CiF Watch prompts 3rd correction over false claims that murdered Israeli teens were ‘settlers’

Since Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel were abducted and murdered by Palestinian terrorists last month, we’ve prompted two corrections to false claims (at the Independent and the Guardian) that the three teens were ‘settlers’. 

More recently, we contacted Indy editors about the following passage in an op-ed at the paper by the British-Israeli anti-Zionist historian (and Guardian contributor) Avi Shlaim.

Here’s the original:

He [Netanyahu] used the abduction of three young Jewish settlers on the West Bank as an excuse for a violent crackdown on Hamas supporters…

Recently, Indy editors once again agreed to correct the erroneous characterization of the three murdered boys, and the passage now reads:

He used the abduction of three Jewish teenagers on the West Bank as an excuse for a violent crackdown on Hamas supporters

We commend Indy editors for correcting Shlaim’s false claim. 

Guardian publishes essay on Oslo by one-stater who blames Jews for antisemitism

It doesn’t take too much insight into the far-left political climate to conclude that if current talks between Israel and the Palestinians fail, there is little doubt that – regardless of the actual factors involved – the Israelis will be blamed for the outcome by Guardian commentators.  Additionally, despite the fact that Mahmoud Abbas finally agreed to engage in talks without any preconditions regarding settlements, such Israeli building across the green line concurrent with the current talks will be singled out with particular opprobrium in their political post-mortems.

In fact, some who subscribe to this far-left political faith have already begun laying the groundwork for this narrative.  A case in point is a ‘Comment is Free’ essay by Avi Shlaim on Sept. 12, (It’s now clear: the Oslo peace accords were wrecked by Netanyahu’s bad faith) which reads as if it was written in the future, where talks have already broken down.


Avi Shlaim

The 20 year history of Oslo, Shlaim claims in his CiF essay, has vindicated Edward Said’s characterization of the agreement “an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles”, and predicts that “as long as Netanyahu remains in power, it is a safe bet that no breakthrough will be achieved in the new round of talks.”

Shlaim, it should be noted, perfectly represents the Guardian’s institutional hostility to Zionism, as the Oxford affiliated new Israeli historian (who’s been roundly criticized for his shoddy research) has characterized Zionism as the greatest single threat to Jews, blaming Israeli Jewish behavior for the upsurge of anti-Semitism throughout the world.  He has written the following at Electronic Intifada:

It is this brand of cruel Zionism that is the real enemy of what remains of liberal Israel and of the Jews outside Israel. It is the enemy because it fuels the flames of virulent and sometimes violent anti-Semitism. Israel’s policies are the cause; hatred of Israel and anti-Semitism are the consequences.

Shlaim has also explicitly expressed his support for the dissolution of the Jewish state. In an interview with MEMO (the Hamas supporting British group) Shlaim was quoted as saying the following:

There is a solution to this conflict – a two-state solution – but Israel has systematically undermined the possibility of a viable Palestinian state. Today we have reached a point where it is barely conceivable, given the magnitude of the presence of the Israeli state on the West Bank. I have shifted therefore to supporting a one-state solution with equal rights for all the state’s citizens.

He has also, on the pages of Comment is Free, in 2009, demonized Israel as a “rogue state” which practices terrorism:

This brief review of Israel’s record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practices terrorism – the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. 

Shlaim concludes his latest ‘CiF’ essay by claiming that “Oslo faltered and eventually broke down [sic] because Likud-led governments negotiated in bad faith.” 

‘Bad faith’ is also an accurate characterization of a CiF contributor who has assaulted Israel’s very moral legitimacy, blamed Jews themselves for the resurgence of Jew hatred, and though claiming to be concerned about the peace process, failed to reveal to his readers that he opposes the existence of a Jewish state within any borders.

Of course, the decision by CiF editors to publish Shlaim is par for the course for an institution with a history of providing disproportionate space in their paper to those who openly oppose the peace process and seek, by the gradual erosion of its legitimacy or even by violence, the Jewish state’s demise.

Musings on how the Guardian defines “Disproportionate” and “Fair and Balanced”

After a week of watching the Guardian gorging itself on the ‘Palestine papers’ like an out of control bulimic, a few thoughts and observations came to mind.

