Nasty or Nazi? The use of antisemitic topoi in the left-liberal media – Winston Pickett – Engage Journal Issue 2 – May 2006

Robert Fisk’s ‘United States of Israel’ struck a raw nerve – as the lively exchange on these web pages discussing the provocative cover story in the Independent supplement of 27 April 2006 amply demonstrates.
For many critics, the crux of their ire revolves around the veiled conspiracy theories and the judeopohobic tropes sounded by Fisk in his fawning praise of “The Israel Lobby” by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. But surely a significant trigger that has led observers to conclude that the Independent is dabbling in antisemitic leitmotifs can be seen in the cover itself: a photograph of the ‘Stars and Stripes’ emblazoned with row after row of Stars of David.

Small wonder. The Star of David is traditionally used by Jews to symbolize Judaism, the Jewish collectivity, Zionism, and, since 1948, the State of Israel. Yet it also occupies a prominent place in classic antisemitic iconography. It is for this reason that viewing the Independent cover in the same context as the images assembled at Harry’s Place is highly instructive. Scrolling down, the Independent illustration at first looks nasty and hateful.

Viewed in the company of similar motifs ranging from the nefarious New Statesman cover of 2002, to Arab antisemitic imagery and ultimately a reproduction from the same stable of Nazi illustrations that suffused the likes of Der Stürmer, the Independent’s Star-of-David-studded American flag finds its proper provenance as part of a coherent visual matrix of anti-Jewish hatred.

As I argue in the essay that follows (first published in the A New Antisemitism? Debating Judeophobia in 21st Century Britain, Paul Iganski and Barry Kosmin, eds., Profile Books, 2003, pp 148-166), it can hardly be mere ‘chance’ that the editors of the Independent have chosen such iconography to accompany the Fisk article.

That paper’s earlier fixation on demonizing Israel via Dave Brown’s grisly cartoon of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon devouring Palestinian children (cf. below) amply demonstrated a willingness to push the judeophobic envelope as far as possible. What better way to illustrate a thesis that the US foreign policy is driven – against its better interests – by a powerful ‘Israel lobby’ via a classic motif – the Greeks used to call it a topos – that expresses it all with one potent image? And what more effective way to create a cognitive reinforcement of the Left-Liberal worldview held by the Independent’s readership? Joseph Goebbels would be proud.

Winston Pickett, May 2006

Nasty or Nazi? The use of antisemitic topoi in the left-liberal media

In looking at the question of antisemitism in the media, it is helpful to use tools of analysis that can bring a degree of clarity to the discussion. One such tool is to examine what the Greeks used to call topoi. (1)

Why is the term helpful? First, because of its etymology. In ancient Greece and among the Latin orators, rhetoric, or the art of public speaking, was highly formalized. Classic forensic rhetoricians routinely made use of general conceptions, called ‘commonplaces’—koinoi topoi in Greek, or loci communes in Latin. Orators, as part of their skill, would make use of value-laden images or set pieces on a range of subjects to bolster their argument. The word ‘topos’ of course, is embedded in the word ‘stereotype’—only without the negative connotation.

Thus, in selecting a topos, classical orators employed a kind of template whose meaning was universally understood. Effective speakers would therefore be able to draw on a range of topoi, which they could then drop into their speech to amplify or strengthen the case they were arguing.

Today, the closest example we have to this can be found in the legal profession, where a skilful attorney will regularly offer jurors easily recognizable moral principles for rendering judgment. But topoi are a regular part of the modern media as well. Most forms of journalism are steeped in topoi-whether it is the topos of the cleric/doctor/lawyer/businessmen-or lately, the media star/personality—falling from grace, or, more likely, self-destructing. Or it can be the powerful politician caught in a scandal. Or, on the positive side, it can be the moral Don Quixote tilting against the windmills of injustice. Whatever it is, the topos serves as an emotional and cognitive docking device between the writer and the news consumer.

