Guardian op-ed: Mordechai Vanunu is a hero ‘like Snowden’

Before leaving his job as a technician at Israel’s nuclear installation in Dimona, Mordechai Vanunu had smuggled in a camera and covertly took dozens of photos of the secret facility – information he later used to help the UK Sunday Times write a story purporting to expose Israel’s nuclear weapons program.

Vanunu was convicted of treason and espionage in 1988, and released after serving 18 years in prison.  After his release, he claimed that he was proud of what he did.

Vanunu is still subject to travel restrictions  as he is still considered a serious danger to Israeli security.

Naturally, Vanunu is something of a cause célèbre at the Guardian, which has published no less than 76 separate pieces (reports, op-eds and letters) on the convicted felon (dating back to 1986), including an official editorial entitled “In Praise of…Mordechai Vanunu.

vanunu page

Vanunu page at the Guardian

The Guardian’s latest celebration of Vanunu comes in the form of an op-ed written by Duncan Campbell (a long time Guardian contributor), one which evokes Edward Snowden in characterizing Vanunu as nothing less than a hero:

heroThough the narrative advanced in this latest op-ed overlaps considerably with the the previous 75 Guardian reports and commentaries on Vanunu, Campbell’s evocation of Snowden – whose Guardian-facilitated leaks were characterized by the GCHQ as “the most catastrophic loss suffered by British intelligence” in history – suggests an effort to grant Vanunu the ‘martyr’ status only bestowed by the Guardian Left upon those Israelis sufficiently hostile to their state.

Despite the predictability of Campbell’s apologia, there was at least one passage – containing a classic Guardian obfuscation – worthy of comment.

Last December, he failed in the high court of justice in his latest bid to be allowed to leave. Does Edward Snowden, as he adjusts to life in Moscow, wonder whether he will still be haunted and hunted by the US government for decades to come?

 No one seriously claims that the man who was exhaustively debriefed by the Sunday Times nearly 30 years ago has any secrets up his sleeve. The decision to restrict his movements seems to be based more on a desire to inflict punishment on an unrepentant man than for security concerns.

However, Campbell is either being lazy or dishonest, as the Haaretz article he linked to in the above passage quite clearly indicates that there are indeed ‘serious claims’ that Vanunu has more ‘secrets up his sleeve’.  Here are the relevant passages from the very report cited by Campbell:

In his latest petition, filed by attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard, Vanunu argued that a considerable amount of time had passed since he had worked in the Dimona center and committed the offenses for which he was convicted, and that not enough weight was being given to this passage of time. Vanunu also claimed that information about Israel’s nuclear capabilities published since his release “immeasurably exceeds” what he could add today…

The state countered through lawyers Dan Eldad and Aner Helman that Vanunu still possesses unpublished classified information and that he is trying to get the information published. To this end, the state’s lawyers presented classified material that was not made public.

In the decision, written by Supreme Court President Asher Grunis on behalf of himself and justices Miriam Naor and Isaac Amit, the court said that “after examining the extensive material submitted to the court, we are convinced that there is no reason to intervene in the decision of the respondents to extend the validity of the orders for another year.”

Grunis added, “One cannot say that the orders constitute a means of punishment, as claimed by the petitioner. The orders were designed to prevent future dissemination of classified information. In recent years, the court has examined several times the necessity of the orders, and has been convinced, time after time, that they are needed to protect national security.”

Grunis said that from the privileged material shown to the justices it emerges that Vanunu “is still collecting classified information and has not backed down from his plans to disseminate the information.”

So, contrary to Campbell’s contention, the Israeli court evidently not only has reason to believe that Vanunu has national security ‘secrets up his sleeve’, but has seen evidence indicating he intends to disseminate the information if given the opportunity.

Of course the broader truth pertaining to the Vanunu affair – and the media coverage of his ongoing legal battles – relates to the obvious fact that there isn’t a country in the world which wouldn’t act aggressively to prevent national security secrets from being revealed.

Further, characterizing as a “hero” those who betray an oath of secrecy and attempt to bypass established legal means to redress grievances against a particular government policy makes a mockery of  the term, and conflates felons convicted of betraying the national security of a democratic state with genuine political dissidents in truly repressive regimes.

 

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UPDATED information on Guardian claim regarding Israeli press card requirement

EDITOR’S NOTE on April 23:  This post was amended after we learned, per the Israel Government Press Office, that journalists are indeed required to sign a ‘censorship form’ to obtain a press card.  The mistake was made when we conflated Israeli courtgag orders‘ (which journalists are NOT required to abide by in order to receive a press card) with the ‘censorship document’.

We apologize for the error.

….

Majd Kayyal, an Arab-Israeli journalist and web editor at the NGO Adalah, was released to house arrest late last week, days after being arrested on suspicion that Hezbollah attempted to recruit him while he attended a conference in Beirut.  

Additionally, a media row over the news ensued when the New York Times revealed that it had abided by the Israeli gag order on Kayyal’s arrest and didn’t report the story until the order was lifted last Thursday.

Roy Greenslade, the Guardian’s media blogger, published a story about the incident on April 22 titled New York Times obeys Israeli gag order over journalist’s arrest.

Here are the relevant passages in Greenslade’s story:

The paper’s delayed publication of the story about the detention of Majd Kayyal (see below) was revealed by its public editor, Margaret Sullivan.

She quoted the NY Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren, as explaining that the acceptance of gag orders is analogous to abiding by traffic rules or any other laws of the land.

Sullivan also consulted in-house lawyer David McCraw, who evidently described the situation as “somewhat murky”. She quoted him as saying: “The general understanding among legal counsel in other countries is that local law would apply to foreign media.”

