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. 

Indy suggests slick Israeli PR obscures truth about dead Palestinians (Updated)

The first sentence in Patrick Cockburn’s latest Indy op-ed provides enough insight into the ideological myopia of the British far-left to properly contextualize the rest of the piece.

To many readers the New York Times coverage of the war in Gaza comes across as neutered or as having a pro-Israeli bias

The risible claim (easily refuted by a large volume of CAMERA’s reports on the NYT’s coverage of Israel) introduces readers to the main narrative being advanced:

But not to Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador in Washington, who lambasts the paper for failing “to mention that a million Israelis were in bomb shelters yesterday as 100 rockets were fired at our civilian population.” 

Mr Dermer is considered so close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he has been called “Bibi’s brain”. He is also a former student and employee of Frank Luntz, the Republican strategist who produced a confidential booklet in 2009, promptly leaked, advising Israeli spokesmen how best to manipulate American and European public opinion

It is a sophisticated document based on wide-ranging opinion polls, suggesting, for instance, that the removal of Israeli settlements from the West Bank should be denounced as “a kind of ethnic cleansing”. Dr Luntz stresses that spokesmen must demonise Hamas, but above all emphasise that they feel for the sufferings of Palestinians as well as Israelis. As a sample of what they should say, he gives: “The day will come when Israeli children and Palestinian children will grow up together, play together, and work together side-by-side not just because they have to but because they want to.”

It’s as if Cockburn truly believes, and is asking readers to believe, that only Israel uses public opinion research to craft an effective message. 

However, it gets worse:

The problem about this approach is that it sounds particularly hypocritical when, according to Unicef, 230 children have been killed in Gaza, an average of ten a day, and 2,000 have been wounded by Israeli bombs, shells and bullets. Israeli spokesmen are now denying their responsibility for the most notorious and televised atrocities such as the strike on the UN hospital [sic] last week…This is an old PR tactic, though not one recommended by Dr Luntz, which is sometime referred to as “first you say no story, then you say old story”. In other words, deny everything in the teeth of the evidence on day one and, by the time definitive proof of the massacre comes through, nobody notices when you have to admit responsibility.

He’s likely referring to the deaths of 15 Palestinians at a UN school (not a hospital) in Beit Hanoun, the one which a recently released video strongly suggests was not the result of an IDF shell. 

Further, Cockburn has it completely backwards. As we revealed in a post on July 28th, the UK media almost universally blamed Israel on the strike, and most media outlets haven’t updated their stories (or published new ones) even after the IDF released footage showing that their errant shell hit an empty school courtyard, and couldn’t have killed the 15 children, as Palestinians claimed.  

In other words, it’s the media – in classic hit ‘n run style journalism – which has ‘moved on’ after rushing to judge Israel. a dynamic which is the opposite of what Cockburn’s claims. 

Cockburn continues:

A problem here is that propaganda that works in a short war comes back to haunt you in a longer one. This is now happening in Gaza. Israeli air and artillery strikes and Hamas mortars and rockets are often presented as if they balanced each other out in terms of lethality. But the most important statistic here is that some 1,100 Palestinians have been killed as opposed to three civilians in Israel.

First, Cockburn conveniently neglects to note, in addition to the three civilians, 53 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the war.  As far as the “lack of symmetry”, it does indeed exist, but not in the manner Cockburn describes.  While Israeli strikes are aimed at legitimate military targets in Gaza, Hamas rockets are exclusively fired at Israeli civilians (all of which represent war crimes), and intentionally use their own civilians as human shields (another war crime).

The moral imbalance between the two sides couldn’t be starker. 

Again, Cockburn:

Despite his tutoring by Dr Luntz, Mr Dermer only speaks these days to the converted. Attending a Christians United for Israel Summit in Washington he replied to protesters who called him a “war criminal” by saying that “the truth is that the Israeli Defence Forces should be given a Nobel Peace Prize”. Stuff like this may explain why a Gallup poll shows that among Americans aged between 18 and 29 some 51 per cent said Israel’s actions were unjustified while only 23 per cent said they were. 

Cockburn neglects to mention that this same Gallup poll showed that a plurality of Americans, representing all age groups, believe Israel’s actions to be justified.  Conversely, when asked about Hamas’s actions, 70% believe they are unjustified, while only 11% believe them to be justified.  Such results are consistent with Gallup polling about Americans support for Israel over the past four decades, consistently showing overwhelming bi-partisan support for the Jewish State.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Indy chose to Tweet Cockburn’s op-ed using the following text and graphic:

capture

In addition to the fact that the tweet contradicts Cockburn’s claims (that Israel is NOT in fact able to hide what they’re doing from the world), it’s telling that they decided to use a photo purportedly showing rows and rows of Palestinian caskets – Palestinian deaths Israel is presumably ‘hiding from the world’ – when, as a report in an Italian newspaper indicates, the coffins were merely props as part of an anti-Israel protest.

