Guardian Letter: Palestinians are indigenous to the land, descendants of Canaanites

A letter published in the Guardian on Dec. 3, by Maher Othman of London, opened with the following passages:

Though I agree with Giles Fraser’s analysis (Loose canon, 29 November) that “Netanyahu’s nationality bill is at odds with [the] Hebrew Bible,” and contradicts Israel’s declaration of independence, which affirms “complete social and political equality for all its citizens, regardless of religion, race or gender”, his quotation from the Book of Numbers – “The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you” – raises the question of who is and who is not a foreigner in historic Palestine.

The Palestinians consider themselves the indigenous people of the land and descendants of the Canaanites, while the population of Israel, which was established in part of Palestine in 1948, is made up of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Arab countries, Europe, the US and other countries.

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SOAS London event dispells ‘simplistic’ view that Hizbullah is a terror group

Cross posted from London-based blogger Richard Millett 

To say that my question “Is this book pro-Hizbollah?” wasn’t well received on Tuesday night at SOAS is an understatement.

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I was at the book launch of The Hizbullah Phenomenon: Politics and Communication written by Lina Khatib, Dina Matar and Atef Alshaer.

After I had asked my question Dina Matar said “I knew you were going to ask that” and Lina Khatib waved the book at me and said “Why don’t you read it?”

The book explains how Hizbullah has been successful in staying relevant since its 1982 inception by adapting itself to changing situations and communicating these adaptations through various means such as poetry and social media.

Hizbullah are poets? Who knew.

One can imagine: “To kill a Jew, or not to kill a Jew. That is the question.”

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The Guardian misrepresents Netanyahu’s comments on rioters

A Nov. 9th article by the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, Peter Beaumont, on recent Arab protests in response to the deadly police shooting of a man in the Galilee town of Kufr Kana (Violence spreads across Israel after shooting in Galilee, Nov. 11) included a clear distortion of recent comments by Israel’s prime minister.

Here are the relevant passages from Beaumont’s report:

Amid calls for protests in Israeli Arab towns and a general strike, Israeli police raised their alert to the second highest level of preparedness. The police’s internal investigations department is looking into the shooting to determine whether proper protocol was followed.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, in comments before the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, said he has ordered officials to examine whether citizenship could be removed from those participating in demonstrations.

However, as official transcripts from Netanyahu’s cabinet meeting clearly indicate, he was asking to examine whether citizenship could be removed from those specifically calling for the destruction of Israel.

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Beaumont’s text, regarding who precisely Netanyahu was referring to when he spoke of ‘revoking citizenship’, would lead readers to believe that the prime minister of Israel is seeking a draconian response to those merely participating in benign “demonstrations”  –  a significant mischaracterization of his cabinet meeting remarks. 

CiF Watch prompts revision to Economist claim about MK Zoabi’s suspension

Earlier in the month we posted about a curious omission in an Economist article titled ‘Us and Them‘, Aug. 2.  

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Israeli MK Haneen Zoabi

To buttress their broader theme on the putative ‘erosion of Israel’s democracy’, the characteristically anonymous article made the following claim about Israeli MK Haneen Zoabi:

This week the Knesset banned an Arab member, Haneen Zoabi, for six months for “aggressive behaviour” in anti-war demonstrations.

However, as we noted at the time, this is an inaccurate statement as it omits key information about the suspension.

MK Zoabi was suspended for six months from the Knesset (while still maintaining her voting rights in the Israeli legislative body) for two reasons – one of which the Economist completely omitted. 

While Zoabi’s suspension was in part due to an incident with a police officer at a protest rally (as they noted), the main reason was related to her assertion, in mid June, that the kidnappers of three Israeli teens (Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah, and Gilad Shaar) were NOT terrorists – a comment she evidently didn’t amend, even after the boys’ bullet ridden bodies were discovered partially buried near Hebron on June 30.

Shimon Peres

We complained to Economist editors, and, in addition to slightly revising the text to note that Zoabi’s behavior at the protest was only one of the reasons for her suspension, they added the following addendum.

corexThough the text still doesn’t include the main reason for Zoabi’s suspension, editors’ acknowledgement that the original language was misleading is of course welcomed. 

CiF Watch prompts Guardian correction to anti-Bibi smear by Chris McGreal

On Aug. 1st we fisked the claim in the following Tweet (on July 22) by Guardian reporter Chris McGreal

McGreal actually doubled-down on the Tweet’s suggestion – that the Israeli conflict against Hamas is, in fact, a racist war designed simply to murder Arabs – in his July 31st Guardian article titled ‘American media’s new pro-Israel bias: the same party line at the wrong time.