Similar issues arise when US news media organisations cover the British courts, he said.

Sullivan was clearly unconvinced by the argument advanced by her paper’s bureau chief, saying that she found it “troubling” that the NY Times should have to wait for the Israeli government’s approval before deciding to run a story.

A “little transparency would go a long way”, she said, and the the story should have informed readers what had happened. Perhaps Jodi Rudoren, who became bureau chief in May 2012, was being overly cautious. Her task is hardly easy as she explained earlier this month in an interview with Hadassah magazine.

Then, in a subsequent passage, Greenslade makes the following claim:

My understanding is that although foreign journalists who want to obtain a press card in Israel are required to sign a censorship document in order to obtain a press card, in practice few submit their copy on security issues to the censor.

However, his suggestion that foreign journalists are required to sign a “censorship document” in order to obtain an Israeli press card seemed questionable in light of this passage from the NYT article by Sullivan:

The Times is “indeed, bound by gag orders,” Ms. Rudoren said. She said that the situation is analogous to abiding by traffic rules or any other laws of the land, and that two of her predecessors in the bureau chief position affirmed to her this week that The Times has been subject to gag orders in the past.  (An earlier version of this post said that The Times agrees to abide by gag orders as a prerequisite for press credentials, but Ms. Rudoren told me today that that is not the case, although it was her initial understanding.)

Per Jodi Rudoren, foreign journalists are evidently NOT required to abide by ‘gag orders’ in order to obtain a press card.  

However, as we later learned, the ‘gag order’ is not the same as a ‘censorship document’, so our conclusion in the original version of this post – that Greenslade got it wrong – was not correct.  

This post (and the original title) has been revised accordingly. 

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Peter Beaumont wants you to believe that Jews oppress Christians in Jerusalem

The most recent report by the US State Department on Religious Freedom in Israel and the Palestinian territories noted that though “Israel’s security fence restricted the ability of some Palestinian Muslims and Christians to reach some places of worship”, overall “the Israeli government respected the right to freedom of religion within the Occupied Territories“.

Regarding Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, however, the State Department reached a far different conclusion, documenting the institutional discrimination against Christians, their minority Shiite population and all Muslims who didn’t abide by the strictest interpretation of Islam.

Here are some highlights from the report: 

The de facto Hamas authorities in Gaza continued to restrict religious freedom in both law and practice, and the negative trend for respect of this right was reflected in such abuses as arresting or detaining Muslims in Gaza who did not abide by Hamas’ strict interpretation of Islam and broadcasting a program calling for Jews to be killed.”

Since the 2007 Hamas coup in the Gaza Strip, Hamas, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, has exercised de facto authority over the territory and has enforced conservative Islamic law, harassed non-Muslims, and imposed religious restrictions on women.

Hamas maintained control of Gaza throughout the year, used it as a base for attacks against Israel, and sometimes exploited its security apparatus to arrest or detain Muslims in Gaza who did not abide by Hamas’ strict interpretation of Islam.

In January Hamas authorities reportedly raided a Shia religious gathering during the holiday of Arbaeen in the Gazan neighborhood of Sheikh Zayyad. Reports differed on whether excessive force was used, although some claim at least 14 persons were arrested and some hospitalized. Hamas Ministry of Interior public statements claimed that the raid was a response to an illegal group with “corrupt views” that sought to commit unspecified crimes. It further stated that Gaza was a “Sunni country where Shiism does not exist.

Hamas enforced a conservative interpretation of Islam on Gaza’s Muslim population. For example, Hamas operated a women’s prison during the year to house women convicted of “ethical crimes” such as “illegitimate pregnancy.”

 local [Gaza] religious leaders received warnings ahead of Christian holidays against any public display of Christianity. Christians raised concerns that Hamas failed to defend their rights as a religious minority. Local officials sometimes advised converts to leave their communities to prevent harassment against them.

More broadly, reports abound demonstrating that Christians face systemic persecution throughout the Arab and Muslim Middle East, with studies predicting that “Christianity will “effectively disappear from the region as a cultural and political force within our lifetime”.  As The Telegraph commented on a recent study by the think-tank Civitas, “the most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam”. The report estimates some 2 million Christians have reportedly fled the region in the past 20 years alone.

Israel, on the other hand, is the one country in the region where the Christians are free, the population thriving, and their numbers growing.

Yet, despite the fact that Israel is the only safe haven for Christians in the Middle East, the Guardian’s new Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont filed a report employing quintessential Guardian trickery on the issue: imputing Israeli intolerance from a few highly questionable accounts that are completely devoid of context, while ignoring the far more egregious crimes against Christians by Palestinian Muslims.

His report, Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem find their path to the Via Dolorosa is an ever harder road, April 20, all but ignores the larger story, that tens of thousands of Christians were able to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as part of Easter celebrations in Jerusalem’s Old City, and characteristically focuses on a few sporadic complaints.

Typical is this passage:

Orthodox worshippers complained of a heavy-handed Israeli police presence at the Holy Fire ceremony on Easter Saturday at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, with many worshippers denied access.

Of course, such “heavy-handed” security and crowd control measures, to keep worshipers from surging into the church, may be one of the reasons why there were no reports of violence despite the incredibly large number of visitors.  Further, testifying to the overall success of the day’s events, Christian officials reportedly thanked Israeli police for their professional handling of the event.

Beaumont’s narrative appears to have taken an even more dishonest turn in the following passages:

On Sunday morning it emerged that Israeli police had prevented the UN’s peace envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, other diplomats and a crowd of Palestinians from attending the Holy Fire ceremony on Saturday.

