Glenn Greenwald doubles down on claim that pro-Israel factions nixed Massad essay (Updated)

See update below.

As we reported yesterday, Glenn Greenwald Tweeted his outrage after Al Jazeera recently published and then deleted an appallingly antisemitic essay by Joseph Massad – titled, ‘Last of the Semites’ – which you can read here. Massad’s nearly 4000 word attack on Jews and the Jewish state explicitly advanced the argument that there is an “ideological similitude” between Zionism and Nazism and, in sum, was difficult to distinguish from the bile found on extremist websites.

Greenwald expressed his outrage over the removal of Massad’s pseudo intellectual assault against Jews, thusly:

As we noted, the identity of Greenwald’s “usual suspects” wasn’t difficult to determine, as he linked to a predictable take on the Massad row by Ali Abunimah at Electronic Intifada which accused the Qatari-based media group of caving in to “Zionists extremists” – naming the Jewish trio of  Jeffrey Goldberg, John Podhoretz and Rahm Emmanuel.

Though Greenwald refused to answer our query, during a Twitter exchange, asking him to clarify his allegation against “the usual suspects”, we didn’t have to wait long to receive an answer, as the ‘Comment is Free’ columnist addressed the topic in his latest post titled ‘Al Jazeera deletes its own controversial op-ed, then refuses to comment.

The fact that Greenwald, per the title, was indeed unable to get a clear answer from Al Jazeera on why they removed Massad’s essay didn’t represent a significant obstacle in his determination to reach a ‘conclusion’ about the media group’s decision.  After addressing the “controversial” nature of Massad’s Zionism-Nazi allegations – writing: “I’m not expressing any views here on the merit of Massad’s arguments because that’s irrelevant to the issue” – he then pivoted to the question of who was to blame for the stifling of Joseph Massad. 

Greenwald writes the following:

I spent much of the weekend emailing various Al Jazeera officials for comment, to no avail. Everyone either ignored my multiple inquires or said they were barred from commenting and referred me to the head of the outlet’s PR department, who never responded.’

Greenwald, further into his post, begins to reveal “information” he was able to receive from unnamed ‘sources':

Al Jazeera’s deletion of this Op-Ed, and especially its refusal to provide any explanation for what happened here, is significant beyond just this one episode. Several people who work for the outlet, none of whom was willing to speak for attribution due to fear of retaliation by the network’s officials, say that Al Jazeera officials have become much more cautious and fearful ever since they purchased Current TV last December for $500 million and prepared to enter the US television market under the brand name “Al Jazeera America”

Greenwald then expands on the cause of the Arab news outlet’s new-found caution.

In particular, these sources say, the primary impetus for the removal of the Op-Ed came from Ehab al-Shihabi, who was recently named to head the American TV network. They say that he is petrified that angering “pro-Israel” factions in the US will bolster the perception of Al Jazeera as both anti-American and anti-Israel, thus dooming the network with both corporate advertisers and cable carriers and render it radioactive among mainstream politicians. Al-Shihabi, they say, went to the network’s top executive in Doha, Director-General Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, and demanded the removal of the Massad Op-Ed.

The question is whether this can continue now that Al Jazeera is seeking to establish a serious TV presence in the US. The Qatari regime is a close American ally, hosting several vital US military assets used to wage the war in Iraq. But the regime has come under criticism from US officials and “pro-Israel” commentators for its support of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. It is hard to see how a US television network owned by the regime in Qatar will regularly broadcast journalism that is truly adversarial to its close ally, the US government, or air commentary that offends influential political factions in the US.

As we’ve documented continually, this particular accusation is par for the course for Greenwald, who has shown himself to be seemingly obsessed with the alleged power of “influential” “pro-Israel factions” in the US.

Here are a few examples from his former blog at Salon:

So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the US Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations…”

Not even our Constitution’s First Amendment has been a match for the endless exploitation of American policy, law and resources [by the Israel lobby] to target and punish Israel’s enemies.”

“Meanwhile, one of the many Israel-Firsters in the U.S. Congress — Rep. Anthony Weiner, last seen lambasting President Obama for daring to publicly mention a difference between the U.S. and Israel — today not only defended Israel’s attack (obviously) but also, revealingly,pronounced:  ”Even if we are the only country on earth that sees the facts here, the United States should stand up for Israel.”  In other words:  who cares how isolated it makes us or what harm we suffer?”

It is simply true that there are large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups which are agitating for a U.S. war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests…”

And, it is simply true that the ideological territory which Glenn Greenwald claims routinely endorses tropes about the injurious influence of Jewish power which share a long and toxic antisemitic pedigree. 

UPDATE: This evening Al Jazeera reposted the Massad piece, which prompted Greenwald to Tweet the following:

Al Jazeera editors explained their decision to republish Massad’s hateful screed thusly:

After publication, many questions arose about the article’s content. In addition, the article was deemed to be similar in argument to Massad’s previous column, ” Zionism, anti-Semitism and colonialism“, published on these pages in December.

We should have handled this better, and we have learned lessons that will enable us to maintain the highest standards of journalistic integrity.

Our guiding principle has always been “the opinion and other opinion”. Our pages have always been – and will always be – open to the most thought-provoking thinkers and writers from across the globe.

Al Jazeera does not submit to pressure regardless of circumstance, and our history is full of examples where we were faced with extremely tough choices but never gave in. This is the secret to our success.

Evidently, those “influential” “pro-Israel factions” aren’t so influential after all!

Arab media more accurate than the Guardian in story on Gaza building material

hamasIn a post on Dec. 28 we noted an erroneous claim by Harriet Sherwood regarding restrictions on construction material entering Gaza, in a story published by the Guardian on Dec. 27.

Here’s the passage in question:

“…Israel is to allow construction materials to enter Gaza from next week for the first time since 2007. Despite easing its blockade of the enclave two and a half years ago, it has continued to ban the import of almost all construction materials, such as cement and steel, saying they could be used for military purposes.”

