Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Guardian continues the hounding of David Ward

The political and media hounding of Liberal Democrat MP David Ward continues despite his public apology for using the generic term "the Jews" when criticising Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

Ward had said at his blogpost:
"Having visited Auschwitz twice - once with my family and once with local schools - I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza."
It's notable, firstly, that Ward uses the generic term "the Jews" in an obviously sympathetic vein to note the horrors of the Holocaust. The second aspect of his sentence is to ask how they, "the Jews", could have gone on to inflict daily atrocities against the Palestinians.

While the first use of this generic term was treated as unproblematic, the second was regarded as an affront. Yet, whatever lack of qualification or carelessness in his words, were we really to believe that Ward meant or implied that all Jews were/are responsible for Israel's repressions and occupation?

In a particularly pernicious piece of liberal hatchetry from the Guardian's Aida Edemariam, Ward is taken to task for his comments. Asking him: "Was he surprised when the chief whip got in touch?" Ward replies:
 "There is a huge operation out there, a machine almost, which is designed to protect the state of Israel from criticism. And that comes into play very, very quickly and focuses intensely on anyone who's seen to criticise the state of Israel. And so I end up looking at what happened to me, whether I should use this word, whether I should use that word – and that is winning, for them. Because what I want to talk about is the fundamental question of how can they do this, and how can they be allowed to do this."
Amongst the barbed rebukes to this and Ward's other reasonable explanations, Edemariam opines:
"There is something admirable as well as foolish about the tenacity with which he insists on keeping his head above the parapet. Does he not see that to link the Holocaust and the Occupation is, among other things, a total category error? The Holocaust was genocide – an overt intention that the Jewish people should not exist. You might disagree with what the Israeli government does, but it is not setting out to annihilate a people."
She further berates Ward for asking how one can be free to state fair criticism without being labelled a racist. Edemariam replies: "Being careful who you are blaming for what would be a start."

Besides the expected criticism from outraged Zionists and disgraceful pressure from his own party hierarchy, Edemariam's article is a further shameless twisting of Ward's essential meaning and motives.

Behind the lofty defence of 'responsible language' which she uses to attack Ward, Edemariam, like all Ward's detractors, really knows what he meant and who he's blaming: he wasn't, in any meaningful sense, generalising all Jews, merely saying that Israel, a Jewish state, and one that does purport to speak for all Jews, was/is now in the process of persecuting Palestinians.

Nor was Ward linking the Holocaust and the Occupation by comparing or equating them as "categories". He was linking them in the obvious sense that the Holocaust was used as a part of the Zionist agenda for occupying another people's land. Should that preclude him or others from speaking about the Nakba/Occupation in the same, explanatory context as the Holocaust?

If only Edemariam had the careful integrity to state that basic truth and to highlight the main perpetrators of the distortion as the central point to her piece.

And if Edemariam really does believe after sixty years of ethnic cleansing, mass IDF murder, settler takeovers, apartheid transfer policies and the continued prison camp siege of Gaza that Israel "is not setting out to annihilate [the Palestinian] people", perhaps she is the one who should be more carefully considering her incendiary language.

Ward's point about the "huge operation out there, a machine almost, which is designed to protect the state of Israel from criticism" also applies to this kind of liberal baiting.

Again, some still insist that Ward's key 'mistake' was to use the word "Jew" instead of "Zionist". And this, as his apology indicated, has now been unambiguously acknowledged.

Clearly, as Ward always understood, not every Jew is responsible for what the Zionist state of Israel is doing to the Palestinians. How facile that any serious commentator could even read his words as such.

If only Ward's sole 'transgession' had been the inappropriate use of those two words - even though his meaning is likely to have been well understood.

In truth, that wording looks more like an unconscious error than any major mistake. Ward's real 'mistake', as far as the Zionist lobby and many liberal commentariat are concerned - and as his Liberal colleague Jenny Tongue also found out to her cost - was to criticise Israel at all.  Not a word here from Edemariam on that much more central indictment.

