Aaronovitch, Miliband, and Me

David Aaronovitch, The Times and Jewish Chronicle pundit, doesn’t learn the lesson. We are not exactly on equal footings and we don’t see eye to eye. Though we happen to fling mud at each other, it seems that what I point out about him sticks, some of it permanently. His invective against me, on the other hand, blossoms into kudos. Aaronovitch fails to realise that within the discourse with which I am engaged with, attacks from Zionists are interpreted as moral credentials.

Five years ago when I was subject to Aaronovitch’s vitriol for the first time, a friend in the media called to congratulate me. “To be slagged off by Aaronovitch” he said, “is almost as great as being smeared by Benjamin Netanyahu”. I was naive then, I didn’t know much about Aaronovitch, but as soon as I learned who he was, I realised that with his Zionist apologist record, his Islmophobic ranting and support of the Iraq war, the man would be best advised to seek shelter rather than attract attention.

Since then, I debated Aaronovitch at the Oxford Literary Festival. We were sharing a platform with Nick Cohen, another Jewish Chronicle writer. We were supposed to discuss the rise of anti-Semitism. Sadly enough, Aaronovitch didn’t do his homework. Rather than discuss the subject, he decided to turn my favourite quotes into a short theatrical play starring himself. This play made it into a film soon after.

When my time to talk arrived, I pointed my finger at the two most enthusiastic supporters of the illegal war in Iraq within the British press: Cohen and Aaronovitch. All I had to add was very little. My argument was actually succinct: “With these two Jewish Chronicle writers supporting a criminal war at the midst of British press”, I said, “a possible rise of anti-Semitism should never take us by surprise”.

Aaronovitch lost his temper on the spot. When the audience applauded me cheerfully, he started to shout at the crowd, he blamed members of the Oxford audience for being anti-Semitic. After the event he was fast to run away in shame.

However, it didn’t take too long before we realised that Aaronovitch has another claim to fame. He is also listed as an Israeli Hasbara (propaganda, Hebrew) Author, without a doubt a very respectable title as far as his Jewish Chronicle fan base is concerned.

A necessary question was raised immediately. Considering the fact that the Iraq war is seen by many as an Israeli war fought by British and Americans, was the public support of an illegal war by a listed ‘Hasbara Author’ a mere coincidence? Aaronovitch has had plenty of time to remove his name from the Hasbara list, he could also publish a disclaimer, but he hasn’t. The news started to spread.

Seemingly, this eventually started to bother him. I have learned from the Jewish Chronicle this week that Aaronovitch found 2,000 references to himself and “Hasbara” online, and just about every one of them come from cross-postings of two articles by horrid me, an “old, anti-Jewish friend, the jazz-playing loony, Gilad Atzmon”.

It was interesting but not surprising that Aaronovitch decided to share his ordeal with his Jewish Chronicle readers. Aaronovitch also writes for The Times. One may wonder why the supporter of the war in Iraq and apologist for Israeli politics didn’t share his misery with his dedicated conservative Times readers. I guess that even Aaronovitch is clever enough to realise that his crowd in The Times may not approve of the fact that a leading interventionist may also be an apostle for Israeli propaganda.

However, it is almost incredible to find out what Aaronovitch has to say in his defence. ‘Nothing’ is the answer. Aaronovitch doesn’t have any explanation to offer. In fact he shouldn’t. He is a pro-war hawk whether it is Iraq or Iran, he also lent his voice to defend the Zionist crime in Gaza. He claims to combat anti-Semitism and this is exactly what Israeli Hasbara is all about. The Israeli propaganda site describes itself as “disseminating truth about Israel and the Jewish people”. I do not know what Jewish truth may mean, but I do know what the disseminating of kosher ideology stands for; Aaronovitch fits in nicely,

I learned from Aaronovitch today that the Independent apologised to him in respect to something they wrote about his affiliation with Hasbara. I logged on to the Independent site to see what this was all about. “We wrongly stated that David Aaronovitch was a member of the Hasbara committee, an organisation that seeks to promote Israel’s reputation”. I was very happy for Aaronovitch, I may admit. However, I have never thought that Aaronovitch was a Hasbara committee member. He was just listed as an Hasbara author and still is. “In fact”, says the Independent, “he is not connected to Hasbara at all”. This is slightly confusing but the Independent tries to clarify. “We now understand that the Hasbara website describes individuals as a ‘Hasbara author’ merely because Hasbara themselves have referred to these individuals’ work on their site”. Fine, I thought to myself, this could resolve the entire issue. I then logged to the Israeli Propaganda site that contains a search window. I learned immediately that this wasn’t the case. Aaronovitch doesn’t have any article or entry on the site except the list. The Independent either failed to properly investigate the situation or were misled. The Independent concludes that “the authors may have no knowledge of this or any connection to Hasbara, as was the case here”. Obviously, this is not the case, Aaronovitch is aware that he has been listed as an Hasbara author for some time, yet failed to publish a disclaimer.

