Guardian pretends they’re not sure whether Israel or Hamas violated ceasefire

On Monday, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agreed to extend a temporary ceasefire in Gaza by 24 hours so they could continue to conduct more talks on a long-term truce. The five-day ceasefire was set to expire at midnight Israeli time.

On Tuesday, at roughly 15:45 Israeli time (less than 16 hours into the 24 hour extension), terrorists in Gaza violated the ceasefire when they fired three rockets at Israel, causing large explosions near Beersheva. (This represents the eleventh cease-fire that Hamas either violated or rejected since the war began.)

Forty-five minutes later, at 16:30, there were reports of further Gaza rocket attacks on Ashdod and Ashkelon.

At 16:34, the IDF began retaliating in response to the Palestinian rocket barrage.

The timeline is not in dispute, as US officials made clear last night.

However, here’s the Guardian misinformation that we were all anticipating:

Print edition headline and strap line:

printHere’s the online edition:

onlineHere are the relevant opening passages:

Israeli negotiators withdrew from peace talks in Cairo aimed at forging a durable ceasefire in the six-week war in Gaza on Tuesday night as rocket fire and air strikes resumed hours before the latest truce was due to expire.

Israel accused Hamas of violating the latest of a series of temporary ceasefires after rockets were launched from Gaza, triggering a swift military and political response

Israeli officials said 10 rockets were fired from Gaza, the first of which were launched about eight hours before the truce was due to end at midnight

Then, we learn what the head of the Palestinian negotiating team claimed:

Palestinian negotiators blamed the collapse of the Gaza ceasefire on Israel’s failure to take Cairo-based negotiations seriously. Azzam al-Ahmad, the head of the Palestinian delegation, claimed that Israel had always intended to break the truce, and had used the firing of three rockets from Gaza on Tuesday afternoon as an excuse for an already-made decision to sabotage the talks.

So, according to Al-Ahmad, Hamas may have technically violated the ceasefire, but the rocket attacks from Gaza were cynically exploited by Israel, who had already made the decision to “sabotage the talks”.

Then, we learn what Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri claimed about the ceasefire.

The Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, denied knowledge of the rocket fire which Israel said had breached the truce.We don’t have any information about firing rockets from Gaza. The Israeli raids are intended to sabotage the negotiations in Cairo,” he told reporters. 

Whilst the Palestinian lead negotiator tacitly admitted that his side violated the ceasefire, all the official Hamas spokesman could muster was a denial of ‘knowledge’ concerning Palestinian rocket fire.

So, despite the timeline of events clearly indicating that Hamas violated the ceasefire, and one implicit acknowledgement by a Hamas negotiator that they indeed broke the ceasefire, the Guardian still isn’t willing to blame the Islamist terror group.

Guardian obfuscation at its finest. 

UK media headline fail: Do Times editors read their own articles?

A Times (of London) article about an Israeli attack on Islamic Jihad terrorists at a house in the Shati ‘refugee camp’ yesterday – which also tragically killed a Palestinian girl – was accompanied by the following headline.

headline

So, according to the headline, the Israelis admitted that the strike on jihadists represented a violation of the truce that had gone into effect at 10 AM that day.  However, there’s one problem: there’s nothing in the report by Gregg Carlstrom which even comes close to backing up this claim.

Here’s the full article (behind pay wall):

A Palestinian driving a digger attacked a bus in Jerusalem in an apparent backlash to the war in Gaza and an Israeli airstrike killed a young girl during yesterday’s seven-hour ceasefire that failed to silence the guns.

Aseel al-Bakri, eight, was killed when a missile struck her house in al-Shati ­refugee camp, according to the Gazan health ministry. Israel confirmed that it had carried out the attack.

Israel had promised to hold fire in most of the strip from 10am until 5pm, except around Rafah, where there has been heavy fighting for several days. Sami Abu Zuhri, the spokesman of the militant group Hamas, which runs ­Gaza, warned Palestinians “not [to] trust such a ceasefire”.

The brief truce, which was announced overnight, was partly in response to strong condemnation of Israel’s bombardment of a United Nations school on Sunday, military sources said. The school was being used as a shelter. At least nine people were killed, according to the UN .

Two people died in attacks in Jerusalem yesterday, apparently in revenge for the carnage in Gaza. In the first attack, shortly after noon, a man driving an excavator ran over a pedestrian and then flipped over a passenger bus. Police shot the driver dead.

The pedestrian died of his wounds, and at least five other people were injured. “Officers opened fire when it was clear that this was a terrorist attack,” said Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, though he declined to ­provide evidence for that claim. Police officials have been worried about ­possible attacks inside Israel.

Witnesses said the driver was a Palestinian who lived in East Jerusalem and worked on a nearby construction site. Hundreds of Israelis gathered near the crumpled bus after the attack, many of them chanting: “Death to Arabs.”

Similar attacks have happened in the past. In 2008, for example, a Palestinian man killed three people with a bulldozer.

Hours after yesterday’s attack, a gunman on a motorcycle started shooting on Mount Scopus, close to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. One person, an Israeli soldier, was critically injured.

Despite such violent incidents, the ceasefire and the withdrawal of most Israeli troops from Gaza provided a bit of breathing room for negotiations in Cairo. Last night Egypt announced that both Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to a three-day ceasefire beginning at 6am today.

