Do Guardian editors fact check the letters they choose to publish?

I’d imagine that the Guardian receives thousands of letters submitted by their readers for publication, of which only a few are likely published.  

letters

Their Letters page notes that the paper reserves the right to edit each submission, which prompted me to wonder whether the following letter, one of many about Syria published on Aug. 28, was even minimally fact checked: 

• Just to get a bit of balance on the excessive coverage of the children who were perhaps killed by a chemical attack by either Assad’s forces or the rebels. On 15 January 2009, Israel attacked Gaza and 210 to 300 children were killed in the raids; 700 adults were also killed. The list of names was published by al-Jazeera on 15 January 2009. Children have been killed throughout the Middle East, but the west only focuses on certain cases that help its political interests.
Janet Salmon
Richmond, Surrey

First, whilst the prose is quite confusing, Ms. Salmon’s letter could easily be understood as (falsely) asserting that, just as Syrian children were (“perhaps”!) killed by chemical weapons (“by either Assad’s forces or the rebels”), Israel perpetrated a similar crime in January of 2009. Of course, the writer doesn’t say this explicitly but, based on the wording, that is how it could easily be interpreted by an average reader. 

Second, in reading the letter you’d be forgiven for assuming that on January 15, 2009 Israel launched an attack on Gaza, resulting in the death of a thousand Palestinians, including 300 children, on that one day alone.  Of course, however, Israel’s war against Hamas terrorists in Gaza (Operation Cast Lead) lasted a little over three weeks – commencing on Dec. 27, 2008 and ending on Jan 18, 2009. And, whilst claims regarding the total death toll varied, the casualty figures cited in Salmon’s letter did not occur on that one January day, but over the course of the entire 23 day war. 

All of this information could easily have been revealed by a simple Google search, a fact-checking task which doesn’t seem too arduous for a team of professional Guardian editors.

Harriet Sherwood and the myth of olive oil shortages in Gaza

Hadar Sela recently commented on Harriet Sherwood’s report in the Guardian (Gaza gastronomy”, May 14) which focused on a food collective in Gaza called Zeitun, as well as a recently published book titled ‘The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey co-written by Maggie Schmitt and ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Laila Haddad.

olives

In addition to the important questions raised by Sela about Haddad – a one-stater who has previously ‘informed’ readers at ‘Comment is Free’ that Gaza is worse than a prison camp, and has used Electronic Intifada to warn of an impending “Gaza genocide” – the Guardian report is notable for the following claims made by Sherwood in the context of explaining the broader challenges of cooking in the Palestinian run territory:

In Gaza, almost 1 million people – more than half the population – receive basic food assistance from the United Nations. The 13 women of the Zeitun Kitchen co-operative [a women's co-operative, which caters for weddings and family parties in Gaza] have learned to adapt to the privations of life in Gaza: shortages of power and cooking oil; Israel’s ban on many foodstuffs during the three years in which a stringent blockade was in place; the fluctuations in black market supplies through the tunnels to Egypt; the destruction of and restrictions on access to prime agricultural land; the imposition of strict limits on how far from shore Gaza’s fishermen can lower their nets.

Olive oil is just one example. An essential ingredient in most Palestinian dishes, the uprooting of olive trees in both Gaza and the West Bank has made the once-abundant oil prohibitively expensive for many families. Now it is often used just to dress a dish, rather than create it.

So, is there a shortage of olives or olive oil in Gaza, as Sherwood contends?

OliveOil

An increase in Palestinian olive trees:

  • CAMERA’s Tamar Sternthal, in fisking a Los Angeles Times review of ‘Gaza Kitchen’ by Carol J. Williams, addressed the specific contention by Williams – similar to Sherwood’s claim – that “locally made olive oil has disappeared” due to the Israeli blockade, and was able to demonstrate that there are actually “significantly more olive trees in Gaza now than in the years before Israel imposed a blockade.”  

An increase in olive oil production

  • Additionally, the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) on March 17, 2013 noted that there was a significant “increase in olive oil production in Palestine [West Bank and Gaza] in 2012“. The quantity of olive oil extracted in “Palestine” in 2012 rose, PCBS statistics demonstrated, by 10.6% compared to 2011. (Additionally, there is evidence that olive oil production in Gaza specifically increased significantly in 2012)

A surplus of olive oil:

  • A detailed economic report by the PCBS in 2012 indicated that Palestinian olive oil production was expected to be 18 thousand tons in 2012. Taking into account the 6 thousand ton surplus from the previous year, the total available supply of olive oil in the Palestinian territories was expected to be nearly 24 thousand tons.  Since the local annual consumption of olive oil, again per the PCBS, is about 14 thousand tons, there was an expected surplus of approximately 10 thousand tons of olive oil in “Palestine” for the current year. 
  • Additional data by the World Bank supports the PCBS conclusion that olive oil production in the Palestinian territories greatly exceeds local consumption.