However, as the Indy, Guardian and New York Times clearly know from years of experience, even erroneous or misleading evidence putatively demonstrating Israeli culpability in Palestinian suffering can be an extremely effective tool to “manipulate American and European public opinion”.

UPDATE: Shortly after our post was published, we noticed that the Indy re-Tweeted the story with a new photo and, interestingly, different text – this time consistent with the substance of Cockburn’s post. 

new tweet pic

IDF responds to 6 hours of Hamas rocket fire, and Guardian blames Israel for breaking ceasefire!

As we noted about 30 minutes ago, the Guardian’s Live Blog pronounced that the ceasefire (which went into effect at 9:00 this morning) was ‘holding’ despite the dozens of rockets fired by Hamas since the morning, and the fact that world leaders, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, had forcefully condemned Hamas for violating the terms of the agreement.

However, roughly 20 minutes ago it was reported that the IDF had resumed military operations (after having ceased all attacks since 9AM in accordance with the agreement) in response to Hamas rocket fire, which prompted the following Guardian update:

newest

Here’s how the update is framed on their Israel page:

pic

It’s also the featured story on the blog itself, per the recently updated headline:

blog

This is simply surreal.

Dozens of Hamas rocket attacks evidently don’t count as a ceasefire violation according to the Guardian’s blog editor Matthew Weaver, but Israeli retaliation – six hours into the Hamas assault – constitutes an official end to the agreement. 

This isn’t just an obfuscation, but a complete and total fabrication. 

Guardian op-ed suggests murder of 3 Israelis was natural result of ‘asymmetry of power’

Professor Alan Johnson in his superb June 21st op-ed in the Telegraph (before the teens’ bodies were found) noted the “jubilant reaction of many Palestinians to the kidnapping of three Israeli teenage boys” and then argued:

And yet, despite all this whooping and cheering about the trauma and possible death of Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, the Palestinians will likely pay a very small price in the international community or global public opinion. Why?

In part, because an anti-Zionist mindset that has taken root in the West, and at its heart is unexamined assumption – that Israelis and Palestinians are different kinds of people. Israelis have agency, responsibility and choice, Palestinians do not. In short, the world treats the Palestinians as children – ‘the pathology of paternalism’ it has been called

The unarticulated assumption of anti-Zionism is that Palestinians are a driven people, dominated by circumstances and moved by emotions; qualities associated with the world of nature. Israelis are the opposite; masters of all circumstances, rational and calculating; qualities associated with the world of culture.

This “dichotomous thinking”, argued Johnson, results in very bad consequences.

One of the bad consequences of holding Palestinians blameless has been the increasingly prevalent spin by pro-Palestinians activists, since the bullet ridden bodies of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal were discovered, suggesting that the Palestinian terrorists who killed the three teens shouldn’t ultimately be held responsible, and that the real culprits are Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli government, and/or ‘the occupation’.

To boot, the Guardian published an op-ed on July 2nd by  (a former Palestinian negotiator) titled ‘For Palestinians, this week’s deaths highlight the asymmetry of power. Khalidi not only implied that the Palestinian terrorists who killed the three teens were not morally responsible for the crimes, but also suggested that other such acts of Palestinian terror (since 1967) can be justified as understandable reactions to Israeli policy.

Khalidi alludes to Palestinian support for the kidnappers in the following paragraph:

On the Palestinian side, the kidnappers – whatever their exact motives – seem to have deliberately tapped into the Palestinian public’s longstanding concern over the thousands of prisoners in Israeli jails.

He later expands on the importance of the prisoners in contextualizing Palestinian kidnappings and other acts of terror:

The release of prisoners has indeed been one of the main motives for a long series of Palestinian attacks stretching back to the very beginnings of the 1967 occupation. In successive prisoner exchanges, and as most recently demonstrated in the Shalit case, the Israelis seemed prepared to release Palestinians only under duress and at the tempting ratio for would-be kidnappers of around 1000:1. Eventually, Palestinian militants came to the conclusion that the most effective way of releasing Palestinians from jail was to take Israeli hostages in return.

Later, after a throw-away line noting that “none of this is meant to justify the killing of innocent civilians”, he in effect does just that:

But the three Israeli youths appear to have fallen victim to the asymmetry of power between occupier and occupied, and the inevitable consequences of nearly 50 years of occupation and collective punishment of the Palestinians. 

So, the three boys were killed, not by Hamas terrorists who sang and celebrated after they extinguished three young Jewish lives, but by an abstraction – “asymmetry of power between occupier and occupied” and the “consequences” occupation.  

As Alan Johnson suggested in the passages cited above, Palestinians to commentators like Khalidi, do not possess moral agency or free will.  They are not political actors but are always acted upon.

In short, per Johnson, according to the anti-Zionist moral paradigm, Palestinians always “remain perpetually below the age of responsibility; the source of their behaviour always external to themselves, always located in Israel’s actions”.

A better example of liberal racism would be difficult to find. 