Palestinian officials already in the Egyptian capital said that they had agreed on a unified set of demands, including the withdrawal of all Israeli troops from Gaza and the lifting of the territory’s blockade.

Israel has not sent anyone to the talks but indicated last night that a delegation would be heading for Egypt in the next three days to work on a longer-term truce. The army-backed government in Cairo is hostile to Hamas and is unlikely to accept any terms that would be unpalatable to the Israelis.

“Egypt knows what Israel wants,” said Yitzhak Levanon, who was the Israeli ambassador in Cairo from 2009 to 2011. “We trust Egypt, because Egypt understands the difficulty Israel is ­facing with Hamas.”

Although there were fewer Israeli aistrikes and Hamas rocket attacks, there was no sign of an imminent end to the war, which has so far killed more than 1,800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 66 Israelis, almost all of them soldiers. Israeli troops remain in a buffer zone in Gaza.

While Israel acknowledged that they carried out the attack, can anyone tell us which passage in the Times article backs up the claim in the headline that Israeli officials admitted that the attack represented a violation of the ceasefire?  

Further, as even the New York Times reported, “one Israeli official from the army agency that controls coordination with Gaza told Israel Radio that the strike took place just before the cease-fire began”. So, the timing of the IDF strike is, at the very least, disputed.

The Times got it wrong. 

Economist: Is it possible to understand why Hamas fires rockets at civilians?

No, the Economist didn’t explicitly ask the question: Is it possible to understand why Hamas fires rockets at civilians?  The headline of this post is inspired by an article by Ben White in 2001 titled ‘Is it possible to understand the rise in antisemitism?‘, which empathized with anti-Semites.

To boot, a July 19th article in the print edition The Economist purports to explain ‘Why Hamas Fires those Rockets‘ (pay wall), and reaches a predictable conclusion.

The anonymous article begins:

MANY Gazans, not just their leaders in Hamas, think they have little to lose by fighting on. For one thing, the spotlight has been switched back onto them since the Israeli campaign began earlier this month. In Gazan eyes, Hamas gains from the violence because the outside world may, as a result of the grim publicity generated by the bloodshed, feel obliged to consider its grievances afresh.

Whilst there is no doubt that Hamas perversely believes a war in which Palestinian civilians are killed strengthens their position, there is little evidence that this view is supported by ordinary Gazans. Though there’s been no polling during the current conflict, last month The Washington Institute commissioned a leading Palestinian pollster to gauge the views of Gazans, and the results appear to contradict the Economist’s conclusions:

While you can see the full poll here, the results to some of the questions clearly seem to contradict the Economist’s claim that Gazans “think they have little to lose by fighting”.

As tensions mounted and Hamas and other Gazan factions began to step up rocket fire [in June], the people of that territory were heavily in favor of a ceasefire — 70 percent of the poll respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “Hamas should maintain a ceasefire with Israel in both Gaza and the West Bank.” This attitude is corroborated by the 73 percent of Gazans who said Palestinians should adopt “proposals for (nonviolent) popular resistance against the occupation.” Similarly, when asked if Hamas should accept Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’s position that the new unity government renounce violence against Israel, a clear majority (57 percent) answered in the affirmative. The responses to all three questions clearly indicate that most Gazans reject military escalation.

The Economist article continued:

After the last big Israeli effort to stop the rockets, in November 2012, it was agreed that, along with a ceasefire, the blockade of Gaza would gradually be lifted and the crossings into Egypt and Israel would be opened. The ceasefire generally held, but the siege continued. As Gazans see it, they have remained cruelly shut up in an open-air prison. Firing rockets, many of them argue, is the only way they can protest, even though they know the Israelis are bound, from time to time, to punish them.

First, the ceasefire (after the 2012 war) did not hold, as they claim, as there were roughly 40 rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza in 2013 alone.  As far as ‘the siege’ (by which he’s referring to Israel’ legal blockade of arms and dual use items which could be used for military purposes), Israel did in fact ease restrictions on imports into Gaza. This included allowing for the import of greater quantities of construction material (including cement) for private use and humanitarian purposes, much of which has clearly been diverted by Hamas to build terror tunnels and other military facilities. 

The Economist then makes the following claim:

Mr Netanyahu’s government has prevented Mr Abbas from reasserting his authority, as part of the unity deal, over Gaza—and from paying off Hamas civil servants there. 

However, Netanyahu had nothing to do with the failure of the new unity government to pay Hamas civil servants, as multiple reports demonstrate.

Reuters:

The inauguration on Monday of a unity government under a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation pact raised expectations among Hamas-hired servants that they would now receive their wages. Thousands joined their PA-payroll colleagues at Gaza ATMs on Thursday, hoping to withdraw their salaries.

But the Hamas employees came away empty-handed, and a spokesman for the [Palestinian] unity government said they still had to be vetted by a committee before they could be added to the new leadership’s payroll

Al-Jazeera and other news sites reported the exact same thing.

The Economist concluded their report thusly:

The Gazan grievance over prisoners stirs great passion among Palestinians everywhere. After three Israeli students were kidnapped on the West Bank on June 12th and later found murdered, the Israeli security forces rounded up more than 500 Hamas people, even though the movement did not claim responsibility for the crime. The increase in rocket fire was partly intended as a protest against the round-up of prisoners. Any ceasefire, says Hamas, must include the release at least of those detained in the past month.