Exports of olives and olive oil

Data suggests that olive oil prices have recently decreased in Gaza.

  • The economic analysis of Gaza by the PCBS cited above suggested a decrease in the price of olive oil in the Palestinian territories in 2012, compared to 2011. [Table 6.2]

So, not only is there no evidence to support Harriet Sherwood’s claim that there is a shortage of olive oil in Gaza (and related higher prices) due to “the uprooting of olive trees” by Israel, but PCBS data suggests an abundant supply of olives and olive oil in the West Bank and Gaza, and that prices, if anything, may have fallen a bit from 2011 levels.

Once again, it seems likely that the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent relied solely on anecdotal evidence from Palestinian sources‘ without fact-checking the specific claims using readily available open source information.

The Guardian continues to yawn over Palestinians summarily executed in Gaza

A couple of days following the start of the November war between Israel and Hamas, masked Palestinian gunmen in Gaza publicly executed seven Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel – a story which was widely covered.   

According to Palestinian witnesses, at around noon on Nov. 16 a van stopped at a Gaza City intersection, and several masked men pushed seven suspected ‘informers’ out of the vehicle.  The gunmen then ordered them to lie face down in the street and shot them all in the head.  Shortly after the killing, a mob surrounded the corpses and some in the crowd “stomped and spat on the bodies”, while others kicked the head of one of the dead men.

One of the corpses was tied to a motorcycle and dragged through the streets as people reportedly screamed, “God is Great!”.

Palestinian gunmen ride motorcycles as they drag  the body of a man, who was suspected of working for Israel, in Gaza City

17execute_image1-articleLarge

hamas

“They should have been killed in a more brutal fashion so others don’t even think about working with the occupation,” said one of the Palestinian bystanders.

The victims allegedly had notices tied around their necks saying they had been killed by Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades - Hamas’s ‘armed wing’.

In stark contrast to the Guardian’s intense coverage of the 8 day war – which included an official Guardian editorial, frequent updates at their Middle East Live blog, and direct reporting from Gaza City by Harriet Sherwood and Chris McGreal - their only stand alone story about this brutal extra-judicial killing was an anonymous AP story on Nov. 20.

Additionally, the Guardian has also thus far failed to cover a recent report by Human Rights Watch (widely reported in the mainstream media) condemning Hamas for failing to investigate the Nov. 16 summary executions.  HRW noted that Hamas’s failure to investigate “the brazen murders” make “a mockery of its claims that it’s upholding the rule of law in Gaza”. 

Whilst the suggestion that Hamas would ever conduct a fair inquiry into human rights violations committed by its own military is of course absurd, the Guardian’s lack of interest in the savage murder of seven Gazans – particularly in contrast to their intense focus on Palestinian terrorists imprisoned by Israel who engage in hunger strikes - continues to make a mockery of claims that their concern for Palestinian rights is principled, and not largely inspired by an animus towards Israel.

Guardian Teacher Network site promotes distorted history of Israel’s birth

pic

The Guardian Teacher Network (GTN) is a site dedicated to helping UK teachers find jobs, focus on a career path and “gain resources and ideas” to assist in their professional development. They even have suggested lesson plans, sample tests and other classroom aids to help teaching professionals with day-to-day challenges.

A CiF Watch post (Guardian publishes false information about IDF attack on Ahmed al-Jabari) in November noted that a blog entry at GTN – which provided a summary of the recent Gaza war for educators to use in class – falsely claimed that the Israeli air strike on the Hamas military chief on Nov. 14 also killed a 6 year-old girl and an 11-month old baby.

As we noted, the strike killed only al-Jabari and his bodyguard.

Following our post, the Guardian corrected the mistake.

More recently, upon perusing the page to learn what additional information about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict was available to British educators, I found this history lesson plan for students ages 14-16.

Conflict between Israel and the Arab states, 1949-1979

After doing this lesson, you should understand why Israel was involved in three wars between 1949 and 1979, why Israel was able to win these three wars, why and with what consequences other countries became involved in conflict in the Middle East, why the problems of the Middle East were not solved by 1979, identify the main motives of each of the countries involved in the disputes in the Middle East, explain why countries outside of the Middle East became involved, and discuss what the consequences were for both the Middle East and the world at large of the failure to solve the Arab/Israeli problem.

