Perhaps the most important speech about media coverage of Israel ever given

The following is the text of a speech given by former AP journalist Matti Friedman at a BICOM dinner in London on January 26. (It’s published here by permission.)

One night several years ago, I came out of Bethlehem after a reporting assignment and crossed through the Israeli military checkpoint between that city and its neighbor, Jerusalem, where I live. With me were perhaps a dozen Palestinian men, mostly in their thirties – my age. No soldiers were visible at the entrance to the checkpoint, a precaution against suicide bombers. We saw only steel and concrete. I followed the other men through a metal detector into a stark corridor and followed instructions barked from a loudspeaker – Remove your belt! Lift up your shirt! The voice belonged to a soldier watching us on a closed-circuit camera. Exiting the checkpoint, adjusting my belt and clothing with the others, I felt like a being less than entirely human and understood, not for the first time, how a feeling like that would provoke someone to violence.

Consumers of news will recognize this scene as belonging to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, which keeps the 2.5 million Palestinians in that territory under military rule, and has since 1967. The facts of this situation aren’t much in question. This should be an issue of concern to Israelis, whose democracy, military, and society are corroded by the inequality in the West Bank. This, too, isn’t much in question.

The question we must ask, as observers of the world, is why this conflict has come over time to draw more attention than any other, and why it is presented as it is. How have the doings in a country that constitutes 0.01 percent of the world’s surface become the

focus of angst, loathing, and condemnation more than any other? We must ask how Israelis and Palestinians have become the stylized symbol of conflict, of strong and weak, the parallel bars upon which the intellectual Olympians of the West perform their tricks – not Turks and Kurds, not Han Chinese and Tibetans, not British soldiers and Iraqi Muslims, not Iraqi Muslims and Iraqi Christians, not Saudi sheikhs and Saudi women, not Indians and Kashmiris, not drug cartel thugs and Mexican villagers. Questioning why this is the case is in no way an attempt to evade or obscure reality, which is why I opened with the checkpoint leading from Bethlehem. On the contrary – anyone seeking a full understanding of reality can’t avoid this question. My experiences as a journalist provide part of the answer, and also raise pressing questions that go beyond the practice of journalism.

I have been writing from and about Israel for most of the past 20 years, since I moved there from Toronto at age 17. During the five and a half years I spent as part of the international press corps as a reporter for the American news agency The Associated Press, between 2006 and 2011, I gradually began to be aware of certain malfunctions in the coverage of the Israel story – recurring omissions, recurring inflations, decisions made according to considerations that were not journalistic but political, all in the context of a story staffed and reported more than any other international story on earth. When I worked in the AP’s Jerusalem bureau, the Israel story was covered by more AP news staff than China, or India, or all of the fifty-odd countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. This is representative of the industry as a whole.

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Israeli deaths glorified at London School of Economics on Holocaust Memorial Day

Cross posted from Richard Millett’s Blog

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau but last night at the London School of Economics at a joint Palestine Society and Feminist Society event Israelis were portrayed as rapists and those who killed Israelis were applauded.

Aitemad Muhanna-Matar, Zena Agha, Rana B. Baker,  Mezna Qato at LSE last night.

Aitemad Muhanna-Matar, Zena Agha, Rana B. Baker, Mezna Qato at LSE last night.

In front of a banner that read “Towards Freedom and Independence the Uprising Continues” a panel of four women described the role Palestinian women should play in the “uprising”.

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Sky News “remembers Auschwitz” by suggesting that Jews fuel antisemitism

Sky News reporter Adam Boulton asked Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis three separate times if Israel causes antisemitism, during a short interview conducted on International Holocaust Memorial Day.  As Boulton was interviewing Mirvis about the significance of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, viewers saw video in the background of Palestinians in the rubble of Gaza during the summer war, under the headline: “Auschwitz remembered”.

