The disingenuity of Jonathan Freedland

1 Nov

“Let’s replace “Israelis” with “white South Africans”, who were also a settler-colonising people. Did the fall of apartheid require them to “get out”?”

I opened my previous post with two quotes from Western Jews. One was Jonathan Freedland, a Guardian columnist pipped by Katherine Viner for the top job. Though he is a frequent apologist for Israel, my quoting of the man was neither approving nor disapproving …

Millions around the world watch the conflict … as a binary contest in which you can root for only one team …You see it in those who tear down posters on London bus shelters depicting the faces of more than 200 Israelis held hostage by Hamas – including toddlers and babies. You see it too in those who close their eyes to  the impact of denied water, food, medicine and fuel on ordinary Gazans – including toddlers and babies …

… simply a way into the truths that (a) meta narratives – Nakba  and Shoah – meet head on in respect of a Jewish State forced upon Palestine, and (b) the two do not mirror one another. For one thing Palestinians played no part in the Holocaust, while Zionism – including its Christian and deeply anti-Semitic strands 1“had everything to do with the displacement of a nation”.

For another, only one nation has the unconditional backing of the world’s most powerful state.

That was October 29. The same day, Jonathan Cook posted a takedown of the Freedland piece I had cited. A word about Mr Cook, whom I described six years ago in a post on George Monbiot as “the best informed middle east commentator on the block”.

He’d been a Guardian columnist until the spiking of story after story sympathetic to Palestine led him to quit. Since then he’s published countless pieces both on his Nazareth based site and in other publications. He’s also experienced hits to his following, hence his income, from search engine algorithms which actively demote ‘contrarian’ sites like his.

But that’s a subject for another day. Today I give you Jonathan Cook on Jonathan Freedland.

Jonathan Freedland’s enduring bad faith

Guardian columnist feigns concern for two peoples ‘fated to share the same land’. But yet again he finds excuses to keep one of those people penned into a prison

Will the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland ever write a column on Israel that doesn’t rehash dishonest, Zionist talking-points that were discredited decades ago?

It would be too tedious to deal with most of the misdirections in his latest contribution. Let’s just pull out the final sections of his column, italicised, and then point out the ahistorical, morally vacuous thinking behind each of his points:

[Israelis] have been framed as the modern world’s ultimate evildoer: the coloniser. That matters because, in this conception, justice can only be done once the colonisers are gone. Which is why the chant demanding that Palestine be free “from the river to the sea” sends shivers down Jewish spines. Because that slogan does not demand a mere Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank. What most Jews hear is a demand that Israel disappear altogether. And that Israeli Jews either take their chances living in a future Palestine under the likes of Hamas – or get out. But where to?

Let’s replace “Israelis” with “white South Africans”, who were also a settler-colonising people. Did the fall of apartheid require them to “get out”? I think Freedland will find that they are still there.

Yes, we all understand that “most Jews” are frightened by a chant calling for the liberation of Palestinians from apartheid-style subjugation and confinement in their own homeland. Of course, Jews are frightened. Israel and its apologists, Freedland prime among them, have been telling Jews for decades to be frightened, just as apartheid South Africa’s apologists told whites they would be slaughtered if a black man ever ruled the country. Whites stopped being frightened only when the Freedlands of the early 1990s were forced to change their tune.

What’s more, such a framing brands all Israelis – not just West Bank settlers – as guilty of the sin of colonialism. Perhaps that explains why those letter writers could not full-throatedly condemn the 7 October killing of innocent Israeli civilians. Because they do not see any Israeli, even a child, as wholly innocent.

If Freedland stepped out of his bubble for a moment and tried living in my world, he might be surprised by the number of people – many of them doubtless those fearful Jews he worries about – who are explicitly calling for Palestinians to be wiped out, who openly support genocide in Gaza – echoing Israeli politicians and leaders of Israel’s nuclear-armed military who have long advocated for a ‘Shoah’, or Holocaust, in Gaza. 2

Perhaps the reason some people on the margins of social media are reluctant to join the establishment chorus condemning Hamas 3 is because it is being so blatantly taken advantage of to excuse murdering Palestinian children. When our politicians and media turn this into a zero-sum game, when they rewrite international law to make shutting off food and water to Palestinians a legal and moral duty, you can perhaps understand why people might be reticent to fuel the flames of genocide …

Read the full piece here. Jonathan Cook strongly implies a one-state solution. It’s a principled stand. Indeed, in the past fortnight I’ve myself referred, in below the line comment on this site, to the two-state solution as “dead in the water”. Now though my attention is shifting from the purity of moral certainty to whether a durable solution may be found in a world moving towards multipolarity …

(That or WW3.)

