The Guardian editor who tried to draw a line in the sand against antisemitism?

Though UK Media Watch (UKMW) monitors all major British media outlets, this blog (originally called ‘CiF Watch‘) previously was devoted to combating false claims about Israel and antisemitism exclusively at the Guardian, the media group most associated with anti-Israel bias. Indeed, our transition to UKMW was prompted by the general consensus that, partly due to our efforts, the Guardian’s malign obsession with Israel had somewhat abated, and their legitimization of antisemitic tropes (above and below the line) had at least diminished.

The latter improvement in editorial decisions, regarding rhetoric and imagery about Jews and Judaism historically associated with antisemitism, occurred both as the result of our relentless naming and shaming of Guardian contributors who expressed such Judeophobic views, and at least two important decisions by the paper’s readers’ editor which had the effect of institutionally delegitimizing these narratives.

The readers’ editor we’re referring to is Chris Elliott, who just stepped down after more than five years in the position. 

Before moving forward, we should note that we will never know if Elliott’s stance against antisemitism was born of necessity (the belief that the paper’s reputation was being ‘tarnished’ by the unfair accusation of antisemitism) or principle – though it may be fair to say that both may have played a part.

Regardless of the motivation, Elliott’s column in 2011 (On Averting Accusations of Antisemitism), written, we believe, in some measure due to the negative publicity generated by our work and to address frequent complaints from British Jews, represented a small but recognizable turning point in their coverage.


As Elliott noted, the column itself reflected decisions he had made in response to a myriad of complaints alleging antisemitism – including one particularly egregious example involving a pejorative use of the term “chosen people” by journalist Deborah Orr.

Here’s an excerpt from Elliott’s column:

Three times in the last nine months I have upheld complaints against language within articles that I agreed could be read as antisemitic. The words were replaced and the articles footnoted to reflect the fact. These included references to Israel/US “global domination” and the term “slavish” to describe the US relationship with Israel; and, in an article on a lost tribe of Mallorcan Jews, what I regarded as a gratuitous reference to “the island’s wealthier families”.

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.

More broadly, he addressed “language long associated with antisemitic tropes such as Jews having too much power and control, or being clannish and secretive, or the role of Jews in finance and the media”, and cautioned contributors to beware of the word Zionist being used as a synonym for Jew.  (This is an especially relevant observation in the context of the ongoing row over antisemitism in the Labour Party.)

Another important column was written by Elliott in 2012, following a cartoon published by the Guardian’s Steve Bell during Israel’s 8 day war against Hamas. We argued at the time that the cartoon evoked the antisemitic canard of Jewish control over non-Jewish British politicians, and was indistinguishable from the extreme antisemitic imagery routinely published in the Arab media.

Here’s the cartoon:

Elliott addressed the complaints the following week, and largely agreed with our conclusions:

The image of Jews having a disproportionate influence over the US and British governments has often been replicated by anti-Jewish cartoonists in the Middle East since the end of the second world war.

Though Elliott defended Bell from charges that he was intentionally using antisemitic imagery, he nonetheless concluded by firmly siding with critics in the Jewish community.

However, using the image of a puppeteer when drawing a Jewish politician inevitably echoes past antisemitic usage of such imagery, no matter the intent.

The Holocaust and its causes are still within living memory. While journalists and cartoonists should be free to express an opinion that Netanyahu is opportunistic and manipulative, in my view they should not use the language – including the visual language – of antisemitic stereotypes. 

Though the majority of our complaints to the Guardian center around inaccurate or misleading claims about Israel (per the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code), not antisemitism as such, these two columns by Elliott set a standard that we leveraged when we felt the paper published problematic material pertaining to Jews.  

For instance, in 2014, we complained to Elliott about an op-ed that we believed explicitly justified antisemitism.  Elliott agreed with our analysis, and decided to delete an entire paragraph from the op-ed which contained the toxic dual loyalty canard.  In the addendum noting the correction, editors explained that the dual loyalty reference was “inconsistent with editorial standards”.

This tweet the following year by another Guardian cartoonist (Martin Rowson), complaining that he’s been “browbeaten” into avoiding Israel, would suggest that Elliott’s criticism of Bell’s cartoon (and the work of this blog) clearly had an impact.

