The Sad and Steady Decline of the World’s Oldest Jewish Newspaper


Tony Greenstein’s Blog

Socialist, anti-Zionist, anti-racist

Saturday, 22 September 2018

In his efforts to destroy Jeremy Corbyn Stephen Pollard has Destroyed the Reputation & Circulation of the Jewish Chronicle

Even by the feral standards of Britain’s tabloid press, the Jewish Chronicle is in a class of its own.  Under former Daily Express editor, Stephen Pollard, the favoured son of Britain’s largest pornography publisher and EDL/UKIP supporter, Richard Desmond, the JC has staggered from the gutter to the sewer. Even the Sun and the Mail make occasional attempts at separating news from commentary. The JC sees no purpose in even pretending to be neutral (or even accurate).

The Jewish Chronicle has, over the summer, behaved like a demented cat on hot tiles. Its one and only abiding theme is that Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite. It has failed of course to provide even a smidgeon of proof to back up this libel. What it lacks in evidence it more than makes up for in shrieking, screaming headlines.

Things were not always like this.  Even though the paper has long supported the Zionist cause it has, in the past sought to achieve a modicum of balance.  Historically it was the paper of the Jewish Establishment and dull as ditchwater. Its main problem used to be how to keep its readers awake long enough to read it. (see British Jewry’s Family Newspaper:A Century of the “Jewish Chronicle”)It is little wonder that its circulation has declined since Pollard took over in 2008 from over 32,000 to 20,000 today. It also appears to be in considerable financial difficulty which might explain why Pollard has become the journalistic version of a rabid dog.

When the Zionist movement was first founded by Theodor Herzl at the end of the 19th century, the Jewish Chronicle reflected the position of the Jewish Establishment which was hostile to this attempt to suggest that after having won the battle for Emancipation, British Jews didn’t belong in Britain. It described Zionism ‘as ill-considered, retrogressive, impracticable, even dangerous.”

The JC demonstrates its visceral racism in this headline. The continuous death of Palestinians murdered by the Israeli military is not considered ‘violence’.  The death of a settler by contrast ‘raises fears of fresh violence’ in a Gaza which saw 160 people mown down by sniper fire

It was only the mass influx of Jews, fleeing the Russian pogroms, which caused a section of the Jewish Establishment to have second thoughts about Zionism. Palestine’s attractions lay in keeping the East European Jewish hordes from British shores and what they saw as the accompanying anti-Semitism. Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler summed up their attitude when he refused to condemn the 1905 Aliens Act, introduced by the Zionists’ hero Arthur J Balfour. ‘We must frankly agree’ he wrote to Herbert Bentwich, ‘that we do not desire to admit criminals and that there is force in the argument against the admission of those [Jews] mentally or physically afflicted.’ [Geoffrey Alderman, Modern British Jewry]

The key battle in the struggle within the Jewish Establishment over Zionism came when Claude Montefiore and David Alexander of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Conjoint Committee sent a letter to The Times on 24th May 1917 opposing Zionism and the movement to create a Jewish state. It caused a split in the Board and a vote to disown the letter.

The Jewish Chronicle takes Zionism to its logical antisemitic conclusion – Jewish MPs should separate themselves off

Margaret Hodge and Zionist Anti-semitism

Fast forward a century to Margaret Hodge’s outburst in the House of Commons when she called Jeremy Corbyn ‘a fucking anti-Semite and racist’ on account of his lack of sympathy for Zionism. This caused a rush of blood to Pollard’s head. Pollard called for Jewish MPs to leave the Labour Party. Jewish Labour MPs must quit the party and form a new bloc of independents.

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Pollard that calling for Jewish MPs to leave the party they are a member of on the basis of their religious affiliation is itself anti-Semitic! We have to go back nearly a century to Poland where, as a result of the Minority Treaties a block of Jewish MPs sat as Jews in their own right.

