Is the Guardian Institutionally antisemitic?

JVL Introduction

Jonathan Freedland has spearheaded the relentless Guardian attack on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party for alleged antisemitism, for instance arguing recently that the “roots of Labour’s antisemitism lie deep within the populist left”.

Applying the very same criteria as Freedland, Jamie Stern-Weiner demonstrates that Guardian is clearly and visibly “attractive to antisemites.”

This article was originally published by on Wed 31 Jul 2019. Read the original here.

Is the Guardian Institutionally antisemitic?

Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian asks rhetorically:

[W]hy would a party that defines itself as anti-racist have attracted antisemites in the first place?

Some try to say that any mass membership organisation will always reflect the wider society, and since Britain includes antisemites, so too will the Labour party. But that doesn’t wash. Britain includes a fair number of meat-eaters, but you wouldn’t expect to find any in the Vegetarian Society.

1. Freedland’s analogy does not work. Whereas the Vegetarian Society is single-issue, Labour is a mass movement which stands for a multifaceted programme of social transformation. Labour, unlike the Vegetarian Society, therefore attracts people who support certain of its principles and policies while being ignorant of, indifferent to, or opposed to others. What’s more, if someone harbours this or that anti-Jewish stereotype, it does not follow that antisemitism is what gets them out of bed in the morning—or, in the case at hand, that this stereotype is what determines their political affiliation. Is it not conceivable that, even as a single-mum struggling to provide for her kids thinks Jews are cheap, she might be supporting Labour because she lost her job, she can’t pay her bills, and she’s about to be evicted? In other words, the fact that a Labour member happens to harbour a racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, or antisemitic prejudice doesn’t prove that’s why they joined the party.

2. If media coverage of Labour is to be believed, what surprises is not that Labour attracts so many antisemites but that it attracts so few. For more than three years, Labour has been depicted in the national media as an ‘institutionally racist’ party ‘led by racists’. If this description were true, one might have figured that antisemites would be flocking to Labour: here’s their big chance to vote Hitler into power! Yet survey evidence indicates that antisemitism is no higher among Labour voters than among Conservative voters and the general public, while, after years of organised efforts to expose ‘antisemitism’ within the Party, the proportion of Labour members who harbour hatred toward Jews so far brought to light approximates to zero. (Yes, zero.)

3. Shouldn’t Freedland first direct this inquiry to his employer? Poll findings indicate that the prevalence of ‘antisemitic’ stereotypes among Guardian  readers approximates that among Labour Party voters.

[Update 31.7.19: The first table originally aggregated together Guardian and Independent readers. Table now updated to show data from Guardian readers alone.]

‘Antisemitic Statement’ Labour Voters – 2017 General Election 

(% def/prob true)

Guardian readers – 2017 

(% def/prob true)

‘British Jewish people chase money more than other British people’ 14 11
‘Compared to other groups, Jewish people have too much power in the media’ 11 12
‘Jewish people consider themselves to be better than other British people’ 11 8
‘Having a connection to Israel makes Jewish people less loyal to Britain than other British people’ 9 10
‘Jewish people talk about the Holocaust just to further their political agenda’ 8 8
‘Jewish people can[not] be trusted just as much as other British people in business’ 8 9


Number of ‘Antisemitic Statements’ Agreed With Labour Voters – 2017 General Election 

(% def/prob true)

Guardian/Independent readers – 2017 

(% def/prob true)

1+ 32 29
5+ 3 2


Freedland might object that this criticism of the Guardian is selective to the point of misleading: the corresponding figures for right-wing newspapers were higher.

But Freedland already stated that such a defence ‘doesn’t wash’ since ‘Britain includes a fair number of meat-eaters, but you wouldn’t expect to find any in the Vegetarian Society’.

Freedland’s ‘key question’ must therefore be posed: Why would a newspaper that defines itself as anti-racist have attracted antisemites in the first place?


