During the recent media dust-up over the Daily Mail’s attack on Labour leader Ed Milliband’s father, many people on the left called attention to the right-wing tabloid’s history of support for the Nazis. All well and good, but to me the more salient issue was the Mail’s toxic coverage today.
Hysteric anti-migrant sentiment is in practically every issue of this trashy paper. Homophobia, anti-Muslim rabble-rousing, you name it. The Mail seems anti-anything outside of its own Little Englander mentality.
The attack on Ralph Miliband, headlined “The Man Who Hated Britain”, was a classic reds-under-the-bed piece of the kind the Mail frequently traffics in.
But another accusation was raised against the piece: that it was anti-Semitic. (The older Miliband was a Jew who fled from Belgium in 1940 to escape the Nazi Holocaust.)
MP John Mann, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, tweeted that the that the article was a “classical age-old anti-Semitic smear about disloyal Jews”. The Jewish Chronicle wrote in an editorial that the piece was surrounded by “the whiff of antisemitism”.
While reiterating my contempt for the Daily Mail in general, and this red-baiting piece in particular, the accusation seems extremely tenuous. (Unless one considers the blandly factual description of the late Miliband as “a Jewish immigrant who… escape[d] the Nazi Holocaust” to be anti-Semitic.)
But there was indeed something anti-Semitic about the statements of a different Mail journalist – a very senior one interviewed on the BBC last week.
Under pressure, the Mail’s editor Paul Dacre personally dispatched City Editor Alex Brummer to Radio 4’s Today programme on 4 October because, Brummer said, Dacre “wanted one pecific [sic] aspect of this business to be attacked: as a senior Jewish reporter on the paper he wanted to take that particular canard [that the piece was anti-Semitic], which has been put out by one or two people on Twitter and has gained some momentum, a rather unfortunate momentum, and nail it: lay it to rest.”
But Brummer’s defence was highly problematic. Instead of pointing out the obvious (that the article contained no anti-Semitic sentiment) he instead blustered about the Mail’s pro-Israel editorial line.
“The Daily Mail is filled with Jewish journalists, it is one of the most pro-Israel papers on Fleet Street,” he said. “In comparison with say the Guardian or the Independent, which frequently demonise Israel, and in so doing demonise the broader Jewish community – it is right behind them. And that’s why I find that allegation particularly despicable.”
Oddly enough, this silly justification echoed none other than Nick Griffin, the leader of the fascist British National Party. In 2009 during his appearance on Question Time, he boasted of his support for Israel saying the BNP was now “the only political party which, in the clashes between Israel and Gaza, stood full square behind Israel’s right to deal with Hamas terrorists”.
This line of argument is a non-sequitur – it makes zero logical sense. How does demonstrating your love for Israeli war crimes prove a lack of anti-Semitism? It does not. A bigoted hatred of Jews certainly does not exclude one from supporting Israel. Quite the contrary.
As historical precedent for this, you need look no further than Arthur Balfour himself. When he was prime minister in 1905, he presided over the passage of the “Aliens Act”, whose purpose was to restrict entry to Britain of Jews fleeing Tsarist persecution in the Russian Empire. Balfour of course, was the author of the notorious Balfour Declaration of 1917, which promised to hand Palestine over to the Zionist movement.
I have previously written about the growing links between Israel and far-right nationalist (and particularly with Islamophobic) movements. These also draw on such long historical precedents.
To return to Brummer’s comments, there is a more sinister element to what he told the Today programme – something that went almost entirely unnoticed by commentators.
As proof the Mail could not possibly be anti-Semitic he said it was “one of the most pro-Israel papers on Fleet Street.” This statement is itself anti-Semitic, since it implies all Jews are responsible for the actions of Israel. If that was not bad enough, he made this vile equation more explicit, claiming that the other papers’ “demonis[ing]” of Israel ipso-facto “demonise[s] the broader Jewish community”.
There you have it: according to Brummer “Israel” is equivalent to “the broader Jewish community”. This is a disgusting anti-Semitic statement, but it is a common argument for Zionists to make.
Ironically, such statements fall under one definition of anti-Semitism favoured by Zionists themselves! According to the controversial “Working Definition of Anti-semitism”, one example of anti-Semitism is: “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”. This document is promoted by groups like the Community Security Trust and by more overt Israel lobby groups, but oddly enough it works only one way.
Zionist never apply this criterion to themselves — although they are always making extravagant claims about Jewish support for Israel. The Jewish Chronicle last year published one outrageously anti-Semitic headline, claiming that there was “Unanimous UK Jewish community support for Israel” during its bloody November assault on Gaza.
The most basic tenant of Zionism is supremely anti-Semitic: the false idea that the Jews of Europe (and indeed the world) do not really “belong” to the countries they are from, but instead to the mythical “Land of Israel”. This false notion is something Zionists and Nazis have in common.
It’s time to start talking more about this specifically Zionist variety of anti-Semitism.
An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London