The factual and logical failures behind accusations of ‘racist’ Israeli bus lines

There seems to be no evidence whatsoever to back up accusations, in the Guardian and throughout the media, that new bus lines in Israel, serving Palestinians who live in the West Bank but work in central Israel, serve ‘Palestinians only’.  

Prior to the launch of the new lines Israeli buses did not stop in towns controlled by the PA, and Palestinians were dependent on transportation services by “pirate” (Arab) companies. (Alternately they could travel to an Israeli settlement, such as Ariel, and take a bus from there to Israeli cities across the green line.)

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Conal Urquhart’s Guardian report on the issue, which, in fairness, is no worse than others in the mainstream media, was titled “Israel to launch ‘Palestinian only’ bus service“, March 4, and begins thusly:

The Israeli government will on Monday begin operating a “Palestinians-only” bus service to ferry Palestinian workers from the West Bank to Israel, encouraging them to use it instead of travelling with Israeli settlers on a similar route.

However, at no point does Urquhart attempt to buttress this sensational claim, nor indicate the source of the (“Palestinians only”) quote.

In fact, he then notes the following:

Officially anyone can use them, but the ministry of transport said that the new lines are meant to improve services for Palestinians.

In a statement to the Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, the ministry said: “The new lines are not separate lines for Palestinians but rather two designated lines meant to improve the services offered to Palestinian workers who enter Israel through Eyal Crossing.

As Lori Lowenthal Marcus pointed out, the ‘restrictions’ pertain to ‘only’ stopping at Palestinian towns in the territories, where Jews don’t live.

Urquhart continues:

Information on the new services, which are operated by the company Afikim, have reportedly only been advertised in Arabic and distributed only in Palestinian areas of the West Bank.

However, if the goal of the new bus line is to improve service for Palestinians living in the West Bank but working in Israel, it would certainly make sense to advertise the lines in Palestinian towns, and only in Arabic.

Again, Urquhart:

Palestinians used to use Palestinian minibuses and taxis to travel into Israel but Israel has increased the number of permits it gives to Palestinians which has led to more mixing on shared routes.

Indeed, Palestinians were dependent upon transportation services by unauthorized Arab companies which charged far more than the new Israeli lines do, and Urquhart, further in his report, quotes the Transportation Ministry official making a similar point.  

For example, the fare for Palestinians traveling to Raanana is reportedly 5.1 shekels (roughly $1.35), and to Tel Aviv will cost 10.6 shekels ($2.85). This is compared to roughly 40 shekels ($10.75) that passengers have been charged by the private transportation services.

Additionally, Transportation and Road Safety Minister Yisrael Katz was quoted in Israel HaYom as explaining that “Palestinians were permitted to use any public bus line they wished, including the ones used by settlers.”

Lowenthal Marcus makes the following point:

The new bus lines are not, as the misleading headlines suggest, only for Arab Palestinians, the restriction they have is that they only stop at Arab towns in the territories, where – few would disagree – Jews with or without special identification would not dare go for fear – a legitimate one – of physical violence.  The fact remains that any Israeli citizens, Jewish, Christian or Zoroastrians, who live in the “Jewish” towns, were able to and did use the pre-existing bus lines.

As Seth Frantzman observed in the Jerusalem Post today:

The website of the bus company, Ofakim, shows that the No. 211 bus route begins near Kalkilya and travels to Tel Aviv with stops in Petah Tikvah, Bnei Brak and elsewhere. It doesn’t indicate that it is a “Palestinian only” bus or that Jews may not ride it. Ofakim claimed “We are not allowed to refuse service and we will not order anyone to get off the bus.”

Frantzman also argued that “nothing obvious prevents Arabs from commuting to a bus stop near a large Jewish community, to take a bus serving Ariel for instance.” He added that “there is no ‘segregation’, no ‘separate but equal’. No one is ‘sitting at the back’.”

But, one question remains: How would it be racist against ‘Palestinians’ if service on a bus line operating in the West Bank was for ‘Palestinians only’?  That is, how could Palestinians be victims of racism if service on a public transportation system was  denied to Jews?  

Typically, the canards employed by those who assault Israel’s legitimacy are framed in the opposite manner, with suggestions that public accommodations in Israel are restricted to prevent non-Jews from using them.  A great example of such a false claim, advanced by Haaretz and definitively refuted by CAMERA, was the myth of “Jews only” roads in Israel.

While there are no ‘Jews only’ roads in Israel, there are areas within the state for ‘Palestinians only’.

Put another way, is this sign racist?

No Israelis Allowed

Sign warning Israelis not to enter a Palestinian town

First, it would obviously be extremely dangerous for an Israeli Jew to enter Palestinians cities in Area ‘A’. It’s also prohibited by the IDF.   When I went on a media tour of Ramallah in 2011 I was required to sign a document essentially stating that I understood the risk involved and that the Israeli government was not responsible for my safety. 

Palestinian cities in the West Bank such as Ramallah are for ‘Palestinians only’.

Whilst the future of the new bus lines which are the focus of the latest anti-Israel media storm may be in doubt, let’s be clear about two things:

First, contrary to claims made in the media, there are no ‘Palestinian only’ bus lines.

If, completely hypothetically, there were such buses, it beggars the imagination how policies which excluded Jewish passengers could be characterized as racist against Palestinians

The latest row demonstrates that when it comes to reporting on Israel, facts and moral logic are necessarily subservient to sensationalist anti-Zionist narratives.

Iconic photo of Palestinian ‘resistance’ fancied by the Guardian about to celebrate its 7th birthday

We just posted about the curious use of the following photo to illustrate a story by Chris McGreal on Nov. 7, titled ‘ Obama’s in-tray – Israel/Palestine.

While our post pertained to McGreal’s false claim that Israeli PM Netanyahu refused President Obama’s request to institute a 10 month settlement building freeze, the photo looked familiar so I spent some time after our post was published trying to trace it’s origins.

It was used six days ago, Nov. 2, in a ‘Comment is Free’ piece, advocating a bi-national solution, by David Wearing.

It was also used to illustrate a 2007 Guardian report by Conal Urquhart.

However, then I came across what appears to be a photo of the same Palestinian pictured above evidently climbing the very wall he’s then seen, in other photos, standing on. The photo which dates back to Nov. 15, 2005 is posted at a site called ‘American Intifada‘.

Here’s a closer look:

He certainly seems to be the same man seen in the photos above.

Sure enough, a final search finds a direct hit for that date, Nov. 15, of the man once he somehow climbed up to the top of the security fence.


The photo will turn 7 years old on Nov. 15, and there seems to be little doubt that we’ll see this iconic symbol of Palestinian ‘resistance’ for years to come. 


PCC rules that Guardian’s Conal Urquhart ‘significantly misled’ readers in flotilla story

In late May we wrote a piece, titled ‘Guardian’s Conal Urquhart lies about “unarmed” Mavi Marmara terrorists‘, fisking Conal Urquhart’s story titled ‘Israel offers compensation to Mavi Marmara flotilla raid victims, Guardian, May 24.

