Hunting the evidence to prove Europeans are antisemitic
Here are some of the responses to Jack Straw’s reported (by Einat Wilf) comments on AIPAC’s influence in American politics: 1) Anshel Pfeffer, 2) Commentary, Jewish money, 3) Al Gemeiner, Europeans are antisemitic. (A previously separate post abut Jack Straw has now been included with this one).
Anti-Israeli power, or antisemitic? Cartoon by Latuff.
Only Jews are allowed to speak of the effect lobbying and political donations have on U.S. policy in the Middle East; all others are dabbling in anti-Semitism, says former Knesset Member Einat Wilf.
By Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz
October 31, 2013
Einat Wilf arrived in London last week, preparing for what she called on her Facebook page “The war of ideas, words and images waged against Israel.” She was not to be disappointed.
Wilf, a media-savvy former Knesset member (who left Labor together with Ehud Barak in January 2011 and was left without a party earlier this year when Barak retired from public life) eager to be involved in Israeli politics again, has made it her duty in recent months, while being employed as a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) in Jerusalem, to be a one-woman hasbara machine. She will soon be releasing a paper on how the European left has recycled old anti-Semitic tropes and is now using them against Israel. And London was to provide her with additional research material.
There are no transcripts yet from the Global Diplomatic Forum round-table event at the House of Commons where Wilf spoke, but what was said by one of the participants, Jack Straw, a Labour member of parliament and former foreign secretary, is not disputed. Straw spoke of what in his opinion are the obstacles to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians: Israel’s construction of West Bank settlements, which are illegal according to official British policy (Straw branded them as “theft” of Palestinian land); the fact that the European Union has failed in the past to formulate a joint position regarding the occupation, partly due to Germany’s reluctance to pressure Israel (according to Wilf, he used the term “Germany’s obsession with Israel”); and the influence of the pro-Israel lobby over U.S. foreign policy due to American laws that allow lobby groups to use large sums to back political candidates that support their goals.
Following the session, Wilf wrote a caustic comment on her Facebook page: “I nearly fell off my rickety British chair today when former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw spoke at the Round Table Global Diplomatic Forum in the British House of Commons. Listing the greatest obstacles to peace, he said ‘unlimited’ funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the U.S. are used to control and divert American policy in the region and that Germany’s ‘obsession’ with defending Israel were the problems. I guess he neglected to mention Jewish control of the media….”
Normally, that would have been it. A once senior and now almost retired British politician voices severe criticism of Israel, a self-appointed Israeli hasbarist reacts angrily on social media and the world continues to turn. The forum was neither heavily-attended nor were its proceedings reported anywhere in the media. But Wilf decided not to leave it there and on Sunday, a number of Israeli newspapers and websites interviewed her and published stories on the former foreign minister’s “anti-Semitic tirade,” saying that he had accused “Jewish money” of perverting American foreign policy.
Straw probably didn’t believe his ears when he was told what Israeli newspapers were writing about him; no British paper thought there was anything worth reporting. Finally on Monday, his office released a statement where Straw insisted: “I am not remotely anti-Semitic. Quite the reverse. I have all my life strongly supported the state of Israel, and its right to live in peace and security,” and reiterated the points he had made in the debate. In conclusion he wrote, “none of this is ‘anti-Semitic.’ There are plenty of people in Israel who take a similar view to me – not least (as I do) because they believe that the current approach of the Government of Israel will weaken the position of the state of Israel in the medium and long-term.”
So why did Wilf accuse him of anti-Semitism? I asked her that on Tuesday (after being told by Straw’s office that he would not be saying anything in addition to his statement). At first she said that “his statement is about three levels less than what he actually said.” I pressed her as to what she meant exactly and she said that “he spoke of Germany’s obsession to defend Israel in a very negative way.”
In what way was it negative? “If he had said Germany’s commitment to Israel, I would understand. But obsession is another thing.”
Still that hardly makes him an anti-Semite, I said. “I just wrote the post on Facebook,” she answered.
I asked, did Straw say the words “Jewish money”? She confirmed that he did not and said she was not responsible for the newspapers writing it.
So do you think Straw is an anti-Semite? I tried to get a yes or a no. Here she launched on the topic of her upcoming report. “There is a symptom today in the European left that they take anti-Semitic messages and make them anti-Israel. These messages are exactly in the style of the old anti-Semitism.”
What messages for example? Here she brought an example from what she remembers Straw saying – “unlimited funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC being used to divert American policy and intimidate candidates [Straw pretty much wrote in his statement that is what he said]. That is a classic anti-Semitic image.”