Moreover, how likely is it that those same Zionist or/and Jewish denouncers of Ward would defend other Jews who do actually support the Palestinians and who find it immoral what Israel and Zionist Jews are doing in the name of all Jews? The reserved label for them is usually severe and similarly-generalised: "self-hating Jews".

In all this discussion, there's a rather basic set of sequential things to restate:
The Holocaust was an historical abomination, an unquestionable genocide, which sought to eradicate an entire race of people, the Jews.

It was part of a systematic purge on any community, Jews, Gypsies, Communists, deemed inferior or/and a threat to Nazi ideology and power.

Anyone who seeks to deny or misconstrue these basic facts is either peddling lies, misinformed or uninterested in the truth.

The Holocaust formed a central ideological, political and militarist agenda in the Zionist formulation and creation of a Jewish state.

The Nakba, ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and ongoing Occupation have been the direct consequence of that Zionist process.

Anyone who seeks to deny or misconstrue these basic facts is either peddling lies, misinformed or uninterested in the truth.

We cannot reasonably learn or understand anything about Palestinian suffering without referencing the Holocaust and the ways in which Zionism has used it to legitimise the Occupation.
Significant public figures like Norman Finkelstein, whose own Jewish family were murdered in the extermination camps, has, with others like Noam Chomsky, written extensively on how this has been turned into ideological propaganda through the Holocaust Industry.

Those, like David Ward, who courageously speak in any kind of similar vein - despite his subsequent corrections - are, as usual, pilloried for being anti-Semitic and hounded by liberal media types for not subscribing to the template Zionist narrative.

And if we are to castigate such generalised labels, what of references like "Islamic terrorism" and "war on Islamic terror"? Would you ever likely hear the term "Jewish terrorism" or "war on Jewish terror" used by the BBC or in the pages of the Guardian?

Edemariam, like many other 'fair-minded' journalists, can take safe liberal refuge in the claim to be just ''guarding the language', just challenging people like Ward over their political/racial/religious 'insensitivities'.

What they're really doing is shrouding the central issue by focusing on a careless discrepancy, thus serving to keep other journalists in a state of cautious apprehension about discussing the Holocaust in relation to the Occupation.

The key media and educational development of this story should have been David Ward's honest point about that very issue. Instead, this kind of personalised hatchet-job does exactly what the Zionist lobby and self-protecting editors want in keeping all that prudently off-limits.


Bryan Hemming said...

Journalists never question their own use of the term 'British' when talking of our government's wars wars against other countries. Yet, it is increasingly clear most people who live in Britain are against those wars.

Journalists don't question it simply because it's obvious they are talking about the British government or military, not the entire population of the British Isles.

Though not exactly popular, writing against those wars is not necessarily regarded automatically as being anti-British.

Israeli extremists are trying to dictate the way we speak and write our own language. Heaven forbid we try to change Hebrew, that would be anti-Semitic.

The cyncism of too many Israeli politicians and commentators knows no bounds. The vicious attacks on writers and independent thnkers alike are designed to intimidate.

They are also intended make all Jews think an attack on a few members of the government is an attack on every Jew throughout the world.

John Hilley said...

Thanks for your thoughtful, valid comments, Bryan.

You say in your last line:

"They are also intended [to] make all Jews think an attack on a few members of the government is an attack on every Jew throughout the world."

True, but I think it's actually more insidious than that; they're actually intended to make all Jews believe that any attack on Israel is an attack on every Jew throughout the world.

As part of the broad effort to expose such propaganda, it's particularly admirable that conscientious Jews and Jewish groups are firmly proclaiming: 'not in my/our' name'.

Another brief word on David Ward. Without necessarily agreeing with all his formulations on the Israel-Palestine issue, I think it's important to defend people like him who courageously put their head above the political-media parapet to criticise Israel and defend the Palestinians.