Following CiF Watch post, the Guardian quietly removes image of Camp Hamas

On June 3rd we posted about a photo used by Guardian editors to illustrate a report by Peter Beaumont (‘Israel condemns US for backing Palestinian unity government‘) about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s request that Washington not rush to immediately recognize the new Palestinian “technocratic government” backed by the terror group Hamas.

Their decision to use a photo of Palestinian children frolicking at a Hamas summer camp was deceptive for two reasons.  First, the photo they used was only one in a series published by Getty Images in 2013 which were most notable for shots depicting the kids engaged in jihadist paramilitary training.  Second, the image – conveying the putatively benign nature of the Hamas government – could be seen as an editorial decision to make light of Israeli concerns about the consequences of the US legitimization of the Islamist extremist group.

Interestingly, a few hours after our post, the Guardian decided to remove the original photo, and instead opted for this:

bibi

Though it’s unclear if our post prompted the Guardian revision, and no explanation was provided, we’re glad they at least implicitly acknowledged the highly tendentious nature of the original photo. 

..

UPDATE: The Guardian’s Readers’ Editor responded to our post with the following Tweet:

However, our subsequent exchange with Elliott (which you can see here) suggests that his intent was to make it clear that Guardian editors recognized the error and changed the photo of their own accord.  We thank them for the clarification. 

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Vatican contradicts Guardian’s claim about pope’s visit to terror memorial

On May 26th we posted about a report by the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont which characterized the pope’s visit to a Jerusalem memorial to Israeli terror victims “as an attempt to appease his Israeli hosts“.  

headlineHere are the relevant passages:

Pope Francis has deviated from his itinerary for his tour of the Holy Land for the second time in two days – this time to visit a memorial to Israeli victims of terrorism.

The surprise addition on Monday was made at the request of the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and was interpreted as an attempt to appease his Israeli hosts after his surprise decision to pray at the controversial Israeli separation wall in Bethlehem the day before.

Interestingly, however, his narrative was undermined by the Vatican itself.

The Catholic News Agency, in a report titled ‘Vatican: Pope’s stop at terror memorial not a political move‘, May 26, specifically addressed the Guardian’s claim:

Amid claims that Pope Francis’ unscheduled stop at an Israeli memorial for terrorist victims was made under pressure to appease government officials, the Holy See has said that the rumors are false.

Stating that he “was not surprised” by the negative reactions some have had toward the Pope’s stop, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi explained to journalists May 26 that the visit “was against terrorism and nothing else.”

The report continued:

According to the U.K. newspaper the Guardian, the stop was done at the prime minister’s request, and has been seen by some as an attempt to appease Israeli authorities following the Pope’s impromptu visit to the separation wall diving Israel and Palestine yesterday ahead of his Mass in Bethlehem.

Despite the fact that some suggest the Pope was pressured into making the stop, Fr. Lombardi assured that he has “no political agenda.”

Whilst Beaumont didn’t bother to note who precisely “interpreted” the pope’s visit to the terror memorial as an act of “appeasement, it seems that the visit likely represented a simple acknowledgement that though the security fence ‘represents a symbol division‘, its construction was motivated by the moral desire to save innocent lives from the onslaught of terror – Palestinian attacks which the pope characterized (in his remarks that day) as “absolute evil“.

Though a Vatican spokesman clearly explained to foreign journalists like Beaumont that the pope’s visit to the memorial “was against terrorism and nothing else“, as we’ve demonstrated continually, when there’s a competition between soberly reporting the facts and advancing the Guardian narrative, the latter will win out almost every time. 

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Despite Economist claim, ‘fanatical settlement’ of Kochav Ya’ir is neither fanatical nor a settlement (UPDATE)

(See UPDATE on this post below)

While the UK media (much like its US counterpart) often employ euphemisms – and often wild rhetorical somersaults – to avoid passing ‘value judgments’ on Palestinian terror groups, there are typically no such restraints in news stories and commentaries about Israeli ‘settlers’.  

Though only a tiny fraction of Israelis who live in cities across the green line (in Jerusalem and the West Bank) have engaged in violence or advocate its use, words like ‘radical’, ‘extremist’ and ‘fanatical’ are often used by journalists to place this Jewish population on the ‘wrong side’ of their moral divide. 

A good illustration of this knee-jerk impulse to demonize ‘settlers’ – by journalist who often seem to possess little real knowledge about such communities – can be found in a May 3rd article in The Economist titled ‘Making of a martyr‘ – a review of a book about the killing, by British officers, of Avraham (Ya’ir) Stern, leader of the pre-state underground Zionist group known as Lehi (Lohamei Herut Yisrael – Fighters for the Freedom of Israel).