A key ‘deceptive move’ deployed in media coverage of antisemitism in the Labour Party has been to ‘hold the Labour leadership directly responsible for anything said by any party member—or even someone who claims to be a Labour supporter—on social media’:

Since there was never any chance that a party with half a million members would be entirely free of antisemitic attitudes, this move was enough to supply much of the initial fuel for the campaign. Labour’s critics indignantly shouted down any attempt to quantify the prevalence of such attitudes, knowing perfectly well that they were not representative of the wider membership.

To judge by the survey figures above, it would be child’s play to turn the same technique used by the Guardian and others to demonise the Labour Party against the Guardian itself: trawl Facebook and Twitter for damning quotes from that significant proportion of Guardian readers who harbour some or another stereotype about Jews, and drip-feed these to a hostile press to confect the impression of mounting crisis; dredge up and subject to the most sinister and hysterical re-interpretation every high-profile historical allegation of antisemitism against Guardian staff (there have been many—according to the Community Security Trust, in 2011, ‘the Guardian faced more accusations of antisemitism than any other mainstream UK newspaper’); condemn as ‘part of the problem’ every Guardian editor or journalist who denies that the paper is institutionally antisemitic—not least among them the long-time senior Guardian reporter and editor Seumas Milne, who now figures prominently in media allegations against the Labour Party; demand that any Guardian figure accused of antisemitism, or associated with someone accused of antisemitism, or ‘in denial over’ the Guardian’s institutional antisemitism, or associated with someone who is ‘in denial over’ the Guardian’s institutional antisemitism, be fired—and if they are not fired, consider this further proof that the entire Guardian edifice is ‘rotten’; insist that the Guardian adopt a controversial and politicised definition of antisemitism and then use this definition to incriminate ever-wider swathes of Guardian readers and staff; demand that all Guardian journalists be subjected to ‘training’ delivered by Jewish communal organisations and insist that the Guardian hand control over the firing of staff members accused of antisemitism to an external body; flood the Guardian reader’s editor with complaints about Facebook posts made by people who are or who claim to be Guardian readers and then cite delays in responding to these complaints as clinching proof of institutional antisemitism; finally, having pressed for procedural reforms to ‘root out’ antisemitism at the Guardian, proclaim in response to said reforms that the real problem is the Guardian’s ‘culture’ or ‘worldview’ and call for everyone involved in running it to be ‘removed from any significant role in public life’.

Comments (17)

  • Ruth Sharratt says:

    Very well put – thanks for this.

  • S H says:

    The jumped up twerp Fraud Freedland is a sham of a joke journalist who needs to be held accountable for his bloody actions. Let’ get the suddenly disappearing dipstick Witch Finder General Wally Watson on the case. Both of the sniveling smear snakes need to brought to justice for their lies and deceit.

  • Lily says:

    Part of John Pilger’s address to the Palestinian Expo 2017 “In Israel – the apartheid state, guilty of a crime against humanity and of more international law-breaking than any other – the silence persists among those who know and whose job it is to keep the record straight.
    In Israel, so much journalism is intimidated and controlled by a groupthink that demands silence on Palestine while honourable journalism has become dissidence: a metaphoric underground.
    A single word – “conflict” – enables this silence. “The Arab-Israeli conflict”, intone the robots at their tele-prompters. When a veteran BBC reporter, a man who knows the truth, refers to “two narratives”, the moral contortion is complete.
    There is no conflict, no two narratives, with their moral fulcrum. There is a military occupation enforced by a nuclear-armed power backed by the greatest military power on earth; and there is an epic injustice.
    The word “occupation” may be banned, deleted from the dictionary. But the memory of historical truth cannot be banned: of the systemic expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland. “Plan D” the Israelis called it in 1948.
    The Israeli historian Benny Morris describes how David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, was asked by one of his generals: “What shall we do with the Arabs?” The prime minister, wrote Morris, “made a dismissive, energetic gesture with his hand”. “Expel them!” he said.
    Seventy years later, this crime is suppressed in the intellectual and political culture of the West. Or it is debatable, or merely controversial. Highly-paid journalists and eagerly accept Israeli government trips, hospitality and flattery, then are truculent in their protestations of independence. The term, “useful idiots”, was coined for them.”
    John Pilger. com 2018
    “[It is] an age in which people yearn for new ideas and fresh alternatives,” wrote Katharine Viner. Her political writer Jonathan Freedland dismissed the yearning of young people who supported the modest policies of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as “a form of narcissism”.
    “How did this man…”, brayed the Guardian’s Zoe Williams, “get on the ballot in the first place?” A choir of the paper’s precocious windbags joined in, there after queuing to fall on their blunt swords when Corbyn came close to winning the 2017 general election in spite of the media.
    Complex stories are reported to a cult-like formula of bias, hearsay and omission: Brexit, Venezuela, Russia, Syria. On Syria, only the investigations of a group of independent journalists have countered this, revealing the network of Anglo-American backing of jihadists in Syria, including those related to ISIS.
    In what is known as a hatchet job, a Guardian reporter based in San Francisco, Olivia Solon, who has never visited Syria, was allowed to smear the substantiated investigative work of journalists Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett on the White Helmets as “propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government”.
    This abuse was published without permitting a single correction, let alone a right-of-reply. The Guardian Comment page was blocked, as Edwards and Cromwell document. I saw the list of questions Solon sent to Beeley, which reads like a McCarthyite charge sheet – “Have you ever been invited to North Korea?”
    So much of the mainstream has descended to this level. Subjectivism is all; slogans and outrage are proof enough. What matters is the “perception”.
    When he was US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus declared what he called “a war of perception… conducted continuously using the news media”. What really mattered was not the facts but the way the story played in the United States. The undeclared enemy was, as always, an informed and critical public at home.
    Nothing has changed. In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s film-maker, whose propaganda mesmerised the German public.
    She told me the “messages” of her films were dependent not on “orders from above”, but on the “submissive void” of an uninformed public.
    “Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked.
    “Everyone,” she said. “Propaganda always wins, if you allow it.”

  • Koser Saeed says:

    Brilliant analysis of the state of affairs – true of much of the right wing media but clearly well deserved of the Guardian who like to hold themselves up above the rest when it comes to journalistic standards (“what journalistic standards” I hear you cry).

    The media in this country have completely given up on investigating facts and aspiring to report news objectively. It’s all about controlling the narrative now.

  • John C says:

    What might Jonathan Freedland’s, or Kath Viner’s, response to this be, I wonder?
    Indeed. Quite so.

  • I think a much more interesting question is why the Labour Party seems only to talk about racism against Jews. Is there evidence that racism against Jews in the Labour Party is more of a problem than racism against other groups ?
    This isn’t at all to dismiss anti Semitism. Anti Semitism is vile racism but so equally is racism against anyone else. As a socialist I believe my Jewish sisters and brothers are equally valuable to my sisters and brothers from other backgrounds. What I dispute is that Jews are more equal than anyone else. I fundamentally disagree with any hierarchy of racisms.
    And while Chris Williamson remains suspended for a statement than many of us think was not racist at all, 90 Labour MPs are supporters of Labour Friends of Israel, an organisation that opposes a Palestinian Right of Return and by implication excuses the Ethnic Cleansing of 750,000 human beings.
    Why can’t my Labour Party behave as if it regarded racism against Palestinians as equally important to racism against Jews ?

  • dave says:

    Very funny. I don’t think though that Freedland and others of his ilk believe what they write – to do so would indicate they are stupid, and they’re not. It’s much worse than that – they just want to take the left down by any means and this is a sweet spot, as I’ve often pointed out in comments.

  • Lily says:

    Blake Alcott wrote this about Freedland in 2015:

    His support for Israel is unbalanced, violates the Guardian’s commitment to liberalism and is rooted in an ethnocentricity that enables him to alternatively ignore Palestinians and justify their forced transfer out of Palestine.

    In order of decreasing importance:

    * He justifies the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

    * His writing is Israel-centric and biased towards Israel.