First, note that the two sentences oddly contradict each other. The first sentence claims that Israel is going to allow construction materials for the first time since 2007. The second sentence (modifying the first) suggests that some “construction material” has indeed been allowed to pass through – at least since 2010.

As we demonstrated in our post, while even the second sentence is extraordinarily misleading  – ignoring information on the thousands of tons of construction material which has passed into Gaza, and the hundreds of building projects completed in conjunction with international sponsors in the two-year period Sherwood is referring to – the first sentence is simply false.

However, it now seems likely that Sherwood’s first sentence – about construction materials now being allowed in to Gaza for the first time since 2007 – was at least based on recent announcements on an easing of Israel’s blockade under the terms of the Egyptian brokered truce deal with Hamas.

Ynet reported the following:

Israel is to begin allowing materials for private construction into Gaza, easing its blockade under the terms of a truce deal, Israeli and Palestinian officials said on Wednesday.

The decision will allow private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted exclusively to international aid groups under the terms of Israel’s blockade.”

The report then quotes a Palestinian official, thus:

“This is the first time Israel will allow the import of gravel for the private sector since the blockade began in mid-2007.”

So, the change in Israeli policy will now allow, for the first time since Hamas took over Gaza in a violent coup in 2007,  private companies and individuals to import construction materials into the territory.

Moreover, what’s especially interesting about the inaccurate Guardian report on Israel’s change in policy is the fact other Arab media outlets got the story right. 

The Saudi Gazette, on Dec. 27, published a story titled ‘Israel to ease Gaza ban on construction materials‘, which included the following:

“Israel is to begin allowing materials for private construction into Gaza, easing its blockade under the terms of a truce deal, Israeli and Palestinian officials said on Wednesday.

The decision will allow private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted exclusively to international aid groups under the terms of Israel’s blockade.

“This is the first time Israel will allow the import of gravel for the private sector since the blockade began in mid-2007”, [said Palestinian customs official Raed Fattouh].”

The Egypt Independent, on Dec. 27, in a piece titled ‘Israel eases Gaza blockade following truce deal‘, wrote the following:

“Israel is easing its blockade of Gaza to allow construction materials and other goods into the enclave under the terms of a truce deal mediated by Egypt.

The decision allows [for the first time since 2007] private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted exclusively to international aid groups under the terms of Israel’s blockade, AFP reported.

Here’s AlJazeera on Dec. 27, in a piece titledIsrael eases ban on Gaza building material‘:

“Israel has allowed a shipment of gravel for private construction into the Gaza Strip, easing the blockade it imposed after Hamas seized control of the enclave in 2007, a Palestinian official said.”

Even the Palestine News Network (PNN) reported the story accurately.  In a PNN story on Dec. 27, titled ‘Israel to Allow Imports to Ease Gaza Blockade‘, the following was reported:

“Israel will allow 20 trucks a day loaded with construction material to enter the Gaza Strip starting next week, in an attempt to ease its blockade under the terms of a truce deal signed with an Egyptian-mediation between Hamas and Israel after the eight days escalation last month.

The new construction material will be for the Palestinian sector, and this decision will allow private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted and only embarked for internationally funded building projects.”

In fact, I was unable to find another news source, other than the Guardian, which reported Israel’s easing of restrictions on building materials, that didn’t accurately distinguish between construction materials for internationally sponsored Gaza building projects, which was already allowed, and the importing of such materials for the private sector.

While any reporter can, of course, make a mistake, the frequency of inaccurate or highly misleading claims about Israel (by reporters and commentators) at the Guardian does make you wonder if their editors engage in even the most rudimentary fact-checking before publishing such stories.  

“Palestine Papers” source Ziyad Clot and the Guardian: promoting cruel illusions.

On May 13th the French newspaper ‘Le Monde’ published an article by French-Palestinian lawyer Ziyad Clot who worked as an advisor to the Palestinian Authority’s Negotiation Support Unit between January and November 2008. The following day the same article – translated into English – appeared both on CiF and on the website of the Guardian’s partner in the ‘Palestine Papers’ leak, Al Jazeera

Readers may speculate as to whether the timing of Clot’s decision to wait almost four months since the publication of the leaked documents before issuing an admission of his role in the affair – and of assorted editors to publish it – has any connection to attempts to organise ‘Naqba’ demonstrations throughout the Arab world on May 13th to 15th inclusive. Clot’s Facebook account promotes ‘Walking Home’ – Le Marche de Retour – and ‘Gaza Youth Breaks Out’.

Naturally, Clot flatters himself with some pretty high-minded motives for his actions:

“Taking these tragic developments of the “peace process” to a wider Arab and western audience was justified because it was in the public interest of the Palestinian people. I had – and still have – no doubt that I had a moral, legal and political obligation to proceed accordingly.”

Leaving aside the legal conundrums surrounding the leaking of the papers by a lawyer, Clot’s statement raises the important question of precisely who is entitled to define the “public interest of the Palestinian people”. Should that prerogative be confined to the elected representatives of the Palestinians, as indeed it is in any functioning country, or can anyone claiming flimsy connections to Palestinian heritage (or even not) legitimately decide to over-ride the fledgling Palestinian democracy and deliberately undermine elected representatives simply because he does not agree with their policies?  

For that, in fact, is precisely what occurred in the ‘Palestine Papers’ affair: a group of people decided that they knew better. Few, if any, of them have the right to vote in Palestinian elections. Few, if any, of them will bear the consequences of the processes their actions set rolling. What does it matter to those sitting comfortably in Paris, London, Chicago or Doha if negotiations broke down and violence erupts once more?  

One cannot but commiserate with the Palestinian people who, in addition to the rest of their trials and tribulations, are also plagued by the meddling of foreigners in a manner which exudes more than a smattering of colonial-style ‘we know what’s best for the locals’ mind-set.