Urquhart’s piece included the following passage:

“Turkey cooled diplomatic relations with Israel after nine of its citizens were shot dead by Israeli commandos who landed on the Mavi Marmara to prevent its passage to Gaza. Protesters on the ship repelled the first wave of lightly armed commandos, but then the Israeli soldiers used lethal force against the unarmed passengers to end their resistance.”

We noted that, per the UN Palmer Report, Urquhart’s claim that passengers were “unarmed” was blatantly untrue, per the following passages in sections 123 and 124 of the report:

“It is clear to the Panel that preparations were made by some of the passengers on the Mavi Marmara well in advance to violently resist any boarding attempt. The description given in the Israeli report is consistent with passenger testimonies to the Turkish investigation that describe cutting iron bars from the guard rails of the ship…”

“Furthermore, video footage shows passengers…carrying metal bars, slingshots, chains and staves. That information supports the accounts of violence given by IDF personnel to the Israeli investigation…”

“The Panel accepts, therefore, that soldiers landing from the first helicopter faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers when they descended onto the Mavi MarmaraMaterial before the Panel confirms that this group was armed with iron bars, staves, chains, and slingshots, and there is some indication that they also used knives. Firearms were taken from IDF personnel and passengers disabled at least one by removing the ammunition from it. Two soldiers received gunshot wounds. There is some reason to believe that they may have been shot by passengers…” [emphasis added]

Urquhart’s “unarmed” flotilla ‘activists’ beating Israelis with large metal rods

CiF Watch later learned that a complaint to the UK Press Complaints Commission was filed, shortly after Urquhart’s piece, by a private individual, which echoed our concerns that the term “unarmed”, used to describe the passengers, was inaccurate, and in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. 

Under the terms of Clause 1 (i) of the Code, “newspapers must take care not to publish inaccurate information, and Clause 1 (ii) provides that a significantly inaccurate or misleading statement must be corrected promptly, and with due prominence.”

The Guardian’s defense rested on the specious claim that readers would have understood that “unarmed” referred only  to an absence of firearms.

However, we’ve learned more recently that the PCC has issued a final ruling, determining that the Guardian had indeed “failed to take care not to publish misleading information, in breach of Clause 1 (i) of the Code“, stating the following:

“…the Commission considered that referring to the Mavi Marmara passengers as being “unarmed”, without mention of the weaponry which was acknowledged to have been used by the passengers, may have resulted in readers being significantly misled.”

To comply with the PCC ruling, Urquhart’s extremely misleading piece in the Guardian now has this addendum:

(The PCC concluded that the above footnoted addition by the Guardian does, in their view, represent “sufficient remedial action” and therefore “satisfies the newspaper’s obligations under the terms of the Code.”)

However, while this is a welcome revision, the Guardian still doesn’t acknowledge evidence found in the Israeli Turkel Commission inquiry that passengers on board the Mavi Marmara indeed used firearms. 

For example, the Turkel Report concluded, thus:

“…having reviewed the available evidence, the Commission finds that members of the IHH activists used firearms against Israeli forces on May 31, 2010, in their efforts to repel the boarding of the Mavi Marmara by Israeli military personnel.”

Paragraph 132 of the report stated the following:

“This violence [by flotilla passengers] included the use of physical force and attacks on the soldiers using various means, such as wooden clubs, iron rods, slingshots, knives, etc., as well as the use of firearms.” [emphasis added]

Paragraph 134, the Turkel Commission Report included this:

“Two soldiers from the takeover force in the first helicopter were wounded by live fire, which, according to their statements, was shot at them by IHH activists: soldier no. 2 (the second soldier who fast-roped from the first helicopter) was shot in his abdomen by a bullet with 9 mm circumference; soldier no. 5 was shot in his right knee.” [emphasis added]

Even the Palmer Report, while not concluding definitively on the matter, did acknowledge, in paragraph 124, the following: 

“Two [Israeli] soldiers received gunshot wounds. There is some reason to believe that they may have been shot by passengers…”. [emphasis added]

More broadly, in addition to the fact that the passengers were indeed armed (in the common understanding of the term), it’s important to note that the Palmer Report not only concluded that the Mavi Marmara passengers initiated the violence, but that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal, and does not represent “collective punishment”.  

The Guardian’s initial coverage of the 2010 incident was as obsessive as it was one-sided, and included 71 separate pieces published in the first four days following the incident – most of which was based on the presumption that the passengers were innocent victims of Israeli aggression.

Urquhart’s grossly misleading claim – running interference for violent IHH terrorist operatives – was thoroughly consistent with the Guardian’s ongoing ideologically motivated script regarding Israel’s immutable guilt.

Compare and contrast: Guardian coverage of demonstrations in Israel and Greece.

This week we witnessed a much reported demonstration in south Tel Aviv pertaining to the subject of the influx of illegal migrants into one of the poorest areas in Israel. As ever, the situation is significantly more nuanced than the Guardian’s editors would have us believe – as reflected in the commentary of veteran Israeli journalist Ben Dror Yamini on the subject. 

“It was all known. It was all expected. A violent incident was a matter of time. Sentences such as “South Tel Aviv neighbourhoods becoming a pressure cooker” have been written more and more in recent weeks. This week it happened. A justified and legitimate demonstration, which was directed against government neglect, was turned by a few tens of people into a hooligans’ parade. It is a miracle that the events did not end in bloodshed. That could happen.  

This is the hour of the hitch-hikers. From Left and from Right. The former spread tales that if we would only conquer racism, and turn the refugees into new immigrants, they would become honest and contributing citizens. For a small proportion of them – annoying and inciting; mostly anarchists – there is in the background the ideology which wants to crush the state of Israel as the Jewish state. The infiltrators are yet another means by which to achieve that aim. From the Right step up to the line the inciters who suffer from pure racism – including racism against colour – and direct the anger towards the infiltrators themselves. 

And in the background are to be found the residents of the neighbourhoods of south Tel Aviv, Ashdod and Eilat. They are the victims. Because the infiltrators who arrive here, from the moment of their arrival, raise their standard of living by ten degrees. Even when they are sleeping in public parks. And only the residents of the weak neighbourhoods are paying the price. They alone. Everyone is wise at their expense. The human-rights workers are causing more and more infiltrators to arrive in exactly the same neighbourhoods which are already exploding from the pressure. They don’t pay any price. They load them onto the weak. And the weak are exploding. Just exploding. Their children’s education is worse. The fear on the streets is greater. Quality of life plummets to new lows. And when they try to cry out, they are called racists. And then the activists from the Right arrive, with matches in places already saturated with petrol. Afterwards we all wonder about the explosion.” 

The incidents which took place on the night of May 23rd in south Tel Aviv were the subject of no fewer than three Guardian articles. 

The first, by Conal Urquhart, was headlined “African asylum seekers injured in Tel Aviv race riots”. Only in the ninth paragraph (out of ten) did Urquhart get round to hinting – albeit very superficially – that there may actually be more sides to the story than pure ‘race riots’. 

“Some work illegally and the majority live in the poorest areas of Tel Aviv where they find themselves in competition with working class Israelis mostly from a Middle Eastern or north African background. The sparse greens and parks of south Tel Aviv are dominated by the African migrants who sleep there at night.

