Postcard from Israel – Mount Carmel

December 2nd will mark two years since the Mount Carmel forest fire disaster in which 44 people died, including members of the Israeli Prison Service, a bus driver, members of the Israeli Police Force and fire-fighters. 

Two years on, the 35,000 dunams of forest and natural woodland consumed by the fire still bears the scars, but signs of new life are also abundant. Beit Oren and other communities severely damaged by the fire are being rebuilt and a monument to those who lost their lives – designed by Natanel Ben Yitzhak – has been constructed near the site of the disaster. 

Hanan Ashrawi lies at ‘Comment is Free’ about homes for ‘Jews only’ in Jerusalem

Hanan Ashrawi’s ‘Comment is Free’ essay on Nov. 29, ‘Supporting Palestine today at the UN is a vote for peace in the Middle East‘, included these opening passages:

“It might seem stating the obvious that Palestinians and Israelis find solutions only through negotiation, until you look at the record. It is a story in which one side makes proposals for nothing in return; one side makes agreements that the other side breaks; and one side keeps commitments that the other side ignores.

Take a recent decision by Israel to approve 100 new homes for its Jewish citizens in the illegal settlement of Gilo, when the Israeli army was bombarding and shelling Gaza.” [emphasis added]

Though Ashrawi provides no source for her contention regarding new homes being built in Jerusalem, she is referring to this construction announcement (per Ir Amim):

“Today the Jerusalem District Committee officially announced the approval of TPS 13290 for 100 housing units in Gilo. 
According to Ir-Amim’s previous alert on May 10, the plan entails 100 residential units—three 12 story buildings—to the north, between Gilo and Bit Safafa. The plan came before the District Committee for discussion of objections on May 22. The committee rejected the objections and decided to approve the plan.”

First, here’s some relevant background to better understand the issue of home construction in Israel:

The overwhelming majority of land in Israel is owned by the government, and administered (since 1960) by the Israeli Land Administration (ILA), which doesn’t sell the land but, rather, leases it out. (Only about 6.5% of the land in Israel is privately owned.)  The ILA leases government-owned land to all Israeli citizens (Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Druze, etc.), legal Israeli residents (including Arabs living in the East part of Jerusalem) or foreigners who would qualify for citizenship under the ‘law of return’. 

In the particular case Ashrawi is referring to, these homes would not exclude anyone based on religion.

Moreover, Ashrawi’s false assertion likely represents a broader attempt to impute racism (or even the more unserious charge of ‘ethnic cleansing’) into the Jerusalem building equation, ignoring the fact that Muslims in the city, both in total numbers and as an overall percentage of the population, have increased significantly since 1948.

In fact, the Muslim population of Jerusalem increased roughly 5 fold from 1967 (when Israel unified the city) to 2009, from 58,000 to over 278,000, while the Jewish population increased by a factor of only 2.8, from 196,000 to 480,000.

Beyond the broader dishonest narrative advanced by Ashrawi, however, her narrow claim that Israel has approved “100 new homes for its Jewish citizens” in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo is flat-out untrue. 

Please consider contacting Chris Elliott, the Guardian’s readers editor, to request a correction to Ashrawi’s lie.

reader@guardian.co.uk
(Editor’s note: This post was corrected on December 23 to correct a mistake in the original. I initially wrote that Ashrawi was likely referring to an announcement that 180 new homes would be set aside in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo for Israeli security personnel. This was not, we learned, the construction that Ashrawi was referring to.  The 100 homes mentioned in her commentary are to be built in East Talpiyot between Gilo and Bit Safafa, according to the Jerusalem District Committee. See the Ir Amim link above.)

65 years ago today: Guardian misses one key element of 1947 UN partition

Today is the 65th anniversary of the passage of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 on the future status of British ruled Palestine. 

The Guardian’s Picture of the Day, Nov. 29, in recognition of this event in history, includes the following iconic image of Israelis celebrating in the streets of Tel Aviv shortly after the UN vote codifying their right to statehood.

Here’s the Guardian headline and strap line for the pictorial post.

Do you notice any information missing from the strap line?

Well, it seems that they failed to mention one quite significant element of the UN resolution (which passed with 33 votes in favor, 13 against, 10 abstentions and one absent). Res. 181 not only called for the creation of a Jewish state, but the creation of an Arab one as well.

The Jews accepted partition.  

The Arabs didn’t accept partition, refused to compromise on any outcome other than a single unitary Arab state and launched a war when Israel declared independence in May, 1948.

While the UN debates Palestinian statehood tonight in NYC, it’s important to remember that on this day, 65 years ago, a Palestinian state was offered by the international community, accepted by the Jews, but rejected by the Arabs.

Proposed borders per UN Resolution 181 in 1947.

CST report on antisemitic discourse slams the Guardian: Singles out Orr and McGreal

The CST, the official body advising the UK Jewish community on matters of security and antisemitism, just released a comprehensive report on antisemitic discourse in the UK for 2011 and singled out the Guardian for opprobrium.  In fact, CST devotes an entire section of their 36 page report to the Guardian.

CST noted the following:

In 2011, the Guardian faced more accusations of antisemitism than any other mainstream UK newspaper.

Here are some specific highlights from the full report:

Context:

CST:

Concerns within the Jewish community and elsewhere regarding the Guardian, relative to other mainstream media outlets, have persisted for many years now – a situation that will probably worsen as the paper’s Comment is Free website grows.

Comment is Free website: overview

CST:

Comment is Free website hosts many more articles than the Guardian’s actual print edition –and has lower editorial standards. Articles critical of Israel and its supporters are commonplace and routinely attract hundreds of comments from members of the public. Counter-articles are far less common.

The Guardian: overview

CST:

Specific accusations of antisemitism against the Guardian itself usually arise from opinion pieces that reflect the hostility of the writer to Israel or those they associate with it. These articles are rarely, if ever, explicitly antisemitic. Rather, they usually contain remarks and attitudes that echo antisemitic motifs, such as Jewish conspiracies of wealth and power, and the notion that Jews are loyal to no one but each other. In their hostility, these articles afford little or no room for mainstream Jewish voices or perspectives.