Here’s the first section, on how Israel was founded.

In order to understand why there were wars between Israel and the Arab states in 1956, 1967 and 1973, you need to fully understand what had been happening in the area between 1945 and 1949.

Column 1 contains the beginning of some sentences and column 2 gives you [the] endings. 

Here is the Guardian graphic – which I edited according to the “correct” answers to the questions they provided - representing the sum total of what their education editors deem necessary for students to know about the events between 1945 and 1949 to help them understand the wars between Israel and the Arabs in ’56, ’67, and ’73.

graphic

The selective history lesson is truly a work of art.

  • Students learn about the White Paper (see #2), but not the Balfour Declaration. (Additionally, there is nothing about the Mandate for Palestine, the the history of Zionism, or 4,000 years of Jewish history in the land).
  • There is an implicit suggestion (see #3) that the justification for Israel’s existence is significantly based on the “terrible treatment of Jews in concentration camps during the Second World War”.
  • Two of the eight questions (see #4 and #5) focus on terrorist acts committed by the Irgun and Stern Gang, yet there is absolutely nothing about Arab pograms, riots, terrorism, and brutality committed against Jews.
  • There is nothing (see #7) indicating which side accepted, and which side rejected, the UN recommended division of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.

Note also that there is no indication that Arabs refused to recognize Israel even after the war, nor the subsequent Arab terror attacks, the Arab League economic boycott and other forms of belligerence – all of which are vital to understanding the subsequent conflict.

Moreover, note that Arabs are barely even mentioned in the Q&A table.  Arabs – those living in historic Palestine, as well as those in the greater Middle East – are not moral actors in the GTN history of the region between 1945-49.

The Guardian Teacher Network recommended history lesson about the Israeli-Palestinian/Israeli-Arab/Israeli-Islamist Conflict is, however, accurate in one respect. It represents an entirely accurate snapshot of the Guardian’s skewed, myopic, Israeli-obsessed and egregiously distorted reporting on the region. 

A Guardian journalist conjures Israeli “snipers with children in their sights”

Here’s a quote from a report by Guardian “journalist” Chris McGreal, ‘Rachel Corrie verdict exposes Israeli military mindset‘, on Aug. 28.

“…the state of the collective Israeli military mind…cast the definition of enemies so widely that children walking down the street were legitimate targets if they crossed a red line that was invisible to everyone but the soldiers looking at it on their maps.”

mcgreal

To learn about McGreal’s mindset, see the links below, and read the section about the Guardian in CST’s 2011 Report on Antisemitic Rhetoric in the UK.

However, while McGreal’s views on Israel are well-known, I was curious to see if this particularly insidious accusation, that the IDF targets Palestinian kids, was a one-off, and after  brief search found a piece he wrote in 2005 which was even more explicit.

Here are some excerpts from a 2005 McGreal piece titled “Snipers with children in their sights“:

“It was the shooting of Asma Mughayar that swept away any lingering doubts I had about how it is the Israeli army kills so many Palestinian children and civilians.

Asma, 16, and her younger brother, Ahmad, were collecting laundry from the roof of their home in the south of the Gaza Strip in May last year when they were felled by an Israeli army sniper. Neither child was armed or threatening the soldier, who fired unseen through a hole punched in the wall of a neighbouring block of flats.

the army changed its account and claimed the pair were killed by a Palestinian, though there was persuasive evidence pointing to the Israeli sniper’s nest.

In southern Gaza, the killings take place in a climate that amounts to a form of terror against the population. Random fire into Rafah and Khan Yunis has claimed hundreds of lives, including five children shot as they sat at their school desks.Many others have died when the snipers must have known who was in their sights – children playing football, sitting outside home, walking back from school.”

The last passage (which quite predictably doesn’t even contain a link to a source) is astonishing, and begins to explain McGreal’s obsessive hatred for the Jewish state.

McGreal genuinely seems to believe that sadistic Israeli “snipers” intentionally fire at Palestinian children who are playing football or while they sit at their school desks.  

He doesn’t just dislike Israel, or disagree with Israeli government policy regarding the Palestinians.

The Guardian journalist seems to agree with the most unhinged extremists in the region – those who believe as an article of faith that Israelis are simply monsters.