Those who advocate the separation of Jews from  mainstream parliamentary parties are usually anti-Semites. The practice of Jews sitting apart on ghetto benches in universities in pre-war Poland was a consequence of the vicious antisemitism amongst Polish students. Yet this is what the Editor of the Jewish Chronicle was advocating when he urged Jewish MPs to separate themselves off from non-Jews. All in the name of fighting anti-Semitism!

Hodge’s behaviour had been triggered by the refusal of Corbyn and Labour’s NEC to adopt wholesale theIHRA‘Definition’ of Anti-Semitism. Pollard complained that‘instead of adopting the definition… has excised the parts which relate to Israel and how criticism of Israel can be antisemitic.’  When we criticise the Zionists’ false anti-Semitism campaign as really being about Israel we are condemned as ‘anti-Semitic’!

Pollard, in his enthusiasm for the dramatic, spoke of how‘one extraordinary, unplanned event has indeed changed the dynamics. Dame Margaret Hodge’s confrontation of Jeremy Corbyn in a corridor of the House of Commons, calling him an “antisemite and a racist”, seems to have burst a dam.’

A week later the Jewish Chronicle, together with two other Jewish newspapers, in a collective act of madness,published a joint front page which spoke of ‘the existential threat to Jewish life in this country that would be posed by a Jeremy Corbyn-led government.’

The Jewish Chronicle all but accused Jeremy Corbyn of seeking to build concentration camps and why?  Because he refused to endorse a ‘definition’ of anti-semitism which has been universally panned  by legal and academic critics.

The Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism Professor David Feldman, who was also Vice-Chair of the Chakrabarti Inquiry, described the IHRA as‘bewilderingly imprecise.’

Sir Stephen Sedley, a former Judge in the Court of Appeal who is also Jewish wrote that the IHRA ‘fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite.’

Hugh Tomlinson QC in an Opinion declared that the IHRA had a potential chilling effect on public bodies which, in the absence of definitional clarity, may seek to sanction or prohibit any conduct which has been labelled by third parties as antisemitic without applying any clear criterion of assessment.

Geoffrey Robertson QC, a renowned human rights lawyerdescribed the IHRA as ‘not fit for purpose’.

Are all of these people vicious anti-semites whose pronouncements pose an ‘existential threat‘ to the Jewish community today? The hysteria of Britain’s Zionist press defies rational explanation.  Racism does strange things to people.  Yet these are the forces driving the Labour Party into declaring that opposition to Zionism is anti-Semitism.

The Jewish Forward

In one fell swoop the Zionist press in this country demonstrated not only how little difference there is between them but how they are little more than  propaganda sheets.  Contrast this with America’s main Jewish paper The Forward which has a broad range of articles and themes on political issues, including from Jews who are not Zionists and even, God forbid, Palestinians!

It’s a question that the JC avoids – why are so many anti-Semites such ardent fans of Israel?

Whereas the Jewish Chronicle has refrained from criticising the anti-Semites and racists that make up the Trump Administration, the Forward  has had a series of eviscerating headlines such as Naomi Zeveloff’s How Steve Bannon and Breitbart News Can Be Pro-Israel and Anti-Semitic at the Same Time. The Forward’s liberal editors and writers have been forced to confront the fact that the Trump regime is both anti-Semitic and ardently pro-Zionist at one and the same time.  The Forward has articles questioning the relationship between American Jews and Israel, a topic that the JC wouldn’t even go near for fear of attracting a lightning bolt.

The JC simply does not mention the phenomenon of real antisemitism in the Trump Administration despite the presence of people like Sebastian Gorka, a fully-fledged fascist and member of the neo-Nazi Vitézi Rend who was Deputy Assistant to Trump.

Whereas The Forward is not afraid of taking up debates about matters of concern to the American Jewish community regardless of Zionist sensitivities, the Jewish Chronicle ploughs the ever more shrill and hysterical furrow of a bogus and fabricated ‘anti-Semitism’.