The second article dedicated by the Guardian to the subject was Seth Freedman’s polemic (addressed by Adam Levick here). Freedman also employed the term ‘race riots’ and referred to “the level of hate coursing through the veins of Israelis furious at the influx of non-Jewish Africans into their country”. His article closed with the warning that “Israeli opponents of such base racism must act now”: again presenting a one-dimensional view of the story. 

The third article on the subject published on the same day as the previous two came from Harriet Sherwood. It too focused exclusively upon the reprehensible acts of violence which took place and it too failed to provide any information on the broader context of the events or to examine the reasons why the residents of south Tel Aviv (the majority of whom did not participate in the violence) felt compelled to voice their opinions on the streets in the first place. 

But Israel is not the only country struggling with the effects of uncontrollable immigration and Tel Aviv was not the only place in which a demonstration turned violent this week. 

In Patras, Greece, local residents and supporters of the far-Right ‘Golden Dawn’ party – which gained considerable support in the recent Greek elections stormed a factory in which migrants were sheltering on two consecutive days after a local man was allegedly  stabbed and killed by an Afghani immigrant, resulting in clashes between demonstrators and police. 

The Guardian dedicated one article to these incidents. 

In that story there were no ‘race riots’ – instead there were “anti-immigrant protests”. No ‘asaGreek’ was summoned to chastise his countrymen for the “hate coursing through their veins” and nobody was accused of “base racism”. There were no dire warnings about the collapse of Greek democracy and nowhere was it implied that the Greek demonstrators (even those among them who support an extreme-right party) were motivated by a racism which infects their society as a whole. 

The sharp contrast between the style and volume of the Guardian’s reporting on two similar incidents which took place almost at the same time is an excellent indicator of the fact that when it comes to Israel, reporting the actual news is frequently of minor concern. Too often, it is the opportunity which that news may provide to advance an agenda which is seized at the detriment of providing Guardian readers with a ‘fair and balanced’ view of events. 

Guardian’s Conal Urquhart lies about “unarmed” Mavi Marmara terrorists

The Guardian’s coverage of the incident which occurred on May 31st 2010 on board the Mavi Marmara – an organized effort by the Islamist organisation known as the IHH  to break Israel’s blockade against weapons smuggling into Gaza – was characteristically obsessive and one-sided.  

It included 71 separate pieces (reports and commentary placed on their special Gaza Flotilla page) published on the first four days following the incident and represented a quintessentially Guardian frantic rush to judgement: Israel was guilty of naked aggression against peaceful pro-Palestinian activists.  

Perhaps the most surreal Guardian piece in the days after the incident was the following report, which uncritically reported the sage advice of the sensitive Syrian despot known as Bashar al-Assad meditating upon his vision for peace in the region – harmony he believed was complicated by events on the Mavi Marmara. (Assad, of course, was correct. Over 13,000 Syrian civilians murdered by the regime in Damascus can attest to this fact.) 

Moreover, the long-awaited UN Palmer Report - published in July 2011 – reached conclusions almost completely at odds with the Guardian narrative.  Here are some of the main points of the report:

  • Contrary to a mind-numbing number of accusations in the media that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was “illegal” the Palmer report concluded that the Naval blockade is fully consistent with international law and that IDF Naval forces have the right to stop Gaza-bound ships in international waters.
  • Contrary to claims that the IDF attacked peaceful activists, the reports concluded that when Israeli commandos boarded the main ship they faced “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers” and were therefore required to use force in order to ensure their own protection.
  • The report concluded that the IHH sponsored flotilla, including the Mavi Marmara, “acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade.”

However, the Guardian’s Conal Urquhart – in the great tradition of Guardian pro-Palestinian activists – filed the following story unburdened by such quaint journalistic notions as adjusting a long-held narrative based on new information.

In fact, “Israel offers compensation to Mavi Marmara flotilla raid victims” of May 24th 2012, contains one passage completely contradicted by the Palmer Report.

According to Urquhart:

“Turkey cooled diplomatic relations with Israel after nine of its citizens were shot dead by Israeli commandos who landed on the Mavi Marmara to prevent its passage to Gaza. Protesters on the ship repelled the first wave of lightly armed commandos, but then the Israeli soldiers used lethal force against the unarmed passengers to end their resistance.”

This is blatantly untrue.

According to sections 123 and 124 of the Palmer Report:

“It is clear to the Panel that preparations were made by some of the passengers on the Mavi Marmara well in advance to violently resist any boarding attempt. The description given in the Israeli report is consistent with passenger testimonies to the Turkish investigation that describe cutting iron bars from the guard rails of the ship…”

“Furthermore, video footage shows passengers…carrying metal bars, slingshots, chains and staves. That information supports the accounts of violence given by IDF personnel to the Israeli investigation…”

“The Panel accepts, therefore, that soldiers landing from the first helicopter faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers when they descended onto the Mavi Marmara. Material before the Panel confirms that this group was armed with iron bars, staves, chains, and slingshots, and there is some indication that they also used knives. Firearms were taken from IDF personnel and passengers disabled at least one by removing the ammunition from it. Two soldiers received gunshot wounds. There is some reason to believe that they may have been shot by passengers,”

It simply doesn’t get more clear than this.

A Guardian reporter tells his readers that passengers on that fateful day of May 31st  were unarmed, peaceful activists – despite definitive evidence that they were armed Islamist terrorists.

I’d recommend Tweeting Mr. Urquhart (@conalu) and asking him about this simply indefensible claim.

Harriet Sherwood, and the Guardian’s strange fixation on the survival of one Jerusalem bookshop

Back in April I posted about a report by the Guardian’s Conal Urquhart (who was briefly filling in for the paper’s Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood)  titled “Israeli authors join campaign to keep Arab bookseller in the country, April 3, which warned that a bookshop at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem was in danger of closing.  

The story focused on the shop’s owner, Munther Fahmi, who was in danger of losing his Israeli residency.

Fahmi was born in 1954 in the “East” section of Jerusalem then under Jordanian control, and moved to the U.S. when he was 21 where he lived for nearly 20 years.  Upon his return to Israel in the 90s, and opening the bookshop, Fahmi had been living on temporary tourism visas, which, recently, was in danger of not being renewed. (Fahmi’s parents, like many Arabs in East Jerusalem, had declined Israel’s offer of citizenship following the Six Day War.)

Urquhart characterized the dispute, in his April report, over Fahmi’s residency status as politically motivated, and quoted an Israeli journalist claiming that the dispute was “symptomatic of the chauvinistic and intolerant behaviour” (towards Palestinians) displayed by Israel’s current government.

Well, evidently Israel’s chauvinism and intolerance was short-lived, as yesterday, Jan. 27, Harriet Sherwood reported, in “Palestinian bookshop owner celebrates Jerusalem residency ruling“, that Fahmi had been granted a two-year residency extension which his lawyers were confident would likely lead to permanent residency status.

