Complimentary blog posts or tweets about the Guardian represent the opposite of clickbait for our many loyal followers. That is, those familiar with the Guardian’s decades-long history of institutional anti-Israel bias – which sometimes crosses the line into outright antisemitism – are understandably wary of suggestions that otherwise ideologically rigid editors have changed course on matters of concern to British Jewry. But, it is our view that a modest editorial pivot concerning antisemitism is evident. Though it’s difficult to explain with any degree of certainty the reason for the slight shift, noting the radically different tones of two Guardian editorials on the issue of antisemitism within five years of each other is instructive.
Twin Guardian editorials published in 2012 on the Islamist-inspired murders of four innocent Jews in the French city of Toulouse represented an example of great accomplishments in obfuscating antisemitically motivated violence. In over 900 words of text in the two pieces, the Guardian failed to use the word “antisemitism” even once, and somehow even managed to avoid acknowledging the Jewish identity of the victims. Editors responsible for the piece seemed more concerned about the possibility of an Islamophobic reaction to the attack by a French Muslim than to the disturbing fact that a 23-year-old French-born citizen was so inculcated in Jew hatred that he chased a small, terrified innocent Jewish girl into a corner and shot her three times in the brain.
Though the current row over toxic remarks, falsely suggesting a “collaboration” between Zionists and Nazis, by Ken Livingstone represents a far different dynamic than what occurred in Toulouse, today’s powerful Guardian editorial on the Labour Party’s failure to expel the former London Mayor does however represent an unmistakable break from previous moral abdications.
The editorial, (“The Guardian view on Labour and Ken Livingstone: wrong decision, terrible message”, April 6) should be read in its entirety, but here are excerpts – some of which surreally sounds as if they’re acknowledging their own previous failures.
In modern times it is not Labour’s normal practice to belittle the views of those who say they have been victims of racial prejudice, to query their motives and to reject the premises of their complaint. For good reasons, the party’s default position has become a determined readiness to define racism as its victims would like it to be defined. But there is arguably now an exception to this basic ethos of sensitivity: Jews. When the allegation is antisemitism and a Labour politician is being accused, the dynamic is often reversed. A presumption can take hold that the offence cannot have been committed because the left is opposed to all racism.
Warped logic then unfolds: anti-racists cannot be guilty of prejudice against Jews, so it follows that Jewish complaints about prejudice are dishonest. The offence is pushed back on to the people who thought they had been offended. It is reconfigured as a plot to discredit political foes; part of a hidden agenda connected to Israel-Palestine. This argument then feeds the idea that an accusation of antisemitism is a weapon deployed by Jews (usually for decorum’s sake recast as “Zionists”) for nefarious purposes. Thus the ancient racist narrative of kosher conspiracy and shadowy machination thrives even among those who imagine they are policing racism.
This pattern has played itself out in public view in the case of Ken Livingstone’s disciplinary hearing. He was charged with bringing the party into disrepute over remarks he made last year – and has repeated subsequently – bundling Zionism and Nazism together in a mangled retelling of the 1930s, depicting Hitler’s supposedly more nuanced attitudes “before he went mad”. Even aside from the grotesque misreading of history, this kind of language is deeply offensive. Its rhetorical purpose is to imply intellectual or actual Jewish complicity with the perpetrators of their genocide, diminishing the crime of the Holocaust, and so undermine the moral foundations of the state of Israel.
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of Middle East conflict, that is a malicious way to handle matters of enormous complexity and cultural sensitivity. Mr Livingstone’s statements and unapologetic stances ooze contempt for the Jewish community.
Though the Guardian did also publish three appalling defenses of Livingstone by cartoonist Steve Bell, today’s official editorial does at least – within the context of the current row – put the media group on the side of Jewish Britons, and indeed on the only moral side within the ongoing battle against antisemitism in its modern form.