They just don't get it - tolerance of Jew-hate set to live on

One of the most prevalent axioms advanced by anti-Zionists is that Jews attempt to stifle criticism of Israel by accusing their opponents of antisemitism.

Indeed, Guardian readers' editor Chris Elliott wrote last weekend: "The Guardian is seen as… especially critical of the Israeli government", which "has led to complaints that it is carrying material that… lapses into language resonant of antisemitism or is antisemitic."

In fact, the pro-Israel community doesn't argue that disproportionate criticism of Israel is, in itself, evidence of antisemitism.

The most dangerous dynamic at the Guardian is the licensing of commentators with an apparent record of antisemitism, while justifying their politics as merely anti-Zionism or pro-Palestinian.

For instance, Ben White, published regularly at CiF, has explained that he can understand why some people are antisemites, due in part to "widespread…subservience to the Israeli cause in the… media".

An even more egregious example is the Guardian's publishing of a letter by Gilad Atzmon - who has accused Jews of literally controlling the world.

Elliott later writes: "Organisations monitoring the Guardian examine the language in articles as closely as the facts. These included [use] of the term 'slavish' to describe the US relationship with Israel."

However, while Elliott noted that complaints of antisemitism about columnist Deborah Orr, who mocked Jews' "chosenness", were valid, writing "it [is] antisemites…who have read 'chosen' as code for Jewish supremacism", the offending passage was not revised.

Nor, despite Elliott's admission that "Jewish supremacism" is antisemitic, has the characterisation of Israel as "supremacist" state in a Guardian report by David Hearst, been removed.

Elliott further writes that he doesn't "believe the appearance [of examples cited] in the Guardian is the result of deliberate acts of antisemitism", before concluding: "Writers and editors must be…vigilant to ensure our voice… is not diminished because our reputation has been tarnished."

Ultimately, Elliott doesn't seem prepared to accept that Guardian contributors could be motivated by antipathy towards Jews, and seems more concerned that the paper's reputation may be "tarnished".

If the first step in overcoming prejudice is to acknowledge the problem, Elliott's apologia suggests that the Guardian isn't poised to confront their institution's tolerance of racism against Jews.

Adam Levick is managing editor, CiF Watch

Last updated: 2:59pm, November 10 2011