The editor of the New Statesman has admitted he was wrong to publish a front cover that has been condemned as anti-Semitic.
A group styling itself Action Against Anti-Semitism marched into the offices of the left-wing weekly last week, demanding a printed apology. They were angered by the cover of the edition of 14 January, which showed a gold Star of David impaling a Union flag and the title: "A kosher conspiracy?"
The editor, Peter Wilby, did not accede to their demands. But he was clearly upset by a raft of objections to the cover and accompanying articles. Most significantly for the radical magazine, it was denounced by the general secretary of the Labour Party, David Triesman.
Mr Triesman said the cover was "one of the most offensive images" he had seen. "It gathers together a symbol of Jewishness (not of Israel), conspiracy, and wealth in ways candidly redolent of the extreme right."
He went on: "I have read – agreed and disagreed with – the New Statesman for 40 years. I never thought I would come to regard it as anti-Semitic. But I do today."
In tomorrow's New Statesman Mr Wilby addresses the criticisms in a lengthy article. He concludes "We (or, more precisely, I) got it wrong. The cover was not intended to be anti-Semitic; the New Statesman is vigorously opposed to racism in all its forms. But it used images and words in such a way as to create unwittingly the impression that the New Statesman was following an anti-Semitic tradition that sees the Jews as a conspiracy piercing the heart of the nation. I doubt very much that one single person was provoked into hatred of Jews by our cover. But I accept that a few anti-Semites (as some comments on our website, quickly removed, suggested) took aid and comfort when it appeared that their prejudices were shared by a magazine of authority and standing. Moreover, the cover upset very many Jews, who are right to feel that, in the fight against anti-Semitism in particular and racism in general, this magazine ought to be on their side ...
"The New Statesman opposes (as do many British Jews, including, as I understand it, those who visited our office last week) the policies of the present Israeli government. We shall continue to highlight those policies and, where appropriate, to discuss the activities of lobbies in Britain and America that support them.
"Readers should be assured that we shall not censor ourselves; but we shall try to present our views with greater sensitivity."
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