The Guardian, the Boycotters’ press release, the Co-op and the Hamas link.

Why it should have taken two writers – both Observer ‘chief reporter’ Tracy McVeigh and Guardian Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood – to put together what is in fact no more than a re-hash of a ‘Boycott Israel Network’ press release is anyone’s guess. But it apparently did, and the result is this so-called article from April 29th on the subject of the Co-operative Group’s decision to boycott not only Israeli firms located over the green line, but also those with any connections to other businesses in those areas. 

The section from the BIN press release which McVeigh and Sherwood neglected to include provides background information on how this decision on the part of the Co-op came about. 

“The announcement by the Co-op came just before their Regional AGMs, due to take place over the next two weeks, and where motions on this issue have been submitted for discussion.  For months Co-op members have been highlighting their concerns about trade with complicit companies through co-ordinated letter-writing and discussions with local offices.”

For those unfamiliar with the Co-op’s structure and the manner in which that lends itself to easy manipulation by pressure groups, here is a brief primer. Anyone over the age of 16 can become a member of the Co-op for £1. Most of those who join do so for the offers, discounts and end of year dividends, but it is also possible for them to set up local members’ groups and the Co-op actually assigns funding to enable their meetings. 

The nature and purpose of each local group depends very much upon the members. Some might choose to go in for tasting the supermarket’s new range of wines at their meetings. Others may decide to recruit more new members at a local gala or engage in some kind of charity work. Still others may decide to liaise between the Co-op and the local community on a transition town-style green agenda – for example persuading their local Co-op to abandon the use of plastic bags or recycle food waste as compost. 

The local groups send representatives to regional meetings, which in turn send representation to national level meetings. Thus, anyone committed enough to put in the time and effort can promote a specific agenda and influence the Co-op’s operations at both local and national level. 

And that is precisely how this latest (and the previous, less far-reaching) boycott decision came about. Around 2008 the Co-op was identified by anti-Israel campaigners – in particular members of the PSC – as a ‘soft’ target. They became members, set up local groups and began pushing their agenda up the ladder. That task was not particularly difficult; the vast majority of Co-op members do not attend meetings and even those who do are often quite relieved to find that someone else is willing to spend time going to regional AGMs. 

The project was made even easier by the fact that, unable to compete with Britain’s big supermarket chains on price or quality, the Co-op markets itself as the progressive ‘ethical’ alternative. 

Sherwood and McVeigh quote one Hilary Smith in their article, describing her as “Co-op member and Boycott Israel Network (BIN) agricultural trade campaign co-ordinator”. The Boycott Israel Network of course involves itself in far more than just supermarket boycotts. 

Smith is also a member of Sheffield PSC and Sheffield BDS and active in the ‘Coordin8‘ lobbying network (her regional organizer is recent failed ‘flytilla’ participant and would-be fixer of online polls Terry Gallogly of York PSC). In 2009 she was to be found addressing students occupying Sheffield University on behalf of Sheffield PSC and is apparently not averse to the libeling of Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state. 

In February of this year Smith took part in an ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ event at Sheffield University which also featured a speaker from Who Profits, (a Coalition of Women for Peace offshoot) who was described in the promotional material as coming “from Haifa in the occupied territories”. That negation of Israel’s existence is of course an underlying principle of the BDS movement

In addition to her above activities, Hilary Smith is also a volunteer international coordinator’ for the ‘Free Gaza’ movement . Here she is reporting on a ‘Free Gaza’ speaking tour of the UK. Here she is acting as official contact and spokesperson for UK Free Gaza in 2009. Here she is posting information about the 2010 flotilla on the UK Trade Union movement’sLabournetsite and here complaining to the BBC about its coverage of the Mavi Marmara incident and its portrayal of the ‘Free Gaza’ movement. Ahead of the 2008 flotilla organized by ‘Free Gaza’, Smith chaired a press conference held in London.

The participants in one of the 2008 jaunts organized by ‘Free Gaza’ did reach their destination and were received (and presented with medals) by leaders of Hamas, – the terrorist organization designated by the UK government which ‘Free Gaza’ enables and supports

Activists in the ‘Free Gaza’ movement are very aware of the legal implications of their actions, as this briefing document – seized aboard a ‘Free Gaza’ ship – indicates.

Legal briefing given by Free Gaza to passengers on the ship Challenger

For the source of the above document and more information on the ‘Free Gaza’ movement, its ties to Hamas and other designated terror-connected organizations such as the IHH and its roots in the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), see here

The management of the Co-operative Group may not be aware that it has in fact been manipulated into this latest boycott move by subscribers to a political campaign which works towards the rather less than ethical ultimate aim of wiping a sovereign country off the map and often collaborates with designated terror organisations in order to do so.  

On the other hand, the Co-op might simply not care. After all, this is the same organization which (rather hilariously, given its advertising spiel on ethical banking) provides banking services  to George Galloway’s Viva Palestina – which is at this very moment  on yet another Hamas-supporting road-trip and travelling via Syria, where the incumbent dictator (for whom Galloway has such admiration is still slaughtering civilians in their thousands. 

This new boycott move by the Co-operative Group should actually be seen as very useful on a number of fronts.

It exposes the way in which it is laughably easy for very small numbers of energetic activists to dictate the agendas of large organizations in the UK. We have seen it happen in British churches, universities and trade unions – now it is the turn of the co-operative movement.

It also points a spotlight on the discrepancies between the ‘ethical’ image the Co-op likes to project for PR purposes and its actual practice. Let’s face it; the £350,000 worth of trade affected by this boycott is negligible (barely the price of a modest Tel Aviv apartment), but the move does highlight once again how the Co-op is apparently willing to overlook the terror-sympathetic  connections (and real aims) of clients and campaigning members in order to curry favor with a perceived  ‘progressive’ client base. 

The move also serves to highlight the manner in which UK-based anti-Israel campaigners have in the last decade or so managed to bring their message into the mainstream at local levels. Using letters to local newspapers, occasional PSC or ‘Friends of Palestine’ stalls and demonstrations, co-opting the support of churches and various specific interest groups, they have ensured that although the vast majority of the population understands little or nothing about the Arab-Israeli conflict, many are nonetheless convinced that they are capable of making ethical judgments about it. 

Of course most British citizens will find this move by the Co-op somewhat less than ethical, if not downright abhorrent. The good news is that due to the company’s structure, they can do something about it by using exactly the same methods as employed by BDS activists in order to reverse the agenda. 

What the Guardian won’t report and the influence on perceptions of Israel.

Foreign correspondents are in the position of being able to influence on a daily basis how others perceive the country in which they work. Not only do they shape that country’s image in the eyes of general foreign audiences, but their reporting also affects the attitudes and decisions of policy makers.  As political and governmental decisions are often – and perhaps increasingly – influenced by the amount of media attention a certain subject gets, a foreign correspondent’s decision to report or not to report a particular news story has more gravity than just the telling of the story itself. 

Taking the month now ending as a random example, analysis of the Guardian’s coverage of Israel on its dedicated page in the World News section shows that out of 60 items published between April 1st and 29th, seven dealt with the subject of Habima’s appearance at the Globe Theatre.

