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Saturday, April 1, 2023

Were Foreign Minister’s remarks Anti-Semitic? Here are the arguments!

The two sides argue whether calling the Israeli state out with "deep pockets" and "controlling" the media should be considered from a present perspective of Israeli oppression, or from a historical perspective where Jews were discriminated against using these very words.

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Right now, there is a trending discussion on the Foreign Minister’s TV interview on CNN Amanpour with Bianna Golodryga, where Pakistan’s Foreign Minister was accused by the host of anti-Semitism.

The interview was held as Pakistani Foreign minister with his foreign counterparts such China, Egypt, Turkey, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, and Afghanistan got together in supporting the Palestinian cause.

The dignitaries went to the US at UN General Assembly’s emergency meeting where Pakistan highlighted its efforts and reiterated the need for a multilateral peacekeeping force in Palestine to guarantee the Palestinians protection against Israeli oppression.

The Controversial Statement

To complement his speech, FM of Pakistan went on air on CNN’s flagship global affairs interview program.

In his opening statement, he said that the public pressure was changing the tide and the ceasefire would be ‘inevitable’ in this case, added, ‘despite Israel’s connections.

Read More: UK media outlet’s major news on Israel-Palestine issue slammed as Fake News

On this, the host interjected, ‘what are their connections’ she asked him.

The reply to this became the controversial news cycle being debated among the Twitterati. Mr. Qureshi explained Israel’s connections by a laugh off followed by the words, “deep pockets”.

Ms. Golodryga then asked, “What does that mean?” and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister replied, “They are very influential people”, adding that “they (Jews/Israel) control the media”.

The TV show host labeled this explanation as “an anti-Semitic remark”, till the very end of the interview, which Mr. Qureshi rebutted as saying that he has never been anti-Semitic and never will be.

While the interview ended there and then, it started a Twitter war, with some suggesting that it is anti-Semitic and some saying that this is not against all Jews but a fact often ignored under the banner of anti-Semitism.

The Aftermath

CNN published an entire story titled, “Pakistan FM invokes antisemitic slur”, and it was shared by Bianna Golodryga with the caption, “I had planned to speak with Pakistan’s foreign minister about paths towards a peaceful resolution between Israel and Hamas. Instead, he began the interview by invoking an anti-Semitic slur.”

Then it began!

Her post was commented upon by a Pakistani anchorperson Fareeha Idrees, who made one side of the argument saying, “Biana, do you even understand the meaning of anti-Semitic? He didn’t even utter the word “Jew” or even made a feeble reference to it. All he said was media is controlled by Israel. After bombing of Aljazeera offices only last week, do you still want to refute the claim?”

This argument has been made since the beginning of the current Sheikh Jarrah oppression by the Israeli forces. The mass social media has been of the view that calling the state of Israel for its crimes is not anti-Semitism.

Read More: Pakistan demands international protection force for Palestinians at UNGA session

In fact, an MIT graduate student commented on Ms. Golodryga’s post saying, “: This semester at MIT I analyzed over 33,000 New York Times articles on Palestine & Israel using machine learning methods. In a new study, I prove a history of disproportionate bias against Palestinians in the New York Times.”


Ms. Holly Jackson added a very long thread, “The results of this study are now as relevant as ever. Today, the New York Times continues its legacy of Palestinian erasure.”  She even gave the link to her study supporting her claims.

Similarly, people around the Twitted quoted a recent Times of Israel published article on 13th January titled, “Backed by deep pockets, Adelson made his mark with an unwavering focus on Israel”, which makes a similar argument to what our Foreign Minister said.

There were other arguments made on the basis that calling out the atrocities of a state does not account for a racist slur, however, some people like famous Journalist Mehdi Hassan had other views.

People were quick to remind Mehdi Hasan too, including a British Musician Alexi Murdoch who said, “Bad call on this one, Mehdi. Did you watch the interview? She was visibly on the offense from the outset and literally was looking to find the cause. His original comment was that Israel was starting to lose public opinion in spite of having “connections”. Do you disagree with that?”

Read More: China seeks permanent solution of Israeli-Palestinian issue

The Other Side of the Coin

Mehdi Hasan, the host of Mehdi Hasan Show on MSNBC quoted Ms. Bianna Golodryga’s Tweet adding, “I see some people trying to defend the Pakistani foreign minister’s remarks as anti-Israeli & not anti-Semitic but let’s be clear: if you are accusing Israelis of having ‘deep pockets’ and ‘controlling’ the media, then yeah, you’re invoking some pretty anti-Semitic slurs. Sorry.

He then shared a video of himself saying, “Let’s not discuss Israel-Palestine “through lazy racist tropes about devious, all-powerful Jews or violent Muslim terrorists. The violence there is bad enough without the rest of us adding a layer of brazen bigotry to it.”

Similarly, Uzair Younus, an economist, and host of Podcast Pakistonomy explained how this comment by Pakistan’s foreign minister could be anti-Semitic. He said, “The argument that “they have deep pockets and own the media” is an age-old anti-Semitic slur. It was frequently used in Nazi Germany to justify the mass removal of Jews from cultural and political institutions. There are numerous history books documenting this history.”

He added a long thread explaining to the people why he said what he said, “This is similar to a Western minister saying “they train suicide bombers” when referring to Pakistanis. That statement would qualify as Islamophobic. Not saying Jews or calling out Israel, while deploying an anti-Semitic line, doesn’t make it ok. In fact, it’s dog-whistling.”

The basic argument by this side is built upon the fact that in the past when Jews were oppressed by Nazis and before that, the argument made was that the “Jews have deep pockets”, as in the control the banks (which would require another lesson in Jewish history), and “Jews control the media”. Thus making such sweeping statements qualify as making anti-Semitic remarks.

Read More: Gaza & Israel agree ceasefire as diplomatic efforts of Pak, Turkey, Egypt & China work

There is also a small number of people who believe that if the Pakistani Foreign Minister had been more unequivocal about his arguments, such a debate would not arise.