    * His Mideast world is largely free of Palestinians.

    * He conflates criticism of Israel with ‘anti-semitism’.

    * His narrative is largely that of Israeli hasbara

  • John says:

    Maybe the question needs to be asked, “Why is Freedland working for a paper which includes such a large number of antisemitic readers?”
    Is it because he himself harbours antisemitic sentiments?

  • different frank says:

    I notice the Guardian is not mentioning the antisemitism of Margaret Hodge.

  • Dr Brian Robinson says:


  • Simon Glass says:

    The Guardian also reveals its true colours with the way it uses the word ‘moderate’ to describe Democrat presidential candidates opposed to single payer Medicaid. Such candidates are actually centre right. And the word moderate with its opposition ‘immoderate’ (as which we are thus encouraged to view Sanders) is part of the hegemonic propaganda attempt to control language, and thereby minds. This is part of what Roland Barthes saw as part of the ideological war that goes on at the semiotic level: ‘it is the denoted message [the word ‘moderate’ in this case ] which “naturalises” the system of the connoted message [the centre right anti single payer Medicaid candidates are reasonable, sensible, pleasant, modest, balanced, and all the other positive synonyms for ‘moderate’ that disguise their true politics]

  • Professor Richard Wistreich says:

    Beautifully argued: I can’t fault your reasoning.

  • Dave says:


  • John Wilton says:

    Over 2 weeks ago I wrote to the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews asking that given the greater scale and incidence of antisemitism in the Conservative Party identified by YouGov in their recent study what representations and recommendations those organisations had made to the Tory party concerning how they deal with incidences of, and allegations of, antisemitism amongst their members. I also pointed out that I was somewhat surprised not to have seen in the media greater coverage of any representations they have made to the Tory Party and reporting of their concerns. I received a very bland reply from the Jewish Leadership Council, to which I replied asking for detail of any representations and suggestions they had made to the Tory Party. I have received no further reply. I have received no reply whatsoever from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. That silence and bland response speaks volumes about what all this is really about – that they are not really focused on tackling antisemitism at all, least of all in its greater incidence in the Tory Party. But they are just using it as a vehicle to attack Corbyn and Labour hypocritically!

  • Noel Hamel says:

    I tire of the continual obsession with Labour and anti-Semitism. It seems like arachnophobia – the fuss is out of scale to the size of the spider.
    It might be that a few Labour Party members/activists might be prejudiced about all kinds of things. Israel and Zionism attract a great deal of justifiable anger but the number of people angry with me for being a Jew must be vanishingly small, inside or out of the Labour Party. It is more likely that my criticism of Israel and Zionism will attract anger.
    The Labour Party has and will always be opposed to racism and that is a fact. If anyone were really concerned about racial prejudice then Islamophobia would be a good place to look, and the Conservative Party might be implicated.
    It seems to me that much of the concern expressed and finger-pointing may actually be more about issues other than anti-Semitism, like for example, disagreement about current Labour Party leadership or policy.
    The anti-Semitism debate seems to have snowballed and collected all kinds of by-standers on the way.

  • Sharon Norris says:

    I’m not sure I agree with Noel Hamel’s argument about the problem being disproportionate. I do genuinely believe, sadly, that there is anti-semitism in the Labour Party and an unwelcome conflation of being Jewish, the Israeli state, and Zionism. I have witnessed this first hand and it is fairly prevalent among certain sections of the party, and is one of the reasons why I won’t rejoin. However, I definitely do agree with him re the finger pointing (or at least some of it) actually being about something else. Given the current state that the UK, politics in general, and the Labour Party itself are all in, it could be seen to be dangerous/irresponsible to voice outright criticism of Corbyn and certain LP policies. ‘We all need to stick together in times of strife’, etc. It’s perhaps easier therefore to label some of the problems as being about antisemitism, when another bruising LP leadership battle, or battle re policy at this time would be too high-stakes. I can understand this position, but personally I think Labour needs to address the issue now – as does the Tory Party in relation to Islamophobia in its ranks.

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