A further 11 items were published on the subject of Gunter Grass and his controversial poem. Nine items touched on the subject of Iran’s nuclear project, three were related to  Raed Salah’s immigration tribunal in the UK, five concerned the Danish ISM activist hit by an Israeli officer and a further five touched on aspects of what the Guardian Style Guide terms as settlements and settlers; Jews living over the ‘green line’. 

Other subjects tackled include the Israeli version of ‘Big Brother’, Saturday bus services, the gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel (2 articles), the ‘flytilla’ (2 articles), illegal migrants from Africa, Holocaust Memorial Day (3 items), Easter, and  hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners (2 articles). 

On the Israel page of Comment is Free, seven articles were published during April – reflecting the same themes as above. 

Pessach, Memorial Day and Independence Day (all of which took place in April) were not covered, despite their importance to anyone hoping to understand Israel. 

Neither did the Guardian report on any of the following events: 

“On the morning of April 2 a 65 year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish man was attacked by a young Arab man wielding an axe. The attack took place near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. The victim, who had been on his way to the Western Wall to pray, sustained minor injuries and was evacuated to a hospital for medical treatment.”

“On the evening of April 2 stones were thrown at a bus near Beit Horon, an Israeli village to the northwest of Jerusalem. Two women suffered minor injuries and were evacuated to a hospital for further treatment.”


“On the night of April 4 residents of Eilat heard explosions throughout the city. Searches conducted by the Israeli security forces discovered the remains of two 122mm Grad rockets, two of three launched at Eilat from the Sinai Peninsula. The rockets fell in open areas near residential structures. There were no casualties, but a number of residents were treated for shock.”

“On the morning of April 8 two long-range rockets landed near the city of Netivot. There were no casualties and no damage was done.”

“On the evening of April 8 a rocket landed in an open area near the city of Sderot. There were no casualties and no damage was done.”


“On the night of April 15 two rockets fell in open areas in the western Negev. There were no casualties.”

“On April 11, IDF military police detained a Palestinian at the Beqa’ot checkpoint in the Jordan Valley. He was found to be carrying seven improvised IEDs, three knives and bullets. He was transferred to the security forces for questioning.”

“The Egyptian and Palestinian media reported that the Egyptian security forces had stopped a vehicle in the northern Sinai Peninsula driven by an Egyptian and carrying three Palestinians who had illegally entered Egyptian territory on April 13. The three admitted that they had been en route to Libya to buy weapons to smuggle into the Gaza Strip through the tunnels. The interrogation conducted by the Egyptian security forces in El-Arish revealed that the three were residents of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip and belonged to the Salah al-Din Brigades, the military-terrorist wing of the Popular Resistance Committees.” 


“Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip targeting the western Negev continues. One rocket hit was identified in an open area. There were no casualties and no damage was done.”

“On April 19 in Jerusalem a 20 year-old yeshiva student was stabbed in the stomach, incurring serious wounds. Two young Arab men were detained as suspects. The initial investigation revealed that the motive for the attack was apparently nationalistic.”

“On April 21 Israel border policemen saw two Palestinians about 17 years old alighting from a taxi at the Tapuach junction (south of Nablus), carrying a suspicious-looking bag. The policemen ordered them to halt but the two turned and ran. The youths, both residents of the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, were found to be carrying four IEDs, a gun and ammunition.”

The IEDs and weapons found in the possession of the two Palestinians (Israel Border Police Media Office, April 21, 2012)

The IEDs and weapons found in the possession of the two Palestinians

(Israel Border Police Media Office, April 21, 2012)

“There has recently been a rise in the number of stones and Molotov cocktails thrown at Israeli vehicles south of Jerusalem in the Gush Etzion district; on April 19 there were five such attacks. In one instance Palestinian youths threw stones and rocks at an Israel car at the Gush Etzion junction. One of the rocks hit the car and shattered the front windshield. Riding in the car were a couple and their two-year old son.”


“The Mount of Olives in Eastern Jerusalem was the scene of an attack on Sunday night [April 15th], as 7 molotov cocktails or “firebombs” were hurled at Jewish homes in the neighborhood of Maale HaZeitim.”


“Three separate attacks in Jerusalem Thursday, [April 26th] left 4 people injured.

A Jewish family was assaulted by Arab teenagers in eastern Jerusalem, leaving three of the family members injured and in need of medical treatment.

In the Old City of Jerusalem, an 11 year old boy was injured when Arabs began throwing rocks near Israeli Jews in the area.  The boy was hit in the head and also received medical help following the incident.

The last attack to occur happened late Thursday night when an Orthodox man was attacked by two Arab youths, who fled the scene on foot before causing any physical harm. Police have arrested a suspect in the case and are reportedly looking for another.”


“An Israeli cab driver heading from Tel Aviv to Kfar Saba – a 14.5 mile trip – was stabbed several times overnight by an Arab man described by police as being in the country illegally.”


It is expensive to keep a permanent correspondent in a foreign country and that expense might well be queried if its only outcome is to produce multiple versions of the same carefully selected items in order to cultivate a tailored view of the country covered. 

But the stories untold are just as relevant as the ones which do get published. It is, for example, much easier for both British politicians and members of the general public to voice criticism of Israel’s checkpoints and security barrier as impediments to free movement if neither they nor the people listening to them know anything about attempts to smuggle IEDs, guns and knives intended to kill civilians through those checkpoints. 

The Guardian’s placing of a total black-out on the reporting of rocket fire into Israel from Gaza (unless Israel reacts), ‘cold weapon’ terror attacks on Israeli civilians and attempted armed infiltrations into Israel from Palestinian Authority-controlled areas is an additional method of influencing foreign perceptions of Israel which should not be underestimated. 

Harriet Sherwood on the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike – high on pathos, low on fact.

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?”

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, (1949), pt. 1, ch. 3)

Next month will mark the second anniversary of Harriet Sherwood’s arrival in Israel. Those two years have made no noticeable difference to her reporting – suggesting that Sherwood’s tendency to blindly reproduce frequently unsubstantiated claims made by various individuals or organisations (often with a lot more to them than Sherwood chooses to inform her readers) is more a matter of method than lack of knowledge or experience. 

As we saw just a couple of months ago in the Guardian’s coverage of Khader Adnan’s hunger strike, what Sherwood (and others) omit from their reports is often just as critical to the overall picture as the words they do choose to write. Thus Adnan – an Islamic Jihad activist seen on record recruiting suicide bombers – became a baker as far as Guardian readers were concerned, whilst the victims of his militant group  (as Sherwood elected to term a proscribed terrorist organisation) remained outside the sphere of Guardian readers’ awareness.  

Now Sherwood is at it again, with an article from April 26th on the subject of the latest round of hunger strikes by Palestinian security prisoners held in Israeli prisons. In it, she covers two specific prisoners; Bilal Diab (aged 27 from the village of Ra’ei, south-west of Jenin) and Tha’er Halahleh (aged 34 from Hevron and one of the leaders of the hunger strike). 