It was interesting to see how the Guardian transferred its long-held policies regarding ‘fair and balanced’ coverage of Israeli affairs to the Palestinian stage.  As veteran CiF readers know, the column space given to (‘good’) anti-Zionist or Israel-chastising Jews such as Seth Freedman, Antony Lerman, Rachel Shabi, Avi Shlaim, Abe Haim or Mya Guarnieri was always consistently ‘disproportionate’ (to use a word much-loved by the Guardian) when compared to the amount of space allocated to pro-Israel Zionist Jews or Israelis.

The ‘Palestine papers’ week saw a similar tactic being employed with regard to Palestinians. A deluge of fairly uniformly outraged commentary came from ‘good’ Palestinians such as Ghada Karmi, Karma Nablusi, Osama Hamdan and Laila el Haddad – their common denominator being that they either belong to Hamas or are sympathetic to its ideology and political views.  None of these people, incidentally, actually live in areas ruled by either the PA or Israel.

The only attempt to inject ‘balance’ into the commentary by allowing a Palestinian voice which opposes Hamas to be heard was an article by Saeb Erekat four days into the outrage fest. The voice of ordinary Palestinians in the streets who are opposed to Hamas and may actually support the kind of compromises reflected in the leaked papers as a way forward to securing a much-needed peace agreement was nowhere to be heard on the pages of CiF. And therefore any reader of the Guardian over the past few days who is unfamiliar with the Middle East might well assume that political opinion on the Palestinian street is remarkably monotone and that those supporting a Hamas-style continuation of the conflict with Israel are the overwhelming majority.

That would of course be because the Guardian has yet again ditched its commitment to being ‘fair and balanced’.

Another interesting observation was the way in which Guardian coverage of a story it instigated itself was allowed (some might even say ‘designed’) to partially eclipse the real stories coming out of Lebanon during the same week. Since the political crisis in Lebanon began on January 12th CiF has published a mere 14 articles on the subject (at the time of writing) – five of which appeared on the first day. Could that be considered ‘disproportionate’?

All the Guardian’s resident Middle East ‘expert’ Brian Whitaker could muster on the subject in his ‘This week in the Middle East’ round up was a terse one-liner.

“There have been disturbances, too, in Lebanon but they are a continuation of old sectarian/political rivalries rather than anything strikingly new.”

On January 29th we were treated to an article by ‘Al Hayat’ correspondent  Mohanad Hage Ali which informed us that “[m]edia reports are wrong: Syria, not Hezbollah, is in control” in Lebanon.

Ah; so it’s not the Iranian-backed theocratic Islamist terrorist group, but the Iranian-backed autocratic secular dictatorship which has taken over a sovereign country. What a relief.

How fortunate that we have the Guardian to inform us that there’s nothing to see here and we really should move along.

My chat with Geoffrey Alderman

Per CiF Watch’s post from yesterday: I just got off the phone with Professor Geoffrey Alderman to get his personal reactions to the outrageous snubbing he received from the Director of the Belfast Festival, Mr. Graeme Farrow, who disinvited him from a panel convened to discuss “Conflict in the Middle East.”  The discussion was part of the 2010 Belfast Festival (held under the auspices of Queen’s University Belfast).  The withdrawal of the invitation, per Alderman, was due solely to objections by the other radical left panelists, Avi Shlaim and Beverly Milton-Edwards.

Professor Alderman – author, co-author and editor of some 15 books, including Modern British Jewry – only had a few minutes to talk, but told me that he clearly intends to pursue the matter further, and is still quite outraged and saddened by the treatment he received.  He noted that he’s given a couple of newspaper and radio interviews on the incident, and characterized the Belfast press a quite sympathetic to his cause – as Northern Ireland, for obvious historic reasons, takes issues of censorship, and the stifling of debate, quite seriously.  Indeed, their laws (much like in the U.S.) vigorously protect freedom of speech.   He also informed me that he met, today, with a “high-level” civil servant within the Northern Ireland Assembly, and that he has reason to believe that a full investigation into the university’s actions may ensue – as Queen’s University receives significant funding from the government.

Alderman also noted how interesting it is that, though the other professors on the panel apparently had veto rights over his appearance, he wasn’t given the same prerogatives over the appearances of Professors Shlaim and Milton-Edwards.  Alderman made it clear to me, however, that, even if allowed to object to his co-panelists he wouldn’t have exercised that right – as he believes fully in free and open debate (even with those he has a profound ideological difference with).  It is important to note the Shlaim is not only on the far left side of the political spectrum, but is someone who has said (link above):

“Zionism today is the real enemy of the Jews…It is the enemy because it fuels the flames of virulent and sometimes violent anti-Semitism. Israel’s policies are the cause.”