His column began thusly:

Here are a few questions you won’t hear asked of the parade of Israeli officials crossing US television screens during the current crisis in Gaza:

  • What would you do if a foreign country was occupying your land?
  • What does it mean that Israeli cabinet ministers deny Palestine’s right to exist?
  • What should we make of a prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who as opposition leader in the 1990s was found addressing rallies under a banner reading “Death to Arabs”?

However, after a modest amount of research – evidently more than McGreal put into his own column – we were able to establish that the banner in question, at a right-wing rally in Jerusalem in 1994, did not read ‘Death to Arabs’ but, rather, death to the father of modern terror – Yasser Arafat.

After contacting Guardian editors, they acknowledged McGreal’s error, revised the passage in question and added the following addendum to the article:

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We commend Guardian editors for their positive response to our complaint. 

 

UK media report 200 Israelis chanting racist slogans, but fail to cover 1,000 at peace rally

Since the bodies of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frankel and Gilad Shaar were buried in a Modi’in cemetery on Tuesday, UK media coverage has pivoted from some degree of sympathy towards the victims and their families to more familiar territory – obsessive focus on reports of Israeli vengeance, racism and intolerance.  

Thus, though support for the terrorist kidnappers/murderers expressed by many Palestinians during the 18 day ordeal was (to the best of our knowledge) not mentioned by any of the major UK dailies, multiple news outlets have subsequently seen fit to report every Israeli expression of intolerance towards Arabs since the teens’ bullet-ridden bodies were discovered near Hebron.

A perfect example of this skewed coverage can be found by comparing ubiquitous reports on a march by a couple of hundred racist Israelis in Jerusalem on Tuesday, who chanted hateful slogans, including ‘death to Arabs’, vs the absence of any coverage devoted to the pro-peace, pro-tolerance rally held the following day in the Israeli capital. Here are the relevant passages from UK media reports about the racist march. Guardian, July 2: (‘Live Blog’ edited by Matthew Weaver)

Gangs of right wing Israelis have been chanting “death to the Arabs” in the wake of the killing of the three teenagers, Footage has emerged of Israeli youth chanting in Hebrew “death to the Arabs” following the killing of the three teenagers.

Telegraph, July 3 (AFP)

After the three were buried on Tuesday, more than 200 Israeli extremists rampaged through Jerusalem, dragging people out of cars and chanting “Death to Arabs”.

Times of London, July 2 (Catherine Philp)

In Jerusalem, several hundred right-wing Israeli youths, many of them skullcap-wearing Orthodox Jews, shouted for revenge as they marched through the city.

Independent, July 1 (Ben Lynfield)

In Jerusalem, a demonstration organised by anti-Arab activists that drew hundreds turned violent.

Financial Times, July 2 (Joel Greenberg)

On Tuesday night, crowds of militant Jewish youths rampaged through the centre of Jerusalem, shouting “Death to Arabs” and assaulting Palestinian workers in the area.

However, UK media sites have thus far failed to report the pro-tolerance rally last night in Kikar Hahatulot in Jerusalem which drew up to a thousand Israelis who were attempting to undo the damage of the anti-Arab rally a night earlier.   Here are a few photos of the event, which this writer attended. first 2 3

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Chaim Herzog, center

The rally included politicians (including Labor Party Chairman Chaim Herzog, seen below), public figures, Rabbis and (mostly) ordinary citizens.

We’ll update this post if UK media sites subsequently do file reports on the pro-peace event. 

Focus below the line: Guardian readers ‘reflect’ on Israel and the Jews (June 30)

This post is part of a series which re-focuses on the problem of biased moderation at the Guardian’s blog ‘Comment is Free’ (CiF) – particularly, reader comments which are off-topic, ad hominem or antisemitic, and yet not deleted by their team of professional moderators. All of the following comments have been posted under ‘CiF’ op-eds which have nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

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And what terrible post of Bonbonniera has been deleted? This one…

19 Jun 2014 12:45pm

nakba denialism? very funny. You will have to indict the Guardian as being evil and fascist and the British officials of 1948 in the Mandate as evil and fascist too.

By early 1948 British officials were reporting that “the Arabs have suffered a series of overwhelming defeats.” They added: “Jewish victories … have reduced Arab morale to zero and, following the cowardly example of their inept leaders, they are fleeing from the mixed areas in their thousands. It is now obvious that the only hope of regaining their position lies in the regular armies of the Arab states.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/apr/26/british-secret-documents-palestine-partition

There was no nakba, the Arabs fled from Israel because their leaders were inept.

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None of these comments have been deleted by ‘CiF’ moderators.