Chris McGreal makes 3rd unforced error in story on footballers signing anti-Israel petition

The Guardian’s Chris McGreal (recently singled out in a CST Report on Antisemitic Discourse) recently published a story about a petition signed by some footballers calling for European football’s governing body to cancel Israel’s hosting of a 2013 European competition in response to the Gaza war.  (‘Footballers condemn plans to hold U21 European Championship in Israel‘, Guardian, Nov. 30)

However, after a CiF Watch post demonstrated that two of the footballers cited by McGreal as signing the petition - former Chelsea player Didier Drogba and Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye - flatly denied signing it, the Guardian revised McGreal’s piece accordingly, and noted the following on their corrections page.

correction

Well, it looks like the Guardian’s ‘Corrections’ editor will have more work to do, as the Daily Mail is reporting that another footballer cited by McGreal, Chelsea forward Eden Hazard, has also denied signing the petition.

The Daily Mail’s Charles Sale wrote:

“Hazard had not contributed to the petition. His agent John Bico said: ‘Eden never speaks about his political opinions and he certainly never signed anything.’” 

You can email Guardian readers’ editor Chris Elliott (reader@guardian.co.uk), and Tweet Chris McGreal (@ChrisMcGreal), to point out the additional error. 

Guardian features prominently in watchdog group’s ‘Top 10 Media Fails of the Gaza War’

HonestReporting published their ‘Top 10 Media Fails of the Gaza War‘ and the Guardian claimed the number 5 and 9 slots.

Placing at number 5 was Steve Bell’s cartoon of hapless British statesmen being controlled by a seemingly omnipotent Jewish leader.

bell

HonestReporting’s Alex Margolin wrote the following about the cartoon:

“When it comes to building a Hall of Shame in coverage of the media war against Israel, you can always count on The Guardian to compete for a high place on the list. And this year is no exception.

This cartoon of Benjamin Netanyahu published on the first days of the war offers so many different aspects of media bias, it’s hard to pick out the worst ones. Start with a classic anti-Semitic trope of Israel manipulating and controlling Western leaders. Then there is the strong implication that the real motive behind Israel’s operation is to manipulate the election.”

Seumas Milne’s essay’s explicitly endorsing the right of Palestinians to kill Israelis placed at number 9.

milne

Margolin:

It takes a man of extraordinary bias to look at thousands of rockets flying into Israeli cities, and to conclude, despite all evidence, that it’s the Palestinians and not the Israelis who have the right to defend themselves. Seamus Milne is that kind of man.

“To portray Israel as some kind of victim with every right to “defend itself” from attack from “outside its borders” is a grotesque inversion of reality,” he writes, dismissing the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza as irrelevant.

“So Gazans are an occupied people and have the right to resist, including by armed force (though not to target civilians), while Israel is an occupying power that has an obligation to withdraw – not a right to defend territories it controls or is colonising by dint of military power,” he adds.

It’s unclear which war Milne is watching, but the Palestinian attacks consisted of nothing but attacks on civilians and Israel has already withdrawn entirely from Gaza. Talk about a grotesque inversion of reality, Seamus…you lead the way in showing how it’s done.

You can read the complete top 10 list here.

If you recall, the Guardian was also the undisputed winner of HonestReporting’s 2011 Dishonest Reporting’ Award.  

The Dead Baby War: Fisking Max Fisher

Cross posted by Richard Landes at Augean Stables under the full title: “The Dead Baby War: Reflections on Palestinian Thanatography and Western Stupefication”.

Max Fisher, formerly of the Atlantic Monthly, now the WaPo’s “foreign policy advisor,”  just posted a reflection on the war of images in the current Gaza operation. In it he makes every effort to be “even-handed.” And in the end, comes up empty-handed. A remarkable example of how intelligent people can look carefully at evidence and learn nothing. If I didn’t know better (which I don’t), I might think he was doing some “damage control,” if not for Hamas (in which case, presumably it would be unconscious), then for the paradigm that permits him not to acknowledge Hamas’ character.

The Israeli-Palestinian politics of a bloodied child’s photo

Posted by Max Fisher on November 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm

 

Left, a journalist for BBC Arabic holds his son’s body. Center, an emergency worker carries an Israeli infant from the site of a rocket strike. Right, Egypt’s prime minister and a Hamas official bend over a young boy’s body. (AP, Reuters, Reuters)

Wars are often defined by their images, and the renewed fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas has already produced three such photographs in as many days. In the first, displayed on the front page of Thursday’s Washington Post, BBC journalist Jihad Misharawi carries the body of his 11-month-old son, killed when a munition landed on his Gaza home. An almost parallel image shows an emergency worker carrying an Israeli infant, bloody but alive, from the scene of a rocket attack that had killed three adults. The third, from Friday, captures Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, in his visit to a Gazan hospital, resting his hand on the head of a boy killed in an airstrike.

