The Guardian, Lerman and Shepherd

There is a row brewing at  Cifwatch, a website which tracks Comment is Free, about an article by Tony Lerman, whose thesis is set out in its subtitle:

The concept of the ‘self-hating Jew’ has been dignified with a pseudo-psychopathology by those keen to suppress dissent

The article refers to a new book by Robin Shepherd, A State Beyond the Pale: Europe’s Problem With Israel.

In that article, Tony Lerman says:

And Robin Shepherd, of the Henry Jackson Society, in a thoroughly wrong-headed book out this month subtitled Europe’s Problem With Israel, uses the concept [of the self-hating Jew] to explain why leftwing Jews “publicly turn against Israel”.

Robin Shepherd, however, does not write about ‘self hating Jews” at all. Rather, his view is that “there are some Jews whose identity as members of the ‘radical Left’ dominates their identification with the Jewish State”. That is a very different phenomenon from ‘self hatred’.

There are indeed Jews who, throughout history, have come to hate Jews generally: just as there are ex-Christians and ex-Muslims who have ended up loathing their former co-religionists. Sometimes the hatred is ideological; sometimes it is an internalisation of societal racism. It is a strange thing to see, and we recognise it when it has happened. That is, however, wholly different from the positive decision that some people take to embrace a revolutionary socialist identity, and to devote their lives to the pursuit of the various political goals that various Communist parties have adopted. Somebody like Michael Rosen, for example, is such a person. He most certainly does not hate Jews.

Robin Shepherd was justifiably upset, I think, at having his central thesis misrepresented by a regular CiF columnist: particularly as Lerman goes on to say that those who use the term “self hating Jew” are “moronic”,  “anti-semitic” and “stupid”. He therefore offered to write a response piece for Comment is Free, touching on the Lerman slur, but providing a broader overview of the issues.

After a prolonged negotiation, the Guardian turned him down, and is now accusing Shepherd of attempting to “browbeat” them.

Comment is Free is a funny site. It happily published a response piece from the Gilad Atzmon a few years ago although, unlike Robin Shepherd, Atzmon not a reputable political analyst but a professional musician and race baiter.

Obviously, Comment is Free have the right to run their own site as they wish, and publish or not publish anybody who they want to. However, at Harry’s Place, we are quite often passed quite excellent and well researched pieces written by reputable commentators on interesting subjects, which have been knocked back by Comment is Free editors. The pieces are often timely, and are either supportive of particular Israeli policies or critical of Hamas. The reasons given for rejecting the pieces are usually pretty weak.

I’m not a big fan of boohooing about other people’s websites and their commissioning decisions. I know that there are some editors at Comment is Free who do their best to be fair and balanced. However, I am increasingly coming to believe that there are others who are agenda-driven, when it comes to the Middle East, and who set out to spike articles which challenge too effectively the political consensus represented by their favoured CiF authors.

That’s fine, if that’s how the Guardian wants to play it. It is one of the reasons, however, that I’ve stopped reading their site.