Indeed, reading Clot’s article one begins to appreciate the fact that the type of viewpoints held by him and other foreigners parachuted in to the PA NSU have probably done more to hinder rather than help the peace process. As Clot revealed in an interview with France 24 from September 2010 whilst promoting his book ‘Il n’y aura pas d’Etat Palestinien’, he is in fact a ‘one-stater intent upon promoting the Ghaddafiesque concept of something he calls ‘Israelitine’ and is not averse to employing the ‘apartheid’ trope in the process. (See video interview here.)

Additionally, the fact that mainly (although not exclusively) French language sources suggest that Clot skipped from his position with the PA NSU to becoming an advisor to the Emir of Qatar and may also have worked for Al Jazeera would, together with his publicly voiced opinions,  indicate that Clot’s noble claims pale into insignificance beside the overwhelming evidence that the ‘Palestine Papers’ leaks were deliberately engineered in order to kill off any chance of a two-state solution reached through negotiation and compromise.

Whoever initiated and engineered the leaks, together with those such as Clot and the Guardian who collaborated with them, acted entirely out of self-interest with complete disregard – and even contempt – for the Palestinian people.

No amount of faux soul-searching and self-justification in multiply-reproduced op-eds can hide the fact that the actions of Clot and others are the cruel equivalent of encouraging those at the poorest levels of society to squander what little money they have on lottery tickets in the false hope of an impossible dream.    

Guardian contributor Mya Guarnieri and the banality of anti-Zionism

Though Mya Guarnieri seems unfettered by the requirements to abide by even the most rudimentary standards of decency, context, or proportion when taking aim at Israel on the pages of Comment is Free, the writer has evidently seen the need to spread her wings and diversify her anti-Zionist portfolio of late – writing pieces for the pro-Islamist Al-Jazeera (here and here) and, more recently, for the Bethlehem-based Palestinian news agency, Ma’an.

Guarnieri’s CiF commentary has expressed a loathing for the Jewish state that’s generally explicit enough as not to require much in the way of fisking – opining over the course of three entries in 2010 that Israel is a state which consistently displays its wretched “inhumanity“, a nation which is racist, “white and ugly“,  and is experiencing a “wave of religious fascism”, a trend which calls into the question “Judaism’s very soul” – the latter invective, it should be noted, advances the narrative of collective Jewish responsibility for Israeli actions which, in addition to her opinion that Israel shouldn’t exist, represents views codified as anti-Semitic (that is, racist). 

Guarnieri’s entries for Al-Jazeera has employed similar themes, but has contextualized and further developed her charges of fascism by noting that Israel’s descent into political darkness – which she suggested was not unlike Germany’s descent into Nazism in the 1930’s – may hopefully bring about her desired outcome, Israel’s implosion, the end of a sovereign Jewish state.

Her most recent piece for Ma’an (“Palestinian identity under attack in Israel“, April 29), expressed outrage that Israel’s Education Ministry has recently decided to add a question about the Holocaust to the matriculation exam of Arab students, which she contrasts with the state’s decision not to encourage schools to advance the narrative to Israel’s Arab children that Israel’s very creation – in the aftermath of the war in which seven Arab armies tried to destroy the nascent Jewish state on the day of her birth – was a catastrophe which should be mourned.

Consistent with Guarnieri’s previous rhetorical assaults, her diatribe against Israeli policy regarding teaching the Nakba contains gross exaggerations meant to assign maximum malice to Israel – falsely characterizing Israel’s efforts, which merely deny state funds to groups who seek to undermine the very moral foundation of its existence as “a ban on any study of the Nakba.”  

Of course, there’s a huge difference between merely denying funds to groups who advance subversive ideas and banning such speech, a profound distinction which Guarnieri evidently can not be burdened with.

But the temptation to use this incident to reinforce her broader narrative of an oppressive, fascist Israeli state was likely too great, and indeed she dutifully finds a quote characterizing the guidelines as evidence that Israel is establishing a “thought police” – which she attributed to a stray bit of hyperbole from an MK from “the right-wing Labor Party”.

Of course, as anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of Israeli politics would surely know, Labor is not “right-wing” but, rather, a left-wing party – and though increasingly marginal in Israeli politics, is, of course, solidly Zionist.

But, if, as Guarnieri does, you see the state’s very creation as a moral catastrophe, characterize the nation as one governed by religious fascism, liken it to Nazi Germany in the mid-30s, and openly opine that a sovereign Jewish state should not exist within any borders, those who don’t share your views -Israelis (and her supporters) who stubbornly resist the continuing efforts to bring about its annihilation – are, of course, by definition, “right-wing”, “fascist”, and racist.

To Guarnieri, as with the Arab publications she’s increasingly finding common cause with, it’s not simply the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem which is a “catastrophe” but Israel’s very existence – a plight upon the Middle East, and a stain upon Judaism itself, which can only be ameliorated by her destruction.

As we approach the 63rd anniversary of Israel’s birth, it seems that anyone schooled in the long, often dark history of the Jewish people shouldn’t be the least bit surprised that there are those today, as in every generation, who seek our destruction.

However, I hope I can be forgiven for my continuing exasperation over the realization that our modern enemies are more and more represented by those, like Guarnieri, whose malevolence are represented as a sophisticated, enlightened, and progressive orientation.

I can’t help but picture the young, hip Guarnieri (who lives in Israel and fancies herself quite the Hebraist) crafting her polemical assaults on Jewish sovereignty while frequenting the chic Tel Aviv cafes of Shenkin St., breezily employing the most careless and trite invectives in service of bringing about my state’s demise – a blind malevolence informed by a seemingly causal, pseudo-intellectual detachment.

As I sit here in Jerusalem on the eve of Yom HaShoah it’s the utter banality which increasingly characterizes anti-Zionist malice that I find so haunting.  

Post Script to ‘Palestine Papers’: Guardian grossly misrepresented so-called Palestinian “concessions”

The renowned Israeli journalist Ben-Dror Yemini of Ma’ariv has an interesting post on his blog which can be filed under the category ‘post script to the ‘Palestine Papers’. It speaks for itself, so allow me merely to translate (from the original Hebrew) the relevant portions.