Of course, the broader political narrative advanced by Urquhart and Sherwood is itself highly misleading, suggesting that Palestinians (non-citizens) who have residency status are exceptional in the threat they face in losing their status if out of the country for an extended time.  In the U.S., for instance, absences of one year or more can result in the loss of permanent resident status.

But, such immigration and residency issues aside, the significance imputed to Fahmi’s bookshop – which Sherwood described as a “celebrated Jerusalem bookshop patronised by politicians, diplomats, authors and activists” – is difficult to comprehend.

Indeed, back in April, Urquhart characterized the bookshop as arguably “the only decent English-language bookshop in the country.”

Further, Urquhart, in stressing how vital the bookshop was, uncritically included Fahmi’s specious claim that is was very “hard [in Israel] to get English-language books [and that] many Israeli authors who wrote in English could not sell their books in their own country.”

However, the suggestion that there is a paucity of English books in Israel (or that Israeli authors writing in English can’t sell their books here) should strike anyone who lives, or has spent any time, in the nation – where shops offering new and used English books are abundant – as especially peculiar. 

I came to this determination about the grossly inflated significance of Fahmi’s shop while visiting the store in April, but I decided to return (cell phone camera in hand) to demonstrate to those who haven’t been to the shop why I remain curious about all the press the story is receiving.

Here’s a photo I took yesterday of the bookshop, which is roughly the size of the bedroom in my Jerusalem apartment.

This photo captures the entire size of the store, with the exception of a bookshelf to the left of the woman pictured

Further, I observed in my original post that Urquhart’s characterization of the shop as “a haven of tolerance for scholars in a bitterly divided city” seemed at odds with the works they carried, which, for instance, included, as their sole book about the Holocaust, Norman Finkelstein’s notorious “The Holocaust Industry”.

But, I decided before leaving this time to pay closer attention to the fifteen or so books in the shop’s display window, to see what Fahmi was promoting to facilitate tolerance and harmony in this “bitterly divided city”, as bookshops typically use such retail window space to promote books which sell briskly, or possess a unique, or important, literary quality.

Here’s what I found. 

As an Israeli, I’m certainly relieved at the reprieve for this literary oasis in the otherwise barren Israeli intellectual landscape – a mecca of ‘peace and co-existence’ which will also certainly never be accused of surrendering to Jewish supremacism.

Guardian again airbrushes Raed Salah’s extremism, antisemitism, and terrorist affiliations

There seems to be no limit to the lengths Guardian reporters, editors, and commentators will go to hide undeniable evidence of Palestinian extremism.

During the space of about a week, in late June and early July, the Guardian devoted seven separate pieces (news items, commentaries and letters) defending the antisemitic radical preacher, Raed Salah, and demonizing his opponents, after Salah was detained by UK Authorities out of concern that his extremist views could promote violence and threaten public order.

Today, the Guardian’s Alan Travis, “Theresa May defends decision to exclude Palestinian activist from UK, Sept. 20th, again excludes any information which would indicate precisely why the UK acted as they did.

Writes Travis:

The home secretary, Theresa May, has defended her decision to exclude the Palestinian political activist Sheikh Raed Salah from Britain..[emphasis mine]

Of course, characterizing Salah as merely a “political activist” represents yet another example of the Guardian’s ongoing attempt to white wash Salah’s record. 

To sum up the cut and dry case against Salah:

He endorsed classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about 9/11, reportedly advanced the Medieval blood libel against Jews, acknowledged providing funds to Hamas, has often used his authority as leader of the Islamic Movment’s Northern division to incite thousands of his followers to riot (and begin a Third Intifada) under the pretense that the Al-Aksa was in danger of being destroyed by Israeli authorities. 

And, as an interview in 2003 made clear, Salah’s views on the rights of women and gays (and the virtues of Jihad) represents a classic example of his religiously inspired extremism. 

More broadly, The Islamic Movement, which he leads, has clear goals of indoctrinating Israeli Arabs with his Islamist ideology (an effort the Movement calls da’wa).

In short, Raed Salah is an Islamic extremist  – and an unrepentant antisemite, misogynist and homophobe – who associates with terrorist movements and encourages his followers to engage in violence.

In a June 29th apologia of Salah by the Guardian’s Conal Urquhart, titled “Britain accused of collaborating with Israel on Salah arrest” – a title which would suggest that Israel is some sort of rogue terrorist state for which any bi-lateral cooperation is “collaboration” – dismissed the case against Salah, thusly:

Salah is despised by Israel’s right wing and his arrest was used as an opportunity by one member of the Knesset to launch his own “Raed Salah bill”. Alex Miller of the Israel Our Home party said the bill would prevent people such as Salah, convicted of aiding a terrorist organisation, from using government-funded institutions. [emphasis mine]

Yes, it’s simply chilling that the Israeli “right wing” would deny government funding to those who incite hatred and violence and aid terrorist
organizations committed to Israel’s destruction.

To the Guardian, even efforts by Israel to defend itself from violent, religious fanatics with proven ties to terrorism is a sign of its intolerance and illiberalism.

Conal Urquhart quotes Ben White as a source in Guardian’s second whitewash of anti-Semitic preacher

Earlier, we cross posted Elder’s piece on the Guardian white wash of the anti-Semitic Islamist preacher,  Raed Salah (the leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel who spent two years in jail after confessing to funding Hamas) which noted that 6 of the 13 paragraphs of the piece (on Salah’s recent arrest in the UK) was devoted towards defending the radical preacher, and not one fact, from easily available evidence with anyone who has access to Google, of the grotesquely anti-Semitic sermons he’s given – including a 2007 speech where he reportedly accused Jews of using children’s blood to bake bread.

Not content with that blatantly misleading article, by Alan Travis, the Guardian provided Conal Urquhart an opportunity to pen an even more ideologically driven apologia for Salah, who quoted one of the most obsessively anti-Israel activists in UK, Ben White, as a source for story – describing the author of the book “Israel Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide” merely as “a writer and activist.” Urquhart quotes White as saying:

“The same government that sent police to arrest a Palestinian civil society leader from his hotel bedroom is changing UK legislation explicitly to facilitate the entry of accused Israeli war criminals,”

Salah, the “Palestinian civil society leader” who White contrasts favorable with Israel’s democratic leaders, said the following in 2007 which led to his arrest for incitement:

“We have never allowed ourselves to knead [the dough for] the bread that breaks the fast in the holy month of Ramadan with children’s blood…Whoever wants a more thorough explanation, let him ask what used to happen to some children in Europe, whose blood was mixed in with the dough of the [Jewish] holy bread.”

Salah also referred to Osama Bin Laden as a martyr and, according to The JC, Salah called Jews “butchers of pregnant women and babies”, and said “the Creator meant for [Jews] to be monkeys and losers.”

Of course, White, who has expressed sympathy for those who are anti-Semitic, would naturally view Salah with sympathy, and it’s only natural that Urquhart would quote him as a reliable source.

Urquhart’s journalistic malfeasance, however, hits a crescendo when, from the second to the last paragraph, he characterizes the hate preacher merely as someone “is despised by Israel’s right-wing.”