Serry said in a statement Israeli security officers had stopped a group of Palestinian worshippers and diplomats in a procession near the church, “claiming they had orders to that effect”.

However, it appears that Serry was allowed to pass and did attend the ceremony.

As the Washington Post reported on the same incident:

A precarious standoff ensued ending in an angry crowd pushing their way through,” Serry said. Serry spokeswoman Elpida Rouka said that the envoy and his party were trapped for about 30 minutes but that eventually the police retreated and the group, along with “an anxious crowd of worshipers,” was able to enter.

Additionally, we emailed Israel Police Spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld who confirmed that Serry did indeed attend the ceremony.

It appears that Beaumont got it wrong.

Moreover, a more honest assessment of the day’s events would invariably conclude that Israel pulled off a remarkable feat on Saturday, allowing tens of thousands of Christians to visit holy sites in Jerusalem for Easter - a day which wasn’t marred by even the smallest incident of violence.

But, of course, such an honest account of Israel’s progressive advantages in the region would betray the Guardian narrative.  And, as we’re slowing learning about the paper’s new regional correspondent, when there’s a competition between allegiance to accuracy and telling Guardian readers what they want to hear, the former will lose almost every time.   

Sounds Israeli: The music of Liran Danino

(Sounds Israeli is edited by Stefan Babjak)

This week we’re featuring the beautiful heartfelt music of a rising Israeli star named Liran Danino. Danino was born in Petach Tikva in 1991 and studied music at Ben Shemen Youth Village. He appeared in TV shows as a young child and eventually ended up winning 4th place on the popular Israeli reality show “Cochav Nolad” (A Star is Born.) The following song (“Lelechet” “To Walk”) was his first major commercial success.

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Guardian contributor blames 1929 Arab massacre of Jews on Zionist provocations

During my youth in Poland, I asked a group of Poles why they felt a need to beat up Jews, and they responded that the very presence of Jews was a “provocation. - Menachem Begin

In an otherwise unproblematic 2010 Guardian review (that we just came across) of a book by Martin Gilbert, titled ‘In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands’, there was the following remarkable claim:

The influx of Zionist pioneers into Palestine from 1897 onwards, and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, had a fateful impact on Jewish-Muslim coexistence. In such a bitter conflict we are all parti pris and even a scrupulous recorder like Gilbert is drawn into polemics and apologetics. For example, in detailing the shocking Arab riots of 1929 – in which 133 Jews were killed and 339 wounded – he might have mentioned that the violence was fueled in large part by the provocations of Zionist activists at the Wailing Wall (as with Ariel Sharon’s walkabout on the Temple Mount before the second intifada)

Leaving his specious claim about Sharon and the intifada aside, its first important to point out that the ’1929 Riots’ refers to several massacres that year - one in Jerusalem that the author is referring to, one in Hebron and one in Safed.

Regarding the Jerusalem incidents, to blame “Zionist activists at the Wailing Wall’ for the Arab massacres is nothing but a propagandistic historical fabrication.

The following was written by Ricki Hollander, Senior Analyst at CAMERA, on the 1929 massacres:

In September 1928, a small group of Jews erected a “mechitza” (a divider to separate men and women during prayers) for Yom Kippur prayers at the Western Wall. The British forcibly dismantled the divider, but  Haj Amin al Husseini [the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem] used this incident as a pretext to incite Muslims. He accused the Jews of attempting to seize Muslim holy sites, including the al Aqsa Mosque.

A virulent propaganda campaign calling for jihad against the Jews resulted in the frequent beating and stoning of Jews worshipping at the Wall and culminated in widespread, murderous riots across Palestine in August 1929.

August 15, 1929 was Tisha B’Av, the day on which Jews commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temple. Thousands of Jews marched to the Wall to protest British restrictions on Jewish prayer there, and to reaffirm their Jewish connection to the holy site. They displayed their nationalistic fervor by singing Hatikvah (later to become Israel’s national anthem). The following day, mobs of armed Arab worshippers inflamed by anti-Jewish sermons, fell upon Jewish worshippers at the Wall, destroying Jewish prayer books and notes placed between the stones of the wall. On August 17, a Jewish boy was killed by Arabs during ensuing riots in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Bukharan.

According to the Davar newspaper of August 20, 1929, incitement against the Jews was rampant, especially in the Jerusalem and Hebron area. Rumors were spread that Jews had cursed Islam and intended to take over their holy places; Muslims were told that it was their duty to take revenge. “Defend the Holy Places” became the battle cry.

On August 23, more than 1000 Arabs launched attacks on Jews throughout Jerusalem. Forty-seven people were killed. This was followed by widespread attacks on Jews throughout Palestine. Again, the British forbade Jews to organize armed self-defense units and within several days, 133 Jews had been killed and 339 wounded. Arab attackers sustained high numbers of casualties (116), almost all of whom were killed by British police trying to quell the violence. Jewish leaders reported that Arab attacks showed evidence of organized warfare; Arab assaults on Jewish communities extended from as far south as Hebron to Haifa, Safed, Mahanaim and Pekiin in the north. A state of emergency was declared and martial law was imposed by the British.

Additionallythe Palestine Inquiry Commission appointed by the British Government to investigate the riots unequivocally declared that “the [violent] outbreak in Jerusalem on August 23rd was from the beginning an attack by Arabs on the Jews for which no excuse, in the form of earlier murders by Jews, has been established”.

In fact, beyond the predictable agitprop employed after the 1929 riots by the Palestine Communist Party, it’s difficult to find any source parroting the claim that ‘Zionist provocations’ caused the anti-Jewish violence.