After a few paragraphs which focus on the book itself, the article then pivots to a broader critique of what the anonymous Economist writer believes to be Stern’s legacy:

Stern still commands a striking hold over many of Israel’s ruling right-wingers, including the successors of the mandate-era Jewish underground who continue to perpetrate attacks on Palestinian civilians. Many still choose his nom de guerre, Yair, for their sons, including Israel’s current prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

The author’s rhetorical slight of hand is almost comical.  Though Ya’ir is a common Hebrew name, are we supposed to intuit from the sentence that the current Israeli Prime Minister chose his son’s name based on the life and politics of Ya’ir Stern?

However, the author’s polemical inventions become even more pronounced in the following sentence:

One of the most fanatical settlements, Kochav Yair, is named after him

Though the community was indeed named after Ya’ir Stern, a quick check on Google Maps would have demonstrated to the Economist journalist that Kochav Ya’ir is NOT a settlement:

Additionally, the claim that Kochav Ya’ir is “fanatical” does not hold up to scrutiny.  

First, contrary to the stereotype of such fanatical ‘settlers’ [sic] as religious fundamentalists, Kochav Ya’ir is an overwhelmingly secular community.  

Moreover, in the last national elections in 2013 a majority of Kochav Ya’ir residents (according to official results) voted for centre and left-wing political parties.  In fact, while Likud-Israel Beiteinu was the party which attracted the greatest percentage of votes overall in the country, the top vote-getters in Kochav Ya’ir were centrist Yesh Atid and the left-wing Labor Party (at 24 and 21 percent respectively).  

So, Kochav Ya’ir is clearly not a “settlement”, nor does it appear to be at all “fanatical”.

The Economist got it wrong. 

UPDATE, May 11: Following our communication with Economist editors, the article was amended and an addendum added acknowledging that Kochav Ya’ir is neither fanatical nor a settlement.

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‘Fisking’ Robert Fisk’s latest on Israel: distortions, half-truths and fabrications

Robert Fisk isn’t very happy with the latest “betrayal of the Palestinians”, which is how he characterizes the US decision to temporarily end their aggressive engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process after Fatah’s reconciliation with Hamas.  

In his latest report for The Independent, ‘Yet another betrayal of the Palestinians‘, April 25, Fisk blames Barack Obama for ‘cowardly’ walking away from the process, and laments that the US President has shown himself once again to be ‘in lock step’ with Jerusalem.

However, beyond the narrow and quite risible claim that Obama and Netanyahu are in cahoots, or at least using the same political playbook, Fisk’s ‘analysis’ is laden with distortions, half-truths and outright fabrications. 

Fisk derides “claim” that Hamas is a terror group

Fisk:

Of course – lock-stepping with Israel as usual – Obama condemned Mahmoud Abbas for the “unhelpful” step of trying to form a unity government with Hamas, a skewed version of events that entirely chimes with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s predictable claim that the Palestinian President “formed an alliance with a murderous terrorist organisation that calls for Israel’s destruction”.

So, to Fisk, Obama and Netanyahu are merely parroting an evidently debatable “claim” that Hamas is a “murderous terrorist organization that calls for Israel’s destruction”, despite the fact that the group is an internationally recognized terror organization whose founding charter unambiguously calls for Israel’s destruction and the murder of Jews, and has launched terror attacks that killed hundreds of Israeli civilians.

Fisk uncritically accepts Palestinian talking points about Hamas’s imminent move to the political centre.

Fisk:

Forget that Mr Abbas insists that this Palestinian unity would be founded on recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of previous agreements.

Of course, the suggestion that Hamas – whose leaders have called for genocide against the Jews – would ever betray its fundamental anti-Zionist doctrine and recognize Israel (and renounce violence) is ludicrous. Not only has a Hamas spokesperson already distanced the group from suggestions that they may recognize Israel, but the PA’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat reportedly already walked back Abbas’s claim, and stated that Hamas is not obligated to recognize Israel to be part of the government.

Fisk grossly under counts the population of Arab Israelis

Fisk:

Since Mr Netanyahu has been demanding that Mr Abbas accept – even before the latter’s renewed love affair with Hamas – that Israel was a “Jewish state” (thus deleting its tens of thousands of Israeli Arab citizens), no “recognition of Israel” without its Jewish definition would be of any use to him.

We’re not sure how he made such a big error, but a simple tour of the website of the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (among the myriad of sources he could have used to check this ‘fact’) would have demonstrated that the population of Arab Israelis is over 1.6 Million, not “tens of thousands”.

The US is “in hock” to the Israeli government?

Fisk:

How on earth did Mr Kerry think that he could bring this nonsense off in nine months?  For as long as the US administration remains in hock to the Israeli government and continues to support Israel, right or wrong, it can never – and will never – negotiate peace between the two.

Though we weren’t previously familiar with the term “in hock”, it appears that (based on a popular online dictionary) if you are “in hock” to someone, you feel you have to do things for them because they have given you money or support.  Given the context, it appears that Fisk is (furtively) evoking the alleged influence of the ‘Israeli lobby’ over US foreign policy.

New Jewish “colonies” in east Jerusalem?

