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Pilger…Again…

This is a crosspost by Mark Gardner of the CST blog

On 2 March I posted an article expressing concern about John Pilger: and, more importantly, about what would appear to be the repeated failure of his publishers at the New Statesman to moderate or edit his rhetoric concerning Zionism and Jews.

I summarised my concerns in a letter to the New Statesman. They had the decency to publish (most of) it as follows:

Having correctly demanded public decency about Muslims and Islam (15 February), the NS keeps publishing John Pilger’s feverish rhetoric against Jews and Zionism (”Listen to the heroes of Israel”, 1 March).

Pilger lambasts “the murderous, racist toll of Zionism” and approves Gilad Atzmon depicting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a recent essay as being “at the heart of the battle for a better world”. Atzmon states: “Considering Zionism is a murderous, racist, expansionist ideology, it is natural to stress that people who are affiliated with Israel and Zionism must be removed immediately from any political, government, military or strategic posts and so on.”

Nevertheless, Atzmon stresses that he doesn’t mean Jews, unlike Pilger, who asserts “[Atzmon’s] fellow Jews in western countries . . . whose influence is crucial, are still mostly silent . . . it renders them culpable should their silence persist”. Pilger must know that Jews have extensive and bloody experience of their tiny number being collectively blamed for preventing the birth of a better world. In any other context, NS editors would recognise such claims of mass culpability as racist.

Regrettably, they cut the ending

Furthermore, when citing Rami Elhanan as his hero, Pilger should consider this: “I am a Zionist in the sense that I deeply believe that the Jewish people, like any other people in the world, deserve their right to self-determination, in their ancient homeland…the only way out of this endless cycle of violence, is the “Two states” solution”. The author? Rami Elhanan.

Pilger can have his own mass Jewish culpability; Elhanan’s empathy; or Atzmon’s Zionist exclusion. But surely not all three.

Even more regrettably, someone at the New Statesman saw fit to put “On Israel” as the title of my letter. In its own small way, this epitomises much of the current disconnect between Israel’s critics and the bulk of the Jewish community. My letter was about the danger of antisemitism. It was not about Israel. That much will have been obvious to the vast majority of Jewish readers: but why the New Statesman missed that simple fact is a hugely more complex and contentious matter.

Meanwhile, this week, Pilger criticises Australian media magnate, Rupert Murdoch. According to Pilger

Across Australia, he owns almost 70 per cent of the capital city press, the only national newspaper, Sky Television, and much else. Welcome to the world’s first murdochracy.

Pilger’s article explores the consequences of this “murdochracy” upon Australia and her citizens, one of which is

The message is undisguised militarism promoting the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, Prime Minister Rudd says, absurdly, that the military is Australia’s highest calling.

Such false flags are flown for Israel, which sees a stream of Australian journalists sponsored and paid for by Zionist groups. The result is apologetic reporting of murderous actions that evokes the great appeasers such as Geoffrey Dawson, editor of the Times, in the 1930s.

I confess that Zionist financial control of Australian journalists is not one of my specialist subjects.  Still, I am worried as to what Pilger means by “Zionist groups“: and even more worried as to what his readers will think he means by such a loose expression.

Does he mean Zionist as in the sense of his “hero” Rami Elhanan?

I am a Zionist in the sense that I believe that Jewish people, like any other people in the world, deserve their right to self-determination

Or does he mean “Zionist” as Gilad Atzmon uses it?

I would urge NASA to join in and to make a special effort to find a suitable alternative planet for the Zionist homeland in outer space or even in another galaxy. The Galactic Zionist project would signify the immediate move from ‘promised land’ to ‘promised planet’…

…In a planet of their own the galactic Zionists wouldn’t need to oppress anyone, they wouldn’t ethnically cleanse either, they wouldn’t have to lock the indigenous people in concentration camps, for there won’t be any indigenous people around to abuse, starve, murder and cleanse.

One thing that we can be grateful for is that Pilger, as a principled anti-racist campaigner, most certainly does not mean Zionist in the sense of merely substituting it for the word Jew. After all, if he meant that, then Zionist groups paying for journalists would sound horribly similar to the old antisemitic theme about Jews running the media.

Still, if Pilger and his publishers at the New Statesman were more alive to the corrosive effects of linguistic imprecision, then we wouldn’t have the same old story in every edition.