Though the Guardian hasn’t always fairly applied the broad standards outlined in Elliott’s columns on what constitutes anti-Jewish racism, his recognition of antisemitism as a “specific phenomenon” with a unique history and recognizable rhetorical and visual patterns was a welcome contrast to those commentators who denounce antisemitism in the abstract while failing to identify its most recent anti-Zionist mutations.

Though we often disagreed with Chris Elliott over what constituted a violation of the Editors’ Code in the context of their coverage of Israel, his commitment to basic journalistic ethics was never in doubt.

Given the dangerous resurgence of antisemitism in the UK and across Europe, we can only hope that Elliott’s replacement at the Guardian will at the very least continue in his tradition of taking the concerns of British Jews seriously.


86 replies »

  1. So as a result of the McCarthy-style witch-hunts of Guardian journalists that typify the approach of Levick, what was once regarded as outright antisemitism, as seen through the lens of “rhetoric and imagery about Jews and Judaism” has now been transfigured as something that’s “historically associated with antisemitism” and is “Judeophobic”?,…Interesting! What Levick is not telling his readers is the fact, as researchers at Glasgow Universities Media Group have concluded, that the media is systematically biased in favour of a pro-Israeli line in their reporting.

    • McCarthy style? Okay, Migraine. Are you or have you ever denied the rights of Jews to self-autonomy? Soooooo verrrrrry McCarthy.

      You poor, pathetic little man. Get back to us when you condemn the murder of Jews for eating pizza, dancing on a Friday night, or, shit, for even daring to compete in the 1972 Olympic Games.

      Meanwhile, BDSholes won’t let Jews who support Israel speak in public, you fucking ingrate.

        • Margrain why would anyone waste their time being civil with a racist, hypocritical, plagiarising, phoney loser such as you?
          It would be as much a waste of time as trying to have a conversation with a piece of dogshit!

            • Why Margrain how kind of you to acknowledge the existence of “the Jewish State”.
              Do the other members of the Axis of Arseholes, (Bellend and Mad Cow Miranda) know of your conversion to Zionism?

              • As you are obviously ignorant about the status of the Jewish Homeland (not strictly a Jewish State), I’ll educate you. The confrontation between Israel and Palestine is one of asymmetrical warfare. Israel has an ultra-modern, high-tech military machine unrivaled by any nation in the region. The Palestinians don’t have an army, much less an air force. The Palestinian military consists of small bands of volunteer light infantry capable only of guerrilla. That is asymmetry.

                The IDF is in control of the West Bank and Gaza as a result of military conquest. Under international law as ratified in the Geneva Conventions, that makes Israel the “occupying power.” The obligations and limitations on the occupying power are clear and have been agreed to by both the US and Israel. US law forbids America from violating those Conventions and from supporting another nation which does.

                Israel’s responses to the Palestinian resistance have been widely and repeatedly condemned by investigative authorities and international bodies over many years. Palestinian terrorism is not a legal defense against the charge of war crimes. In simple terms, you cannot just grab a piece of territory and then do whatever you have to do to control the people living on it.

                Admittedly, this puts Israel in a tough situation because there are millions of Palestinians who do not want their land occupied by Israel. Israel’s occupation has been condemned by international law and even the United States agrees that its “settlements” are illegal. US policy is committed to an independent state of Palestine.

                As the (illegal) occupying power, Israel is required to figure out some way to live with the Palestinians under its (illegal) control. Israel has failed to do this, not so much for lack of effort as because Israel has a goal of absorbing Palestinian land into Israel. Under these circumstances the asymmetrical warfare against the Palestinians is a problem Israel cannot solve. The world supports the Palestinians. Four hundred million Arabs support the Palestinians. Neither side can defeat the other, but Israel’s success hangs by the single thread of US military and financial support. That thread is fraying more and more as Israel’s violations of law and of agreements with its only ally are approaching a crisis.

                • Margarine you are the one who wrote “the Jewish State”
                  Do you really think that posting a load of irrelevant waffle will change that?

                  No Margrain your stupidity as well as your racism and being a phoney will always come to the surface and be on display for all to see.

                  • Erm, the “Jewish State” is how the state of Israel defines itself….DUH! you are really dense aren’t you?

            • “What’s racist about highlighting the racist nature of the Jewish State?”

              Start with the fact that it is a lie, and a form of racism itself. Then proceed from there.