… Hence my interest in Russia’s position and all it implies as expressed by Maria Zakharova’s call, on the day of the Hamas atrocity, for:

… an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with a capital in East Jerusalem that co-exists with Israel in peace and security.

That’s the subject of my forthcoming post, A way forward for Palestine? Part 2.

* * *

  1. Antisemitism has never stood in the way of support for Zionism, nor of Israeli/Western tactical alliances with virulently antisemitic Islamism. Churchill and (initially) Hitler had both favoured it, and for the same reasons. See my review of Israel: a Beachhead in the Middle East. That review notes Zionism’s appeal to Europe’s ruling classes:

    With Jews disproportionately represented on the Left – as in the revolutions of 1789 and 1917 – it offered the enticing prospect of draining Europe of ‘bolsheviks and troublemakers’. Better yet, leading [Jewish] Zionists like the atheist Theodor Herzl dangled the irresistable prize of an Israel not only beholden but (since gratitude is famously short lived) forever dependent on its backers in the West.

    In footnote 3 of the same I asserted, pace  Stephen Gowans, that:

    Zionism’s earliest enthusiasts were on the one hand Christians in the corridors of Western power, on the other rightwing Jews who saw antisemitism as rooted in the human condition; independent of and immune to social drivers.

    While footnote 4 claims that:

    The atheism of many right wing Jewish as distinct from Christian Zionists points us to the fact that, under strict interpretations of Judaism, only Jehovah gets to say when Jews have sufficiently atoned for sins punished in Exodus to be allowed Home. God has yet to sign off on Israel’s Law of Return!

  2. On those “Israeli politicians and leaders of Israel’s nuclear-armed military who have long advocated for a ‘Shoah’, or Holocaust, in Gaza”, .see the samples on offer in my post, “Gaza should be wiped clean with bombs”.
  3. As for my part in that reluctance “to join the establishment chorus condemning Hamas”,  I had this to say in the previous post:

    I didn’t condemn that atrocity – opting instead to contextualise it – because I didn’t set up steel city scribblings to offer redundantly asinine endorsement of the hypocrisies our corrupt media and politicians spew out without let or hindrance – and assuredly without need of any assistance from yours truly.

12 Replies to “The disingenuity of Jonathan Freedland

  1. Thanks Phil. did put the op ed by Freedland on my own blog – for balance, as I do with JVP and other Jewish sources.
    There is one I reblogged by Max Blumenthal’s article dealing with the killing of Israeli citizens by the IDF. Apparently it is SOP within the Israeli military to kill their own citizens, so the number of deaths allegedly carried out by Hamas is actually far lower.
    Max’s article includes the testimonies of 7 Israelis who witnessed the carnage inflicted by the IDF.

    Since no contradiction of the figures relating to Hamas victims, the Israeli Regime has made public, the deaths touted by them are a lie and the photo opportunities they have exploited include the IDF’s murder of their own Jewish citizens.

    • I’ll check out the Blumenthal piece, Susan. Thanks.

      Steel city reader Dave Hansell has alerted me more than once to claims that many Israeli victims of October 7 died at the hands of the IDF but I haven’t found time yet to study them.

      • Here is a regularly updated list form the Israeli publication Haaretz.

        At present it shows 1012 dead. Consisting of – according to the filters provided – 276 soldiers; 59 police; 15 Rescue Services; and 665 civilians.

        Firstly, however (bearing in mind we are now 24-25 days after the 7 October and we are still to reach the 1400 civilians which are still being claimed), it is difficult even to make a direct comparison for two reasons:

        1. Because the even cursory scrutiny of the list shows that the deaths listed are not confined to the 7th October.

        The title clearly indicates that the listed dead are not only from the 7th October but also from what it terms ‘Massacres’ and the ‘War’.

        Moreover, just looking at the civilian filter reveals that some of those listed lost their lives elsewhere – West Bank, ‘terrorist’ attacks in the Sinai etc.