Each tells a similar story: a child’s body, struck by a heartless enemy, held by those who must go on. It’s a narrative that speaks to the pain of a grieving people, to the anger at those responsible, and to a determination for the world to bear witness. But the conversations around these photos, and around the stories that they tell, are themselves a microcosm of the distrust and feelings of victimhood that have long plagued the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Studiously even-handed. One of my favorite memes: “both sides…”

The old arguments of the Middle East are so entrenched that the photos, for all their emotional power, were almost immediately pressed into the service of one side or another.

Actually, there’s a huge difference between the sides. Israel has, over the years, shown enormous reluctance to use the photos of their dead and wounded to appeal for public sympathy; whereas Palestinians have actually created victims in order to parade their suffering in front of the public. Indeed, Palestinian TV revels in pictures of the dead (so much so, that when my daughter wanted to help me with some logging of PLO TV footage, I had to decline lest she be brutalized by the material). They systematically use the media to both arouse sympathy from an “empathic” West, and to arouse hatred and a desire for revenge among Arabs and Muslims. Nothing uglier.

Israel, on the other hand, studiously avoids pictures of the dead, and only a shocking incident like Ramallah can break those taboos. They were so reluctant to exploit these images that, even at the height of the suicide campaign (2002-3) they refused to release pictures of the dead victims. The two cultures could not be more different on this score, and yet, Fisher has no problem finding his symmetry.

To obfuscate this fundamental difference with a pleasing even-handedness symbolizes the literal stupefication of our culture that necessarily accompanies the politically correct paradigm (PCP1), founded on a dogmatic cognitive egocentrism. It forces one not to see critical information. It’s as if we were under orders to not notice everything that a good detective should pick up on, as if we were required to assist the clean-up crews that want to frame the story to their advantage. In such a world, the protagonists of the Mentalist, Lie to Me, Elementary, CSI, House, are not merely unwelcome, they are banished.

Harriet Sherwood sees another ulterior motive for Israel’s operation in Gaza

On Nov. 12 we posted about a report by Harriet Sherwood on Nov. 11 about the “escalation” in Gaza which suggested that the upcoming Israeli elections were quite possibly motivating Bibi Netanyahu to consider a major military operation in response. 

“In the south, dozens of rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza between Saturday evening and midday on Sunday by militants from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other organisations. 

Netanyahu warned that the military was ready to intensify its response to rocket fire from Gaza following the escalation of attacks and counter-attacks.

The round of violence followed a similar spike almost three weeks ago, which subsided after intervention by Egyptian mediators. But some observers believe Netanyahu may be more inclined to order a robust approach in the runup to Israel’s general election on 22 January.”

Sherwood attempted to buttress the claim by suggesting that Operation Cast Lead, in 2008-09, was similarly launched just before an Israeli election.

Operation Cast Lead, the three-week assault on Gaza in which about 1,400 Palestinians were killed, was launched in the build-up to Israel’s last election in 2009.” [emphasis added]

The Guardian’s ongoing live blog on the current conflict included an audio interview with Sherwood (who at the time was waiting to cross into Gaza), by the Guardian’s Haroon Siddique (posted at roughly 10:30 Israeli time), in which she walked back a bit from that claim.  

However, at the 3:55 mark in the audio (embedded below) Sherwood suggested another possible cause for the conflict: The Palestinian Authority’s current bid to gain non-state membership at the United Nations.

The degree to which the Israeli government’s current military act is motivated by a simple desire to protect its citizens from enemy rocket fire, as any other nation in the world would most certainly do, evidently didn’t factor in to her analysis.  

Following CiF Watch post, Guardian corrects John Pilger’s false casualty figures from Gaza War (Updated)

John Pilger, arguably one of the more virulent anti-Zionists to grace the pages of ‘Comment is Free’ (which is no small feat), took a gratuitous swipe at Israel in an essay concerning Australian politics, and, in so doing, no doubt thought his statistical fiction would go undetected.

He was wrong.

In a ‘Comment is Free’ essay titledJulia Gillard is no feminist hero‘, Oct. 15, Pilger, in the context of vilifying Australia’s Prime Minister for being a liberal apostate, added one last sin – being soft on the Jewish state. 

