I presume Julian Assange will have another reason now to believe The Guardian is part of a Jewish conspiracy to damage both him and WikiLeaks. Jonathan Freedland, writing in that paper on Thursday, includes comments that the editor of Private Eye reports him as making being part of “a glut of recent claims that there is a Jewish conspiracy.” It can’t be pleasant being put in the company of John Galliano and his drunken rant in a Paris bar to two women he took to be Jews: “I love Hitler,” he began. “People like you ought to be dead, your mothers, your forefathers would all be fucking gassed.”

The reported comments of Julian Assange were not in that league. In the latest issue of his satirical magazine, editor Ian Hislop writes that Assange called him on 16 February to complain about an article on Israel Shamir, a WikiLeaks associate in Russia who has denied the Holocaust and has published a string of antisemitic articles.

“He said that I and Private Eye should be ashamed of ourselves for joining in the international conspiracy to smear WikiLeaks.

The piece was an obvious attempt to deprive him and his organisation of Jewish support and donations, he said angrily, and he knew perfectly well who had written it. He then named a Fleet Street hack who had nothing to do with it.”

Hislop adds that Assange went on to claim that Private Eye was “part of a conspiracy led by the Guardian which included journalist David Leigh, editor Alan Rusbridger and John Kampfner from Index on Censorship – all of whom ‘are Jewish'”.

“I pointed out that Rusbridger is not actually Jewish, but Assange insisted that he was ‘sort of Jewish’ because he was related to David Leigh (they are brothers-in-law)”.

“When I doubted whether his Jewish conspiracy would stand up against the facts, Assange suddenly conceded the point. ‘Forget the Jewish thing’.”

Hislop  says Assange told him that central to the plot was “the Guardian, which included journalist David Leigh, editor Alan Rusbridger and John Kampfner from Index on Censorship – all of whom ‘are Jewish’“.

Assange later issued a denial, accusing Hislop of misrepresentation:

“In particular, ‘Jewish conspiracy’ is completely false, in spirit and in word.

“It is serious and upsetting. Rather than correct a smear, Mr Hislop has attempted, perhaps not surprisingly, to justify one smear with another in the same direction.

“WikiLeaks promotes the ideal of “scientific journalism” – where the underlaying evidence of all articles is available to the reader precisely in order to avoid these type of distortions. We treasure our strong Jewish support and staff, just as we treasure the support from pan-Arab democracy activists and others who share our hope for a just world.”

When there are no third party witnesses to a conversation between two people with different memories it is impossible to say what was actually said but the point of Jonathan Freedland’s article was to draw attention to “if, as the old saw has it, antisemitism is a light sleeper, then it has just woken up with a start. In the space of a few days, a range of assorted eminences have dropped their guard and given voice to the Jew-hating demons in their heads.”

He gives numerous examples other than that of Galliano and Assange and concludes with a comment on the very appealing, very seductive explanation of the conspiracy theory of power that ‘The Jews are responsible’:

We may want to believe it went away, but it never did. Not even in the late 1940s, immediately after the revelations of the Holocaust confirmed the murderous place where antisemitic discourse could lead. There were still English literary critics around in those years to refer to the Jews as “Shylocks”, still crime novels with the conniving Jew as the arch-villain. We may want to see the likes of Galliano as relics from another era or as mere eccentrics, but they are expressing a set of attitudes that remain deep in the soil and which have never been fully shaken off. They can appear in the most respected institutions, voiced by the most respectable people. Even when they seem to be dozing, they are never quite dead.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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