[Not] innocent in the war of words about Jews and Israel

A March 2011 opinion piece in the Jewish Chronicle by its deputy editor, Jenni Frazer, appeared to capture the feelings of many Jews and mainstream UK Jewish communal bodies towards the Guardian. She wrote: “…I cannot count the number of complaints we have had from readers who do not understand the Guardian’s obsession with Jews and Israel, the poisonous letters or op-eds it publishes.”

Typifying the Guardian’s problems regarding antisemitism, according to the CST, were comment articles by Washington correspondent Chris McGreal, a piece by weekly columnist Deborah Orr and its coverage of the Sheikh Raed Salah deportation case.

Chris McGreal: “George Bush slavishly refusing to pressure the Jewish state”

CST:

In an article concerning American Jewish voting patterns, senior Guardian correspondent Chris McGreal wrote: “Obama [told] American Jewish leaders that he would put some ‘daylight’ between the US and Israel after eight years of George Bush slavishly refusing to pressure the Jewish state to move toward ending the occupation.”Following protests that this risked reading as if former President Bush had somehow been a slave to Jews, the word “slavishly” was changed to“consistently”. The Guardian stated that this would“clarify the intended meaning” of the sentence.Given President Obama’s ethnicity, it seems unlikely that the Guardian would have allowed the word “slavishly” to be as readily used as in relation to former President Bush.

Nevertheless, the importance of conspiracy theory to antisemitism requires the newspaper (and others) to show sensitivity to risking such associations. In this regard, the Guardian’s alteration of “slavishly”to “consistently” maintained the overall meaning of the sentence, while reducing (but not entirely removing) the potential antisemitic sting.

Deborah Orr: “lives of the chosen”

CST:

In October 2011, Israel exchanged over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in return for a soldier, Gilad Shalit, who had been held captive in Gaza for five years.Guardian columnist Deborah Orr sparked outrage when she used the phrase “the chosen” in an article about the exchange:  “…there is something abject in their [Hamas’]eagerness to accept a transfer that tacitly acknowledges what so many Zionists believe –that the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbours.”

Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, commentator David Aaranovitch explained his (and others’) concerns with Orr’s use of “the chosen…when the predicted complaint [about the Shalit exchange terms] was made in the predictable place (the Guardian’s opinion columns), the source surprised me. Deborah Orr is a clever, sensitive writer, as little given to bombast or prejudice as any columnist.“…What was so shocking to me about this phrase was its casualness – not its deliberation. The writer just didn’t realise, it seemed, that this charge about ‘chosenness’ – as applied specifically and categorically to Jews (whether ‘Zionists’ or not) is one of the most recurrent and poisonous tropes in antisemitism… Had she been confronted with the suggestion that, say, blacks were a bit childlike,undisciplined, sensual and physical rather than intellectual, she’d have recognised immediately the contours of old-time racism. The alarms would have gone off, the thought would have been interrogated, the problem noticed.“…Orr’s reaction seems to come from a place that deems all Zionism – all belief in a Jewish homeland– to be beyond respectability.“…What worries me here, as it increasingly has done for a decade, is the way in which the Palestinian issue is leading to a slippage in sensibilities, from concern, to partisanship, to an almost unconscious acceptance of the characterisation of Jews or Zionists or Israelis which replicates ancient libels….”

Blood libel allegation, Sheikh Raed Salah

CST:

Controversies concerning alleged antisemitism from Islamist sources were typified by the 2011–12 visit to Britain of Sheikh Raed Salah, a leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel. In particular, the Guardian newspaper was highly partial in its reporting of the case. Some coverage of the case (including, in part, by the Guardian) asserted or assumed that the Salah controversy had been engineered by the Israeli Government and carried out, at its behest, by its ‘local’ supporters and forced, somehow, upon the Home Secretary. These allegations about Israeli Government involvement were both unreferenced and untrue.

Guardian summary

The case exemplified the manner in which UK Islamists and pro-Palestinian activists defend their political allies from accusations of antisemitism. It is normal for such groups to act in this way and for them to misrepresent British Jewish concerns; but Blood libel allegation CST argued that Salah’s presence was unwelcome, primarily because of a speech he had made in Jerusalem in 2007 that had alluded to the “blood libel”, the notorious medieval charge that Jews kill Christian children in order to use their blood for religious practices.

These images, of medieval, Nazi, Syrian and modern day Hizbollah origin, each depict the notorious antisemitic blood libel charge.

As the controversy developed, Salah and his supporters claimed that Israeli officials had brought no charges against the speech, then said charges had been brought but dropped due to lack of evidence, before admitting that the case remained outstanding in Israel, but Salah and his supporters now claimed he had been discussing the Spanish Inquisition, not the behaviour of Jews.The final hearing (which Salah won) agreed with CST’s interpretation of the speech.

In February 2012, Justice Ockelton ruled in Salah’s favour against deportation, despite Section 59 of his own ruling finding that Sheikh Salah (“the appellant”) had indeed referred to the blood libel and that the Home Secretary had been right to consider this.  This finding has never been acknowledged…in any Guardian articles.”

Justice Ockelton’s statement included:

“In our judgment this [Salah’s counterargument] is all wholly unpersuasive. The appellant is clearly aware of the blood libel against Jews…The truth of the matter is that the conjunction of the concepts of ‘children’s blood’ and ‘holy bread’is bound to be seen as a reference to the blood libel unless it is immediately and comprehensively explained to be something else altogether.”.

“We have taken into account that the same sermon contained more moderate language and concepts and positive references to Jewish prophets and synagogues. Nevertheless we do not find this comment [by Salah] could be taken to be anything other than a reference to the blood libel against Jews…”

“The Guardian: pro-Salah bias:

Throughout the controversy, the Guardian…reported the views of Salah’s UK Islamist hosts and defenders, but failed to adequately ask for, report, or consider, the concerns of CST and the UK Jewish community.  It ran no articles countering Salah’s position.