Here’s a screenshot from a YouTube clip of part of the interview:

Sky News

Here’s the video:

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Holocaust sans antisemitism? Guardian editorial on Auschwitz liberation follows familiar pattern

Auschwitz_by_doctorkrisseeToday marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Roughly one out of every six Jews killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust died between 1940 and 1945 at the Auschwitz camp complex in south-west Poland – a facility known as “the largest mass murder site in human history”.

The official Jan. 27th Guardian editorial on the significance of commemorating the anniversary of the camp’s liberation seems determined to honor the memory of the Jewish victims, yet appears at a loss to explain why they were murdered, and thus fails in the most important task of any serious meditation on the Holocaust: what moral lessons we must learn.

We’ll include the entire text of the editorial in order to fully contextualize the omission.

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Former British diplomat: Israel should dismantle its security fence for peace

Cross posted from Richard Millett’s Blog

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Sir Vincent Fean

Last Tuesday I attended yet another anti-Israel event at the London Middle East Institute based at SOAS. The last LMEI event I attended beautified Hizbollah. And last Tuesday I had another anti-Jewish insult hurled at me, to add to the long list, for merely asking a question during a Q&A.

The guest speaker last Tuesday was retired British Diplomat Sir Vincent Fean, a man who has served as a diplomat in Paris, Brussels, Libya, Damascus, Baghdad and amongst the Palestinians.  Fean said he wanted to “speak about how peace could come about in the Holy Land” and he said that he believed in “the two state solution”.

However, after his 40 minute talk I realised that Fean did not believe in Israel’s safety or its existence at all. He wanted Israel emasculated and indefensible.

Fean demanded that the “settlements” be disbanded and called the “illegal settlement enterprise” the “single most significant threat to the two state solution”.

As proof of “illegality” he invoked the Geneva Convention claiming that Israel gives inducements for Israelis to move to the West Bank. That is hardly “transfer” but it is enough for the likes of Fean to conclude that Israel is committing a breach of international law.

Fean called for Israel to dismantle its security fence, for Israel’s forces to be withdrawn from “Palestinian soil” and for Egypt to open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

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CiF Watch prompts Indy correction to erroneous ‘Gaza Holocaust’ passage

As we noted previously, The Independent published a story on December 24th about the ongoing Sony hacking scandal by the newspaper’s Deputy People Editor, Ella Alexander.

However, in attempting to explain the nature of a series of leaked emails (a reply-all chain argument featuring Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Russell Simmons and Ryan Seacrest) from film producer Ryan Kavanaugh, who is Jewish and a vocal Israel supporter, the Indy flubbed a key passage in the story.

Here are the relevant passages in the Indy article:

indy passage

The claim that Kavanaugh compared the situation in Gaza to the Holocaust is grossly inaccurate.

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Grandson of Holocaust survivors denounces repulsive behavior of pro-Palestinian activists

According to reports yesterday, Pro-Palestinian activists sitting in the New York City Council Chamber gallery timed their protests to coincide with a Council resolution commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. While Council was discussing the resolution, protesters unfurled a Palestinian flag and started shouting slogans at the Council.

Councilman David G. Greenfieldthe grandson of holocaust survivors, made the following remarks on the Council floor shortly after the protest.

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Telegraph reporter is skeptical about Israeli ‘claims’ of Palestinian incitement

It’s bad enough that foreign correspondents covering the region rarely if ever report on the constant incitement to violence by Hamas, Fatah and Palestinian Authority officials. But, expressions of skepticism by reporters over Israeli “claims” regarding the problem of incitement represent an even more egregious example of biased reporting, as evidence attesting to this disturbing phenomenon is ubiquitous.

Robert TaitThe Telegraph’s correspondent for Israel and the Palestinian territories, concluded his report (What is behind Israel’s spate of ‘lone wolf’ terror attacks?, Jan. 21st) on Wednesday’s Palestinian terror attack in Tel Aviv – in the context of other such attacks in recent months – thusly:

Such attacks, apparently spontaneous and carried out without any obvious group collaboration, are a headache for Israel’s security services, since they are almost impossible to prevent or predict in advance through good intelligence.