But what is the problem with AIPAC and other Jewish organizations donating large sums of money to pro-Israeli candidates? I asked her. After all, that is what political lobbies do in the U.S. Why is it anti-Semitic to say so? Here Wilf was less clear, though she said “all the lobbies do it. So what?” Exactly, I said, and Israeli newspapers talk very freely of Israel’s influence in the U.S., and I have even heard advisors to Israel’s prime minister talk about it off the record, so why is Straw in your opinion peddling a classic image of anti-Semitism? “That’s different,” she said. “It’s like two black men calling each other ‘nigger’ which is not right but it’s not racism.”
So apparently, according to Wilf, only Jews are allowed to speak of the effect lobbying and political donations have on U.S. policy in the Middle East. If a foreign politician (even one with a Jewish great-grand-parent like Jack Straw) mentions it, he is dabbling in anti-Semitism.
Straw has been critical of Israel in the past but he was also foreign secretary under Tony Blair, a man generally regarded as the most pro-Israel prime minister in British history. Straw’s views may not be welcome to many Israelis but they are certainly within the realm of legitimate discourse, somewhere in the middle of Meretz. Unlike a handful of British MPs, he has not compared Israel to Nazi Germany or called for a boycott or in any way questioned its legitimacy. Calling him an anti-Semite cheapens the term and harms any honest fight against the hatred of Jews. Straw will be leaving parliament in 2015, after 36 years in politics. Einat Wilf’s political career has obviously barely started.
By Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary
October 28, 2013
Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is pleading innocent. Called out for comments made during a Round Table Global Diplomatic Forum held at the House of Commons last week, Straw insists that there’s nothing anti-Semitic about raising points that he says are merely matters of genuine concern. As the Times of Israel reports, former Labor Party Knesset member Einat Wilf, who took part in the debate, described Straw’s presentation in the following manner:
Wilf participated in the debate and posted some of what she said were Straw’s comments on her Facebook page, saying she nearly fell off her chair when she heard them: “Listing the greatest obstacles to peace, he said ‘unlimited’ funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US are used to control and divert American policy in the region and that Germany’s ‘obsession’ with defending Israel were the problem. I guess he neglected to mention Jewish control of the media….”
The British politician is right when he says criticizing Israel’s policies is not anti-Semitic. But, like many others who want to bash Israel without being branded as Jew-haters, he crossed a very important line when he injected traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jewish money and insidious attempts to control the policy discussion into the question of how best to advance the cause of peace. That’s why someone like Wilf, who opposes the Netanyahu government, was so outraged. In doing so, he not only demonstrated ignorance of how American politics works as well as insensitivity to Israel’s position, but also showed the way disagreements with the Jewish state quickly morph into conspiracy theories that are thinly veiled new versions of traditional myths about Jews. While Straw is neither the first nor the last member of Parliament or prominent Briton to play this game, the fact that someone who was a former foreign minister would not only feel free to vent this nasty stuff, but also think there’s nothing wrong with it, tells you all you need to know about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe.
As for Straw’s charges, they are easily dismissed. Contrary to the Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” conspiracy theory thesis, the vast, wall-to-wall bipartisan coalition that supports the Jewish state is a function of American public opinion, not Jewish money. As frustrating as it may be for Israel’s critics, support for Zionism is baked into the DNA of American politics and is primarily the function of religious attitudes as well as the shared values of democracy that unite the U.S. and Israel. Other lobbies (such as the one that promotes the oil interests or pharmaceuticals) have far more money. Hard as it is for some people to accept, the reason why American politicians back Israel’s democratically elected government is because opposing them is bad politics as well as bad policy.
Making such accusations is offensive rather than just wrong because, as Straw knows very well, talking about Jewish money buying government policy is straight out of the anti-Semitic playbook of the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The purpose of such claims is not to argue that Israel’s supporters are misguided so much as that they are illegitimate.
That Straw is similarly frustrated with German refusals to try and hammer the Israelis is equally appalling. While Germany’s government has, contrary to Straw’s comment, often been highly critical of Israel, if Berlin has some sensitivity to Israel’s position as a small, besieged nation, it is because they understand that the underlying factor that drives hostility to Zionism is the same anti-Semitism that drove the Holocaust.
But the main point to be gleaned from this story is the way Straw has illustrated just how mainstream anti-Semitic attitudes have become in contemporary Britain. It is entirely possible that Straw thinks himself free from prejudice. But that is only possible because in the intellectual and political circles in which he and other members of the European elite move, these ideas have gone mainstream rather than being kept on the margins as they are in the United States. The ease with which Western European politicians invoke these tired clichés about Jewish power and money is a reflection of the way attitudes have changed in the last generation as the memory of the Holocaust fades and people feel empowered to revive old hate. Chalk it up to the prejudices of intellectuals, especially on the left, as well as to the growing influence of Muslim immigrants who have brought the Jew-hatred of their home countries with them.
Straw may not be alone in not liking the Netanyahu government, but he can’t get out off the hook for the anti-Semitic rationale for his views that he put forward. The pity is, he’s speaking for all too many Europeans when he speaks in this manner.
May 27, 2013
Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe.