Haneen Zoabi

On 29 June 2011, the Guardian ran an article by Haneen Zoabi, entitled, “An Israeli trap for Britain”.This framed the Salah controversy as being an Israeli ploy, carried out by its “supporters abroad”. It essentially reduced the allegations against Salah to the status of lies, concocted by Israel and its British supporters to defend racism and then forced upon the Home Secretary. Excerpts included: “…Unable to produce any legal evidence, the Israeli establishment and its supporters in Britain accuse him of antisemitism….It appears that the charge of antisemitism is being used as a way of suppressing criticism of Israeli policies…it seems that the British government has bowed to pro-Israel pressure even when it comes to inshore affairs.

Next, Zoabi alluded to Zionists being responsible for Islamophobia, repeated her dismissal of the allegations against Salah and ended by implying that “Zionist racism” and “the pro-Israeli lobby”were controlling UK policy: “Pro-Israel organisations in Britain and elsewhere are manipulating growing European Islamophobia to discredit us by falsely portraying the democratic Palestinian struggle against racism and discrimination in Israel as antisemitic.“…The British authorities have fallen into an Israeli trap…until now, Palestinian citizens of Israel have been struggling for our political rights in our country, and confronting Zionist racism inside Israel. But now it seems we have to confront Zionist racism abroad as well.“The pro-Israeli lobby must not be allowed to determine politics in Britain…

Official Guardian editorial

On 1 July 2011, the Guardian ran an editorial in support of Salah. Its title, “Muslim Brotherhood activists: unwelcome guests?” signaled the newspaper’s failure to properly address the antisemitism allegations against Salah, or what this meant for British Jews, Muslim-Jewish communal relations and the Government’s recently tightened anti-extremism guidelines.

The editorial echoed Haneen Zoabi’s opinion piece by crassly suggesting that the UK Government was moving against “all Palestinian activists Israel has a problem with”, before appearing to accept Salah’s denials at face value: “…he says [the allegations] were fabricated, and for which he has started libel proceedings…Mr Salah has not been convicted of antisemitism”.

Additional coverage of Salah by the Guardian.

On 26 September 2011, the Guardian reported upon Salah’s forthcoming appeal. The story summarised the antisemitism allegations against Salah and ran his lawyer’s rebuttals of them. This included implying that CST had “doctored”the Koranic poem and the “blood libel” speech to include mentions of “Jews”.

Following CST’s intervention, the story was altered on the Guardian website, clarifying that these were the lawyer’s claims, not the Guardian’s, and stating:“there is no suggestion that CST doctored the quotes”.  A line suggesting CST had not checked the quotes for accuracy was removed; but a further clarification that CST had actually found and supplied the accurate versions of the poem and speech was not included.

On 30 September 2011, the Guardian reported that Salah had won compensation for two days of wrongful immigration detention.  

On 26 October 2011, Salah lost his first appeal. Despite its extensive prior coverage (at least articles prior to this date), this verdict did not appear to be reported by the Guardian. Indeed, the paper seems to have made no further mention of Salah until 9 April 2012, when he won a further appeal. This was covered at length by the  two articles, which implied that Salah had won on all charges, whilst making no mention of the ruling dismissing Salah’s denial of having made a blood libel speech.

It also ran an article by Salah himself, entitled, Britain’s duty to the Palestinian people”.

Salah’s CiF piece included the claim that “The Palestinian issue can only be resolved if Israel and its supporters in Britain abandon the dogmas of supremacy…”

Conclusion:

CST’s 2011 Report on Antisemitic Discourse clearly demonstrates the Guardian’s continuing antisemitic sins of ‘commission and, just as dangerous, ‘omission’: their silence in the face of clear evidence of antisemitism when covering a story. 

While this blog’s mission is clear, and we’ll continue combating antisemitism and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’, we also have a related mission: to name and shame the Guardian as an institution which fancies itself the “world’s leading liberal voice” yet continues to display tolerance towards decidedly illiberal opinions about Jews.

It is incumbent upon all those who consider themselves passionate anti-racists to join us in this fight.

Surprise, surprise! Jon Donnison’s fauxtographic Tweet partner is a Guardian journalist

In a BBC Watch post which went viral  - the effects of which are still reverberating today – Hadar Sela reported on a Tweet by BBC Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison with a photo he erroneously claimed was that of a dead child in Gaza.

The incorrect information sent to 7,971 of Donnison’s followers was originally Tweeted  by Hazem Balousha – a Palestinian ‘journalist and social activist’ – and included the photo with the words “Pain in Gaza”, to which Donnison added his own commentary – “Heartbreaking”.

However, blogger Adam Holland replied to Donnison, informing the BBC journalist that the photo was not from Gaza – but, rather, from Syria.

Donnison later acknowledged his mistake and deleted the Tweet.

However, in addition to the sloppy journalism by Donnison, the man who originally Tweeted the photo of the child, whose judgment Donnison trusted, has an interesting background himself.

Hazem Balousha is a Palestinian Journalist & social activist based in Gaza, and founder of Palestinian Institute for Communication & Development Palestine/Germany ‘ – an organization based in the Rimal District in Gaza

Quite interestingly, Balousha is also a Guardian journalist who has co-written pieces with Harriet Sherwood, Peter Beaumont and Chris McGreal – and was described as a “colleague” by the Guardian’s Richard Adams in a live blog on the Palestine Papers in 2011.

McGreal’s Jan 7, 2009 report written with Balousha – which McGreal cited in a recent report, on Nov. 23, 2012 – suggested, without any proof, that Israeli soldiers beat Palestinians in front of the their children to humiliate them, and even resurrected the Al-Durra libel in service of a broader narrative suggesting that IDF cruelty towards Palestinians “draws many into the cult of [suicide bombing] the ‘martyr’”.