“The terror attack in Jerusalem, like the firing of the rockets from the (Gaza) Strip, returns us to the firm ground of reality. This is a reality in which there are growing signs of a compromise between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. The events of the past two weeks clarify that the Palestinian front is returning to its old defining characteristics.”

“For a moment we lived with the illusion that something was happening, and maybe in the other direction. As recently as this last January, Al Jazeera and The Guardian came out with loud pronouncements concerning the most meaningful step in Palestinian history: the relinquishment of the right of return. The change, I then wrote, was most welcome. Except that this was a short-lived illusion. This is not merely due to the reality of rockets upon Ashkelon and Ashdod, the massacre in Itamar and the terror attack in Jerusalem. The story runs deeper.”

“New research by an American Christian organisation (not evangelist) examined all the 1,700 leaked papers; something which your faithful servant, despite his will, did not manage to do. The conclusion of the research is the exact opposite; that not only did the Palestinians not agree to any compromise on this subject [right of return], but they fooled everyone. False declarations of a moderateness, which I wish were true, are still far away. And so all those who found the Palestinian compromise troubling, from the Guardian to Gideon Levy (who claimed that the papers proved that the Palestinians had ‘sold their soul to the devil’), from Hamas to Al Jazeera – can all calm down. The Palestinians did not really give up.”

“But maybe yes? Surely it cannot be that the Guardian would publish a giant headline declaring that “Palestinians agreed that only 10,000 refugees could return to Israel”. This is, after all, a serious newspaper. In the same article, on the newspaper’s website, there appears a link to the Palestinian document which supposedly indicates the compromise. Just like the links on this blog. Except that following the link does not lead to any document which indicates Palestinian compromise. Nothing. I thought this must be a mistake. Mistakes are, after all, human. On this blog too there were broken links, readers complained, and the mistakes were mended. Except that it has been months since the publication. One could assume that someone pointed out to the Guardian that something was wrong. Surely I cannot be the first.”

“Caution prompted me to approach Ian Black, the Guardian’s Middle East editor. Not only does his name appear upon the specific article, but also on many reprimands of Israel in wake of the leaked papers. Even if he is not pro-Israel, Black is considered a serious journalist. He is far removed from the venomous hostility of Robert Fisk of the Independent or Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz. I asked Black: where does your amazing headline about only 10,000 refugees come from? I sent him the research which claims otherwise. I hoped that he would provide me with some proof. After all, if the information published is correct, we are talking about a historic turn-around. Black chose not to respond. I went to the trouble of looking myself and well, there is a document in which Erekat claims that the Palestinians agreed to 15,000 refugees per year, over a period of ten years, to return to Israel. There are two problems with this document. Firstly, the document is directed at the Europeans, when Netanyahu was already in power, in order to present the Palestinians as moderates.  And secondly, the document contains a land mine which deals with a renewable right. And thirdly, in all the documents, at the relevant time during the negotiations, it is made clear in no uncertain terms that the right of return is a personal right ‘which is not subject to any negotiation whatsoever’, and in other documents the Palestinians even try to define the ‘absorption ability’ of Israel in a scientific manner, reaching a number of 1,016,511 refugees. Some display of moderateness.”

“The central character in the story is Erekat. He tricks everyone and becomes, wondrously, the moderate man. And so the Guardian, in another headline, which supposedly proves the previous one, announces another dramatic about-turn. Once more I approached the source and once more it turned out not to have been. ‘Palestinian negotiators accept  Jewish state, papers reveal’. So where does the headline come from? Well, Erekat told Livni exactly what Abu Mazen claimed when he wanted to explain why he would not accept the demand: ‘define yourselves as you wish’. Between this play on words and the recognition of Israel as the Jewish State – the road is very long. But we can rely on the Guardian. It is obliged to present the Palestinians as moderates in order to be able to present the Israelis as intransigent.”

….

“So how and why was it possible to invent for us one of the biggest scams of the diplomatic [peace] process? Well, Al Jazeera’s aim was to embarrass the Palestinian Authority. At the Guardian the aim was to embarrass Israel. All in order to claim that the papers reveal the depth of Palestinian  concessions which were rejected by Israel’. The scam worked, and not only Ha’aretz joined in; I too was persuaded that we were talking about signs of change.”

“A Palestinian about-face, if it really did happen, would be worthy of all praise. There is no about-face and it is a pity that there isn’t. There is a scam and that is worthy of exposure.”

Ben Dror Yemini is an experienced political journalist and by no means a naive man, but like a considerable number of Israelis he is perhaps guilty of doing what many of us, particularly on the Left of the political map, have been doing to some extent for several years – projecting our own hopes and aspirations onto others and grasping at every straw which seems to hint that a new dawn is just around the corner. That is perhaps natural after so many years of conflict, so much bloodshed and despair, but it does not absolve us from the responsibility of proper examination of the catalysts of our raised hopes, or their source.

As for his realisation of the extent of the role played by the Guardian in the ‘Palestine Papers’ affair, and the motivations behind that – well, better late than never.

To paraphrase the British television advert for a well-known chain of opticians: ‘should have gone to CiF Watch’.

The Palestine Papers and the Malice of Journalism

This is cross posted by Kendrick Macdowell, who blogs at The Prince and The Little Prince

“The Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that it is impossible, we already have the land and cannot create the state.” —Tzipi Livni, 2008, then Israeli foreign minister

Let that statement sink in for a moment, and you will appreciate one of the most disturbing pathologies about the Middle East peace process—but not the one you think.

The quote was featured prominently in the liberal British newspaper The Guardian as part of its coverage of the so-called “Palestinian Papers”—1,600 documents about Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations leaked to Al-Jazeera and provided to The Guardian.

Here is what Ms. Livni actually said:

“I understand the sentiments of the Palestinians when they see the settlements being built. The meaning from the Palestinian perspective is that Israel takes more land, that the Palestinian state will be impossible, the Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that it is impossible, we already have the land and cannot create the state.”

