27 August 2018

Duff by name and Duff by nature –The Editor of the ‘i’ is a Good Example of how the Press Prostitutes itself to the Establishment

The ‘i’ refuses to allow responses to Superficial Simon Kelner or Dishonest Ian Birrell -  When it comes to ‘anti-Semitism’ the ‘i’ clings to the tabloid/BBC narrative
On its masthead the ‘i’ boasts that it is ‘Quality, Concise – the Future of Independent Journalism’.  If true then the British press does not have a very rosy future  ahead.
The ‘i’s main claim to fame is that it drove a nail into the coffin of The Independent as a print newspaper. Set up to provide a condensed version of The Independent, originally at 20p (30p Saturday s) its success as a low cost alternative to the Indie guaranteed the latter’s closure. As the price has continued to rise as its journalistic standards have fallen.
Ian Birrell's Dishonest Take on Labour's Anti-semitism Row
I must confess that the only reason I take the ‘i’ is that I get it free from a local hotel! However being a regular reader I responded to the bilge it was printing. In common with all of the press (bar the Morning Star) the ‘i’ has covered Labour’s fake anti-Semitism crisis in line with the fable of Labour being overrun with anti-Semitism.
Patrick Coburn - the Indepdendent's Middle East Columnist
This is despite sharing with The Independent Britain’s two best Middle East correspondents, Patrick Coburn and the legendary Robert Fisk.  Given the way that Fisk has repeatedly spoken out about Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians it is inconceivable that he could support the dishonest coverage by the ‘i’ of the fake anti-Semitism allegations directed against the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn.  I very much doubt that Fisk in particular looks upon the scurrilous false anti-Semitism allegations surrounding Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party with anything but distaste if not horror.
Robert Fisk  the Independent's Middle East correspondent is unlikely to be happy with the 'i's trite coverage of Labour 'antisemitism'

Patrick Coburn, who comes from a distinguished journalistic family, has never to my knowledge commented upon the Establishment generated crisis surrounding the Labour Party. Given the meticulous nature of his writing it is doubtful if he subscribes to the ‘i’s editorial line.
My attention was recently drawn to two opinion pieces – one by former editor Simon Kelner and the other by Ian Birrell.  Birrell is a right-wing journalist, who apart from writing for The Guardian, Independent and Mail, was a speech writer for David Cameron.
On 19th July Kelner penned an article Labour’s leaders must listen to the Jewish community. Kelner has always struck me as a superficial journalist and this is amply demonstrated in both the title and body of the article. It never ceases to amaze me that those who purport to be concerned about ‘anti-Semitism’ indulge in it without a seconds thought.
Contrary to Kelner’s assertions, the Jewish community doesn’t speak with one voice. It doesn’t have a view on either the Labour Party or the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.
Kelner states that the IHRA is ‘a commonly accepted definition of what constitutes anti-Semitic behaviour’. Yes it is ‘commonly accepted’ not least by the anti-Semitic Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban and the equally anti-Semitic Law and Justice government of Poland.

Kelner's  Superficial Attack on Corbyn - it repeats the same themes of all the Westminster 'journalists'
The IHRA has been savaged by academics and lawyers such as Professor David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemism, described the IHRA as ‘bewilderingly imprecise’. Hugh Tomlinson QC said that it was having a ‘potentially chilling effect’ on free speech and Sir Stephen Sedley, the former Court of Appeal judge, who is himself Jewish, wrote in the London Review of Books (Defining Anti-Semitism) how the IHRA ‘fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite.’
What never ceases to amaze is that the pundits who flit from one newspaper to another are incapable of anything other than repeating superficial clichés. Kelner’s argument for supporting the IHRA was that ‘it seems to me (a Jewish person), a fairly uncontroversial document, which states that anti-Semitic behaviour in public life includes “calling for… the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology”
Well yes.  Calling for the killing of someone because they are Jewish is anti-Semitic.  Why add the ‘radical ideology’ tag?  If you were to call for the killing of a Jew in the name of a conservative or socialist ideology would that be acceptable? Does radical not really mean Muslim?  Is that not significant?
But if Kelner was merely superficial then Ian Birell’s article on 7th August ‘Why Corbyn is unfit for office’ was positively dishonest. Apart from being one long adhominem against Corbyn it treated its readers as being as stupid as its author.
Referring to Corbyn chairing a meeting addressed by Hajo Meyer, an anti-Zionist Jew who was also a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Birrell wrote that Corbyn ‘hosted an event on Holocaust Day at which someone compared Israel to Nazism, then turned on Jewish dissenters.’  In an email to the Editor  of the ‘i’, the appropriately named Oliver Duff I wrote that
‘The dishonesty is breathtaking and if the ‘i’ has any sense of ethical journalism then Birrell should be barred from ever writing another article. The ‘someone’ referred to above happened to be Hajo Meyer, a survivor of Auschwitz who also happens to be Jewish. The ‘Jewish dissenters’ happened to be regular disruptors of Palestinian meetings.  I was there, Birrell wasn’t
Suffice to say Oliver Duff never replied. 