            • No Margrain you are lying.
              You resort to ad hominem, then profanities.
              Your memory is not very good for a liar, that is why it is so easy to see what a phoney you are.

              Now off you go it must be time for you to ‘copy and paste’ someone else’s work and hope that nobody notices.

        • We all have our flaws. I, for one, think hate mongers are pathetic assmonkeys who routinely throw their own poop on a computer screen hoping their mixed up metaphors might stick and relegate them as, I don’t know, some form of intelligence. I actually believe that my brain is better utilized by me than your pissant brain is utilized by you. I might even go further and suggest that my dog licking his anus is more thought provoking that anything a bigoted dipshit like you might bring to the table. Especially when the thing you bring to the table makes no historical sense, you pathetic joke of a human being.

    • “the fact, as researchers at Glasgow Universities Media Group have concluded, that the media is systematically biased in favour of a pro-Israeli line in their reporting” – LMAO. Those assholes were exposed long ago as the dumb losers they are.

  2. Oh, and by the way, Jewish extremists already have autonomy. It’s called the cesspit that’s Israel.

    • Migraine, Which “Jewish extremists” hijacked 4 passenger planes on 9/11/01 and after lying to the passengers that if they don’t resist they will be safe, yet fly 3 of the four planes into prominent buildings and the fourth failed to reach its target?

      Which “Jewish extremists” bombed London transport on 7/7/05?
      Which “Jewish extremists” shot journalists to death in Charlie Hebdo, murdered 130+ concert goers at Bataclan, bombed the Boston Marathon,
      Which “Jewish extremists” beheaded British soldier Lee Rigby on the streets of London?

      It ain’t “Jewish extremists” who openly threaten the UK with 9/11 scale massacres – it;s your loverly Islamofascist terrorist swine who do.

      • Those are all examples of extremism by non-Jews, Edward. But are you using those to deny that there also exists extremism by Jews? White swans, black swans…

          • @gee59 –

            RE: “Care to name any moron?” (assuming your post is addressed to Gabriel, not Edward)

            Any individuals or members of the organisations pinpointed in the following reports should give you a good start …


            • Wonderful – four people out of 8 million. I bet that I can find that many in Chicago on any day of the week not just over 68 years

              • @gee99 –

                If you had actually READ those reports, you’d know that they don’t refer to just “four people”. The one @,7340,L-4688640,00.html , for example, contains this passage:

                ‘According to the former security service chief [Yuval Diskin], “the Hilltop Youth (hard-line, extremist settlers) are setting the tone within Religious Zionism. Anyone who thinks we are only talking about a few dozen of delusional youths is making a big mistake. In the State of Judea, there are many hundreds of youths supporting messianic and/or anarchistic, anti-state ideologies.

                ‘ “Among these many hundreds are dozens who daily adopt different levels of violence or terrorism against Palestinian lives and property,” wrote the ex-Shin Bet boss. “Among them are dozens who would be willing to unhesitatingly take part in violence and terrorism against their Jewish brothers when they see the value of “sacred land” as being put to the test. In certain scenarios, these numbers can be expected to increase significantly.” ‘

                And that’s merely ONE terrorism enclave, operating within a relatively RECENT time-frame – unlike Edward’s typical lists, which trawl across decades and the entire globe for terrorist incidents, and even though I could quite easily match his “point-scoring” in such an idiotically constructed tit-for-tat.

                • MiranDUH said:

                  > Edward’s typical lists, which trawl across decades and the entire globe for terrorist incidents,

                  Islamofascist terrorist attacks have been occurring over decades and across the globe.

                  > I could quite easily match his “point-scoring” in such an idiotically constructed tit-for-tat.

                  I await your teat-for-tat for the following Islamofascist terrorist atrocities

                  – 9/11
                  – 1993 truck bombing of the WTC
                  – 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103
                  – bombing of Metrojet
                  – San Bernardino
                  – Boston Marathon bombing
                  – DC Beltway sniper
                  – 2005 London transport bombings
                  – beheading of British soldier Lee Rigby on the streets of London
                  – beheading of journalist Daniel Pearl
                  – beheading of James Foley and others by ISIS who later post videos of the beheading
                  – 8 year Iraq/Fascist Iran war
                  – rallies by the supreme shitstain ayatoolah of Fascist Iran calling for death to America
                  – Madrid train bombings
                  – Charlie Hebdo massacre
                  – Bataclan music hall massacre
                  – Sydney attack
                  – Copenhagen attack
                  – Ottawa attack
                  – bombing of USS Cole
                  – murder of Robert Stethem
                  – murder of London police woman Yvonne Fletcher
                  – attack on 1972 Olympics and murder of athletes
                  – Mumbai India massacre
                  – Nairobi Kenya mall massacre
                  – Boko Haram kidnapping and raping girls in Nigeria
                  – Taliban shooting girls in the head for wanting an education
                  – “honor killing”
                  – Fascist Iran hanging gay teens

