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 unfortunate neighbors.”

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.

“First, I’m 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.

Often, 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 motifs.

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 anti-Semites.

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.”

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