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.”

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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.

brown

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).

change

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.

hamas

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.)

Guardian columnist acknowledges Muslim Brotherhood’s antisemitism

Among the themes often addressed at the blog is the Guardian’s consistent failure to report on the pervasive antisemitism within the Arab and Muslim Middle East – what we’ve characterized as their antisemitic sins of omission.

This ideological proclivity to ignore explicit manifestations of Jew hatred in the region, we’ve argued many times, egregiously skews their coverage of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, as well as the regional political upheavals over the last few years.

So eager are many to view reactionary Islamist movements through a progressive lens that even Yousuf al-Qaradawi – one of the intellectual leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood - has been characterized as something akin to a moderate by Guardian contributors, despite his record which includes calling on Allah to murder every Jew on earth and literally endorsing the Holocaust.

 

 

Indeed, the Guardian’s coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt last year ignored the group’s long and well-documented antisemitic record (consistent with the paper’s tendency to obfuscate other groups’ extreme Judeophobia), all of which makes Giles Fraser’s recent ‘CiF’ column on the Brotherhood quite unique.

Though Fraser still advanced some characteristic moral apologetics for the group, he did nonetheless include the following:

And, of course, I have no love in my heart for Islamist terrorism, nor the hateful antisemitism that is often present within the Muslim Brotherhood

Whilst this one painfully obvious acknowledgement wouldn’t ordinarily be notable, given that it represents such a rare expression of moral sobriety regarding the problem of Islamist antisemitism – at a paper with an institutional aversion to such clarity – the Guardian columnist should nonetheless be commended for his honesty. 

Peace through martyrdom: Muslim Brotherhood leader poses as a liberal at ‘Comment is Free’

‘Comment is Free’ published an essay today (Aug. 21) by Muhammad Al-Baltaji, “deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood bloc in the Egyptian parliament”, titled ‘The Muslim Brotherhood will not turn to violence to fight the coup in Egypt‘.  

cif profile

Al-Baltaji used his Guardian platform to blast the military government of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for “pushing the country to an unprecedented level of chaos and state violence”, in contrast to what he portrays as the Brotherhood’s progressive, pro-democratic non-violent Egyptian revolution.

Here are excerpts from his piece:

The Muslim Brotherhood is committed to peaceful protests and has pledged never to resort to violence in response to the violence perpetrated against it by the coup authorities.

I address world conscience and public opinion. I appeal to world humanitarian and human rights organisations. I appeal to the international delegations that came to see us in Rabaa and who testified that we were completely peaceful, to stand for democracy and expose these war crimes.

The sacrifices made so far by the defenders of legitimacy have been made in order to put an end to the military rule that humiliated the Egyptians and persecuted them for more than 60 years. We made these sacrifices in order for Egypt to become a true democratic civil state in which human dignity is sanctified and human rights respected.

Whilst Muslim Brotherhood-led attacks on Egypt’s Christians, and the burning of churches, since the July coup alone makes a mockery of such claims, it’s interesting to note that back in 2010, as one of two members of Egypt’s delegation to the Gaza flotilla, Al-Baltaji was singing a different tune concerning peace, justice and the dignity of man.

Per MEMRI:

Al-Baltaji…said at a March 2010 conference, “A nation that excels at dying will be blessed by Allah with a life of dignity and with eternal paradise.” He also said that his movement “will never recognize Israel and will never abandon the resistance,” and that “resistance is the only road map that can save Jerusalem, restore the Arab honor, and prevent Palestine from becoming a second Andalusia.

(Andalusia is of course Spain. Islamists believe that Palestine, or any land that was once part of the caliphate, can not ‘fall’ to infidels.)

Moreover, Al-Baltaji’s exaltation of the values of death and martyrdom demonstrate that, as with so many Islamist extremists, he cynically used his forum at ‘Comment is Free’ to run interference for the true goals of his movement – jihad as a means to religious tyranny. Here’s the protagonist of Al-Baltaji’s Guardian tale, former President Mohamed Morsi, explaining quite clearly the values of the movement:

 

‘Comment is Free’: continuing in its passionate mission to become the demopath’s platform of choice. 

CiF Watch prompts correction to Guardian claim on Gaza construction material

On Friday we commented on a report by Harriet Sherwood focusing on Egypt’s recent re-closure of Gaza’s supply tunnels (Palestinians in Gaza feel the Egypt effect as smuggling tunnels close, July 19) which included the claim that Israel forbids the passage of construction materials into Gaza “apart from small quantities destined for UN projects”.  Here’s the passage in question:

About 20,000 construction workers have been laid off as a result of the shortage of materials. Israel, which allows consumer goods to be imported into Gaza, forbids the passage of construction materials – apart from small quantities destined for UN projects – on the grounds they could be use to make weapons or arms storage depots.