The resulting frustration was apparent on Wednesday as the country’s political establishment, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu downwards, pointed the finger, without presenting concrete evidence, at virtually the entire Palestinian political spectrum, including the Palestinian Authority and Hamas – accusing it of complicity through “incitement”.

Tait’s incredulousness in the face of Israeli “claims” over the role played by Palestinian incitement is quite remarkable.  As Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) demonstrates, evidence abounds attesting to “ongoing violence promotion” carried out by the Palestinian Authority and Fatah. PMW recently reported that violence promotion in recent months has specifically mentioned “stabbings” and the use “knives and cleavers”.

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CiF Watch prompts Guardian correction to ‘banned Palestinian workers’ claim

An article by Mark Anderson in the Global Development section of The Guardian (Israel ignoring deaths of Thai workers on farms, Human Rights Watch claims, Jan. 21) included this claim.

Original

The claim that “Israel banned Palestinians from working in the country” is not true.

Israel did place certain restrictions on Palestinian workers in the late 80s and early 90s in response to the First Intifada, and began requiring entry and exit permits which were granted in part based on individual security screenings of potential workers. However, though these restrictions resulted in a drop in the number of Palestinian workers in Israel, there was never a ban.

Today, more than 47,000 work permits are issued annually. 

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Another journo accuses British Jews who fear antisemitism of being ‘ungrateful’

Yesterday, we posted about a Guardian op-ed by David Conn on Jan. 20th which accused British Jews who, in his view, express unwarranted alarm about the threat of antisemitism in the UK of being “ungrateful” to their country.

It turns out that, on the very same day, a similar charge was leveled by another British Jew, journalist Matthew Norman.

Matthew Norman

Matthew Norman

Writing in The Independent, Norman first notes the putative dearth of any fatal antisemitic attacks in the country.

And so it is with the greatest reluctance – it feels like sacrilege, in fact – that I tempt fate by pointing out that no Jewish person has been killed in Britain in an anti-semitic attack since … well, my possibly flawed internet researches find no fatality on record at all.

Norman’s internet research was indeed flawed. In 2008, a Manchester Jew was fatally stabbed by a man who later told police that he “needed to kill a Jewish person”.  CST characterized the attack as antisemitic.

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Guardian contributer suggests that British Jews alarmed about antisemitism are ‘ungrateful’

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Rally against antisemitism, Royal Courts of Justice

In fairness, The Guardian has published a few morally clear articles, op-eds and editorials on the recent increase of antisemitism in Europe and the UK. However, a Jan. 19th Guardian op-ed by David Conn, responding to poll results on antisemitism published by Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA),  pivots towards more familiar Guardian Left territory – downplaying, obfuscating or rationalizing resurgent anti-Jewish racism.

Conn not only responds with disbelief to polls purporting to show that 25% of British Jews have considered leaving the country because of antisemitism, that 58% believe Jews may have no future in Europe and that over half feel “antisemitism now echoes the 1930s”, but counters that he personally has never experienced meaningful antisemitism in his entire life.

Further in the op-ed, Conn writes:

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How disinformation works: science and tech magazine misleads on Jerusalem

How It Works is a science and tech magazine launched in 2009, and is published by the UK-based Imagine Publishing.

The magazine, available in print, digital and online editions, describes itself thusly:

How it Works’ expert explanations, dynamic cutaways and breathtaking images provide fuel for imaginations across all ages, helping its eager audience to understand and explore the wonders of the modern world, and making complex topics into accessible entertainment. How it Works stands for clarity, authority, intelligence and knowledge, which is why the brand is successful worldwide in all its forms – print, digital and online.

The latest edition, Volume 5, is currently on sale. A friend purchased one this week at a Toronto bookstore. 

photo 1It includes a two page feature about the history of Jerusalem.

 

headline

The piece includes a timeline, graphics and a short article explaining the city’s historic significance.

Here’s a blurb at the bottom of the article:

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Howard Jacobson examines the fanaticism of Glenn Greenwald

Those who have followed our posts fisking the extremist commentary of former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald will likely enjoy a recent meditation by critically acclaimed writer Howard Jacobson which examines Greenwald and the issue of ideological fanaticism.