What Sherwood refrains from informing her readers is that – like Khader Adnan – both men are members of the Islamic Jihad

בלאל דיאב מהכפר ראעי שבקרבת ג'נין. נמנה עם הג'יהאד האיסלאמי. צם 48 יום בדרישה להשתחרר

Bilal Diab

ת'איר חלאלה. ממנהיגי שובתי הרעב, מהג'יהאד האיסלאמי. מאזור חברון. דורש לבטל את מעצרו

Tha’er Halahleh

Sherwood quotes ‘Addameer’ in her article, describing it as a ‘prisoners’ rights group’ but declining to mention the organisation’s political aspects and its use of Palestinian prisoners as a means of political leverage. 

This interview (worth reading in its entirety) with Addameer legal researcher Mourad Jadallah gives an idea of the group’s political affiliations and the significance of the subject of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons in internal Palestinian political power struggles.

Asa Winstanley: Palestinian hunger strikes seems to have developed a lot recently. It’s an old tactic, but there seems to be a new focus on it.

Mourad Jadallah: We have days for hunger strike for prisoners from Fatah and [then] twenty other days for prisoners from the PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], which means that also the prisoners’ movement is not united like it was [in the past]. So what happened outside the prisons is reflected inside the prisons’ movement.

AW: The factional divisions you mean?

MJ: Yeah. Like today — this is something we don’t want to talk about but maybe for The Electronic Intifada we can say [that] until today we are not sure that the prisoners of Fatah will participate [in the hunger strike starting tomorrow].


 This is one side of how we can explain all these hunger strikes in the prison. From one side, the peace process failed to release the prisoners … And the other side, you have the [prisoners] exchange. Most of the prisoners released … they are affiliated to Hamas. So the other prisoners said, OK, what we have [are] political factions who just look out for their own prisoners and if we are from other parties nobody will ask for us and the peace process can’t release all the prisoners … The prisoners decided and they understood that they have to fight for themselves.

AW: Most of the prisoners released in the exchange were from Hamas?

MJ: Especially in the first phase of the release — 80 percent of them were from Hamas.

AW: Why was that?

MJ: This is what Hamas wanted, and also the majority of prisoners today, they belong to Hamas. This is the reality even after the exchange. And we know that Fatah and the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], when they release the prisoners, they look for the Fatah prisoners, they want to keep this legitimacy at least in the eyes of the Fatah prisoners.

So everyone is saying, OK, Hamas succeeded to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners — 80 percent of the first phase, which is like 450, they were Hamas. And the others, who were serving short sentences, were from different parties. So maybe it’s time for others to do the same as Hamas and release their prisoners.

… Since the beginning of the year there have been some short hunger strikes … Then suddenly you have the PFLP prisoners who went on an open hunger strike for twenty days, then Hamas came and did the prisoner swap … And then Khader Adnan put all the focus on Islamic Jihad. So you have a competition between the political parties. At some point you have the focus on the Fatah prisoners.

An additional aspect connecting this latest round of hunger strikes to its many predecessors -which Sherwood also completely ignores – is its role in the ongoing attempt by some  Palestinian groups (including organizations such as Addameer) to have people serving sentences due to convictions for terrorism recognized as political prisoners. In fact, as Addameer’s director Sahar Francis states in this article, they already view all Palestinian security prisoners as ‘political’ – even leaders of terrorist groups such as Ahmed Sa’adat of the PFLP and those convicted of acts of terror. 

Sherwood’s next quote in her article comes from Shawan Jabarin of Al Haq. As was previously pointed out by CiF Watch when Sherwood wrote a puff piece about ‘Defence of Children International – Palestine’ in January 2012, Jabarin (who sits on the board of DCI-Pal together with Sahar Francis of Addameer) is linked to the proscribed terrorist organization the PFLP. 

In June 2007 the Israeli Supreme Court noted that:

“[Jabarin] is apparently active as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in part of his hours of activity he is the director of a human rights organisation, and in another part he is an activist in a terrorist organisation which does not shy away from acts of murder and attempted murder, which have nothing to do with rights, and, on the contrary, deny the most basic right of all, the most fundamental of fundamental rights, without which there are no other rights – the right to life.”

If – as with almost everything she writes about – Sherwood were not so busy endeavoring to reduce the subject to simplistic concepts of innocent, helpless Palestinians and bad, powerful Israelis, she might have been able to broaden her readers’ knowledge on the subject of these repeated hunger strikes as part of a comprehensive strategy to try to secure the release of prisoners. 

She could have pointed out the connections between the well-organized strikes and the calls by Khaled Mashaal and other prominent members of Hamas such as Ismail Haniyeh, Ahmed Bahar and Ismail Radwan to kidnap more Israeli soldiers as a ‘second front’ in the bid for the release of convicted terrorists from Israeli prisons. 

She might have mentioned the statements by Issa Qaraqa  (PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs) and PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi on the subject of the coordinated hunger strike – both of which called for ‘internationalization’ of the issue – adding  further evidence to the fact that rather than some kind of spontaneous reaction to specific grievances, the strike is part of a co-ordinated political campaign, as the between Hamas and Fatah leaders in its promotion also indicates. 

“Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke by telephone Thursday about rallying Palestinians to support Palestinian prisoners in their hunger strike against certain Israeli prison policies, such as administrative detention, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported Friday, citing a Hamas statement.

The two also discussed tactical strategy for emphasizing the hunger strike and prisoner issues on the public relations and diplomatic fronts.”

But unfortunately for anyone who actually relies upon the Guardian for news and information about what goes on in Israel, they will learn nothing of the wider context of the hunger strikes in Israeli prisons because Harriet Sherwood apparently deems it unnecessary for readers to be aware of the connections of her subjects and interviewees to terror groups or the political campaigns of which the strikes are part and parcel. 

Instead, she’s busy piling on the pathos; slowly but steadily narrowing her readers’ range of thought in true Newspeak fashion. 



Comment is (apparently far from) Free.

Many a CiF Watcher landed on these pages as a result of having been censored, banned or both on the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ website and therefore has first-hand experience of just how ‘free’ comment there actually is. But an aspect of the title we do not often address in relation to the Guardian’s website is the financial one. It now appears that far from being free, comment may actually be downright expensive. 

Guardian writer Ally Fogg, in a piece from April 26th, raised the subject of a recent article in the New Statesman which estimates that the Guardian spends half a million pounds a year keeping ‘Comment is Free’ going. 

“One of the most active cheerleaders of commenting is the Guardian, which employs a dozen or so moderators, plus another dozen “community co-ordinators” who monitor Facebook, Twitter, Tumblrs and so on (the paper doesn’t give out an exact number). Assuming these people are on a modest £20,000 each, that’s nearly half a million pounds a year spent on making sure that the “community” – 1 per cent of readers – is well-served.”

Whether or not the New Statesman’s calculations are correct is anyone’s guess; Ally Fogg isn’t telling. But he does claim to have identified some vacancies in CiF’s stable of commenters. 

Of course the Guardian’s dire financial straits are common knowledge, with the paper (together with the Observer) having reported losses of £33 million in 2010 and £34.4 million in 2009. 

