The Independent has claimed that it was perfectly acceptable for one of its most senior correspondents to suggest that American Jewish diplomats cannot be trusted to be even-handed in discussions with the Palestinians.
Mr Fisk, who has been The Independent’s controversial Beirut-based Middle East correspondent since 1989, suggested in an opinion piece on 11th January that it was relevant to discuss the fact that peace envoys sent by the United States to negotiate with Israel and the Palestinians have often been Jewish, and that might impact their performance.
Mr Fisk wrote: “There was a time when we all went along with the myth that American peacemaking in the Middle East was even-handed, neutral, uninfluenced by the religion or political background or business activities of the peacemakers. Even when, during the Clinton administration, the four principle US ‘peacemakers’ were all Jewish Americans – their lead negotiator, Dennis Ross, a former prominent staff member of the most powerful Israeli lobby group, Aipac (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) – the Western press scarcely mentioned this.”
Whilst Mr Fisk is very welcome to remark on the personal politics of any of the United States’ envoys, he absolutely should not remark on their religion, according at least to The Independent’s Code of Conduct which states: “Care should be taken not to discriminate against people on the basis of, for instance, their sexual orientation, religion or race (or by virtue of an illness or disability). This means avoiding pejorative references to those aspects of their lives; but it also means not referring to them at all unless relevant to story.”
Though Israel is the Jewish State, that surely cannot mean that nations will be subjected to adverse scrutiny if some of the diplomats whom they dispatch there are Jewish. Indeed the only plausible explanation for Mr Fisk’s reference to the Jewish envoys’ religion would appear to be that he considers it unlikely that Jewish envoys could really be “even-handed [and] neutral”. That would seem to amount to a charge of dual loyalty by suggesting that Jewish envoys are more loyal to the interests of Israel than of the government of the United States which they serve.
In the words of the International Definition of Antisemitism, “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations” is antisemitic.
It is therefore with consternation that we learned from UK Media Watch that its complaint to The Independent’s Deputy Managing Editor, Will Gore, had been rejected.
Unlike most publications in Britain, which submit to the oversight of organisations such as the Independent Press Standards Organisation, The Independent regulates itself and judges complaints made against it. That means that if the newspaper decides to do nothing about Mr Fisk’s article, only the Managing Editor can overturn the decision.
Campaign Against Antisemitism has seen that pressure can work. Last year, two months after publishing a claim that we were stifling criticism of Israel rather than acting against genuine Jew-hatred, The Independent bowed to pressure and published a letter from Campaign Against Antisemitism addressing the smear.
Public pressure may work again now. Please consider writing about this to The Independent’s Group Managing Editor, Doug Wills at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy in email@example.com so that we can see how you get along.
Campaign Against Antisemitism will be submitting a complaint of our own to supplement the rejected complaint from UK Media Watch. We are grateful to UK Media Watch for bringing this matter to our attention.