, Judaism tends not fully to understand that its own sacred beliefs are true only to itself. I believe that the Jews are God’s chosen people no more than I believe that Christ was the son of God, or that Mohammed was God’s final prophet. How can I, when I don’t believe in God? I do believe, however, that the Middle East is the cradle of all three monotheistic religions. That’s a fact.

The idea that Israel is the product of some sort of ancient first-dibs right to a slice of the Middle East? That’s something that Jewish people – and anyone else – have every right to believe. But, in all religious groups there needs to be an understanding that even if a belief forms a crucial part of their own identity or faith, it isn’t a fact to be accepted by others who don’t share that identity or faith. A workable Israeli/Palestinian peace settlement grounded in 21st-century geopolitical fact, and stripped of ancient religious belief, is a necessary part of any wider settlement in the region.

Israeli Jews are no different to other religious, ethnic or nationalist groups in the Middle East in a basic respect: they want a land to call their own, in which they are safe. That’s only human. It’s time for the Middle East and the world to start trying to build on the things that humans have in common with each other, even if progress is difficult and slow. The things that make us different are the things we tend to insist are more important. These, unfortunately, offer no basis for agreement at all – only for continued conflict.

First, the degree to which Orr deviated off-topic is simply staggering – imputing significance to a concept in Judaism (which she egregiously misinterprets) in a piece ostensibly about an Arab on Arab conflict that has nothing to do with Jews.  In the face of unimaginable savagery in a Syrian war which has claimed over 100,000 lives, and has included the regime’s use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians, the Guardian journalist looks around the region and can’t help but see Jews. 

More importantly, however, she once again shamefully legitimizes the distorted idea of ‘chosenness’ – derived from a passage in the Torah understood as a Jewish requirement to uphold an especially high standard of ethical behavior – as Jews’ belief in something akin to religious supremacy, an idea her readers’ editor dismissed as the propaganda of antisemitic extremists.  

The Guardian readers’ editor, in his piece on “averting antisemitism” cited above, concluded thusly:

I have been careful to say that these examples may be read as antisemitic because I don’t believe their appearance in the Guardian was the result of deliberate acts of antisemitism: they were inadvertent.

The Guardian should not be oppressed by criticism – some of the language used by our critics is abusive and intimidatory – or retreat into self-censorship. But reporters, writers and editors must be more vigilant to ensure our voice in the debate is not diminished because our reputation has been tarnished.

Try as they may to “avert” such charges, their journalists and contributors’ obsession with Jews will continue to earn the “liberal” broadsheet the just reputation as one of the leading mainstream media purveyors of antisemitic tropes. 

24 replies »

  1. However, one can blame Israel – and also the US – for going ahead with missile testing when the region is in crisis. The excuse given was that the exercise had been long-planned. Oh, dear. Could there be a more powerful declaration of the long-standing partisan interest the west has in the Middle East?

    It reads as if the writer has had a word appear (‘blame’) appear out of the blue and she seized it, Instead of staying on or returning to her topic – if she had one – she builds a putrid conceit on that word. I use ‘conceit’ in its technical literary sense whereby a speaker or writer displays virtuosity based on a single word or concept – something small. A little like improvisation in music.

    The trouble is that D Orr has no music. She appears to have no control of the medium she is presumably paid to work in. She thinks of blame and it runs away with her and all that’s in her to continue with is this bloated hatred.

    Her article makes no sense and some commenters noticed that. Some also saw it as a paean to Russia and/or Putin. One of course listed quite a few faked quotes which of course her Jews did it refrain solicits.

    I don’t understand why a national newspaper has to employ someone with no language skills. Would she have been the tea-lady in an earlier time?

    The idea in Adam’s article is that she doesn’t know what she’s doing. I agree and what she thereby shows is something I’d rather not waste my time on.

  2. Another common expression of hate seen here is the idea that we should change our normal behavior, which includes military technology testing from time to time, because of how it will supposedly look, and limit ourselves because any expression of our power is offensive and scary and obviously intended to be. That it’s our fault that we look so bad to twisted people like her.