Pilger’s piece included this passage:

“A passionate supporter of the Israeli state, Gillard in 2009 went on a junket to Israel arranged by the Australian Israel Cultural Exchange during which she refused to condemn Israel’s blood-fresh massacre of 1,400 mostly women and children in Gaza.”

Leaving aside Pilger’s crude, vitriolic and unserious libel that Israel’s military actions (during the 2008-09 war, in response to thousands of Hamas rockets) represented a “blood fresh massacre”, his claim that Palestinian casualties were “mostly women and children”, as we noted in a post on Oct. 16,  was simply a lie.  (Further, the link Pilger provided to “prove” his claim – a Harriet Sherwood report in 2009 – didn’t even mention the number of women who died in the conflict.) 

While Cast Lead arguably had one of the “lowest ratios of civilian to combatant deaths in any asymmetric conflict in the history of warfare” (even compared to NATO operations), even the most pro-Palestinian sources don’t back up Pilger’s claim about the number of women and children (Palestinians under 18 years old) killed.

Our post asked our readers to contact the Guardian’s readers’ editor, Chris Elliott, to complain about the error and – while we’ll likely never know the identity of the friendly CiF Watcher who responded to our request – it looks like our efforts paid off.

The Oct. 17 edition of the Guardian’s ‘Corrections and clarifications’ page included this.

As of yet, however, the original piece has not been revised to reflect this correction. We’ll keep an eye on the piece to see if they make the appropriate correction.

UPDATE: The piece has now been revised.  The correction has been added at the end of Pilger’s piece and the false statistics in question have been deleted.

‘Comment is Free’ contributor John Pilger spins lies about Gaza War casualties

CiF Watch’s profile on ‘Comment is Free’ contributor John Pilger sums up the Australian journalist and documentary maker, thus:

John Pilger is a darling of the extreme Left, and, perhaps, one of the most vociferous demonizers of the Jewish state in the mainstream media. In his writings on “Palestine”, he regularly equates Israel to Nazi Germany, propagates the “Israel lobby” and Jewish conspiracy lie, accuses Israel of practicing racism and ethnic cleansing  and regards Israel as the most dangerous country in the world (after the United States).

In fact according to Pilger “the Zionist state remains the cause of more regional grievance and sheer terror than all the Muslim states combined.” 

So, given Pilger’s deep-seated hatred for the Jewish state, the following lie in his most recent CiF piece is not surprising.

Pilger’s piece, ‘Julia Gillard is no feminist hero‘, Oct. 15, represents a broad critique of Australia’s Prime Minister, but also includes this passage:

“A passionate supporter of the Israeli state, Gillard in 2009 went on a junket to Israel arranged by the Australian Israel Cultural Exchange during which she refused to condemn Israel’s blood-fresh massacre of 1,400 mostly women and children in Gaza.”

In fact, even the link Pilger uses in his piece – a report by Harriet Sherwood in 2009 – doesn’t support the stats he cites. 

While Sherwood’s report lists statistics (from the NGO Gaza Community Health Programme) on the number of children (under 18) killed in Cast Lead, nowhere does she cite the number of women killed.

In fact, even figures by the highly politicized pro-Palestinian NGO B’Tselem contradict Pilger’s numbers.

B’tselem reports that 452 of the 1387 Palestinian casualties were children or women.  So, even assuming B’tselem is correct – and Israeli figures, by the way, significantly contradict B’tselem’s findings – Pilger’s claim that those killed in the Gaza War were “mostly women and children” is simply a lie.

Given Pilger’s animosity towards Jews and Israel, we’re not surprised that he would engage in such disinformation.  

However, aren’t we to assume that ‘Comment is Free’ editors at least engage in basic fact checking before essays are published?

The Guardian Readers Editor, Chris Elliott, can be contacted at this email:

reader@guardian.co.uk

Rocket attacks on Israel, and reporters without borders (of integrity)

A guest post by Geary

Harriet Sherwood’s latest report contains the tellingly typical sentence:

The weekend death and injury toll was the highest since Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week military assault on Gaza just over three years ago. [emphasis added]

Note “assault” (that is “thuggish behaviour”) and “on Gaza”. Not on Hamas, mind, but on Gaza.

