Indy’s Robert Fisk crosses the line to antisemitism

If populism, in both right-wing and left-wing manifestations, often promotes the idea that ‘the ‘system is rigged’ by the few to the detriment of the many, antisemitism can be defined as the belief that Jews are the ones rigging the system.  Antisemitism is a malleable, all-purpose conspiracy theory which finds Jews – or Israel as the Jew writ large – at the center of any attempt to understand why, politically or economically, things go wrong.  Further, though those who engage in the irrational belief that a minuscule minority – representing 2/10 of 1% of the world population – is controlling global affairs often see themselves as some sort of causation whistle-blower, daring to ‘connect the dots’ wherever they lead. They are ‘speaking truth to power’.

Enter Robert Fisk, who, in his most benign form, can be seen as that curmudgeonly elderly man in the neighbourhood yelling at kids to get to get off his lawn, but who often seems something closer to the guy on his computer at 3 AM cavorting with cranks and haters on fringe online forums – a guy who, by the way, also happens to be the long-time Middle East correspondent for a respectable British news site.

Though journalists don’t normally write their own headlines, in this case, the Indy editors responsible for this did in fact accurately convey Fisk’s explanation, in his March 26th piece, for US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Though we were able to quickly convince Indy editors to change the headline to something slightly less offensive, Fisk’s antisemitic narrative, that Israel controls the United States, remains in the article.  

Fisk not only levels accusations at mainstream news outlets, like the BBC, for not granting sufficient legitimacy to Syrian claims to the Golan, but argues, in prose dripping with contempt, that such “pro-Israel” coverage of the issue is evidence of the broader media’s “grovelling, cowardly, craven obeisance to Israel”, which he maintains is motivated by their “fear of being cast into the accusatory hell of ‘antisemitism'”. 

In addition to risibly charging the international media with being pro-Israel, and even subservient or submissive to the state, Fisk is arguing that this slavish relationship is motivated by their fear of (false) claims of antisemitism.  But, Fisk is clearly not one to bow to what he’s called moralblackmail” by this evidently perfidious clan, as he goes on to attack those who fail to “complain about the dual loyalties of their countrymen”, who “grovel” and are “in thrall” to the Jewish state.  Israel, he concludes, echoing the unfiltered venom of well-known far-right extremists, has “annexed America“.

So, what does the decision to publish such antisemitic language concerning Jewish power and loyalties tells us about the Independent?

Well, as we see in the Labour antisemitism scandal, it’s possible for a group, party or organisation to become institutionally antisemitic, even if anti-Jewish views are held by a minority of members, when the leadership either endorses such hate or at least allows it to go unpunished. 

Alternatively, those who take a firm stand against bigots associated with their brand can avert charges of antisemtism. 

For instance, in 2014, The Economist, following criticism, removed a cartoon – accompanying an article about opposition to the Iran Deal – that combined the Star of David with the US Congressional seal, suggesting Israeli or Jewish control over the US government.  They also added an editors’ note apologising, stating clearly that they do not believe Jews control Congress.  Even the Guardian readers’ editor ultimately condemned a hateful cartoon by Steve Bell that same year depicting the Israeli prime minister as a puppeteer controlling Tony Blair and William Hague, arguing that it echoed “past antisemitic usage of such imagery”.

Given the increase of antisemitism in Europe, and, in particular, in the UK, it’s incumbent upon top editors at the Independent to take a firm stand against any racist ideas endorsed by their journalists.   

The Indy itself argued, in an official editorial on the Labour antisemitism scandal published last month, that “the perception that one of our great national parties is weak in fighting antisemitism brings shame on us all”.

Whilst we do not believe the Indy is antisemitic, the perception that their news organisation is weak in preventing racist ideas about Jews from being promoted in their publication doesn’t reflect well on their editors.  Particularly in light of the ongoing national antisemitism crisis perceived by many in the British Jewish community as nothing short of an existential threat to Jewish life, their failure to remove Fisk’s toxic tropes or, at least, officially distance themselves from such views, would represent a serious moral abdication.  