 

CiF Watch prompts Indy correction – acknowledges that Arab towns were built since ’48

On May 7th we posted about Ben Lynfield’s column (Netanyahu’s ‘Jewish state’ law angers Arab Israelis, May 2) at the Independent, which included the following claim:

For example, while hundreds of new cities, towns and localities for Jews have been established since 1948, not a single new Arab town has been created

Whilst the suggestion that hundreds of “Jewish towns” have been established is itself very misleading (as we noted in our original post), the claim that “not a single Arab town has been created” is flat-out untrue. There have been 7 new towns built for the Arab Bedouin. (Bedouins are a sub-group with Israel’s Arab minority)

Since 1948, there have…been seven towns that the government planned and constructed for Bedouin residents of the Negev

Between 1965 and 1990, Israel indeed built seven new towns, which were able to absorb half of the Negev Bedouin…

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):

State-planned [Arab-Bedouin] towns…were set up in the 1960s and 1970s: Hura, Kseifa, Laqia, Arara, Rahat, Segev Shalom and Tel-Sheva.

We contacted Indy editors to point out the error, and they ultimately agreed that the claim was inaccurate – and revised the passage in question. 

It now reads:

For example, while hundreds of new cities, towns and localities for Jews have been established since 1948, not a single new Arab town has been created (aside from the seven settlements built specifically for the Negev’s Bedouin residents, which have been the source of considerable controversy). 

We commend Indy editors for responding positively to our complaint.

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The Independent fails to fact-check claim in story about ‘Jewish State’ proposal

As our posts noting CiF Watch-prompted corrections often demonstrate, beyond the UK media’s biased coverage of the region there lies another somewhat related problem – the failure to fact-check claims used to buttress their anti-Israel narrative.

A case in point is an article at The Independent by Ben Lynfield on May 2nd titled ‘Netanyahu’s Jewish state law angers Arabs‘, reporting on the prime minister’s proposal ‘to advance a constitutional Basic Law identifying Israel as a Jewish nation-state’.  While the article itself was predictably hostile to the proposal, and quoted critics who charged that defining Israel as ‘a Jewish nation-state’ would erode the rights of non-Jews, the following passage particularly caught our eye.

The Arab citizens of Israel, who number a fifth of the population, comprise Palestinians who remained behind when their compatriots were expelled or fled when Israel was established in 1948. They have the right to vote but regularly face discrimination from authorities. For example, while hundreds of new cities, towns and localities for Jews have been established since 1948, not a single new Arab town has been created.

First, Lynfield’s claim that hundreds of towns and cities have been built “for Jews” is, at best, highly misleading, as new Israeli cities, towns and localities generally do not distinguish between Jews, Muslims, Druze, Christians or members of other faiths.

Additionally, his claim that “not a single new Arab town has been created” since 1948 is false. In fact, there have been 7 new towns built specifically for Israeli Bedouins. (Bedouins are a sub-group within Israel’s Arab minority.)

Human Rights Watch:

in 60 years [there] have been seven towns that the government planned and constructed for Bedouin residents of the Negev

Ha’aretz:

Between 1965 and 1990, Israel indeed built seven new towns, which were able to absorb half of the Negev Bedouin…

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):

State-planned [Arab-Bedouin] towns…were set up in the 1960s and 1970s: Hura, Kseifa, Laqia, Arara, Rahat, Segev Shalom and Tel-Sheva.

We don’t know what led Ben Lynfield to believe that there were no Arab towns built since 1948, and why Indy editors didn’t fact-check the passage in question, but the claim is clearly inaccurate. 

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Malice through the looking glass: What if Israel behaved like other Mid-East nations?

A guest post by Joe Geary

NEWS: Middle East

Good evening.

In the usual weekly display of anti-Iranian feeling, thousands of Israelis poured into the streets of Tel Aviv after Saturday prayers, chanting “Death to Iran, Death to Islam” and burning effigies of President Rouhani and John Kerry.

We are hearing reports of several dead and dozens injured as five Christian churches have been attacked and set on fire by a Jewish mob in central Jerusalem after allegations that an Israeli Christian claimed to be the Prophet Moses. The man was arrested before he could be lynched. Doctors say he suffers from severe mental problems but could still face stoning if found guilty under Israel’s strict blasphemy laws.

Scenes of jubilation, music mingling with gunshots,  were witnessed all over the Israeli town of Ashdod as Mr Avi Sand returned there after serving four years in prison for murdering an entire Arab family, including two young children and a three-month old baby. The town’s Mayor declared a Day of Celebration for his return. Flowers and sweets were distributed among the children in his honour. His poster could be seen on walls alongside other celebrated Israeli militants who had killed Arab civilians in recent years.

