Perhaps the most important speech about media coverage of Israel ever given

The following is the text of a speech given by former AP journalist Matti Friedman at a BICOM dinner in London on January 26. (It’s published here by permission.)

One night several years ago, I came out of Bethlehem after a reporting assignment and crossed through the Israeli military checkpoint between that city and its neighbor, Jerusalem, where I live. With me were perhaps a dozen Palestinian men, mostly in their thirties – my age. No soldiers were visible at the entrance to the checkpoint, a precaution against suicide bombers. We saw only steel and concrete. I followed the other men through a metal detector into a stark corridor and followed instructions barked from a loudspeaker – Remove your belt! Lift up your shirt! The voice belonged to a soldier watching us on a closed-circuit camera. Exiting the checkpoint, adjusting my belt and clothing with the others, I felt like a being less than entirely human and understood, not for the first time, how a feeling like that would provoke someone to violence.

Consumers of news will recognize this scene as belonging to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, which keeps the 2.5 million Palestinians in that territory under military rule, and has since 1967. The facts of this situation aren’t much in question. This should be an issue of concern to Israelis, whose democracy, military, and society are corroded by the inequality in the West Bank. This, too, isn’t much in question.

The question we must ask, as observers of the world, is why this conflict has come over time to draw more attention than any other, and why it is presented as it is. How have the doings in a country that constitutes 0.01 percent of the world’s surface become the

focus of angst, loathing, and condemnation more than any other? We must ask how Israelis and Palestinians have become the stylized symbol of conflict, of strong and weak, the parallel bars upon which the intellectual Olympians of the West perform their tricks – not Turks and Kurds, not Han Chinese and Tibetans, not British soldiers and Iraqi Muslims, not Iraqi Muslims and Iraqi Christians, not Saudi sheikhs and Saudi women, not Indians and Kashmiris, not drug cartel thugs and Mexican villagers. Questioning why this is the case is in no way an attempt to evade or obscure reality, which is why I opened with the checkpoint leading from Bethlehem. On the contrary – anyone seeking a full understanding of reality can’t avoid this question. My experiences as a journalist provide part of the answer, and also raise pressing questions that go beyond the practice of journalism.

I have been writing from and about Israel for most of the past 20 years, since I moved there from Toronto at age 17. During the five and a half years I spent as part of the international press corps as a reporter for the American news agency The Associated Press, between 2006 and 2011, I gradually began to be aware of certain malfunctions in the coverage of the Israel story – recurring omissions, recurring inflations, decisions made according to considerations that were not journalistic but political, all in the context of a story staffed and reported more than any other international story on earth. When I worked in the AP’s Jerusalem bureau, the Israel story was covered by more AP news staff than China, or India, or all of the fifty-odd countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. This is representative of the industry as a whole.

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Israeli deaths glorified at London School of Economics on Holocaust Memorial Day

Cross posted from Richard Millett’s Blog

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau but last night at the London School of Economics at a joint Palestine Society and Feminist Society event Israelis were portrayed as rapists and those who killed Israelis were applauded.

Aitemad Muhanna-Matar, Zena Agha, Rana B. Baker,  Mezna Qato at LSE last night.

Aitemad Muhanna-Matar, Zena Agha, Rana B. Baker, Mezna Qato at LSE last night.

In front of a banner that read “Towards Freedom and Independence the Uprising Continues” a panel of four women described the role Palestinian women should play in the “uprising”.

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Sky News “remembers Auschwitz” by suggesting that Jews fuel antisemitism

Sky News reporter Adam Boulton asked Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis three separate times if Israel causes antisemitism, during a short interview conducted on International Holocaust Memorial Day.  As Boulton was interviewing Mirvis about the significance of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, viewers saw video in the background of Palestinians in the rubble of Gaza during the summer war, under the headline: “Auschwitz remembered”.

Here’s a screenshot from a YouTube clip of part of the interview:

Sky News

Here’s the video:

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Holocaust sans antisemitism? Guardian editorial on Auschwitz liberation follows familiar pattern

Auschwitz_by_doctorkrisseeToday marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Roughly one out of every six Jews killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust died between 1940 and 1945 at the Auschwitz camp complex in south-west Poland – a facility known as “the largest mass murder site in human history”.

The official Jan. 27th Guardian editorial on the significance of commemorating the anniversary of the camp’s liberation seems determined to honor the memory of the Jewish victims, yet appears at a loss to explain why they were murdered, and thus fails in the most important task of any serious meditation on the Holocaust: what moral lessons we must learn.

We’ll include the entire text of the editorial in order to fully contextualize the omission.

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CiF Watch prompts Indy correction to erroneous ‘Gaza Holocaust’ passage

As we noted previously, The Independent published a story on December 24th about the ongoing Sony hacking scandal by the newspaper’s Deputy People Editor, Ella Alexander.

