Friday, October 23, 2009

HuffPoWatch Begins: Defining Anti-Semitism

Before we can began shining a light on the blatant anti-Semitism running through the Huffington Post’s Talkback sections, we first need to define what it is. This can get into a very specific kind of discussion, involving precise definitions, so just be warned. It is possible that some of the talkbackers on the Huffington Post are not aware of all the forms of anti-Semitism. But the mods, who must approve every post in most threads, should be aware. There are other forms of anti-Semitism beyond the obvious. The goal of this blog is to record and report the anti-Semitism that arises out of the Huffington Post every day.

Most of us think we can tell anti-Semitism right when we see it. Mel Gibson’s rant, for example. But there are other forms that the layman may less familiar with. As others in the past have noted, anti-Semitism hasn’t really died, it’s just changed to become more “acceptable” in everyday discussion.

Let’s start with the European Union’s working definition of anti-Semitism.
The most common anti-Semitic comments are those that fit the EU’s definition in regards to the State of Israel. Here are some excerpts that deserve special attention, because it is the most common forms that we see on the Huffington Post talkbacks:

“Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”
-Here is one example of this form of antisemitism by the user “DC,” though it was later deleted by the mods:

“Do not forget that Israel is part of the USA. Like an arm and a leg. Duel citizens in both armies, both governments. Accept it.”

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor”
-Here are two examples of that form of anti-Semitism, though both were later deleted:

"Israel is an inherently racist and undemocratic state..."

“It's Israel that is a terrorist, racist, elitist rogue state. Time to pull the plug on Zionism, and to expose false Ashkenazi "Jews" as being the true anti-semites and Nazis. Germany may have lost the war, but clearly Nazism (Zionism) has not been eliminated yet.” (This user was later banned)

“Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

There are perhaps too many examples of this to mention, but here is one from user “Heidi Kerr” in a recent HuffPo thread:

“The Palestinian Leadership is trying to protect its people, just like 60 years ago you tried to protect yours. You shelter yourselves under excuses of abuse and mass murder, you should know better”

The poster here is saying that the Palestinians are justified in making violence against Israel because they are “defending themselves,” but when Israel fights back, it’s only because they are making excuses that have no basis in reality. The implication is that the Palestinians can use violence to defend their people, but Israel can’t use violence to defend theirs. That’s a double standard: Both groups of people are allowed to use violence to protect their people.

“Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.”

-I’m willing to give some HuffPosters the benefit of the doubt that they may not know that what they say is anti-Semitism (as laypeople are not always familiar with the intricacies of classic libels against Jews), but I do expect the mods to know. An example of this classic anti-Semitism transposed into the modern era can be found here, from user “Lefty83”

“Israel killed all the Palestinain [sic] children, or at least are on their way.”

This recalls the Medieval-era blood libel against Jews. At first it was merely that Jews killed the children of non-Jews for religious ritual, since then it has been changed into “Jews kill the children of non-Jews for no good reason, because that’s what Jews do.” This comment is saying that Israel kills children for no reason, because that’s what Israel does.

Another example from the user “Ithamer:"

“In 1947 99% of the World saw the Jews as victims and supported them completely, In 2009 99% of the World see them as the root cause of the middle east wars and reject them completely, why can't they ever learn.”

Accusing “the Jews” of being responsible for wars is not only contained in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but has been repeated in many other circles of anti-Semitism (see the Mel Gibson link, above). It is possible that the user meant to say “Israel,” but even accusing Israel of being the root cause of wars is slanderous, as there are many wars in the Middle East that have nothing to do with Israel.

You can also reference the DC quote above, as well as other posts that contain claims that Israel "owns" America. For example:

"Your first sentence is a joke. Israelis don't have to run around the world they can order it to happen through the US pentagon." (grn1)

This a reference to the classic anti-Semitic myth (contained in the Protocols) of a secret group of Jews running the governments of the world, most notably America. Since then it has taken on popularity with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and was even referenced in the movie "American History X." Wikipedia has a pretty extensive article about it. Nice to see the HuffPosters are in such good company.

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

-Probably the most common example of anti-Semitism that we see on the Huffington Post. You almost can’t have a major thread about Israel without it coming up at least once. Here are some examples. Though they were all (with one exception) eventually deleted, they still made it through the censors and remained on the thread for hours:

“Palestinian kids don't need to be taught it [the Holocaust]; they're living it. There's a really good reason why IDF officers planning the Israeli 2002 attack on the Jenin Refugee camp closely studied the tactics used in the Waffen SS assault on the Warsaw Ghetto, and that's because the conditions were so similar. Apart from the actual death camps, which Israel has never come close to replicating, life in the Israeli-occupied west bank and nazi-occupied Warsaw are very similar.