Now, if Ward was spouting any kind of crass generalisations about 'Jews running the media/governments/world' etc, he could and should be safely dismissed.

But it should be reasonably clear to any fair observer that he's not in any sense castigating all Jews in making his point about Palestinian suffering.

I've personally heard many well-intentioned people make similar remarks to Ward's, lamenting what was done to "the Jews" and wondering how "they" could now be so wilfully occupying and killing Palestinians. It's careless language, yes - in most cases corrected with a gentle reminder that it's not Jews per se but Zionists who are responsible for such crimes - but most often stated in a spirit of humanistic enquiry: how did yesterday's oppressed become today's oppressors?

That's also the basic essence of Ward's statement. And that's the issue that should have been taken-up by journalists like Edemariam.

So, instead of any useful exploration of how the Holocaust has been used as a propagandist narrative - and how that Zionist propaganda shames and betrays the memory of those Jews who perished in the camps - we're left with these shrill denunciations of Ward.

All of which has the intended effect of making people like Ward and those who write about such issues reticent about raising such issues, of rocking the boat, of putting their reputations and careers in jeopardy. All part of the hasbara effort to pacify politicians and neutralise media criticism.

That's why it's so vitally important to defend people like Ward and challenge those like Edemariam.


Marypana said...

John. Your brother, Mark, sent me the link to your blog and post on David Ward. I had argued the same thing on Twitter and got quite a few objections from various people. Reading your post, eloquently written, brought a huge smile to my face. Well-done for stating what I think is the obvious, lost on many. I wish you could publish this post in a mainstream newspaper.

John Hilley said...

Hi Marypana, many thanks for your kind words. I;m pleased that you found the comments supportive of your own arguments. Ta also to my wee brother for passing on the link.

As regards output in mainstream papers, it's really remarkable how vociferous the treatment of David Ward has been across the media spectrum, from the Telegraph and Mail to the Guardian and other liberal organs.

Even though Ward has apologised for his careless, but non-malevolent, wording, there's been an almost uniform denunciation as journalists and editors line up to hound him and distort his basic argument.

Imagine any such corporate/liberal journalist having the integrity to shine a critical light on their own papers and ask: why such virulent hostility towards someone making such a fair and humanitarian point?

Best wishes

John Hilley said...

Here's the very useful and succinct Leeds PSC statement and proposed letter to the Liberal Democrats regarding David Ward:


Bradley Colmans said...

Wow you guysreally dont get it. You still cant see the difference between Jews and Israel. Its just either naked ignorance or racism.

Bryan Hemmings even said "Journalists never question their own use of the term 'British' when talking of our government's wars wars against other countries. Yet, it is increasingly clear most people who live in Britain are against those wars"

Does he really not get it or is he the same as Ward who after being told by many what he should have done continued to insult by asking if it was OK to say "the Jewish Community".
Is it really that hard for people to understand that Israel is a country whereas Jewish is a religion. You can not use one to mean the other without being seen to be offensive. And to cite Bryan Hemmings, how can you not understand that it isnt the same as using the term "British". If Ward had said Israel it would have been the same (and there are many Israelis who disagree with their government too, but thats another point). As a writer in the Independent stated today for all the people who find it too confusing said
"The difference between a Jew and an Israeli is no more difficult to grasp than a Catholic and an Italian"
Got it now or is that still too complicated

redscribe said...

""The difference between a Jew and an Israeli is no more difficult to grasp than a Catholic and an Italian"
Got it now or is that still too complicated"

Facile pseudo-logic, I'm afraid.

The official Israeli doctrine is that the Jews worldwide are part of the same Jewish nation, and the Israeli 'Law of Return' states that any member of that Jewish nation has the right to Israeli citizenship.

If Italy adopted an analogous law about Catholics it would have to offer citizenship to every Catholic in the world. That is, probably more than a billion people if you add up the Catholic population of Latin Europe, Latin America, the Philippines, and smaller Catholic populations around the world.