So, taking Ally Fogg’s idea one step further, perhaps the Guardian could recuperate some of its losses by hiring out its existing regular commenters to other blogs and websites seeking to up their traffic. The advert might go something like this: 

Rent-a-comment: exclusive GMG service takes care of all your weblog commenting needs. Our reservoir of experienced commenters includes:

The former ISMer:

His expertise is the spinning of tear-jerking yarns about his jaunts to the West Bank, featuring evocative descriptions of Palestinian cuisine and hospitality, the ‘apartheid wall’, settlements which expand faster than the speed of light and 7 foot tall Israeli soldiers. Can throw in the odd word of cod-Arabic for added authenticity and has a suitably progressive profile photo featuring himself in a Viva Palestina T-shirt personally signed by George Galloway.

The amateur expert on International Law: 

Able to instantly prove any political point necessary by means of an unreferenced and/or misquoted clause from the annals of hallowed ‘international law’.  OK – he’s actually a community organiser in real life, but he did read the entire works of Ilan Pappe on his last summer holiday and once went to a talk by Daniel Machover. 

The dictator apologist: 

Cut his commenting teeth at Socialist Unity and gained added credits at the knee of Simon Tisdall. Post-colonial guilt, anti-Americanism and cultural relativism added liberally to every comment at no extra charge. 

The ‘asaJew’ anti-Zionist: 

Invaluable when the credibility of wobbly claims such as ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘apartheid’ is questioned. Can always be relied upon to lend ethnically-authentic support to the claim that ‘critics of Israel are invariably accused of anti-Semitism’. Conveniently located in north London and thus able to give first-hand accounts of Palestine Solidarity Campaign candle-lit vigils and Christmas carol services,  (except on Mondays when she’s at Friends House and Thursdays – volunteers at the Islington Interfaith Circle knitting raincoats out of recycled plastic bags for the Negev Bedouin).

The conspiracy theorist:

9/11? The financial crisis and the banks’ lost millions? Control of politicians and the media? Organ harvesting? He always knows who really dunnit. Prefers to be described as an ‘independent thinker’ (got that idea from David Miller at ‘SpinWatch’) and makes particularly proficient use of the words ‘sheeple’ and ‘hasbara’. 

The BDSer:

Since finding BDS (and getting a new asymmetric hairdo) her cup runneth over. No more boring bring and buys and flower-arranging at church for her: now it’s international fame and glory on the pages of the ‘Friends of Sabeel’ newsletter (circulation 493) and jazzy acronyms such as EAPPI. Almost takes her back to her ‘Age of Aquarius’ halcyon days… that keffiyah makes her feel so young and alive. But of course it’s not about her: everyone knows that this is the defining issue of our times and – as she was telling the hairdresser the other day, just before she went off with the girls to get filmed protesting about cherry tomatoes in Tescos – we all have to do our bit. 

On second thoughts, maybe relying on Auto Trader isn’t such a bad plan after all… 

Postcard from Israel – Rosh Hanikra

Right up in the north-west corner of Israel, on the border with Lebanon, are the sea-sculpted caverns of Rosh Hanikra. With a marvellous view of the Mediterranean coast – and a peek into Lebanon through the border fence – the site offers the chance to descend 210 metres in a cable car and explore the grottos and the fossil-rich cliffs. 

In 1942 soldiers from New Zealand and South Africa serving with the the allied forces excavated tunnels through the soft chalk to create a route for the Haifa-Beirut-Tripoli railway. In March 1948 the railway was blown up by the Carmel Division of the Haganah in order to prevent its use by invading Lebanese forces. Today an audio-visual presentation is given and coffee and ice-cream are served inside one of the tunnels which actually exits in Lebanon. 

Rosh Hanikra is part of the Achziv national park and Loggerhead Sea Turtles nest on the nearby beaches. 

My interview on Philadelphia talk radio about CiF Watch, Zionism and being an Israeli

I was interviewed by Adam Taxin and Bob Guzzardi, on Philadelphia Talk Radio WWDB 860 AM, about my work at CiF Watch. The show was broadcast live on Monday, April 23. (Taxin and Guzzardi host the Chai95 Radio Hour on WWDB. Open link above and scroll down to see show)

More from the Guardian ‘Style Guide’.

As many of us were surprised to learn earlier this week, not only does the ‘Guardian and Observer Style Guide’ arbitrarily declare that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel, but it also relocates the capital to Tel Aviv. 

Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is (a mistake we have made more than once)

One may wonder if any other of the world’s countries enjoy the same distinction of having their choice of capital city completely ignored – and even ‘amended’ – by the ‘Style Guide’ writers. Having now read it from A to Z, I can assure you that they do not. 

The entire document is a rather curious mix of dictionary, grammar guide and manual for the 21st century Western politically correct. The underlying theme appears to be avoidance of causing offence – up to a point. Thus we are advised:

Ayers Rock now known as Uluru

down under Do not use to refer to Australia or New Zealand

Indian placenames the former Bombay is now known as Mumbai, Madras is now Chennai, Calcutta is now Kolkata and Bangalore is now Bengaluru

British Isles A geographical term taken to mean Great Britain, Ireland and some or all of the adjacent islands such as Orkney, Shetland and the Isle of Man. The phrase is best avoided, given its (understandable) unpopularity in the Irish Republic. Alternatives adopted by some publications are British and Irish Isles or simply Britain and Ireland

England, English should not be used when you mean Britain or British, unless you are seeking to offend readers from other parts of the UK (we published a map of England’s best beaches, with the headline “Britain’s best beaches”)

foreign accents Use accents on French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Irish Gaelic words – and, if at all possible, on people’s names in any language, eg Sven-Göran Eriksson (Swedish), Béla Bartók (Hungarian). This may be tricky in the case of some languages but we have had complaints from readers that it is disrespectful to foreign readers to, in effect, misspell their names

foreign placenames Style for foreign placenames evolves with common usage. Leghorn has become Livorno, and maybe one day München will supplant Munich, but not yet. Remember that many names have become part of the English language: Geneva is the English name for the city that Switzerland’s French speakers refer to as Genève and its German speakers call Genf. 
Accordingly, we opt for locally used names, with these main exceptions (the list is not exhaustive, apply common sense): Archangel, Basle, Berne, Brittany, Cologne, Dunkirk, Florence, Fribourg, Genoa, Gothenburg, Hanover, Kiev, Lombardy, Milan, Munich, Naples, Normandy, Nuremberg, Padua, Piedmont, Rome, Sardinia, Seville, Sicily, Syracuse, Turin, Tuscany, Venice, Zurich. 

And the next time someone says we should call Burma “Myanmar” because that’s what it calls itself, they should bear in mind that Colonel Gaddafi renamed Libya “The Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya”

Considerable space is given over to one particular religion, with explanations of all others being absent.  Is it therefore to be concluded that – with the exception of Islam – all Guardian writers are theological experts and therefore need no guidance on the finer points of Buddhism, Shinto, Jainism or Hinduism? 

Muhammad Our style for the prophet’s name and for most Muhammads living in Arab countries, though where someone’s preferred spelling is known we respect it, eg Mohamed Al Fayed, Mohamed ElBaradei. The spelling Mohammed (or variants) is considered archaic by most British Muslims, and disrespectful by many of them.