Tony Greenstein

Copies of Correspondence send to the ‘i’ newspaper concerning the articles of Simon Kelner and Ian Birrell

23rd July 2018

to online, Inewspaper, Inewspaper
Dear 'i'

I sent the following letter in to the 'i' 4 days ago in response to Simon Kelner's piece supporting the IHRA.  Nothing has appeared in your letter columns in response to his article and nor has my letter

Is there some reason that you are afraid to publish anything on this issue that counters the mainstream narrative?

Kelner's superficial piece didn't of course ask why the anti-semitic governments of Poland and Hungary are happy to sign up to this definition. Instead he just repeated all the same talking points about a definition that antisemites have little problem with.

In other words you are happy to maintain the bias against understand that runs through our mainstream media.

If you don't want to take a letter I am happy to provide a response of equal length to Kelner's.  Or is the idea of a genuine debate to difficult to handle?


Tony Greenstein

19th July 2018

Dear Sir or Madam,

Kelner cites the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis as saying that it is ‘astonishing that the Labour Party presumes itself more qualified to define anti-Semitism than the Jewish community.’ [Labour’s leaders must listen to the Jewish community]

Yes it would be if it was true.  The Jewish community has not defined anti-Semitism it is the pro-Zionist leadership of it that has. I doubt if one in a hundred Jews in this country has even read it.
Many Jews, especially those most active in anti-racist work and radical politics, reject a definition whose sole purpose is to conflate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

Anti-Semitism is a very simple concept.  According to the OED it is ‘hostility to or prejudice against Jews.’ The IHRA definition, including 11 illustrations, is over 500 words.

Of course calling for the harming of Jews or Holocaust denial or  making demeaning generalisations about Jews is anti-Semitic however we don’t need the IHRA to tell us that. Kelner is being disingenuous in not pointing out that the IHRA also deems calling Israel a ‘racist endeavour’ anti-Semitic.   This on the day that Israel became officially an apartheid state, by passing the Jewish Nation State Law.

What Kelner refers to as the IHRA is in fact a series of 11 illustrations. The actual definition, some 38 words, has been described by Professor David Feldman of the Pears Institute as ‘bewilderingly perplexing’ and by Jewish former Court of Appeal Judge, Sir Stephen Sedley as not even a definition, since it is open ended.

Kelner’s article is part of the wall to wall one-sided media coverage of this issue, which is Orwellian in its unanimity.  Perhaps Kelner would like to explain why the 38 word IHRA definition is superior to the OED definition? Opponents of the IHRA do not support anti-Semitism it’s just that we don’t support Zionism either.

Yours faithfully,

Tuesday, 07 August 2018

Letters Editor,
The ‘I’

Dear Sir or Madam,

Ian Birrell’s ‘Why Corbyn is unfit for office’ should have been retitled ‘Why Ian Birrell is unfit to be a journalist’.  Never was there a more dishonest hatchet job than this.  Lacking any trace of originality, it merely echoed received opinion.

Birrell alleges that Corbyn ‘hangs out’ with holocaust deniers. Nowhere is this libel substantiated.
Birrell complains that the ‘widely accepted’ IHRA definition of anti-Semitism has been rejected by the Labour Party. Unfortunately it hasn’t but if Birrell were seriously interested in honest or accurate journalism he might at least have mentioned the fact that academics, lawyers and anti-racist groups have objected to the IHRA because of the danger it poses to freedom of speech. 

