February 22, 2008

Visit Engage where fact is theory, truth is antisemitic and so is the Jewish Chronicle!

Engage has surpassed itself with a bogus allegation of antisemitism levelled at yesterday's edition of the Guardian, where Engage's Dr Hirsh used to write for Comment is free. Remember that, it might be relevant.

It happens from time to time that when Dr Hirsh writes something embarrassing he just removes it and denies that it had appeared so I'll copy and paste it in full with it's links but please please check out the Guardian articles where you will find not a lot to tally with what Dr Hirsh is actually saying here except where the doctor effects this horrified tone as he sets out the truth as someone else sees it:
The substance of the exclusive story that the Guardian broke today (21 Feb 08) is this: in an early draft of the ‘dodgy dossier’ which ‘sexed up’ the intelligence on Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction in order to embellish the case for war, it was claimed that “no other country [apart from Iraq] [had] flouted the United Nations’ authority so brazenly in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction”. A Foreign Office spin doctor wrote “Israel” in the margin. When the document was published in response to a Freedom of Information request, the word “Israel” was deleted.

The Guardian editorial team decided to sex up the story too.

The front page headline is: ‘Labour kept criticism of Israel secret’ and it is illustrated by Israeli flags and Union Jacks fluttering in the breeze side by side; when you click the link on the website, it becomes ‘How Labour used the law to keep criticism of Israel secret’. A sub-headline informs us: ‘Israel’s weapons – a diplomatic no-go area’. And the leader brings together all of the soundbites and imagery of contemporary antisemitic conspiracy theory: censorship; suppression of the word ‘Israel’; cravenness (before the ‘lobby’); secret deliberation; an act of concealment; exploiting the loopholes; Israel regularly kicks up a fuss over far more minor matters; the blue pencil; decisions reached in secret; ‘Israel’ the banned word; how easily the tribunal can be influenced into concealing public material.

Conspiracy theory, which held that Jews conspired secretly with each other in their own interest, is a classic staple of many variants of antisemitism. By deceit, through smart organization and with their financial power, Jews wield huge but unseen influence. Jews corrupted society with revolutions, they exploited the work of others through capitalism, they started wars in which they themselves were not prepared to kill or to die. Jews owe their real allegiance to each other around the world; they are treacherous to their neighbours, their communities, their class and their nation.

Conspiracy theory is often mirrored in the ways that decent people increasingly think about Israel. Views that seem to be moderate and concerned with justice often take the form of antisemitism. Israel is often thought of as though it were uniquely cruel and influential. Yet Israel is neither.

The contemporary way of doing antisemitic conspiracy theory was given a stamp of professorial legitimacy by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. They also created a vocabulary which one could use to express conspiracy theory which did not seem to be antisemtic. They did not say that the Jews were responsible for the Iraq war, they said it was the ‘Israel lobby’. They did not say that Jews were not patriotic Americans, they said that the ‘Israel lobby’ perverted policy from the American national interest. They did not say that Jews run the American media and political system by a secret conspiracy, they said that the ‘Israel lobby’ controlled public discourse and it had a veto on who was elected to political power.

Conspiracy theory is nearly always, today, articulated using the Livingstone Formulation, which claims that Jews play the antisemitism card in bad faith in order to de-legitimize criticism of Israeli human rights abuses. In this way, anyone who raises a worry about contemporary antisemitism already stands accused of doing so maliciously; and they also stand accused of doing so as part of a common plan with others.

Today’s Guardian has antisemitic conspiracy theory running through it, from the front page to the inside pages, to the leader. Antisemitism of this sort is not explicit, is not obvious, and is not self-aware. It is necessary, therefore, to analyse and interpret a text to know whether it is antisemitic.

This is a story concerning one word written in the margin of one of many many drafts of a document. I’m glad that I don’t have to make all my own drafts public. That is the point of a draft. It is not published. The editorial staff of the Guardian decided to run this story as evidence of the corruption which the ‘Israel lobby’ foments in Britain. There are two notable aspects of the way that the story is treated. One is the picture of the Labour government it paints, cravenly bowing to a (Jewish) foreign power; the other is the language with which this picture is painted.

Who is more powerful, Britain or Israel? Britain has the fourth largest economy in the world; Israel has the 35th largest economy in the world. Britain has a permanent seat on the Security Council; Israel is a pariah in the UN. Britain is an old and influential imperial power which gave its language to the world; Israel is a small country of a few million people, mainly in four smallish cities, which many people want to wipe off the map. For the Guardian to portray Israel as being in control of Britain is just weird.

The ‘lobby’ rhetoric holds that Israel controls the world because it holds the ultimate weapon, which is the accusation of antisemitism. It uses this weapon brazenly and dishonestly. Governments like the British government, goes the story, are too ‘craven’ to stand up to Israel when it ‘kicks up a fuss’; in any case politicians who stand up to Israel would be fatally wounded by accusation of antisemitism which the lobby controls; and in any case politicians are beholden to the lobby for their money.

The Livingstone Formulation headline in today’s Guardian, ‘How Labour used the law to keep criticism of Israel secret’ makes the newspaper’s spin explicit. Labour marshalled the full power of the state to prevent a little one-word (implied, possible) criticism of Israel by one Foreign Office official secret. You see how the lobby controls free speech? You see how the lobby forces a Labour government to do its work, secretly, in concealment, cunningly exploiting loopholes, wielding the blue pencil, banning even the word ‘Israel’. How easily the (formally impartial FOI tribunal) can be influenced into concealing public material. Influenced by who? Shhh. You know who.