Ashura a day of voluntary fasting for Muslims; Shia Muslims also commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein, a grandson of the prophet, so for them it is not a festival but a day of mourning

Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) Muslim festival laid down in Islamic law, celebrates the end of the hajj. Note that eid means festival, so it is tautologous to describe it as the “Eid festival”

Eid al-Fitr Muslim festival of thanksgiving laid down in Islamic law, celebrates the end of Ramadan (al-fitr means the breaking of the fast)

eid mubarak not a festival but a greeting (mubarak means “may it be blessed”)

hajj pilgrimage to Mecca; haji Muslim who has made such a pilgrimage

bismillah means “in the name of God” in Arabic

burqa not burka

casbah rather than kasbah

inshallah means “God willing” in Arabic

Islam means “submission to the will of God”.

Ka’bah cube-shaped shrine in the centre of the great mosque in Mecca towards which all Muslims face in prayer; the shrine is not worshipped but used as the focal point of the worship of God

Muslims should never be referred to as “Mohammedans”, as 19th-century writers did. It causes serious offence because they worship God, not the prophet Muhammad. 

“Allah” is Arabic for “God”. Both words refer to the same concept: there is no major difference between God in the Old Testament and Allah in Islam. Therefore it makes sense to talk about “God” in an Islamic context and to use “Allah” in quotations or for literary effect. 

The holy book of Islam is the Qur’an (not Koran)

Apparently, it is important not to offend Jedi through mis-spelling and climate change is deemed a touchy subject too:

lightsaber as in the official Jedi spelling

climate change terminology A sensitive area. The editor of the Guardian’s environment website says: “Climate change deniers has nasty connotations with Holocaust denial and tends to polarise debate. On the other hand there are some who are literally in denial about the evidence.”

Our guidelines are:

Rather than opening itself to the charge of denigrating people for their beliefs, a fair newspaper should always try to address what it is that people are sceptical about or deny.
 The term sceptics covers those who argue that climate change is exaggerated, or not caused by human activity.
 If someone really does claim that climate change is not happening – that the world is not warming – then it seems fair enough to call them a denier

As many have pointed out over the years, the Guardian’s insistence on referring to some terrorists as ‘militants’ appears to have something of a geographical basis to it. The 7/7 bombers in London were described as ‘terrorists’. Those who blow up public transport in Israel are militants. The style guide offers us some clues to that riddle.

terrorism, terrorists A terrorist act is directed against victims chosen either randomly or as symbols of what is being opposed (eg workers in the World Trade Centre, tourists in Bali, Spanish commuters). It is designed to create a state of terror in the minds of a particular group of people or the public as a whole for political or social ends. Although most terrorist acts are violent, you can be a terrorist without being overtly violent (eg poisoning a water supply or gassing people on the underground).

Does having a good cause make a difference? The UN says no: “Criminal acts calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public are in any circumstances unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”

Whatever one’s political sympathies, suicide bombers, the 9/11 attackers and most paramilitary groups can all reasonably be regarded as terrorists (or at least groups some of whose members perpetrate terrorist acts).

Nonetheless we need to be very careful about using the term: it is still a subjective judgment – one person’s terrorist may be another person’s freedom fighter, and there are former “terrorists” holding elected office in many parts of the world. Some critics suggest that, for the Guardian, all terrorists are militants – unless their victims are British. Others may point to what they regard as “state terrorism”.

Often, alternatives such as militants, radicals, separatists, etc, may be more appropriate and less controversial, but this is a difficult area: references to the “resistance”, for example, imply more sympathy to a cause than calling such fighters “insurgents”. The most important thing is that, in news reporting, we are not seen – because of the language we use – to be taking sides.

Note that the phrase “war on terror” should always appear in quotes, whether used by us or (more likely) quoting someone else

We learn, however, that 9/11 was a terror attack and that it is fine to call Al Qaeda terrorists. 

Islamist an advocate or supporter of Islamic fundamentalism; the likes of Osama bin Laden and his followers should be described as Islamist terrorists

September 11 Use September 11 (ie contrary to our usual date style) when it is being evoked as a particular event, rather than just a date, eg: How September 11 changed the world for ever

But “how the events of 11 September 2001 changed the world for ever” would follow our normal date style. 
9/11 may be substituted for either, as necessary, particularly in tight headlines, eg:
How 9/11 changed the world for ever

The official death toll of the victims of the Islamist terrorists who hijacked four aircraft on 11 September 2001 is 2,976. The figure does not include the 19 hijackers. Of this total, 2,605 died in the twin towers of the World Trade Centre or on the ground in New York City (of whom approximately 1,600 have been identified), 246 died on the four aeroplanes, and 125 were killed in the attack on the Pentagon.
 The hijackers were: Fayez Ahmed, Mohamed Atta, Ahmed al-Ghamdi, Hamza al-Ghamdi, Saeed al-Ghamdi, Hani Hanjour, Nawaf al-Hazmi, Salem al-Hazmi, Ahmed al-Haznawi, Khalid al-Mihdhar, Majed Moqed, Ahmed al-Nami, Abdulaziz al-Omari, Marwan al-Shehhi, Mohannad al-Shehri, Wael al-Shehri, Waleed al-Shehri, Satam al-Suqami, Ziad Jarrah (though dozens of permutations of their names have appeared in the paper, we follow Reuters style as for most Arabic transliterations)

However, Hamas and other Palestinian terror organizations do not get a mention, whilst:

Hezbollah means “party of God”

Besides the translocation of its capital, what about other subjects which a Guardian Jerusalem (or should that be Tel Aviv?) correspondent may encounter? 

Zionist refers to someone who believes in the right for a Jewish national home to exist within historic Palestine; someone who wants the borders of that entity to be expanded is not an “ultra-Zionist” but might be described as a hardliner, hawk or rightwinger

West Bank barrier should always be called a barrier when referred to in its totality, as it is in places a steel and barbed-wire fence and in others an eight-metre-high concrete wall; if referring to a particular section of it then calling it a fence or a wall may be appropriate. It can also be described as a “separation barrier/fence/wall” or “security barrier/fence/wall”, according to the nature of the article

settler should be confined to those Israeli Jews living in settlements across the 1967 green line, ie in the occupied territories

six-day war between Israel and its neighbours in June 1967

occupied territories Gaza and the West Bank

Palestine is best used for the occupied territories (the West Bank and Gaza); if referring to the whole area, including Israel, use “historic Palestine” (but Palestine for historical references to the area prior to 1948)

Mossad, the Israeli secret service; note definite article

Nakba the Palestinian “catastrophe”

Haaretz Israeli newspaper; no longer has an apostrophe

 And the words barmitzvah and batmitzvah have also been given the ‘Jerusalem treatment’ as the Guardian apparently considers itself qualified to take two words in another language and fuse them into one.

If you happen to have a damp weekend ahead, here is the full Guardian and Observer Style Guide for your continued entertainment and enlightenment. 



Guardian writers and pro-Iranian propaganda.

As all regular readers of the Guardian and its ‘Comment is Free’ website are aware, that paper long since chose to take a ‘Stop the War Coalition’-style stance on the subject of pre-emptive intervention in Iran’s nuclear programme. 