Indeed, there appears to be no historical dispute regarding the fact that Arab mobs, fed by antisemitic incitement (including the propagation of conspiracy theories by Muslim religious leaders), engaged in brutal, unprovoked attacks on Jewish men, women and children over a series of weeks. 

However, some Jews reportedly sang Hatikvah at the Western Wall.

So, according to the Guardian contributor, it wasn’t antisemitic incitement and widespread anti-Jewish racism, but nationalistic Jewish songs which provoked the Arabs to kill them.  

Though we’re all too familiar with such perverse Guardian logic by which Jewish victims are in some way always to blame for the Palestinian violence perpetrated against them, the mere ubiquitousness of such moral inversions shouldn’t render them any less appalling.

(This post was revised to make it clear that the Guardian review in question was published in 2010.)

Catherine Philp names a suspect in the Passover attack on Jewish family: The ‘settlements’

On Monday night a Palestinian sniper fired multiple rounds from a Kalashnikov rifle at a Jewish family travelling on Route 35 to their Passover Seder in Kiryat Arba, killing 47-year-old Baruch Mizrachi and wounding his pregnant wife and one of their young sons.

Though the IDF is still hunting for the perpetrator, the Times Middle East correspondent has already pronounced a likely suspect. Yes, you guessed it, ‘Israeli Settlers’.

Catherine Philp’s story on the lethal attack, quite callously, never names the victim – referring to Mizrachi alternately as “a policeman”, even though he wasn’t on duty or in uniform at the time of the attack, and “the driver” – and focuses almost entirely on news from the day before regarding four Jewish families who moved into Hebron consistent with a Supreme Court ruling determining the property was purchased legally.  

The narrative focus is already evident in the headline:

header

The April 16th story (pay wall) begins thusly:

An Israeli policeman was shot dead near Hebron on the eve of the Passover festival as Jewish settlers celebrated their return to a disputed house in a Palestinian area of the West Bank city.

Three families moved into the building on Sunday evening, protected by Israeli soldiers, hours after Moshe Ya’alon, the Israeli defence minister, granted permission for their return — six years after their initial eviction.

The first apparent retaliation for the return of the settlers came on Monday night when a man opened fire on a car outside Hebron.

Remarkably, by the third paragraph Philp already establishes causation between the two events, without one iota of actual evidence and before, let’s remember, the culprits have even been apprehended or interrogated.

Philp continues, adding a bit more information on the nameless driver/policeman.

The driver, an Israeli policeman, was killed and his wife wounded. A nine-year-old boy in another car suffered light injuries.

However, the final ten paragraphs all deal with the broader story of the “provocation” of the continuing Jewish presence in Hebron, the oldest Jewish community in the world.

In total, only three out of fourteen paragraphs are devoted to the terrorist attack on a Jewish couple and their young children.

Mizrachi was laid to rest on Wednesday night, and left behind five young children, the youngest of whom recited Kaddish (the prayer recited by Jewish mourners) as the funeral began.

Baruch Mizachi

Baruch Mizachi

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The Guardian has absolutely no idea why a Jewish man was murdered near Hebron

To understand the latest report by Peter Beaumont (the Guardian’s new Jerusalem correspondent), it’s necessary to comprehend the Guardian’s view of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, in which Israelis represent privileged Western colonialists, and are almost completely the guilty party, while Palestinians are the weak, the dispossessed and colonized – and are almost entirely the victims.

Since their journalistic ethos seems inspired by a desire to, as one Guardian journalist phrased it, ‘comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable’, even the most brutal Palestinian terror attacks will necessarily be framed in a manner which robs Israeli victims of their humanity, and obfuscates the malevolence of the Palestinian perpetrator.

To wit, a April 14 story by Beaumont on a deadly terrorist attack near Hebron, on the eve of Passover, in which a Jewish man (Baruch Mizrachi) was killed, and his wife (Hadas) and children injured by Palestinian sniper fire, is notable for the absence of the words “terrorist” or even “militant”, its subtle attempts to downplay the deadly assault and the suggestion that the motive for the attack is ‘unclear’.  

The story, titled Israeli man killed and family members hurt as car fired on in West Bank, begins thusly:

One Israeli was killed three others injured after their car was hit by gunfire as they travelled through the West Bank on the eve of the Jewish Passover holiday.

The dead man, aged 40, was understood to be the father of the family while his pregnant wife, aged 28, and two children – one of them a nine-year old – were injured.

At least one man armed with an automatic weapon and apparently wearing a helmet opened fire on several cars travelling on route 35 near the city of Hebron, according to witness reports.

Note the passive language in the title and the opening passage, in which the victim’s car was hit by “gunfire”.  It isn’t until the third paragraph that “an armed man” makes an appearance.  However, the identity or likely motive of “the armed man” is not explored.

Beaumont continues:

The family in the car that was hit was understood to be en route from their home in Modi’in – an Israeli town split across occupied Palestinian and Israeli territory – to visit the mother’s family for the traditional meal that commences the Passover religious festival. The shooting was the second incident in the past two days on the West Bank.

This paragraph represents the first attempt to impute ‘settler’ status upon the victim.  However, Beaumont gets it wrong. Modi’in does not extend into “Palestinian territory”. (The Maccabim section of the greater Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut municipality – encompassing a few zip codes – are in what’s known as No Man’s Land, which refers to land between Israel and the West Bank whose sovereignty was never fully clarified after the War of Independence in 1948.)

Beaumont continues, and fails to properly contextualize additional information which clearly indicates a terror attack had taken place.