However, in attempting to explain the nature of a series of leaked emails (a reply-all chain argument featuring Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Russell Simmons and Ryan Seacrest) from film producer Ryan Kavanaugh, who is Jewish and a vocal Israel supporter, the Indy flubbed a key passage in the story.

Here are the relevant passages in the Indy article:

indy passage

The claim that Kavanaugh compared the situation in Gaza to the Holocaust is grossly inaccurate.

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Grandson of Holocaust survivors denounces repulsive behavior of pro-Palestinian activists

According to reports yesterday, Pro-Palestinian activists sitting in the New York City Council Chamber gallery timed their protests to coincide with a Council resolution commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. While Council was discussing the resolution, protesters unfurled a Palestinian flag and started shouting slogans at the Council.

Councilman David G. Greenfieldthe grandson of holocaust survivors, made the following remarks on the Council floor shortly after the protest.

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Another journo accuses British Jews who fear antisemitism of being ‘ungrateful’

Yesterday, we posted about a Guardian op-ed by David Conn on Jan. 20th which accused British Jews who, in his view, express unwarranted alarm about the threat of antisemitism in the UK of being “ungrateful” to their country.

It turns out that, on the very same day, a similar charge was leveled by another British Jew, journalist Matthew Norman.

Matthew Norman

Matthew Norman

Writing in The Independent, Norman first notes the putative dearth of any fatal antisemitic attacks in the country.

And so it is with the greatest reluctance – it feels like sacrilege, in fact – that I tempt fate by pointing out that no Jewish person has been killed in Britain in an anti-semitic attack since … well, my possibly flawed internet researches find no fatality on record at all.

Norman’s internet research was indeed flawed. In 2008, a Manchester Jew was fatally stabbed by a man who later told police that he “needed to kill a Jewish person”.  CST characterized the attack as antisemitic.

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Guardian contributer suggests that British Jews alarmed about antisemitism are ‘ungrateful’

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Rally against antisemitism, Royal Courts of Justice

In fairness, The Guardian has published a few morally clear articles, op-eds and editorials on the recent increase of antisemitism in Europe and the UK. However, a Jan. 19th Guardian op-ed by David Conn, responding to poll results on antisemitism published by Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA),  pivots towards more familiar Guardian Left territory – downplaying, obfuscating or rationalizing resurgent anti-Jewish racism.

Conn not only responds with disbelief to polls purporting to show that 25% of British Jews have considered leaving the country because of antisemitism, that 58% believe Jews may have no future in Europe and that over half feel “antisemitism now echoes the 1930s”, but counters that he personally has never experienced meaningful antisemitism in his entire life.

Further in the op-ed, Conn writes:

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Deborah Maccoby to Europe’s Jews: denounce Israel & live happily thereafter

Cross posted from the blog Simply Jews

DeboraMaccoby2

Deborah Maccoby… yeah, I know, my American friends will question my preoccupation with such minor and generally obscure elements of British society. And I don’t think that next picture will change their opinion significantly:

DeboraMaccoby

Deborah Maccoby bills herself on some occasions* as “Executive, Jews for Justice for Palestinians”. Alternatively she presents herself as “a member of the Executive Committee of Just Peace UK, the Israeli-Palestinian peace group and the UK branch of ICAHD (the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions)”. At the same time she is gainfully employed “at the BBC World Service as a Production Assistant and has written book reviews for the Arabic Service”. Which is a significant point, showing a person with access to one of the heaviest propaganda juggernauts out there.

So, if after looking at the pictures, you have conjured in your mind an image of one of these slightly demented aunts that are very good in making their own preserves or jams, overcook the roast and are afraid of spiders – perish the thought. Deborah Maccoby is a very strong anti-Zionist presence on many fronts and, as a prominent member of the British “AssaJew” community, has quite a few ideas to offer on many subjects.

One of such subjects is a solution for antisemitism, which Ms Maccoby hinted about as early as 2009. In this letter that starts with predictable “Sir: I am a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians and have participated in every one of the national demonstrations against Israel’s brutal onslaught against Gaza”, she offers the magic recipe in the last sentence:

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Poll: 82% of UK Jews believe media bias against Israel fuels antisemitism in Britain

The Campaign Against Antisemitism just released a report based on two new YouGov polls measuring both antisemitic sentiment amongst the British public, and its effect on British Jewry.

Here are the highlights:

British Public’s Attitudes Towards British Jews

  • 25% of Britons believe that “Jews chase money more than other British people.”  
  • 20% of Britons believe “Jews’ loyalty to Israel makes them less loyal to Britain than other British people.” 
  • 17% of Britons believe that “Jews think they are better than other people” and that “Jews have too much power in the media.” 
  • 13% of Britons believe that “Jews talk about the Holocaust too much in order to get sympathy.” 