Fisk:

Only a month ago, Israel approved the construction of yet another 186 houses in the newly colonised Jewish areas of East Jerusalem

Fisk is likely referring to Israel’s recent approval of 40 new homes in Pisgat Zeev and 146 in Har Homa.  However, contrary to his claim, these are not “newly colonized” areas.  The Har Homa neighborhood was established in 1997, while Pisgat Zeev was founded in 1982.  

The Oslo Accords prohibit Israeli construction across the green line?

Fisk:

From the start, Mr Arafat agreed that his land would exist only in 22 per cent of Mandate Palestine. Fair enough. But then he accepted the growing Jewish colonies on the West Bank, allowed America to dictate the terms for peace – which were supposed to prevent any such territorial expansion after the Oslo agreement – and then permitted the US to blame him for the failure of negotiations

Contrary to Fisk’s suggestion, the Oslo Accords (Oslo 1 and Oslo 2) did NOT prohibit Israeli settlements in the territories.  The Accords stipulated that such issues – relating to final borders and the fate of Israeli settlements – were to be settled in a final status agreement.

Hamas rocket attacks on Sderot (and only Sderot?) were a “gift” to Israel:

Fisk:

Hamas…handed Israel a gift by bombarding Sderot from Gaza with thousands of inaccurate rockets, most of them home-made. It allowed Israel to kill hundreds of Palestinian civilians as it sought revenge, and deprived the Israeli left (that which still existed) of their support for the original Israeli withdrawal from Gaza;

So, to Fisk, thousands of Hamas rocket attacks (on Sderot, and, presumably, only Sderot) were a gift to Israeli leaders who were intent on finding an excuse to kill Palestinian civilians.  

Additionally, addressing Fisk’s other contention, beyond Sderot, towns targeted by the more than 8,000 quite deadly rockets (Heavy Mortars, Qassams, Grads, and the FAJR-5) fired from Gaza since its withdrawal in 2005 include Netivot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Be’er Sheva, Kiryat Malachi, Okafim, Kiryat Gat, the greater Tel Aviv area and even the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Finally, here’s a glimpse at a few of those “home-made” “inaccurate” rockets in action:

 

Robert Fisk: So many distortions and fabrications in so few words of text.

There’s indeed a reason why bloggers refer to the point-by-point refutation of such blatant errors in an article or op-ed as ‘Fisking‘.

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By Robert Tait’s reckoning, Palestinian unity with antisemitic extremists is a ‘boon for peace’

the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to realize the promise of Allah, no matter how long it takes. The Prophet, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, says: “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’ except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.” (Hamas Charter, Article 7)

Imagine for a moment if Binyamin Netanyahu dismantled his current government coalition and entered into a partnership between Likud and an Israeli political party whose platform cited religious texts and conspiracy theories to incite its member to murder Muslims – a movement so extreme that their leaders have called for genocide.

Of course, there is no such Israeli political party.  But, if there were, and such a coalition was formed, you can certainly bet that UK journalists wouldn’t be characterizing such an agreement as a ‘boon for peace’.

However, that’s exactly the term used by The Telegraph’s Jerusalem correspondent Robert Tait in characterizing the recent deal between Fatah and Hamas.  His April 25th report,’Kerry reminded no peace deal can be struck without addressing Gaza, reads more like an op-ed than a straight news story, especially in the highlighted passages within the following paragraphs:

Wednesday’s reconciliation pact between Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement and the Islamist Hamas group promised to end years of in-fighting by forming a new national unity government within five weeks. Fresh elections are planned within six months to give the Palestinian political landscape a new air of legitimacy.

By normal reckoning, such heartening news would be seen as a boon to any peace process with hopes of flourishing.

What could be more conducive to resolving the century old conflict between Jews and Arabs than a united front on both sides?

Instead, the development has prompted an almost apocalyptic response from Israel, with Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s prime minister, all but writing off the talks and ordering their suspension five days before their official expiry date on April 29.

By whose reckoning would Palestinian unity between Fatah and a designated terror group which engages in the most extreme antisemitism (and rejects Israel’s right to exist within any borders) be considered a positive step for peace?

As a US State Department spokesperson said during a press conference after the unity deal was reached:  

“But I think the Secretary [of State] and we all understand it’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist. And that is one of the principles that’s long been expected”.

Remarkably, Tait himself acknowledges Hamas’s rejection of Israel’s continued existence in a later passage in his report, but still blames Bibi for his “apocalyptic” response, a word, it seems, more suited to describing this speech by top Hamas leader (and group co-founder) Mahmoud Al Zahhar in 2012:

What part of Hamas’s clearly stated desire to annihilate the Jews doesn’t Robert Tait understand?