We noted that Sherwood’s claim that ‘Israel only allows construction materials into Gaza which is destined for UN projects’ was not true – citing widely reported news in Dec. 2012 that Israel had expanded the legal passage of construction materials (which had previously only allowed materials for UN projects) to include such materials for private contractors, as well.

Shortly after contacting Guardian editors, the passage in question was revised to more accurately reflect Israeli policy vis-a-vis the import of construction material into Gaza. It now reads as follows:

About 20,000 construction workers have been laid off as a result of the shortage of materials. Israel, which allows consumer goods to be imported into Gaza, until recently forbade the passage of construction materialsapart from small quantities destined for UN projects – on the grounds that they could be use to make weapons or arms storage depots. Small amounts of building materials are now being let in for the private sector. 

Whilst the claim that only a “small amount” of private sector material enters Gaza is questionable considering that 20 truckloads of such material now enter the strip daily under the new policy, the revised passage is clearly an improvement over the original and we commend Guardian editors for their prompt action.

Harriet Sherwood gets it wrong on Gaza construction material claim.

 

Goods crossing into Gaza from Israel's Kerem Shalom Crossing, late 2012.

Goods crossing into Gaza from Israel’s Kerem Shalom Crossing, late 2012.

Harriet Sherwood’s July 19th story on Egypt’s recent re-closure of Gaza’s supply tunnels (Palestinians in Gaza feel the Egypt effect as smuggling tunnels close) included a blatantly inaccurate claim.  Here’s the passage:

About 20,000 construction workers have been laid off as a result of the shortage of materials. Israel, which allows consumer goods to be imported into Gaza, forbids the passage of construction materials – apart from small quantities destined for UN projects – on the grounds they could be use to make weapons or arms storage depots.

The claim that Israel still only allows construction materials destined for UN projects is not true. 

In late December, 2012, it was widely reported that Israel expanded the legal passage of construction materials (which had previously only allowed materials for UN projects) to include the passage of private construction materials into Gaza.

On Dec. 26, Ynet reported the following in a story titled ‘Israel to ease Gaza ban on construction material‘:

Israel is to begin allowing materials for private construction into Gaza, easing its blockade under the terms of a truce deal, Israeli and Palestinian officials said on Wednesday.

The decision will allow private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted exclusively to international aid groups under the terms of Israel’s blockade.”

The Saudi Gazette, on Dec. 27, published a story titled ‘Israel to ease Gaza ban on construction materials‘, which included the following:

“Israel is to begin allowing materials for private construction into Gaza, easing its blockade under the terms of a truce deal, Israeli and Palestinian officials said on Wednesday.

The decision will allow private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted exclusively to international aid groups under the terms of Israel’s blockade.

“This is the first time Israel will allow the import of gravel for the private sector since the blockade began in mid-2007”, [said Palestinian customs official Raed Fattouh].”

The Egypt Independent, on Dec. 27, in a piece titled ‘Israel eases Gaza blockade following truce deal‘, wrote the following:

“Israel is easing its blockade of Gaza to allow construction materials and other goods into the enclave under the terms of a truce deal mediated by Egypt.

The decision allows [for the first time since 2007] private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted exclusively to international aid groups… AFP reported.

Here’s Al Jazeera on Dec. 27, in a piece titled ‘Israel eases ban on Gaza building material:

“Israel has allowed a shipment of gravel for private construction into the Gaza Strip, easing the blockade it imposed after Hamas seized control of the enclave in 2007, a Palestinian official said.”

Even the Palestine News Network (PNN), on Dec. 27, in a story titled Israel to Allow Imports to Ease Gaza Blockade, reported the following:

“Israel will allow 20 trucks a day loaded with construction material to enter the Gaza Strip starting next week, in an attempt to ease its blockade under the terms of a truce deal signed with an Egyptian-mediation between Hamas and Israel after the eight days escalation last month.

The new construction material will be for the Palestinian sector, and this decision will allow private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted and only embarked for internationally funded building projects.”

Sherwood plainly got the facts wrong, and we’ll be seeking a correction to the story.

‘CiF’ contributor: Israel launched Operation Cast Lead “from the heart of Cairo”

Electronic Intifada contributor Rana Baker just published a commentary at ‘Comment is Free’ (‘Egypt’s coup does not bode well for Palestinians‘, July 10), which should have been titled ‘Egypt’s coup does not bode well for Hamas‘ – for it’s the autocratic leadership in Gaza City whose fortunes clearly evoke her sympathies.

