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Editorial Article

Ben Gurion University - David Newman (Dept of Political Science) Collaborates in Production of anti-Semitic Documentary; defends it as "Legitimate Journalism"

So Newman is remorseful, not necessarily because of what he said, but rather because of the outrage he caused. He was petrified by people's reactions and he freaked out. He ran all the way to the Post to clear his tarnished image as an Israeli scholar who appears to be giving his name to a conspiracy theory that could easily fit inside the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But Channel 4 was quick to refute his righteousness and its spokesman issued a statement saying: “We are absolutely clear that David Newman understood the subject matter of the film before being interviewed by Peter Oborne.” … The programme … [gave] the impression that Jewish donors are profiteering from the "occupation" in exchange for their financial generosity to political parties. … The truth was that, like David Newman, Oborne was “shocked” by some of the comments made after Dispatches was aired. What shocked him and caused his outrage was not the programme’s anti-Semitism, however, but rather the charges of anti-Semitism made against the programme, Newman defended the programme as legitimate journalism. … So what did the veteran Channel 4 investigative reporter do? He fabricated a mountain of rumors and speculations, and then admitted, after the act, that they have no substance. … Newman also suddenly "saw the light" after the broadcast, saying the program "wasn’t balanced in the context of the Middle East and didn’t explain that lobbying is a legitimate part of the political process.” But he did enormous damage, not only to Israel, but also to the Anglo-Jewish community of which he was once a member. He lent his name as a prominent Israeli academic to baseless anti-Semitic allegations that accuse perfectly normal political activities as a sinister cabal orchestrated from Jerusalem against the British people.

 

The Protocols are Alive and Kicking

UK’s Channel 4 produced a repulsive program about the so-called “Israel Lobby,” which heavily promoted the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews with money manipulating the political British system. Inevitably two Israeli academics collaborated with the film makers. One of them, a leftist from Ben Gurion University was quick to express regret, not before he was flooded with furious protests.

Alon Ben Shaul
20/12/2009

The following is a list of recent anti-Israel policies imposed by the British government: It instructs supermarkets to label products that originate in the West Bank; it denounces the Gaza operation, it imposes partial arms embargo on the Israeli Navy, it finances the group "Breaking the Silence,” it failed to vote against the Goldstone report and it is in the process of negotiating with Hezbollah and flirting with Hamas. Its legal system is hunting Israeli politicians and military officers and trying to trying to subject them to kangaroo courts. Now to top it up, the new British European foreign minister declares that East Jerusalem is an “occupied city,” unlike Belfast and Edinburgh.

However, an hour long British television programme, called Dispatches, which was aired in November on Channel 4, claims that the British government is staunchly pro-Israeli and the reason for that is simple - Jewish money.

These repulsive allegations were assisted by two Israeli academics who were interviewed as fig leaves by the documentary makers. One of them, Avi Shlaim of Oxford is certainly no stranger to readers of IsraCampus.Org.il. In recent years Shlaim became the darling of the Anti-Zionist loony left in his adopted country, writing for the notorious Guardian, appearing on public panels advocating so-called “one-state solution,” in which Israel is erased, and supporting the notion that Israel endangers Diaspora Jews. A few months ago Robert Fisk, the Beirut-based anti-Israeli veteran journalist, devoted an embarrassingly sycophantic article to Shlaim in the Independent, praising his anti-Zionist credentials. The same Shlaim lamented the Balfour Declaration that led to Israel’s creation in his book on King Hussein and has strongly sided with Norman Finklestein, the American collaborator with Hezbollah, whose entry to Israel was barred last year on grounds that he is a terrorist agent.

The other talking head was the British-born David Newman, a lecturer of political science at Ben Gurion University. But - surprise surprise - after the transmission of the program, Newman admitted he made a mistake in taking part in that circus. In an article for the Jerusalem Post, Dr Newman revealed that his appearance had prompted “some of the most fiery invective I have ever received, nearly all of it from the UK.” One Jewish philanthropist in London, he wrote, "had branded me a traitorous anti-Semitic Jew, cursed me and expressed his hope that I perish. Someone from Brooklyn hoped that I and my family would be the next to be blown up by a suicide bomber."

Having watched the programme online, he felt now that he had “mistakenly” participated in it," citing the fact that the interview and the images were highly selective and that any form of balance or counter-argument was clearly missing. “It was clear that the programme had presented its topic in such a way as to insinuate that the UK Jewish community acted in covert and illegitimate ways, using its influence and its money to put pressure on British politicians, government officials and media outlets,” he confessed.