Consistent with its policy of active malice against Israel, The Guardian deliberately converted a statement by Ms. Livni describing Palestinian perceptions into a declaration by Ms. Livni of actual and pernicious Israeli policy. In short, The Guardian brazenly lied.

Ever determined to demonize Israel as the obstacle to peace, The Guardian introduced the Palestinian Papers with the blaring banner, Israel spurned Palestinian offer of ‘biggest Yerushalayim in history’.” (Yerushalayim is the sonorous Hebrew word for Jerusalem.) Yes, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, spoke the phrase “biggest Yerushalayim in history”—much exploited elsewhere by The Guardian—just as Tzipi Livni spoke the words attributed, with scissoring malice, to her. But Erekat’s words in context belie the Guardian narrative of Israeli intransigence:

Israelis want the two-state solution but they don’t trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians. What is in that paper gives them the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarized state…what more can I give?

So Israel does want a two-state solution, sometimes even more than the Palestinians. The Guardian, evidently less so.  And just to make sure there was no lingering ambiguity about The Guardian‘s bigotry, it published a cartoon of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dressed up like an Orthodox Jew toting an Uzi-like gun— drawn by cartoonist Carlos Latuff, known for his viciously anti-Israel work. What a splendid contribution to peace.

The revelations from the Palestinian Papers are not especially surprising—negotiations were cordial, frank, serious, and constructive—but the “journalists” at Al-Jazeera and The Guardian are full of fraudulent and bigoted surprises. Even more disturbing than the apparent intractability of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (for which the Palestinian Papers actually suggest a ray of hope) is the despicable state of much “journalism” concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (for which there is evidently no hope).

By comparison, WikiLeaks’ impish and reckless Julian Assange, who simply dumps secrets that imperil human lives, looks cherubic.

While The Guardian anchored the anti-peace process in the West, Al-Jazeera ensured hostility to peace in the Arab world, with particular attention to slandering Palestinians. Declared Al-Jazeera in one “news” article: “The Palestinian Authority (PA) has shown operational willingness to co-operate with Israel to kill its own people, The Palestine Papers indicate.” This is not journalism. This is cynical and fraudulent hate-mongering.

The slander about craven Palestinian negotiators making unprecedented concessions has already sent Palestinians scurrying for cover, immeasurably complicating an always delicate negotiation dynamic. In fact, Palestinian negotiators acted as sophisticated diplomats, in pursuit of a realistic peace that neither Al-Jazeera norThe Guardian want.

But then, surrounding Arab regimes have always had an interest in perpetuating the suffering of the Palestinian people. PA President Abbas condemned Al-Jazeera’s agenda as sparking a Tunisian-style uprising among Palestinians. Maybe so, maybe no, but Palestinians, thinking that surely 23 Arab states and 57 Muslim states have their backs against one Jewish state, have put so much misplaced faith in a fake solidarity that has failed them for 60 years.

Ghassan Khatib, Executive Director of the Arab Reform Institute, straightforwardly called Al-Jazeera’s coverage “malevolent.”

Al-Jazeera, which already pursues an Islamic political and ideological agenda, not only posted these documents on a website, but produced four major television programs “presenting” the documents. Al-Jazeera maliciously took things out of context with the objective of exaggerating the negative light they cast on the Palestinian Authority.

Negotiations may be suspended—but I see a tiny ray of hope. I see Palestinians and Israelis both recognizing that no one else in the world has as much shared interest with either of them as they do between themselves. I see Palestinians finally recognizing the cynicism of their Arab brothers in surrounding autocratic regimes that have exploited Palestinians for decades, and used Palestinian aspirations for their own cynical purposes while contributing nothing of consequence to—and often actively thwarting—the betterment of the Palestinian people and the peace process. I see Israelis resolving to trust again, to use power sparingly, to partner with their Palestinian brothers and make Semitic peace. I see recognition by Palestinians and Israelis that their lives, their livelihoods, their peace and security have become a ghoulish global sport, with hateful-half-baked and massively misinformed opinions traded like baseball cards. I see Palestinians and Israelis recognizing that hate and bigotry are imports from this global ghoulish sport, and resolving with vigor befitting their children to be done with them in their respective communities. I see honorable Palestinians and honorable Israelis re-committing to negotiating peace on terms that honor their children, rather than the distorted politics of foreign cynics. Yes, I see peace.

It is, admittedly, a tiny ray of hope, and perhaps one I’ll not be privileged to see realized in my lifetime, such is the anger and hate and suspicion that plasters the region. But I believe my son’s generation will make it happen. And I honor him and them in hopeful anticipation.

The Guardian’s Mya Guarnieri plays Nazi card in phrophesizing the “the death of Israeli democracy”

The Guardian’s Mya Guarnieri has reached a new low.  In a recent piece for Al-Jazeera, titled, “The death of Israeli democracy“, Guarnieri outdid, by several degrees, her previous anti-Zionist opus in the Guardian in the levels of hyperbole and pure malice.

In her Dec. 8 piece in CiF, “Israel Rabbi’s racist decrees strikes at the soul of Judaism”, Guarnieri contextualized the bigoted remarks of a small number of rabbis as signifying Israel’s “rising tide of religious fascism,” by claiming that such views were state-sanctioned, which, as we noted in an official complaint to the Guardian’s Readers’ Editor, was categorically untrue.

But, undeterred, and clearly not one to let facts get in the way of preconceived prejudices about Israel, Guarnieri decides to double-down, and raises the moral stakes even higher by advancing an even more inflammatory narrative about Israel’s supposed descent into political darkness – in Al-Jazeera, a media organization, it should be noted, that’s not exactly known for sharing her secular liberal outlook.

Guarnieri’s case, in her Al Jazeera piece, against Israel –  helpfully illustrated with a photo of a sinister looking Orthodox Jew – is, of course, paper-thin, and includes, as exhibit A, a bill passed by the Knesset which merely denies government funding to groups who view the state’s very creation as a horrible tragedy.

