LONDON – A Guardian journalist has apologized after being accused of
anti-Semitism following an article in which she maintained that Israel’s
eagerness to bring home Gilad Schalit was based on a “Zionist” belief that the
lives “of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their
Deborah Orr, a columnist for the Guardian, said
in an article published last week, titled “Is an Israeli life really more
important than a Palestinian’s?”, that the prisoner swap between Hamas and
Israel, which led to the release of Schalit, “tacitly acknowledges acceptance of
that obscene idea.”
“All this, I fear, is simply an indication of how
inured the world has become to the obscene idea that Israeli lives are more
important than Palestinian lives,” Orr said.
“Netanyahu argues that he
acted because he values Schalit’s life so greatly.”
Mark Gardner, from
the Community Security Trust, a London-based organization that monitors
anti-Semitism, said: “Deborah Orr used an old anti-Semitic slur in order to
attack Zionists. It shows how easily these ways of thinking can be adapted for
modern use. But the entire article was extremely stupid and should never
have been published in the first place.”
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
this week, Orr said she was sorry for the words she used.
certainly not anti- Semitic, and don’t want to sound as if I am,” she said. “So
I’m sorry if the form of words I used gave that impression.
however it seems difficult to be critical of the Israeli state without such
accusations being made.”
Explaining what she meant, Orr told The
Jerusalem Post that in her view “Zionists did consider their own ambitions to be
of paramount importance, of greater importance than the views of the people they
wished to displace to form their state.”
She said that the problem goes
back to 1948 when Israelis deemed the creation of a new state of much greater
importance than the claims of another.
“The problems date back to the
enforced ‘exchange’ that was imposed on Palestinians in 1948. Many hundreds of
thousands were compelled to move off the land so that Israel could be created,”
she told the Post.
“From the start, it seems to me, the idea of Israel
was predicated on the idea that the creation of a new state for one group was of
much greater importance than the claims of the non-Jewish among those already
living there… From the start, Palestinian needs were considered less important
than nascent Israeli needs,” she maintained.
Her story, published in the
Guardian on October 19, led to a huge backlash with commentators and bloggers on
both sides of the Atlantic accusing her of using classical anti- Semitic
Comment is Free Watch, a group that monitors the Guardian blog,
said “the anti- Semitic use, and profound distortion, of the idea of
‘chosenness’ – from a passage in the Torah widely understood as a Jewish
requirement to uphold an especially high standard of ethical behavior – has a
long and dark history.
“Indeed the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the most widely distributed anti-Semitic forgery in history – a book still quite popular in the Arab world – is premised partly on the idea of Jews’ ‘chosenness.’”
Writing in the Atlantic, Jeffery Goldberg said: “Chosenness does
not mean ‘exclusive’ or ‘more equal than others.’ It never has, except to
Christians believe they are in possession of the final word
of God, as do Muslims. This belief fosters a feeling of theological superiority.
Does this make Christians and Muslims ‘chosen’ as well? Or is the term
‘chosenness’ only a weapon for use against Jews?”
Jerusalem-based media monitors
Honest Reporting said: “That Deborah Orr is prepared to descend to the depths of
anti- Semitism to claim that Israel is motivated by racism says much about her
own warped values."
"That the Guardian
was prepared to publish such an
obscene commentary merely confirms the publication’s vicious anti- Israel bent.”