Added by David Hirsh on July 13, 2006 01:53:28 PM.This piece is from Comment Is Free.
Jonathan Freedland posted a piece on the arrest of Lord Levy yesterday on Comment is Free and then a slightly tidied up version appeared in the Guardian this morning. There are, therefore, two separate comment threads relating to this piece. Freedland argued that the scandal of loans-for-peerages goes to the heart of New Labour's relationships with corporate power and that Levy will not be (and should not be) the fall-guy or the scapegoat for this political problem problem.
Freedland is right to flag up the danger of an anti-semitic undercurrent lurking around this story. "In the routine descriptions of him as a 'flamboyant north London businessman' many in Britain's Jewish community have long detected old-fashioned prejudice." Traditional English anti-semitism has a habit of lurking gently under the surface. It is gentle and unspoken. It operates through a nudge here and a wink there. So Freedland mentions it - but it is not the point of the story and should not become the point of the story.
Then up pops commenter "Rodi", at 0323 UK time with a Jewish conspiracy story. He links the Jew Freedland with the Jew Levy by means of the "Israel Lobby".
"Is it really a "lazy scapegoating"? I do not think so. Let us not forget that Jonathan Freedland was a strong supporter of the war (and of Bus& Blair narratives for its justification) on Iraq until it began to go even worse. He has then tried to distance himself. So I myself will be a little suspicious of what he writes on a subject as this, Lord Levy's dealings with Blair and the British government at such a critical time. I sense that there is another side of the story, which will hopefully emerge, even partially. All the records of Lord Levy need a very careful study. The question: is there a strong 'Israel lobby' in Britain as well and Lord Levy, a prominent agent of it? The recently published excellent paper on the US Israel lobby by two American professors may provide an example: [url=http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/mear01_.http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/mear01_.html[/url]
"Rodi" is wrong about Freedland being a supporter of the war and a supporter of Bush and Blair's arguments for war. Freedland has of course, from the beginning, been an outspoken opponent of the war. Perhaps Rodi has confused the Jew Freedland with the Jew Aaronovitch or the Jew Geras?
Wisely Rodi uses the "respectable" language of the "Israel lobby" rather than the discredited language of Jewish conspiracy. He relies on Mearsheimer and Walt, the two neo-realist international relations professors who argued that the "Lobby" had forced or tricked the USA into acting against its own interests and in the interests of Israel by removing the Saddam regime from power. "Rodi" impatiently awaits the emergence of the evidence that will link Lord Levy and his dodgy financial dealings to Freedland, the ideological scribbler for the "Lobby" and to Ariel Sharon (via the Zionist dupes Blair and Bush).
It was predictable back in March that even after the Mearsheimer and Walt paper had been entirely discredited by scholarly critique, that it would still function as an "authority" for people who were looking for a respectable way to believe in Jewish conspiracy. "Ancientpistol" pops up at 0435: "I'm with Rodi on this".
Meanwhile, on the other thread, "ForeverPalestine" adds his analysis: "Britains Jewish community, when they arent peddling open prejudice against Muslims or supporting zionist facism, are apt to see "long detected old-fashioned prejudice" in any comment about someone who happens to be jewish which isnt ars* kissing of the highest order."
"MayorWatch" then weighs in with a misreading of Freedland, saying "Sorry Jonathan but it's all a bit too easy to hurl claims of "old-fashioned prejudice" just because a Nu Labour acolyte is in a spot of bother." But Freedland isn't trying to "use" a charge of anti-semitism to protect Blair, he is trying to prevent a cloud of anti-Semitism from helping to rescue Blair.
Then more wisdom from "ForeverPalestine": "...find an extreme anti-Muslim writer/commentator and they will invariably be either jewish or a strong supporter of Israel." OK. Enough said about "ForeverPalestine" - except, what an embarrassment to genuine supporters of a free and democratic Palestine.