A recent Tel Aviv University report found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe increased by 30 percent between 2011 and 2012.
A separate analysis of anti-Semitic incidents in France noted a jump of 58 percent in that same period, and that half of all racist acts in that country are committed against Jews, though Jews constitute just one percent of the population. Most striking last year was the targeting and murder of four Jews, including three small children, outside a Jewish school in Toulouse.
Moreover, there are today two aggressively anti-Semitic, xenophobic political parties represented in the parliaments of European Union member states– Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece. Other extremist political movements operating on EU soil have had some success on the local and regional levels.
As the British newspaper The Independent pointed out in a May 5th editorial referring to Jobbik, “Hungarian populists have come from nowhere in only a few years by attributing all their country’s ills to the enemy within – in this case, half-a-million Roma and 100,000 Jews.”
And Golden Dawn invokes Nazi-like images as it demonizes Jews and migrants to advance its agenda, making its relative success in a country brutally occupied by the Third Reich all the more shocking.
Further, polls show that anti-Semitic attitudes are stubbornly high in certain EU countries, including, notably, Spain and Poland.
In addition, anti-Semitism is expanding in cyberspace, prompting at least one government, the French, to seek aggressive ways of combating it.
And finally, the campaign to demonize and delegitimize Israel grows stronger.
This goes beyond criticizing specific Israeli policies, which is a normal part of life for any democratic nation. Rather, per the EU Fundamental Rights Agency Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, it is about “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination,” “applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nations,” “using the symbols and images of classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis,” or “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
Rising anti-Semitism in Europe is fueled by three main sources: the extreme right, largely boosted by concerns about the economic crisis and growing migration; the extreme left, which refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist; and those Muslims who espouse hatred for Jews and Israel. Apropos, a recent study in Belgium found that nearly half of Muslim teenage students held anti-Semitic views.
Why should Europe, amidst its many other challenges, be concerned?
The reasons are crystal-clear.
Europe, more than any other continent, knows something about the slippery slope of anti-Semitism – how it begins and where it can lead.
Moreover, history teaches that anti-Semitism may begin with Jews, but, ultimately, threatens the well being of entire countries.
And finally, the EU has responded to centuries of war and persecution on European soil by championing humanistic values. Action is surely called for when these values are threatened.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the age-old pathology of anti-Semitism, but a good place to start is to acknowledge the problem.
It sounds obvious, but such acknowledgement encounters resistance. Some European officials prefer to believe that attacks against Jews are acts of “hooliganism,” not anti-Semitism. Some spend endless hours questioning the methodology of polls, rather than digesting the consistently worrisome results. And some would rather debate ad nauseum where the line between “legitimate” and ‘illegitimate” criticism of Israel lies, instead of recognizing the stark fact that anti-Semitism has all too often been transferred from the individual Jew to the Jewish state of Israel.
The four layers of democratic nations must be fully mobilized – (a) regional bodies, such as the EU, Council of Europe, and OSCE; (b) the state – its political leadership, law enforcement and judiciary, and educational system; (c) civil society – religious groups, human rights organizations, and the media; and (d) individuals of good will.
There are, of course, many current examples of precisely this kind of mobilization. The OSCE has a special representative to combat anti-Semitism. Some governments have taken tough action to fight anti-Semitism. There are Christian and Muslim leaders who demonstrate solidarity with Jews, and vice versa, in confronting acts of bigotry. And there are spontaneous acts of good will, such as the students in Italy who stood up for a Jewish classmate shockingly attacked by her teacher.
Yet, as the problem grows, more such action is needed, on every level and in every country. Otherwise, not only the Jews are at risk, but the very fabric of society.
David Harris is the executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
This article was originally published by El Pais. [Al Gemeiner is an American, pro-Israeli, publication]
Notes and links
Who said ‘Jewish money’? Ynet news, October 27th, 2013
Jack Straw says in parliament debate ‘unlimited’ funds available to Jewish groups in US used to control America’s Mideast policy; adds Germany’s ‘obsession’ with defending Israel another obstacle for peace
By Henry Rome, JPost
October 28th 2013
UK Zionist federation says former foreign secretary’s remarks “go far beyond criticism of Israel.”
ZF EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER COMMENTS BY JACK STRAW MP
The ZF today expressed its deep concern over comments made by Jack Straw, Labour MP for Blackburn. Straw, who was previously Foreign Secretary, stated during a meeting in the House of Commons that the “unlimited” funds of Jewish organisations, supposedly used to control American foreign policy, are one of the biggest obstacles to peace in the Middle East.
ZF Chairman Paul Charney argues that:
“Mr Straw’s comments echo some of the oldest and ugliest prejudices about ‘Jewish power’, and go far beyond mere criticism of Israel. They would be unacceptable in any context, but for a sitting Member of Parliament to do so in the House of Commons is especially troubling, given that his status will give credence and respectability to beliefs that would otherwise be dismissed as bigoted nonsense.
