LONDON – The Guardian has moved to defuse a spat after its assistant editor cited West Bank settlements in response to a tweet by the executive editor of The Times, who had questioned why the BBC had not reported his paper’s story last week about a politician who had invoked anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.
Last week, the Labor Party suspended Nazir Ahmed, a member of the House of Lords, for allegedly blaming his prison sentence on the Jews during a television interview in Pakistan.
According to the Times, Ahmed said his sentence, for killing a man in 2009 while texting and driving, was a result of pressure applied on the court by Jews “who own newspapers and television channels.”
In a tweet on Thursday, Times executive editor and lead writer Daniel Finkelstein had asked why BBC Radio had not mentioned the paper’s exclusive story on Ahmed in its news summaries.
Responding to the tweet, Guardian assistant editor Michael White said: “I agree it’s a stinker and typical of double standards. Pity about the illegal settlements though. Best wishes.”
A bemused Finkelstein asked White what the settlements had to do with it, to which White replied: “A lot. Whenever one types ‘double standards’ about tendentious Muslim claims those Israeli settlements start waving too.”
“Please, no. A Rotherham man is claiming the Jews helped convict him of a driving offense. What has Israel to do with it?” Finkelstein said in response.
On Friday, the Guardian told The Jerusalem Post that White’s remarks had been misrepresented and that no offense had been intended.
“[Michael White] sought only, in exchanges with Daniel Finkelstein, to explain why the Times story about Lord Ahmed’s remarks had not been instantly picked up. No offense was intended,” a spokesman for the Guardian News and Media told the Post.
White said that in the absence of a credible translation of the television interview, which was in Urdu, other outlets might have been hesitant to pick up the story.
The assistant editor’s comments sparked fury last week with many questioning the connection to the settlements.
The Community Security Trust – a charity that works with police and government to stem anti-Semitism in the UK, and provides security for the community – condemned the comparison.
“Michael White seems to be alleging that Daniel Finkelstein cares more about Israel than he does about anti-Semitism,” said Mark Gardner, the trust’s communications director.
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said it seemed as if: “Michael White sees Jewish bogeymen everywhere, too.”
Media watchdog organization Comment is Free Watch accused White of “Jew baiting.”