If associating the Jews, as a putative nation, with Israel is anti-semitic, then Israel has anti-semitism as its state doctrine and is therefore an anti-semitic state.

It is in fact a racist state, and its philo-semitism is the reverse side of its racism against non-Jews, who in that part of the world are mainly Arabs.

John Hilley said...

"If Italy adopted an analogous law about Catholics it would have to offer citizenship to every Catholic in the world."

A simple and most powerful point.

Well said.


Bradley Colmans said...

Rescripe said

"Facile pseudo-logic, I'm afraid"

It really isnt and claiming anything other is just amazing. Italy is a Catholic state but you dont confuse the two. You seem to suggest that you can with Israel and Jews, which sadly is fairly ignorant and anti-semitic.
Israel may be a Jewish State (the only one strangely enough but to you thats racist) but that doesnt mean you lump all Jews with Israel. Its amazing that people still do. Words fail me over the stupidity of claiming it is. Quite frankly its obscene

Bradley Colmans said...

Its really hard to know where to start with some of the comments by redscribe, but I'll say this, what would you prefer, to be an Arab living in Israel (around 2 million do) or a Jew in an Arab country?

John Hilley said...

I suppose you would have to look at each Arab country - I certainly wouldn't defend Western-backed tyrannies like Saudi Arabia.

But, anyway, your question is really a red herring distraction, failing to deal with the issue at hand.

Arabs living in Israel are discriminated against at every level of the society, from political participation to basic civil rights.

Jonathan Cook, a fine independent journalist living in Nazareth, has just written this forensic piece on the treatment of Arab parties and Palestinians living in Israel. It notes:

"That antipathy toward the Palestinian parties has also extended to their electoral base, the Palestinian minority. A series of bills introduced in the last Knesset sought to limit the rights of Palestinian citizens based on the premise that they were not fulfilling their obligations. The ideological inspiration for much of this legislation was the 2009 electoral campaign of Avigdor Lieberman, later to become Netanyahu’s foreign minister, under the slogan, “No loyalty, no citizenship.”"

It's worth taking the time to read this substantive analysis and Cook's many other assessments:

See, for example:

If you're a fair-minded person receptive to obvious evidence, you will see that Israel is very far from being 'the only democracy in the region'.

How can a Jewish state allowing only rights of return to Jews be considered a state of equals?

Imagine that kind of naked discrimination being practiced against a minority population in other countries.

It's not just rhetorical to say that Israel functions as an apartheid state intent on subjugating, marginalising, persecuting and wherever possible removing its Arab population.


redscribe said...

Bradley Colemans asserts that I am anti-semitic, but produces absolutely no evidence of this.

'Words' certainly have 'failed' him, as he has no intelligible argument. He absurdly asserts that I am racist because I say that Israel's Law of Return, which openly and unashamedly discriminates against non-Jews, is racist.

Presumably I'm racist because I deny that Jews have the right to be racist. For Bradley Coleman, evidently, everyone who wants to be racist has the right to be racist if they want to, and its racist to deny them that right.

Or something like that. Pathetic!

But that's the logic of his saying that it is racist to oppose a racist law. Which other racist laws does he think it is racist to oppose?

Its just a tangle of nonsense, that comes from defending racism by scattering around false allegations of racism against anyone who criticises racist behaviour when the culprits are Jewish.

I'm just waiting for the day when someone prominent refuses to buckle under to these kinds of smears, takes action for libel and puts an issue like this in front of a jury.

I reckon a sweepstake on the damages award would be worth a flutter.

Ralph said...

It's pretty extraordinary that you would think Chomsky is a reputable source to cite in support of Ward. Personally, I think his goose was cooked once Noam got involved.

As to your tacit comparison of the Holocaust with what you call the 'cleansing' of Palestine, do you not see how you are compounding the original offence? Do you think this kind of hyperbole is helpful - to anyone?

John Hilley said...

Whatever differences of view we may have, please be careful with your language.