“That the statements he made are woefully untrue should be obvious given a moment’s thought about the current state of the Middle East. It has only been through the applied pressure of the American government that Israelis and Palestinians have finally been brought back to the negotiating table. Despite several arguably more pressing concerns, such as instability in Egypt and the civil war in Syria, the US has remained resolute in its commitment to a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict – a resolution which is supported, not opposed, by the organisations he chose to smear.”
THIS WAS POSTED SEPARATELY but has now been included with the above posting.
Jack Straw raises ‘AIPAC’, Israel cries ‘antisemitism’
Here are four articles about the claim that Jack Straw MP made an antisemitic speech from Times of Israel 1), Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz (2), Asa Winstanley, Electronic Intifada (3) and Richard Silverstein (4). Lastly, there is a short report of Mr.Straw’s questioning of Muslim women wearing full face veils in certain situations (5).
Jack Straw, former foreign secretary and home secretary, among other cabinet posts. He has been accused of antisemitism (1, 2) and of being anti-Muslim for saying women (all people?) should not conceal their faces behind a veil when in court or visiting him at his constituency surgery [see last item]. He was the only British politician to attend the inauguration of President Rouhani. He represents Blackburn, which has a large Muslim population but is standing down as an MP at the next election. He is an active Christian with one Jewish great grandparent. Photo by Geoff Pugh
Jack Straw unleashes anti-Semitic diatribe at forum held in House of Commons, according to former MK Einat Wilf
By JTA and Times of Israel
October 27, 2013
Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reportedly said during a debate in the British parliament that “unlimited” funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US are used to control American policy in the Middle East.
The comments were made last week during the Round Table Global Diplomatic Forum in the British House of Commons, according to former Knesset member Einat Wilf.
Wilf was participating in the debate and posted what she said were Straw’s comments on her Facebook page.
Straw said, according to Wilf, that the greatest obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians and her Arab neighbors are the “unlimited” funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US, as well as Germany’s “obsession” with defending Israel.
Wrote Wilf: “I nearly fell off my rickety British chair today when former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw spoke at the Round Table Global Diplomatic Forum in the British House of Commons. Listing the greatest obstacles to peace, he said ‘unlimited’ funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US are used to control and divert American policy in the region and that Germany’s ‘obsession’ with defending Israel were the problem.
“I guess he neglected to mention Jewish control of the media….”
Wilf told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Sunday that “It was appalling to listen to Britain’s former foreign secretary. His remarks reflect prejudice of the worst kind.” She added: “We’re used to hearing groundless accusations from Palestinian envoys but I thought British diplomats, including former ones, were still capable of a measure of rational thought.”
Wilf, a member of Knesset from 2010 to 2013 (Labor, and then the breakaway Independence party), said she repeatedly stressed in the debate that the root of the conflict lay in the Palestinian and Arab refusal to accept Israel’s sovereign legitimacy as a Jewish state. “Throughout the debate I reiterated that the origin of the conflict was the Arab and Palestinian unwillingness to accept the Jewish people’s legitimate right to a state of their own, and that as long as that willingness is absent there will be no true solution.”
Straw announced Friday that he would step down as a member of Parliament from the Labor Party at the upcoming 2015 general election. He has served in Parliament continuously since 1979. Straw served as both home secretary and foreign secretary under prime minister Tony Blair, and as justice secretary under prime minister Gordon Brown.
Straw, who has noted that his Blackburn constituency has some 25,000 Muslim residents and 23 mosques, has made anti-Israel comments in the past. In June, on a BBC radio program, he declared that Israel “has no territorial ambitions apart from stealing the land of the Palestinians.” When he was foreign secretary in 2001 he reportedly made comments that appeared to legitimize Palestinian terrorism, prompting then prime minister Ariel Sharon to cancel a meeting with him.
Jack Straw says he has always ‘strongly supported’ Israel ‘and its right to live in peace and security.’
By Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz
October 28, 2013
Former British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has denied making “anti-Semitic” comments at an event last week at the House of Commons in London. Former Member of Knesset Einat Wilf accused Straw of saying in a Middle East seminar that “unlimited” funds are available to Jewish organizations – such as AIPAC in the United States – that “control” American policy, and that Germany has an “obsession” with defending Israel were the problem.
Wilf’s accusations were widely reported in the Israeli media, where Straw was accused of unleashing an “anti-Semitic rant.” After being unavailable for the last two days for comment, Straw finally responded with a statement on Monday afternoon denying he is “remotely anti-Semitic,” and claiming to “have all my life strongly supported the [State] of Israel, and its right to live in peace and security.”