 

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Financial Times or Electronic Intifada? ‘Serious’ UK paper descends to agitprop

The blurring of ‘professional’ journalism with political advocacy was on full display recently in a “serious” journal known as the Financial Times – the British equivalent of the U.S.-based Wall Street Journal, which largely focuses on international business and economic news.  The April 3 report by David Gardner descends to hyperbole in the very strap line of the story by employing a trope – suggesting that Israel controls the United States – often used by those who claim a decidedly more extremist political pedigree.

strap line

In the second paragraph of the report, Gardner attempts to explain the reason for the current impasse in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians:

The ostensible new roadblock concerns prisoners. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the interim Palestinian Authority, came back to the negotiating table even though Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, refused yet again to freeze settlement building, thus allowing Israel to continue eating up the shrinking territory over which the Palestinians are negotiating to eventually build their state.

It’s important to remember that Abbas previously refused to talk to Netanyahu about peace for the first nine months of a ten-month settlement freeze instituted by the Israeli prime minister in November 2009. Additionally, as almost all new ‘settlement’ construction in recent years has taken place within existing settlement boundaries, it’s extraordinarly misleading to characterize such construction as “eating up the shrinking territory”.

Gardner continues:

Mr Abbas, seen by admirers as a moderate and by critics as a quisling, has abjured radical siren calls for resistance in favour of a negotiated solution. He has nothing to show his people. He looks weak and discredited.

First, “radical siren calls for resistance” is of course a euphemism for violent attacks against Israeli civilians – and Gardner seems to be suggesting that mere absence of an organized intifada suggests that the Palestinian leader is somehow a moderate. (Quisling, by the way, is a term used to demonize political leaders who betray their own country by aiding an ‘invading enemy’, referring to Vidkun Quisling, the pro-Nazi Norwegian leader.)

Then, Gardner proceeds to completely mischaracterize the reason for the impasse.

To offset this, Israel was persuaded to release 104 Palestinian long-term prisoners. The Netanyahu government’s refusal to hand over the last batch on the due date precipitated the current crisis. In retaliation, Mr Abbas this week signed articles of accession to 15 multilateral treaties, investing Palestine with some of the international attributes of a state – which he had promised the US to defer while negotiations continued

This is flatly untrue. The prisoner release was always meant to serve as an incentive to keep Palestinians talking.  The crisis began when Abbas refused to commit to extending the April 29 deadline, even after the last round of prisoners were to be released.  However, a tentative deal, brokered by the US, was reportedly agreed to by both parties to keep the talks going through 2015 – which included the release of the final 26 prisoners along with an additional 400 other prisoners, as well as a curb on settlement construction in the West Bank.  

The Israeli government was reportedly only hours away from agreeing to the terms of the deal to extend talks when Abbas announced the move to join 15 international conventions and treaties – in violation of his agreement when talks began to avoid such unilateral steps – thus effectively sabotaging the agreement.

Gardner’s claim that “Abbas this week signed articles of accession to 15 multilateral treaties” in “retaliation” for Netanyahu’s “refusal to hand over the last batch” of prisoners represents an egregious distortion of the sequence of events.  Netanyahu’s government temporarily delayed the release of the 26 prisoners in order to first get a commitment from the Palestinians to continue the peace talks past the April 29 deadline.  If Abbas hadn’t initiated his unilateral move, the 26 prisoners were almost certainly going to be released.

Gardner continues:

The prisoners in question were supposed to have been released 20 years ago as part of the Oslo accords, at the high water mark for hopes that these two peoples could close a deal on sharing the Holy Land. They were not.

This is not true.  The pre-Oslo prisoners are all convicted of murder, attempted murder or being an accessory to murder and there was no provision of the Oslo Accords requiring their release.  Israel only agreed to free 4,000 Palestinian prisoners (women, administrative detainees and minors, as well as elderly and sick prisoners), and stated quite clearly that they would not release “prisoners who killed Israeli citizens or were deemed likely to become involved in future acts of violence”.

Here’s the text of the relevant agreement from 1995, as published on an official Palestinian website

prisoners

Then, to demonstrate Israel’s “pattern of the US consistently over-rewarding a recalcitrant ally, as well as being snubbed by Israel for its pains”, Gardner makes the following claim:

In 2009, for example, it was Mr Obama who blinked when Mr Netanyahu simply refused to halt colonisation of Palestinian land. Instead, in 2010, the US president offered Israel the Jordan Valley – a big chunk of the occupied West Bank that is not his to give – in return for a short pause in settlement building. Mr Netanyahu, in any event, refused.

Again, this is a complete fabrication.

Nobody disputes that, at Obama’s urging in 2009, Israel agreed to a 10-month construction freeze on new homes in the West Bank.  The curb in construction can be demonstrated by housing statistics for the year in question.   It’s possible Gardner is referring to an incentive offered by Obama to Netanyahu to extend the 10-month freeze by another 2 months in exchange for the President’s support, in principle, to Israel retaining some sort of military presence in the Jordan Valley in the context of a final peace deal, but to write that Obama “offered Israel the Jordan Valley”, which implies that ‘settlements’ in that area would be retained by Israel, is highly misleading.