A traveller in another of the cars relayed the incident to an Israeli news agency describing the man as armed with a Kalashnikov and wearing a helmet. “He opened fire but didn’t hit us. He kept firing at the cars behind us,” the man said.

Israel‘s Channel 10 quoted another witness describing the man as dressed in black.

Beaumont then adds information which could easily be read as possible motives – if not justifications – for the shooting, which is curious in that, up until this point, he hasn’t so much as hinted that the attack could be nationalist (or political) in nature.

The shooting comes amid increasing tensions following a stalemate in peace talks.

It also comes hard on the heels of permission by the Israeli army on Sunday for three settler families to move into a building in nearby Hebron, after a long legal battle and culminating on Sunday with the authorisation by Israel’s defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, of the first new settlement in Hebron since the 1980s.

Then, in the penultimate paragraph, Beaumont descends to the absurd, feigning ignorance as to the likely motive:

However, with no immediate claim of responsibility the precise motives for the shooting remained unclear.

Finally, there this closing paragraph:

In the last 12 months five Israelis have been killed in attacks on the West Bank. According to figures collated by the Israeli NGO B’Tselem between January 2009 and the end of February this year 82 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces or civilians on the West Bank and 20 Israelis.

Note that, per Beaumont, Israelis have been killed by “attacks” perpetrated by faceless perpetrators, while Palestinians have been killed by “Israelis”.

Finally, in light of Beaumont’s callous, agenda-driven report, here’s a first-hand account of the shooting (per the Israeli media) which will humanize the victims:

“We left our house in Modi’in and headed to the Seder,” Hadas Mizrahi told Ynet. “We passed the Tarqumia checkpoint and a traffic circle, and then Baruch saw a terrorist. He told me, ‘they’re shooting, they’re shooting, they’re shooting. There’s a terrorist.’ Baruch put his foot down on the gas pedal.

“I felt a pain in my back. I told the kids, ‘take off your seatbelts and lie down on the floor’. I took the steering wheel, shifted into low gear and used the handbrake to reduce the speed. I used a rag to wipe up the blood; I saw that Baruch was dead. When the soldiers arrived, I told them to dress my wounds and put the children in a protected vehicle, so that they didn’t see their father lying dead.”

The initial investigation into the attack found that the terrorist fired dozens of rounds from a Kalashnikov at vehicles, hitting the car in which Baruch and Hadas Mizrahi and five of their children were travelling. The children, aged between 3 and 13, did not suffer any injuries, in no small part thanks to Hadas’ quick thinking.

I’ll be strong for the children, because that’s what Baruch would have wanted. We should also be thankful for the miracle that my children and I survived. We will stay strong and God willing, my children will grow and succeed, and that will be my victory against the terrorists,” said the mother, whose condition is defined as moderate. “I have two bullet wounds and a fractured rib.”

hadas

(This post was revised at 19:30 Israeli time to more accurately explain the boundaries of Modi’in.)

Sounds Israeli: Passover edition

Here is a version of ‘Mah Nishtanah‘ (מה נשתנה), a song from the Passover Haggadah known as The Four Questions.

Chag Pesach Sameach!

The Four Questions:

Why is this night different from all other nights?

On all other nights we eat leavened products and matzah, and on this night only matzah.

On all other nights we eat all vegetables, and on this night only bitter herbs.

On all other nights, we don’t dip our food even once, and on this night we dip twice.

On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining, and on this night we only recline.

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The Guardian plays crooked lawyer for the Palestinians

A few months ago we published an essay arguing that, in the event talks between the two parties break down and another is Intifada is initiated by Palestinian leaders, we can expect the Guardian to morally justify the violence.  

What we didn’t address at the time was our similar confidence that their editors, reporters and commentators would blame Israel for the break down in talks.

Sure enough, as talks have all but broken down (due to unilateral Palestinians acts hours before the Israeli government was set to approve an American brokered deal to extend talks to 2015), the Guardian published an official editorial which parrots the discredited claim that an Israeli announcement for new home tenders in east Jerusalem was the culprit.

Here are the relevant passages in the Guardian editorial (The Peace Bubble Bursts, April 11):

[Kerry's] determined concentration on peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, his repeated trips to the Middle East, and many months of hard work by a small army of advisers, drafters and facilitators, have ended not in a bang but a whimper

The “poof” moment was Israel‘s announcement of permits to build 700 new homes for settlers in East Jerusalem, a clearly provocative move given the Palestinian demand for a halt, or at least a pause, in settlement activity, and their insistence that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state

Of course, the claim that an “announcement of permits to build [708] new homes for settlers in East Jerusalem” effectively ended the talks is not even remotely accurate. 

First, Israel never agreed to so much as curtail the construction of homes beyond the green line (in Jerusalem or the West Bank) in the initial agreement brokered by Kerry to begin talks last July. They agreed to release Palestinian prisoners, but made no such guarantees regarding ‘settlements’.

Second, the east Jerusalem homes were reportedly a reissue of an earlier pronouncement permitting these new apartments in Gilo to be built, which, as Adam Kredo noted, means “that the substance of the decree [on new homes in east Jerusalem] had not changed for months and had not [previously] been a roadblock to the peace talks”.  

Third, other such ‘settlement’ construction announcements during negotiations have been made by Israeli authorities without major incident – due, again, to the fact that Israel never agreed to curtail such activity – prior to the east Jerusalem tenders.  This includes a January announcement that tenders were released for the construction of 600 homes in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in east Jerusalem.