In his statement, Straw wrote that he had voiced concerns at the seminar over Israel’s “settlement-building… on Palestinian land (in East Jerusalem, and the Occupied Territories). This is illegal, as the British Foreign Secretary William Hague has observed and in those terms. I said that this amounted to “theft” of Palestinians’ land.” In addition, he said that he advocated at the seminar “a tougher stand on this (and on the related issue of goods exported from the Occupied Territories by Israelis) by the European Union.” He said that he had pointed out in the past that one of the obstacles to a EU policy on this had been “the attitude of Germany, who for understandable reasons have been reluctant to be out of line with the Government of Israel.”
While some of the reports had mentioned that Straw spoke of “Jewish money,” he said that he had spoken at the seminar of the “Israeli lobby” and “the problems which faced President Obama from AIPAC” and spoke of the way AIPAC spends large sums of money supporting pro-Israeli candidates in American elections.
Straw emphasized in his statement that “none of this is ‘anti-Semitic.’ There are plenty of people in Israel who take a similar view to me – not least (as I do) because they believe that the current approach of the Government of Israel will weaken the position of the state of Israel in the medium and long-term.”
Israel’s ambassador to Britain, Daniel Taub, also commented Monday on Straw’s remarks saying that they “fall in a very troubling tradition of attributing support for Israel to a sinister exercise of Jewish power. Particularly striking is the refusal to consider that support for Israel may arise, not as a result of pressure from some mysterious cabal, but simply from the recognition that, within the current turmoil in the Middle East, Israel remains an island of stability, irrevocably committed to democracy, free speech and the rule of law. ”
Former UK foreign minister hits back at Israeli “anti-Semitism” smear
By Asa Winstanley, Electronic Intifada
October 28, 2013
Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said today there was “no justification whatever” for Israeli reports he had made anti-Semitic comments last week.
Several Israeli news sources reported the claims of former Knesset member Einat Wilf on her Facebook page that Straw had talked of “ ‘unlimited’ funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee] in the US.”
Her claim made it into Israeli paper Haaretz yesterday, spun with the headline: “Ex-UK FM: Jewish money biggest obstacle to Mideast peace.”
In a statement emailed to The Electronic Intifada by a spokesperson, Straw said:
There have been reports that [Wilf] claimed I had embarked upon an “anti-Semitic rant,” I note that she did not use that term in her Facebook posting, although she is reported as saying that my remarks, “reflect prejudice of the worst kind.”
In any event there is no justification whatever for such claims, arising from my remarks at this seminar, or on any other occasion.
I am not remotely anti-Semitic. Quite the reverse. I have all my life strongly supported the State of Israel, and its right to live in peace and security.
In the statement, Straw said that at the meeting on Tuesday he had “pointed out that Prime Minister Netanyahu was a player in domestic US politics, on the Republican side, and that under US political funding rules (or their absence) huge sums were spent by AIPAC in support of some elected politicians (or candidates), and against others.”
Straw contrasted this with “the rules in the UK, where spending is tightly controlled” saying that he talked about AIPAC in his memoir, which “quoted from the critical study … by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.”
He also had condemned illegal Israeli settlements: “I said that this amounted to ‘theft’ of Palestinians’ land … the EU needed to take a tougher stand on this (and on the related issue of goods exported from the Occupied Territories by Israelis).”
Straw also addressed Germany’s position on settlements:
one of the difficulties in gaining EU agreement for this [tougher stand] has, in the past, been the attitude of Germany, who for understandable reasons have been reluctant to be out of line with the government of Israel. That said, I think I noted that the EU’s attitude had changed, and there are now restrictions imposed by the EU on goods from the settlements.
Straw’s statement concludes:
None of this is “anti-Semitic.” There are plenty of people in Israel who take a similar view to me – not least (as I do) because they believe that the current approach of the government of Israel will weaken the position of the state of Israel in the medium and long-term.
The comments in question were made in a meeting room in the British Parliament on 22 October, at a roundtable organized by the Global Diplomatic Forum which Straw and Wilf both addressed. The Palestinian Authority’s ambassador in London Manuel Hassassian also shared the platform.
A spokesperson for the Forum told me today that Parliamentary rules meant that no video or audio recording of the event was taken. She said that the Froum would publish its usual report on the event by Wednesday (although it would not be a verbatim transcript).
Einat Wilf is a former member of parliament for Israel’s Labor party, and for its right-wing “Independence” faction (split from Labor by suspected war criminal Ehud Barak until it failed to contest the last elections).
She is also on the board of NGO Monitor, a propaganda group well-known for its anti-Palestinian advocacy.
Since leaving the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) Wilf has focused on Israeli propaganda efforts overseas. While she was still an MK she told The Jerusalem Post that she saw such efforts as a “battle”:
the arena is no longer the Sinai Desert or international terrorism, but has moved to international forums: courts and the new media … we have not gone sufficiently on the offense in terms of agenda … we don’t come up with our own initiatives.
Was this accusation Wilf’s idea of such a PR “initiative”?
