In February 2009, Labour Peer Lord Nazir Ahmed was sentenced to prison. He had been texting and driving shortly before being involved in a car accident in which somebody died.
In March 2009, the court of appeal released him and suspended his sentence, saying that keeping him in prison would hinder his work “building bridges between the Muslim world and others.”
Last year Lord Ahmed gave an interview in Urdu in Pakistan in which he claimed that a secret conspiracy of Jews in the media, the judiciary and in government had had him imprisoned, ostensibly for texting while driving, but actually because of “his support for Palestinians in Gaza”.
Today, The Times newspaper published an English translation of Ahmed’s comments. Later in the day, the Labour Party suspended Lord Ahmed’s membership saying that it “deplores and does not tolerate any sort of anti-semitism.”
Daniel Finkelstein is the Executive Editor and a leader writer of the Times.
Michael White is Assistant Editor at the Guardian.
Here, courtesey of Cifwatch is the exchange between the two on Twitter:
Later, White tweets the following, in order to make himself clearer: “@GuidoFawkes Ah, but the problem here is ” why did saintly DF go after the BBC over Ahmed (surely legal?) delay. What was his sub-text?”
White’s point is that when a newspaper exposes a clear example of anti-Jewish racism, or asks why the BBC has not run with the story, then it is right to look for a sub-text, a hidden reason underlying the exposé. Finkelstein is described as “saintly” – IE “not saintly” – not innocent, but really its opposite.
Why? What is suspicious about a newspaper exposing clear and serious racist sentiment articulated by a Labour Peer?
Well, White seems to think that the story should be contextualized, or balanced by, or mitigated by, or explained by, the bad behaviour of those Jews who organise or who defend or who facilitate settlements in the West Bank.
Or perhaps it is a tu quoque point. Perhaps he is saying that YOU also behave badly, YOU also have double standards.
YOU being Finkelstein, The Times, acting for the Israel Lobby, or for the pro-settlement lobby, or for “The Jews”, as Lord Ahmed would put it.
Senior figures at The Guardian increasingly act as though antisemitism in public life is no longer a story in itself.
Michael White is a man who seems to think that anybody who raises the issue of antisemitism has to be inspected for subtexts or for prior motives or for cunning plans.
Antisemitism is no longer just, simply, and on its own, to be condemned, exposed, explained and opposed. Now we have to ask whether the Jew crying antisemitism was wearing a short skirt at the time, or had had a drink, or had been nagging the antisemite. What did the Jews do to deserve this antisemitic treatment?
It happens very often, that a person who raises the issue of antisemitism is accused of doing so in bad faith, dishonestly, as part of a secret ‘sub-text’ of trying to de-legitimize criticism of Israel. See The Livingstone Formulation.
March 14, 2013 at 5:20 pm
From White’s interview with Kaufman, White asks:
“How do you deal with the anti-Semitic rhetoric from pro-Zionists?” It is taking the Livingstone Formulation a step further: by conflation and inversion- the antisemitism is now linked to the speech acts of the pro Zionists and divorced from the speech acts of their antagonists.
March 14, 2013 at 11:22 pm
Michael White quite clearly uses an antisemitic trope. The problem is, it’s probably unwitting.
It’s plain that many writers on The Guardian have forgotten the second half of C.P. Scott’s dictum, that facts are sacred. Regrettably, it increasingly appears to a witting lapse of memory.
March 20, 2013 at 5:02 am
How doyou know that the use of antisemitic tropes is unwitting?
It seems to me that itis quite witting. From the exchange MW seems to hold DF in contempt. It s obvious that the Guardian should be held in contempt as an antiwsemitic paper. It makes no sense toindulge this paper. It is an antisemitic paper and MW narcissistic and paternalistic reply to DF makes it very clear.
March 23, 2013 at 12:28 am
Jacob, I was being polite. But it is entirely possible that White really doesn’t realise that he’s being antisemitic.
He thinks he’s being clever in turning the story.
Now you know why its readership is going through the floor.
March 23, 2013 at 7:32 am
Maybe you are right, Brian. To my American ears the guy was trying to patronize Daniel Finkelstein. Had this happened in the US with say the Washington Post or the wall Street Journal (The NY Times editor would ever have gotten herself or himself into such a compromising situation) the guy would have been fired before he hung up the phone (figuratively speaking).
March 14, 2013 at 11:38 pm
[…] at Engage, David Hirsh slams the Guardian’s assistant editor Michael White for a classic case of “whataboutery” in a Twitter conversation with […]
March 15, 2013 at 4:35 pm
not exactly on topic, but over at the Algemeiner, Hadar Sela’s excellent take-down of the BBC over the BBC’s response to the report that found that the death of the infant son of one of their Gaza photographers was consistent with a HAMAS missile falling short of its civilian target in southern Israel. (The same report also having found that misconduct by the IDF during Pillar of Defence were few and unintended, whereas HAMAS was continually and recklessly in breech):
March 28, 2013 at 4:41 pm
http://tinyurl.com/cyqlw5m Lord Ahmed apologises for ‘Jewish friends’ comment
Peer was suspended from Labour party after allegations he blamed a Jewish conspiracy for his dangerous driving jail term
Press Association guardian.co.uk, Thursday 28 March 2013 13.34 GMT
March 28, 2013 at 5:03 pm
Mehdi Hasan’s interview with Lord Ahmed in the Huffington Post
I am relieved to hear him confess that his comments were “completely wrong. Unacceptable.”
So why make them? At first, the former Labour councillor and property developer is defensive. “Probably because of the terrible experience of the accident…” His voice trails off. “I cannot honestly say why..” He starts to stutter. Then a pause. Then, a refreshingly honest admission: “It must have been a twisted mind that said those things.”
To clarify, he doesn’t believe he was the victim of a conspiracy involving Jewish newspaper owners and a pro-Jewish judge?
“I do not believe this, no,” he says, his voice getting louder. “In fact, I said in my original interviews after the [prison] sentence that I was completely satisfied with [it] and I’ve also worked with [road safety] organisations to improve bad habits such as texting while driving.”
Some of his critics would argue that Ahmed has, Yasser-Arafat-style, a habit of telling a British non-Muslim audience one thing in one language and a Pakistani Muslim audience something else in another. Is he guilty of using Urdu-language interviews to promote or indulge Pakistani conspiracies about ‘Jewish power’? The peer rejects the charge. “First of all I have never run any Jewish conspiracies before. There have never been any allegations of this. There have been two allegations before this, one in relation to President Obama, which never was and was proved to be wrong, and one in relation to Malala Yousafzai, that was completely wrong and misinterpreted.”
But, again, to clarify, [no ‘mistranslations and misinterpretations’ in] this particular interview? He did refer to “Yehudis” [Jews], did he not? “Yes, ‘Yehudis’.” He adds: “The thing is that in Urdu there is no word for ‘Zionist’.”
Would accusations of a Zionist plot to send him to prison, however, be any more acceptable or believable? Thankfully, Ahmed says he “totally accepts” that it wouldn’t: “‘Jewish’ or ‘Zionist’ is wrong, absolutely. Outrageous.” His voice gets quieter. “I don’t really have any explanation or excuse.” END OF QUOTES
Interview continues with references to Lord Ahmed’s past controversial statements, and in particular his hosting of the Israel Shamir address to the House of Lords in 2005.