Then, following a passage which repeats the “Israeli tail wagging the US dog” claim from the strap line, Gardner adds:

Far from pushing Israel to roll back the occupation enough to enable Palestinians to build a viable state on the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital, it looks as though the US is planning to hand Israel almost all the settlement blocs, about three-quarters of East Jerusalem, and the Jordan Valley

First, Gaza isn’t on the table as there is a political division between Hamas and Fatah, the former (which controls the strip) refuses to agree to negotiation or recognize Israel under any circumstances.  Second, the US isn’t handing Israel anything, as responsibility for an agreement rests in the hands of both parties.  Additionally, as negotiations haven’t even come close to concluding, it’s impossible to know for sure what the final map would look like.  And, again, the US isn’t offering Israel the Jordan Valley. 

Gardner continues:

In addition, the Palestinians are being pressed to recognise Israel as a Jewish state – rather than, as they have long since done, recognise the state of Israel and its right to exist. Agreement to that could compromise a negotiated deal on the future of nearly 5m Palestinian refugees, prejudice the position of that fifth of the population of Israel proper that is Palestinian Arab by origin, as well as require Palestinians to repudiate their history.

By arguing that the demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people (a requirement by Israeli leaders going back to Sharon) “could compromise a negotiated deal on the future of nearly 5m Palestinian refugees” (a number corresponding to the number of Palestinians recognized by UNRWA as “refugees”, not the number of actual refugees, which is closer to 30,000) he’s implicitly endorsing the unlimited right of return, a concept which will Israel will never agree to as it is a thinly veiled way to achieve a one-state solution.

Naturally, Gardner doesn’t mention that Abbas – during his recent meeting with Obama – not only refused to compromise on the ‘right of return’ and mutual recognition, but also reportedly refused to commit to an ‘end of conflict’ proviso, “under which a peace deal would represent the termination of any further Palestinian demands of Israel”.

Gardner ends by warning Israel that failing to compromise with the Palestinians “will chip away at Israel’s hard-won legitimacy”, but it is such intellectually dishonest pro-Palestinian propaganda parading as journalism which chips away at the veneer of his professional credibility.

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Following CiF Watch post, Guardian corrects false claim in Peter Beaumont report

Roughly two hours ago (11:00 Israeli time), we posted about an April 2 report by the Guardian’s incoming Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont which falsely claimed that Israel’s reluctance to release the final 26 pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners was due to Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians first recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

We noted that this claim was contradicted not only by every other MSM report we were able to find, but by Beaumont himself.

Here is Beaumont’s claim in the April 2 report:

2

Now, here’s a passage from a report by Beaumont on March 31, dealing with the same topic:

1

As we noted, both can’t be correct.

CiF Watch (and another media watchdog group) contacted Guardian editors shortly after our post was published, requesting a correction, and (though we haven’t received a reply yet from the paper) we noticed that (at roughly 12:45 Israeli time) the report was corrected.  

Here’s the addendum at the bottom of the article:

corex

UPDATE at 2:30: Guardian editors contacted us to explain that the error (per the addendum above) had been rectified.

 

 

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Peter Beaumont vs Peter Beaumont: Guardian journo contradicts himself on prisoner release

In ‘Middle East peace talks edge towards collapse despite Kerry’s frantic efforts, Guardian, April 2, the newspaper’s incoming Jerusalem correspondent writes the following about the collapsing ‘peace process’.

Eight months ago, Netanyahu signed a US-sponsored agreement to release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners in a quid pro quo that would block the Palestinian application to membership of a raft of UN bodies in exchange for talks. But despite the agreement, Netanyahu has refused to release the fourth group of prisoners unless the Palestinian Authority recognises Israel as a Jewish state.

This is flat-out untrue.

The Jewish state recognition demand is a separate issue, was voiced prior to the current crisis about the release of the final batch of pre-Oslo prisoners and has never been cited as a factor why Israel is reluctant to release the remaining 26 Palestinians.

As reported by media sites across the political spectrum, Israeli negotiators have only demanded that – for the prisoner release to go ahead – Palestinians must at least agree to extend talks past the April 29 deadline, and have asked why they should release these prisoners when (immediately following their release) Palestinians will likely decide to end the talks.

Interestingly, three days prior to his April 2 story, Peter Beaumont himself acknowledged that the fear of Palestinians walking away from talks was the reason for Israel’s hesitation over the final prisoner release.

In his report on March 31, he wrote the following:

The Israeli government has said it is unwilling to go ahead with the latest prisoner release until it has a commitment from Abbas to extend this phase of the negotiations. On Sunday the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said the talks were “verging on a crisis”.

Just to make it easier, here are snapshots of the competing Peter Beaumont passages.

Beaumont, March 31:

1

Beaumont, April 2:

2

Which one is it, Peter?