She backed up her Facebook accusation against Straw on her website and in comments to Ynetnews.com yesterday. In the same article, she also made an anti-Palestinian comment:
We’re used to hearing groundless accusations from Palestinian envoys but I thought British diplomats, including former ones, were still capable of a measure of rational thought.
Out of the Haartez, Ynet, The Times of Israel and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (whose initial report some of the others drew on), none appear to have bothered to approach Straw for comment.
Straw’s fairly timid comments against Israeli settlements fits a growing pattern of European Union political figures making incredibly mild comments against limited aspects of Israel’s occupation policies and still being jumped on by Israeli propagandists like Wilf.
It is no surprise that Wilf does not like it when the the very real influence of AIPAC is raised in public fora. According to Haaretz, Wilf has worked very closely with AIPAC in the past, specifically as part of her campaign against the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.
Jack Straw was the UK’s foreign secretary under former prime minister and suspected war criminal Tony Blair, including during the infamous illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. That claimed the lives of over a million people in the invasion and associated civil war.
The consequences of that war are still being felt by Iraqis on an almost daily basis. A new deadly wave of sectarian bombings killed 55 Iraqis this weekend.
After a long and successful career in the Labour party, Straw recently announced that he would step down as a member of Parliament at the next election.
By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam
October 29, 2013
Einat Wilf, looking as if she’s staring down an anti-Semite vampire (Israel National TV)
Israeli media has blared headlines over the past three days charging UK MP Jack Straw with making anti-Semitic statements during a Global Diplomatic Forum held in the Houses of Parliament. The charge was made by former Labor Party MK, Einat Wilf, who participated on the panel with him, and wrote on her Facebook page:
Listing the greatest obstacles to peace, he said “unlimited” funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US are used to control and divert American policy in the region and that Germany’s “obsession” with defending Israel were the problem. I guess he neglected to mention Jewish control of the media…
…“It was appalling to listen to Britain’s former foreign secretary…His remarks reflect prejudice of the worst kind.
Though Wilf never produced (nor apparently did any reporters ask for) any documentation to substantiate her charge, and though she never produced any exact quotation of anything Straw said, headlines in Haaretz, Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel and elsewhere trumpeted charges that Straw had blamed a shadowy conspiracy of “Jewish money” for causing all manner of evil in the world, specifically in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, Straw waited two days to issue his own statement, in which he categorically rejected the charges against him, saying he’d never uttered or written any anti-Semitic statements, and that in fact he was a strong supporter of Israel:
I spoke of the problems which faced President Obama from AIPAC and the “Israeli lobby” more generally. I pointed out that Prime Minister Netanyahu was a player in domestic US politics on the Republican side, and that under US political funding rules (or their absence) huge sums were spent by AIPAC [sic] in support of some elected politicians (or candidates), and against others. This is in sharp contrast to the rules in the UK, where spending is tightly controlled, and, for example, no political advertising is allowed at all on television and radio.
A second set of headlines in most of the above publications blared the equivalent of: “Straw Refuses to Deny ‘Jewish Money’ Charges.” The Times of Israel’s sub-headline read:
“Veteran politician doesn’t deny account of his comments in debate last week.”
It reminds me of a newspaper reporter who witnesses a press conference in which a murder suspect says: “I didn’t kill my wife.” The reporter returns to the newsroom and writes up the paper’s lead story with the headline: “Husband doesn’t deny stabbing wife.”
One of the reasons Straw didn’t explicitly deny the statements imputed to him by Wilf is that she didn’t quote anything he said except the word “unlimited” as in “unlimited Jewish money.” A subsequent story in the Jerusalem Post even questions whether he used thatspecific term:
Straw did not say that AIPAC has “unlimited” funding or that Germany had an “obsession” with Israel – as Wilf had claimed – and he did not directly link AIPAC to obstruction of Middle East peace.
So why should someone deny a specific statement or word attributed to him if it doesn’t quote him? What are you supposed to deny: I didn’t make the statement that wasn’t even a quotation of anything I purportedly said?”
The problem with the Times of Israel and Jerusalem Post both saying that Straw didn’t refute Wilf’s charges is that they’re claiming he didn’t specifically deny the claim he had talked about “Jewish money.” But that’s penalizing Straw for not making the statement they, the reporters, wanted him to make. It’s not a reporter’s job to write stories attacking someone for not saying something. It’s their job to report what they DO say. And Straw denied saying anything anti-Semitic, which by inference was a denial of Wilf’s charges.
Unlike all the Israeli reporters covering this story, I actually tried to contact Wilf via Facebook, Twitter, and her website. Since the latter features a link to her old Knesset e-mail address, I sent an email instead to her “advisor,” Noah Slepkov. I asked him to forward my query to her for response. I asked her if she had a video, audiotape, or contemporaneous notes documenting any statements she attributed to Straw.