And up pops a new character by the name of "Enlight", recommending that we read more about "Lord Schmooze". Enlight has spotted another tentacle underpinning the British war effort: "I would also like to see an investigation into the activities of another Jew, Lord Goldsmith and how he legalised the war on iraq thereby allowing our troops to die for Israel."
"Ruthe" also likes conspiracy theory, but a version not linked to Jews (yet). Ruthe believes that the separation of powers between the Met and the government is nothing other than a charade: "I think the dramatic arrest of Lord Levy was the ultimate manipulation to stop the Select Committee starting their investigation again." But no, conspiracy theory always seems to link to the Jews eventually. It only takes 'Ruthe' another 12 minutes to come up with this: "I can't really understand how somebody who is Jewish could be a special envoy for the Middle East. How could he show partiality?" Freudian slip or just evidence of illiteracy?
"Tox06" represents another classic element of antisemitism. Those Jews are so touchy, aren't they? "I really dislike the knee-jerk suggestion that all this is motivated by mere anti-Semitism." Nobody suggested that "all this" is motivated by antisemitism - certainly not Freedland.
"Beslam" then decides that it is important that we know what Levy's middle name is: "Michael Abraham Levy", not Lord Levy.
"Precon" wants to make something else clear, that those at the heart of the Guiness insider dealing scandal in the 80s "weren't the scapegoats but the leading lights quirky.... Most but not all were Jewish but if you look at Federal Court records for the 1980's the majority of people caught & prosecuted for this type of Financial crime were Jewish." 13 minutes later 'Precon' comes back with a quote from Tam Dalyell, a believer in the dangerous effects of Jewish advisors around Tony Blair.
"Downsman" introduces another "corrupt" rich New Labour Jewish "Lord" into the discussion: "There is a separate conflict issue about his business affairs and his science portfolio, but this has nothing to do with his ethnicity. We need some clear thinking here otherwise the anti-semitism label gets easily slapped over all discussions of any prominent person who happens to be jewish."
The delightful "Enlight" then brings to our attention two more murderers, in case we had forgotten: "What about the Jewish Albright when she said that the death of half a million Iraqi children was a price worth paying (sanctions on Iraq). As for the mass murderer Kissinger.."
"Antiscensorship" is on to something clever though: "I suppose Jonathan Freedland is also Jewish." You think? Well well well, the plot thickens, huh? Anticensorship knows what he's talking about: "Spare me your pathetic attempts at sarcasm. its just a matter of public record that organized Jewry are extremely influential in banking, the law, media and in politics. This is not a matter for debate its a demonstrable fact. Your lame attempts at playing the anti semitism card will fail. Its always the way with Zionists. They attempt to play the anto semitism card like an old man who forgets he has told the same war story a thousand times already."
By now I'm beginning to feel a bit queasy really. Maybe I should just delete this whole thread and spare myself the bother. Maybe I, too, am the touchy, paranoid Jew?
What is my point?
(1) This is a collection of edited highlights of comments from people with different ideas and making different points. Not all are antisemites and not all are making the same points. I am interested in the shape of the discussion as a whole, not in making the case against any particular commenter.
(2) Most of these commenters think of themselves as being on the left, whatever that might mean to them.
(3) The comments box is a Guardian space, not a BNP space or a Jihadi Islamist space or a Daily Telegraph space.
(4) The rhetoric of the "Israel lobby" lends itself very easily to anti-semitic conspiracy thinking. Mearsheimer and Walt have produced a poorly theorized, poorly argued piece of work that Jew-haters and idiots use as a Harvard stamp of approval for their paranoid fantasies.
(5) Nearly all of the anti-semitic commenters misread Jonathan Freedland's piece (either on purpose or not).
(6) Jonathan Freedland has, as anyone who reads the Guardian knows, a long record of opposing the policies of Israeli governments towards the Palestinians as well as the policies of Bush and Blair regarding the war in Iraq. Indeed, Freedland is a long time and public critic of the Blair premiership.
NOTE FROM COMMENTISFREE: many of the above comments have been taken down for breaching our talk policy, and the posters have had their posting rights removed.
This piece is from Comment Is Free.