David Hirsh

In today’s Guardian:
1. Leader: Hidden words
2. The FO's case to the information tribunal [this link is broken. I think he meant this]
4. Israel's weapons - a diplomatic no-go area
5. The Foreign Office is extraordinarily sensitive about Israel
6. Iraq dossier secrets

Simply Jews got it. Seth Freedman didn't get it.
The first thing to note here is that there is not one word of theory here, just a statement as to facts followed by some opinion as what the Guardian and some of its writers think of those facts. Dr Hirsh, the sociologist, seems not to be able to distinguish fact from theory.

The comments are worth a look at too. Let's just look at one from John Strawson, a stickler for hard evidence of anything Israel is accused of:
Many thnaks to David for his very perceptive comment on The Guardian peice. As I read it this morning, I did wonder whether I was living in world of my own where Israel was just a small country in the Middle East. Its nuclear weapons it should be added were supplied by France and since then India and Pakistan have obtained nuclear weapons - and South Africa, North Korea and Libya. But of course Israel is apparently a case on its own.

The FCO document and witness statement is highly instructive on the poor grasp of international law on the part of the FCO. There are no United Nations Security Council resolutions requiring Israel to dismantle its nuclear weapons unlike Iraq where repeated resolutions from 687 (1991) onwards adopted under Chapter VII did require this of Iraq. The marginal note is just plain wrong - As The Guardian cannot take its eyes off Israel it thus misses the fact that the maginal note is inaccurate.
First up, the margin note said one word, "Israel". It was written beside a paragraph that said
"no other country [apart from Iraq] has flouted the United Nations' authority so brazenly in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction".
The word "Israel" does not assert that Israel has "flouted the United Nations' authority so brazenly in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction", it just says "Israel". Clearly it means there is an issue about Israel with regard to the flouting of UN resolutions or there is an issue about Israel having nuclear weapons or both. There is nothing there to suggest that whoever wrote the word "Israel" thought that the UN has passed resolutions against Israel having or developing nuclear weapons. It made the point or both of the points that a)Israel has flouted the UN's resolutions and b)Israel has nuclear weapons. Israel hasn't been brazen about its nuclear weapons; it denies having them at all. Something of a worrying detraction from deterrence theory, except no one believes anything claimed on behalf of Israel. But that really makes John Strawson's list of states with nuclear weapons, leaving aside the ludicrous claim that Libya ever had them, irrelevant. The UN hasn't made rulings against them either. I think it has made general rules about the acquisition of nuclear weapons and if so, Mr Strawson is still being a bit too picky.

There are 12 comments at the time of writing this. I don't know if Dr Hirsh has chimed with the thoughts of his cohorts at the Engage site or if they see that his claims in this article are so ludicrous they had better defend him concertedly - not conspiratorially of course.

But he hasn't made his case here. There are two issues. One is that Israel is being shielded from criticism because Israel might go ape if it is criticised. The other is the casualness with which a Freedom of Information application was denied.

The zionists are fond of complaining that Israel is singled out, code for antisemitism, but here the singling out was by the Foreign Office people who decided to delete the word "Israel" whilst leaving implied or expressed criticisms of other countries in tact. That's newsworthy for goodness sake! In fact, let's have a look at a couple of paragraphs from yesterday's Guardian front page:
Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, said last year that it was in the public interest that the document should be released in its entirety. The FO appealed against his ruling and took it to the Information Tribunal.

The FCO had no objections to references to other countries in the margin of the Williams document. Alongside the claim that no other country apart from Iraq had twice launched wars of aggression against neighbours, the unknown FCO official writes: "Germany?" and " US: Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico". Against a reference to the use of chemical weapons, the official has written: "Japan in China?"

The mandarins here have singled Israel out for special favour and the Guardian merely pointed out that they had done so and that they had used official secrecy, thereby undermining the Freedom of Information Act, to do so. It could be that the Foreign Office types do harbour some antisemitic notions about Jewish power and that that is what led them to bend over backwards for Israel but that wasn't Dr Hirsh's point. He is claiming that their factual report was antisemitic theorising. If he was really on the ball he should have spun the FO's actions as being antisemitic. But then his cohort John Strawson tried that and faired no better than Hirsh did with what looks like a sordid vendetta piece against the Guardian. Has Cif been turning down his stuff?

But it all gets more silly when we note that two of the articles Hirsh is complaining of are by Jews, indeed zionists, Ian Black and Seth Freedman and for all we know right now, the editorial could have been by another resident zionist at the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland but then he tends to editorialise in Israel's favour.

And sillier still when we take a look at the Jewish Chronicle today. Like the Guardian, the Jewish Chronicle sees the story as being worthy of its front page. And a leader. And it helpfully and at risk to itself reproduces the statement of the chap who got the offending word, "Israel" removed from the published first draft.

Now it gets a bit more interesting because if you read the JC articles you will see that their thinking is closer to John Strawson's than it is to Hirsh's which makes it all the more remarkable that the thinking person's Engagenik, Strawson, described Hirsh's piece as perceptive. See what the JC says in its leader:
After taking legal advice, and aware of the inherent risks in publishing, we, along with The Guardian, decided that political and diplomatic expediency by the Foreign Office should not be allowed to override the overwhelming public interest in the witness statement’s disclosure. We print it in full today, and suggest to readers that it reveals far more about the British Government’s anxieties about its relations with Israel than it does about any ludicrous suggestion that Israel can be equated in any way with Saddam’s Iraq.
The fact is that both the JC and the Guardian were attacking the UK's Foreign Office, albeit for different reasons. Neither were attacking Jews or Israel. But perhaps that won't stop Dr Hirsh from condemning the Jewish Chronicle as antisemitic next time he does a post to the Engage site.

Ok, by way of a goodnight, let's just remind ourselves of the last line of Dr Hirsh's post:
Simply Jews got it. Seth Freedman didn't get it.
Go for your airbrush Dr Hirsh, it was you that didn't get it.

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