The overwhelming majority of Balousha’s pieces at the Guardian were published between Dec. 28 2008 and Jan. 19, 2010, focusing on the suffering (most by children) during Cast Lead.  However, he also contributed prior to the war and, in an article he wrote in 2007, for instance, he admitted to having an eldest brother close to Hamas.

Much of his Guardian work explores the theme of dead children, and children otherwise victimized by the Israeli military, and many of Balousha’s tweets include pictures of dead or injured Palestinian kids. (Many of these pictures are from a photographer named Ashraf Amra, an activist who has a history of using children to engage in photographic propaganda.)

Interestingly, on Nov. 21, two days after the scandal involving Donnison’s Tweet, while the war was still raging, Balousha wrote a story at Deutsche Welle titled ‘Israel and Palestinians wage social media war‘.

Here’s a passage from his report:

“False information about the current war is also being spread via Twitter and Facebook – pictures of dead children, for example, that are actually from Syria. That angers [Gaza activist] Ebaa Rezeq. “We have to stick to the truth, or no one is going to believe us any more.” Ulla Papajak also believes that pictures and information need to be verified for accuracy – even if he also understands that there is no time to do so.”

It would be interesting to know if he and Donnison were similarly angry at themselves for casually propagating patently false information (to nearly 8,000 followers) about the horrific death of a child.

Hadar Sela, managing editor of BBC Watch, said:

“The reliance of Western media outlets upon local staff for information, translation and introductions is not a new phenomenon. Neither is the fact that some of those local journalists may have additional connections to regional actors, as was apparent a decade ago during the second Intifada. But as technology advances and social media increasingly cuts out the ‘middle man’ between the journalist and the audience, it is obvious that editors and journalists shoulder a greater responsibility for checking the reliability – and motives – of their local staff and sources.” 

Such journalist activists – whether they’re at the Guardian or the BBC – are risking more than their own reputations.  If Guardian and BBC editors continually allow their journalists to make such egregious errors with impunity, and report the news in a manner resembling political advocacy rather than professional journalism, whatever remaining credibility they may have will continue to erode. 

Increasingly, as Gaza activist Ebaa Rezeq noted, “no one is going to believe [them]“.

Why any Israeli can be murdered by Palestinian terrorists, as explained by Chris McGreal

A guest post by Richard Millett

Meet Abu Jindal and Abu Nizar. Up until fairly recent times they might have been fixing cars for Israelis. Nizar’s father even “had good things to say about the Israelis he knew”.

But those days are long gone and now Nizar, the son, has little problem with the rockets he fires into Israel causing civilian casualties “such as the three who died…from rockets fired from Gaza in recent round of fighting.” For Nizar “there is no such thing as a civilian on the other side.”

So what makes it so easy for Nizar and Jindal to murder innocent Israeli men, women and children?

Judging from Chris McGreal’s piece, ‘Gaza’s cycle of aggression shapes new generations more militant than the last’, published in the Guardian on Nov. 23, it’s all Israel’s fault with Nizar and Jindal having little, if any, responsibility for their terrorist activities.

McGreal describes the evidently violent childhoods that led to Nizar and Jindal firing rockets from Gaza and, possibly, murdering the three above-mentioned ‘civilians’ Ahron Smadga, Yitzchak Amselam and 25 year-old Mira Scharf in Kiryat Malachi. Scharf was pregnant.

Sickeningly, McGreal allows Nizar and Jindal the space in his piece to excuse themselves as mere victims, the implication being that the real criminals were Smadga, Amselam, Scharf and Scharf’s unborn child who weren’t “civilians”.

Incidentally, Scharf had recently returned to Israel to give birth and to attend the memorial service of her friends the Holtzbergs who were murdered in the 2008 Mumbai massacre. They all died on the same day of the Hebrew calendar four years apart.

Jindal and Nizar belong to the terrorist group Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and McGreal’s piece attempts to evoke much sympathy for them. Jindal is quoted by McGreal, thus:

“The Israelis have always killed children in Gaza. They came here to kill children during this [latest] war. Our children see it.”

Nizar claims his school friends “were killed by an Apache helicopter”.

Even McGreal, not content with merely evoking Israeli “machine gun fire” which “shreds Palestinian homes”, adds the following:

“[Palestinian children] worshiped ‘martyrs’, whether they were suicide bombers who killed Israelis on buses in Jerusalem, armed men fighting Israeli soldiers, or the children shot at their school desks in Gaza by Israeli gunfire.” (my emphasis)

Neither Nizar’s school friends shot from the sky, nor McGreal’s school children shot at their school desks are named. No evidence is offered. The unsubstantiated accusations are just thrown in.

In case the reader doesn’t quite understand that these are attempted justifications for Jindal and Nizar slaughtering innocent Israelis McGreal decides to import two old Guardian pieces of his. These give the views of two child psychologists in an attempt to help solidify the images of Jindal and Nizar as helpless victims.

In the piece from 2004 Usama Freona claimed “The levels of violence children are exposed to is horrific…Most of them were crying and shaking when they were speaking about their experiences”. In the 2009 piece Dr Abdel Aziz Mousa Thabet claimed that due to the traumatising effect of violence on children “they become fighters”.

The possibility that these two vile terrorists might be committed to the destruction of Israel and murder of its Jewish inhabitants on purely ideological grounds isn’t considered by McGreal.

Incredibly, McGreal’s piece on Dr Thabet still describes 12 year-old Mohammed al-Dura as being shot dead by Israeli gunfire despite overwhelming evidence produced over the years disproving that particular allegation and the even more insidious charge that the boy was actually targeted by the IDF.

McGreal is obviously keen in prolonging this blood libel.

McGreal admits that Palestinian children are sometimes taught in their schools and mosques to despise Jews but he sees that, mainly, as an excuse used by Israelis to absolve themselves of blame for why each generation of Palestinians seems more militant and violent.

Abu Nizar concludes, thus:

“The end of Israel is getting closer”.