First, the two main suspects in the Israeli boys’ murders are Hamas members. Second, Hamas (who, let’s remember) praised the kidnapping) has been planning and publicly calling to kidnap Israelis for years. Indeed, there were dozens of unsuccessful attempts at kidnapping Israelis (many by Hamas members) in the year prior to the kidnapping and murder of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel.

As Etta Prince-Gibson wrote in Ha’aretz (pay wall):

Last year, the organization [Hamas] even distributed an 18-page “Field Manual for Kidnapping” to its Qassam Brigades, providing detailed explanations on how to target Israeli soldiers, when to kidnap (rainy days are best) and how to avoid being caught (don’t use the Internet or phone).

Lastly, note that the Economist characterized Hamas rocket attacks – intentional attacks on Israeli civilians which constitute war crimes under international law – as a mere “protest” against Israel. 

In reading the Economist’s imputation of reasonableness to Hamas, you’d be forgiven for momentarily forgetting that they’re antisemitic extremist terror group which rejects the existence of the Jewish State within any borders.

The empathy for the terrorist group Hamas – and not merely for innocent Palestinian civilians – displayed by the ‘sophisticated’ Brits at the Economist (as with much of the UK media during the current war) is at times astounding. 

Guardian logic used to blame Israel for ceasefire violation in one tweet

If you’ve been following our recent posts, you’re aware that the Guardian live blog on the Gaza War posted two entries a few hours ago that somehow managed to blame Israel for breaking the ceasefire which took effect this morning.

They made this claim despite the fact the dozens of rockets were fired at Israeli cities by Hamas since the time of the ceasefire, while Israel (who had accepted the ceasefire) held its fire for six hours until finally retaliating after it was clear that the Islamist group had no intention of standing down.  (As we noted, US Secretary of State John Kerry forcefully condemned Hamas earlier in the day for violating the terms of the agreement.)

Well, a Guardian deputy editor named Phoebe Greenwood doubled down on the Guardian claim a few hours ago, and the rhetorical somersault she employed to defend the indefensible was truly something to behold.

Here it is, along with a response (above Greenwood’s Tweet) by Yiftah Curiel, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London:

tweet

As one commentator suggested, Greenwood’s argument goes something like this.

  1. Israel accepted the ceasefire and held its fire for six hours, hoping Hamas would do the same.
  2. Hamas ignored the ceasefire and continued firing dozens of rockets at Israeli towns.
  3. Israel finally retaliated against Hamas rocket attacks which showed no signs of winding down.
  4. Ergo, Israel violated the ceasefire.

This is of course the time when we typically employ a rhetorical flourish, encapsulating the substance of the post in a few pithy lines.  

However, on this occasion, given the jaw-dropping nature of the logic used by Greenwood, we find ourselves for once truly speechless.

 

Guardian op-ed suggests that Jerusalem ‘drives’ Barack Obama’s foreign policy

The argument that Israeli leaders or pro-Israel groups in Washington drive US policy in the Mid-East represents something akin to conventional wisdom at the Guardian, and a recent op-ed in the paper by Carne Ross, about Barack Obama’s May 28th foreign policy speech, contributes to the media group’s impressive body of work in perpetuating this reactionary narrative.

Ross – a British diplomat turned political analyst, Occupy Wall Street fan and apparent Noam Chomsky enthusiast - writes the following in the section of his op-ed dealing with the Mid-East:

The Obama administration can hardly be blamed for the descent of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and much of Northern Africa into fratricidal and sectarian violence. But you can challenge it for supporting the Al-Sisi regime in Egypt, the repressive behavior of which tragically mimics that of Mubarak, who was the perfect recruiting sergeant for al-Qaida. As Egypt drifts into a persistent low-level civil war, and thousands of Muslim Brothers are imprisoned with barely the pretense of judicial process, the soil is being fertilized for yet another generation of anti-Western terrorists.

There’s a legitimate suspicion that US foreign policy on this front is not being driven by America’s own needs. Even Obama said as much

Then, to buttress his claim, Ross quotes a small excerpt from Obama’s May 28th speech:

In Egypt, we acknowledge that our relationship is anchored in security interests – from the peace treaty with Israel, to shared efforts against violent extremism.

However, as you can see, Obama is certainly not acknowledging, as Ross suggests, that his administration’s foreign policy “is NOT being driven by America’s own needs”. The president is merely saying that his administration’s policy is driven by US security interests in the region – the desire to maintain peace between historic adversaries and the effort to fight violent extremism.

Next, Ross contextualizes – and grossly distorts – the Obama excerpt further:

Indeed, Israel prefers “stability” in Egypt – just as it resists military intervention in Syria or significant game-changing arms supplies, like MANPADs, to the pro-democracy Syrian opposition.

First, Israel has not resisted US military intervention in Syria, and indeed openly supported possible US strikes against Syrian defense capabilities (in response to Assad’s chemical weapons attack against civilians) last year.  

Additionally, Israeli and US opposition to MANPADs (sophisticated shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles – or SAMs) is not, as Ross suggests, driven by fear that such “game changing weapons” will get in the hands of “the pro-democracy Syrian opposition”, but is driven by concerns that these SAMs will eventually get in hands of non-democratic extremists like Hezbollah or jihadists groups.

Moreover, even if there is a significant degree of overlap between Israeli and US interests in the Mid-East, policy agreements between two countries are of course not evidence of causation.

