Deborah Orr’s obscene abuse of the concept of the “chosen people” in a Guardian commentary deriding Israel’s efforts to bring back Gilad Shalit as motivated by Jewish racism rightly upset many people.
Such language is regularly employed by anti-Semites to falsely assert that Jews claim to be superior to non-Jews not only in a theological sense but also in a racial one and it was no surprise that Orr found herself in the eye of a storm of criticism.
This and the deluge of emails from HonestReporting subscribers and other concerned parties to The Guardian has had some effect. The October 27 print edition contains a response from none other than Deborah Orr herself:
Last week, I upset a lot of people by suggesting Zionists saw themselves as “chosen”. My words were badly chosen and poorly used, and I’m sorry for it. But accusations of antisemitism have also been intemperate. One can accept the right of Israel to exist, while still believing that the manner in which the nation was created – against the wishes of many of the people already living there, hundreds of thousands of whom became refugees – was problematic and made a contribution to Israel’s subsequent and terrible troubles. (This, in turn, does not imply that the violence against Israel has been either justified or deserved. It has done the Palestinian cause much damage, and rightly so.)
Nevertheless, it would be absurd to believe that Jewish people are any more or less capable of making geo-political miscalculations than anybody else, or any more or less likely to be called to account for them. Evidence from every corner of the world, throughout the ages, attests to the fact that such behaviour is all too typical of humans, as is reluctance to accept that such actions are bound to have their critics.
Deborah Orr’s response is revealing. Does she even know what she has been accused of?
Addressing charges of anti-Semitism, she says that “one can accept the right of Israel to exist.” Orr’s use of the third person leaves us wondering whether or not she does actually does accept Israel’s right to exist. In any case, this was never the issue and it is incredibly disturbing that Orr’s best defense against the charges against her is to concede that Israel may have the right to exist as if this lame concession should immunize her against the criticism she is facing.
Orr offers the sort of explanation given by those who accuse Israel and Jews of “playing the anti-Semitism card” to shut down debate over Israel’s policies. Indeed, it is legitimate to criticize Israel and not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. But Orr went beyond legitimate criticism and attributed Israeli policies to some racist characteristic of Jewish people themselves.
That she concludes by saying that Jews and others are reluctant to accept that their actions are bound to have their critics shows that Orr is addressing not her disgusting usage and abuse of the “chosen” concept but the very fact that she was criticized at all.
In the final analysis, Orr is clearly not sorry for what she said but how she said it. It’s certainly not an apology but a confirmation that Deborah Orr is one nasty piece of work.
Deborah Orr’s mealy-mouthed “apology” is unacceptable. Keep those emails coming to The Guardian by sending your considered comments to – firstname.lastname@example.org