Here’s how to write critically about Jewish Trump officials without evoking antisemitism

Cross posted by UK Media Watch

Last week, we posted about a Telegraph article focusing on newly appointed US-Middle East peace envoy Avi Berkowitz which, we argued, evoked an antisemitic trope.

Here are the relevant paragraphs from that Sept. 6th piece, written by Leila Molana-Allen (the Middle East correspondent for France 24 News).

The appointment [of Berkowitz] “demonstrates a lack of seriousness” in the administration’s approach to the peace plan and Mr Kushner’s complete dominance over the process, former Middle East advisor to the US defence department Jasmine El-Gamal told The Telegraph. “They are not even pretending otherwise by hiring a qualified person as an envoy.”

Others have raised concerns that Mr Berkowitz, like Mr Greenblatt before him and Mr Kushner, is a Zionist Jew, which may lead to a perception of bias in any peace negotiations with Palestinian officials.

This doesn’t need too much unpacking. The word “Zionist” before “Jew” is meaningless, as the overwhelming majority of diaspora Jews are Zionists, in the sense that they wish for Israel to continue existing. The journalist was legitimising unnamed critics who evidently believe there are too many Jews on Trump’s Middle East team, and that these officials, by virtue of their religious background, can’t be trusted to faithfully carry out their duties. This is a classic example of a news organisation – which, we should note, is normally very responsible on the issue of antisemitism – legtimising the dual loyalty charge, codified as antisemitic by the IHRA Working Definition.

Let’s turn now to another article, one published on Sept. 15th by Bel Trew at the Independent – a publication which, unlike the Telegraph, hasn’t always been so vigilant about preventing antisemitic narratives from being promoted.

Like the Telegraph piece, Trew’s article also raises the question of conflicts of interest against some Jewish members of Trump’s Mid-East team.

However, Trew raises the concerns in a completely different manner than Molana-Allen did at the Telegraph, noting not the religion of US Ambassador David Friedman and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (architect of the US peace plan), but, rather, their personal and financial ties to Israeli settlements, particularly the community of Beit El.

Trew highlights the fact that Friedman and Kushner’s family have given significant donations to Beit El. (She also adds that former US National Security Advisor John Bolton spoke at a fundraising event for the settlement.)

Trew makes her argument thusly:

And it is the unique relationship Trump’s cadres have with this settlement that is a keyhole to the overhaul in the US administration’s attitudes towards Israel’s policies in the Palestinian territories as a whole.

To be clear, we’re extremely skeptical that Friedman and Kushner’s ties to Beit El provide a “keyhole” to the shift in US policies towards Israel, as Trew’s explanation leaves out other important factors likely impacting US policy. It also fails to consider that Friedman’s and Kushner’s important roles may merely be a reflection of the president’s desired Mid-East policy, rather than representing a force driving it.

However, at least Trew’s argument doesn’t rest on the implicit assumption that the religious background of Friedman and Kushner (and Berkowitz) alone renders them biased – a toxic and racist charge that should have no place in mainstream British publications.

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Telegraph legitimises dual loyalty charge

Cross posted from UK Media Watch

There appears to be concerns voiced ‘by some’ that newly appointed US-Middle East peace envoy Avi Berkowitz is, like his predecessor Jason Greenblat, and White House advisor Jared Kushner, a “Zionist Jew”.

Unfortunately, we don’t know who exactly feels that, by virtue of his religious background and the fact that he supports Israel’s right to exist, Berkowitz can’t be trusted to faithfully carry out his diplomatic role, as Leila Molana-Allen, the reporter who penned the Telegraph article in question, didn’t say.

Here are the relevant paragraphs from the Sept. 6th piece:

The appointment [of Berkowitz] “demonstrates a lack of seriousness” in the administration’s approach to the peace plan and Mr Kushner’s complete dominance over the process, former Middle East advisor to the US defence department Jasmine El-Gamal told The Telegraph. “They are not even pretending otherwise by hiring a qualified person as an envoy.”

Others have raised concerns that Mr Berkowitz, like Mr Greenblatt before him and Mr Kushner, is a Zionist Jew, which may lead to a perception of bias in any peace negotiations with Palestinian officials.

Though The Telegraph is normally extremely responsible when it comes to avoiding language that could be seen as antisemitic, this particular sentence clearly serves to legitimise the historically toxic dual loyalty trope, codified as antisemitic by the IHRA Working Definition.

Here’s the wording from the IHRA definition:

“Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”

We’ve contacted Telegraph editors to complain.

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BBC Two presenter Victoria Derbyshire should read this A-Z thread on Labour antisemitism

As followers of BBC Watch no doubt recall, on Aug. 15th, BBC Two presenter Victoria Derbyshire interviewed two British Jews, Mark Lewis and his partner Mandy Blumenthal, to discuss their view that antisemitism in the UK has become so bad that they no longer felt safe living there, and had decided to emigrate to Israel.

As we noted at the time, the interview was so biased – and at times hostile – that the BBC presenter could have been mistaken for a Jeremy Corbyn spokesperson, as she spouted off meaningless Labour talking points, used misleading statistics attempting to downplay antisemitism and seemed convinced that the couple was grossly exaggerating their concerns – despite death threats and other forms of abuse they’ve experienced.  

Derbyshire even at one point – in an attempt to discredit their claims – accused Lewis and Blumenthal of belonging to a non-existent Zionist political party in the UK.

Yesterday, @GasherJew, a twitter account that’s been doing extremely important work exposing antisemitism in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, tweeted the following thread containing an A-Z of examples of Labour antisemitism.

The list is especially useful for journalists and pro-Corbyn activists who deny that antisemitism is a serious issue in the party, or suggest that the problem has been greatly exaggerated by the British Jewish community. (See web version of the twitter thread here)

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BBC could be perceived as ‘institutionally antisemitic’ says leading academic

The BBC could be perceived as “institutionally antisemitic”, according to a leading academic expert on Jew-hatred.

Lesley Klaff, senior law lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, accused the BBC of “recycling antisemitic tropes”.

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The panel, L-R: Joelle Reid, CAMERA on campus intern (student at KCL); Hadar Sela; Jonathan Turner; Richard Landes; Lesley Klaff

She said that the disproportionate attention afforded to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the BBC suggested it could be seen as institutionally antisemitic.

Ms Klaff made the comment at Finchley United Synagogue, north London, on Tuesday, at an event co-organised by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), Campaign4Truth and monitoring group BBC Watch.

Read the rest of this article at The Jewish Chronicle here.