November 27, 2012

Minor victory for the antisemitism card

There have been many grotesque caricatures of Jews in the past and, of course, more recently.  One recurring theme is the power of Jews to manipulate apparently powerful politicians.  But what do we do when reality resembles these antisemitic caricatures?

Just recently Israel embarked on its equivalent of Super Tuesday.  It slaughtered a batch of Palestinians following the announcement of a general election.  In spite of Israel's clear escalation of the situation, Tony Blair, Israel's envoy to The Quartet, and William Hague, the UK foreign minister, both parroted Netanyahu's excuse which was something about Hamas firing rockets, without any mention of why Hamas might be firing those rockets.  As I posted earlier, Steve Bell, of the Guardian, ran a cartoon depicting Blair and Hague as glove puppets of Netanyahu.  Now this resembled an antisemitic cartoon of yore.

There were predictable complaints from the usual sources, here and here and of course not just there and there.  And eventually the Guardian readers' editor, Chris Elliott,  got on the case.  It's a strange title, readers' editor, because his job seems to be responded to the complaints of people for whom the Guardian can do nothing right. He set out a few complaints plus a defence of his own position by Steve Bell before concluding thus:
I don't believe that Bell is an antisemite, nor do I think it was his intention to draw an antisemitic cartoon. However, using the image of a puppeteer when drawing a Jewish politician inevitably echoes past antisemitic usage of such imagery, no matter the intent.
The Holocaust and its causes are still within living memory. While journalists and cartoonists should be free to express an opinion that Netanyahu is opportunistic and manipulative, in my view they should not use the language – including the visual language – of antisemitic stereotypes.
 Now how on earth did the subject morph from the sycophancy of western leaders towards the State of Israel to the holocaust?  Never mind.  It just did, that's all.  The Guardian readers' editor has come out in support of the zionists on this one and nowhere in his piece does it mention what gave rise to the cartoon in the first place, ie, the Israeli attack on Gaza and Tony Blair and William Hague's support for it.  It did mention Netanyahu's manipulativeness but not what it was deployed for.  So the last word in the Guardian on Israel's latest attack on Gaza is mention of the holocaust and condemnation of the kind of behaviour by Israel and its allies that resembles an antisemitic caricature.

By the way, I commented on the readers' editor's piece. I wonder if it will stay in place.
Israel's recent attack on Gaza follows a pattern of Israel killing lots of civilians in the run up to an Israeli election. Netanyahu offered a bogus excuse for the attack, as did Tzipi Livni before him, as did Shimon Peres over his attack on Qana. This time, Blair and Hague repeated Netanyahu's excuse as if it was a genuine explanation. That is, they behaved like glove puppets of Netanyahu. And there's the rub. There have been grotesque caricatures of Jews in the past but whose fault is it if an Israeli leader and high profile politicians in the west behave like those caricatures?
It's sad that one of the letters supporting Steve Bell says, "Mark Gardner can't be allowed to get away with the old trick of pretending all criticism of the Israeli government is antisemitic.". Unfortunately, looking at the last couple of paragraphs of the article above, he does seem to have got away with it. Shame.
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