Kevin Myers and the definition of antisemitism.

Does the punishment fit the crime?

The Internet is humming over the story of Kevin Myers, veteran Irish columnist who received his marching orders for an off-the-cuff antisemitic reference in an article that he penned. Speaking as someone both Jewish, Zionist (chose to move to Israel as an adult) and a believer in workplace fairness  I am very dubious about the sacking. It did, however, give me thoughts about the antisemitism’s nature and PC punishment.

Is the Sunday Times (Ireland) generally known for such a quick and ‘brutal’ response to complaints?

Regular readers of Five Minutes for Israel and other BBC critics have learnt how long and tortuous it is to have a complaint about a BBC hire investigated, let alone any penalty whatsoever imposed. So if judged by BBC standards the Sunday Times’ response was lightning fast.

Did Myers have a chance to defend himself or was he just summoned to the editor’s office and handed his pink slip? Did he really commit a sackable offence or was this a slip that could reasonably be excused by the apology by him and the editor? Surely the National Union of Journalists had something to say?

Although the Irish Times has no connection to the BBC the current scandal must be welcomed by the British organisation as a convenient excuse to draw attention away from the BBC’s hypocrisy over lower pay for women, which is surely the real story.

How antisemitic does one have to be for instant dismissal?

“Jews are not generally known for selling their talents for the lowest possible price, which is the most useful measure there is of inveterate lost-with-all-hands stupidity.”

Kevin Myers’ offensive sentence.

For the record. Somehow I doubt that if Mr. Myers was to ever publish an anthology of his best columns that this particular one would be in it. It has an autopilot feel to it. That would be true with or without the offending sentence.

Was it antisemitic even if intended, however clumsily, as a compliment?

Yes, it probably was. It recycled the stereotype illustrated the verb to jew verb still found in some dictionaries and regrettably in common speech:

to bargain sharply with; beat down in price (often followed by down)

But was it antisemitic enough to deserve instant dismissal and quite possibly the end of a career?

I can’t help thinking that Jew Hatred should be visualised as a spectrum. Here is my suggestion.

  • Actually killing a Jew for no reason other than he was a random – Jew 10
  • Inciting the death of Jews as do so many Muslim leaders/ religious authorities – 9
  • Recycling Nazi and Medieval antisemitic memes carefully substituting Zionist for Jewish – 8

and so on…

So what would be a casual generalisation about Jews in an otherwise unremarkable article be?

2 perhaps?


Constructing a spectrum has turned out more complicated than expected. It’s a project that deserves an effort. Suggestions?

First published at Five Minutes for Israel.

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One comment

  1. I was initially quite shocked by his remarks but then I began to have doubts – yes, it was foolish of him, stupid man. Antisemitic? Well, do a little research and find anything remotely antisemitic he’s written before, I couldn’t. Not even some OTT anti-Israel remark, which is unusual these days for Irish journalists. I also find it rather telling that the Irish haven’t made an unholy fuss about his going and I rather doubt Irish journalism will be any friendlier towards Israel because of his dubious comeuppance.

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