Even its author, Kenneth Stern, in written evidence to the House of Representatives in November 2017 complained that the IHRA ‘was being employed in an attempt to restrict academic freedom and punish political speech.’

But if we want an example of Birrell’s dishonesty none betters his description of the  Holocaust Memorial Day meeting that Corbyn chaired in 2010. Birrell states that Corbyn ‘hosted an event on Holocaust Day at which someone compared Israel to Nazism..’’  A terrible thing to be sure comparing an apartheid state with Nazi Germany.

Who would have thought that this ‘someone’ just happened to be Hajo Meyer, a Dutch Jewish survivor of the Auschwitz extermination camp? Hajo being an ethical person, sought to understand why a state formed as a consequence of the Holocaust had emulated it in many respects.  Clearly an argument Birrell finds difficult.  A state where demonstrators march to the chant of ‘Death to the Arab’s in an echo of the old refrain ‘Death to the Jews’ which used to be heard in the Europe of the 1930’s.

If, as I suspect, this letter will be refused publication on the grounds that letters to the ‘i’ are only ever expected to deal with trivia then it shall be treated as an Open Letter and published on social media instead.
Yours faithfully,

Tony Greenstein

Tuesday, 07 August 2018
Oliver Duff,
The ‘I’ Newspaper,
Dear Mr Duff,
I understand that you are the editor of the ‘i’ newspaper, which I happen to take.
On 19th July I sent a letter in response to Simon Kelner’s article on the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism ‘Labour and Anti-Semitism’ whose thesis was that‘Labour’s leaders must listen to the Jewish community’. It was not printed.  No letter criticising Kelner’s article was printed.  
Kelner’s thesis was that it was ‘astonishing that the Labour Party presumes itself more qualified to define anti-Semitism than the Jewish community.’ In other words Kelner had nothing to say about the substance of the definition itself.  We were presumed to judge the IHRA definition by who supports it (the Sun? Telegraph? Mail?).  Kelner said nothing about why supporters of the Palestinians and anti-Zionists opposed it.  Kelner ignored the views of secular and progressive Jews and focussed on the Zionist Establishment support for the IHRA definition. It was a deceptive and dishonest argument since it is unlikely that one in a hundred Jews in this country have actually read, still less understood it, the IHRA definition.
Kelner’s article conveniently ignored the weight of academic and legal opinion criticising the IHRA’s threat to freedom of speech.  Nowhere in his article did Kelner even referred to any criticism. All that matters is who supports it as if it were a question of which football team to support.  This is the quality of the arguments in favour of this false ‘anti-racism’ of the rich and powerful.
I refer to, for example, Professor David Feldman of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemism, who said the IHRA was ‘bewilderingly imprecise’ or Hugh Tomlinson QC who described it as having a ‘potentially chilling effect’ on free speech or Sir Stephen Sedley, the former Court of Appeal judge who is himself Jewish who in a coruscating article Defining Anti-Semitism described how the IHRA ‘fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite.’
None of these or other criticisms of the IHRA has ever appeared in anything in the ‘i’ yet you manage to devote space to articles supporting this definition.
The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is over 500 words in length.  It has 11 examples, which are not part of the actual definition (which Kelner also failed to mention), 7 of which refer to Israel. The OED definition of anti-Semitism, ‘hostility to or prejudice against Jews’ takes up only 6 words. Kelner of course did not bother to explain why a definition of racism requires 500+ words nor have any of its supporters.
Of course Kelner is entitled to put forward his arguments but any paper worthy of the name which pretends to have any commitment to democratic debate should at least acknowledge that there is another side to the argument.  This you have signally failed to do. At no time has the ‘i’ even acknowledged the opposition of groups like Liberty to this pernicious definition.
Today Ian Birrell compounded this problem in writing a wholly perjorative article which substituted a personal attack for any discussion of the actual issue itself. Birrell’s full page article ‘why Corbyn is unfit for office – His selective approach to rights is exposed by the anti-Semitism row.’ contains nothing which could not have appeared in the tabloid press. I understood that the ‘i’ was not simply a replication of the tabloid press, perhaps I was wrong.  Birrell’s article is a model of journalistic dishonesty.
