Independent: Rankin’s snapshot of antisemitism today

13 Feb 2014 by CST

Today's Independent carries an interview with celebrity photographer, Rankin. He inadvertently provides a brilliant snapshot of the paradox that underpins so much of today's antisemitism.

Rankin speaks as “a humanitarian”, so presumably is no antisemite. Nevertheless, he repeats antisemitic conspiracy theory. That is the snapshot. It shows how modern (and old) antisemitism is about conspiracy theory, rather than race theory. As so often, the focus is against American Jews.

This is what it boils down to:

Jewish zealots...so powerful...kind of extreme Judaism...They will blacklist you...pro-Palestinian? F**king forget it...

Single names tend to denote Brazilian footballers, famous dead Russians, or really cool people - Rankin is the latter, a leading British photographer of fashionistas and luvvies.

Entitled "Rankin and a new take on why Scarlett quit Oxfam", the Independentarticle by Jenn Selby quotes him as saying that Scarlett Johansson chose the Israeli company SodaStream over Oxfam because:

in America, the Jewish zealots are so powerful. Especially in the entertainment industry...what they could do to her career

Selby interviewed Rankin at length. In her article, she writes of his concerns, because apparently "the power of a far right pro-Israel lobby within the US makes it increasingly tough for creative artists to take the ethical high ground in favour of Palestinians".

Actually, nowhere is Rankin actually quoted as saying "far right pro-Israel". This appears to be Selby's paraphrasing or interpretation of his remarks. Did the Independent notice this? Did Selby? It all shows how permeable the boundaries are. Rankin is also quoted as saying:

The main problem for me in all this is that kind of extreme Judaism.

What is this "kind of extreme Judaism"? He continues:

That extreme belief that this [ie Israel / Palestine] is their homeland and those people [ie Palestinians] are worthless to them. That's very powerful in America. They will blacklist you. Its worse than McCarthyism. Are you pro-Palestinian? Forget it?

(The website version goes further than the print version, quoting, "You are pro-Palestinian? F**king forget it".)

Of course, we can presume that Rankin is no antisemite. He tells us he is "fascinated from a humanitarian perspective" and is "just about human beings". Nevertheless, here he is aping the blatant antisemitic smear about Jews running the media and Hollywood. It is all so typical of what Brendan O'Neill recently described as:

not a resurrection of old, explicitly racial fears of the Jews, but rather the mainstreaming of the [antisemitic] conspiratorial imagination

The antisemitic conspiratorial imagination is amplified by Rankin's explanation of how this all supposedly works:

People have said to me that if you go to Palestine you will be put on a list and it doesn't matter if you're a humanitarian. You will be put on a list...I'm just about human beings.

Note the opener, "people have said to me...You will be put on a list". And that is the conspiracy done.

Like all good photographers, Rankin has captured the essence of things.

Rankin names nobody. Not Steven Spielberg, not Aaron Sorkin and certainly not Woody Allen. Had he done so, perhaps the Independent's lawyers would have stepped in on libel grounds. Instead, we can join the dots:

Jewish zealots...so powerful...kind of extreme Judaism...They will blacklist you...pro-Palestinian? F**king forget it...You will be put on a list.

Finally, it is deeply depressing to see this in the Independent. Any newspaper that regularly publishes Howard Jacobson's stunning deconstructions and analyses of antisemitism cannot be simply dismissed as unknowing, far less as antisemitic. Similarly, its recent articles on French antisemite Dieudonne have been amongst the most impressive of any UK media outlet...and yet, it still photoshopped and published this repellent snapshot.


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