By the way, next week The Guardian will be running a full-page piece on McGreal’s interview with two Al Qaida “fighters”. The “fighters” explain why they are at ease with their fellow Islamists slaughtering 52 British citizens in the London bus and tube bombings of 2005 and why, for them, there is no such thing as a British civilian.

Or, maybe, The Guardian won’t run it.

Maybe for The Guardian only the slaughter of innocent Israeli men, women and children (and unborn babies) can be explained with such apparent ease: No Israeli is a civilian. No Israeli is an innocent victim.

Yitzchak Amsalam, Ahron Smadga and Mira Scharf

Guardian readers editor criticizes Steve Bell cartoon for evoking antisemitic stereotypes

On Nov. 16, we posted about a political cartoon in the Guardian by Steve Bell, Nov. 15, depicting British foreign minister, and former PM Tony Blair, as puppets being controlled by Israeli PM Netanyahu, in the context of expressions of support for Israel from both British leaders during operation ‘Pillar Of Defense’.

We noted the strong similarities to other cartoons evoking the historical canard that Jews secretly control non-Jewish world leaders, such as this from 2008 in a Saudi paper depicting a sinister Jew controlling both McCain and Obama as puppets.

Among those who complained to Guardian editors about the cartoon by Bell was Mark Gardner of the CST, whose letter appeared in the Guardian on Nov. 16, and read thus:

“The Guardian has, in recent years, editorialised against the use of antisemitic language, publishing strong articles on this subject by Chris Elliott (the readers’ editor), Jonathan Freedland and others. They have rightly noted that such language may well be inadvertent on the part of the user, while retaining its offensive power. Nevertheless, too many Guardian contributors continue to get away with using antisemitic imagery and tropes, the latest example being Steve Bell’s cartoon (16 November) showing Tony Blair and William Hague as puppets of Bibi Netanyahu. This is an unoriginal way of visualising the old antisemitic charge that Jews are all-powerful. (The notion of Jewish power and conspiracy has long distinguished antisemitism from other racisms, which tend to depict their targets as idiots.) The paper’s integrity and reputation is seriously compromised by its continuing failure to get a grip on its own content.”

The cartoonist himself, Steve Bell, defended his cartoon against charges of antisemitism, arguing as follows:

“I can’t be held responsible for whatever cultural precepts and misapprehensions people choose to bring to my cartoon.”

On Sun, Nov. 25, the Guardian’s readers editor, Chris Elliott, addressed the row in a column titled ‘The readers’ editor on… accusations of antisemitism against a political cartoon’.

Here are relevant excerpts from his post:

“Steve Bell is a cartoonist who regularly gives offence. Most Guardian readers would be disappointed if it were otherwise. However, a group of readers and commentators felt that he went beyond acceptable boundaries when he drew a cartoon published on 16 November caricaturing Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.”

At the time of writing there have been more than 30 complaints, including one from the Community Security Trust (CST), which advises the UK’s Jewish community on security and antisemitism issues.

One complaint to the readers’ editor’s office ran: “Whatever disagreements Bell wishes to express regarding Israel‘s current actions against Hamas rocket fire, this picture uses classic antisemitic iconography that should have no place in your newspaper.

“The echoes of such iconography are obvious: powerful Jews controlling western politicians for their own nefarious purposes.

The cartoon has also been widely attacked in reports in the Jewish Chronicle and on websites that are pro-Israel and aimed at the Jewish community, as well as in the pages of the Times

Bell himself is adamant that the cartoon, based on an agency picture of a Netanyahu press conference, is neither intentionally, nor unintentionally antisemitic.

There are two paths to the argument about the imagery of the cartoon. The first is that it is an incontrovertible fact that, during the 1930s and 1940s, Nazis and their supporters deployed propaganda devices about Jews. One of those images was that of a grotesquely drawn Jew shown as a puppeteer, with exaggerated features, as in the cartoon portraying Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin as puppets of the Jews in a 1942 issue of the Nazi paper Fliegende Blätter.

The image of Jews having a disproportionate influence over the US and British governments has often been replicated by anti-Jewish cartoonists in the Middle East since the end of the second world war.

Secondly, one of the difficulties is that pictorial stereotypes are the stock in trade of a cartoonist, an aspect of caricature that has an entirely legitimate centuries-old tradition. Bell has used the theme of a puppet master on many occasions in the past to represent his view of Presidents Mubarak and Putin, as well as leaders in Iraqi and Afghan politics.

Bell is aware that the image of Jews as puppet masters is an antisemitic theme. However, he does not accept that this should prevent him using that imagery to address the actions of Netanyahu, the man. Bell says: “The problem with this whole debate is that the premises are all wrong. The cartoon isn’t antisemitic. People may proclaim that it is and [that it] stands in some kind of nefarious line: it has been lifted [from the Guardian website] without permission, and run alongside some terrible examples of nasty cartoons from the Nazi period (which clearly are [antisemitic]). That does not make the cartoon antisemitic. Here lies the problem: once people start dignifying this utterly unfair and unreasonable comparison with faux intellectual terms like ‘antisemitic trope’ it blots out the fact that my cartoon lacks the central ‘trope’ of actually being antisemitic. It doesn’t generalise about a race, a religion or a people; it doesn’t try to characterise any such generalisation: it is a very specific cartoon about a very specific politician at a very specific and deadly dangerous moment. It does employ the trope of ‘puppeteer’, but that is a trope, not an antisemitic trope… It uses the Star of David because that’s what is on the flag, and the menorah because that’s what’s on his podium. They both say: ‘State of Israel’, not ‘The Jews’. There is a crucial difference. It is not subtle or coded antisemitism to make this point.”

Elsewhere Bell has said that he can’t be held responsible for “whatever cultural precepts and misapprehensions people choose to bring to my cartoon”. This is a view rejected by one of the complainants: “Like it or not, he works in a cultural context and must be aware that people will bring frames of reference external to his work.” 

