By Jonathan Hoffman
February 20, 2010
The following article was published in the JC yesterday:
Please also comment on the CiF Watch site.
Guardian’s flagship blog reeks of antisemitism
Exactly why is this website different from all other websites? That was the question posed by a commenter on the Guardian’s flagship blog “Comment is Free” (CiF) last week in response to the suggstion by a number of commenters on the thread that the call by Jenny Tonge for the IDF to investigate organ harvesting in Haiti was manufactured by the Jewish media cabal to smear Tonge.
That whiff, or perhaps more accurately, stench, of antisemitism is something which is ever present in “Comment is Free” threads that deal with Israel and Jewish-related subjects. In a typical comment thread on the Israel/Palestinian conflict, you’ll encounter analogies to Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, claims that Zionism is a racist ideology, accusations that Israel ethnically cleanses the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine and that the nefarious Israel lobby wields untold control over US and UK foreign policy.
Any pro-Israel commenter will tell you that the minute that they espouse a position in support of Israel, they are cyber-mobbed by a group of virulently anti-Israel commenters parroting the familiar tropes of the anti-Israel narrative. And if you decide to stick around long enough you’ll discover that comments which don’t quite fit what we at CiF Watch call the “Guardian World View”, such as those comments that cite excerpts from the Hamas Charter, are summarily deleted. CiFWatch is replete with examples. It is against this backdrop that Professor Geoffrey Alderman has joined a long list of pro-Israel commenters who have been banned from posting.
But to really understand what goes on “below the line” in the comment threads, you have to understand what diet of hate commenters are being fed by the “above the line” Guardian-commissioned articles. “Comment is Free” regularly features articles that portray Israel as the equivalent of apartheid South Africa. For example, Ben White, author of “Israeli Apartheid: A Beginners’ Guide” and an apologia for Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial, is a regular columnist. Other regulars include Seth Freedman and Antony Lerman, both part of a vocal minority of anti-Zionist Jews that find a welcome home in the Guardian. The former recently wrote a despicable article using Israel’s heroic efforts in Haiti as a stick with which to beat Israel for the travails of Gaza, the latter an article denying that a Pat Oliphant cartoon making analogies between Israel and Nazi Germany was antisemitic.
The Guardian has even commissioned articles on more than one occasion from Hamas members including Khalid Mish’al and supporters of the one-state solution, such as Ali Abunimah of the virulently anti-Israel Electronic Intifada, are given a platform. Dig a little deeper and you’ll learn that “Comment is Free” allowed Peter Oborne to publicise his infamous documentary prior to its airing on Channel 4 – followed by a ringing endorsement from Antony Lerman – and Victoria Brittain was given a platform to spread unsubstantiated claims that Israel was causing blue baby syndrome among Gazans through poisoning of the water – a modern day blood libel if there was ever one.
Sure “Comment is Free” may occasionally publish the odd token pro-Israel article – so that it can trumpet the claim of “balance” – and may even ratchet up the frequency of these articles when there is increased scrutiny- as happened two weeks ago. However one cannot ignore the fact that the overwhelming number of articles are, in varying degrees, anti-Israel in their bias.
And what are we to make of the case of Isabella Mackie (aka BellaM) who is a CiF moderator and daughter of none other than Guardian chief editor, Alan Rusbridger, engaging in an ad hominem attack on Melanie Phillips, in contravention of the Guardian’s talk policy?
Even worse, what about the more recent case of a commenter going by the moniker of “William Bapthorpe” who advocated the slaughter of West Bank Jews down to “every last man, woman and child”? Though this comment was deleted, Matt Seaton, editor of “Comment is Free”, brazenly refused to ban “Bapthorpe”. It was only after wider publicity of the affair through CiF Watch and a police complaint that some two weeks later Seaton bowed to pressure and banned “Bapthorpe”.
So when Matt Seaton says “[w]e take all forms of hate speech extremely seriously, especially antisemitism, and we work hard to delete offensive postings rapidly” how can we take what he says seriously?