Slepkov replied with a statement that is so troubling and revealing, I’m going to quote it in full:
As you may have seen from Straw’s subsequent comments as reported in some media including the Times of Israel and Jerusalem Post…he doesn’t dispute what Einat said he said, rather he denies that it was anti-Semitic. He clarified his comments in a statement he issued this week that “the problems which faced President [Barack] Obama from AIPAC and the ‘Israeli lobby’ more generally” had “pointed out that Prime Minister Netanyahu was a player in domestic US politics, on the Republican side, and that under US political funding rules (or their absence) huge sums were spent by AIPAC in support of some elected politicians (or candidates), and against others”.
What that statement is clearly implying [ed. my italics], and perhaps it was less subtle in his actual comments, that Jewish money is controlling American politics to negatively influence American foreign policy in favour of Israel. In other words, there is an international Jewish conspiracy that is preventing Middle East peace. At the heart of this debate is whether such claims are anti-Semitic. I would argue that taking classic anti-Semitic rhetoric, such as “Jewish money controls the world”, and using it in the context of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, as Straw did so unapologetically, is still anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Do you agree?
It is important to add, that on a factual basis, Mr. Straw’s comments quoted above are objectively false. As you may recall, Mitt Romey and Newt Gingrich, who both received stupid amounts of campaign funding from Sheldon Adelson, a strong supporter and ally of Netanyahu, lost their elections. Lee Rosenberg, one of Obama’s staunchest Jewish allies in the 2008 campaign, later became president of AIPAC. AIPAC does a good job of making sure they are politically neutral. As much money was spent by Jews electing Obama and other democrats as was spent on republican campaigns, but that is less relevant, although Mr. Straw might not be aware of the overwhelming support democrats, including Obama, receives from Jews (69% of Jews voted for Obama in 2012).
Of course, AIPAC does lobby for Israel’s interests. But if Mr. Straw’s belief that the lobbying for Israel is taking pressure off of Israel to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians, isn’t it logical to assume that Jewish money is causing pressure on the Palestinians to resolve the conflict with Israel? That is to say, the absence of Jewish funding to the Palestinian cause has not enabled American pressure on the Palestinians to resolve the conflict. Was it the Israel lobby that forced Arafat to reject Barak and Clintons peace offer in 2000? Was it the Israel lobby that forced the Arab states to reject the partition plan in 1947?
If the Israel lobby in the US ceased to exist, perhaps American politicians and the general public would be less informed about Israel, but it wouldn’t change the intractable nature of the Arab/Israeli conflict.
So much bizarre logic and unexamined assumptions here, where does one even begin?
I wrote back to Slepkov noting that he stated that Straw “implied” that “Jewish money” undermined the Israel-Palestine peace process. But I pointed out that Slepkov’s use of the term “implying” was itself an interpretation of what Straw said, not what heactually said. I asked once again if the could produce any original evidence of what he actually said.
Slepkov’s reply was a stunner:
In case my email below wasn’t clear, there is no dispute with what Mr. Straw said. I accept Mr. Straws version of what he said. I simply explained why such statements are anti-Semitic.
Do you think it is anti-Semitic to say that there is an international jewish conspiracy to control the world?
Here is the crux of the matter. Is it anti-Semitic to state what seems obvious: that tons of cash (hundreds of millions of dollars) donated by American Jews at the behest of the Israel Lobby have a toxic effect on the peace process?
Those donors give that money to protect Israel’s interests before Congress and the executive branch. The Lobby’s definition of “Israel’s interests” includes limiting any pressure on Israel to make any compromises or concessions to the Palestinians. This power and these funds ensured the U.S. would veto a Security Council resolution criticizing Israeli settlements, and veto a resolution calling for UN recognition of a Palestinian state. Saying that this phenomenon is harmful is almost stating the obvious, rather that what Slepkov-Wilf say it is.
Neither Straw nor I believe that this is a conspiracy out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. We simply believe that well-intentioned (I know some of my readers will argue with me here, but for the sake of argument, hear me out) American Jews are harming, rather than helping Israel. We believe that these bags of cash exert a stranglehold on Mideast policy and prevent a reasonable compromise. That is not “anti-Semitic.” It is an accurate depiction of reality.
In fact, Slepkov-Wilf’s inability to accurately quote Straw, and their immediate translation of his actual statements into traditional anti-Semitic rhetoric show that it is they who have no concept of reality. They are living in a world in which danger lurks around every street corner, and anti-Semites eager to destroy Israel work their nefarious plots. It may be that they sincerely believe this or that they maintain such views out of cynical pro-Israel political calculation. It matters little what their real motivation is. The cold hard facts of the matter are that Einat Wilf made a false allegation against Jack Straw and most of the Israeli and American Jewish press bought it.
Only after Asa Winstanley began preparing his piece for Electronic Intifada and approached Straw did any media outlet obtain his perspective. Further, none of these outlets pressured Wilf to support her charges with verbatim documented accounts of the speaker’s remarks. This is some of the sloppiest journalism I’ve seen in a long time. It’s journalism, whether intentional or not, in service to an ideological cause.