                  There’s lots more…

                  Over to you MiranDUH.

                  • @Edward –

                    Before I even consider playing ball in what I described as an IDIOTIC tit-for tat, you’ll have to advise me what the rules of this game are.

                    Your list above seems to span everything from household murders to judicial cruelties to full blown wars and stretches over at least four continents going back more than 40 years. So (just for a start), would it be OK for me to include non-Islamic violent incidents perpetrated by anti-abortion/gay-hating loons; US torturers at Gitmo; god knows what judicial abominations in China, North Korea, etc; and atrocities committed by Serbs, Americans, Brits, Russians, Nicaraguans, and so forth, in various 20th century wars?

                    On the other hand, maybe I’m only expected to list JEWISH attacks – in which case, it would be useful to know how many would amount to a good “representative” sample provided by me. (Please bear in mind that the Muslim world population is 1.7 billion – around a quarter of the globe – whereas there are only about 14 million Jews – 0.2% of the world pop.) There are 31 items on your list, so perhaps you’d expect rather fewer terroristic incidents from a population just a tiny fraction of the Islamic size? Or perhaps not…? Again, please advise.

                    Thanks in anticipation,

                    • MiranDUH, The only thing IDIOTIC is your dismissal of Islamofascist terrorism as mere ‘household murders’.

                      The common thread in the above short list of terrorist atrocities is ISLAM.

                      Al Qada, ISIS, Taliban, Boko Haram, Hamass, Hezbullah, Muslim Brotherhood, Al Shabab, Al Nusra and others are all ISLAMIST TERRORIST organizations. They’re the ones who praise “allah” as they murder, quote the koran as they murder.

                      If Islam has 1.7 billion followers, then it should be easy for the majority of good Muslims to eliminate the terrorist element who murder in the name of Islam, but they don’t.

                      People see Islam as Terrorism – because that’s who is doing the killing all over the World. Islam is threatening and committing murder all over the World.

                      Islam = Terrorism.

  3. Adam: Congratulations on seeing some fruits for all your labors. Why should such slanted anti-Israel bias be accepted?
    There is no other religious/ethnic group against whom such blatant bigotry would be tolerated. Unfortunately for unfathomable reasons, Judeophobic attitudes have become commonplace and obviously acceptable in many media and “academic” sites. This narrative is currently informing a whole generation of impressionable
    young students and historically has not been without consequences for the Jews.

    I continue to believe that your approach of that your approach of public “naming and shaming” toward those guilty of promulgating what basically amounts to hate-speech, is an excellent & viable approach to this serious problem.

    Generally those disseminating this type of antisemitic propaganda are assiciated with organizations in which reputation and public credibility are highly valued, so that “calling them out” explicitly by name often has the desired effect of forcing these Jew haters out of anonymity and requiring them to publicy defend their statements and positions–which of course they never can.

    Thanks for all you do, and keep up the great work!

    • Does the “antisemitic propaganda” to which you prefer include the fascist aspiration toward Eretz Yisrael?

      • Does the “islamophobic propaganda” to which you prefer include the fascist aspiration toward Pal-e-SWINE?

          • Hijacking 4 passenger planes on 9/11 and flying them into buildings doesn’t make any sense. But thanks for demonstrating the Evil of Appeasing Islamofascism.

            Appeasing Islamofascism fuels Islamofascism.

      • Danny Boy, who bashes Jews on a regular basis, then demands to be treated with kid gloves, continues to show his exemplary thought provoking skills by calling the one democracy in the Middle East a fascist regime.

        That’s because Danny is a fucking retard who will now cry about being labeled as a fucking retard. But, then, what does one expect from fucking retards rather than endless tears of frustration. Ain’t that right, Danny Boy?

