Guardian rejects anti-semitism accusation

By Chloe Markowitz, August 27, 2009

A new website was launched this week with the aim of monitoring antisemitism on the Guardian newspaper’s Comment is Free blog.

CiF Watch will function primarily as a blog which discusses content on Comment is Free that it considers to be anti-Jewish.

The anonymous founder of the New York-based site, who insisted on only being known by the pseudonym “Hawkeye”, said the site aimed “to challenge the mainstream orthodoxy of the extreme left that the Jewish state is a racist endeavour — which is a recurrent theme in Comment is Free”.

He added: “Besides the fact that CiF features a long list of anti-Zionists, including many Jewish anti-Zionists, its comment threads are full of vile, antisemitic statements. If you ever comment on one of those threads as a pro-Israel supporter, a lot of the time your comments get deleted.”

It was, he said, “a mistake to assume that CiF is a UK website. Its reach is international in nature and it has been the recipient of numerous web awards, ahead of the likes of New York Times online. Moreover, many contributors hail from countries abroad.”

“Hawkeye” complained: “The problem is that there are no boundaries to the commentary made about Israel. In the Guardian’s eyes it is perfectly fine to give a platform to numerous contributors to CiF that support the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state and its replacement with a bi-national state.

“To engage in such discourse is antisemitic under the EU monitoring committee working definition of antisemitism, because it denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination. What is most troubling is that it is this kind of discourse that is being normalised in the British press, and when one points this out, one gets accused of shutting down open debate when we’re doing nothing of the sort.”

A spokesman for the Guardian rejected claims of antisemitism on the site. He said: “Comment is Free has always carried a wide range of different opinions on the Israel/Palestine conflict. We reject completely the charge of antisemitism.

“We therefore welcome CiF Watch’s support for open and honest debate about the conflict and its acknowledgment that this can include criticism of Israel’s policies.

“While we aim to allow as free an expression of views as possible, we do not tolerate any hate speech, and our moderators will delete comments which are antisemitic or Islamophobic or otherwise racist, as soon as they are reported to us or when we see them ourselves.”

Jonathan Hoffman of the Zionist Federation is a strong supporter of CiF Watch, whose inspiration was a report about CiF which he submitted to the UK Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism.

He said: “The Guardian is derelict in its duty by providing a forum that promotes antisemitic discourse.”

Last updated: 12:36pm, August 27 2009