Indeed, perhaps someone should remind Ross of the painfully obvious fact that Barack Obama is the President of the United States, and that it is Obama and his advisers – not political leaders in Jerusalem – who determine US foreign policy, based on what they determine to be, rightly or wrongly, “America’s own needs”.

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Guardian text & image almost suggest Israeli culpability in Egypt bus bombing

Take a look at the following headline, strap line and photo in a Feb. 18 Guardian story:

headline failThe title, image and caption would leave many readers with the false impression that ‘Israeli agents’ may have played a role in the recent terror attack on a civilian bus in the Egyptian Sinai that killed four tourists.  In fact, you’d have to read pretty far into the report to determine that this isn’t of course the case.

Here are the first six paragraphs:

Egypt’s public prosecutor has charged two men said to be Israeli intelligence agents and two Egyptians with conspiring in Israel’s interests, according to a statement from the prosecutor’s office.

“The public prosecutor ordered Ramzy Mohamed, Sahar Ibrahim, Samuel Ben Zeev and David Wisemen – two officers in the Israeli Mossad – to be sent to a Cairo criminal court for spying for the interests of the state of Israel,” the statement read.

The two Egyptians are already in jail pending investigation, the statement said. The public prosecutor ordered the arrest of the two Israeli officers. It was not clear from the statement if the Israelis were in Egypt. There was no immediate reaction from Israel.

The Egyptians are accused of providing information about Egypt to the Israeli officers with “the intent of damaging national interests in exchange for money and gifts and sex”.

The statement accuses Mohamed of sleeping with women who work in Israeli intelligence. He is also accused of recruiting the accused woman, Ibrahim, to work for Israeli intelligence.

The statement said the two Egyptians had admitted during investigations that they had spied for Israel.

Here are the subsequent paragraphs:

Earlier on Tuesday, a militant group claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on a Egyptian bus that killed three South Korean tourists and an Egyptian driver close to the border crossing into Israel in the volatile Sinai desert.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, Arabic for Champions of Jerusalem, said in a statement posted on militant websites late on Monday that one of its “heroes” carried out Sunday’s bombing in Taba as part of an “economic war” against the army-backed government.

Egyptian officials have called it a suicide attack, but the Ansar statement did not use any language that would suggest the perpetrator was dead.

The al-Qaida-inspired group has claimed responsibility for previous attacks, but has previously targeted primarily police and the military.

The authenticity of the statement could not be verified but it was posted on al-Qaida-affiliated websites.

As you can see, following the headline and image – which evoke the recent terror attack in the Sinai – we immediately learn that Israeli Mossad agents were arrested by Egyptian authorities.  Then, with no transitional text, we learn that “earlier in the [same] day”, there was an attack near the Israeli border.

So, we’re left with two completely different stories which almost seem connected based on the report.  

As you can see by opening these links to other news sites (including in the Arabic media), the Guardian seems to be the only major news site conflating the two events, and juxtaposing a photo the burned bus with the arrest of Israeli ‘agents’.  Indeed, if you want to get an idea of how egregiously misleading the Guardian headline and photo truly is, even the anti-Zionist conspiracy-minded ‘journalists’ at Iranian PressTV showed greater restraint in their report on the story:

mossad

Though the Guardian report is attributed to news “Agencies”, someone at the paper had to review and approve the headline, photo and text – an editor who clearly failed to abide by basic journalistic standards requiring that the media “take care not to publish “misleading or distorted information”.

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Goodbye, Harriet Sherwood: Three years covering Gaza and no lessons learned.

Harriet Sherwood’s latest 3200 word report, Goodbye Gaza, accurately reflects the Guardian’s unwritten ideological ‘style guide’ which seems to dictate that even the most malevolent Palestinian political actors are framed in a sympathetic light.  “With a heavy heart”, the strap line begins, Sherwood “pays a farewell visit to Gaza and pays tribute to the resilience, creativity and humour of its people.”

gaza gloom

Photo from print edition of her recent report

After a few paragraphs in which we’re introduced to her Guardian stringer, Hazem Balousha (who played a key role in Jon Donnison’s infamous fauxtography scandal in 2012), Sherwood, who recently announced her departure from Jerusalem, engages in characteristic obfuscations concerning Hamas:

The people of Gaza are reeling from a series of blows that have led some analysts to say that it is facing its worst crisis for more than six years, putting its 1.7 million inhabitants under intense material and psychological pressure. Israel’s continued blockade has been exacerbated by mounting hostility to Gaza’s Hamas government from the military regime in Cairo, which sees it as an extension of Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptians have virtually cut off access to and from Gaza, and as a result Hamas is facing crippling financial problems and a new political isolation.

Power cuts, fuel shortages, price rises, job losses, Israeli air strikes, untreated sewage in the streets and the sea, internal political repression, the near-impossibility of leaving, the lack of hope or horizon – these have chipped away at the resilience and fortitude of Gazans, crushing their spirit.

First, as a report at the Algemeiner by Elder of Ziyon demonstrated, “the current Gaza fuel crisis started when Hamas decided in 2011 that it didn’t want fuel from Israel and instead chose to run Gaza’s power plant with Egyptian fuel, sold by smugglers at lower prices that reflected the subsidy that Egypt provides”. When the Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood lost power, the tunnels were closed and Hamas lost its source of cheap fuel. However, instead of paying market prices, Hamas cynically chose to shut down the power plants, causing a crisis as water treatment plants shut off. Qatar then offered to transfer to Hamas large amounts of fuel which it held in storage tanks in Egypt, and Israel agreed to transport Qatari oil from Israel, after unloading it in Ashdod. However, Palestinians objected to both of these proposals.

