The Islamophobic Chronicle – The War on Gaza and the Weaponization of Antisemitism

The Jewish Chronicle began to target Palestinian and Muslim students for their solidarity with Gaza. (Image: screen grabs, Palestine Chronicle)

By Ilan Pappe – The Palestine Chronicle  

If you think that accusing British Muslims of being terrorists, supposedly in the service of Hamas, only started after October 7, then you are wrong.

In recent weeks, the London-based weekly newspaper The Jewish Chronicle (JC) began to target Palestinian and Muslim students for their solidarity with the victims of the Israeli genocide in the Gaza Strip.

This campaign included a particularly vicious assault on our students and staff at the University of Exeter, which has relatively a large number of Palestinian students.

As British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for extra vigilant policies against extremism and racism, he should have begun with the long Islamophobic tradition of JC.

This paper, and quite a few other right-wing and pro-Zionist press, tend to target Arab and Muslim activists accusing them of antisemitism.

In the case of our university, some of those defamed were young women who probably were deemed vulnerable enough to be affected by a toxic campaign of misinformation and slander.

If you think that accusing British Muslims of being terrorists, supposedly in the service of Hamas, only started after October 7, then you are wrong.

In 2018, a report by the Muslim Council of Britain exposed the JC as the most Islamophobic publication in Britain. A year later, the JC reacted through an article by Melany Philips that claimed that Islamophobia was a bogus term and an anti-Jewish one.

Since November 2022, the JC has shown loyalty to the extremist government which was elected in Israel, parroting Netanyahu’s false equation between Islam, terrorism and antisemitism. This equation is called by Israel the ‘new antisemitism’. It includes anyone daring to criticize Israel and its policies.

With a front organization calling itself ‘Muslims against Antisemitism’, JC gave space for superficial and one dimensional representation of Islam in general, and its attitude towards Jews in particular.

The election of a Muslim as a leader of the Scottish National Party in March 2023, and hence as the first minister of Scotland (akin to the position of the prime minister) immediately triggered accusations by the JC, totally unfounded, of his connection to Hamas.

There was another dimension to JC’s Islamophobia, which came to life when the newspaper covered the world football tournament in Qatar in November 2022.

The whole event was described, by JC, as influenced by Iran. Tehran, here seen as an epitomization of Islam, was constantly referred to as a country that seeks to kill Jews wherever they are and wipe out the state of Israel.

JC supposed explanations, to its readers, of what Islam is, borders, almost always, on Islamophobia.

On April 20, 2023, as it did many times before, the JC returned to its favorite fable about Islam. This time, they emphasized a reference to the battle of Khaybar which was made by a small minority of protesters who took part in the marches of solidarity with Palestine.

“The Khaybar chant refers to a massacre of Jews by a Muslim army at the seventh-century battle of Khaybar in Arabia,” the JC reported.

To begin with, there was no massacre of Jews in Khaybar, but there was a battle between a Muslim army, led by the prophet Muhammad, and the Jews of Khaybar.

The Jews were defeated but were allowed to stay in Khaybar, provided they paid an annual tribute to the Muslim state in the city of Medina.

The JC reference confuses – intentionally or just out of incompetence – the events at Khaybar, which took place in 628 C.E., with another event, which took place the year before, and allegedly saw the Jewish Banu Qurayza tribe “punished for their treachery.”

Aside from this, the reference does not begin to capture the non-religious and diverse basis of the pro-Palestine movement, which was able to take out one million people to the streets of London in a show of support with Gaza.

These activists are not there because of Khaybar. They are there because the state of Israel, which JC supports unconditionally, is systematically and incrementally destroying Palestine and the Palestinian people.

This is why, as a Jew born In Israel, I am among the demonstrators alongside people of all religious persuasions.

Accusations of unethical reporting against JC were not just made by those defamed by the newspaper.

The Independent Press Standard Organisation (IPSO), the regulator in the UK of the printed press, also shared this concern.

In fact, the JC came under heavy scrutiny many times. In particular its present editor, Jake Wallis Simons, was investigated under the IPSO editors’ code. IPSO found that, in some of the cases I mentioned above, the JC breached the editor’s code by repeatedly publishing false and inaccurate information – very often about pro-Palestinian activists and organizations.

Those who appealed to IPSO, however, were quite often disappointed. The actions undertaken by the official watchdog were deemed as a slight slap on the wrist, and

did not deter the JC or forced it to change its attitudes in any way.

One relatively successful appeal was made by Audrey White, a Labour activist from Liverpool and a supporter of former leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

White and friends have complained to IPSO about a typical JC defamatory article in which she was accused of being an antisemite for supporting the Palestinians.

IPSO found ten code breeches by the JC in that report. The JC had no choice but to apologize publicly as well as to agree to pay her a sum in damages plus her legal costs. Later, White confirmed that it was an undisclosed but substantial sum.

Setbacks like this, however, did not deter the JC. One recent example of the typical fusion of Islamophobia with distorted factual reportage is a story led by the editor himself, Wallis Simons.

Wallis Simons covered an event near Bethlehem, presenting it as a proof of the anti-Christian nature of Islam. Needless to say, the JC as a rule never showed any compassion towards the oppression of the Palestinian Christians by Israel.

Simons described the incident in a tweet, which he later deleted, as “Palestinian Muslims launch Ramadan attack on the Church of the Annunciation in Beit Jala near Bethlehem”.

The truth is, there was actually no Muslim attack.  The incident was merely a spill over from a dispute which started at a nearby restaurant.

The ruthlessness of Israel’s action on the ground in Gaza has already prodded some of the newspaper’s traditional allies to reconsider their unconditional support.

It is time for the Anglo Jewish community to go back to the basic values of humanity and compassion, which used to be the backbone of its value system and morality.

– Ilan Pappé is a professor at the University of Exeter. He was formerly a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa. He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, The Modern Middle East, A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, and Ten Myths about Israel. He is the co-editor, with Ramzy Baroud of ‘Our Vision for Liberation.’ Pappé is described as one of Israel’s ‘New Historians’ who, since the release of pertinent British and Israeli government documents in the early 1980s, have been rewriting the history of Israel’s creation in 1948. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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