One of the most important things to recognize about topoi is that they do not exist in isolation. In order for them to work, they need to resonate with the reader. As scholar Mark Silk explains, the use of topoi is reflective of a deeper truth, namely, that ‘newspaper stories must fit the cultural preconceptions of news…the stock sentiments and figures that journalists share with their public—and from which they learn not to deviate too far’. And, according to Silk:

The topoi old and new that are employed in both news accounts and popular fiction, television and the movies, cast light on our own system of values. They represent the moral architecture of society, the design and framework within which public discourse takes place.(2)

Sometimes a topos can be conveyed in mytho-poetic terms, like the David and Goliath motif. This was, in fact, one of the most popular topoi employed by the media in the first months of what has frequently been called the ‘Al Aqsa Intifada’—a name that is virtually a self-contained topos in and of itself.

Many reporters, purveying the image of Israeli forces, vastly superior in terms of hardware and sophistication, firing on stone-throwing 12-year-olds, demolishing buildings, and attacking civilians from helicopter gun ships, it was irresistible. The motif was just too good to pass up—but this time, as a wholesale inversion of the biblical narrative. This time it was the Jewish Goliath vs. the slingshot wielding Palestinian David.

It is important to be clear. To focus on the underdog is not ipso facto illegitimate. To focus on the so called ‘weaker’ of the two parties in combination with a portrayal of the protagonist that is overloaded with unrelated topoi—while ignoring the other side—is. This is what has happened as the intifada has ground on, month after month, year after year.

And this is precisely where antisemitic themes have crept in. Israel’s policies of self-defence become not policies arrived at through a deliberative process of a democratically elected government—policies which were overwhelmingly supported by the Israeli public—but rather they are seen as the result of one man. From here, it is just a neat hop skip and a jump to characterizing the prime minister of the only democracy in the Middle East as a virtual dictator. Is it any wonder, then, that Israel’s act of self-defence is no longer regarded as self-defence but takes on certain eliminationist overtones? Likening Sharon to Hitler or referring to the Israelis as ‘Nazis’ becomes a natural association in this Alice in Wonderland mix.

Once a topos is allowed to run free, unchecked, it has a tendency of gathering a life of its own, picking up additional topoi as it goes along. These are what might be called recombinant topoi, which end up, in fact, driving the news headlines themselves. A now classic, and chilling example of this phenomenon took place around the feeding frenzy of Israel’s incursion into the West Bank town of Jenin. Here was an event that was almost universally branded as a ‘massacre’ and as not only morally equivalent to the relentless campaign of suicide bombs against Israeli civilians—but worse.

Writing in April 2002, A.N. Wilson, one of the Evening Standard’s leading columnists charged Israel with ‘the poisoning of water supplies’ (a canard dangerously reminiscent of medieval antisemitic myths) and wrote, ‘we are talking here of massacre, and a cover-up, of genocide.’(3)

When the dust settled, it became clear that the alleged massacre of hundreds of Palestinians did not in fact occur—as later corroborated by a United Nations report.(4) In the end, however, it hardly mattered, because the intended damage had already been done. As a consequence of such metamorphosing topoi, of course, other, more accurate topoi are necessarily shoved aside. In worst-case scenarios, they become almost permanently set. When that happens the public comes to accept them as a form of truth.

The strength of the topos lies in its ability to tap into a larger narrative and set the mind working along those lines. It is a shorthand way of advancing an argument without carrying out a lengthy syllogism. It is a set piece and more suggestive than logical. Regardless of who uses it, or the context in which it may have been intended, certain topoi have a provenance all their own, sometimes historically anchored, which gives them their coherence, durability—and power.

Such is the case in three instances in particular where antisemitic motifs have occurred in the British media since the outbreak of the second Intifada in Israel.

The New Statesman and the ‘Kosher conspiracy’

One of the most provocative iconic images to come out of mainstream British media during the last two years can be found on the cover of the 14 January 2002 edition of the New Statesman. On it, a glistening, gold, oversized Star of David stands with a sharp pointy edge sunk into a square block emblazoned with the Union Jack. Beneath the image runs the title of the cover story: ‘A kosher conspiracy?…Britain’s pro-Israel lobby.’

In the print media the function of a cover or a front page is meant to draw the reader in. In a best-case scenario, the cover story is meant to result in the purchase of the publication itself. Thus the two components of the New Statesman cover—the image and the words—must be taken together as a unit: a single (if multi-faceted) idea.