Yet, Sherwood assigns no blame to Hamas for the Gaza fuel shortages she describes.

Further in her report, Sherwood gives a broader view of Gaza and her coverage of the region since 2010.

This was my last visit to Gaza before returning to London to live and work. I moved to Jerusalem in May 2010, to report principally on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also social and cultural issues and the regional upheavals that erupted three years ago. Since I first came here almost 10 years ago, I had been fascinated by the place, its people, its history and its compelling complexity.

I arrived eager to learn more about what is frequently called the world’s most intractable conflict, and to try to understand the powerful feelings of historical injustice on both sides. I am leaving angry about an occupation that has lasted close to half a century, weary of Israel’s grinding oppression of the Palestinian people, cynical about the political leadership on both sides and in the international community, and pessimistic that a fair resolution will be reached.

Again, note how, other than her criticism of “political leadership on both sides”, Sherwood’s concluding assessment of the conflict singles out Israeli “occupation” and “oppression”, but leaves Hamas unscathed.

Later, reporting on the crossings between Israel and Gaza, Sherwood writes the following:

…the vast hangar-like terminal on the Israeli side echoes to the footsteps of these few, plus a tiny number of Palestinians, nearly all of whom are going to or returning from business trips or hospital visits

According to figuresreleased regularly by COGAT, about 400 Gazans are permitted to travel (for various reasons) into Israel each day through the Erez crossing. This number includes an estimated 100 Palestinians (and family members) who enter Israel for medical care each day – hardly a “tiny” number.

Further along in her report, there are the following passages detailing the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza which again aptly illustrate Sherwood’s failure to hold Hamas morally accountable for their decisions:

Fourteen months after that mini-war [Operation Pillar of Defense], on this last visit, Hazem and I talked of the hope – now long faded – that swept Gaza when the Israeli army and Jewish settlers pulled out in 2005. The sense of liberation at the time, and the dream that Gazans might be free to determine their own future, and become a model of a future state of Palestine, was swiftly dashed on the rocks of Israel’s political actions and military operations, and the rise of Hamas.

Of course, Sherwood’s prose characteristically blurs cause and effect, obfuscating the plain fact that Israel’s military actions followed the rise of Hamas – particularly the Islamist group’s decision to focus its energies (and limited funds) not on economic development, but on the production and importation of thousands of rockets to launch attacks against Israeli communities, and on hate indoctrination of their youth against ‘the Zionist entity‘.  

Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad speaks to graduates of the organization's youth camps in Gaza, calling on them to annihilate Israel and take their struggle across the world. (screen capture: MEMRI)

Jan. 15, 2014: Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad speaks to graduates of the organization’s youth camps in Gaza, calling on them to annihilate Israel and take their struggle across the world. 

Sherwood also all but ignores Hamas’s decision to spend millions of dollars on terrorist tunnels, funds which could have been spent on infrastructure projects and other vital social needs.

Indeed, the closest Sherwood comes to blaming Hamas for the plight of Palestinian in the territory is her brief mention of the “continued political enmity between Hamas and Fatah”. And, though she laments “grieving [Palestinian] mothers who expressed fervent hope that their infant sons would grow up to avenge their dead fathers or siblings by killing Jewish children”, she contextualized such a disturbing dynamic as “a profoundly depressing illustration of the cycle of violence here”.

Near the end of her story, Sherwood does allow one Palestinian to express criticism of the Islamist group governing the territory:

Mkhaimer Abusada, professor of political science at Gaza’s Al Azhar university old me over sweet mint tea. “But we are very afraid. Hamas does not allow any protests, any opposition. We’re sick and tired of Hamas, but we don’t have an alternative.

Though, the despotic regime in control of Gaza does indeed limit Palestinian options, they did have the ability to make a very important decision about their future following Israel’s unilateral disengagement in September 2005. In January 2006, Palestinian legislative elections were held and Hamas took 44.45% of the vote, whilst Fatah received 41.43%.  One of the only ‘moderate’ factions running, Salam Fayyad’s Third Way Party, garnered a mere 2.5%.

Alternately, it’s is quite telling that when Israelis are poised to make decisions considered injurious to the peace process, Guardian journalists aren’t nearly as circumspect in rendering moral judgments.  In the weeks leading to Israel’s Jan. 2013 national elections, Sherwood (and Guardian journalists across the board) were warning that the new government would represent a move far to the far right, with some even suggesting that the 33rd Israeli government would be “the most right-wing government in its history”, an alleged rightward lurch which Sherwood cautioned was resulting in the state’s increasing international isolation. 

As we know now, the Guardian got it wrong and, in fact, a more centrist government emerged from the elections, one which has engaged in serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians – though their warnings and castigations about the injurious effects of Israeli “provocations” such as building homes in eastern Jerusalem continues.

Alternately, there seems to be no degree of Palestinian pathos which elicits similarly ominous warnings by Sherwood, or others at the Guardian, about the inevitable negative consequences of freely choosing such dangerous paths.  When free of Israeli occupation, and given the freedom to vote in relatively fair elections, a plurality of Palestinian voters cast their lot with an extremist movement – ostracized by the West – which oppresses women, gays, religious minorities and political opponents, and openly calls for Israel’s destruction and the mass murder of Jews.