But her polemical invective against the Jewish state then picks up steam when she – mirroring a narrative recently advanced by the Guardian’s Simon Tisdall who claimed that Israel merely “poses” as a democracy – informs us that its arguable that, “Israel was never a democracy in the true sense of the word.”

Guarnieri then quotes Knesset member Dov Khenin, of the Jewish-Arab party Hadash, who had just given a talk under the banner of “The Danger of Fascism”, about which she adds, “There [were] about 20 people present – a sad number considering what is at stake.”

Khenin – who later showed himself a fan of the father of Marxist thought, Fredrich Engels – said:

“Arab Knesset members have always been regarded with suspicion – the vicious verbal assault Haneen Zoabi faced in the Knesset after she participated in the flotilla comes to my mind”

Of course, the fact that Zoabi (an Arab member of Knesset) participated in a flotilla sponsored by known terrorists (IHH) who seek Israel’s destruction, and whose members, while on board the vessel, brutally attacked the citizens serving in her own country’s military, and then merely suffered a verbal assault, may at least partially explain why only 20 Israelis saw fit to turn out at Khenin’s event.

But, Guarnieri, undeterred by the fact that the overwhelming majority of actual Israelis don’t take the hysterical warnings about their country’s supposed descent into fascism seriously, pivots into even more odious territory, by asking, “Will Israel become out-right fascist?”, before adding:

At an October protest against legislation commonly referred to as the loyalty oath – a bill that would require non-Jews seeking Israeli citizenship to pledge allegiance to a “Jewish and democratic” state - Gavriel Solomon, a prominent academic and peace activist, likened Israel to Nazi Germany, circa 1935...That was the year that the Nuremberg Laws – racist legislation that led to the systematic and deadly persecution of Jews – were created….There were no [concentration] camps yet but there were racist laws,” he said. “And we are heading towards these kinds of laws.” [emphasis mine]

Guarnieri follows this insidious analogy by concluding:

“While meaningful change is probably a long way off for Israel – it may take something huge, like fascism, to wake Jewish Israelis from their apathy and dreams of maintaining both a Zionist and democratic state – change is in the air.”

For Guarnieri, it seems, the imminent regression into Nazi-style fascism would of course be tragic and abhorrent for Israel, but (on a more positive note) could also serve a quite progressive cause – the end of the Jewish state.

You have to burn the village in order to save it.

The Palestine Papers, & the speech to Palestinians that Mahmoud Abbas will never give

This is cross posted by Yitzchak Besser at the American Jewish Committee

My friend at The Jerusalem Post takes credit for PaliLeaks. Not the story, mind you, just the catchy title that’s been floating around lately for the “Palestine Papers” leaks that have been broadcast by Al-Jazeera and published by The Guardian.

After a week of breaking stories revealing intimate details from the peace process’s cast of characters that we’ve all come to know and love (to complain about over coffee), we’ve seen our share of PaliLeaks. As it was noted by another writer at the Post, one of the first things that come to mind about the Palestine Papers is that it is no WikiLeaks. These are not the writings of relatively obscure diplomats; rather they are heavy hitters like Livni, Abbas and Qurei.  Nor are they correspondence from the field back to Washington about the latest updates from places normally relegated to the back of the paper. This is Israel, the Middle East, page 1 around the globe, regardless of just how tired the public is of the never-ending Mediterranean story.

These leaks are a revelation. At least, that’s the way the pundits are spinning it. Like some fantastical mirror, they are providing people from across the spectrum with political fodder to say, “Ah! You see, I was right! Look there. That’s exactly what I said was happening.” So what’s the real take on the revelations from the closed-room negotiations?

Israelis, it should come as no surprise, are a cynical people.

By and large, the details coming out of the Palestine Papers aren’t fazing the Israeli populace. “We’ve been talking for ages, let’s see some action. In the meantime, back to the salt mines and watering holes.” Even talking of Ma’aleh Adumim as part of a future Palestinian state or the PA’s begrudging (and now of course, utterly denied by them) acceptance that the “right of return” is national suicide are only blips on our radar. Sure, it’s good to hear them out in the open, but those who know the score have already seen the highlight reel. Here, the ground will shake when rumors become reality and the political machine starts moving at full speed instead of creaking along.

The real dynamism of the story comes not from Israeli society, but from the Palestinian one. The PA leaders have been misleading their people, Al-Jazeera has been crying from the rooftops. Behold, they spoke of never coordinating with the hated Zionist enemy, yet here they are making security arrangements. Jerusalem and the right of return are sacred and beyond discussion so why are they shown here making deals in Israeli dens?

Even the bare minimum – statements that increasingly sound more like demands rather than bargaining chips, terms which Israel is simply unable to accept – are beyond the PA’s capacity to deliver. To put it simply, the mere talk of negotiations has the Palestinian public up in arms. Abbas and company can feel the earth falling from beneath their feet. They recognize that the PaliLeaks are an attack on themselves, on their credibility and their perceived loyalty to a cause – a Palestinian state that refuses to yield even a millimeter to Western and Zionist forces.

Sadly, Abbas has played into Al-Jazeera’s trap. In a condolence call to Israeli President Shimon Peres after the passing of his wife Sonia, the Palestinian premier told the grieving leader that Israel and the PA must stand together “like a wall” against the delegitimization facing his tentative regime. In essence, he’s turned to Israel, and that’s what his people will see. Of course the closeness between us is a blessing, but this sends entirely the wrong message. Moreover, his denials of the Palestine Papers and claims of slander only further fan the flames of outrage, as Hamas sits back and laughs while upholding itself as the only champion of a betrayed and downtrodden Palestine.

Abbas’s Palestinian people are categorically opposed to the idea of give-and-take. It is that intransigence which is at the heart of both the stalled peace process and the Palestinian man on the street. Al-Jazeera and the Guardian are well aware of this fact, and have brought it to the fore with their leaked coverage of the negotiations scattering this past decade’s history like smashed bugs on a windshield. By capitalizing on the public’s unwillingness to even contemplate a settlement with Israel, Al-Jazeera and the Guardian have set the peace process even further back and threatened to topple certainly the support for Abbas’s Western-backed PA, if not the entire organization.