Also worth noting: the other co-panelist, Prof Milton-Edwards (according to Melanie Phillips, per above link), “described Hamas in glowing terms as a ‘Muslim national movement’ which was trying to bring law and order in Gaza by cracking down on antisocial and unIslamic menaces like drug or alcohol abuse, and which promoted the rights of Muslim women, including talking about the dangers posed to them by the ‘Israeli occupation.”

That, Alderman told me, was the broader issue which disturbed him even more than the personal insult.  Why, he asked, are those who clearly posses so much visceral hostility towards Israel often afraid to engage with those with whom they disagree?  Further, he pondered, why would a university, of all places – dedicated primarily, one would presume, to the free pursuit of knowledge – be a party to The Belfast Festival leadership’s clear violation of such principles?

After my conversation with Mr. Alderman, I contacted Queen’s University for comment, and was assured I’d receive a call back from someone within the administration leadership with an official comment.  We’ll continue to keep you posted as events develop.

The Guardian: anti-Israel advocacy as journalism

The Guardian’s ongoing efforts to delegitimize the state of Israel take many forms.  This latest incarnation comes in a positive review, by Rafael Behr, of a book written by “revisionist” historian Avi Shlaim.  (Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations by Avi Shalom, Oct. 3, The Observer/The Guardian)

Behr’s review of Avi Shlaim’s book – a collection of essays about the Middle East – doesn’t even pretend to be objective, nor does it note that Shlaim is universally regarded as a fringe, radical, anti-Zionist historian who is a proponent of the “one state solution” – a euphemism for replacing Israel with an Arab-Muslim state and reducing Jews to a permanent minority.

Behr, it should be noted, gave a very positive review of the uniformly discredited book by Shlomo Sand, called: The Invention of the Jewish People.  Sand’s thesis: There is no such thing as a Jewish people; today’s Jews have no connection to biblical Israelites or to Jews who inhabited Israel during the time of the Second Temple. Writing in The New RepublicHillel Halkin characterizes Shlomo’s book as “deplorable”, and noted that assertions made in the book have long been staples of Arab and anti-Zionist propaganda and are the “the exact opposite of the truth.”

Behr’s egregious journalistic bias begins early in his review when mocks the Israeli narrative of their history:

“In Zionism’s case, the story told is of Israel restored to the Jews from antiquity, carved from empty desert, “a land without a people for a people without a land”. By extension, Arab hostility to Israel’s creation was irrational cruelty directed against an infant state. It is a romantic myth requiring a big lie about the indigenous Palestinian population.”

Behr continues:

“[Israel’s] expropriation [of Palestinian land] was, in Shlaim’s analysis, the “original sin” that made conflict inevitable. He also sees the unwillingness of Israeli leaders to recognise the legitimacy of Palestinian grievance as the reason why most peace initiatives have failed.”

Of course, this historical analysis is an utterly breathtaking moral and historical inversion.  It ignores Arab states’ unwillingness to accept, or in any way legitimize, a Jewish state anywhere in the Middle East, even within 1947 borders; the initial attempt by 5 Arab armies to annihilate the nascent state on the day of its birth in 1948; and subsequent Arab wars in 1967 and 1973. (Egypt’s President Nasser openly declared, a few weeks before the ’67 war, that his goal was nothing less than the complete destruction of Israel). These were not tactical wars meant to slightly alter the borders, or gain a better hand in subsequent negotiations but, rather, to completely annihilate the Jewish state – a mission taken up with increased fervor more recently by Hamas and Hezbollah.

Behr and Shlaim both ignore Israeli efforts to make peace: including their withdrawal from the Sinai after the Camp David Accords in 1979, and their unilateral withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000, and Gaza in 2005.  In addition, Prime Minister Barak’s offer in 2000, rejected by Arafat, would have included a contiguous Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.  (Both President Clinton and his lead negotiator, Dennis Ross, confirmed that blame for the failure to produce an agreement rests with the late Palestinian President)

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Just Journalism Highlights More Double Standards at “Comment is Free”

Just Journalism released another one of their insightful media analyses yesterday comparing coverage of Iran’s acceptance into the UN Commission on the Status of Women with that of Israel’s acceptance into the OECD.

Last week, The UN Commission on the Status of Women accepted the membership of Iran, despite the Islamic regime’s poor record on women’s rights. Then, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) accepted Israel, a country with both a free-market economy and a stable, well-regulated financial services sector, into its ranks.