Dozens of articles have been published on the subject, the vast majority of which have argued in one form or another against a pro-active approach and promoted a benign view of both the Iranian regime and its nuclear aspirations.

On April 25th two articles were published – one by Julian Borger and the other by Saeed Kamali Dehghan – on exactly the same subject; interpretations of an interview given by the Israeli Chief of Staff to the Ha’aretz newspaper.  

Julian Borger’s piece runs with the headline “Israel army chief contradicts Netanyahu on Iran” and he uses one quote out of a very long interview as a basis for the overall impression his article attempts to make: an implication that the Israeli Prime Minister is over-reacting to the Iranian threat. In other words, Borger uses Gantz’s words to try to lend legitimacy the Guardian view of the benign nature of the Iranian nuclear programme. 

Saeed Kamali Dehghan’s headline goes even further: “Israeli military chief: Iran will not decide to make nuclear weapons” and he too stresses an alleged dissonance between the views of Gantz and those of Binyamin Netanyahu. 

Obviously, it is necessary to take Lt. Gen. Gantz’s words in the context of the entire interview rather than cherry-picking quotes perceived as convenient back-up to a specific agenda. The original Hebrew version of the interview is here. The relevant sections of the English-language translation are as follows: 

“If Iran goes nuclear it will have negative dimensions for the world, for the region, for the freedom of action Iran will permit itself,” Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz told Haaretz in an Independence Day interview.

That freedom of action might be expressed “against us, via the force Iran will project toward its clients: Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad in Gaza. And there’s also the potential for an existential threat. If they have a bomb, we are the only country in the world that someone calls for its destruction and also builds devices with which to bomb us. But despair not. We are a temperate state. The State of Israel is the strongest in the region and will remain so. Decisions can and must be made carefully, out of historic responsibility but without hysteria,” Gantz said.


Asked whether 2012 is also decisive for Iran, Gantz shies from the term. “Clearly, the more the Iranians progress the worse the situation is. This is a critical year, but not necessarily ‘go, no-go.’ The problem doesn’t necessarily stop on December 31, 2012. We’re in a period when something must happen: Either Iran takes its nuclear program to a civilian footing only or the world, perhaps we too, will have to do something. We’re closer to the end of the discussions than the middle.”

Gantz says the international pressure on Iran, in the form of diplomatic and economic sanctions, is beginning to bear fruit. “I also expect that someone is building operational tools of some sort, just in case. The military option is the last chronologically but the first in terms of its credibility. If it’s not credible it has no meaning. We are preparing for it in a credible manner. That’s my job, as a military man.”

Iran, Gantz says, “is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb. It hasn’t yet decided whether to go the extra mile.”

As long as its facilities are not bomb-proof, “the program is too vulnerable, in Iran’s view. If the supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants, he will advance it to the acquisition of a nuclear bomb, but the decision must first be taken. It will happen if Khamenei judges that he is invulnerable to a response. I believe he would be making an enormous mistake, and I don’t think he will want to go the extra mile. I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people. But I agree that such a capability, in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who at particular moments could make different calculations, is dangerous.”

About three months ago Gantz’s U.S. counterpart, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, visited Israel as his guest. “We speak a great deal with the Americans. It’s not on the level of a discussion, where I want something concrete and he forbids it. We are partners. We and the United States have a large common alignment of interests and relations, but America looks at America and Israel [looks at] Israel. We aren’t two oceans away from the problem – we live here with our civilians, our women and our children, so we interpret the extent of the urgency differently. America says its piece openly, and what it says in the media is also said behind closed doors. It cannot be translated into lights, red or green, because no one is asking them anything in that regard.”

Gantz knows that in the event of another war he will face time pressures as a result of enemy operations against the home front. The IDF will have to bring massive force to bear from the outset, employing most of the means at its disposal quickly and without hesitation or delay.

Ground operations, long-distance fire and in-depth operations as well?

“I don’t pretend to determine that now. I am preparing for full deployment of our capabilities. The political leadership will have to take courageous, painful decisions. There are a certain number of critical decisions in a war. The chief of staff makes about 10 of these in his sphere of responsibility in wartime, and the political leadership makes about half this number.”

These decisions, Gantz knows, will be made under a barrage of rockets and missiles against civilian areas.

In light of the Arab Spring, Israel’s military preparedness must now include a much greater and more varied range of arenas and possibilities.

“I don’t know what will happen in Syria, but presumably the Golan Heights won’t be as quiet as before. I cannot remove Syria from the military equation, nor Lebanon. I assume that if there are terror threats from the Golan or Lebanon I’ll have to take action. I cannot do everything by ‘stand-off’ [remote]. The enemy’s fire capabilities have developed at every distance, four or five times what they were in the Second Lebanon War and four or five times compared to the Gaza Strip before Operation Cast Lead, not to mention the new ground-to-air missile in Syria. I go to sleep with the understanding that what we did in the recent long and comprehensive exercises could happen in reality.”

So, as is apparent after reading a more extended version of the interview, the IDF Chief of Staff is in fact far from writing off the Iranian nuclear threat and/or dangers from Iran’s various proxies in the region and his appraisal of the situation is nowhere near as far removed from that of the Israeli Prime Minister as the Guardian’s writers would have us believe.

In addition, Borger’s claim that “Gantz all but calls on Netanyahu to calm down” is shown to be no more than a figment of his own imagination and wishful thinking. The Israeli Prime Minister’s name is not even mentioned by Lt. Gen. Gantz and as anyone familiar with Israel’s highest-ranking officer knows, if he did have anything to say to Mr Netanyahu, it is highly unlikely that would be done via the pages of Ha’aretz.  

Julian Borger and Saeed Kamali Dehghan once again illustrate Guardian propaganda – the systematic spreading of information and/or disinformation, usually to promote a specific political viewpoint – in its most transparent form. 

Meeting Ambesagir – an illegal migrant to Israel.

The baggy hospital pyjamas and the pale blue hoodie he wears on top of them at first disguise just how painfully frail and thin Ambesagir is. There is a worried, introverted look about him which makes him appear older than his 18 years until he suddenly bursts into a broad engaging smile. He has reasons for both the worry and the smile. 

Ambesagir is from Asmara in Eritrea and has been in Israel since November 2011. I wanted to hear first-hand about his four month journey to Israel and the reasons so many of his countrymen choose to make it.  He told me that he left Eritrea on foot and crossed into Ethiopia, despite the fact that continuing tensions between the two countries mean that had he been caught by the Eritrean authorities trying to leave, he would have been liable for one to two years of imprisonment. 

From Ethiopia, Ambesagir crossed into Sudan on foot. It was at that point that he abandoned the clothes and belongings he had brought with him, being unable to carry his luggage on the ten-day walk northwards. He and his group of 54 people then travelled by bus to the Nile, where they caught a boat which took them into Egypt. There the journey continued on foot, walking day and night without food or water. One member of the group died along the way. 

Upon reaching the Sinai Desert, Ambesagir had to pay $3,500 to the local human traffickers. For migrants who have relatives either already in Israel or in Europe the price is even higher, with the traffickers able to demand up to $10,000 to guide them to the border with Israel because they know the families will pay. 