I asked Haaretz editor Aluf Benn why he’d run a JTA story accusing Straw of anti-Semitism under the headline, ‘Ex-U.K. FM: Jewish money biggest obstacle to Mideast peace,’ (and note the quotation marks around a phrase that isn’t a quotation), without determining whether the story was provable. He responded that Haaretz doesn’t vet third-party stories it publishes. That explanation didn’t satisfy me. You participate, whether wittingly or unwittingly, in a campaign to destroy a politician’s reputation and your excuse is it isn’t your policy to check whether such stories are supportable? My hope is that neither Haaretz nor other media outlets will ever trust anything Einat Wilf says again, unless she can support it with facts. Her word is no longer sufficient and should not be trusted.
The fact that Wilf, when she served in Knesset, was in the Labor Party caucus, further illustrates that it is not a real left party, but rather a part of the rejectionist Israeli political consensus opposed to compromise with the Palestinians. Another ‘sterling’ piece of legislation she endorsed wholeheartedly when she served in Knesset, was a bill that would declare Israel the national state of the Jewish people. Haaretz called it (Hebrew) a means to erase the nation’s Declaration of Independence, which calls Israel a Jewish anddemocratic state. The newspaper further said that the bill would be a means to enshrine the supremacy of the Jewish majority and the subordinate status of the non-Jewish minority in violation of democratic values.
Thanks to her alliance with Ehud Barak and her move into his Atzmaut faction, which was obliterated in the past elections, she was tossed out of the Knesset. But she continues to do her damage. She is invited to speak at prestigious forums like the J Street national conference and the Global Diplomatic Forum. She is seen by some as a voice of the moderate pragmatic center. A view that should be blown to smithereens by now.
In case it hasn’t, keep in mind that Wilf (along with another figure long known falsely as a voice of humanity and conscience, Elie Wiesel) is a member of the NGO Monitor board of directors. Indeed, her performance in this encounter with Straw is quite reminiscent of the gutter fighting that characterizes Gerald Steinberg’s tactics. These are tactics that have no place in reasoned discourse, nor should they be featured in any mainstream media forum. They belong in FrontpageMagazine or Middle East Forum, rather than JTA, the Jerusalem Post or Haaretz. By opening the gate to such swill, the editors have allowed the ultra-nationalist Israeli right to further coopt political discourse.
A note about Noah Slepkov, Wilf’s political advisor. He’s an “adjunct fellow” at the Jewish People Policy Institute, which has also included Dennis Ross among its ‘distinguished’ members. Current fellows include the Jerusalem Post’s rightist columnist, Shmuel Rosner and Prof. Yehezkel Dror, who I’ve profiled here as a devout war hawk who argues on behalf of an Israeli attack on Iran. If Slepkov’s argument is characteristic of the quality of JPPI analysis in general, it’s a piss-poor lot.
Jack Straw: Muslim Face Veils Should Not Be Worn By Defendants In Court
By Tom Moseley, Huffington Post UK
September 17, 2013
Former Home Secretary Jack Straw has called for new laws on the wearing of the veil in court.
The Blackburn MP welcomed a ruling by a judge that a defendant should remove the niqab while giving evidence.
But he said it did not go far enough, saying the woman’s face should be visible throughout the whole of the trial.
Straw sparked a worldwide debate in 2006 when he used his Lancashire Telegraph column to call on women to remove the veil when they visited his surgeries.
What does Nick Clegg think about the veil?
Women who wear the full veil give their side
In light of the row over the court case, and a Birmingham college’s niqab ban, Straw has revisited the issue in Tuesday’s Mail.
Recalling the row his column had sparked, he wrote: “My comments were modestly worded – expressing what I felt and not calling for any general ban (for I absolutely defend any woman’s right to wear the headscarf) – but they triggered an explosive reaction.”
Straw said the judge, Peter Murphy, “showed great sensitivity” with his ruling, and said his ruling should be copied in all courts.
But he added “I would go further. Surely it is important that the facial reaction of a defendant is seen throughout the case and not just when she is giving evidence?
“This case has meant that the issue of women wearing veils in court is now a major national talking-point and we politicians have a duty to tackle it, too.”
In the court case, the 22-year-old woman from London, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said it was against her religious beliefs to show her face in public.
But Murphy, sitting at London’s Blackfriars Crown Court, ruled it was “crucial” for jurors to be able to see the defendant’s face when giving evidence.
Lib Dem Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne stoked the row when he called for a national debate on whether the state should step in to prevent young women having the veil imposed upon them.
Browne said he was ”instinctively uneasy” about restricting religious freedoms but added there may be a case to act to protect girls who were too young to decide for themselves whether they wished to wear the veil or not.
See also Palestinians: Refugees forever?, Einat Wilf and UNRWA.