CiF Watch complaint to PCC prompts Guardian to begrudgingly revise Rachel Corrie op-ed

The Guardian’s coverage of the culmination of the civil law suit brought by the parents of Rachel Corrie – a verdict which was handed down in Haifa on August 28th, 2012 – was characteristically obsessive, tendentious and breezily unconcerned with the facts.

The Guardian’s coverage of the Israeli court ruling dismissing the Corrie’s suit – which included several reports by Harriet Sherwood, a deeply offensive cartoon, and an especially malign piece by Chris McGreal - culminated in an official Guardian editorial, titled ‘Rachel Corrie: A memory which refuses to die

The editorial, which was dripping with contempt, included this passage on the ruling:

“Perpetuating the myth that her death was a tragic accident, the judge did not deviate from the official line.”

The Guardian seemed to all but ignore the evidence – if indeed the author(s) of the editorial even bothered to read the English summary which was posted online the same day the ruling was issued - presented in the trial, and the judge’s statements, which led to the the newspaper stating unequivocally that:

“Rachel Corrie died trying to protect a Palestinian home from demolition.” 

However, the Court of Law in Haifa, Israel, which heard the case presented by Rachel Corrie’s family, ruled otherwise. In his verdict, Judge Oded Gershon rejected the claim that Ms. Corrie had been protecting a house from demolition at the time of her death.

The judge ruled as follows: 

The mission of the IDF force on the day of the incident was solely to clear the ground. This clearing and leveling included leveling the ground and clearing it of brush in order to expose hiding places used by terrorists, who would sneak out from these areas and place explosive devices with the intent of harming IDF soldiers. There was an urgency to carrying out this mission so that IDF look-outs could observe the area and locate terrorists thereby preventing explosive devices from being buried. The mission did not include, in any way, the demolition of homes. The action conducted by the IDF forces was done at real risk to the lives of the soldiers. Less than one hour before the incident that is the focus of this lawsuit, a live hand-grenade was thrown at the IDF forces.

All the above information was provided to Chris Elliott, Readers’ Editor of the Guardian, by my colleague Hadar Sela, in a series of communications  beginning on August 30th 2012. Mr Elliott, however, chose not to make a correction, which prompted CiF Watch to bring the matter before the UK Press Complaints Commission. 

Sela argued that Guardian’s statement that “Rachel Corrie died trying to protect a Palestinian home from demolition” had been proven to be untrue in a court of law prior to the editorial being published.

After many months, and a series of correspondences between Sela, the PCC and Guardian editors stubbornly resistant to admitting error, the Guardian begrudgingly agreed to amend their editorial to acknowledge that the Israeli court ruling contradicted claims that Corrie was preventing a home demolition on that day.

pcc

Whilst the result is far from ideal, it’s important that the Guardian was forced to acknowledge that an Israeli judicial proceeding heard evidence, engaged in serious deliberations, and came to a conclusion at odds with the lethal narratives about the Jewish state routinely advanced by Palestinian activists that the paper unquestioningly accepted as fact in their editorial.  

Indeed, it’s worth noting anytime the Guardian is forced to deviate from their ‘official line’ on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

(Additionally, a CiF Watch complaint to the Telegraph – which repeated the same error about Corrie’s actions on the day she was killed, and used a photo which the caption falsely claimed was taken “moments before she died”, by Adrian Blomfield - was revised, and then, at some point, completely removed from their site.)