    • Yes. I don’t see that a Western – given that it’s US-Israel using Western technology and science – missile test is anything to do with Arab internecine warfare, wholly based on a religion she fails to mention.

      Sherwoodenhead might be just a jihadi balloon but there seems to be a pathology to this one. Driven to lie about Jews! Where’s Mitnaged?

      • ‘wholly based on a religion she fails to mention.’

        All Guardian writers make great efforts to ‘disappear’ Islamic belief from any ‘blame’ for conflicts involving ‘brown’ people in the Middle East and the whole world really.

        On the other hand, Jewish Israelis are portrayed as ‘white’ religious zealots who see themselves as racially superior to Arabs.

  3. Orr’s article continued the guardian’s unbroken record of making sure some really vile commentary about Israel appears on a major Jewish holiday.

    • AKUS, the thing that screams aloud from that Fraser piece is the complete absence of Arab responsibility. It would be good to read the story from the ground up. Whys and wherefores and a balancing of rights and duties.

  4. As in the well known story about the frog and the scorpion – the Guardian’s staff and preferred permanent contributors’ obsessive hate of Western democracies in general, the US, Israel and Judaism in particular can’t be stopped. It became an instinct.

    • So many stupid own goals, and all of them antisemitc, what a coincidence.

      Must be, there always one who attributes open antisemitism as own goal? Stay hidden, he obviously means, then all is fine.

    • Completely right a stupid own goal by Orr.
      To be a Jew hater and openly declaring it in a supposedly leftish paper is an own goal. Very good Jasper.
      ..the Israelis are supporting a strike on Syria. Sad. To me it looks as if they are interfering in the foreign policy of a foreign power

      Very funny. The Israelis are interfering in the military matters of a foreign power – a country with common border and being at war with it and who threatens Israel with attacking it using “strategic weapons”. Nosy Jews…., they even give medical treatment to the wounded Syrians….

    • Jasper, with a capital J,

      If you read your own link you will see it is to an article about AIPAC.

      Are you implying that AIPAC carries out the orders of the Government of Israel?
      Or that AIPAC is responsible for the foreign policy of Israel?

      By the way now you are using a capital J does that mean that you have, finally, grown up?

    • To me it looks like a group of folks with an opinion. Sort of like you, Jassper, with the opinion being that you can say whatever the hell you want about Israel by generalizing every itty-bit you can find to satisfy your Israel baiting idiocy.

      You know what’s funny, Jass-Jasshole? No one ever accuses other countries of pushing Israel’s diplomatic buttons AND YET THAT’S BEEN HAPPENING FOR DECADES.

      As a final, all-American and Jewish thought (y’know, as in racist and stoopid), may this be the year you finally fuck yourself with a ten-foot pole.

  5. The “chosen” include Jews,Adventists,Mormons,Rastas,and Unification Church,amongst others.Indeed,chosen,special,is claimed by countless groups.
    Singling out Jews is simply racist,but,being the Guardian,wholly predictable.

  6. Debbie Orr: “I believe that the Jews are God’s chosen people no more than I believe that Christ was the son of God, or that Mohammed was God’s final prophet. How can I, when I don’t believe in God? ”

    She lies again as she most certainly believes Jews should be upheld to a higher degree of criticism than their surroundings!

  7. Chosen means Choosing, as in the Chosen People were the ones who Chose God. But it’s much more newsworthy to claim some superior morality and then to whine and bitch about how much moral some platinum blonde bimbo with a typewriter and an anti-Semitic slant truly happen to be.

    The Guardian has broken the news that this is a shitty planet filled with clowns who deliver us the news.

  8. the degree to which Orr deviated off-topic is simply staggering

    Indeed.

    As Orr herself says:
    “A workable Israeli/Palestinian peace settlement grounded in 21st-century geopolitical fact, and stripped of ancient religious belief, is a necessary part of any wider settlement in the region.”

    And the Israeli govt. does not base its various land-related claims on God-given rights.