Importantly, Just Journalism observed that in the UK media, only Israel’s accession to the OECD was reported “including negative opinion pieces on the Guardian’s Comment is free website”. Commenting on the double standards at play, Just Journalism stated:

No other country’s political behaviour has been subject to such scrutiny, or been viewed as an impediment to joining an organisation that is primarily concerned with the development of economic policies. Indeed, when the OECD was formed in September 1961, one of the initial members was Turkey, which at that time was being ruled by a military junta following a coup earlier that year. While Turkey’s human and civil rights record remains a stumbling block to it joining the European Union, which is as much a political body as an economic one, it has never been raised in relation to its continued membership of the OECD.

I guess this is another fine example of the “fair and balanced” nature of “Comment is Free”.

Read the entire analysis here.

White Collar BDS

CiF Watch readers need no introduction to anti-Zionist Avi Shlaim, Professor of International Relations at Oxford University, but may be less familiar with his co-author of the May 7th CiF article, Simon Mohun. The latter is a Professor of Political Economics at Queen Mary University of London and appears to have a penchant for Marxism and signing letters denouncing Israel to British newspapers.

Shlaim and Mohun’s claim that “It is vital therefore that the OECD makes Israeli accession conditional on tangible improvements in its human rights record and a commitment to embark on a credible peace process” is in fact nothing more than a ‘new economist’ argument, employing precisely the same tactics as Shlaim and his fellow ‘new historians’ : the distortion and selective presentation of facts to suit a specific political agenda, gift-wrapped in seemingly respectable academic packaging.

In the statement quoted above, the authors deliberately ignore the fact that Israel has embarked upon several peace processes in the past – Oslo, the Roadmap and others – each of which crumbled due to ill-considered choices made by the Palestinian leadership at the time. They both ignore the fact that for any credible peace process to get off the ground Palestinian infighting must come to an end, and seek to put the onus for the previous and current lack of progress on the diplomatic front exclusively upon Israel, thereby absolving the Palestinians of any responsibility whatsoever for their past, present or future as well as sweeping the glaring Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel’s existence under the carpet.

Shlaim and Mohun cite the Islamic Human Rights Commission’s attempts to put pressure upon Turkey to veto Israel’s entry to the OECD with approval. According to the Stephen Roth Institute:

The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is a radical Islamist organization that uses the language and techniques of a human rights lobbying group to promote an extremist agenda. Formed in 1997 by its current chairman, Massoud Shadjareh, the IHRC supports jihad groups around the world, campaigns for the release of convicted terrorists and promotes the notion of a western conspiracy against Islam.

Shadjareh and the IHRC subscribe to the radical Islamist belief that Jewish conspiracies are afoot to undermine Muslims, and they compare Jews and Israelis to Nazis. Members of the IHRC’s board of advisors have even called on Muslims to kill Jews. They include the Saudi Islamist Muhammad al-Mas‘ari and Muhammad al-‘Asi, an American convert to Islam who was banned from preaching at his mosque in Washington, DC, and has been a frequent visitor to Britain.

The IHRC organizes the annual Quds day demonstration in London, on the last Friday of Ramadan, initiated by the late Ayatollah Khomeini to protest the Zionist “occupation” of Jerusalem. At the IHRC-organized demonstration against the Israel solidarity rally in Trafalgar Square in May, participants called for holy war against Israel, recalling the battle of Khaybar waged by the followers of Muhammad against the Jews, and declared their loyalty to Usama bin Ladin and Shaykh Ahmad Yasin.

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Shlaim Time

It would be an undeserved compliment in my view to describe Avi Shlaim as a revisionist historian. His writings usually make me think more of Francis M Cornford’s definition of propaganda: “[t]hat branch of the art of lying which consists in very nearly deceiving your friends without quite deceiving your enemies”. Certainly, it doesn’t take much effort to see through the rather ridiculous plethora of distortions obviously concocted to suit a political agenda in Shlaim’s recent Guardian article. Unless, apparently, one happens to be a Guardian commissioning editor.

“The savage attack Israel unleashed against Gaza on 27 December 2008 was both immoral and unjustified. Immoral in the use of force against civilians for political purposes. Unjustified because Israel had a political alternative to the use of force. The home-made Qassam rockets fired by Hamas militants from Gaza on Israeli towns were only the excuse, not the reason for Operation Cast Lead.”