Evidently, you have to be on the “right-wing” to morally object to a vile bigot who advances the most crude and odious anti-Semitic narratives.  It’s as if, for activists at the Guardian like Urquhart, mouthing support for the rights of Palestinians automatically inoculates you from charges of racism.

Pro-Palestinian activism by Guardian reporters is so uncontroversial that they largely don’t even attempt to hide their political sympathies.

While of course not all anti-Israel bias is informed by hatred of Jews, it is beyond doubt that the institutional bias against Israel at the Guardian is often informed by a willingness to turn a blind eye to clear and unmistakable evidence of even the most explicit anti-Semitism.

Guardian and Independent coverage of second flotilla omits key facts

This was published by Just Journalism

Israel accused of trying to intimidate Gaza flotilla journalists’, by Conal Urquhart, published in yesterday’s Guardian, framed the convoy’s primary motivation as humanitarian, endorsing the contention of protesters that breaking Israel’s naval blockade is the sole way of delivering aid to the territory. The article asserted:

‘The ships are sailing to protest against Israeli restrictions on Gaza and to commemorate last year’s flotilla, which was intercepted by the Israeli navy, who killed nine of the Turkish participants.

‘Israel has restricted the supply of goods and the movement of individuals in Gaza since Hamas took control in 2007.’

However, no mention was made of the fact that Israel has repeatedly offered to transport the aid to Gaza as long as flotilla ships do not attempt to directly reach the coastal territory themselves, as reported by Just Journalism at the start of the month. Yesterday, The Jerusalem Post reported the latest development, whereby Israel and Egypt have agreed to coordinate any such effort:

‘Israel and Egypt have come to an understanding by which ships taking part in an upcoming flotilla to the Gaza Strip will be allowed to unload their cargo of humanitarian goods at the Egyptian port of El-Arish, from where it will be transferred on land to Gaza after being checked, Israel Radio reported on Monday.’

Even the left-leaning Israeli outlet Haaretz, in an editorial published yesterday arguing that the ships should be allowed to reach Gaza, acknowledged that it was hard to argue that there was any ‘practical reason’ for the flotilla:

‘At first glance, there does not appear to be a practical reason to send the aid, since in the wake of the 2010 flotilla, Israel was compelled to lift many restrictions it had put in place as part of its brutal blockade, and Egypt has decided to open the Rafah crossing to civilians. Moreover, Israel has even offered to transfer the aid shipment to Gaza, as long as the ships don’t dock there.’

Read the rest of the essay, here.

Guardian selective empathy watch (and the Arab “Fall”)

A guest post by AKUS

Adam Levick has already taken the Guardian to task over its ridiculous and malicious report in his article:  Guardian levels false allegations at Israel over the use of white phosphorus. The Guardian’s article was a clear attempt to insinuate that Israel deliberately left a canister of what is presumed to be phosphorus (without any proof, mind you) in area where little Arab shepherds peacefully wander in order to burn holes in them. As usual, the Palestinians immediately claimed yet another “violation of human rights”, a useful portmanteau claim that covers just about anything they object to – except, for example, suicide bombing or firing rockets into Israeli towns.

This time, the smear was written by Conal Urquhart, yet another of the multitude of inky-fingered hacks the Guardian keeps on staff who, one and all, consider themselves to be experts on matters Israeli and Palestinian. It is amazing how Urquhart just happened to be in the utterly unknown village of Buweib where this latest example of Israeli crimes against humanity took place. Apparently the utterly vacuous Guardian “woman on the spot”  Harriet Sherwood was too busy to get around to it while  trying to find Lifta on a map, but no doubt a Palestinian “fixer” made sure that the Guardian would get the scoop. All that is missing is an editorial demanding that Israel be brought before the ICC. Nowhere does the article point out that little boys shouldn’t play with strange things they find in the field.

What else was going on while little Eid Da’ajani, 15, was trying to see what was in the mysterious canister? His friend, Mohammed Yusuf, apparently knew better and did not touch it – but that is not a story of Israeli malfeasance. Was there anything that perhaps Mr. Urquhart should have focused on instead? Was there anything more important than a 15-year-old playing with unexploded munitions?

Well, how about Assad’s troop s in Hama shooting 130 dead  in the street, and wounding another 300 – or, most recently, Syrian military snipers firing volleys of bullets at a funeral procession for six protesters who were killed on Friday when a large protest demanding democracy came under fire? 

Or is it too dangerous for the intrepid Mr. Urquhart to report on matters more than  30 minutes from the bar at the American Colony hotel in Jerusalem, protected by Israeli security while his spins his malicious articles? The Guardian did run a report about Hama, in fact, but it was an AP report filed in Beirut, and only claimed 34 killed. (I keep wondering when Assad will copy his father and gas a few tens of thousands of his own citizens. Will the Guardian find space for this rather than another sob-story condemning Israel?)

Compare this relative silence about the ongoing massacre that must now have reached several thousands of Syrians with the outrageous reporting the Guardian did on the “Jenin massacre” that never happened, where any hack who knew how to find the keys on a typewriter was commissioned to vastly exaggerate the number of dead. Compare the paucity of coverage from Syria with the over the top reporting from the Mavi Maramara affair or the ongoing efforts by Assad to to incite Syrians to storm Israel’s borders. This silence amounts to a whitewash when compared with the incessant reporting about any and every event concerning Israel.

The Guardian is justifiably concerned with the events in Yemen – by the time this is published, Yemen’s President Saleh may be dead – but barely has a word to say about Afghanistan, where the British military is bombing and strafing with gay abandon, no doubt using a little phosphorus made by BAE Systems for the British army. In addition to the thousands already killed in Libya where British troops are busy playing with their toys and killing Libyans by the dozen, 250 refugees drowned trying to flee Libya – but the Guardian can barely find place for more than two articles about this.

An even better example of the Guardian’s attempt to white-wash Arab atrocities is the highly selective reporting from Egypt. Yes, there were some women forced to undergo some kind of vile virginity test. Shocking indeed, though even Mona Eltahawy has to admit that it is pretty much par for the course among the indignities Arab women face. Yes, Egyptians are upset about a Vodaphone add that apparently claims some role in the “Arab Spring” (good thing it has no cartoons of Mohammed). But the big story, which it is resolutely missing, is that the threats of execution of the Mubaraks and others, gleefully applauded by a string of Guardian hacks like Eltahawy, are one of the principal drivers of ferocious repression by other leaders. After all, if the rule is “them or me”, when “me” is Assad, or Saleh, or King Abdullah and others, it is pretty obvious what the choice will be.

But the biggest cover-up that the Guardian is engaged in, given its earlier cheer-leading for the “Arab Spring”, is that the arrests and future trials – and, quite possibly, executions – of Egyptian leaders, be they as corrupt as they may, has engendered a flight from Egypt of the very people who held that fragile economy together and a huge decline in the economy as foreign investor pull out. See the excellent report by David Shenker in the LA Times: Egypt and the Arab fall.

As Shenker points out, the “Arab Spring” has become the “Arab Fall” without even a summer in between. All we need now is for another Guardian favorite, Ghannoushi, with cheer-leading provided on the Guardian’s website by Islamic fundamentalist daughter and frequent Guardian contributor Soumaya to win the election in Tunisia next month and turn the clock back to the “triumph” of the Iranian Mullahs. But the Guardian either keeps quiet, or lets Soumaya spin the usual untruths about her father’s intentions.