i.                Birrell complains that Jewish MPs have been targeted for disciplinary action, failing to mention that thousands of Labour Party members, myself included, have also been so targeted without any campaign against the abuse of our democratic rights.
ii.              Birrell says that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism ‘supposedly stymies criticism of Israel.’  At no stage does Birrell stoop to explain why this criticism might be wrong although he infers that the criticism is unfounded.  
iii.            Birrell writes off Corbyn’s parliamentary career in a sneering and condescending fashion: his ‘biggest decision’ being what vegetables to grow ‘while he spent those long years fighting loss causes as a backbencher’. Birrell doesn’t give us the benefit of his inside knowledge as to what these lost causes might be. Apartheid in South Africa?
iv.            Birrell tells us that ‘Corbyn’s view on Israel goes to the very core of his political personality.’ having been formed in the context of anti-colonial struggle.  And that is it.  We are not told why his views are wrong, what those views are in substance still less what the relevance of it is to anti-Semitism.
v.              Apparently though Corbyn’s support for ‘murderous terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah’ was the reason for Corbyn’s anti-Semitism.  This is a good example of the imperialist mindset, the ingrained racist ignorance that informs Birrell’s world view.  There is no evidence that Birrell knows anything about either of these two groups.
a.       If Birrell were to consult more knowledgeable colleagues such as Robert Fisk or Patrick Coburn, he would learn that Hamas was virtually a creation of Israel. He could break the habit of a lifetime and actually learn something about the subject he is writing about.  For example he could take time out to watch Mehdi Hassan’s Blowback: How Israel Helped Create Hamas.
b.      Hezbollah was a consequence of Israel’s genocidal invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Hezbollah was to Lebanon what the Maquis was to France in the second world war.  They led the resistance to Israel’s attempt at colonising the south and in that they were successfull.
Birrell’s journalism is typical of those who explain nothing and assert everything, who chose to echo received wisdom as to who the baddies in any situation are.  It is a form of journalism which is both childish and demonising.
vi.            It is in his reference to the Holocaust Memorial Day meeting in 2010, which Corbyn chaired, that Birrell’s dishonest and devious methodology is best evinced. He states that Corbyn ‘hosted an event on Holocaust Day at which someone compared Israel to Nazism, then turned on Jewish dissenters.’  The dishonesty is breathtaking and if the ‘i’ has any sense of ethical journalism then Birrell should be barred from ever writing another article.
The ‘someone’ referred to above happened to be Hajo Meyer, a survivor of Auschwitz who also happens to be Jewish. The ‘Jewish dissenters’ happened to be regular disruptors of Palestinian meetings.  I was there, Birrell wasn’t. Hajo happened to believe that his own experiences of fascism gave him a unique insight into an apartheid state which relegates its Arab citizens to the margins of society.  Hajo was perfectly entitled to compare features of Israeli society to Nazi Germany as do many Israelis and Jews.  Comparisons don’t therefore mean that Israel is the same as Nazi Germany.
vii.          The suggestion that Corbyn’s ‘tribalism’ has clouded his judgement and that his opponents are waging an anti-racist struggle on behalf of Britain’s Jews is laughable.  No one has yet pointed to any substantive evidence of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Corbyn’s opponents are the same people who supported Theresa May’s 2014 Immigration Act, whose ‘hostile environment’ policy led to the Windrush Scandal.
Birrell’s article is a disgrace and I would therefore like to request equal space in order to rebut the hackneyed and repetitious nonsense that constituted his article.  Nonsense that can be found in virtually every other British newspaper today.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Greenstein

8th August 2018

To:  Oliver Duff, Oliver.Duff@inews.co.uk, @olyduff
       The 'i' Newspaper

Dear Duff,

Although the 'i' was taken over by the predatory Johnson Press Group, whose only concern is its balance sheet, the 'i' traces its antecedents back to The Independent.  Indeed it still shares the same switchboard and correspondents with The Independent including Patrick Cockburn and Robert Fisk.

