Guardian piece fails to meet its own community standards

In their recent article about this Anti-Defamation League report, Donna Nevel and Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark make a series of snide and tendentious observations.  They begin by invoking the wearisomely familiar complaint that concerns about antisemitism are used to silence criticism of Israel.  They then express displeasure at the survey’s findings – but not because such high levels of antisemitism are worrying.

Rather than advance our understanding of this serious issue, the survey seems predictably designed to stir up fear that Jew-hatred is a growing global phenomenon that puts the world’s Jews universally at risk, and that the biggest culprits are Muslims and Arabs, particularly Palestinians.

It is pretty incontrovertible that levels of antisemitism are very high in MENA countries.  Many other reputable surveys have confirmed this.   Yet the authors seem determined to find fault with the ADL’s methodology.

For example, one question asked whether Jews think more highly of themselves than of other groups, and answering yes tallies points in the anti-Semitic column. But common sense suggests that almost anyone in the world would likely answer affirmatively about any other ethnic or religious community.

In fact the question clearly maps onto an antisemitic trope (of ‘chosenness’) and is thus perfectly valid.

When I first read the article, I thought Nevel and Neimark might have half a point when they argued that the Palestinian responses might benefit from a little further unpacking.  It seemed reasonable to speculate that the result might be driven by local perceptions of injustice, not necessarily racism, even if the authors articulate this point with superfluous snark.

The most striking example of a leading question undergirds the ADL’s claim that the highest percentage of anti-Semitism is among Palestinians who live in the occupied territories. The ADL asked a group of people for whom the movement of goods, money and labor is controlled by Israel, “Do Jews have too much power in the business world?”. Were they really to be expected to answer anything but “yes”?

However (as @raphcouscous points out here) there is a misleading implication that the question was particularly targeted at Palestinians, rather than being a routine element in the survey.

Nevel and Neimark are also indignant about a question relating to the Holocaust, feeling that Palestinians would be justified in believing Jews talk too much about the topic.  Leaving aside what one thinks of that point – and it’s worth remembering the response a Palestinian lecturer received when he arranged a trip to Auschwitz – what about the many other countries in the world where such views are prevalent?

It would of course be possible to weaponise the data thrown up by the survey in order to deliberately whip up anti-Muslim sentiment. One might imagine, from the Guardian piece, that this is what the ADL was doing.   But in fact the findings are pretty calmly presented.  Indeed, two elements in the press statement seemed designed to slightly soften the statistics about Muslim/MENA antisemitism. The first is this observation by Abe Foxman:

“While it is startling to see how high the level of anti-Semitism is in the Middle East and North African countries, the fact of the matter is even aside from those countries, close to a quarter of those polled in other parts of the world is infected with anti-Semitic attitudes,” said Mr. Foxman.  “There is only a three-point difference when you take world attitudes toward Jews with the Middle East and North African countries, or consider the world without.”

The second is the way the religious data is summarised:

Among Muslims, which comprise 22.7 percent of the world population, 49 percent harbor anti-Semitic attitudes. In MENA, the number of Muslims holding anti-Semitic attitudes is 75 percent.

There are substantially lower levels of anti-Semitic beliefs among Muslims outside of MENA: with Asia at 37 percent; Western Europe at 29 percent; Eastern Europe at 20 percent; and Sub-Saharan Africa at 18 percent.

There were substantially higher levels of anti-Semitic beliefs among Christians in MENA, at 64 percent, compared with Christians outside of MENA

Finally –  returning to Nevel and Neimark – it turns out that one paragraph of the article was too much even for the Guardian.  It now concludes with this note:

This article was amended on 16 May 2014 to remove a paragraph that made a reference to “loyalty to Israel” that was inconsistent with Guardian editorial guidelines.

The offending paragraph was preserved by Cifwatch. Here it is:

In its press release, the ADL states that “The most widely accepted anti-Semitic stereotype worldwide is: Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country/the countries they live in.” It’s an odd indicator of anti-Semitism given that Israeli leaders consistently claim to speak for the global Jewish community and consider loyalty to Israel a precondition for being a good Jew. So it’s actually not surprising that this constant assertion has penetrated the consciousness of the rest of the world.