In this case, the idea is clear: the (rich=gold) Jews dominate British foreign policy vis-à-vis Israel. It hardly matters that the article—to which the cover refers—itself ambiguously concluded a negative answer to the New Statesman’s rhetorical question while simultaneously raising suspicions of dual-loyalty. The punctuation simply added to the intrigue, as if to say: ‘What about these Jews, whose classic apart-ness, epitomized by their dietary habits (keeping kosher), pits their own self-interest over that of the supine UK (graphically portrayed as if it were a recumbent trophy base)?’ The use of the word ‘kosher’ is also painfully reminiscent of its use as a favoured term of derision in the lexicon of National Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, Dr Josef Goebbels.

Moreover, the use of the ‘stabbing’ motif suggests treachery and ‘disloyalty’ on the part of Jews and also conjures up historical memory. In 1915 the British Germanophile and racist Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who wrote inEngland und Deutschland, ‘England has fallen utterly into the hands of Jews and Americans.’(5) In the worldview of Chamberlain, long considered by historians as the spiritual godfather of Nazism, the Jews and the Americans provided an ideological lynchpin that was later enshrined in Hitler’s repeated allusion to the cause of Germany’s defeat in 1918. Throughout Nazi propaganda it was the international cabal of unpatriotic Jews, working against the national interest, who conspired to ‘stab Germany in the back’ at the end of the war. Within the milieu of such antisemitic topoi, is it merely coincidental that the New Statesman’s Star of David is depicted as piercing the Union Jack?

The editors of the New Statesman were aware of the provocative and symbolically-laden nature of the topos they had conjured up. The editor Peter Wilby decided to issue an apology following a flood of angry e-mails and letters from readers, academics and other journalists.(6)

Labour Party general secretary David Triesman, wrote: ‘I have read, agreed and disagreed with the New Statesman for 40 years. I never thought I would come to regard it as anti-Semitic. I do today.’(7) Professor Stefan Reif, of St John’s College, Cambridge, went further still. He described the cover as being ‘in the best traditions of Nazi Germany’s Der Stürmer’.(8)

Writing in the 8 February issue of the magazine, Wilby admitted he had ‘gotten it wrong’; that while ‘(t)he cover was not intended to be anti-Semitic, it used images and words in such a way as to create unwittingly the impression that the New Statesman was following an anti-Semitic tradition that sees Jews as a conspiracy piercing the heart of the nation.’ He further acknowledged that ‘a few anti-Semites (as some comments on our web-site, quickly removed, suggested), took aid and comfort when it appeared that their prejudices were shared by a magazine of authority and standing…’

Nevertheless, in a subsequent issue, the New Statesman subtly continued along the same lines as the offending ‘dual loyalty’ topos from a different angle, in its cover illustration for the 18 March 2002 issue. The illustration showed four directional signs on a single pole located somewhere in Israel—judging by the background. Pointing in one direction are two signs: towards ‘Jerusalem 155km’ and towards the ‘Prime minister (sic) office 158km’; on the opposite side read the signs, ‘Hampstead 3,600km’ and ‘Highgate 3,600km’—neighbourhoods where large numbers of liberal British Jews live—with the caption, ‘Far from the promised land.’

Here the message is somewhat more subtle or more ambiguous, yet equally insidious since it has the potential to conjure up so many different topoi. One might interpret it as an allusion to the conspiracy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The same ‘progressive’ Jews who objected to the ‘Stabbing Star’ cover are described in the article as falsely propagating the view of Israel as a ‘Middle Eastern Hampstead, a land of liberal idealists’.

The ‘signpost’ cover is an inversion or counter-topos to the New Statesman ’s 14 January cover. This latter illustration strikes the ‘cosmopolitan’, dual-loyalty chord: British Jews have atavistic, tribal loyalty to Israel. They are perennial outsiders. For them, the ‘promised land’ is there, not here. And even there, to follow the New Statesman article’s story line, (liberal) Jews are alienated, forever consigned to a kind of permanent ‘diaspora’, a political theme repeatedly played on in the anti-Jewish rhetoric of the Communists and the Soviet Union from the 1930s to the 1980s. Whereas the 14 January cover struck overtly Nazi themes of betrayal, treason and conspiracy, the 18 March issue alluded to the Stalinist campaigns against Jews as impostors and potential traitors to the ‘Communist Movement’. Suspected of having external ties and so to being likely ‘agents of capitalism and international Zionism’ they are forever forced to prove themselves again and again.