I say typical because this is the usual wording carefully selected by Guardian writers to describe Cast Lead. A glance through the newspaper archives for 2010 reveals the following (my italics):

Cast Lead Israel’s military offensive against Gaza

Israel’s Cast Lead offensive in which 1400 Palestinians were killed

Operation Cast Lead (the attack on Gaza)

… the anniversary of Cast Lead, the war on Gaza.

Not once is any context given, no reason, no mention of Hamas or rockets. Just a mindless war on Gaza.

 How did the other UK so-called quality report Operation Cast Lead in relation to Gaza? The Telegraph, not sharing the Guardian’s Israel obsession, mentions it just twice and in the most neutral of fashions:

Israel’s controversial military offensive in Gaza

have been fired by Islamist groups in Gaza [into Israel] since Israel’s offensive, known as Cast Lead, was concluded.

The Times* has five mentions, some neutral:

            Israel was conducting Operation Cast Lead into Gaza

But in others there appears at first sight to be a similar tone to the Guardian:

… Israel’s three-week Israeli assault on Gaza

… the devastation of Operation Cast Lead when Israel killed about 1400 Palestinians

But the impression is soon dispelled if one reads on. The Times, being a proper newspaper, gives context. The two extracts above are part of the following wider picture:

… a three-week Israeli assault on Gaza in response to Hamas rocket attacks

In Gaza, Iran’s other protégé, Hamas, is risking a new war with Israel, two years after the devastation of Operation Cast Lead when Israel killed about 1400 Palestinians in an attempt to end Palestinian rocket fire into southern Israel and topple the Islamists who rule the country.

Would the likes of Sherwood write of “Britain’s assault on Libya” or “the UK’s war on Afghanistan”? Of course not. But with Israel anything goes. And the first thing to go is journalistic integrity.

(*Times’ pay wall prevents direct link to stories noted)

UPDATE:

The Times has recently been caught using a blatantly false caption about Israel’s Iron Dome system – used to protect Israeli communities in the south from Gaza rocket barrages. See the Honest Reporting expose, here.

How NOT to combat anti-Israel incitement on UK campuses.

SOAS: International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network event in 2010

Almost a decade ago, on April 6th 2002 – a mere ten days after the Park Hotel terror attack which killed 30 Israelis and injured 140 others, prompting Operation Defensive Shield – a group of 125 British academics had a letter published in the Guardian calling publicly, for the first time, for an academic boycott of Israel.

Throughout the subsequent ten years – and in particular since Operation Cast Lead – the growth of anti-Israel incitement and antisemitism at British universities has become a serious cause of concern for anti-racist organisations, politicians and prominent figureswithin British society, as well as some academics.

The news, therefore, that the Israel Society at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) has been recently revived at the initiative of two Israeli students might seem like a glimmer of hope in the dark world of anti-Israeli activism in British academic institutions, especially as SOAS has been particularly egregious on these counts.

 In 2009 SOAS invited the prominent Muslim Brotherhood representative in the UK Kamal Helbawy and Ibrahim el Moussaoui – the former head of the foreign department of Hizballah’s ‘Al Manar’ TV – to teach a course on political Islam. In 2010, Hamas activist Azzam Tamimi was invited to speak to students at SOAS alongside his fellow Guardian contributor Ben White. Tamimi told students:  

“Today Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation because that’s what the Americans and Israelis and cowardly politicians of Europe want, but what is so terrorist about it?

“You shouldn’t be afraid of being labelled extreme, radical or terrorist. If fighting for your home land is terrorism, I take pride in being a terrorist. The Koran tells me if I die for my homeland, I’m a martyr and I long to be a martyr.”

 “Why are the Jews superhuman and better than anyone else that God would give them a homeland? Is God a racist? A god who would prefer people because of their race is not a god I want to associate with. Claiming they are being given the land of God is a racist idea.

“If the world felt so guilty about the Holocaust, the Jews should have been compensated, not brought to my country at the expense of my people.

“Israel does not belong to my homeland and must come to an end. This can happen peacefully if they acknowledge what they did — or we will continue to struggle until Israel is no more.”

 “I want to encourage you not to be intimidated by the pro-Israel lobby. The Zionists tell a pack of lies.”

(Tamimi, as is well known, was born in 1955 and his family moved from Hebron to Kuwait when he was 7 years old – a full 5 years before Jordan lost the Six Day War.)

Unfortunately, any hopes of the rejuvenated SOAS Israel Society swimming against the tide of anti-Israel hatred and propaganda already appear to be overly-optimistic. The society’s opening event on January 30th is to be a panel discussion purporting to “re-examine BDS through a more nuanced lens”.