        2. There are a number of anomalies in the civilian data which includes not only ranking reservists but also ranking military not given the reservist status. Along with a ministerial bodyguard; border guards; settlement guards; a local ‘Commissioner’ ; and someone described as a ‘lone’ Canadian ‘guest’ soldier.

        Two elements stand out:

        A. After over three weeks the number of civilians who lost their lives (665), not on the day but over the period since, stands at 47.5% of the claimed 1400 civilians on October 7th still being used as justification. not only by the Israeli Government but across the entire Collective West.

        B. Nowhere in the data provided is anything to substantiate the claim that “40 babies” lost their lives as is still claimed.

        It seems reasonable to be open to the possibility that names and details are being withheld. Though in the present climate in which it is relatively straightforward to find an updated list of at least every Palestinian child who has lost their life in the past three weeks or so it is hardly feasible, never mind credible, that the Israeli Government would not substantiate such allegations if the evidence existed.

        Long precedence, however, points very clearly to a mindset across the entire Collective West which sees no requirement for evidence. An allegation being considered sufficient to pronounce a guilty verdict with whatever punishment meets the present whims of the sociopaths running this shit show.

        And we have not even considered yet the claims made by Israeli civilian survivors of October 7th of civilian deaths caused by the IDF on its own civilians:

        These are not some esoteric irrelevance. Facts and evidence matter. We have – or used to have – processes to assess them for a very good reason. Not least of which is to prevent lynch mob ‘justice’.

        A dangerous escalation is a very real possibility. With a report that Yemen has apparently declared war on Israel and fired three cruise missiles and a further report of a scheduled announcement at 3:00pm Friday local time in Tehran by the Iranians which is interpreting this as some kind of deadline for the Israeli’s to stop its actions in the Gaza Strip.

        Point being that there is every likelihood that the claims being made by the Israeli’s and across the Collective West to justify genocidal slaughter and the designation of any protest as an act of terrorism cannot be substantiated with solid evidence and, as we have seen on previous occasions, are merely self serving rhetoric with no foundation to justify what is taking place.

  2. I have had conversations with my MP, Brendan O’Hara, about Palestine. He is active in support for Palestine, and advocates a two-state solution because he says that is what Palestinians he has spoken to want. However, like Jonathan Cook I think a secular single star with equal rights for all citizens is the only viable solution. It would of course mean the end of the theocratic Jewish state, but I don’t see the justification for any theocratic states, including Iran and Saudi Arabia and others.

    A two state solution would inevitably short-change the Palestinians given the power dynamics involved, and this would only lead to more resentment and (low level?) warfare. A single state would probably lead to the most rabid Jewish supremacists leaving, and the more peaceful elements to remain. As I noted in another post, stolen land would have to be returned, but there is always the legal option of buying, and with equal rights for all, this should be perfectly feasible.

    • No quarrel from me re the justness of a one state solution, Jams. But how do we get there? I’ll be looking at Russia’s position before moving to China’s

    • Normally Jams, I take anything you have to say as always being worthy. However, a single state is not really any solution at all and would be no different to what has been happening over the last 75 years and furthermore would require a degree of honesty & integrity to both implement it and monitor it.
      A Two State solution has it’s merits in that it would afford the Palestinians a statehood which in turn if adopted by the UN & the US was told to stfu at the unsec, would give them protections which could be enforced.
      In the case of any interventions by the Israelis, justification would be required in the form of evidence which could be proven – a monumental task in and of it’s own, given the corruption & double standards Dave has already alluded to in the collective west. The one thing that could save such a situation would be the monitoring group BT’selem and uncorrupted (less likely but not impossible) UN personnel observers.
      Having said all that, much hinges on what the ME countries choose to do and of course Iran and Hezbollah(the latter having shown tremendous restraint so far)and input from Russia and China who may have more influence than the collective west would wish.
      Israel has a lot of problems at the moment, despite inviting settler thugs to come over, the acute shortage of housing and the sinking economy(just two reasons Israel wants Palestinian lands)and allowing the Leviathan Gas and oil fields slip through their fingers,(a third reason) mean that there is no way in hell Israel will willingly surrender any part of what they have thieved from the Palestinian people(a fourth reason) no matter the cost of the Jewish civilians. Such obstinacy from the power hungry Israeli mobsters running the show means that neither solution will succeed.

      • “there is no way in hell Israel will willingly surrender any part of what they have thieved from the Palestinian people(a fourth reason) no matter the cost of the Jewish civilians. Such obstinacy from the power hungry Israeli mobsters running the show means that neither solution will succeed.”