Abbas needs to run toward his people, not away from them, and embrace these claims rather than deny them. He must own up to his actions, and stand for what the PaliLeaks attempts to represent: honesty. If he believes that peace will come through negotiation (and if he does not, then this is all moot), then he must convince his people of that fact, instead of hiding behind double-talk.

The PA leadership lacks the moral courage and integrity to stand before its constituents and say,

“We are fighting – and will continue to fight – for a Palestinian state. A state free of violence and corruption. A state that prides itself on its strength rather than the nascent immaturity of a people only beginning to quest after their independence. We have fought for far too long, my brothers, and we have grown and developed as we near ever closer to our goals. We have struggled with the Zionist enterprise and it will not end with their obliteration, nor will it end with ours. Statehood, success, power – these things come with sacrifice and we have sacrificed much for the sake of our goals. To obtain them, to achieve our long-sought-after independence, I have looked into the eyes of the Zionists and stated our claims, as they, without blinking, have told me theirs.

“There are those – here in Palestine, in the Middle East and the world at large – that do not wish for a free and independent Palestinian state. They are the reason that we face this crisis today. But I would see us free from the camps, not to conquer Tel Aviv and Haifa but to build Ramallah and Jenin and Nablus into a place that far surpasses the hopes our imaginations can conceive of from our squalor.

“Acceptance is a bitter pill to swallow. My anger at the miseries and catastrophes and unfairness that History’s cruel hand has thrown down upon, my anger has washed over me and I have let it go. Allah has sent us these things to make us stronger, and stronger we have become. We have become wiser, and in our wisdom, we have recognized His hand. He has brought our enemies to us with a promise of a free land, and I will not spurn his gift. The Zionists are our neighbors. This is His will. And I will work with them and stand guard against them in the effort of seeing our dream, our homeland, our Palestine live.”

There are those, I’m sure who will call me naïve or ignorant (or worse, I’m sure) for such an approach. I do not claim it will be easy or that it will happen overnight. But the PA leadership must, in fact, lead their people, rather than be lead by them and their societal stigmas against any kind of dialogue with Israel that doesn’t inherently and immediate given them exactly what they want. Leadership is a dangerous endeavor, and one not for the likes of weak-hearted men.  If Abbas wants to contribute to a lasting national history for the Palestinians, he must accept the mantle of responsibility in light the claims made against him through the Palestine Papers.

Al-Jazeera and the Guardian have used the leaks for ratings and a targeted attack against the very notion of a negotiation between the Israelis and the Palestinians through the manipulation of a single fact: Until the Palestinian people accept that a give-and-take must be about giving as well as taking, then there can be no hope for this peace process.

The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade explores his inner Jewish problem

One can well imagine how it went down.  Somewhere in fashionable London an i-phone rang.

“Hi Alan, mate. How’s things?”

“Bit of a problem, Roy, I’m afraid. That blog post of yours about the EDL and the Daily Star.”

“What about it? Bloody good, don’t you think?”

“Oh yes, but the JC are onto it and I can’t do with any more hassle from them. Something about the ‘negative view of Muslims’ bit. We’ll have to take it down and you’d better do a statement. You know; the usual – ‘does not reflect my views’ and all that.”

“Oh alright. Look, I’ve got a busy weekend ahead. I’ll give them a bell and put the damper on this before it goes viral. Leave it to me.”

And so yet another revealing slip of the keyboard by the man who turned Helen Thomas into a victimised ‘iconoclast’ and was shocked by the ‘disproportionate’ reaction to her antisemitic statements gets consigned to history with a few mealy-mouthed mumbled words of apology.

Greenslade wrote the following on his blog, in the context of condemning the Daily Star for publishing a cover story highlighting the EDL.  Blaming the Star’s owner, Richard Desmond, Greenslade diagnosed a likely motive, asserting in one remarkably broad stroke:

“Desmond ought to think very carefully about letting the Star use far right politics to build sales. As a Jew, he may well have negative views of Muslims.”

Greenslade later backtracked, stating that his remark was ‘stupid’ and that he did not know ‘what I was thinking’ when he wrote it.

“A contrite Mr Greenslade told the JC he was pleased the line had been taken down. He said: “How stupid. I didn’t meant that and I don’t know what I was thinking.

“It’s contradictory, isn’t it. There I was going on about stereotypes and I immediately stepped into a stereotype.”

Mr Greenslade described the generalisation as was “so far from what I believe” and said he tried to be extremely fair when it came to coverage of sensitive issues of religion.

He added:

“I sometimes wonder at myself.”

But Greenslade is not just some amateur weekend blogger.  He is a professor of journalism at City University in London: a professional for whom words have been the tools of his craft for decades. A man who has reached the pinnacles of journalism has not done so by not knowing what he was thinking when he puts finger to keyboard and Greenslade’s dibbuk-like excuses ring extremely hollow, particularly in light of his previous record on the Helen Thomas affair and other events.

The day after Israeli troops prevented the Mavi Marmara from breaking the naval blockade on Gaza, Greenslade was quick to jump on the Guardian’s bandwagon of biased coverage of the event by parroting Al Jazeera fairy stories on his blog. Unfortunately, his journalistic credentials did not apparently prompt him to check the veracity of statements such as “[h]undreds of Israeli soldiers attacked the flotilla and the captain of our boat is seriously injured.” Neither did he seem to find relevant the fact that one of the Al Jazeera journalists – Jamal El Shayyal – whom Greenslade lauded for the fact that he supposedly ‘beat Israeli censorship’ was formerly a member of several UK organizations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood – the organization behind the flotilla.

The later amended version of Greenslade’s blog post states that “This article was amended on 10 February to remove inappropriate language”, but this is about far more than language. It is about a culture in which neither an experienced journalist nor equally experienced editors are able to recognize antisemitic bigotry and stereotypes even when they write them themselves and so have to be censured by others.