Over 60% of the migrants arriving in Israel come from Eritrea, with around 30% originating in Sudan and the remainder from other African countries. What causes so many to be prepared to risk that nightmare journey? 

Ambesagir explained that unemployment is high and wages low in Eritrea. If, like him, a young person does not achieve good grades on their school matriculation certificate, then there is little chance of getting into higher education and securing a profession. He did study irrigation at agricultural college for one year, but his prospects seemed dismal to him. “Not enough money”, he explained, adding that everyone in Eritrea knows that Israel is a rich country and relatively close. When I enquired whether people leave Eritrea for reasons other than economic ones – perhaps political or religious – Ambesagir said that is not the case.

Since the revolution in Libya, migrant Eritreans are finding it considerably more difficult to get to Europe and so, according to Ambesagir, Israel is now an even more attractive destination.  

I asked him if Israel lives up to his expectations and he replied that it is much harder to find work than he thought it would be, blaming his limited knowledge of English. His dream, he told me, is to work in Israel for ten or twenty years and then return to Eritrea a rich man, but then quickly added that one year or two would also be something: “one dollar in Israel is like one hundred dollars in Eritrea”. 

A month ago, whilst sleeping rough, Ambesagir became very ill. He was taken to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba by the Israeli employer of a friend with whom he had made the journey from Eritrea and since then has spent four weeks in the hospital. Quickly realising the complexity of Ambesagir’s situation, and despite his not having medical insurance or valid paperwork, the hospital has allowed him to remain on the ward – rather than discharging him after two weeks to continue treatment as an outpatient as would usually have been the case for a person in his condition – by recruiting funding for his hospitalisation. 

Upon his release from hospital scheduled for next week, Ambesagir will continue to need medication for six months and have regular check-ups. The department’s staff are already liaising with a Tel Aviv clinic which takes care of illegal migrants lacking medical insurance in order to ensure that he gets the follow-up treatment he needs, have offered their continued help in carrying out tests and will even provide him with six months’ worth of medication in advance.

Ambesagir is visibly touched by the care he has received at Meir Hospital. His wide smile lit  up his face as he told me “hospital very good” and then went on to mention that the Israeli man who brought him to the emergency room has also been visiting and doing laundry for him. 

I asked if his family in Eritrea know that he is ill. Although he is in contact with them by telephone, he hasn’t yet told them about his hospitalization and his smile turned wistful as he talked about the food he misses from home, his nine brothers and sisters and the millet, maize and peanuts his family grow. For a moment, he looked like what he is: a young man barely out of childhood, alone in a strange country with no money, no job and nowhere to live. 

His medical condition means that he will probably not be able to work full-time for at least part of the next six months and he feels uncomfortable about the prospect of sharing an apartment with friends without being able to contribute fully to the costs. But, he pointed out, he has already been very lucky because his friend’s boss brought him to Meir Hospital and he is now, literally, back on his feet. 

“Maybe I’ll be lucky again”, he said, once again bursting into his broad smile. 

Happy Independence Day!

Every year since the very first anniversary of Israeli independence (with the exception of 1957), the Ministry of Education has produced a poster celebrating Yom HaAtzmaout

Anyone flying in or out of Israel will probably have noticed the exhibition of those posters at Ben Gurion airport. I always make a point of looking for ‘my’ poster – the one produced in the year in which I came to Israel – and noting how many have followed. But my favourite of all the many beautiful designs is the very first one from 1949 which carries a quotation from the Declaration of Independence that is just as relevant today as it was all those decades ago. 

“This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.”

קובץ:Israel 01 Independence Day 1949.jpg

In contrast with most other nations, that natural right still has to be defended and protected by Israelis. As we make the difficult transition from a day of commemoration for those who gave their lives defending their country to a day of celebration of 64 years of Jewish self-determination, here is a film tribute to the current generation of Israel’s soldiers who stand guard every day of the year to defend our country, our independence and our natural right to both. 

Happy Independence Day! יום עצמאות שמח

With thanks to Shoot East for their permission to use the film. 

Harriet Sherwood promotes the mantra of “death of the peace process”.

Just hours ahead of the Independence Day celebrations in Israel, Harriet Sherwood chose to promote an advocate of the ‘one-state solution’ in an article published in the World News section on the Guardian website. 

The Guardian has, of course, been active in promoting the concept of the demise of a negotiated two-state solution for some time.  Its ‘Palestinian Territories’ page still carries the headline “Secret papers reveal slow death of Middle East peace process” first published in January 2011 at the time of its leaking of the so-called Palestine Papers in collaboration with the Qatari regime-controlled Al Jazeera. 

In Sherwood’s latest piece she promotes the recent statements by two of the architects of the Oslo Accords – Yossi Beilin and Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala).

Beilin recently published an open letter to the de facto PA President Mahmoud Abbas (whose term of office long since expired), calling upon him to dissolve the Palestinian Authority. Qurei wrote an article last month in the London-based, Palestinian ex-pat owned newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi (edited by occasional Guardian contributor Abdel Bari Atwan) in which he called for the ‘reconsideration’ of the ‘one-state solution’. 

Returning to the official Guardian line from the days of the ‘Palestine Papers’, Sherwood states that:

“Both men reflect a view held by many observers of the stalled peace process, that the window of opportunity to create a Palestinian state has closed or is about to close. The alternatives to two states, they say, are a continuation and entrenchment of the status quo, or one state which denies equality to a large and rapidly growing minority, or one binational state of equals which would no longer be Jewish in character.”

Sherwood’s “many observers” are neither quantified nor identified and understandably so, because in fact they exist outside the consensus of mainstream opinion which still seeks to achieve two states for two nations through negotiation. Likewise, the chimera of an imminently closing “window of opportunity” is now practically a joke, having been invoked time and time again over so many years.

Of course Sherwood does not pause to ask herself why the general population on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the divide should pay any attention whatsoever to the latest ideas of two of the people responsible for a previously failed initiative which led to the deaths of thousands. Neither does she seem to think it worthy of comment that both Beilin’s and Qurei’s explanations of the collapse of the Oslo Accords include no recognition whatsoever of the initiative’s basic flaws, but instead place the blame exclusively at the doors of others.

Qurei and Beilin come from two very different starting points, both of which connect neatly to the ‘Guardian world view’. Beilin’s far Left approach to the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict represents a minority view within Israeli public opinion and even considerable financial backing from various European governments for the purpose of marketing his Geneva Accords project did not change that fact. 

Beilin’s attempts to twist arms by persuading the PA to dissolve itself – thereby hoping to shock the Israeli government into taking some sort of action, the nature or consequences of which he does not appear to be sure, but which may include unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria – do not take into account the lessons learned after the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip which now shape mainstream Israeli opinion. Neither does Beilin’s ‘master plan’ build on any of the other lessons learned as a result of the failure of the Oslo Accords. 

Sadly, that kind of blinkered view of the conflict – one which appoints responsibility for its creation and solution almost exclusively to the Israeli side, with a remarkable lack of recognition of Palestinian agency – is all too prevalent in the far Left circles inhabited by many a Guardian writer and editor. 