Palestinians will never learn the most intuitive lessons from their self-destructive embrace of extremism – and other similarly dangerous political decisions – as long as they’re continually denied moral agency by assorted liberal racists, faux humanitarians and activist journalists like Harriet Sherwood.

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Harriet Sherwood misleads on UNRWA statement about Gaza construction ban

Harriet Sherwood’s Nov. 22 report continues in the Guardian tradition of ignoring Hamas’s responsibility for the situation in Gaza, devoting nearly all of the text to highlighting Egyptian and (mostly) Israeli responsibility for the reported economic downturn in the territory.  

sherwood

The two opening paragraphs set the tone for her story:

Gaza is becoming uninhabitable as humanitarian conditions deteriorate rapidly following Egypt’s destruction of smuggling tunnels and Israel’s renewed ban on the import of construction materials, the United Nations and aid agencies have said. 

A year after the end of the eight-day war between Gaza and Israel last November, the UN said the situation in the tiny coastal strip was worse than before the conflict.

Further, a passage later in her report – about the IDF’s discovery last month of a tunnel from Gaza into southern Israel – represents a classic Guardian obfuscation: 

In addition, Israel last month halted the import of building materials through the crossings it controls, after the discovery of a sophisticated tunnel built by Hamas militants from Gaza to Israel. According to the Israeli military, it was constructed using materials that Israel had permitted to enter Gaza.

Sherwood doesn’t acknowledge that the purpose of this 1.7 km tunnel was to kidnap Israeli soldiers, nor does she acknowledge – in a story devoted to Gaza’s economic situation – that the construction materials diverted by the Islamist regime to build such an elaborate terror facility could have been used to build schools, hospitals and other vital infrastructure projects.  The Guardian Jerusalem correspondent also failed to note that, prior to the discovery of the tunnel, Israel had actually started to increase the quantity of construction materials allowed into Gaza to compensate for the draconian anti-tunnel measures taken by the Egyptian government.

But the most deceptive paragraph appears near the end, where Sherwood addresses the alleged effects of the new Israeli restrictions: 

As a result of the renewed [Israeli] ban, 19 out of 20 construction projects – including 12 schools – initiated by Unrwa have ground to a halt, putting at risk thousands more jobs. Unwra [sic] said Israel’s action was collective punishment, which is illegal under international law.

It appears as if Sherwood significantly mischaracterized UNRWA’s position, as she is almost certainly referring to a statement by the outgoing Commissioner General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, as reported by the agency on Nov. 19.  Here is the UNRWA text in its entirety. 

The outgoing Commissioner General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, has warned that 19 out of 20 UNRWA construction projects in Gaza have “ground to a halt”. Speaking to the Advisory Commission of major donors and governments hosting Palestinian refugee populations, Grandi said that since March UNRWA has “not had any construction projects cleared by the Israeli government, and for the past month, has been “unable to import building materials.”

Grandi told the “AdCom” delegates that “following the closure of most smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt”, and “given that Israel does not allow exports and hence a resumption of normal economic activities, prices are rising because commodities are becoming scarce, lack of fuel has provoked the closure of the power plant, the few jobs available in the construction industry are disappearing; and the list continues”, said Grandi.

Grandi had a stark warning about regional stability. “Gaza is quickly becoming uninhabitable, and further conflict is bound, as before, to affect civilians in Gaza and southern Israel, unless its causes are addressed.”  Grandi, who leaves office in the new year, called on the international community not to forget Gaza and to address the human dimension.

The time had come to rethink security concerns and political considerations, Grandi argued. “Perhaps strengthening the human security of the people of Gaza is a better avenue to ensuring regional stability than physical closures, political isolation and military action. To obtain this, first and foremost, the Israeli blockade – which is illegal – must be lifted. Meanwhile, the United Nations must be allowed to at least continue construction projects and provide a few extra jobs to the beleaguered population.”

First, Grandi makes no mention in the statement of “collective punishment”.  Moreover, it’s clear that he wasn’t merely arguing – as Sherwood seems to suggest – that the renewed Israeli ban on construction materials was “illegal”, but that Israel’s entire military blockade to prevent the import of rockets and other deadly weaponry was “illegal”.  However, as Sherwood surely knows, the UN Palmer Commission concluded in 2011 that the IDF blockade is fully consistent with international law and is NOT a form of collective punishment.  It’s especially curious that Sherwood didn’t reveal this fact as she reported on the conclusions of the Palmer Commission herself in a story published on Jan. 23, 2011. In ‘Israeli soldiers fired at Gaza aid flotilla in self-defence, says inquiry‘, she wrote the following:

The commission also found that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, which the flotilla was attempting to breach, was primarily for security reasons and was imposed lawfully. It added that it did not “constitute ‘collective punishment’ of the population of the Gaza Strip”.

Whilst the language in her Nov. 22 report is not completely clear, if Sherwood is claiming that UNRWA characterized the recent Israeli restrictions on construction materials into Gaza as “illegal”, and as a form of “collective punishment”, it is clear that the outgoing UNRWA Commissioner General never in fact made such an argument.  