However, in his Jewish Chronicle piece Aaronovitch makes an attempt to tone down the importance of him being listed as an Israeli propaganda author by an Israeli state official site. ‘I am not alone’, says he, ‘there are many others’. He then brings to our attention very juicy and interesting list of celebrities who, like himself ended up listed as Israeli Propaganda authors:.

Christopher Hitchens who supports interventionism and Neoconservatism is listed as an Israeli Hasbara Author.

Jonathan Freedland a devoted fighter against anti Semitism is listed as an Israeli Hasbara Author.

Melanie Phillips the woman behind Londonistan is listed as an Israeli Hasbara Author.

Richard Littlejohn the man who addresses UK’s anti semitsm is listed as an Israeli Hasbara Author.

Michael Gove a Conservative Friend of Israel is listed as an Israeli Hasbara Author.

David Miliband who knows how to make friends with Israel and how to appease Tzipi Livni when concerned of a British arrest warrant against her for war crime, is listed as an Israeli Hasbara Author.

Salman Rushdie who, according to the Jewish Journal, is a “Pro-Israel Muslim” is listed as an Israeli Hasbara Author.

Jackie Mason who calls himself the Ultimate Jew is listed as an Israeli Hasbara Author.

The BBC is also on the list, unsurprisingly considering its submissive surrender to IDF orders not to enter during operation Cast Lead not even when it was clear that the IDF operation was nothing but a massacre. Similarly the BBC’s refusal to broadcast the Gaza appeal revealed where the BBC stands in the conflict.

So far, none of the names and institutions provided by Aaronovitch come as a big surprise to anyone involved in the discourse. All the people and institutions above have been engaged in one way or another in “disseminating” something that may be regarded as ‘truth’ by one Israeli Hasbara official or another.

I am pretty sure that it must be pretty easy for one to remove one’s name from the list or to publish a disclaimer to diffuse that heavy cloud of, what is commonly referred to as ‘a conflict of interests’.

I wonder whether David Miliband is aware of himself being listed as an Israeli Hasbarah Author. I would assume that if the foreign minister insists to contribute to British politics in the future, he would like to make sure that his name is removed from the list. As long as he fails to do it, each of his decisions and statements should be interpreted in the light of his unchallenged affiliation with a foreign propaganda site.

However, Aaronovitch insists to pull the magic rabbit out of his imaginary hat. He found some names that somehow do not belong to the list. Such names are Britain leading journalist, the Independent’s Robert Fisk and whistleblower Dr Israel Shahak. I have to admit that if Fisk is indeed an ‘Israeli propaganda author’, he did a very good job of hiding it so far. The same applies to the adorable Israel Shahak who was dead for a decade when he was enlisted as an Israeli propaganda author. Furthermore, according to the Israeli Hasbara site, it lists authors who are “disseminating truth about Israel and the Jewish people”. From that very perspective both Shahak and Fisk should be listed. In fact I want to be listed as well. All I really do is disseminate the truth about Israel and Jewish ideology.

I do not know much about anti-Semitism, I can only discern that my considerable study of Jewish history taught me that it is people like Aaronovitch who bring the gravest of disasters on their fellow Jews. Aaronovitch better mature and take responsibility for his actions, writing and the wars he promotes so enthusiastically.

As far as Aaronovitch and myself, I just think that together with his celebrity Hasbara listing he probably got himself another 2000 Google entries associated with an Israeli Propaganda site. I am off to play some “loony” jazz.

Gilad Atzmon, now living in London, was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He is the author of The Wandering Who and Being in Time and is one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe. He can be reached via his website. Read other articles by Gilad, or visit Gilad's website.

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  1. Rehmat said on January 4th, 2010 at 6:31pm #

    Israeli Hasbara and Iran’s mass protests