Newman, who has represented Israeli universities in the UK over the past two years, is a senior academic. He told the Jewish Chronicle that he had understood from the programme-makers that they were producing a documentary about West Bank settlements. Don’t laugh. He is serious. He even added, in his defense, that during the interview with him, he had said that the BBC and the Guardian’s coverage of Israel were imbalanced, but these remarks had not been included in the broadcast.

So Newman is remorseful, not necessarily because of what he said, but rather because of the outrage he caused. He was petrified by people's reactions and he freaked out. He ran all the way to the Post to clear his tarnished image as an Israeli scholar who appears to be giving his name to a conspiracy theory that could easily fit inside the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

But Channel 4 was quick to refute his righteousness and its spokesman issued a statement saying: “We are absolutely clear that David Newman understood the subject matter of the film before being interviewed by Peter Oborne. As is often the case with contributor interviews, the final edit did not include everything that he said but we are confident that what was included was a fair and accurate representation of the interview.”

Israel = Iran

Oborne? Well, the journalist who made this disgraceful documentary is well known for his anti-Israeli views. Last summer he wrote an article in the Daily Mail, accusing the Conservative Party leader David Cameron of hypocrisy for criticizing Iran, which was shooting people in the streets of Tehran, while turning a blind eye to "Israeli atrocities" in Gaza. Newman knows Britain inside out and should have known what was expected from a creature such as Oborne in advance. Oborne distorted the events in Gaza in his Dispatches. He denounced Cameron for complementing the IDF during its operation in Gaza, when the latter stating that IDF soldiers did their utmost to save civilian life. This was during his annual speech to the party's Israeli supporters in London.

Oborne found a simple explanation for that display of "sympathy" with the evil Israelis amongst the Tories – Jewish money. He is obsessed with Jewish money. Without providing a shred of evidence and without substantiating figures, he claimed that Israel is influencing British policy in the Middle East through the deep pockets of its London-based millionaires. As one observer put it: "It was an hour of innuendo about ‘pro-Israeli’ moneybags controlling the Conservative and Labor Parties; ‘pro-Israeli’ intimidation of British media; premeditated ‘pro-Israeli’ abuse of anti-Semitism; and sinister music accompanying photos of ‘pro-Israelis’ blurred across Israeli and British flags."

Oborne claimed that by funding the Party to the tune of 10 million pounds in the last eight years, the Jewish lobbyists managed to shift its policy on Israel. This allegation proved to be baseless. He also targeted organizations that take MP's on fact-finding missions to Israel, and even criticized the BBC for bowing to pressure from the Israeli lobby.

The BBC? Even its own managerial trust established that on a few occasions in the past its journalists were impartial in favor of the Arabs. Oborne denounced it as in the pocketbook of Israel, thanks to its refusal to broadcast a Palestinian charity appeal after operation “Cast Lead”, but he failed to acknowledge the real reason for that. The BBC was reluctant to air it because of domestic guidelines which included the fact that the clip in question was not shot by its staff. This, of course, was ignored by the "documentarist" who was assisted by these two learned Israeli academics.

And look who else was on this program! Alan Rasbridger, the editor of the Guardian, who wrote during the "Second Intifada" a lead article in which he compared the atrocities of 9/11 to the alleged "massacre" that the IDF had committed in Jenin in 2003. (No such massacre ever took place.) Next to him was David Goldberg, the Liberal Rabbi who does not miss an opportunity to castigate Israel. Even his London synagogue went to the trouble to denounce him, issuing a press release distancing the congregation from his rant.

The programme also targeted Bicom, the pro-Israeli media group and its chairman Poju Zabludowicz, claiming he has interests in a shopping centre in the Israeli “settlement” of Ma’aleh Adumim. (Never mind that it is really a Jerusalem suburb.) The camera focused on his house in London, giving the impression that Jewish donors are profiteering from the "occupation" in exchange for their financial generosity to political parties.

The Zionist Cabal

Soon after this "documentary" was transmitted, the British fascist anti-Semitic party, the BNP, raised its ugly head. The websites of this extremist British racist right wing party was full of anti-Jewish bigotry. The party insists that Britain is controlled by “other powers,” and had a field day.

