Com­ment is Free, but can be dan­ger­ous

The Guardian blog gives a pres­ti­gious plat­form to en­e­mies of Is­rael and friends of the BNP

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis - ALEX BRUM­MER

AMONG BRI­TAIN’S news­pa­pers, The Guardian en­joys the lead on the web, al­though it is closely pur­sued by ri­vals. Among the in­trigu­ing fea­tures of the Guardian site is the Com­ment is Free blog, open to all-com­ers, in­clud­ing its own staff, who think they have some­thing sen­si­ble to say.

This is raw opin­ion, of­ten dashed off in a mo­ment of anger or in­sight, with­out the need to go through the painful process of win­ning the sup­port of edi­tors in the print edi­tions. On any sin­gle day there is no short­age of CiF ma­te­rial of Jewish in­ter­est.

Take last Mon­day (April 28). There in all his glory was one of the grandees of Bri­tish Jewry, Gre­ville Janner, with an in­ter­ven­tion on the Lon­don may­oral elec­tions and why it was crit­i­cal that the BNP be de­feated.

He re­called how his late fa­ther, Bar- nett Janner, MP for Whitechapel in the 1930s, had op­posed the black­shirts.

“Anti-Fas­cists — from ar­dent so­cial­ists to Ir­ish Catholics, from honourable free­dom fight­ers to the lo­cal Jewish pop­u­la­tion” joined forces to pre­vent Oswald Mosley and his thugs from march­ing through East Lon­don, Janner writes. His call to arms for Lon­don­ers was to vote “de­cency”.

An­other Jewish leader given a run-out on CiF was Lord Levy, fol­low­ing pub­li­ca­tion of excerpts from his mem­oir in The Mail on Sun­day. Guardian po­lit­i­cal doyen Michael White was not as ex­cited about the MoS dis­clo­sures of Ca­role Caplin’s fre­quent mas­sages for PM Blair. He was more in­ter­ested in the rev­e­la­tions con­cern­ing “Jack (hus­band of Hat­tie) Dromey”, Labour’s trea­surer at the time of cash­for-ques­tions.

White also found it curious that Levy was out of sorts when Gor­don Brown’s “money­bags” Sir Ron­nie Co­hen was moved in to help Levy out.

When it comes to The Guardian, the Mid­dle East is never far away. Is­rael, it turns out, is the third favourite topic in the CiF ar­chive, with 769 ar­ti­cles, against 1,611 for the USA and 858 for Iraq. In­deed, all MidEast en­tries at­tract spe­cial at­ten­tion. A blog on Jimmy Carter’s meet­ing with Ha­mas was cur­rent top of the pops with 176 com­ments. The ma­jor­ity were friendly to the much ma­ligned for­mer Pres­i­dent.

A cur­rently posted CiF on Is­rael-Syr­ian con­tacts on the Golan also aroused pas­sions. Writer Richard Sil­ver­stein sug­gests that Is­rael and Syria have just pre­sented Ge­orge Bush with a golden op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide a legacy for his pres­i­dency. The prob­lem, he ar­gued, is that the two coun­tries are ne­go­ti­at­ing by press re­lease or third par­ties.

On a day when Is­rael was be­ing vil­i­fied in news re­ports for the al­leged killing of a Pales­tinian mother and four chil­dren in the Gaza Strip, there was a more re­as­sur­ing CiF con­tri­bu­tion from Seth Freed­man on a project bring­ing to­gether Is­raeli and Pales­tinian school­child­ren. Freed­man joined the group in the vil­lage of Ein Rafa where the Is­raeli pre-teens vis­ited a mosque. On an­other visit to West Jerusalem, the Mus­lim kids “chat­ted away hap­pily” to their Jewish peers be­fore they en­tered a syn­a­gogue.

In a sim­i­lar peace-lov­ing vein, there was also a piece from a Mus­lim writer, Zi­aud­din Sar­dar, us­ing para­bles from the Old Tes­ta­ment “and there­fore the To­rah to pro­vide il­lus­tra­tions for Mus­lims of the pit­falls of power”.

Much of the ob­jec­tion­able ma­te­rial does not ap­pear in the orig­i­nal post­ings. It is the thread of re­sponses which are the prob­lem. The Guardian seeks to po­lice them for ob­scen­i­ties and racism, but as long as the lan­guage stays within bounds, the en­e­mies of Is­rael and friends of the BNP do have their say un­ob­structed.

Free­dom of speech is a great Bri­tish con­tri­bu­tion to civil­i­sa­tion. But it seems more star­tling on CiF than at Hyde Park Cor­ner.

Alex Brum­mer is City Ed­i­tor of the Daily Mail

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.