The Israeli Prime Minister has reiterated yet again his firm line on the fate of Muslims in the future state of Israel, following any successfully negotiated two-State peace talks. “Muslims have no right to live on this side of the border” he told the collected journalists. “We will not tolerate a single Arab on the Holy soil of Israel. Israel must be Muslim-frei.”

An Education Ministry inspection of a number of Jewish schools has revealed that Jewish children as young as five are routinely being taught not only that the whole of Palestine belongs to the Jews, but also that the Arabs who live there are descended from pigs and apes. A spokesman for the Ministry told the press: “They are only innocent animal stories for children, a bit like Aesop’s Fables”.

A group of Arab NGOs, the Red Crescent and UNWRA issued a joint statement today condemning the continued firing of rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian centres, which they described as “war crimes”. “We deplore not only the loss of life but the terrible psychological trauma inflicted in particular on the children by these constant acts of barbarity”, a spokesman told us.  Along with a number of sympathetic Western NGOs such as War on Want and Save the Children, they are documenting crimes against civilians which will help bring a case against Hamas at The Hague of preaching genocide.

In other news, the UN is expected later today to pass a motion condemning fifteen Arab states for human rights abuses including the enslavement of foreign workers, religious and gender apartheid and the widespread, indiscriminate use of torture and the death penalty.  The Head of the Arab League was heard earlier to remark: “They have us bang to rights. All this has being going on for far too long. Well, forever, actually. It has to stop.”

And finally, on a lighter note, several witnesses are claiming to have seen what they describe as a pig slowly flapping its wings over the offices of the BBC and the Guardian newspaper in central London.

Well, some people will believe anything, won’t they?

Good night.

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CiF Watch prompts Guardian correction over Arab Israeli population stats

We recently commented on a Guardian editorial, ostensibly about Jerusalem’s recent municipal elections, which managed to legitimize the extremist view that the Jewish state should be replaced with a bi-national one – a final ‘solution’ to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict which, we noted, would be violently resisted by Jewish Israelis and lead to endless war.  

Here are the relevant passages:

As a thought experiment, however, it is fascinating. Extrapolating from the local situation in Jerusalem, what if all Palestinians made a strategic decision to seek full voting rights within the reality that is Israel, rather than demanding a separate Palestinian state? In other words, what if they transformed their struggle from a nationalist one into a civil rights one? 

Amid deepening despair as to the viability of a two-state solution, this is an option that is only going to attract more attention.

In addition to the profound immorality of denying Jews, and only Jews, their right to self-determination – a rejection of universal human rights implicit within the Guardian’s little “thought experiment” – there was also a factual error in the following passage:

Seventy-five per cent [of “Palestinians”] voted in the 1999 elections. Ten years later, it was 54%. The fact that it didn’t dip below half earlier this year was put down to a last-minute intervention by the Arab League urging the million or so Palestinians living in Israel to get out and vote [see footnote].

“Palestinians” is the Guardian term of choice for Israeli citizens who are ethnically or linguistically Arab – typically described as ‘Arab Israelis’, or ‘Arab citizens of Israel’ by most news outlets.  More importantly, contrary to the claim made in the sentence underlined above, there are actually over 1.6 million Arab Israelis, per Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

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 The Guardian undercounted this population by 600,000or so

After contacting Guardian editors, the following correction was added:

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Whilst we commend editors on this narrow revision, there’s no word yet if the ‘theorists’ within their London salon – known, perhaps ironically, as their “editorial board” – have had second thoughts over their legitimization of the position that, just perhaps, the Jewish state shouldn’t exist. 

Towards a new ‘liberation theology’: Will progressives ever learn to embrace Jewish success?

Here are the first few paragraphs of my Times of Israel essay published today:

If the progressive community was truly concerned about the fate of historically oppressed minorities, and sincerely moved by a passionate desire to find the social and economic remedies to ameliorate the condition of the marginalized, the example of Jews in the late 20th and early 21st centuries would serve as a model for all future campaigns.

Progressives who are unburdened by the fetishization of victimhood, and misplaced faith in ‘systemic’ root causes, would have to be inspired by the example of world Jewry – a community which not only survived the  Holocaust, but quickly re-established their communities and, within a short period of time, could boast of social, economic and political success (in Israel and the diaspora) quite ‘disproportionate’ to their miniscule numbers.

Howard Jacobson has forcefully argued that the world has never forgiven Jews for the collective guilt driven by memory of the Holocaust. However, it seems equally as urgent to acknowledge that the progressive movement seems not to have forgiven Jews for a success born largely of their own perseverance.

Read the rest of the essay here.