Guardian: 'reputation tarnished'

A video of the play Seven Jewish Children, which has been widely condemned as antisemitic, is available on the Guardian's website

A video of the play Seven Jewish Children, which has been widely condemned as antisemitic, is available on the Guardian's website

Guardian journalists should be "more vigilant" in ensuring that they avoid using antisemitic tropes or language, according to the paper's readers' editor.

Addressing "the increase in complaints of antisemitism" in his weekly column, Chris Elliott said the Guardian was seen as being "especially critical of the Israeli government" and that this had led to concerns it is "carrying material that either lapses into language resonant of antisemitism or is, by its nature, antisemitic".

He said that although website moderators were trained to spot "the kind of language long associated with antisemitic tropes", more care was needed to identify coded references such as the word Zionist "being used as a synonym for Jew".

Mr Elliott said that in his view, incidents of antisemitic content being published were inadvertent, but added: "We must be more vigilant to ensure our voice in the debate is not diminished because our reputation has been tarnished."

The article came in the wake of a reader backlash over Deborah Orr's column about the release of Gilad Shalit, in which she complained that "so many Zionists believe… that the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbours".

She was criticised by David Aaronovitch for using "one of the most poisonous tropes in antisemitism" and apologised for her "badly chosen" words, but said that "accusations of antisemitism have also been intemperate".

According to its own research, in 2010 Israel was the sixth most written about country on the Guardian website, coming ahead of Iran and Zimbabwe. And last week Gail Simmons, contributor to the Guardian - as well as the Spectator, the Independent and the Telegraph - tweeted: "Hitler was a Zionist which explains a lot about Zionism."

Last updated: 3:03pm, November 11 2011