The Jewish Community’s Reactions to Antisemitism

  • 25% of British Jews have considered leaving the country in the past two years because of rising antisemitism. 
  • 45% of British Jews feel their family is threatened by Islamist extremism.
  • 77% of British Jews have witnessed antisemitism disguised as a political comment about Israel.
  • 84% of British Jews consider boycotts of businesses selling Israeli products to be intimidation.

Most interesting, from our perspective, was this:

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Guardian prints letter by anti-Zionist Jew blaming Zionist Jews for antisemitism

Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) members were quite possibly among those who inspired Howard Jacobson’s award-winning novel, The Finkler Question, as they resemble UK Jews he refers to as “Ashamed Jews,” Jews who are proud to be ashamed of their Israel-supporting fellow Jews.

The group’s executive, an anti-Zionist Jew named Deborah Maccoby, published a letter in The Guardian on Jan. 12th (What Jews can learn from Muslims) in response to an op-ed by Jonathan Freedland about recent jihadist attacks in Paris (Charlie Hebdo: first they came for the cartoonists, then they came for the Jews).

Deborah Maccoby carries one of the JfJfP placards.

Deborah Maccoby

Maccoby, in her Guardian letter, not only asserts that Jews need to learn from their Muslim counterparts’ putative condemnations of jihadist violence “and say loud and clear in response to Israeli atrocities ‘not in my name‘”, but suggests that Jews’ failure to distance themselves from Israeli “atrocities” renders them culpable for subsequent antisemitic violence:

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When George Galloway Shmoozed Gilad Atzmon

Cross posted from the blog of The CST

This Saturday saw George Galloway MP and his wife Gayatri interview Israeli saxophonist Gilad Atzmon on their Russia Today TV show, ‘Sputnik’. The significance of Galloway hosting Atzmon, a man whose views regarding Israel, Zionism and Jewish identity are so extreme that he is shunned by most of the anti-Israel movement in this country, should not be underestimated.

Atzmon-Galloway2

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Richard Milllett merely asked why Jews can’t live next to Palestinians in the West Bank

Cross posted by London-based blogger Richard Millett

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And so to my final blog of 2014 and a public event I attended last month at the University of Westminster, London.

On 13th November 2014 a panel discussed Parliament Recognises Palestine: What Next?

GUPS representative, Martin Linton, Dibyesh Anand, Sarah Apps, Murad Qureshi

GUPS representative, Martin Linton, Dibyesh Anand, Sarah Apps, Murad Qureshi

The panel consisted of Sara Apps, Campaigns Officer for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Martin “tentacles” Linton, chair of Labour Friends of Palestine, Murad Qureshi, a Labour Party Member of the London Mayoral Assembly and, finally, a representative from the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS – UK).

The panel was chaired by Dr. Dibyesh Anand, Head of Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Westminster.

As ever there were repeated calls from the panel for a boycott of Israeli “settlements”. When it came to the Q&A I raised my arm and asked one simple question:

“Isn’t it racist to call for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank especially when considering that 1.7 million Muslim and Christian Arabs reside fairly happily in Israel ?”

Chaos ensued.

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Independent’s list of most read articles in 2014 features anti-Jewish columnist

In studying and posting about UK media coverage of the summer war between Israel and Hamas, we concluded that the Independent arguably surpassed the Guardian in the level of malice and vitriol directed towards Israel and its ‘Zionist’ supporters in articles and op-eds.

Over a the course of a few days in mid-July, the Indy published an article by Adam Withnall seemingly characterizing a few dozen Sderot residents applauding attacks on Hamas targets as an act of almost unparalleled human cruelty; one op-ed by Robert Fisk which actually blamed the Western media for being too soft on Israeli “blood-letting”, and another op-ed by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown which accused Israel of engaging in a policy of ethnic cleansing.

But, perhaps the most egregious example of unrestrained anti-Zionist malice during that period was provided by Mira Bar-Hillel, in an op-ed on July 11th titled Why I’m on the brink of burning my Israeli passport‘, which suggested that the views towards Palestinians by some Israeli leaders were arguably on par with the genocidal rhetoric espoused by the Nazis.

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Well, on Dec. 30th, the Indy published the paper’s 10 Most Read Articles for 2014.

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Topping their list (with 2.4 million page views) was the ‘Nazi-Israel’ op-ed by Bar-Hillel.

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Bad news for Ali Abunimah: UK gov’t reports continued use of ‘Antisemitism Working Definition’

Late last year we noted that Ali Abunimah – an American born, anti-Zionist commentator who’s been legitimized by both the New York Times and the Guardian despite a record compromised by antisemitism – falsely characterized the Working Definition of Antisemitism as “an abandoned draft text.”

aliWhile it’s narrowly true that the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the successor to the European Union Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), doesn’t include the Working Definition on their website (since their mandate differs from EUMC), a significant number of American and EU government and law enforcement agencies continue to use it to help determine whether incidents are antisemitic.

Here are the relevant bullet points from the Working Definition:

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