"Palestinians don't have to wear yellow stars, but they do have to have distinctive license plates on their cars, and to stay off the 'Israelis only' roads and highways.

"Yes, it's rude to refuse to teach the Holocaust to Palestinian children, but considering the conditions they're living under, Israel's demand that they do so adds insult to the injury of living under occupation. Even for the nation that invented chutzpah.”

(This comment continues to remain more than a week after being posted)

“The "master race" will never willingly pollute its sacred blood!”

“Its known as Jewish superiority, just like their German Nazi teachers. Repeat the Bull##t often enough especially to the mental midgits in the U.S. and it will become fact.”

“Israel is treating the Palestinians no differently than the Nazis treated them! The only thing that the Israeli government has not done is put the Palestinians in concentration camps!”

There are many other examples, and many other parts of the definition that will be discussed in future HuffPoWatch threads, but this covered the most common forms that we see. Of course, there are straight up insults and targeted attacks on Jews in general and particular Israel and their “Zionist” supporters. We will cover them all in subsequent posts.


  1. Something which I posted recently on Huffington Post, that may be relevant here...

    Because Israel is a Jewish state, the motivations of those who criticize "Israeli policies" are open to debate in ways that criticism of other states' policies are not. There is no deep-seeded global prejudice in Christianity and Islam against Buddhism, for example; but the Christian world is deeply tainted by the medieval church's assurance that "Jews killed Christ," while the Islamic world is deeply tainted by Muhammad's anger at the Jews who rejected his message and thereby (in the Islamic view) refused the truth and divided monotheism.

    What this means is that there is a special burden on those who criticize Israel to do so carefully and clearly, to explain in painstaking detail that their quarrel is with the "policies" of a legitimate Jewish nation, not with its existence, and not with the Jewish people itself, or with their existence.

    The lack of this clarity (it is often unclear here [on Huffington Post] whether an individual is opposing "Israeli policy" or whether they want Israel "wiped off the map", and this lack of clarity often seems deliberate) contributes heat without contributing any light on these issues.

  2. “Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.”"

    This is really the only legitimate criteria you list. The others are all thinly-veiled ways of trying to delegitimize criticism of Israel's ethnic cleansing.

    1. Given that I went to school with Jews, played with Jews, my father investigated Nazi war crimes, and I had a Jewsh uncle (his whole family died in the Holocaust), one Jew wanted me to have an affair with me but said he couldn't marry me as his parents would oppose it (my parents wouldn't have) and I have always known that it was Jews and Muslims who suffered from Christian prejudice just as I suffered from Jewish prejudice and my ancestors suffered from the prejudice of Christians who didn't believe as they believed, I feel more than a little ticked off with being labelled anti-semitic. Zionism began before Hitler was born. Zionists deny history and fabricate history. Archeology has not confirmed the origins of Judaism or Israel. It has shown that history is history. Why not cry for the Gauls or the early Christians or the Christians who were burned at the stake by other Christians. The truth is Israel was well populated when Zionists began to take over Palestine. The truth is Israel has continued to expand and then moan about the anger of the people whose homes were bulldozed.

  3. Adam,

    We didn't write the definition, the European Union did. You may want to consider taking your complaints up with them.

  4. "We didn't write the definition, the European Union did. You may want to consider taking your complaints up with them."

    The EU also endorsed Goldstone. I assume you are also okay with that.

  5. Tom, you have set up a classic false dichotomy. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, but he also owned slaves. MLK made great progress in civil rights, but he also cheated on his wife. You can agree with a person or organization on one thing and disagree with them about something else.

  6. Matt and Zach,

    thank you for the excellent work that you are doing here. As someone who was a long time participant on Daily Kos I can tell you that we see much the same type of material that you are documenting viz-a-viz the HuffPost.

    One of my consistent messages to the dKos crowd (a message that consistently got me into hot water with them) is that if anti-Zionism and Israel hatred moves from the fringes of the left to the center than we will see Jews leaving the progressive movement and the Democratic party.

    I wonder if that is happening, yet? I know it has for me.

    In any case, keep up the good work.