9 Responses to “Guardian piece fails to meet its own community standards”

  1. Stan Nadel Says:

    We can add the fact that the Guardian chose to illustrate this opinion piece with a photo labeled “Palestinian children are denied some fairly basic human rights. Photograph: STR / EPA.” Clearly, for the Guardian that “fact” invalidates any concern over Antisemitism in the world.

  2. josephinebacon Says:

    The Guardian, by its selective use of photographs and captions, actually proves that the results of the survey about rising antisemitism are correct. As for the article having clearly been written by Jews, historically Jews have often been their own worst enemies, some leading antisemites have been halachically Jewish, Reinhard Heydrich and Ignatius de Loyola come to mind, and there is a precedent in the post-war German courts for a Jew being convicted of antisemitism.

    • Karl Pfeifer Says:

      Reinhard Heydrich was not Jewish or of Jewish descent. After the war in order to exculpate themselves many Germans and Austrians spread the rumor, that Adolf Hitler was of Jewish descent Hitler was not of Jewish descent.
      By the way it happened also to other minorities, that some of their members identified with their oppressors. In Austrian Carinthia some of the worst Nazis were of Slovenian origin.

      • Contentious Centrist Says:

        It is a shame that Hannah Arendt perpetuated this myth in her book on Eichmann. She was sometimes inclined to cite rumour and innuendo as historical facts which is why I read her historical accounts with some scepticism.
        On this website I found the following:

        “As a teen he was plagued by rumours of Jewish ancestry that allegedly stemmed from his fathers bloodline. These rumours continued on through his adult life resulting in an investigation ordered by Gregor Strasser in 1932, at the instigation of Rudolf Jordan, the Gauleiter of Halle-Merseburg.

        A report was submitted to the information office of the NSDAP center in München (Munich). However, it dealt only with the parental line, since Jordan’s suspicions were based primarily on the fact that the father, Bruno Heydrich, was described in Riemann’s musical encyclopedia of 1916 as “Heydrich, Bruno, real name Süss”. The report came to the conclusion that the name “Süss” was not incriminating and that Bruno Heydrich’s son was free from any “Jewish blood”. ”

        And this is from a forum on history:

        “The surname of the second husband of Heydrich’s paternal grandmother was Süß; they married after the death of her first husband – who, in turn, was the father of Heydrich’s father Bruno.
        Thus, Mr. Süß and Reinhard Heydrich had no blood relationship whatsoever, but even if this had been the case it wouldn’t have mattered, as Süß, despite his Jewish-sounding name, was not Jewish.”

        “Anything you could ever want to know about Reinhard Heydrich, including the myth that he was of Jewish descent, can be found in Max Williams’ 2-volume Heydrichography published by Ulric of England. ”

  3. ignoblus Says:

    It’s freakishly ignorant to accuse the ADL of designing such a survey with such an intent, given that it’s primarily based on (as is every ADL survey) a Levinson and Sanford scale designed in 1944. Either that or Abe Foxman is a time traveler.

  4. Alan S Says:

    I assume that the link in the deleted paragraph was put there by the authors of the article? The link is a lie; the Guardian piece to which it leads contains nothing whatever to support the assertion that “Israeli leaders consistently claim to speak for the global Jewish community and consider loyalty to Israel a precondition for being a good Jew”

    • Avi in Jerusalem Says:

      Dear Alan S,
      Please read what Sarah Annes Brown has written her post. The offending paragraph was removed. If it was removed, that means that the authors put it in in the first place. What is there not to understand?

      • s4r4hbrown Says:

        Thanks Avi – Alan is referring to one particular link I understand , not the entire paragraph – I would be very surprised if it wasn’t the authors themselves who put it in, and I agree that it doesn’t support the point made in the article itself.

  5. Andrew Says:

    [In fact the question clearly maps onto an antisemitic trope (of ‘chosenness’) and is thus perfectly valid.]

    Seriously Sarah? The existence of that mapping makes for sound methodology? Seriously?

    On a discussion board I once saw somebody ask someone else, “do you have any black friends?” And when the guy answered in the affirmative he got an earful about the trope of saying “some of my best friends are black.”

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