Alternately, if Sherwood was merely attempting to characterize the Commissioner General’s opinion on the broader issue of the Israeli blockade, then she failed to reveal that this view was definitively contradicted by the UN inquiry which she herself reported more than two years ago.  

Either way you read Sherwood’s awkward prose, the reader is significantly misinformed. 

Guardian columnist blames the persecution of Mid-East Christians on Israel’s creation

Yes, the Guardian’s religion blogger Andrew Brown really did blame Israel for the Arab persecution of Christians in the Arab Middle East.

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Here are the relevant passages in his latest post on former president George W. Bush’s recent work with a group of Messianic Jews: 

…there is widespread confusion among evangelicals about whether Israel is really a kind of America overseas – a recent poll for the Pew Foundation found that twice as many American Evangelicals as American Jews were unwavering in their support for Israel. This is something that successive Israeli governments have deliberately cultivated.

But the links between Zionism and Christianity go much further and deeper than that. The conversion of the Jews, and their restoration to Jerusalem, was a great enthusiasm among English evangelicals in Victorian times. Barbara Tuchman’s marvelous book Bible And Sword chronicles some of the consequences.

It’s fair to say that without the belief of Victorian upper class evangelical Englishmen – almost exactly the equivalents of George W Bush – there never would have been a Balfour Declaration. And without that declaration, there could not have been the Jewish immigration to Palestine that laid the foundations for the state of Israel.

Some people will see this as an example of the destructive craziness of religion, and perhaps it is, but it is also an example of the way in which theology is only powerful and important when it is wrapped up in identity. Because if there is one group that has suffered as a result of the establishment of the state of Israel and its support by Western Christian countries, it is the historic Christians of the Middle East – who are now the victims of persecution throughout the region and scapegoats of an angry nationalism.

Whilst Brown’s characterization of the foundation of Zionism and the establishment of Israel is completely ahistorical, the magnitude of Brown’s fabrication regarding the cause of anti-Christian racism in the modern Middle East is simply difficult to comprehend. 

Christians are facing systemic persecution throughout the Arab and Muslim Middle East to the point where studies have predicted that “Christianity will disappear from its biblical heartlands”, or will at least “effectively disappear from the region as a cultural and political force within our lifetime”.  As The Telegraph commented on a recent study by the think-tank Civitas, “the most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam”. The report estimates that “between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the Middle East have left the region or been killed in the past century.”  Some 2 million Christians have reportedly fled in the past 20 years alone.

Such racist oppression against the beleaguered Christians occurs daily in countries such as Egypt, Syria and Iraq – as well as in Palestinian controlled cities in the West Bank.  

Of course, the one country in the region where the Christian population is growing in total numbers is Israel.

Yet, the Guardian blogger not only ignores this statistical evidence, but views the disturbing news broadcast daily of Coptic churches being burned, Christians arrested for ‘blasphemy’, and clergy kidnapped and killed in Muslim dominated countries in the region, and somehow sees the root cause in Israel’s very creation.  

As Walid Phares, a Lebanese-American scholar who advises the U.S. on issues related to terrorism, said at a conference on protecting Christians in the Middle East in 2012 sponsored by CAMERA, the plight of religious and ethnic minorities in Muslim and Arab majority countries in the region is ignored due in part to political correctness, cultural relativism and a malign obsession with Israel.

In the future when we cite examples of how antisemitism manifests itself in unusual ways at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’, Brown’s astonishing moral inversion, in which Muslims persecute Christians but Jews are still to blame, will be near the top of our list.

Guardian quickly changes its mind, decides Israel is NOT ‘choking Gaza’

There are telltale signs when Harriet Sherwood doesn’t really want to cover a story.  A case in point is how the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent chose to cover news of the recently uncovered Gaza terror tunnel.  

Sherwood buried news of the 1.7 km long tunnel, recently uncovered by the IDF, in a passing reference (one sentence and an accompanying photo) in a 1200 word story about the economic woes in the strip due to Egypt’s recent clampdown on underground supply tunnels.  (And, naturally, Sherwood fails to connect the dots and doesn’t note that the tens of millions of dollars spent by Hamas to build the elaborate “resistance tunnel” could have been used to bolster their economy and improve vital infrastructure.) 

However, of greater note is the original title of Sherwood’s story – a report which overwhelmingly focuses on how Cairo has restricted the flow of goods into Gaza, and reduced the number of Palestinians allowed to enter into Egypt, while acknowledging that Israel has increased the number of permits granted to Palestinian exiting the strip, and has eased import restrictions.

Despite the fact that Egypt’s increased restrictions on Palestinians in Gaza is the focus of the story – in contrast with Israel’s eased restrictions – here is the original title per a cached page (before it was changed at the Guardian’s site).

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The original title was classic Guardian, conveying an anti-Israel message not supported by the subsequent text.  Indeed, we were prepared to focus on the extraordinary misleading title (and complain to Guardian editors) when, roughly an hour later, editors revised it on their own, omitting the word “Israel.”

change after

Interestingly, there’s no acknowledgment of the revision as a footnote at the bottom of the article where they typically note such changes.

Whilst we’d naturally love to take credit for the improved wording in the headline, the revision was either prompted by another complainant, or by their own editors, perhaps realizing that the original claim couldn’t fairly be supported by the facts.   

