Norman Finkelstein argues in extracts from his forthcoming book (G2, July 12 and 13) that Holocaust remembrance has become an exploitative industry used to justify Israel’s policies and that the campaign by Jewish survivors for compensation for assets lost under Nazi occupation and slave labour is directed by gold diggers.
More disturbing is the Guardian’s decision to promote Finkelstein’s views in such a high profile way. We are not among those who obsessively search for media bias. However, it seems to us the Guardian has consistently given a prominent forum to imbalanced and often bigoted views on Jewish issues. In the past four months you have run articles on the trial of Iranian Jews in Shiraz suggesting that pressure from the west – in response to Jewish lobbies – was responsible for the unfair anti-government reporting of the trial. You published a report on the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon that referred to the residents of northern Galilee as “settlers”, setting up a mis guided association between these people and the settlers in the occupied territories. You printed a comment piece by Martin Kettle on Israel’s 52nd anniversary arguing it had been born in original sin through expulsion of Palestinians, and a long review about a celebrated documentary on the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics in which Edward Said ranted against Zionist bias and provided an entirely distorted view of the film.
We are both active supporters of the Israeli peace movement and strongly endorse critical discussion of Israeli policies and Jewish issues. We certainly agree it is appropriate to question the excesses of particular Holocaust groups. But there is a significant difference between critical discussion and a systematic defamatory agenda. We doubt the Guardian would publish long articles by right-wing authors denouncing the “African-American slavery industry”, or the “Armenian genocide remembrance business”. It seems that Jews are fair game for crank provoca tions. We find it remarkable that a newspaper which flatters itself as the voice of progressive liberal opinion in Britain indulges in this bizarrely illiberal practice.
Prof Shalom Lappin
Kings College, London
Dr Colin Shindler
School of Oriental and African Studies
Guardian 13 July 2000