Finally, it’s important to note that the 708 housing tenders were issued for Gilo, a neighborhood in Jerusalem which almost everyone (including the Palestinians) agrees will remain under Israeli control upon a final status agreement.  In fact, the Guardian should look back at their own reports of the leaked Palestinian notes during negotiations between Abbas and Olmert in 2008 (known as the Palestine Papers), where they confirmed that Palestinians leaders agreed that Gilo would remain Israeli.

Here’s a passage from a Jan 23, 2011 Guardian report by Seumas Milne and Ian Black:

The concession in May 2008 by Palestinian leaders to allow Israel to annex the settlements in East Jerusalemincluding Gilo, a focus of controversy after Israel gave the go-ahead for 1,400 new homes – has never been made public.

Here’s the map they published showing the Jerusalem neighborhoods in Jerusalem (in blue) which (Palestinians agreed) would be Israeli under the plan.  As you can see, the neighborhoods (beyond the green line) which Israel would retain include the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, East Talpiot, and Gilo.

mapsIn short, the Guardian’s risible suggestion that 708 housing tenders for Gilo caused the peace talks to fail does not represent the dispassionate analysis of ‘professional journalists’, but, rather, the deceit and sophistry of a crooked lawyer.

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CiF Watch prompts revision to Financial Times claim about Palestinian prisoners

On April 7, we posted about a shamefully propagandistic ‘analysis’ on the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks by their previous Associate Editor, David Gardner.  

The problems in Gardner’s article (pay wall) included a passage containing a toxic trope regarding ‘Jewish power’, a mischaracterization of Israel’s settlement freeze in 2010, an egregious distortion of the series of events leading to the current impasse between Abbas and Netanyahu, as well as a completely false claim seen in the following passage:

The [pre-Oslo] prisoners in question were supposed to have been released 20 years ago as part of the Oslo accords, at the high water mark for hopes that these two peoples could close a deal on sharing the Holy Land. They were not.

As we noted, this is flatly untrue.  

The pre-Oslo prisoners – scheduled for release under terms agreed upon last year to restart (and continue) negotiations – are all convicted of murder, attempted murder or being an accessory to murder, and there was no provision in the Oslo Accords requiring their release.   

Israel (per Annex VII of the agreement) agreed to release women, administrative detainees and minors, as well as elderly and sick prisoners, but stated quite clearly that they would not release “prisoners who killed Israeli citizens or were deemed likely to become involved in future acts of violence”, or otherwise had “blood on their hands”.  Additionally, “only members of organizations that had stopped supporting terrorism” would be considered for this amnesty.

Later, in a series of emails with editors at the Financial Times, they claimed that it was the Oslo 2 Accords that Gardner was referring to, and not Oslo 1.

However, as we noted in a subsequent email to editors, Oslo 2 (Article XVI, Confidence Building Measures) mentioned prisoners, but referred back to the language of the text in the original Oslo 1 Agreement, which (again) didn’t require Israel to release violent terrorists.

Following our last email with FT editors, they revised Gardner’s article and added this addendum:

corext

However, the change is completely inadequate.

Here’s the original:

orig

Now, here’s the slightly revised passage:

revised

The only change is that they added the modifier “some” to the original claim that “the prisoners in question were supposed to have been released…”.

However, as the language of the Oslo Accords cited above clearly indicates, NO violent terrorists (such as the pre-Oslo prisoners in question) were required to be released under the terms of either Oslo Agreement.

The Financial Times still has it wrong.

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Irish Times columnist ponders whether ‘rich Zionists’ control US foreign policy

We’ve previously written about Irish Times columnist Eamonn McCann, a Trotskyist activist and commentator who has employed the “chosen people” canard to suggest that Israeli attacks are arguably inspired by a belief in their own superiority, claimed that Zionism is racism and prophesized on the Jewish State’s ultimate demise.

In his April 10 Irish Times op-ed, the ‘truth telling’ radical expressed his disgust at Sheldon Adelson – or, more precisely, a recent episode involving New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in which the possible Presidential contender apologized to Adelson (a Republican donor) after giving a speech in which he referred to Judea and Samaria as ‘occupied territory’.

Here’s how McCann characterized the episode:

In a desperate effort to clamber his way back into the race for the Republican presidential nomination for 2016, New Jersey governor Chris Christie last week kowtowed to Zionism and apologised for telling the truth. 

Later, McCann wrote this in an attempt to contextualize Christie’s apology to Adelson:

There is a common view which this episode will reinforce that rich Zionists have captured US policy on the Middle East and use their financial clout to deliver uncritical support from the political elite for Israeli outrages against dispossessed Palestinians. There may be truth in this, but not the whole truth.

First, McCann fails to explain how the charge that “rich Zionists have captured US policy” is “not the whole truth”.  

Moreover, Adelson is Jewish, and it seems undeniable, given the context (as well as McCann’s previous expressions of contempt for ‘Zionists), that “rich Zionists” is a thinly veiled euphemism for “rich Jews’.  

Of course, saying outright that ‘rich Jews control the US government’ would represent the babbling of an anti-Semite.

And, we all know that editors at the Irish Times would never, ever allow such crude bigotry on the pages of their ‘progressive’ newspaper, don’t we?

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Guardian covers tabloid scandal about Bibi’s wife; ignores Gaza terror attacks

In 2005 Israel evacuated every Jew from Gaza, an act which provided Palestinians in the coastal strip a chance to have an independent polity free of foreign interference for the first time in history.  

In 2006, despite assurances from the ‘international community’ that the absence of an Israeli military and ‘settler’ presence would moderate the Palestinian electorate in Gaza, a plurality of Gazans voted for Hamas – an extremist group committed to the annihilation of Israel and the murder of Jews.  Hamas has run the territory without political opposition since their violent purge of Fatah in 2007.  