Such a culture does not merely fall unexpectedly from the sky and afflict an otherwise pristine journalist against his will like some seventeenth century-style ‘evil spirit’. It comes from within and Greenslade’s non-event of an apology, which goes nowhere near addressing the real issue, shows just how deeply it is ingrained.

Greenslade may indeed ‘sometimes wonder’ at himself. Some of us stopped wondering long ago; we know exactly what we see. Greenslade is part of a culture which is both offensive and dangerous – one which is tended and irrigated daily on the pages of the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’.

An article in Al Jazeera?

Nope.

Given that Arabic is only the fifth most widely used language in the world, and counted as the sixth most influential language, it’s curious that the Guardian has chosen to now offer selected commentary in that language.

Of course, in light of the Guardian’s collaboration with Al-Jazeera in their “Palestine Papers” series and, more importantly, possesses a political orientation which is often as overtly hostile to Israel as the Arab media, their decision shouldn’t come as a shock.

While we don’t know if the Guardian plans to increase their Arabic content, we’ll continue to monitor the new site and keep you posted.

(For those who may be unfamiliar with the virulent anti-Semitism routinely peddled in the Arabic media, we’d strongly recommend visiting the sites of Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI.)

The Guardian’s role in the delegitimization of Israel

This essay I wrote was recently published in The Jewish News.

The Guardian’s initial editorial upon release of “The Palestine Papers” contextualized thousands of secret Palestinian documents – classified notes, obtained by Al-Jazeera, of their negotiations with Israel over the last ten years – in a way which managed to affirm the paper’s consistent narrative of Israel: as a crude, bullying goliath who has no interest in living peacefully with its neighbors.  The paper likened the Jewish state to a thuggish “nightclub bouncer”.

Additional “Palestine Papers” commentary crossed extremely dangerous lines: referring to Palestinian leaders who show flexibility during negotiations as “craven”, providing a platform to a Hamas member (who issued a thinly veiled threat of violence), posting a political cartoon from a notorious anti-Semitic extremist, and publishing multiple letters justifying the use of suicide bombing as a legitimate political tool.

No longer merely a vehicle for anti-Israel activism, Guardian editors have shown themselves shamefully tempted by the most lethal political orientations – those which, throughout history (whether in the service of left-wing or right-wing ideologies), contain a couple common denominators: They fetishize radicalism and political extremism, and, most dangerously, sanitize – even romanticize – the use of violence to achieve political ends.

Such extreme views about Israel, of course, are nothing new, and merely represents one example in a continuing rhetorical and political assault on Israel which simply has no contemporary parallel.

While nations across the globe are of course criticized, and some even vilified, no state other than Israel is targeted by an international network of state and non-state actors who characterize the nation as morally beyond the pale.  Whether such actors are explicit in their desires – such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran – or seek to achieve such objectives by advocating what’s known as the “one-state solution” (the radical political reconstitution of the world’s only Jewish state into the 51st majority Muslim state) the myriad of opponents facing Israel all attack the fundamental political legitimacy of the Jewish nation-state.

To read the rest of the essay, open this link and turn to page 11.

Comment is Free: Platform of Choice for the Muslim Brotherhood.

In keeping with its well-earned reputation as the platform of choice for devotees the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots, CiF published an article by the Director General of Al Jazeera Wadah Khanfar on Feb. 7th.

The editorial decision to co-operate with Al Jazeera self-promotion is hardly surprising. After all, barely two weeks have passed since we discovered that the two media concerns collaborated on the release of the leaked ‘Palestine papers’, suggesting that they share at least some common interests.

Neither does the editorial decision to allocate column space to supporters of extremist Islamist organisations necessitate the breaking of new ground at the Guardian; that is a very well trodden path  for them, with Hamas officials, members and supporters being allocated regular slots on CiF.

I don’t know how many readers have actually had the dubious pleasure of watching Al Jazeera in Arabic, which is, of course, what is aired to millions here in the Middle East and which I have the impression that some Westerners believe to be identical to Al Jazeera in English.  It is, to put it mildly, not my station of choice but occasionally – such as during its ‘Palestine Papers’ week – it is interesting to observe the style and pernicious tone of its broadcasting.

My first intensive exposure to Al Jazeera was during the 2006 Lebanon war when my family and I took in two families of Druze friends who had been forced to leave their homes near Haifa because of the bombing. Both families of course speak fluent Hebrew, but were also interested to see how the conflict was being reported in the Arab media and seeing as there was little else to do except watch television during the many hours we spent holed up in our reinforced concrete safe room, that meant that I got to see rather more of Al Jazeera reporting than I would have liked.  The running translation from my friends would inevitably come to an abrupt halt at some point as they became more engrossed in expressing their anger and indignation at the content of the Al Jazeera reports.

Wadah Khanfar’s feeble attempts to paint Al Jazeera as an agent of democratic change in the Middle East will no doubt fall on fertile ground at CiF where both the staff and much of the readership remain either blissfully – if not wilfully – ignorant of the organisation’s real orientations and aims or actually support them.

They will not be interested in Khanfar’s personal history of connections to the Muslim Brotherhood or the well-documented shift of Al Jazeera towards the Islamist stance since his appointment which has resulted in a number of former employees leaving the station.

“….anchorman Mohamed Krichen of Qatar’s Al Jazeera admitted his satellite channel had undergone serious Islamization.

He confirmed to a forum questioner that Al Jazeera was undergoing internal turmoil, notably with the recent resignation of five female anchors the media had reported were harassed by former deputy editor in chief Ayman Jaballah.

Lebanon’s daily Assafir said Jaballah, who is Egyptian, was close to the banned Moslem Brotherhood organization.

Jaballah had apparently complained about the women for not dressing modestly (read veiled).

“It’s much deeper than veils and dress codes: the administration has taken a very unhealthy religious turn that threatens further resignations and has affected morale among staffers who see it as curbing their freedom of thought and speech,” said an Al Jazeera insider on condition of anonymity.”

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