Unfortunately  the ethical and insightful journalism of Fisk and Coburn, the idea that what you write might bear some relationship to what is actually happening around you, that you don't mind offending those in power with uncomfortable truths which they'd rather not hear, doesn't t seem to have rubbed off on you as the editor of the 'i'.  You have all the charm and morals of a toothless rattlesnake deprived of its venom.

The present 'antisemitism' campaign of the mainstream media, which is as good an example of fake news as any, is a narrative that bears no relationship to reality. Its talk of 'antisemitism' in the Labour Party does not square with actual experiences of Jewish members of the party.  Nobody, as far as I know, has been subject to racial epithets, violence or other classical examples of anti-Semitism.

The only people who talk of 'antisemitism' are those, such as members of the Jewish Labour Movement, who are affiliated to the racist Israeli Labour Party.  In other words people whose main concern is defence of Israel.

The fake anti-Semitism campaign is an Orwellian campaign mounted by vested interests in support of Britain's foreign policy objectives. Its primary objective is the removal of Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party because he is not seen as someone who can be trusted with safeguarding the special relationship with the USA. He is unreliable in respect of NATO and Trident. In particular even now he is too critical of the West's rabid, racist rottweiler in the Middle East, the apartheid State of Israel.

Despite attempts to row back on his previous anti-Zionist politics, Corbyn is still seen as too supportive of the Palestinians. That is why there is a widespread consensus - from The Sun to The Guardian that Corbyn has to go. That is why there has been wall to wall sympathetic coverage of the Blessed Margaret Hodge, expletives and child abuse included, when she accused Corbyn of 'antisemitism'.  Imagine if someone on the Left had assailed the war criminal Tony Blair in similar terms.  It is barely conceivable that they would have been a hero to the BBC and British Press.

This Orwellian campaign, where anti-racism has become its opposite, has manifested itself in the same boring, repetitious articles in the British press.  Most of these articles are so similar in content and tone that they could, to quote Hannah Arendt, have come out of a mimeographic machine.

I wrote to you  two days ago concerning two such articles in the 'i' by Simon Kelner and Ian Birrell. I suggested that you might want to break with the habit of a lifetime and allow a challenge to their repetitious nonsense. Let’s see if their monologues could stand up to scrutiny. Given your failure to respond I assume that you didn’t have any confidence in such an outcome. It is a cowardice born of political weakness.  For all their bluster you are not prepared to see their fine bigoted phrases subject to challenge?

Kelner, who makes even Melanie Philips seem thoughtful, repeated the same trite clichés that ' the Labour Party presumes itself more qualified to define anti-Semitism than the Jewish community.'  If this idiot stopped to think for even one moment then he would realise that there is no homogenous Jewish community, still less with one viewpoint.  If ever there was an example of antisemitism then that is it but Kelner is too dim to understand why his article attacking ‘anti-Semitism’ is anti-Semitic.

Birrell, in a particularly loathsome article replete with all the clichés one would expect of someone who seems incapable of original thought, attacked Corbyn for hosting a meeting 8 years ago where Hajo Meyer, an anti-Zionist Jewish survivor from Auschwitz spoke.  How was this written up by this worthless ‘journalist’?  Corbyn ‘hosted an event on Holocaust Day at which someone compared Israel to Nazism, then turned on Jewish dissenters.’

I doubt if even Josef Goebbels or the Prince of Darkness himself, Peter Mandelson, could have bettered this description. The dishonesty is a wonder to behold. The 'someone' just happened to be a person who survived an extermination camp whereas the 'Jewish dissenters' were well known for disrupting Palestinian and anti-Zionist meetings across London.

Your behaviour reminds me of Stanley Baldwin's comparison of journalists and their masters to prostitutes because no one should think you are a free agent:

“They are engines of propaganda ... Their methods are direct falsehoods, misrepresentation, half-truths, the alteration of the speaker's meaning by publishing a sentence apart from the context...What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.

Written nearly 90 years ago as a description of your editorship it is difficult to better.

Kind regards

Tony Greenstein

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