Of course anyone with a grain of objectivity about them would know –and mention – that Israel sustained eight years of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza before the commencement of Operation Cast Lead and that civilian anger at the Israeli government’s lack of effective response to these attacks was at boiling point. Equally, any objective analysis would also conclude that the previous 96 months of Hamas use of force against Israeli civilians, including suicide bombings, could also be deemed immoral and certainly did not result from a lack of political alternative.

“In June 2008, Egypt had brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement. Contrary to Israeli propaganda, this was a success: the average number of rockets fired monthly from Gaza dropped from 179 to three. Yet on 4 November Israel violated the ceasefire by launching a raid into Gaza, killing six Hamas fighters. When Hamas retaliated, Israel seized the renewed rocket attacks as the excuse for launching its insane offensive. If all Israel wanted was to protect its citizens from Qassam rockets, it only needed to observe the ceasefire.”

Contrary to Shlaim’s claims, the actual number of rockets and mortars fired from Gaza during the ‘ceasefire’ was as follows: June -235, July -20, August -8, September – 2, October -2, November -193, December (up to 27/12/08) – 370. Indeed to claim that the average number of rockets fired per month dropped to three, and yet call this a ‘success’ requires the type of intellectual and moral contortion at which Shlaim excels. On November 4th 2008, Israel acted against Hamas operatives tunneling under the border with the intent of kidnapping more Israeli soldiers. Even before this, the ceasefire had effectively been broken by Hamas when an operative was arrested on September 28th also whilst attempting to bring about the abduction of members of the IDF. Despite these incidents, Israel expressed a wish to continue the ceasefire after its December 19th expiry date, but Hamas refused to consider this option.

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How many rocket attacks in a ceasefire?

This is a cross post by Brett from Harry’s Place

I suppose it’s pointless to describe The Guardian’s coverage of Israel as “unbelievable”. Okay, the so-called ‘facts’ certainly are very frequently unbelievable, but the tenor of these stories and mendacity comes so thick and fast that you’d have to have recently awoken from a long coma not to still be surprised by it.

Take this latest piece of distorted, dissembling rubbish:

The savage attack Israel ­unleashed against Gaza on 27 December 2008 was both immoral and unjustified. Immoral in the use of force against civilians for political purposes. Unjustified because Israel had a political alternative to the use of force. The home-made Qassam rockets fired by Hamas militants from Gaza on Israeli towns were only the ­excuse, not the reason for Operation Cast Lead. In June 2008, Egypt had ­brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement. ­Contrary to Israeli propaganda, this was a success: the average number of rockets fired monthly from Gaza dropped from 179 to three. Yet on 4 November Israel violated the ceasefire by launching a raid into Gaza, killing six Hamas fighters. When Hamas ­retaliated, Israel seized the renewed rocket attacks as the ­excuse for launching its insane offensive. If all Israel wanted was to protect its citizens from Qassam rockets, it only needed to ­observe the ceasefire.

Does the writer not understand the meaning of “ceasefire”?

A ceasefire does not mean “a significant reduction in attacks”, it means that attacks, well, “cease”.  Notice how the author describes none of the “average of three” rockets launched at Israel by Hamas following the June agreement as violating the ceasefire. Nor are the next three or four rockets fired in July, or a few more in August, and still more in September, and two or three more in October, and then November, six moths after the “ceasefire”, Hamas are still launching missiles towards Israeli towns.

No, not one of these 20 or so attacks is considered a violation of the ceasefire by Hamas. Then Israel fires on a group of Hamas rocketeers setting up a launching site… Oh NOW there is a ceasefire violation! By Israel!! And then the further rocket attacks are described as “retaliation” by Hamas, having been cruelly interrupted in their intrinsic right to fire a rocket or two every fortnight at an Israeli town, while still being regarded by The Guardian and fellow travellers as having “ceased firing”.

And of course, the desire to stop an ongoing barrage of rockets fired at one’s towns and citizens is just an “excuse” for a military reply.

How many rockets a month – some possibly landing on 90 York Way – does The Guardian think London should tolerate before our government does anything? One? Two? Three? Three a month (”on average”)? Should we employ the military? I would hope that the reason we have the military is to intervene in the eventuality that some group decides it’s a good idea to fire rockets over the border at our cities.

But perhaps that would be an aggressive response.

As to the original question posed in the title of this post, by The Guardian’s correspondent’s estimation, terrorist groups should be allowed to make about three (on average) attempts to blow us up every month before we consider the situation significant enough to respond.