So what’s next for the Guardian to keep us busy pondering the evil that is Israel? Perhaps another story about the ill-treatment of chickens? Something about a shortage of Israeli biscuits in Ramallah as an attempt to starve the PA? Another story about an Israeli politician who has no influence talking about something he should not be? How lucky people like Sherwood, Urquhart etc. are to sit in comfort at the American Colony, and share the news from the stream of Arab fixers that pour through, rather than toughing it out in the mountains of Afghanistan or the bombed out shell of Tripoli where the Guardian’s countrymen are inflicting death and destruction a hundred time worse than Cast Lead.

Israel – home of the freest press, by far, in the Middle East, and subsequently has claim to the highest concentration of foreign journalists in the world – is, for reporters like Urquhart and Sherwood, the gift that keeps on giving. 

Guardian levels false allegations at Israel over the use of white phosphorus

A story by Conal Urquhart in today’s Guardian, Israel accused after boys burned by mystery canister, repeated a popular, and erroneous, claim by the anti-Israel media about the use of white phosphorus.  

The story, about Palestinians who were allegedly burned by an IDF munition, contains a subheading characterizing the substance as being “outlawed”.  

As was widely reported during and after Israel’s war in Gaza, the International Red Cross noted that “using the agent is not banned by international laws when it’s used as a smoke screen.”  The IRC also noted that white phosphorus is only prohibited when used as an incendiary device to attack civilians, and that there was “no evidence that Israel is using it illegally.”

Indeed, there have been many reports about white phosphorus over the years both in the context of Israel’s use of the substance during Cast Lead and concerning the U.S. Military’s use of it during the Iraq war – all of which noting that when used as “a smoke screen to conceal movement and to illuminate large areas” it is legal.

However, further down in the article, Urquhart states the following:

The use of white phosphorous in civilian areas is banned by the Geneva conventions yet it is often used by armies for marking and creating smoke screens. Israel used white phosphorous in civilian areas during the Gaza war in 2008-2009 but stopped after international criticism.

Actually the convention Urquhart is referring to is Protocol III of the Convention on Chemical Weapons, which merely urges that “feasible precautions [be] taken with a view to limiting the incendiary effects to the military objective and to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.”

Finally, his claim that Israel stopped using white phosphorus “after international criticism” is patently false – and it is telling that he didn’t provide a source or a link to buttress this claim.

Moreover, the story itself is classic Guardian – imputing the worst possible motives to the IDF, casting doubt on Israeli army claims that the device may have been left behind after a training mission, and even creating suspicion that there may have been malicious intent – and represents another example of their immediate rush to judgment, and assigning of guilt, regarding any story where Israel stands accused.

Such ideologically driven journalism is one of the defining features of the Guardian Left – and something they may wish to consider, on their 190th anniversary, as they continue to make a mockery of the high-minded ideals of C.P. Scott (the paper’s former editor and owner) by quoting him on their CiF masthead opining: “Comments are free but facts are sacred.”

(Final note: I sent an email to the Guardian’s Readers’ Editor asking for a correction based on the facts outlined in this post, and will update you when I receive a reply.)

Guardian buries the lead, and blames victim, in story on the murder of Juliano Mer-Khamis

Conal Urquhart’s story in today’s Guardian on the murder of Israeli actor Juliano Mer-Khamis by five masked terrorists in Jenin on April 4th legitimized the intolerance which inspired his killing, and even seemed to suggest that Mer-Khamis was to blame for his own death.

The story (Juliano Mer-Khamis – a killing inspired by drama, not politics: Jenin residents claim public opinion turned on director for performing plays that went against Islamic conservative values) is largely based on a “fatwa-style leaflet circulated in Jenin this week and seen by the Guardian” but Urquhart’s intent to cast blame on Mer-Khamis is revealed in the opening few passages:

“He wanted to create an “art revolution” to help liberate the Palestinian people, but he only managed to alienate those he most wanted to inspire”

“It has emerged that the residents of the camp had serious grievances against the actor-director that may have provided the excuses for an unknown gunman to kill him.”

“…many camp residents found his activities offensive.”

So, here we see the tone and tenor of Urquhart’s analysis – that the actor, director and peace activist (born of a Jewish mother and Palestinian Christian father) was a divisive figure who offended the sensibilities of those he devoted much of his life trying to help.

Urquhart then contextualizes the story further:

“His death and attitudes to the theatre highlight the conflict of interest between western donors, local elites and the populations they aim to aid; between liberal western values of freedom of expression and a more conservative, traditional world view.”

The words employed by Urquhart are important to note, as they suggest a moral equivalence between “Western values” which promote freedom of expression, and those who don’t – with Urquhart characterizing the latter culture, an Islamism which opposes freedom of expression, not as reactionary, unenlightened, or intolerant but, instead, employing terms which denote respect, such as “traditional”.   

Urquhart then reinforces his narrative of a Westerner who displayed a callous disregard for the traditional mores of the community he worked in, by noting:

“…the final impetus for the murder was his plan to stage a controversial German play that explores teenage sexuality.”

And here, again, Mer-Khamis is characterized as flaunting traditional values.

“But while Mer-Khamis entertained thousands and inspired devotion among his disciples, his methods disturbed conservative groups in the refugee camp.”

Urquhart then quotes a member of the “Popular Committee” – often a euphemistic name for groups who engage in armed “resistance”:

“Adnan al-Hindi, the chairman of the refugee camp’s “popular committee” said that Mer-Khamis had very different values and ideas from the residents…”

Of course, Urquhart doesn’t deem it worthy to note that some of the “different values” al-Hindi was referring to was Mer-Khamis’s passionate advocacy for non-violence and Israeli-Palestinian co-existence.

Then, quoting al-Hindi further:

“[Mer-Khamis] said that his message was to liberate citizens from the authority of their leaders and children from their parents. Then there was mixing of sexes and dancing. We tried to discuss it with him and persuade him that he was mistaken but to no avail. Public opinion turned against him.”

Mer-Khamis is now no longer merely a moral renegade – someone who had the gall to support mixing of sexes and even dances, and the temerity to suggest that Palestinian leaders were not serving them well – but is a rabble-rouser who even tried to disrupt Palestinian family unity.

Urquhart’s final proof of Mer-Khamis’s sin, comes from a local butcher, who’s quoted as saying:

“We are Muslims. We have traditions. We looked for our children and found them at the theatre dancing. If he came here to bring jobs that would be good but instead he comes here to corrupt our girls and make women of our boys,”

The picture is now clear. Mer-Khamis: an imperious and arrogant cultural imperialist who was disrespectful of Palestinian traditional culture, and corrupter of the morals of youth.  Yes, clearly he had it coming.

Yet, in a quintessential example of a journalist burying the lead, Urquhart acknowledges that the “fatwa-style” letter also complained of other traits the Israeli possessed. 

“The leaflet attacks Mer-Khamis for his belief in co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians, ‘as if we could live with those who stole our land and killed our children’.”