Even the usually mild Jewish community leadership was horrified. They reacted angrily by stating that "despite the assertions that the programme would not create anti-Semitism, it succeeded in eliciting an onslaught of hateful comments on the internet, and an endorsement from the BNP.” Prof Eric Moonman, president of the Zionist Federation, referred to in the broadcast as part of the pro-Israel lobby, said he would be writing to Channel 4 to ask whether it is making a film about lobbying of the British government on behalf of Arab governments.

Zionist Federation co-Vice Chairman Jonathan Hoffman denounced the program, claiming: “The lack of substance was amply demonstrated by the people who were prepared to go ‘on the record’ – namely the usual as-a-Jew suspects accompanied by representatives of the Guardian, the (ex) BBC and the Foreign Office.”

Melanie Phillips, who wrote a response to the programme in The Spectator, said: “After watching Peter Oborne's ‘Dispatches’ programme on the power of the Israel lobby in Britain, the scales have fallen from my eyes. I now see things in an entirely different light. I now realize that the power of this unique cabal is so vast and unprecedented in its truly demonic power – a power given to no other lobby – that both the Labor government and Tory opposition slavishly and unquestioningly support Israel’s military actions and that the Guardian and the BBC have found themselves totally unable to publish or transmit anything other than wholehearted support for Israel.”

Stuart Polak, Director of Conservatives Friends of Israel said: "It is fictitious, misleading and damaging to the reputation of CFI and its supporters. CFI as an organization has donated only £30,000 since 2005. Each of these donations has been made transparently and publicly registered. In addition to this £30,000, it is undoubtedly the case that some of our supporters have also chosen, separately, to donate to the party as individuals."

The CST, the organization in charge of the community's security, said comments on the Dispatches website justified its fears that the language used in promoting the programme was “unwittingly playing up to anti-Semitic stereotypes.” The CST pointed to four examples:

“Good. We want our country back. The agents of a foreign power embedded at all levels of our government and politics need flushing out. They are a menace to our foreign policy, security and reputation abroad...”

“This is remarkable. We have tried for years to have this shadowy support mechanism for Israel exposed... It isn’t just the media and MPs this monster controls, it also has a mechanism to attack any individuals who oppose Israel, in any way.”

“Let’s see the hand of global Zionism at work. Please do keep and show ALL the information and don’t fall for the old accusations of racism when doing programmes like this, to mar any unpleasant truths that may be found.”

“It is disgraceful that C4 is intending to expose the pro-Israel lobby. Surely it is a signatory to the “National Press and TV Zionist Agreement,” which stipulates in paragraph one: ‘Thou shalt not print nor broadcast any reference to the undemocratic control by the agents of Israel over the House of Commons and/or the House of Lords.’”

Much ado about nothing

But the irony is that after all these allegations Mr. Oborne was forced to admit that the program had not found "anything faintly resembling a conspiracy.” So what was all the fuss about? Well, he said, "there was some lack of transparency in some of the organizations we investigated.”

The truth was that, like David Newman, Oborne was “shocked” by some of the comments made after Dispatches was aired. What shocked him and caused his outrage was not the programme’s anti-Semitism, however, but rather the charges of anti-Semitism made against the programme, Newman defended the programme as legitimate journalism. But he added that he had been horrified by some of the attacks on Jews that had been circulating in response to the programme.

He explained: “Certain comments on websites have been anti-Semitic and horrible. One of the vindications of the programme is that it dispelled any notion of a conspiracy. The whole point is that it is a legal, innocent, legitimate lobby that should be more transparent. Those who have reached anti-Semitic conclusions are disgusting.”

So what, in the end, did the veteran Channel 4 investigative reporter do? He fabricated a mountain of rumors and speculations, and then admitted, after the act, that they have no substance. After an hour of unfortunate imagery and unfounded suggestions that UK supporters of Israel conspire to influence Parliament and the media utilizing financial leverage, Dispatches finally admitted that this is not the case. How comforting. Alas, the damage has been done and the admission was a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Newman also suddenly "saw the light" after the broadcast, saying the program "wasn’t balanced in the context of the Middle East and didn’t explain that lobbying is a legitimate part of the political process.” But he did enormous damage, not only to Israel, but also to the Anglo-Jewish community of which he was once a member. He lent his name as a prominent Israeli academic to baseless anti-Semitic allegations that accuse perfectly normal political activities as a sinister cabal orchestrated from Jerusalem against the British people.

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Op-Ed articles appearing on IsraCampus.Org.il are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinion of IsraCampus.Org.il