The Observer and Tom Paulin

If the 14 January cover of the New Statesman provided the most blatant iconographic representation of an antisemitic topos to emerge from the British media in recent years, Tom Paulin’s poem, ‘Killed in the Crossfire’, originally published in The Observer on 18 February 2001, brought a new dimension to anti-Jewish vilification. In it, Paulin refers to the Israeli Army as ‘Zionist SS’, which guns down ‘little Palestinian boys’.

Ten lines in length, the poem, which the British Sunday sister paper of the Guardian published as their poem of the week, reads:

We are fed this inert
This lying phrase
Like comfort food
As another little Palestinian boy
In trainers jeans and a white tee-shirt
Is gunned down by the Zionist SS
Whose initials we should
–but we don’t–dumb goys
Clock in that weasel word

Paulin, who lectures in 19th and 20th century English literature at Oxford University, and the author of an essay called ‘TS Eliot and Anti-Semitism’, later told the influential Egyptian paper al-Ahram Weekly that what he described as ‘Brooklyn-born’ Jewish settlers should be murdered: ‘I think they should be shot dead. I think they are Nazis, racists, I feel nothing but hatred for them.’(9)

For many, tying Jews to the Holocaust has a special resonance that transcends the boundaries of classic antisemitic topoi. For it is not simply that the Jewish state is being falsely accused of genocide. It is specifically freighted with the same genocide of which the Jewish people were themselves the victims. Tying the Israelis to the SS seems to excuse—and summarily deny—the historical Holocaust. Binding together Israel and Nazi Germany in such a slanderous equivalence not only demonises the Jews: it implicates them as somehow to blame for their fate. Perhaps most disturbingly, it echoes Hitler’s own denigration of the Jews carried out through a campaign of lies that paved the way for the original Holocaust.

On closer inspection, however, Paulin’s carefully chosen word usage in ‘Killed in Crossfire’ reveals something more sinister. The phrase ‘dumb goys’, which Paulin employs to characterize the collective gullibility of the easily-duped public incapable of seeing through Israel’s ‘true’ intentions, was also used by Hitler in Mein Kampf:

While the Zionists try to make the rest of the world believe that the national consciousness of the Jew finds its satisfaction in the creation of a Palestinian state, the Jews again slyly dupe the dumb Goyim. It doesn’t even enter their heads to build up a Jewish state in Palestine for the purpose of living there; all they want is a central organization for their international world swindle, endowed with its own sovereign rights and removed from the intervention of other states.(10)

Here we have a topos that has made a remarkable journey from Nazi tract to left-liberal newspaper. For both Hitler and Paulin, it seems, Jewish national liberation in the historical biblical homeland is nothing more than an illegitimate international conspiracy.

This haunting affinity with the topos employed by the leader of German National Socialism is echoed in the text of the interview with Paulin published in Al-Ahram Weekly, where he states categorically ‘I never believed that Israel had the right to exist at all.’(11) Is this all a co-incidence? Does provenance determine purpose? Or has the poet, a close reader of texts and himself a professed expositor of antisemitic typology in literary criticism, unwittingly assimilated Nazi terminology—and with it, its mental structures—to make his point? Does this explain why he incites the terrorist murder of American Jews in the Arab press?

Of blood and babies: the Guardian and the Independent

Sometimes the recombinant nature of classical antisemitic topoi can emerge in the most oblique places. Such was the case last summer during a media feeding frenzy in response to the airing of a controversial television advertisement campaign against the single European currency. In the satirical 90-second video paid for by the No campaign, comic actor Rik Mayall appears as Hitler in a Nazi uniform, raises his arm in the salute of the Third Reich, and declares: Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Euro!,’ a reference to the Nazi rallying cry, ‘Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Führer’.