However, whilst the essay itself - arguing that, whichever political movement ultimately attains power in Cairo, the Islamist led territory will suffer – is unspectacular, the opening paragraph contained two remarkably dishonest claims.  Baker writes, thusly:

When Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February 2011, Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip joined the celebrations of millions of Egyptians. Mubarak, after all, was the enforcer of Israel’s siege on Gaza and allowed Tzipi Livni, then Israeli foreign minister, to initiate “Operation Cast Lead” from the heart of Cairo.

The first claim, that Mubarak enforced Israel’s siege on Gaza – suggesting that his decision to keep the Rafah crossing mostly closed after Hamas ousted Fatah was made at the behest of Israel – is extremely dishonest, imputing Israeli control over Egypt’s government and ignoring the real factors, such as Cairo’s refusal to recognize Hamas due to concern over their own Islamist opposition. 

As AP reported in 2009:

[Egyptian Foreign Minister] Aboul Gheit repeated Egypt’s argument that it cannot open Rafah unless Abbas’ Palestinian Authority – which runs the West Bank – controls the crossing and international monitors are present.

He said Hamas wants Rafah opened because it would represent implicit Egyptian recognition of the militant group’s control of Gaza. Of course this is something we cannot do, Aboul Gheit said, because it would undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and consecrate the split between Gaza and the West Bank.

Further, whatever additional considerations were at play in Egypt’s policy vis-a-vis the Rafah crossing, to suggest that Jerusalem was pulling Cairo’s strings borders on conspiracy.  

However, the second claim made by Baker in the sentence – that Mubarak “allowed” former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni “to initiate Operation Cast Lead from the heart of Cairo” – is even more bizarre.  Indeed, Baker’s link from the sentence leads to a Guardian report which doesn’t even suggest such a thing.

The only report even hinting at this seems to be a 2010 WikiLeaks cable (from the U.S. State Department) which claimed that “Israel had tried to coordinate Operation Cast Lead with Egypt and Fatah, offering to allow [Egypt] and the Palestinian faction to take control of Gaza after an Israeli defeat of Hamas.” However, the report concludes by stating quite clearly that “the GOI [government of Israel] received negative answers from both.” The WikiLeaks document does include a vague and unsurprising observation that “Israel, the PA and Egypt were in contact before [Cast Lead],” but nothing to support Baker’s absurd allegation that Livni launched Cast Lead “from the heart of Cairo.”

Baker’s dishonest narrative alleging Israeli control of Arab lives – in an essay which, interestingly, doesn’t appear on the Guardian’s Israel page - may play well on the streets of Cairo and Gaza City, but you have to scratch your head over the credulity in the face of such risible claims by “professional” editors in London.  

Is the Guardian’s ‘Israel Obsessive Disorder’ in remission?

Over the past several years the Guardian has averaged over 1000 reports or commentaries annually tagged with “Israel”, an average of over 2.7  Israel-related posts per day, representing a statistically disproportionate (overwhelmingly negative) focus on the Jewish state in comparison to other nations – a dynamic we’ve noted continually at this blog.

However, recently there has been a brief but noticeable change to this pattern. Remarkably, there has not been an Israel related entry at the Guardian since June 30 – an unprecedented ten-day respite from the jaundiced and obsessive coverage of the region which, as much as anything, has come to define their institution’s brand of pseudo liberal activist journalism.

Israel page

Snapshot of Guardian’s Israel page, July 10th.

Additionally, save for one piece in the culture section of The Observer (sister site of the Guardian) about Arab films, there has been nothing on the Guardian’s ‘Palestine’ page since June 30, and nothing new on their Gaza page since June 24.

Whilst it’s possible that the civil war in Syria and the political upheavals currently taking place in Egypt have (organically) driven Israel off the ‘front page’, such a theory doesn’t square with the fact that, up until now, the violence and unrest throughout the Middle East since the start of the “Arab Spring” in 2011 hasn’t even minimally resulted in less Israel-related coverage at Guardian Group sites.

However, one thing is certain: the failure of the “Arab Spring” to bring genuine democracy or nurture even a minimal ethos of tolerance and pluralism – and the contradictions within Arab nationalism more broadly – contrasts markedly with the success of Jewish nationalism and the state’s thriving, progressive polity, and demonstrates the irrelevance of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict to the political pathos which haunts the Arab Middle East. 

Far be it from us to even suggest that Guardian editors may have actually learned something and allowed new information to penetrate their ideologically-inspired myopia, but it would certainly represent an invaluable gift to their readers if the recent dearth of Israel-related content reflected even a minimal awareness of the supreme folly of their long-time obsession with the Jewish state.

Anti-Zionism of fools: What Egypt and the Guardian can learn from Israeli democracy

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Israeli woman votes in 2013 election

An Egyptian opposition activist named Himda Hamdi was interviewed on Israeli TV last night and, buoyed by the fall of Mohammed Morsi, told citizens of the Jewish state that if her country could overturn the Muslim Brotherhood led regime then surely Israelis can do the same and remove Prime Minister Netanyahu. While the site of this young, progressive Arab woman speaking Hebrew was in many ways exhilarating, she perhaps needed reminding that Israeli voters peacefully decided the fate of their government in free and fair elections earlier in the year.