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35 replies »

  1. I think that Fisk has crossed another borderline, from the possible to the paranoid

    • Indeed, but that was crossed a long time ago: in 1982 when he was reporting from Beirut on the then-current Israeli operation, he was filmed dressed in a flak jacket in a pile of ruins with elderly weeds (clearly the ruin was not a result of any present action, and equally was probably a relic of the original Syrian invasion). Undeterred by his setting, he was shown to be scurrying about, dodging and crouching, as he described the bombs/missiles rained down from the skies by the Israeli Airforce. After a bit the cameraman, why, who knows?, panned to – a beautiful, clear sky, with a single plane which was too far away to detect any markings but which may have been a reconnaissance plane, and if it was trailing anything except vapours, may have been an Israeli warplane dropping warning leaflets…. it was too far off to determine. But what it wasn’t was an Israeli air armada raining death and destruction. Pan back to the pathetic Fisk in his flak and his fury, making it up before our very eyes…..his setting “Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.” (W. S. Gilbert, The Mikado)

      • Fisk is a known distorter of fact to suit his causes – he like the paper where his article was published are racist in the extreme and have forgotten why the paper was founded.
        Unfortunately Lord Sieff is not alive to tell us!

        • There was also Fisk’s infamous reporting in the aftermath of the Jenin battle, which was preceded by the the Passover massacre. If my memory serves me correctly, the article had the headline “Jeningrad”. He then went on to describe mass graves with “hundreds” of bodies buried in them. At the time I was completely unaware of Fisk’s bias, and economy with the truth imho, and I was astounded to be reading what I was. It was only in the subsequent days, after it became apparent there was no “massacre” and no mass graves, that I realised what I’d read was utter nonsense – slanderous in fact.

  2. I gave up on the Independent years ago
    because of Fisk’s columns and have also cancelled my Spectator sub because of Taki’s column

  3. I stopped taking the Independent in 1987 because of its (possibly Fisk-inspired) Judeophobia,. The proof, to me, was a series of news reports over the course of a week.
    The news that started the series was that an Arab woman had gotten killed about a block from the Independent’s Jerusalem office. For about a week, the Independent had a large article on the 2nd or 3rd page on how this poor woman was murdered (almost certainly by a Jew) because she was an Arab and that the police would never capture the perpetrator because, in the eyes of the police, she was only an Arab and, besides, the police would never capture a Jew who had killed an Arab.
    On the 7th day, no article on either page 2 or page 3. None on pages 4, 5 or 6. On page 7, there was, in the sidebar, a 2-sentence squib,,about 5 cm by about 1 cm. it seems that the police had caught the murderer, who was an Arab who had killed the woman because he thought she was a Jew.
    That was the last day the Independent entered my house.

    • I was once walking down Jaffa Street, near the Shuk, when an Arab came running and screaming, stopped suddenly, and crouched down on the sidewalk holding his face in pain. A crowd gathered around him and then a couple of cops came by and asked him what had happened. He answered that he had been attacked by some boys. The cops did not waste any time running after the attackers. The Independent of Truth would never report an incident like that.

  4. My experience in the Independent’s comment section was that even mild pro-Israel comments tended to be deleted whereas hugely anti-Israel and even antisemitic messages were far more likely to be deleted. The result was an extremely one sided conversation where Israel would be demonized with glaring denunciations of posts that had disappeared. A pro-Israel comment might last half a day. The articles were perhaps slightly milder, but the comments were definitely curated to give the false impression of near uniform negativity.

    What I’ve also noticed is that almost without exception a Robert Fisk column does not permit comments at all. I think I’ve seen it exactly once!. Whatever Fisks says, there is no immediate right of reply. Possibly because of the number of times Fisk has been fisked, it may be written into his contract.

  5. The guy was also a Serb-hater prepared to suck up to Iran-supported Izetbegovic. A liar and a crook.

  6. As part of my news feed, I used to receive many articles from the Guardian and the Independent, not anymore.
    When reading articles about Israel it was as if I was transformed to Germany of the 20’s. The vial, venomous wordings of those articles belong to a by gone era, at least I thought they were by gone.
    Doing a quick search in both newspaper’s web site I found many articles on Israel and Jews, not one was even objective, not to mention favourable.
    Israel and the Jewish world community are by far one of the largest contributers to the better of humanity. If taking their small number into consideration, they are on top of that list.
    Yet, all I could find was endless dribble of hate and resentment towards Jews and Israel.
    England at its best I presume.

  7. The man speaks it like he sees it, I queried Trump’s self-appointed ruler of the world to give away the Golan Heights to expanding Israel like he owned them..

  8. Vacating Gaza expands Israel’s border? Get help. Seriously.

    What concessions have Palestinians ever made? A promise not to kill and Israel should just keep their word?

    I do agree with you that the scourge of Arab settlement expansion on Jewish land is unacceptable.

    • For any newcomers who may come across my comment above, please be advised that I have written them in response to an anti-Semitic troll whose idiotic comment has since been deleted, thus the non-sequitur.

  9. Please don’t play that game with Robert Fisk He is one of the rare courageous, unbiased, well documented and experienced journalist who brings pride to journalism.