        • Not bashing Jews bashing the grubby parasitical settler state called Israel. Learn the difference.

          • What’s the deal with your lovefest with grubby parasitical terrorist islamofascist entities?

            • I don’t have a “lovefest” with Islamist terrorists (Islamofascism is an oxymoron).That’s a projection on your part.

              • “(Islamofascism is an oxymoron).”

                Margrain explain why you think that the term Islamofascism is an oxymoron?
                Probably you will need to research the meaning of both terms, or wait until one of the other Axis of Arseholes thinks of an answer for you. Therefore I will wait until you have found, or been given, an answer so you can ‘copy and paste’ it.

                • Islam presenting itself as “the religion of peace” is an oxymoron.

                  Islamofascism is the culture in Iran since the “islamic revolution” of 1979.

                • It circulated mainly as a propaganda, rather than an analytic, term after the September 11 attacks on the United States in September 2001[51] but also gained a foothold in more sober political discourse,[52] both academic and pseudo-academic.[53] Many critics are dismissive, variously branding it as “meaningless” (Daniel Benjamin);[54][55] “a kosher-halal” throwback version of the “vacuous” old leftist epithet “fascist pig” (Norman Finkelstein);[56] a “figment of the neocon imagination” (Paul Krugman);[57] and as betraying an ignorance of both Islam and Fascism (Angelo Codevilla).[58]


                  • Margrain kind of you to ‘copy and paste’ a part of an article from Wikipedia.
                    Now would you like to try and answer the question I put to you, which is “Margrain explain why you think that the term Islamofascism is an oxymoron?”

                    Do you understand the meaning of the term oxymoron?
                    I have severe doubts as the piece you copy and pasted does not address the question put to you.

                    Probably you are confused by thinking that your teachers used to say “Margrain you are an oxymoron”
                    When, what they were actually saying was “Margrain you are a POXY MORON!”

                    • Margrain you should read your links as well as learning to understand what they and the word oxymoron mean.
                      Although I am probably being optimistic in expecting you to comprehend the English language, after all you are a liar and phoney.

          • It’s a democracy for all Israelis, and many are not Jews. So you’re wrong there, Fuckface. It is a democracy that protects Jews. Is that the problem? Does Fatty want to punch a Yid?

            It’s a dark, mean ZioKhazar world, ain’t it?

            • No I don’t want to punch anybody. But since you are a nasty NeoZionist fascist who is about to blow a blood vessel, nothing would make you feel better than to punch a hated Goy to calm you down.

              • Okay. Because I call you out as a hate monger, which you are and is based on your own stupid hate speech, and because I use words that make you feel hurt rather than, what, entertain you, that I’m looking for a fight.

                Sure, Guy. Whatever the fuck you say.

                This is like Hamas saying, So we shot 10,000 missiles at you over a 50 day period, and dug tunnels under the borders, and we kidnapped your kids, killed them, and then plopped them in a shallow grave, but how dare you blow up that school silo.

                This is the shit that makes you happy: Being a target and being a victim. You’re a Psych 101 case study.

                Way to go, Fatty.

                  • Margrain you are illiterate.
                    Is this ‘degree’ you claim to have written in crayon on the back of a cornflakes packet?

                    • Migraines degree is written along the side of a rectal thermometer that he sticks in his mouth.

                    • Again Margrain you try and brush off the truth by labelling it personal abuse.

                      Now toddle of back to the Axis of Arseholes perhaps they can give you some new lines to repeat.

                  • Coming from someone who thinks all of Israel is Occupied Land, and that Western Jews control the banks and politicians, I take your paranoid, projecting bullshit to be…. well, nothing really. You don’t possess any credibility. In short, Fattie, you are a sick pathetic piece of crap. That’s what you got.

                    We’ve got Israel. Which still exists.

                    You bitch about Jews while making yourself a victim.

                    That’s a life, I guess.

                    • “Coming from someone who thinks all of Israel is Occupied Land, and that Western Jews control the banks and politicians…”

                      Substantiate that fantastical nonsense.,

  4. Let’s just agree that Daniel Margrain is a troll – and , for the looks of the above, an unfortunately successful one.

    • “Sand nazis”? Do you have anymore racist epithets?… Sand n***ers perhaps? You vile racist piece of shit.