 

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CiF Watch prompts Guardian correction over Iran Sanctions Bill claim

Earlier this month we criticized a Guardian report by Harriet Sherwood and Dan Roberts (Binyamin Netanyahu visit will test strains in US-Israel relationship, March 2) that included the following claim regarding efforts in the US Senate to pass a new Iran Sanctions Bill:

…the failure of an Aipac-supported effort to pass legislation blocking Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran has led to a reassessment of the fabled ability of its lobbyists to wield a veto over US policy when it comes to matters of Israeli security.

We noted that this represented a significant mischaracterization of a bill (S.1881 – Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013) which, by all accounts, was designed to increase sanctions against Iran only in the event negotiations with the six world powers failed to produce an agreement, or if Iran failed to abide by the terms of any agreement.

Following our communication with Guardian editors, they agreed to revise the relevant passage. It now reads:

But the failure of Aipac to garner enough support in the Senate to oppose the Obama administration over its nuclear deal with Iran has led to a reassessment of the fabled ability of its lobbyists to wield a veto over US policy when it comes to matters of Israeli security.

Additionally, the following addendum was added to the article, noting the change:

amended

Though we are not totally satisfied with the revised passage – which still fails to clearly state the intent of the legislation  – it nonetheless represents an improvement over the original, and we commend Guardian editors on their positive response to our complaint.

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Following CiF Watch post, Guardian removes reference to ‘powerful Jewish lobby’

Though our complaint to the Guardian this morning has thus far gone unanswered, we’re pleased they removed an extremely gratuitous (and pejorative) reference to Jews in a column by Ian Black and Martin Chulov (Israeli forces seize rockets ‘destined for Gaza’ in raid on Iranian ship in Red Sea, March 6).

Here’s the original passage which we highlighted in our post:

The seizure follows a visit this week by the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to Washington, where he used a meeting with Barack Obama and a stump speech to the powerful Jewish lobby AIPAC to underscore his reservations about a nuclear deal with Iran.

Here’s the passage now:

The seizure follows a visit this week by the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to Washington, where he used a meeting with Barack Obama and a stump speech to the powerful pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC to underscore his reservations about a nuclear deal with Iran.

As we argued earlier, AIPAC is not a Jewish organization, and the decision by Black and Chulov to use the term “powerful Jewish lobby” is inconsistent with the warnings of the Guardian Readers’ editor Chris Elliott (in a column in 2011) to their journalists and commentators to avoid “language long associated with antisemitic tropes such as Jews having too much power and control”.

Whilst, unfortunately, there’s no editor’s note below the article explaining the new wording, we’re of course glad they saw fit to make the revision. 

UPDATE: Guardian editors did respond to our email, and noted that the article includes the following addendum:

update

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The Telegraph publishes fair & balanced report on Israeli settlement ‘growth’

telegraphOur increasing commentary on Israel related coverage by sites such as The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times, The Economist and the Irish Times is often helpful in properly contextualizing coverage at the Guardian.

Regarding The Telegraph, though we have criticized them on occasion, the coverage of Israel by their regional correspondent Robert Tait is often much more fair and professional than the pro-Palestinian activism consistently peddled by the Guardian’s outgoing Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood.

Indeed, a March 4 Telegraph story, titled ‘Israel issues figures on huge settlement expansion‘, by two other correspondents (Inna Lazareva and Peter Foster) deserves some credit for citing various views on the announcement, from both the Left and the Right.

The report begins by citing “a new report by the Israeli Bureau of Statistics” which revealed “that Israel increased settlement construction in the West Bank by as much as 123% in 2013, compared with the previous year.”  Then, after quoting Israeli left-wing critics of the increased settlement construction, and right-wing critics complaining that there wasn’t enough construction, the report cited the Israeli Housing Ministry’s explanation that the “higher rate of settlement construction [represents] the cumulative effect of the building backlog dating back to the 2009 ten-month long settlement freeze, and subsequent delayed constructions in the following years”.

Then, there was this interesting passage:

Other critics were quick to point out that, while 2013 was indeed an exceptional year for West Bank settlement construction, overall the rate of building in the settlements over the nearly five years that Mr Netanyahu has been in power has actually decreased by nearly a quarter, compared to the five years prior to him assuming the role of Prime Minister.

We’re not sure who exactly they are referring to by “critics”, but, as you may recall, just yesterday (about 9 hours before the Telegraph story appeared) we published a post titledWhat the Guardian won’t report: West Bank settlement building has DECLINED under BiBiwhich included this passage:

Though housing starts did increase dramatically in 2013, based on numbers from the previous year, construction for the nearly five years Netanyahu has been prime minister shows a decrease from the previous four years when Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon were in power.  From 2009 through 2013, there were 7477 housing starts in the West Bank, while from 2004 through 2008 there were 9293 starts.  So, under Netanyahu, there has been a nearly 20% decline in West Bank construction in comparison to the five years before he became prime minister

In short, The Telegraph provided the kind of context and nuance that professional reporters owe their readers when reporting from a region awash in clichés, hyperbole, agitprop and Guardian-style activist journalism.

We commend The Telegraph for their largely fair and balanced report.

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