There is NO "comparison", tacit or otherwise, being made here between the Holocaust and the Nakba.

The key point to understand is how the Holocaust has been falsely used as an ideological pretext for Israel's ethnic cleansing and occupation of Palestinian land.


John Hilley said...

From Jews for Justice for Palestinians:

"Mr Ward did not equate the Holocaust with the Nakba and is not an anti-Semite."

Please see:

Ralph said...

My comment was not directed at Ward, but at your "basic set of sequential things to restate". Please also note my use of 'tacit'.

Thanks for your courteous reply, by the way. It is genuinely appreciated.

John Hilley said...

Thanks for your own courteous comment.

In what I consider the same basic argument made by Ward, my "sequential" points are precisely that, a set of statements about connected events, NOT a comparison or attempt to equate the Holocaust and the Nakba.


redscribe said...

I would add that while a direct equation of the Nazi genocide and the Naqba are wrong and hyperbolic, in that the former was qualitatively worse, they are not entirely dissimilar. The massacre of men, women and children at Deir Yassin in 1948, for instance, was a genocidal act. And the barrier between ethnic cleansing and genocide is not such a big one.

If a population is unwanted, then expelling them by violence and terror is one way of disposing of them. Killing them is another way. In the mind of many racists, they can be both just means to the same end.

Supporters of imperialism have no problem in flinging comparisons with Hitler at those guilty of lesser crimes, ethnic cleansing, massacres, from Saddam Hussein to Slobodan Milosevic. No one says that it is 'racist' to compare their crimes with that of Hitler.
In the case of Saddam Hussein, many Israeli apologists are very vocal in making such comparisons (though Milosevic was quite friendly to Israel in general and Ariel Sharon in particular).

Yet when Israel commits similar crimes to the above, it is suddenly 'racist' to make such comparisons, - according to Israel's apologists and propagandists.

This is just another stratagem to claim special privileges for Israel, to prevent this kind of racism from being challenged.

What is being said is that because Jews were persecuted and murdered by Hitler, it is OK for the Jewish state as defined by Israel and its supporters, to engage in racist oppression today. And anyone who says otherwise must be motivated by racism.

This is a pernicious propaganda, itself reminiscent of the totalitarian propaganda of the 1930s - not just Nazi, but also Stalinist.

John Hilley said...

Lib Dems Friends of Palestine support for David Ward:

Further endorsement of Ward from New Zealand's Palestine Human Rights Campaign in an open letter to Nick Clegg.

John Hilley said...


David Ward case adjourned, with effective censure:

JC piece on this:

From further JC piece:

""Gavin Stollar, LDFI chairman, said that if the group "doubted Mr Ward's sincerity in engaging in this process, or his willingness to take on board what's coming, then there's no question about our intention to feed that back.

"LDFI has essentially been appointed as probation officers for David Ward," said Mr Stollar. "If we are not convinced that he is salvageable then we'll be in the position to report back to the leader and the chief whip and express our views.

"Rather than making him a martyr, LDFI welcomes the opportunity to educate one of our MPs.""

All so revealing of how the party-hasbara machine works to keep Israel's critics in check and the particular Friends of Israel role in the 'probationary' and 'educational' task.

Truly Orwellian.


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir

Thank you for the superb article.

I agree that there is a lack of understanding about Palestine. The number of UN Resolutions is quite astounding and when I have quoted UN Security Council Resolutions such as 476 and 478 concerning Jerusalem and Palestine, there is no response. The Security Council and General Assembly have reiterated that Israel's occupation of the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967 including Jerusalem are a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention. Even the International Court of Justice in the Hague viewed Israel's behaviour as so serious that it broke articles of the Hague Regulations (1907) and Geneva Conventions. Anyhow, Israel had promised under the Road Map not to engage in any "natural growth" settlements - which she has violated countless times.

God bless you.


John Hilley said...

Thank you Anthony. Very well stated.

As you suggest, Israel doesn't have a legal leg to stand on.

Kind regards