Lambasted by a majority of Jews and Jewish organizations including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Holocaust Education Trust, as well as Jewish MPs, the video received widespread media coverage and was urged to be withdrawn on the grounds that it was ‘crass, distasteful and totally inappropriate’.(12)

In one of many newspaper reports on the No campaign video, the Guardian dispatched its political correspondent Nicholas Watt to assemble a ‘reaction’ story from Jewish and non-Jewish communal leaders as well as Conservative and New Labour politicians. Watt reported that:

As Conservative central office distanced itself from the video, questions were raised about the tactics of the No campaign, which once described (MP and former New Labour Cabinet Minster) Peter Mandelson, who has Jewish blood, as the Goebbels of the pro-Europeans.(13)

It is anybody’s guess what the author seeks to be saying when he uses the classic Nazi racial theory terminology of ‘Jewish blood’ with reference to Peter Mandelson. Juxtaposed with the nasty characterization-albeit from a different source-of Mandelsohn as ‘Goebbels’, is this yet another case of the ‘Jews as Nazis’ topos at work again?

What staggers the imagination is not so much that a writer for a liberal, hyper-politically correct publication such as the Guardian used a phrase that would fit comfortably in a volume of chief Nazi racial theorist, Alfred Rosenberg’s eugenics treatises but that no editor, no proof-reader—in fact, nobody at any of the editorial desks at the Guardian—thought that this particular phraseology was ill-chosen. One can only imagine the furore that would have erupted if the phrase instead had been, albeit in a different context, ‘black blood’ or more apropos still, ‘white blood.’

However, by far the most graphic—and savage—use of blood to convey an antisemitic typology recently appeared in another British broadsheet. On 27 January 2003, the Independent published a cartoon of Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on the day the Israeli public took to the polls to elect a new government. In it a naked Sharon (save for a ‘Vote Likud’ rosette in place of a fig leaf) is portrayed biting off the bloodied head of a Palestinian child as helicopter war ships bombard villages and call out from loudspeakers, ‘Sharon…Vote Sharon…’ In the right hand corner of the illustration by cartoonist Dave Brown are the words, ‘after Goya’—a reference to Goya’s painting ‘Saturn Devouring One of his Sons’. Intended as a cynical critique of Israel’s defence policy, the cartoon is an object lesson in the evil consequence of playing—unwittingly—with antisemitic topoi.

Despite Brown’s protestation (joined by editorial page editor Philip Hensher and the Independent’s Jewish editor that ‘I have no intention of being antisemitic or to make an anti-Israel comment,’(14) the cartoon is inseparable from two critical contexts: the personification of Israel as the state of the Jews embodied by a bloodthirsty Sharon (a theme redolent in the Arab press),(15) and in an ultimate perversion, the choice of Britain’s National Holocaust Remembrance Day as the date of its promulgation.

As with all but the most recrudescent of antisemitic topoi in a post-modern setting it is the combination of image, timing, and cognitive milieu that conspires to convey the inverted narrative of moral equivalency: Israel, born from the rubble of the Holocaust now carries out its own blood-lust genocide against the Palestinians. One monstrous atrocity conveniently cancels out the other. The use of antisemitic topoi might have been unwitting, but surely such a reputable publication as the Independent can’t be excused on such grounds.

The Independent’s cartoon has a clear provenance in Palestinian agitprop; it has an uncanny resemblance to a cartoon that appeared in the newspaper Al-Quds (17 May 2001) where Sharon is depicted devouring children for breakfast.(16) It also could have effortlessly found a hospitable home in the pages of Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer, as Jewish Chronicle editor Ned Temko maintains: ‘It is the use of one of the oldest images of European antisemitism, the fuel for pogroms and ultimately for the Holocaust—the classic ‘blood libel’, of Jews murdering gentile children for their blood.’(17)

The Evening Standard and A.N. Wilson

A particularly instructive example of the opportunistic use of recombinant antisemitic topoi appeared in a recent op-ed article by the London Evening Standard’s regular columnist, A.N. Wilson. Under the headline ‘Israel’s record speaks for itself,’(18) Wilson uses a question-and-answer format to criticize Israel, using what he calls a ‘truncated’ version of a questionnaire compiled by Georgia-based retired military officer Brigadier General James J. David. At the end of is article, in an effort to bolster his argument, Wilson recommends to his readers the book The Israeli Holocaust Against the Palestinians,’ co-authored by ‘M Hoffman’.