When the nineteenth Israeli Knesset was sworn in March, it represented merely the latest chapter in a 65 year history of non-violent democratic political transitions in the Jewish state.

Though Israelis of course disagree on any number of domestic and foreign policy issues, extremes within the country remain at the margins, and the centre continues to hold.  And, whilst there are factions lobbying for evolutionary change in social policy, and with regard to negotiations with the Palestinians, the country’s economy is exceptionally strong, their democracy remains robust and there is no serious political faction agitating for revolutionary change.

As the dramatic developments unfolding in Egypt now demonstrate, democracy isn’t one single event but rather a persuasion – a political habit of mind nurtured by the behavior of a nation’s citizenry, its cultural, media and religious gatekeepers and political class. It generally can not be imposed by a foreign power, nor brought to life by a (temporary) strongman. Political parties with no ideological propensity towards progressive, representative forms of government can not be trusted to govern in a manner which shows fealty towards such democratic norms as the separation of powers, an independent judiciary, and a system of laws which fiercely protect the rights of women, minorities and political opponents.

As the brief reign of the reactionary movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood shows us, political Islam – as with the Pan-Arabism and statist dictatorships which preceded its rise within the region – is fundamentally at odds with truly liberal political aspirations within the Arab world.

Interestingly, the Guardian earlier today published an editorial not only criticizing the military coup by praising the Muslim Brotherhood as, yes, defenders of constitutional democracy, demonstrating again – as with their defense of Hamas’ ‘democratic’ legitimacy – the institution’s inability to recognize the difference between democrats (those who seek genuine representative democracy) and demopaths (those who seek democratic legitimacy in order to destroy liberal society). As one Arab pundit recently observed about Morsi’s ‘reforms’ which had the effect of merely solidifying Brotherhood control of the country and codifying illiberal Islamist doctrine: “Morsi proved that political Islam seeks to use democracy only to seize power only to bury the democratic dream later.”

Additionally, if the strength of a democracy can in part be measured by how well the nation treats the proverbial ‘other’, Morsi’s government – which nurtured a society in which the beleaguered Christians and Bahais (and even Shiites) faced increasing discrimination and violence - failed miserably.  Further, while it may be a bit cliché to note that the health of a society can be gauged by how well they treat their Jewish minority, the following passage, from an essay written by a Muslim named Ahmed Hashemi, commenting on the increased antisemitism in Egypt (a nation with a Jewish population of, at most, 40) after the revolution, rings true.

…if we are going to establish a healthy, tolerant society that respects differences, and pursues a pluralistic democracy, we have to accept that Jews and the Jewish community have been part and parcel of our own communities. This affirmation of coexistence represents the essence of today’s civilization. An ‘Arab Spring’ without religious tolerance that rests on strong anti-Semitic attitudes cannot bring about genuine democracy and freedom. In a peaceful and democratic Middle East, everyone can prosper and flourish.

In reading the Guardian daily, it seems that the most pronounced effect stemming from their largely uncritical advocacy on behalf of Arabs (including Palestinian Arabs), and their hostility towards Zionism, relates not to its injurious influence on Israel, but the harm it inflicts upon their Arab protagonists by legitimizing their sense of victimhood and their immutable grievances against the Jews.

As the most successful democracy in the region, Hashemi added, “possessing a strong and diversified economy and a dynamic multiparty political system in a tyranny-affected region, Israel can be a role model.”

The Guardian’s ideologically inspired legitimization of the Arab world’s hostility towards Israel nurtures their continuing social pathos and sclerotic economies, and ensures that, regardless of whom takes power in Egypt, the shining example of diversity, tolerance sober, and liberal self-government to their north will never be leveraged to their advantage.

The anti-Zionism of fools makes it more probable that the ‘Arab Spring’ will continue to be merely a chimera.

Why wasn’t this deleted? Passover edition.

Guardian contributor Harry J Enten recently published a personal story at ‘Comment is Free’ about his childhood memories of Passover, and how his affection for the Jewish holiday has grown over the years (Passover is an acquired taste I’ve grown to love, March 25).

Despite the completely apolitical (and non-theological) nature of Enten’s first person essay about perhaps the most widely observed Jewish holiday among both religious and secular Jews, the first CiF reader to comment couldn’t help but impute, in the celebration of the Jewish people’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt, something much darker.

keoThe comment, charging Jews around the world with celebrating genocide, has thus far received 62 ‘Recommends’ and has not been deleted by moderators despite its flagrant violation of ‘Comment is Free’ community standards.