Here’s an excerpt from the essay, which was published in The Independent on Jan. 16th:

So how fare our investigations into what makes someone want to kill cartoonists? (I’m assuming we know why they want to kill Jews.) Maybe, before pondering the education of a jihadist, we should ask a prior question: what makes a fanatic? We were given some insight into this on Newsnight earlier this week when Evan Davis, growing nicely into his job, interviewed the lawyer, journalist and associate of Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald – a man strikingly deficient in the musculature necessary to essay a smile. The subject was surveillance and David Cameron’s call for more of it. There are, I accept, differing views on this. I, for example, am for having every member of the human family watched day and night by every possible means because the human family is currently dysfunctional and can’t be trusted. But I understand why others don’t think as I do. This puts me in a different category of person from Greenwald, who allows no beliefs that conflict with his and attributes those that do to a cowardly subservience to authority. Leading Greenwald with expert gentleness into the gated hell that is his mind, Davis put the case for differing viewpoints. Nothing could have been more instructive than Greenwald’s dead expression – his mouth fixed in the rigor mortis of absolute conviction, his eyes unanimated by the pleasure of conversation or the excitement of controversy. Doubt honours a man, but this was the face of someone whom no ghost of a second thought dares visit. No consciousness of absurdity either. As for the humanity whose civil rights he champions with such icy rigidity, for that he had nothing but contempt. We are merely, if we don’t think what he thinks, the playthings of the powerful. This is the terrifying paradox of zealotry: no one hates humanity more than those who believe they know what’s best for it. I don’t, I must say, see Greenwald launching rockets any time soon. The ideologue is still a long way from being the terrorist. These, though, are the first steps. Expelling doubt. Refusing contrariety. Hating play. Making oneself the human equivalent of a weapon, implacable, well-aimed, reduced to a single function.

You can read the rest of the op-ed here, and more on Greenwald here, here, here, here and here.

Deborah Maccoby to Europe’s Jews: denounce Israel & live happily thereafter

Cross posted from the blog Simply Jews

DeboraMaccoby2

Deborah Maccoby… yeah, I know, my American friends will question my preoccupation with such minor and generally obscure elements of British society. And I don’t think that next picture will change their opinion significantly:

DeboraMaccoby

Deborah Maccoby bills herself on some occasions* as “Executive, Jews for Justice for Palestinians”. Alternatively she presents herself as “a member of the Executive Committee of Just Peace UK, the Israeli-Palestinian peace group and the UK branch of ICAHD (the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions)”. At the same time she is gainfully employed “at the BBC World Service as a Production Assistant and has written book reviews for the Arabic Service”. Which is a significant point, showing a person with access to one of the heaviest propaganda juggernauts out there.

So, if after looking at the pictures, you have conjured in your mind an image of one of these slightly demented aunts that are very good in making their own preserves or jams, overcook the roast and are afraid of spiders – perish the thought. Deborah Maccoby is a very strong anti-Zionist presence on many fronts and, as a prominent member of the British “AssaJew” community, has quite a few ideas to offer on many subjects.

One of such subjects is a solution for antisemitism, which Ms Maccoby hinted about as early as 2009. In this letter that starts with predictable “Sir: I am a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians and have participated in every one of the national demonstrations against Israel’s brutal onslaught against Gaza”, she offers the magic recipe in the last sentence:

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Another Guardian cartoon throws Charlie Hebdo victims under the bus

Last week, we commented on a Jan. 8th Guardian cartoon (by political cartoonist Andrew Marlton) reacting to the jihadist attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo, which implicitly blamed the victims for inciting their attackers. 

Recently, we noticed another cartoon, published by The Guardian on Jan. 9th (the day four Jews were murdered in a Paris kosher grocery store), which similarly throws the Charlie Hebdo victims under the bus. 

Here’s the Guardian cartoon by Joe Sacco, a pro-Palestinian artist best known for his graphic novel, Footnotes From Gaza.

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