As it happens, however, ‘M Hoffman’ turns out to be Michael A. Hoffman II, whose book is published by the Independent History and Research Press, part of a Holocaust-denial organization which Hoffman operates out of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, the former home of the white supremacist organization, Aryan Nations, before the United States government forced it to close in 2001. An earlier work by Hoffman, The Great Holocaust Lie, a 1998 biography of Holocaust-denier Ernst Zündel, was banned in Canada. Zündel is a leading proponent of the notion that Auschwitz’s gas chambers were a hoax.

Both Brigadier General David’s and Michael Hoffman’s contemporary links to white supremacist, Holocaust-denial circles run deep. David’s polemical anti-Israel articles can be found on a number of right-wing websites, including the Holocaust revisionist and Zündel’s own ‘Zündelsite’. Hoffman’s public website, The Campaign for Radical Truth in History, is almost entirely devoted to anti-Israel and anti-Jewish polemic. In fact, on February 2, 2003, one day after the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hoffman’s writings joined a spate of antisemitic conspiracy theories posted on Internet chat-rooms, bulletin boards and Web sites, all speculating about possible Jewish or Israeli involvement in the shuttle’s demise.(19)

What is remarkable about Brigadier General David and Michael Hoffman in connection with the Evening Standard’s regular columnist, however, lies in their common language. A close textual analysis of all three(20) reveals that A.N. Wilson has lifted—often word-for-word— a virulent strain of anti-Israel invective from two well-known Holocaust-deniers. In so doing both Wilson and the Evening Standard demonstrate a noticeable escalation of rhetoric from Wilson’s earlier antisemitic-tainted accusations of ‘poisoning of water supplies’ by Israel during the battle of Jenin(21) and his denial of Israel’s ‘right to exist’.(22)

In fact, despite the newspaper’s apology for Wilson’s ‘reference’ to Hoffman, whom it admits is a ‘notorious white supremacist and Holocaust denier’ there is no mistaking the fact that the Evening Standard—unwittingly(23)—has elevated, circulated, and sanctioned the promulgation of judeophobic typologies for general consumption. Even the paper’s protestation cum apologia that it ‘fundamentally disagrees with the opinions expressed by Mr Wilson’ while upholding his ‘freedom of expression’ rings hypocritical when it continues, in effect, to financially support—and thereby indirectly endorse—someone who has engaged in the transmission of arguably antisemitic propaganda in the public space. In so doing the Evening Standard, like too many of its counterparts in the British liberal-left media, have begun the slide down the slippery slope from criticism, to prejudice, and finally, to hate.

Linguistic nihilism

Whether unwittingly or by design, a strong strain of repugnant Nazi and Soviet-style anti-Zionism has crept into the mindset of elements of the British media. Within certain circles, it is fashionable to hate Israel, to be clever, to shock, to say outrageous things. Moreover, using antisemitic topoi is risqué. It pushes the envelope of acceptability. It has an edge. And it is predicated on the idea that words don’t matter. That it is ‘only words’, only images, and anyway, no-one is advocating corralling Jews into cattle cars and shipping them off to death camps as the real Nazis did.

What is truly amazing is the blatant hypocrisy and double standards at play. The writers and media outlets that engage in the nastiness recorded here are in the forefront of the current campaigns for political correctness in British public life. They are never reluctant to accuse others of racism and to lead the ‘thought police’ in searching for violations of language codes. Yet somehow their concern to protect all manner of people does not seem to extend to Jews.

Such thinking both hides and displays an arrogant moral relativism with strong links to historical revisionism. We have also seen that the images, the topoi and the antisemitic narratives currently coursing through the media amount to covert libels against Jews. They occur under the guise of commentaries of Israel, and they form a new kind of non-reflective journalistic left-wing orthodoxy, which, left to flourish, can have lethal consequences.(24)

Make no mistake. The reason why a topos is antisemitic is not because the user consciously subscribes to an antisemitic ideology. It is because, like it or not, by virtue of the thought construct and the emotive force it conveys, such language is historically linked to racist, eliminationist thinking and automatically carries that force with it. Intentional or not, the effect is the same.