You are unlikely to read an article such as American Jewry Is Israel’s New Opposition Party in the JC. Editor Jane Eisner writes about how ‘the two largest, most important Jewish population centers on the planet are drifting dangerously apart.’  Eisner is a liberal Zionist.

Pollard has never hesitated to defend anti-Semites who support Israel. His concern is the ‘Jewish State’ not the Jews. Pollard went out on a limb to defend the Tories’ membership of the European Conservative and Reform group alongside anti-Semitic parties and members. Pollarddefended one fascist in particular, the Chair of the ECR, Michal Kaminski, who had defended villagers in Jedwabne who had herded up to 1,600 Jews into a barn which was then set alight in 1941.Michal Kaminski of Poland’s Law & Justice Party, whoopenly wore the Chrobry Sword, the symbol of the anti-Semitic National Radical Camp (ONR) is defended as a ‘friend’ of the Jews by Pollard!

This did not stop Pollard in the Guardian of 9.10.09. writing that Kaminski was ‘one of the greatest friends to the Jews in a town where antisemitism and a visceral loathing of Israel are rife.’ Kaminski, even if he didn’t like Jews very much loved the State of Israel. Poland’s Kaminski is not an antisemite: he’s a friend to Jews

A good example of the dishonest and distorted coverage of anything related to Corbyn is the story in this week’s Jewish Chronicle ‘Corbynites in plot to unseat pro-Jewish MPs.’ Most readers would assume that this meant a campaign to target Jewish MPs because they are Jewish. The first paragraph of this article talks about ‘A co-ordinated and targeted hard-left plot to threaten and destabilise Jewish MPs and their supporters in the Labour Party.’

In fact Joan Ryan, the MP who was no-confidenced by her own Labour Party Enfield North last week is not Jewish or for that matter pro-Jewish (whatever that means).  Ryan is the Chair of Labour Friends of Israel and is well known for her greed and dishonesty having claimed the most expenses of any MP in 2006-7 and having been runner up in 2005-6, to say nothing of having tried to frame Labour delegate Jean Fitzpatrick as an antisemite at the 2016 Labour Party Conference. [See The Lobby – Episode 3 ‘An Antisemitic Trope]

The letter from 29 Jewish Rabbis supporting Jeremy Corbyn

The affair of the letter which was signed by 29 Orthodox Jewish Rabbis last week, dissociating themselves and their communities from the Chief Rabbi’s letter attacking Corbyn, is another example of the Jewish Chronicle’s dishonesty. When the letter first surfaced the Jewish Chronicle of 10th September claimed that the letter had been ‘condemned as fake’. Two days later it owned up to the fact that it was in fact genuine although it still tried to discredit it.Organisations distance themselves from ‘letter from Charedi rabbis’ defending Corbyn ran the headline. Because of course a letter from Jewish rabbis opposing its own campaign of vilification doesn’t quite square with the image of Corbyn that the Jewish Chronicle has portrayed.

In other words the JC now accepted that the letter was genuine.  However at no point did the JC follow normal journalistic practice which notes at the bottom of any article just what if any changes have taken place since the article first appeared.

Skwawkbox, which has covered this issue in depth, notedthat ‘The JC appears to use software to prevent any archiving of its pages.’ Not only had the headline changed but the content of the article had also changed.  Now it was being alleged, not that the letter was a fake but that the rabbis who signed it had been ‘misled’ as to its contents.

A spokesman for the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Communities in response to these allegations by the Jewish Chronicle commented that ‘This is a sad state of affairs and a commentary on the lengths to which some people will go. Of course the letter is genuine.’ And of course the Zionist organisations behind the anti-Semitism campaign have a vested interest in pretending that they represent the whole Jewish community. To them being Jewish is synonymous with being a Zionist.

Shraga Stern, the Haredi Jewish activist who helped organise the letter from twenty-nine Orthodox rabbis sent aletter to the JC in response to their attempts to portray the letter as either a fake or unrepresentative. Not surprisingly the Jewish Chronicle has not published it.  It is reprinted below.