Qurei, on the other hand, is representative of the type of Palestinian leadership which – in common with the far Left, but for different reasons – also blames Israel for all its ills and crucially is unable to confront its people with the fact that a solution to the conflict cannot include the ‘right of return’ of Palestinian refugees to Israel. For those subscribing to the Qurei school of thought, the ‘one-state solution’ is both a way of avoiding that confrontation and a rejection of the presence of a sovereign Jewish state in the Middle East. 

As we well know, the Guardian does not shy away from promoting the various proponents of the ‘one-state solution’, whether they are members of Hamas and its sympathizers, activists from the BDS movement, or members of the far Left. 

It therefore comes as no surprise to see Harriet Sherwood promoting the ideas of two exponents of fringe views under the well-worn mantra of “the imminent death of the two-state solution”. Unfortunately, her paper’s ideological and practical investment in that mantra prevents her from making clear to her readers just how far removed from mainstream opinion – both in Israel and the world in general – those ideas are. 


From Staring to Praying.

 A guest post by Truthy Ruthie

I don’t know exactly when I made the transition from appreciatively eyeing up the gorgeous Israeli soldiers to uttering a silent prayer for heavenly protection over them.

I do not recall a defining moment for this transition; perhaps it was a gradual process born out of maturity and the gift of motherhood I have recently been blessed with.  Perhaps it is because I’m in my thirties. Who knows? But there was at some point a shift in my attitude.

Don’t get me wrong, I can still marvel at some of these fine-looking youngsters with their golden tans and uber-cool aviator sunnies. But my primary instinct and concern is to will them a long life and utter a silent prayer that G-d sees them safely through their service and that they all come home in one piece.

 Of course all this praying and inner well-wishing is done with a poker straight face, lest I be accused of over-anxiety. We should all be thankful that I leave it at the silent prayer and stop short of going over to give them a hug, buy them lunch and make sure they are getting the enough food. After all, I don’t want to scare the poor souls with these overt motherly expressions of love and appreciation.

Today marks Yom Hazikaron, Remembrance Day for our fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. During the minutes’ silence throughout the whole country, everything comes to a standstill. Flags are flown at half-mast. The state’s official ceremony is held on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem where the founding fathers and mothers of this country and fallen heroes were laid to rest. Sad and mellow music is played on all Israeli radio stations. Countless other public and private ceremonies are held up and down the country to remember the fallen.

For me personally I take inspiration from the nation’s collective heartache and tears that are shed together with my own for our fallen brothers and sisters. Those who laid down their lives for the defense of the Jewish State tap into my innate need to do my bit in helping build this infant nation as a mark of gratitude to them and their bereaved families. I want to do my part in showing them that it wasn’t all in vain.

What right does any Jew who enjoys the countless wonders of this land have to walk about their business without the acute awareness that their steps tread on earth reddened with the blood of its fallen warriors?

 And what right does any Israeli citizen have to not live in an existence of gratitude to the defenders of the land? I believe that thanks to the strict conscription laws of this country, many are all too aware of the high price paid to live as a free people in our own land and therefore do indeed have an attitude of gratitude.

After thousands of years of yearning and waiting to return home, whilst the joy is immeasurable, the pain of loss and remembrance remains constant.

Z”L for all my fallen brothers and sisters. May your memory be a blessing and may HaShem comfort the mourners of Zion.



Remembering Israel’s Fallen.

Ten years ago, as part of the commemorations on Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron), the IDF radio station Galei Tzahal initiated a project entitled “Soon We Will Become a Song” in which prominent Israeli musicians volunteer to write scores for and perform songs written by soldiers who fell in the line of duty. 

This song –‘Nothing’s gonna hurt me’ – was written by Lieutenant Erez Shtark and is performed by Knessiat HaSechel. 

Erez, from Kiryat Ata, was 21 when he and 72 others were killed on the evening of February 4th, 1997 in a crash between two helicopters in northern Israel. Eight Yasur crew members were transporting 65 soldiers to active duty in Lebanon in the two helicopters, as transport by road had been deemed unsafe due to the prevalence of Hizballah roadside bombs. There were no survivors when the two aircraft crashed over Moshav Sha’ar Yishuv and Kibbutz Dafna. 

At the memorial near Sha’ar Yishuv, 73 standing stones commemorate the soldiers who came from cities, towns, villages, moshavim and kibbutzim all over Israel. Religious and secular, Jew, Bedouin and Druze are all united by the fact that they lost their lives defending their country. 

 In the past year 126 new names have been added to the list of 22,993 soldiers who gave their lives in defence of our country and the 2,477 civilian victims of terror atrocities. Today we remember them all, and think of their families – Israelis from all backgrounds bound together by loss. 

May their memories be blessed יהי זכרם ברוך

CST secures amendments on the ‘Comment is Free’ website.

Readers may remember that back in February of this year, CiF Watch ran a cross post from the blog of the Community Security Trust regarding an article by Rachel Shabi posted on the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ website, the title of which suggested that “Israel’s rightwing defenders” make false accusations of antisemitism

The Guardian has now amended that headline but, as the CST blog observes:

“So, after contact from CST, this particular false accusation has been removed. It is very little and it is very late.

The damage is done: to Guardian readers’ perceptions of antisemitism and to many Jews’ perceptions of the Guardian (yet again).”

The full CST blog post on the subject can be read here.

More recently, also on the ‘Comment is Free’ website, the Guardian ran an article by Raed Salah in which he claimed to be the victim of a “smear campaign” run by “Israel’s cheerleaders in Britain” and that a poem written by him “had been doctored”. 

No reference was made in the article itself to the CST, but in a comment posted under the article in Raed Salah’s name, it was falsely suggested that the “doctored” version of the poem had been provided to the British Home Secretary by the Community Security Trust. 

That comment has now been removed from the website. Details can be read on the CST blog here

Guardian publishes clarification of its Jewish Chronicle smear.

Two days ago Adam Levick wrote here on the smearing of the Jewish Chronicle and its editor Stephen Pollard by Guardian Diary Editor Hugh Muir, blogger Richard Silverstein and MPACUK over a BNP member’s use of the JC open blogging platform. 

The Guardian has now issued a clarification:

“In a Diary item about the presence of blogs by Carlos Cortiglia, the BNP’s mayoral candidate, on the Jewish Chronicle website we stated that the blogs were still available on 23 November. We went on to say that this “conflicts” with the account of the Jewish Chronicle’s editor, Stephen Pollard, “that he became aware of Cortiglia’s blog and deleted all trace of it ‘last September'”. To clarify: he told the Guardian’s reporter that “in September we were alerted to the fact that Cortiglia had set up a user blog and the moment we were told, we blocked him and changed [the] entire system”. Mr Pollard has asked us to point out that this was not meant to imply that all traces of the blogs had been deleted in September – in fact the measure he took at that time was to block Cortiglia’s access. He ordered the blogs to be deleted more recently (20 April, page 35).”

Whilst it is good to see the Guardian correcting the record, one also hopes that this incident will serve as a reminder of the fact that when a mainstream news outlet finds itself following the lead of such dubious interested parties as Richard Silverstein and MPACUK, some serious questions regarding judgment calls need to be asked. 

But then again, those questions should also have arisen long ago when Silverstein was a regular contributor to ‘Comment is Free’.