I don’t believe that Bell is an antisemite, nor do I think it was his intention to draw an antisemitic cartoon. However, using the image of a puppeteer when drawing a Jewish politician inevitably echoes past antisemitic usage of such imagery, no matter the intent.

The Holocaust and its causes are still within living memory. While journalists and cartoonists should be free to express an opinion that Netanyahu is opportunistic and manipulative, in my view they should not use the language – including the visual language – of antisemitic stereotypes. [emphasis added]

While we would have preferred that the cartoon be taken down, it’s encouraging nonetheless that Elliott warned journalists and cartoonists to avoid language and visual language conveying antisemitic stereotypes.

Finally, here are a few cartoons Bell published previously at the Guardian so you can gain some context on the current row.

Nov. 9, 2011. (The title of the cartoon is “Berlin Wall: Germany marks 20 year anniversary”, and it clearly compares Israel’s security fence, designed to keep terrorists out, with the Berlin Wall which was designed to keep East Berliners from escaping to West Germany.)

Jun 1, 2010” This cartoon by Bell was published at the Guardian in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara incident and titled “Israeli troops confront flotilla activists”.

Israel, for Bell, is a sinister, controlling and manipulative state, and, as an artist, he certainly doesn’t seem too interested in subtitles or nuance.

Again, quoting Walter Russell Mead about the broader intellectual dynamic which Bell exemplifies:

“Weak minds…are easily seduced by attractive but empty generalizations. The comment attributed to August Bebel that anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools can be extended to many other kinds of cheap and superficial errors that people make. The baffled, frustrated and the bewildered seek a grand, simplifying hypothesis that can bring some kind of ordered explanation to a confusing world.”

We don’t know what’s in Steve Bell’s heart regarding Jews, but it does seem that his “cheap”, “superficial” pictorial characterizations  of Israel arguably suggest a baffled and bewildered political cartoonist trying desperately to bring narrative order to the behavior of a country which frustrates and confuses him.

Seumas Milne tells thousands at London rally that Palestinians have a right to kill Israelis

On Nov. 20 at ‘Comment is Free’ the Guardian’s Associate Editor, Seumas Milne, explicitly justified the murder of Israelis by Palestinian terrorists, while simultaneously arguing that, as an occupying power, Israel has no right to defend itself. 

“So Gazans are an occupied people and have the right to resist, including by armed force (though not to target civilians), while Israel is an occupying power that has an obligation to withdraw – not a right to defend territories it controls or is colonising by dint of military power.

Even if Israel had genuinely ended its occupation in 2005, Gaza’s people are Palestinians, and their territory part of the 22% of historic Palestine earmarked for a Palestinian state that depends on Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem. Across their land, Palestinians have the right to defend and arm themselves, whether they choose to exercise it or not.”

So, as long as terrorists who launch violent lethal assaults against Israelis, including suicide bombings and rocket attacks, can claim they weren’t specifically targeting civilians, killing Israelis is justified – a refrain which Milne repeated to an anti-Israel rally on Nov. 24 sponsored by ‘Stop The War Coalition.

(Milne’s rhetorical flourish about the Palestinians’ “right to resist” can be seen in the video at roughly 1:20.)

 

Milne’s CiF essay, as with his speech on Nov. 24, represents incitement – the moral legitimization of lethal attacks against Israelis by the most extreme antisemitic movements in the Middle East under the banner of national liberation, indeed under the guise of “liberalism”!

The malice of the Guardian Left has rarely been on clearer display. 

Why did the Guardian change a headline originally suggesting Hamas culpability?

Nabila Ramdani’s essay at ‘Comment is Free’ (Israel’s Gaza bombardment has put Palestine at the top of the agenda, Nov. 23), about the aftermath of the Gaza war arrives  at quite predictable conclusions about the war’s effect on the region.

After offering a soft critique of “Rockets being fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip” (remember these words) and “the bombing of a bus [in Tel Aviv]“, Ramdani writes that Palestinians in Gaza are an “oppressed, forsaken people” who were “killed and maimed by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza”, which she characterizes as the US backed “Israeli war machine.” She further suggests that Israeli behavior in the war was “barbaric”.

Ramdani contextualizes the violence in a manner suggesting that the Palestinian casualties during the war has placed the ‘Palestine’ question in the front of the Arab Spring agenda:

The oppression of the Palestinian people regains its status as the most pressing problem in the Arab world today. [emphasis added]

This claim, however, is simply risible in light of the events she chooses to ignore: the daily murder and brutality in Syria which has claimed over 40,000 lives, or the increasingly dictatorial powers assumed by Egypt’s new President (dashing the hopes that anything resembling a democracy will take hold in that country) and the extreme poverty, underdevelopment and political backwardness which plagues the region.   

If the Arabs decide that continuing to feed their malign obsession with Israel is more important than the requirements of their own political progress, it will have signaled that the Arab Spring has failed miserably.

As thoughtful critics have maintained since the uprisings have begun, democracy is more than elections and revolutions. Democracy is a cultural habit which must be nurtured and, even in the best of circumstances, requires time to take root within the body politic.  In the Arab world true liberal democracy will require that they find a way to  stop scapegoating Jews and Israel and take responsibility for their failures and disappointments.

The decision by a plurality of Palestinians in 2006 to vote for Hamas – a religious extremist movement opposed to human rights and democracy, and opposed to peace with Israel – was a politically destructive act, and represented further evidence of the social and political pathos plaguing their society.

Every rocket fired by Hamas at Israel, and every attempted cross border attack or effort to kidnap Israeli soldiers represents continuing impediments to peace, Palestinian development, prosperity and freedom.  

The continued attacks by Hamas also ensure an Israeli response, which, in turn, takes the media focus away from Hamas’s failures and onto the desired narrative of ‘Israeli oppression’ of Palestinians. 

Interestingly, the original title of Ramdani’s piece implicitly acknowledged the cynical exploitation by Hamas.

First, here’s how it looks now:

However, here’s a cached version of the original title, published on Friday and evidently revised on Saturday.