And, finally:

“The leaflet describes Mer-Khamis as a Jew, a communist and an infidel.”

So, the real reason Mer-Khamis was killed is belatedly – and furtively – revealed.

As should be blatantly obvious to all but the most hardened anti-Zionist ideologues, the murder of Mer-Khamis was an act of vicious hatred by members of a reactionary, violent movement – Palestinian terrorists who gunned down Juliano Mer-Khamis in cold blood because he was a  proponent of co-existence, a progressive, and not only an infidel but the worst infidel of all: a Jew.

It’s a simple and intuitive story about vile antisemitism in the Middle East – a stubborn, disturbing reality ignored continually in the pages of the Guardian. 

The Guardian’s Conal Urquhart, Conflict, and an Interesting Conflict of Interests.

Conal Urquhart

With Harriet Sherwood apparently having abandoned Jerusalem in favour of Libya, (was it something we said?) CiF reports from this part of the world are mostly being written by Conal Urquhart. On April 14th, CiF published Urquhart’s version of ‘everything a Guardian reader needs to know about the Goldstone Report’.

In his opening sentence Urquhart quotes unverified casualty figures in Gaza, opting for the number promoted by Palestinian NGOs which contributed to the Goldstone report. However, in November 2010, Hamas admitted that some 700 of the dead were actually terrorist combatants, and the total number of casualties is set at 1,166 following IDF investigations, of which some 60% were combatants.

Whilst making a passing mention of Mary Robinson’s refusal to head the UNHRC commissioned investigation, Urquhart fails to expand on the subject of the biased mandate of the investigation or the fact that the UNHRC’s anti-Israel stance is both well-known and has been much criticized, even by UN officials themselves.

Urquhart also fails to mention the conflicts of interest affecting Goldstone himself as well as the other members of the mission and its staff. As NGO Monitor reports:

  • Several members of the Goldstone Mission have had significant links to NGOs, including HRW, Amnesty International, and PCHR.  These same NGOs were among the most cited in the Goldstone report.  These connections, which were not disclosed by the Mission, call into question the ability of panel members and staff to objectively evaluate information submitted by these organizations. These conflicts are in clear violation of the International Bar Association’s London-Lund Guidelines for Fact Finding Missions.[1]
  • Three members of the Mission – Goldstone, Hina Jilani, and Desmond Travers – signed a March 2009 letter initiated by Amnesty International  and widely publicized, stating that “events in Gaza have shocked us to the core.”
  •  The fourth member, Christine Chinkin, who declared Israel’s actions to be a “war crime” and delegitimized Israel’s right to self-defense while the fighting in Gaza was still underway, was also previously a consultant to Amnesty International.
  • Goldstone mission staff researcher, Sareta Ashraph, is a UK lawyer and a member of Amnesty International who has a history of anti-Israel political activity.  For instance, in 2003, she was an organizer for a Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights “lawfare” lecture given by Raji Sourani, head of PCHR, and chaired by Daniel Machover, the attorney responsible for filing PCHR’s 2005 case against Doron Almog and a leading proponent of lawfare.  Ashraph also worked in the West Bank on “investigations of allegations of violations of international humanitarian law following ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ in 2002.”
  •  Francesca Marotta, Head of the Secretariat UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, is a long-time employee of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights as Coordinator of the Methodology, Education and Training Unit, Research and Right to Development Branch and the “UNHCHR officer responsible for the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”  In1997 and 1999, she held meetings with PCHR.

As previously reported by NGO Monitor, Goldstone was an HRW board member at the time of his appointment.  Although he stepped down after NGO Monitor pointed to this conflict of interest, his mission has been vigorously promoted by both HRW and Ken Roth.  Goldstone’s September 17, 2009 oped in the New York Times closely echoed language from a September 16, 2009 HRW press release. (In this time frame, HRW was forced to suspend and open an investigation of “senior military expert” Marc Garlasco, who co-authored a number of reports targeting Israel.)

Urquhart goes on to imply that Israeli objections to the obviously biased mandate of the mission were the fruit of no more than base subjective emotions:

“If the appointment of a Jewish Zionist judge with impeccable international credentials was meant to appease Israel, it failed. The Israeli government and its supporters in the Israeli media went for Goldstone with a vengeance.” (my emphasis)

The next claim presented by Urquhart is that Israel refused to co-operate with the mission, ignoring the fact that to expect Israel to afford credence to such a one-sided project is tantamount to demanding that a soon to be executed prisoner load the firing squad’s rifles himself. He completely ignores the fact that several Israeli bodies did present – or at least try to – evidence to the Goldstone mission. 108 Israeli citizens from the regions targeted by Hamas rockets did give evidence to the commission. One of them later reported that:

“When I stood up and started to testify before the judges, Justice Goldstone fell asleep in front of me. It was an embarrassing moment but I continued talking, realizing that I should not have high hopes”

Urquhart’s claims that “[a]t the same time the Israeli army embarked on an unprecedented investigation into its own “war crimes” (my emphasis) also fail to take into account that the IDF’s legal division, which is completely independent from the chain of command, investigates any and every accusation of wrongdoing by Israeli soldiers, even if no official complaint has been made or if the accusation merely appears in a media report or comes from  a hostile NGO.  Urquhart’s claim that it was only the existence of the Goldstone mission which “galvanised Israel to start investigations” is also untrue: by July 2009 an initial report had already been released although investigations were still ongoing.

Given that so much has been written about the circumstances surrounding the Goldstone ‘fact-finding’ mission and the resulting report itself, not to mention Goldstone’s recent backtracking, readers may be rather perplexed by Conal Urquhart’s pious adherence to the official UNHRC mantra. His orthodoxy becomes a little more transparent when one appreciates that Urquhart was, at least until two months ago (and may still be) a UN employee, in addition to his writing for the Guardian.

Urquhart has been in this region since about 2002, spending considerable time in Gaza in the framework of his role as External Relations Advisor for the UN Development Programme. His wife, Kirstie Campbell, is also a UN employee; spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme.

The underlying problem with the UN Human Rights Council is that is dominated by the 57 member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. This is what enables it to place human rights abusing countries such as Libya and Iran on its council and sub-committees and this is what was behind the conception of the Goldstone report with its biased mandate and the continued and relentless obsession with Israel, often at the exclusion of urgent human rights issues in some of its own member states.

But the UNHRC is far from the only UN body influenced by the OIC agenda. The UN Development Programme functions under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council, where, of the current 54 member states, 11 are members of the OIC. Currently active members of the UN Development Programme’s board include Iran, Pakistan, Qatar, Yemen, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Djibouti, Cameroon and Bangladesh – all of which are members of the OIC, with the latter two also holding vice-presidency of the body.

Thus, considering that the UNDP tells us that it “operates according to the principles and values of the United Nations”, we might reasonably ask ourselves whether someone such as Conal Urquhart who has imbibed that organizational culture for considerable time is capable of offering an impartial and objective view of a report commissioned by the UNHRC and compiled with the aid of the equally partisan UN OCHA.

