CST Blog

My Jewish Optician Might Shoot Me

5 August 2010

It is neither CST’s desire nor role to act as a public relations outlet for Israel.

However, when antisemitism arises, directly, because facts have been deliberately omitted from an anti-Israel article, we will say so.

Today’s Independent provides one very small example of this. In this instance, the anti-Israel criticism, with not a word about Jews, is provided by columnist and comedian, Mark Steel.

 Steel’s article is a disgraceful perversion of a Jerusalem Post interview with Israeli commandoes from the Turkish flotilla clash. Steel claims that Israeli “Sgt S” said the six people he shot “were without a doubt terrorists”. Steel continues

 And he produced evidence to back this up, which was: “I could see the murderous rage in their eyes”.

Steel sarcastically cites this as “the classic definition of a terrorist”, saying that “an optician” is the “key witness in any terrorist trial”.

In fact, the Jerusalem Post article says far more than this: none of it mentioned by Steel. It explains that when “Sgt S” landed on the boat

he was immediately attacked…just like the soldiers who had boarded just before him.

Looking to his side, he saw three of his commanders lying wounded – one with a gunshot wound to the stomach and another with a gunshot wound to the knee. A third was lying unconscious; his skull was fractured by a devastating blow with a metal bar.

The actual quote which Steel distorted to suit his purpose was this

 “When I hit the deck, I was immediately attacked by people with bats, metal pipes and axes,” S. told the Post. “These were without a doubt terrorists. I could see the murderous rage in their eyes and that they were coming to kill us.”

Steel then claims the following 

 According to the Jersusalem Post the IDF told the inquiry that the group on the boat were "well-trained and likely ex-military" because "each squad of the mercenaries was equipped with a Motorola communication device, so they could pass information to one another".

Steel has great fun with this, describing Nokia and Orange as “sinister arms dealers” and saying how Israeli soldiers would kill 3,000 mobile phone users at a rock festival.

However, if you bother to read the Jerusalem Post article, you can read five paragraphs explaining why the Israeli soldiers have depicted those killed as “well-trained and likely ex-military”. Only then, do you come to the detail about the Motorola devices.

The antisemitic outcome of Steel’s hatchet job on the Jerusalem Post article was this comment from Flydlbee on the comments chain that followed the article on the Independent website

 A splendid article.

I will now be frightened to go to my Jewish optician in case he sees terrorism in my eyes and shoots me. Will I be safer if I leave my mobile phone at home?

So, there we have it. The antisemitic impact of anti-Israel “criticism” in miniature: courtesy of the Independent.

You could well argue that Flydlbee’s optician remark is primarily supposed to be funny. Indeed, you could (less easily) make the same argument for Steel’s entire article.

But the optician remark, funny or not, also normalises hatred and suspicion of Jews. In this, it differs from Steel’s article, which, like so much other anti-Israel propaganda is geared to normalise hatred and suspicion of Israel: rather than of Jews.

Funny or not, if Mark Steel and/or the Independent give a damn about lessening their responsibility for such antisemitic outcomes then there is a very simple starting point: reign in the polemics and show a bit more honesty, context and perspective in their coverage of this tragic and apparently ceaseless conflict.

Read More