        Not just the Israeli regime but those in the West wanting to get their hands on those resources and the profits arising from them who are backing the play. They have already done the same in the Golan Heights and are presently stealing oil from Syria.

        The above logic therefore suggests that both a two state and a one state option are not on the agenda as either of those two options would threaten the very obvious resource grab which is taking place.

        This, again logically, points to two possible outcomes: either the resource grab is successful, in which case the forced expulsion of the Palestinians will take place or it is unsuccessful.

        The only question remaining is what methodology and course of action is the most likely to lead to the the resource grab and its implications being unsuccessful?

        Asking nicely does not only not seem to work it has a 100% failure record.

        For al the isolation of the US at the UN the amount of ordnance and logistical support taking place, along with the armed forces being deployed by the West exceeds that of the Iraq War.

        The logic seems to be pointing in the direction of the only way to stop this is by force.

        • But since the world’s worst kept secret is that Israel’s a nuclear power, force alone cannot resolve this. Not even if Tehran and/or Riyadh go the same way. If there’s a solution here it will come from the stick of military and economic pressure in combination with (a) diplomacy way beyond the current skill levels of Israel and its Western backers, (b) shedloads of carrot.

          You’re right though: right now, debate around one or two state solutions is academic. My interest in it is confined to the fact that the world is changing rapidly, and the two leading emergent global powers have both reaffirmed their commitment to a two-state solution.

          The seemingly zero-sum nature of this horror show echoes the zero-sum nature of Western attitudes to China rising. The fundamentally win-win approach of BRICS and BRI, by contrast, holds out the shadow of a ghost of a glimmer of a different possibility – here as in the global south at large.

          • Pepe Escobar, among others….


            ……alludes to……

            “As I previously stressed, the leaders of major oil producers – Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait – can cut off almost half of oil production in the world in one fell swoop, demolishing the entire economies of the EU and U.S. without firing a shot. Diplomatic sources assure this is being seriously considered…..

            …..As an old school Deep State source, now in Europe, told me, serious players are actively involved in sending this message to the Beltway “to make the U.S. think twice about igniting a war that they cannot control. When they go to Wall St. to check out the derivative exposure they will already have had time to think it over as documents were sent to folks like Larry Fink at Blackrock and Michael Bloomberg.””

            If this has indeed been the case it would seem reasonable to have anticipated some tangible results by now in terms of backing off the massive logistical operation which has been taking place.

            Maybe someone did one of those simplistic cost/benefit analysis’s and opted for the $trillions mentioned here?


            Which, if that is the case, suggests an alarmingly low level of basic level arithmetic competence?

      • You make a convincing case , Susan. Well, if neither solution is viable, I for one am ok with the ‘Crusader States’ solution which I linked to a few days ago. Possibly that would be best in the long run, and certainly for the Palestinians (as long as they can fend off the Turks and Egyptians – but they have the experience to do that), and China and Russia will be in a better position to weigh in by the time that happens.
        ( )

        Despite Putin and Xi’s justified caution (compared to the US’s gung-ho approach) I think they see Zionist Israel as more of an obstacle to progress than anything else.

  3. This whole Israeli genocide of the Palestinians is now a three ring circus and any solutions I might imagine are pure speculation until we find out what Russia, China, and whether or not Riyadh & Tehran can bury the hatchet(preferably not in each other’s heads).
    As Dave suggests, there may be many greedy opportunistic hands in the proverbial but as per your comment, force is probably not an option unless we want to see this shebang going global, but economic pressure might just work.
    As a BDS proponent I’m hoping the shedload of carrots with threats of economic sanctions could come into play.
    It all hinges on so many different approaches, all of which might fail, leaving the rest of us feeling just a tad useless, which is how I feel now.

    • There is at least one report…..

      ……based on a social media report from Mark Seddon, director of Buckingham University’s Centre for UN Studies that the UN is looking to put together an Arab-led peacekeeping force with UN authority to intervene in Gaza.

      Should this be the case probably the best measure of whether such an initiative is genuinely an independent Arab one would be the reaction of the US – and by extension the rest of the Collective West vassal States – to it.

      If the crazy’s in Washington go all out against it its odds on that its the real deal. If not its likely to be a cover/proxy for US interests.

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