The truce between Hamas and Israel would suggest that the rockets will be quieted for a while, but don’t expect the peace to last too long.  

Hamas’s temptation to engage in aggression which they know will end up sacrificing the lives of Palestinians, thus ensuring sympathetic coverage from a pliant media which wants desperately to avoid holding Palestinians responsible for their own failures, will be too great to resist. 

Lies of omission and commission: Chris McGreal’s propaganda from Gaza

Chris McGreal doesn’t like Israel.

That’s his right.

However, as a journalist he and his editors have a duty to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair.

Chris McGreal’s report, Palestinians count dead after one of the worst days of the war, Nov. 21, was filed from Gaza – a piece largely consisting of accounts of Palestinian deaths and injuries during ‘Pillar Of Defense’.  However, he also attempts to support a broader narrative of Israeli cruelty in the context of civilian casualties and alleged non-military targets.

McGreal writes the following,

“The Palestinian health ministry puts the total death toll at more than 150, although officials concede they may not know about all of those killed. The PCHR says at least 90 of those are civilians, including about 30 children.”

Not surprisingly, McGreal used stats from PCHR [Palestinian Centre for Human Rights], one of the most radical anti-Israel NGOs with no legitimate claim whatsoever to being a genuine human rights organization.  PCHR, founded in Gaza City in 1995, has defended Palestinian terrorism as justified “resistance” and, in 2000, compared Hezbollah’s “legitimate…resistance against Israeli occupation in Lebanon” to “French resistance during the Nazi occupation.”

Further, PCHR reported casualty figures on the Gaza war in 2008-09 which were so biased that it included a much higher number of civilians killed during the war than even what Hamas claimed.  

Not surprisingly the statistics by PCHR cited by McGreal have been contradicted by even the NGO B’Tselem – the biased, agenda-driven NGO whose own inflated casualty figures on Cast Lead were severely criticized  for containing “major errors of commission and omission”.

Not only is B’Tselem’s casualty count for ‘Pillar Of Defense’ significantly lower than those cited by McGreal, but the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths they report is much lower – better than a 1:1 ratio.

The second passage in McGreal’s report worth examining reads as follows:

“Then there were the targets. The Israeli army said: “The sites that were targeted were positively identified by precise intelligence over the course of several months.” But many seemed to have little military value. A football stadium blown to bits…”

As we can presume McGreal had use of an internet search engine while he was writing this, it’s interesting that he didn’t mention widely published reports all over the media (including even the BBC) that this location was targeted because Hamas used it as a missile launching site (for the Iranian made Fajr-5 rocket) on Friday Nov. 16.

IDF graphic

Even the Guardian’s ‘live blog’ on the war included, in an update that day, the following Tweet by the BBC’s Paul Danahar.

McGreal is clearly not interested in clear evidence showing that Hamas continues to use civilian centers to launch attacks against Israel – using their citizens as human shields - despite the fact that even Hamas TV has shown footage of such attacks from civilian areas.

Moreover, in both the casualty statistics and the IDF attack on the Gaza ‘stadium’, McGreal demonstrates classic Guardian “journalism” – the search for data and “reports” (no matter how lacking in credibility) to support a preconceived conclusion of Israeli villainy. Clearly, Chris McGreal was determined to advance a narrative suggesting that Israel recklessly attacked Palestinian civilian targets, regardless of evidence demonstrating precautions taken by the IDF to minimize civilian casualties in this and other wars. 

McGreal is allowed, of course, to provide false statistics and to avoid providing his readers with even a semblance of balance.  

However, such ideologically driven propaganda should not be published at a broadsheet which (however comically) fancies itself a serious newspaper. 

Minutes after Tel Aviv terror attack, Glenn Greenwald praises Seumas Milne’s defense of ‘armed resistance’

At a little past noon today a terrorist attacked Israeli civilians on a bus traveling through Central Tel Aviv, injuring 21.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. 

Here are a few highlights from Glenn Greenwald’s latest post, ‘The “both-sides-are-awful” dismissal of Gaza ignores the key role of the US government, Nov. 21, published roughly 20 minutes after the attack.

“Israel has turned Gaza “into an open-air prison that is designed to collectively punish hundreds of thousands of human beings.

the US government is doing nothing of the sort. It is fueling, funding and feeding the Israeli war machine, and, with its own militaristic conduct, is legitimizing the premises of Israeli aggression.”

Greenwald also praises the recent essay by Seumas Milne:

“As my Guardian colleague Seumas Milne superbly detailed in his column Tuesday night, the overarching fact of this conflict is that the Palestinians, for decades now, have been brutally occupied, blockaded, humiliated, deprived of the most basic human rights of statehood and autonomy though the continuous application of brute, lawless force (for that reason, those who like to righteously condemn Hamas’ rockets (Pierce, defending Obama; “he happened to be correct the other day. No country can tolerate the bombing of its citizens”) have the obligation to state what form of legitimate resistance Palestinians have to all of this). [emphasis added]

That one should vehemently condemn rocket attacks on civilians and bombs on Tel Aviv buses outside of an Israeli military facility does not mean sanctioning the years-long fueling of the Israeli side of this conflict by the US government.” [emphasis added]

First, what significance does Greenwald place in the fact that the civilian bus happened to be near an Israeli military facility?

The military facility wasn’t targeted – innocent men, women and children were.

More importantly, however, here’s the key passage from the piece by Milne ‘It’s Palestinians who have the right to defend themselves” - an essay which Greenwald praised as superb.

“So Gazans are an occupied people and have the right to resist, including by armed force (though not to target civilians), while Israel is an occupying power that has an obligation to withdraw – not a right to defend territories it controls or is colonising by dint of military power.”

Milne is, in effect, defending Palestinian terrorism while arguing that Israel has no right to defend itself.

Greenwald’s own vitriol evokes a crude caricature of a villainous Israel, suggests there is no moral difference between Islamic extremists and a Jewish democracy, and he also evidently sympathizes with the moral logic of those who champion the “right” of Palestinians to murder Israelis.

