The Guardian's longstanding and shameful tradition of promoting antisemitism denial

For decades, Britain's most prominent left-wing paper has promoted those denying antisemitism on the wider left, contributing to today's toxic climate for British Jews

July 09, 2019 13:28

If you are British, you may not have heard of Diamond and Silk.

Diamond and Silk, better known as Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, are two African-American women best known as live-stream video bloggers and social media personalities who are vociferously outspoken in their support of Donald Trump.

Support for Mr Trump among the African-American community is low, despite claims by the administration to the contrary; in 2016, he only received 8 percent of the African-American vote. The overwhelming majority of black Americans do not support him – and so the views of Diamond and Silk are not at all representative of their community.

But you wouldn’t know it, considering their megaphone. They appear regularly on a variety of shows on the Fox News channel, the hard-right US network which has become little more than a cheerleading squad for Mr Trump. They have met Mr Trump and many members of his family. Last year they were given a regular show of their own on the Fox News streaming service, Fox Nation.

Why has the American hard-right so enthusiastically embraced this duo? The reason is that they provide a vital service for supporters of the Trump administration. They are presented to millions of Americans as being representative of what the African-American community thinks about Donald Trump, despite being nothing of the sort. And so, whenever African Americans speak up against the Trump administration’s many awful decisions, Trump fans can respond by holding up the examples of Diamond and Silk and saying “but these African Americans say there’s no problem!”

British Jews may not be that familiar with the pair, but they will be more than familiar with the technique used by the American hard right. It is, after all, the exact same technique which has been used against them, for many years, by elements of the British Left.

It would be tempting to blame this all on Jeremy Corbyn – after all, the four years of his leadership of the Labour party have seen this tendency reach new heights. His response to a protest of UK Jews outside Parliament was not to arrange a meeting with Jewish communal groups, but to attend a seder hosted by a far-left anti-Zionist collective. His team and his supporters have repeatedly sought to boost the voices of the tiny minority of far-left Jews, associated with the group known as “Jewish Voice for Labour”, who continue to insist, against all available evidence, that there is no genuine problem with antisemitism in the Labour party.

But this issue goes back further than that, and the wider Left has played a shameful role; in particular, the Guardian, Britain’s most prominent left-wing newspaper.

For decades, any time any issue of antisemitism on the Left has reared its head (including but not limited to the subject of Israel), the paper has printed the exact same line from the exact same tiny group of far-left people on the outmost fringes of our community, many of whom are now involved with the JVL. The letters, of which literally scores have been published by the Guardian over the years, all do the same thing - deny antisemitism on the Left, as well as in the wider anti-Israel movement.

The people who sign these letters have earned their own soubriquet from the rest of our community, “AsaJews” – people whose connection to Judaism seems to be defined almost solely by their willingness to use it to condemn their co-religionists.

The letters often contain the same names (indeed, there was some embarrassment a little while back when it was discovered that one of the signatories was, in fact, dead – the list of signatories, apparently just copied and pasted from a previous letter, had not been updated.)

And yet, due entirely to the regular platform the paper has offered them, readers of the Guardian over the decades may well have come to the conclusion that this small group accurately represents British Jews, when it does nothing of the sort.

The latest letter, published yesterday, is a particular grievous example of the genre. “Jewish Support for Chris Williamson”, was the Guardian headline over the letter, which began “we, the undersigned, all Jews.

“As anti-racist Jews, we regard Chris as our ally", it went on to say about the Derby North MP.

"He stands as we do with the oppressed rather than the oppressor.”

Mr Williamson, who has a history of Jew baiting, was suspended from Labour in February after suggesting the party had been "too apologetic" in response to accusations of antisemitism. 

But the undersigned were not, in fact, all Jews. Some of them had also previously been suspended or expelled from the Labour party for antisemitic statements.

Others, who are Jewish, have longstanding records of defending people guilty of horrific antisemitic activity.

They are as representative of British Jews as Diamond and Silk are of African Americans.

The Guardian’s willingness to run these sorts of letters on a regular basis is infamous among British Jews. I grew up in Golders Green, in the heart of the North West London Jewish community, and I can tell you that there the Guardian is viewed with the sort of disgust that elements of the Left reserve for the Mail and the Sun – as a paper which quite deliberately aims to entirely misrepresent our beliefs and attitudes.

The Guardian regularly runs pieces by people from ethnic minorities which subscribe fully to the idea, as suggested by the Macpherson report, that racism should be defined by the victim. It would be, one suspects, unthinkable to many of the Guardian’s senior editors to repeatedly publish screeds from a tiny group of people within Britain’s Afro-Caribbean community, for example, or the UK Muslim community, denying issues of racism and Islamophobia which many other members of that same racial or ethnic group believe exist.

Yet when it comes to the Jewish community, the Guardian continues to indulge this behaviour on a regular basis. It has helped, and continues to help, create the environment where people on the Left feel comfortable responding to Jews protesting against antisemitism by holding up JVL and their ilk and saying “but these Jews say there’s no problem!”

And it should be unequivocally ashamed at its role in doing so.

July 09, 2019 13:28

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