Since 2006, and despite the absence of Israeli occupation, over 8,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israeli towns.  Or, to put it more accurately, there have been 8,000 individual attempts to murder innocent Israelis since that time. 

To those who don’t understand why many Israelis are reluctant to cede more land to the Palestinians without sufficient and sustainable security guarantees that aren’t dependent on the good will of Palestinian leaders or the casual ‘assurances’ of Western governments, the answer can be culled from the results of this real-life ‘land for peace’ experiment.  In short, though most Israelis strongly support, in principle, a two-state solution, most wearily expect that the new Palestinian state will quickly devolve into either failed state or, more likely, a terror state.

The reason why this blog focuses at times on the Guardian’s failure to report terror attacks from Gaza (and the West Bank), is that such an egregious failure to report the full story about the conflict allows their readers to lazily dismiss Israel’s insistence on defensible borders. This security doctrine is based on past wars and terror attacks, as well as the current reality of terrorist enemies on their borders (Hezbollah and Hamas) who are in possession of a combined arsenal of up to 170,000 (increasingly sophisticated and accurate) rockets and missiles.

So, for instance, the Guardian has failed to publish even one stand-alone article  (by their regional reporters) on any of the 100 plus rocket attacks from Gaza since January, 2014.  (The only minor exception pertains to two AFP stories (not written by Guardian staff) which characteristically focused on Israel’s response to rocket attacks.)

Here are the headlines of the two AFP reports which even mentioned Gaza rocket attacks. (Note the ‘tit for tat’ narrative, and emphasis on Israel’s response to the Gaza rockets):

AFP/Guardian story, March 3:

march 3AFP/Guardian story, March 13:

March 13

 Though their regional correspondents evidently didn’t find scores of deadly projectile fired at Israeli civilian targets newsworthy, they did, however, find time to pen two articles on complaints by former employees of the Netanyahus (a maid and a household assistant) about alleged unfair treatment by the prime minister’s wife, Sara.

Here’s a January 17 report by Rory McCarthy:

jan 17

Here’s an April 9 report by the Guardian’s new Jerusalem correspondent, Peter Beaumont:

april 9

 ‘Shocking’ details in the Jan. 17 report, included the following:

Peretz [the former maid] worked in the Netanyahu family home, in Caesarea, for six years. In the lawsuit she reportedly claimed that the prime minister’s wife, a psychologist, denied her basic social benefits and shouted at her for not following rules. Among the rules was allegedly the instruction that the employer be addressed only as “Mrs Sara Netanyahu,” following her husband becoming prime minister last spring.

Peter Beaumont’s story including even more ‘explosive’ charges:

He alleges that on another occasion Mrs Netanyahu woke him at 3am to complain that he had bought milk in bags rather than cartons. “When I complained about the time and the tone in which she spoke the harsh words to me, Mr Netanyahu interfered in the discussion and said I should do everything Mrs Netanyahu asked ‘so she will calm down’,” Naftali claims.

To put the Guardian’s priorities in some perspective, here are stats comparing their coverage of over 100 rockets attacks (100 individual Palestinian war crimes) vs their coverage of complaints against the prime minister’s wife by two former employees:

  • Guardian stories covering Sara Netanyahu’s alleged mistreatment of two employees: 2
  • Number of words in two Guardian reports on Sara Netanyahu’s alleged mistreatment of two employees: 1228
  • Guardian stories primarily devoted to terrorist attacks from Gaza: 0
  • Number of words devoted to Gaza rocket attacks on Israel within two broader Guardian/AFP reports (which focused on the general ‘tit for tat’ attacks between Gaza and Israel): 110

In case you were wondering, the latest illegal attack on Israeli civilians by the terrorists in control of Gaza (not reported by the Guardian) occurred on April 9, the very day the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent published the latest installment of L’Affair Sara.

Such contrasting priorities, which place greater emphasis on gossip about the Israeli prime minister’s wife than on deadly projectiles fired at innocent Israeli men, women and children, explains quite a bit about British misconceptions on the root cause of the conflict, and the main impediments to its resolution. 

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Does the Guardian object to Bob Carr’s antisemitic insinuation?

The charge that ‘Jewish money’ corrupts politics in Western countries is certainly nothing new, but we continue to marvel at the evolution - as this blog has observed on many occasions - by which such Judeophobic narratives about the injurious influence of Jews typically associated with the far-right are increasingly fashionable amongst commentators claiming a progressive orientation.

There was a good illustration of this disturbing trend in excerpts of new autobiography by Bob Carr, the former Australian foreign minister, as reported by the political editor of Guardian Australia Lenore Taylor.  The article, published on April 9, included the following passages:

Bob Carr: Diary of a Foreign Minister includes a detailed account of a period in October and November 2012 when Carr campaigned against [Prime Minister] Gillard’s insistence that Australia should support Israel and vote against Palestinian observer status in the United Nations.

The bitter fight became entwined in the leadership tensions that were reaching a crescendo at the time.

As it reached its height, he describes [former Prime Minister] Kevin Rudd arriving at his parliament house office “purse-lipped, choirboy hair, speaking in that sinister monotone. A chilling monotone”.

Rudd’s had a “morbid interest” in the issue which had the potential to impact both on Australia’s fate in the upcoming vote for a seat on the UN security council and on his own chances to return to the prime ministership.

How much of this is about money, I asked him,” Carr writes. “He said about one-fifth of the money he had raised in the 2007 election campaign had come from the Jewish community.”

Carr concludes that “subcontracting our foreign policy to party donors is what this involves. Or appears to involve.”