Hamas simply couldn’t ask for more effective hasbara.

Terrorist attack in Tel Aviv injures 21

Per the Jerusalem Post.

“A terrorist blew up [the #142] bus on Shaul Hamelech Street in Tel Aviv around noon Wednesday.

Police confirmed that the explosion was a terrorist attack, although Channel 2 reported that it was not a suicide bombing and thus police were searching the area for additional explosive devises.

Channel 2 reported that police arrested a suspect near the Ramat Gan diamond exchange, who they believe may be carrying an explosive device. Police believe a female terrorist may still be at large in the area, armed with explosives.”

Haaretz is reporting 21 injuries.

Celebratory gunfire was heard in Gaza in reaction to the attack, which was praised by Hamas.

Guardian claims Hamas scored political points from photo of Egypt PM cradling dead baby

An official Guardian editorial (Gaza: storm before the quiet, Nov. 21) on talks of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas cited legitimate claims of victory both sides could make if a truce is signed.

[Netanyahu] can say that while Gilad Shalit is back with his family, the man who kidnapped him, Hamas’s military chief Ahmed al-Jaabari, is dead; he can say that the stock of missiles in Gaza is depleted and that the Iron Dome missile defence system proved itself. He can say the operation gave the lie to those who claimed Israel cannot act militarily now that the regional environment has been changed by the Arab spring. 

Now, here’s the Guardian assessment of what Hamas will gain:

“Hamas has a different narrative. Whether a ceasefire takes effect or not, they will say their rockets established their reach over the majority of the population from Jerusalem to north of Tel Aviv. And far from being wiped out in the initial Israeli bombardment, they kept firing to the very end.”

Then, parroting Seumas Milne’s recent triumphant polemic about Hamas’ ‘victory’ in establishing themselves as the main Palestinian resistance movement, the editorial continues:

“At home, Hamas will have reaffirmed its role as the main resistance to the occupation – a role which it was in danger of surrendering to competitive militant groups in the Gaza Strip.” [emphasis added]

The editorial continues:

“More significant, Hamas claims, would be the political gains achieved during the past traumatic week – the pictures of the Egyptian prime minister and Turkish foreign minister clutching dead Gazan children, the stream of visits and support from the entire Arab League. What did the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, sitting all on his own in Ramallah get? Tony Blair.” [emphasis added]

It is worth noting that the Guardian is once again suggesting that Hamas, unlike the “craven” Palestinian leaders in Fatah, is more deserving of our moral sympathy, more justified in claiming the mantle of the authentic Palestinian resistance movement. 

Further, the picture of the Egyptian prime minister clutching a dead Gazan child, which the Guardian is referring to, is an incident which was revealed to be a fraud.

Though media reports initially claimed the child in question, 4-year-old Mahmoud Sadallah, was killed by an Israeli strike, it later was revealed that he was almost certainly killed by an errant Hamas rocket.

This cynical manipulation of a dead Palestinian boy to score public relation points should be a source of shame for Hamas, not a source of pride.  

However, as long as the Guardian remains enamored of Hamas, and sympathetic to their claims of legitimacy, don’t expect even the most specious moral and political claims by the Islamist group to be subjected to critical scrutiny.

The Guardian’s Seumas Milne defends Palestinians’ right to kill Israelis

Guardian Associate Editor Seumas Milne just published an essay at ‘Comment is Free’ brimming with anger at Israel, and crowing about the glory of Hamas “resistance”.

In ‘Palestinians have the right to defend themselves‘, Nov. 20, Milne lashes out at Western leaders who have dared to proclaim that Israel has every “right to defend itself”, mocks reports by the “western media echo[ing] Israel’s claim that its assault is in retaliation for Hamas rocket attacks”, and condemns Netanyahu for “unleash[ing] a new round of bloodletting” which he attributes, naturally, to the upcoming Israeli elections.

Milne vilifies those who “portray Israel as some kind of victim with every right to ‘defend itself’ from attack from outside its borders” as engaging in “a grotesque inversion of reality”.

Declaring Gaza still “occupied”, Milne defends Hamas “resistance”, thus:

“So Gazans are an occupied people and have the right to resist, including by armed force (though not to target civilians), while Israel is an occupying power that has an obligation to withdraw – not a right to defend territories it controls or is colonising by dint of military power.

Even if Israel had genuinely ended its occupation in 2005, Gaza’s people are Palestinians, and their territory part of the 22% of historic Palestine earmarked for a Palestinian state that depends on Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem. Across their land, Palestinians have the right to defend and arm themselves, whether they choose to exercise it or not.”

Seumas Milne is arguing that Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and ‘East Jerusalem’ have the right to murder Israelis.

And, if you’re wondering about the one qualification in Milne’s essay – that civilians can’t be intentionally targeted – a subsequent passage seems to clarify his meaning.

“Emboldened by the wave of change and growing support across the region, Hamas has also regained credibility as a resistance force, which had faded since 2009, and strengthened its hand against an increasingly discredited Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah in Ramallah. The deployment of longer-range rockets that have now been shown to reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is also beginning to shift what has been an overwhelmingly one-sided balance of deterrence. [emphasis added]

The Hamas rocket attacks he’s so proud of – ‘operations’ he’s hopeful may change the balance of power in the region – seem to fall outside of his definition of prohibited acts (which target civilians) and thus consistent with the overall Palestinian right of armed “resistance”.

Based on his text it seems the following is definitely justifiable:

  • Suicide bombings and other armed attacks which target the hundreds of thousands of Israelis serving in the IDF

And, the following is most likely justifiable:

  • Rockets launched indiscriminately at Israelis cities

While Milne’s justification, under the Guardian’s imprimatur, for the intentional killing of citizens of the Jewish state is not surprising in light of his history of praising anti-imperialist “resistance movements” across the globe, the mere fact that his latest argument is derivative - consistent with his broader political orientation – doesn’t make it any less repulsive.