How Does the Media Relate to Anti-Semitism?

This opinion piece by HR Managing Editor Simon Plosker is republished from The Times of Israel.

Simon Plosker presents at the Global Forum

During the 4th International Conference of the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, which has been taking place this week in Jerusalem, I was asked to give a short presentation to the Working Group on Anti-Semitism on the Internet and in the Media.

HonestReporting’s primary brief is to deal with anti-Israel media bias. Clearly not all criticism of Israel is illegitimate even if we sometimes may not like what our critics have to say.

News breaks fast. Get HonestReporting alerts by e-mail
and never miss a thing.

Free Sign Up

As the criticism has moved into areas of delegitimisation and demonization, so the boundaries of acceptable discourse have also shifted and, with it, we have increasingly witnessed the appearance of anti-Semitism in the mainstream media.

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck. And for most Jews they know anti-Semitism when they see it. Arguably, however, one of the problems of contemporary anti-Semitism is the failure of the Jewish people to collectively define and codify what it is. Today there exists the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) Working Definition of Anti-Semitism that also includes a section outlining where criticism of Israel could be construed as anti-Semitic.

But this Working Definition, created in 2004, is clearly not referred to by the mainstream media and in the absence of any other codified definition accepted by a body as large and credible as the European Union, it’s the best there is at this time.

Anti-Semitism is a serious charge and throwing that accusation against a media outlet or an individual journalist or cartoonist should not be taken lightly.

And herein lies the problem. In the past, the anti-Semitism of a hate sheet such as the Nazi Der Sturmer was clear-cut. In the present, the disgusting incitement and Jew hatred so common in so much of the Arab media is also blatant (yet still brushed under the carpet by Western politicians and media).

It goes without saying that no Western mainstream media outlet is going to openly declare itself to be proudly anti-Semitic and any newspaper or individual judged to hold such beliefs would find themselves out in the cold.

I would argue, however, that many media outlets are either unwilling or incapable of recognizing anti-Semitic tropes, particularly when it comes to the treatment of Israel.

A recent case study that I noted at the Global Forum was that of the grotesque Sunday Times cartoon by Gerald Scarfe that depicted Israeli PM Netanyahu building a wall on the bodies of Palestinians using blood for the mortar.

The cartoon screamed “blood libel” to many of us. The initial reaction of the Sunday Times was…

This article is continued on Page 2