The use of language that bears antisemitic topoi is a form of linguistic nihilism. It sets out to pique, to provoke, to stimulate, to irk. It seeks to destroy, to tear down, and to undermine without offering any alternative. To employ such language is to engage in a verbal dalliance with a social taboo, a nihilistic titillation with the outrageous, forming an unconscious, non-ideological antisemitism. It is a microdot of hate, bearing post-modern viral strains of the blood libel, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf, forming a recrudescence of ancient thought pathologies.

Consider this: the British media cliques operate in a series of overlapping personnel and friendship networks that re-enforce their own worldview. The problem for British Jews is that although the New Statesman may only sell 20,000 copies, and the Independent and the Guardian capture only five per cent of the newspaper market, their coverage forms the basis for much of the electronic reportage on Jews and Israel particularly at the BBC.(25)

After leaving London the topoi become précised, less nuanced, and hardened into stereotypes, finding their way from magazine covers and editorial cartoons to the streets of Riyadh and Mombassa.

Winston Pickett is the former external relations director of JPR/ Institute for Jewish Policy Research and a veteran journalist. He holds a Ph.D. from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and is the co-author, with Mark Gardner, of ‘The book and the sword: the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe’, in Antisemitism and Xenophobia Today (AXT), October 2005.


(1) This is a term that is employed by the American scholar Mark Silk in his book, Unsecular Media (Chicago, Il: University of Illinois Press 1995) to explain how journalists and the news media approach the subject of religion.
(2) Ibid, p. 50.
(3) A.N. Wilson, Evening Standard, 15 April 2002. See also, ‘Jeningrad. What the Media Said,’ by Tom Gross, The National Review, 13 April 2002,
(4) Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to General Assembly Resolution ES-10/10 (
(5) Houston Stewart Chamberlain, England und Deutschland (Munich: Bruckmann 1915).
(6) That the New Statesman editors were aware of the provocative nature of the 14 January 2002 cover prior to publication is chronicled in Julia Langdon’s account (‘Is the bell tolling for the weeklies?’) in British Journalism Review, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2002 pp. 7-13 (
(7) Jewish Chronicle, 8 February 2002.
(8) Ibid.
(9) Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 4-10 April 2002, (
(10) Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Houghton Mifflin, New York: Hutchinson Publ. Ltd., London 1969).
(11) Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 4-10 April 2002, (
(12) Leon Symons, Jewish Chronicle, 8 February 2002.
(13) Nicholas Watt, Guardian, 3 July 2002, (,3605,748261,00.html).
(14) The Independent, 31 January 2003, Review section, p. 6. (
(15) Robert Wistrich, Muslim Antisemitism: A Clear and Present Danger, American Jewish Committee, (New York: 2002), pp 37ff. (
(16) Ibid., p. 29.
(17) Ned Temko, Independent, op. cit., p. 5. See also Anthony Julius: ‘The cartoon associates Prime Minister Sharon, a Jew, with a particularly dreadful crime allegedly committed by Jews—indeed, habitually and exclusively by Jews. It associates him with the blood libel’ in ‘Israeli Embassy protests anti-Sharon cartoon in British newspaper’, Richard Allen Greene, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 26 February 2003 (
(18) Evening Standard, 2 February 2003, opinion section.
(19) See ‘The Space Shuttle Columbia: Conspiracy Theories’, Anti-Defamation League, 18 February 2003 (
(20) ‘Shared Sources’, Jewish Chronicle, 14 February 2003, page 30.
(21) Evening Standard, 15 April 2002 and Tom Gross, op. cit.
(22) Evening Standard, 22 October 2001.
(23) Evening Standard, ‘Editorial’, 12 February 2003.
(24) See ‘The Tide of Madness’, by Judea Pearl, Wall Street Journal, 20 February 2003 (
(25) See the essay by Douglas Davis in this volume.

One Response to “Nasty or Nazi? The use of antisemitic topoi in the left-liberal media – Winston Pickett – Engage Journal Issue 2 – May 2006”

  1. University of Huddersfield - University of the Year Says:

    […] in recent years, including the former diplomat Sir Oliver Miles, the Labour MP Paul Flynn, the New Statesman and the Daily […]

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