The Economist’s extraordinarily misleading 12 words on why Hamas hates Israel

Sometimes when reading the British media’s coverage of the Middle East, it seems as if some ‘professional’ reporters either have little expertise on the issues they’re writing about or that their employer lacks such high-tech, super-sophisticated research tools as, say, Google.

The Economist’s recent article on Hamas’s continuing isolation (Lonely Hamas, Sept. 7), is a case in point.

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First, in fairness, the report does paint a largely accurate picture of the pressure being placed on the Islamist group by Egypt’s new regime:

THE Gaza Strip, an enclave tucked between Egypt and Israel that is still ruled by Hamas, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, is once again caged in. Egypt’s ruling generals, fearful that what they see as an Islamist tumour on their north-eastern flank might grow back into a Brotherhood cancer, want to contain it, if not cut it out. So they have sent bulldozers to demolish the houses along the border with Gaza that covered the tunnels providing Gaza’s 1.8m people with half their basic needs and most of their fuel and building material.

Of some 300 tunnels that operated before Egypt’s army overthrew Muhammad Morsi, the Muslim Brother who had been president for a year, only ten are said now to function. 

Later, there’s also this fair assessment of why the ‘Zionist enemy’ (at least temporarily) no longer seems like Hamas’s greatest threat:

If it is to survive as Gaza’s ruler, Hamas will have to rely on its old foe, Israel. While Egypt has choked off access to Gaza, Israel has loosened it, with 400 lorries recently entering the strip from Israel via the Kerem Shalom crossing in a single day, the liveliest such traffic for many years. “If they increase demand, we’re ready to step up,” says an Israeli military spokeswoman.

At Friday prayers, some Hamas preachers curse Egypt more than Israel. 

Good so far. However, then, in the final paragraph, the author of the unsigned article attempts to provide readers with some context on the enmity between Israel and Hamas, and writes the following:

Yet Israelis still loathe Hamas, which carried out scores of suicide-bombings against Israelis in the early 2000s. Hamas, meanwhile, reviles Israel for its assaults on Gaza and its leaders.

That’s why Hamas hates Israel?!

Well, for starters, Hamas’s obsessive hatred, which manifests itself in explicit calls by their leaders to commit genocide against the Jews, likely has something to do with their founding charter, published in 1988.  The document cites the wisdom of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion‘ to “prove” that Jews are trying to take over the world, and asserts its theological commitment to destroying the Jewish state – regardless of where its borders are drawn – through a long-term strategy of violent jihad. 

Here are a few excerpts from their charter:

Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.

There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.

After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.”

The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.

Hamas rocket attacks and suicide bombings are merely the natural product of their eliminationist anti-Zionist, antisemitic ideology. 

Finally, it should be noted that this blog often cites political, historical and geographical facts about the Mid-East that should be obvious to even the casual observer, and the passage cited above in The Economist demonstrates the necessity of continuing to provide such basic information which, for some reason, often eludes ‘professionals’ tasked with contextualizing events in the region.

Guardian frames Egypt ‘Spy Stork’ row as sign of increased xenophobia under military regime

In terms of entertainment value it’s hard to beat recent reports that Egyptian police placed a stork under arrest late Friday after a mysterious device was found attached to its feathers, fueling accusations that it might have been used for Zionist espionage.  Evidently, the stork was taken to a police station, and ‘interrogated’, but soon cleared of wrongdoing after veterinarians realized that the bird was bearing nothing but a wildlife tracker installed by French scientists.

stork

A migrating stork was held in an Egyptian police station after a man suspected it of being a spy. Photo, AP

However, the story doesn’t end there, at least not if you’re a blog which monitors the Guardian.  Almost as enjoyable as the story itself was the account of the episode by the Guardian Cairo correspondent, Patrick Kingsley.  

Though his story, Eyes on storks? Egyptian fishermen thought bird was a foreign spy, Sept. 2, was, in fairness, mostly light-hearted and cheeky, being the Guardianista he is, he naturally somehow failed to note reports that some thought the bird was spying for Israel, while imputing the following political significance:

But the stork’s treatment comes amid a wider rise in xenophobia in Egypt this summer. Since the army forced out ex-president Mohamed Morsi in a widely backed move on 3 July, the country has been consumed in a wave of pro-military nationalism.

One side-effect has been the blaming of the country’s ills on foreigners – from American diplomats, to Syrian refugees and western journalists.

Whilst blaming the stork’s apprehension on the current mood of jingoism – in contrast, presumably, to the ‘enlightened internationalism‘ under the Muslim Brotherhood – is itself quite comical, those of us who’ve ‘covered’ previous instances of spy animals can refute the reporter’s thesis by noting other examples of Egyptian ‘xenophobia’.

A couple of years ago there were reports that some Egyptians were blaming Israel for a shark attack that killed a German tourist in the Red Sea. Such suspicions were best articulated by the South Sinai Governor, Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha, who said the following:

What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark in the sea to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to confirm”.

This all prompted Chas Newkey-Burden to illustrate the anti-Zionist paranoia the following way at his blog, (using a graphic by Jonathan Sacerdoti):

shark1

Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water

Oh, and finally, contrary to the Guardian reporter’s theory on a military regime-inspired fear of migratory foreigners, the “Zionist shark attack” took place in 2010, before the military regime and before Morsi, undermining the suggestion that the stork arrest can be tied to societal fears stoked by the current ‘wave’ of militant nationalism.

(You can get up to speed on the complete list of Zionist Spy Animals here.)