This CiF article by Urquhart would not only suggest that his objectivity is severely compromised, but it also prompts wider questions as to Urquhart’s suitability in general as a reporter on Israeli affairs due to the obvious conflict of interests brought about by a journalist also having financial and employment ties to the United Nations.

Guardian photos downplay Hamas terror, and highlight Israeli response

In fisking Conal Urquhart’s report for the Guardian on the Jerusalem terrorist attack on March 23, I noted a few of the more important rules such journalists employ to downplay Palestinian violence (4 simple Guardian rules for journalists reporting a terrorist attack in Jerusalem).  One of these rules included:

Use passive language which may obscure the fact that an intentional act of violence was perpetrated by specific Palestinian terrorists against innocent Israeli civilians:

For instance, the opening passage of Urquhart’s March 23 dispatch from Jerusalem included this:

A bus has exploded opposite the central station in Jerusalem, killing one woman and injuring at least 25 people, four of them seriously.”

As I noted at the time, the bus just didn’t magically explode. Rather, a terrorist planted a bomb laced with shrapnel in a crowded civilian area, in the hopes of killing and maiming as many Israeli men, women, and children as possible.

However, in making the case I failed to add one additional important caveat to this principle, which is also relevant to photo captions:  Such rhetorical tricks – meant to blur causation – are typically not employed when characterizing Israeli acts.

So, in the Guardian’s (Reuters) report on April 10 regarding the barrage of rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists into Israel over the last several days, “Israel and Hamas call for calm after Gaza violence”, used this photo and caption:


In addition to the fact that the image merely shows the trail of the rocket, from a distance, and not the damage it caused, also note the language:

“A rocket is launched from Gaza”

There’s no indication of a human actor, yet alone mention of those responsible: “Hamas” or “Palestinian terrorists”, nor that such rockets are intentionally aimed at Israeli civilian communities.

However, in Conal Urquhart’s subsequent dispatch in the Guardian, titled “Israel and Hamas step back from major Gaza confrontation”, April 10, there was this:

In addition to the up close view of damage in Gaza, which just happens to come across a small Palestinian child, also note the contrast in captions with the previous photo:

The caption of the previous photo noted that a rocket was launched, whereas in this one we are informed that the damaged was caused by an Israeli air strike.  And, while it does note that the Israeli strike was in retaliation against an anti-tank missile attack on an Israeli school bus, there is no mention of who launched the attack, despite the fact that Hamas had already claimed responsibility for the attack.

The contrasting photos and captions serve as another illustration of the faceless, amorphous Israeli conjured consistently by Guardian reporting, which continues to stand in stark contrast with their colorful and often evocative portrayals of Palestinian suffering – a journalistic double standard driven by ideology and, therefore, immune to the cognitive correcting mechanisms of facts or new information.

The Guardian, a Jerusalem bookshop, and Norman Finkelstein

It appears as if our good friend, Conal Urquhart, who’s been doing a splendid job filling the ideological void in Jerusalem left by Harriet Sherwood’s two-week absence (see his reporting on a terrorist attackmilitant attack, sudden explosion in Jerusalem , here.) is upset about the possibility that Israel may not renew the visa of Munther Fahmi – owner of the Bookshop at the American Colony Hotel  – due to the fact that he spent decades abroad and let his residency lapse.  (Israeli authors join campaign to keep Arab bookseller in the country, Guardian, April 3.)

Fahmi, who was born in the Jordanian occupied section of Jerusalem in 1954, and decided to go to the U.S. when he was 21, eight years after Israel’s reunification of the city following her victory in the Six Day War, has been living in Jerusalem for years on temporary tourist visas after returning to Israel in the 90s.

Urquhart characterizes the bookstore as “a haven of tolerance for scholars in a bitterly divided city” and, further, as nothing short of “the only decent English-language bookshop in the country”.

While this latter claim is simply absurd to anyone, like myself, who has taken advantage of the many Jerusalem booksellers who offer a wide variety of used and new English volumes, let’s leave this aside and get to the heart of matter for Urquhart: Who is to blame for the possibility that this Jerusalem “institution” may close?

Yup, you guessed it:

“Avi Shlaim, professor of international relations at Oxford University, described the treatment of Jerusalem’s most famous bookseller as symptomatic of the “chauvinistic and intolerant” behaviour of Israel’s current government under Binyamin Netanyahu: “Things have come to a pretty pass when a Palestinian, born in Palestine, who has a business, who has done no harm to anyone, is hounded out of his bookshop because he does not toe the party line.”

While neither Urquhart nor Shlaim offer any evidence that politics or ideology is influencing Israeli authorities’ deliberations on whether to renew Fahmi’s visa, such a narrative fits in nicely with the meme being offered more and more frequently by the far left – one which suggests that Israel is moving in a far-right political direction – so this political edifice must, at all costs, be served.

But, outside of the predictable storyline, it was this quote in the piece, from writer Simon Sebag Montefiore, which really piqued my interest.

“Some bookshops have an agenda; Munther’s does not. He simply celebrates books about the Middle East, Israeli writers, Palestinian writers.”

So, I decided to check it out for myself, and trekked down to Fahmi’s shop near the entrance to the American Colony Hotel.

Immediately upon entering I noticed that those suggesting that the bookshop didn’t have a clear political agenda either haven’t been there or have a fanciful notion of what precisely constitutes a political agenda.

While there were books from some of Israel’s well-known left-wing writers (Amos Oz, David Grossman, etc.), the vast majority of offerings (in this tiny closet sized store) reminded me of what I used to find for sale at anti-Zionist conferences I used to monitor.

Indeed, in addition to what seemed to be every book ever written by Edward Said, several works by Illan Pappe, and an impressive number of books on various themes regarding the Nakba, Fahmi thoughtfully carries some of the more obscure radically anti-Zionist screeds.

Prominent in the Middle East section was The Question of Zion, by Jaqueline Rose. (Rose, a radical post-Zionist, has characterized Zionism “a form of collective insanity”)

There was also several copies of Overcoming Zionism, by Joel Kovel. (Kovel is a professor and writer who believes that “to be a true Jew,” Jews must “annihilate their particularism,”“annihilate or transcend Zionism,” and “annihilate the Jewish state.”)

Prominently displayed at the counter (something the U.S. book chain, Barnes & Noble, may have marketed in their end-cap as “New and Recommended”) was the widely discredited book by Shlomo Sand, “The Invention of the Jewish People”, which was characterized as representing part of a growing body of work by anti-Zionists designed not only to discredit the idea of Jewish nationalism but, even more insidiously, also to discredit the idea of Jews themselves.  No ideological agenda, here.

So, not wishing to file an incomplete report, I searched in vain for something even marginally pro-Israel, or something which could reasonably support the characterization of the store as non-political or as a bastion of tolerance, so finally decided to ask the woman working behind the counter if she had anything on the Holocaust.

She squinted as if in concentrated thought, and then, after perusing a shelf I hadn’t noticed, pointed to a soft cover which represented the sole work on the topic of the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis:

The Holocaust Industry, by Norman Finkelstein.

I just don’t know how Jerusalem could possibly survive in the absence of such an oasis of peace.