First, it’s important to note that Australia ended up voting to ‘abstain’ from the UN vote on ‘Palestine’, rather than voting ‘no’ as the U.S. and Israel was reportedly lobbying them to do.  So, if, as Carr suggests, the government’s decision on the ‘Palestine’ vote in the UN was indeed dictated by Jewish donations, why did they choose the course of action opposed by Israel and the Jewish community?

Further, Gillard’s tenure as prime minister was widely seen as a shift away from the staunchly pro-Israel policies of the government under prime minister John Howard, which governed the country for 11 years prior to Labor’s victory in 2007.  So, again, if money from Australian Jews dictated the government’s policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, why didn’t Gillard continue with the policies of her predecessor? 

However, putting aside the specious reasoning behind Carr’s imputation of Jewish influence in Australian politics aside, it’s quite interesting how the Guardian framed the story.   Here’s the headline and strap line to Taylor’s article:

headline

The strap line text is curious in that it frames Carr’s accusation (per the reasonably accurate headline) as ‘casting light‘ on the government’s alleged support for Israel – a term referring to something which provides an explanation for a phenomena or makes it easier to understand. 

Additionally, there’s nothing in the passages in Taylor’s report following Carr’s quote which would suggest that his accusation was at all problematic, controversial or tinged with bigotry.

To be fair, it’s far less than clear how Taylor interpreted Carr’s remark.  

However, it is indisputable that narratives suggesting the money and influence of Jewish or pro-Israel groups undermine the foreign policy of democratic countries is something akin to conventional wisdom within a segment of the U.S. and European Left.  And, it’s fair to conclude that – for most within the Guardian-Left political milieu – Carr’s words would likely represent ‘important insight’ into the root cause of the putatively pro-Israel bias in the West.

Guardian book review includes throw-away line about Israeli ‘ethnic cleansing’

Though we haven’t read the book by Arun Kundnani (a Soros Fellow who’s appeared at events sponsored by the Khomeinist Islamic Human Rights Commission) titled ‘The Muslims Are Coming!‘, A Guardian review by Robin Yassin-Kassab suggests it comports perfectly with the Glenn Greenwald - Guardian Left view that Islamist terror isn’t caused by radical ideologies, but by legitimate grievances against Western foreign policy. 

However, in addition to the author’s passionate endorsement of even the most risible excuses for extremism, there was this characteristic swipe at Israel.

Culturalism’s best-known proponent is Bernard LewisDick Cheney‘s favourite historian, who locates the problem as Islam itself, a totalitarian ideology-culture incompatible with democratic modernity. So Mitt Romney explains the vast divergence between Israeli and Palestinian economies thus: “Culture makes all the difference” – and decades of occupation, ethnic cleansing and war make no difference at all

Without revisiting the quote by the former U.S. presidential candidate, it’s important to note the causal manner in which Yassin-Kassab charges Israel with “ethnic cleansing” – an accusation, as we’ve noted previously, that has absolutely no basis in reality, and can be easily refuted by a few population statistics.

  • The Palestinian population in the West Bank increased from 462,000 in 1949 to more than 2.5 million today.
  • The Palestinian population in Gaza increased from 82,000 in 1948 to more than 1.7 million today.

Additionally, to add further context:

  •  The Jewish population in the Arab Middle East has decreased from over 850,000 in 1948 to less than 5,000 today.

So, while the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza has increased over 700 percent since Israel’s establishment, the Jewish population in the Arab Middle East has decreased by 99 percent – dry data which demonstrates that though Arab governments have quite ‘successfully’ ethnically cleansed their Jewish citizens, Zionists remain the most ‘incompetent’ ethnic cleansers on the planet.

The Guardian inflates the number of Palestinian refugees by 4,970,000

The Palestinian “refugee” problem is an issue this blog has explored on quite a few occasions, often in the context of pointing out UK media errors relating to the true number of actual refugees.

A case in point is a long article published on April 6 in The Observer (sister site of the Guardian) by incoming Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont, titled ‘Middle East: does either side have the will to strive for peace?.  Though the nearly 2,000 word article is largely unproblematic, the print version included the following graphic which includes extremely inflated figures on “refugees”:

refugees

First, the wording of the passage (underlined in red) on “refugees” is quite confusing, as the words “5 million refugees and their descendants” could be understood as implying that there are ’5 million Palestinian refugees’ from 1948, PLUS an additional number of descendants.  

Alternately, it could be an attempt to acknowledge that not all of the “5 million” Palestinians who are regarded as refugees (per UNRWA’s bizarre formula) are actually refugees, but, rather, are the descendants of the original (unstated number of) refugees.  However, even assuming it’s the latter, this is extremely misleading, since readers would likely never imagine that there are only 30,000 or so actual Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War (out of the original 711,000) still alive – or less than 1 percent of the ’5 million’ figure cited.

As we’ve noted previously, the 5 million figure (used by UNRWA) includes the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren (ad infinitum) of Palestinian Arabs who may have once lived somewhere in Mandate Palestine, and includes even those who are citizens of other Arab countries (such as Jordan or Lebanon) as “refugees”.

Though such egregious distortions about the actual number of Palestinian refugees are ubiquitous throughout the UK media, we had at least one notable success when we prompted a correction last August in The Telegraph to a passage mirroring the language used by The Observer cited above.  After a series of communications with Telegraph editors, they agreed with our argument and our figures, and revised the original passage (which you can see here) thusly:

corex

Emphasis added

Even this passage isn’t perfect, because it fails to note how many Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War (of the original 700,000 or so) are actually still alive, but, in comparison to the Guardian, it at least represents an attempt to accurately represent this widely misunderstood issue. 

h/t Izzy

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