It now appears that Haredi Jews, who are sick of the attacks in their name on Jeremy Corbyn by the Board of Deputies are now planning their own protests outside the Board’s annual fundraising dinner in November.

Clearly the Board of Deputies have been stung by this demonstration by Haredi Jews that the Board does not speak for them.  The JC has acted as their faithful mouthpiece. In the Jewish Chronicle this week the Board condemned what they called the “divide and rule” tactics of a “small group of malcontents”. The Board’s anger boiled over adding that “The Charedi community has had no better ally than the Board of Deputies” and that they “should be protesting against antisemitism, not against attempts to fight it.”

This is doubly ironic as the Board has never organized against genuine anti-Semitism.  From the campaign against Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascism in the 1930’s to the Anti-Nazi League in the 1970’ the Board’s position has always been to appeal to Jews not to confront the fascists and anti-Semites.  Only when it comes to critics of Israel does the BOD gird its loins!

The Haredi community, because it is visibly different in how it dresses stands out as distinctly Jewish. Uniquely among Jews it experiences racist and anti-Semitic attacks. This was the one section of the Jewish community that was comprehensively ignored by the Report of Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee on Anti-Semitism which wasissued in October 2016.

As the letter below from Shraga Stern makes clear, the Board of Deputies represents a minority of Jews in Britain.  The Board’s claims have been supported by the BBC and the British media precisely because it is in their interests to support Israel.

Unpublished Letter from Shraga Stern to the Jewish Chronicle

We believe that the anti-Semitism smear and witch hunt against Jeremy Corbyn is a Zionist agenda and has all the footprints leading to that direction. It is being promoted by the Board of Deputies and by the self-made unelected JLC, who are a well-known pro-Israel bodies-  and it’s completely cruel and unjustified.

The Board of Deputies and JLC do not represent Charedi Jews, who do not have voting rights at BoD elections and number today over fifty thousand in the UK, of which 30,000 live in Stamford Hill. According to a 2007 study by Dr Markov Wise at the University of Manchester, almost three out of every four Jewish births in the UK – home to the largest strictly Orthodox community in Europe – are in the Charedi community.

The strange thing here is that they are 263,000 Jews living in UK according to the 2011 census. Half of them do not belong to a synagogue according to BoD population statistics, so this half would not have voting rights in the BoD elections.

Add this up with 50,000 Charedi Jews it equals 181,000 out of 263,000 who will not fall under the BoD and the BoD do not represent them. So how on earth can the BoD have the chutzpah to say they represent the Jews in UK? BoD is a pro-Israel body and only represent a very particular part of Jews who are pro-Israel.

Charedi Jews and most mainstream Jews in the UK are only interested in Anglo Jewry matters and do not get involved in Israel politics. However saying this we do recognise that real anti-Semitism is an issue all over the country and in all political parties. We are convinced that Jeremy Corbyn is doing his best to tackle real anti-Semitism in his party while still giving his people of his party freedom of speech to criticize Israel.

However, we are nowhere near to fleeing this country because of this. As a Charedi Jew I can say that Charedi Jews are the most vulnerable to anti-Semitic attacks as they dress differently and one can see that they are Jewish, therefore this support letter from leading Charedi rabbis from Stamford Hill including Chief Rabbi Padwa from the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) says it all.

Jeremy is a long friend and neighbour of the Charedi community here and everyone who knows him personally says that he loves Jews and is against real anti-Semitism, and this is what he has done all his life.

Times have changed and we will not stop here. We will not be hijacked by the BoD and JLC. We will go further then this to make it clear to all the government bodies and to the press, not to fall into the trap of the BoD and JLC who are extremist Zionist bodies and do not represent mainstream Jews.

Discussions are now taking place that I’m personally aware of and talks are in place on considering setting up a new body of Board of Deputies of mainstream British Jews that will focus only on anglo-jewish matters and will represent the entire Jewish population no matter if they are associated to a BoD synagogue or not and act for the many Jews not the few.

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