Nuance, however, is hardly the territory inhabited by anti-Zionist panel member Ilan Pappe; controversial for his jaundiced use of history to advance a political agenda, his blithe dismissals of anti-Semitism and his recent spirited defence of Raed Salah. Neither are we to expect much in the way of nuance from Dr John Chalcraft – an old hand in the business of promoting an academic boycott against Israel.  

Further along the spectrum, we find Dr Lee Jones – an expert on Southeast Asia (where Israel obviously is not) and Hannah Weisfeld of the debatably ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ British J-Street look-alike, Yachad. Also taking part as a discussant will be SOAS Doctoral candidate Sharri Plonsky (Plonski) whose brief experience of Israel must be seen in light of her three year role as Development Coordinator for HaMoked‘: an organization of which the Israeli State Prosecutor said “the organization’s self-presentation as ‘a human rights organization’ has no basis in reality and is designed to mislead.”

Panel member and co-chair of the SOAS Israel Society is occasional Guardian writer and  +972 magazine co-founder and editor Dimi (Dmitry) Reider who is currently working on a Master’s degree at SOAS and who was perhaps (we are not told) one of the ‘two Israeli students’ instrumental in the society’s rebirth. Reider is known for his support of the so-called ‘one-state solution’ under which Israel as a Jewish and democratic state would cease to exist and his opinions on BDS appear here.

Interestingly, in a recent article in the Tablet, +972 magazine’s editor in chief Noam Sheizaf admitted that only 20% of its readership is Israeli, indicating “the growing unpopularity of its progressive politics” although that fact does not appear to perturb him as he believes “[i]t’s good to internationalize the conversation”.

“Rejected by the Arabs, ignored by the Jews: This is the reality with which the magazine’s 15 or so writers have to contend, writing, as they do, in English for a largely American audience. The magazine’s name is no coincidence: It is a tribute to Israel’s international calling code and an acknowledgement that, increasingly, any serious conversation about Israel’s policies is to be had outside of Israel’s borders.”

It therefore does not seem unreasonable to ponder the possibility that the SOAS Israel Society has in fact been rejuvenated as a British front for the +972 magazine agenda to which Reider subscribes: an agenda which has so little respect for Israeli democracy that it promotes the use of “dramatic pressure from abroad”, of which – of course – BDS is an integral arm.

Certainly no ‘Israel Society’ which invites Ilan Pappe to spread his anti-Zionist views or has an advocate of the dissolution of the Jewish state such as Dimi Reider as its chair is going to help stem the rising tide of anti-Israel incitement and anti-Semitism on UK campuses. But there is an additional irony to this story.

It turns out that Dimi Reider’s studies at SOAS are supported by a Chevening Scholarship donated by the British Embassy in Tel Aviv and the British Council. So whilst some British MPs and academics work tirelessly to combat anti-Israel incitement on campus, their own Foreign and Commonwealth Office has in this case – be it by accident, design or neglect – made their job somewhat harder. 

The wretched scandal of David Miliband’s liberal racism

Fully understanding that the best way to gain political points with the British hard left is to vilify Israel, the UK’s former foreign secretary, David Miliband, published an essay at CiF today, “Gaza represents the ultimate failure in politics.

Miliband’s visit was sponsored by the non-governmental organization Save the Children (an NGO not immune to anti-Israel bias according to NGO Monitor) and, as with The Telegraph’s report on Gaza by Mary Riddell titled, “The wretched scandal of Gaza”which was also based on a tour sponsored by Save the Children, Miliband predictably attributes blame for Gaza’s situation solely on Israel.

After listing alleged economic deprivations in Gaza, per Save the Children, Miliband characterizes life in the territory as “traumatic and limited”. 

Yet, as even the New York Times acknowledged in a recent report, Gaza is nowhere even approaching one of the world’s poorest places. They wrote:

“There is near universal literacy and relatively low infant mortality, and health conditions remain better than across much of the developing world.”

The story further quotes Mahmoud Daher, a World Health Organization official in Gaza, as saying, “We have 100 percent vaccination; no polio, measles, diphtheria or AIDS. We’ve never had a cholera outbreak.”

Home ownership in Gaza is at 80% according to a report in Ma’an, citing the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Additionally, according to the same report, the overwhelming majority of households in Gaza have satellite dishes, and nearly half have computers.

Unemployment in Gaza is at 25%, not too much higher than unemployment in Spain, 21%, 

Further, even the International Red Cross has acknowledged that there isn’t anything approaching a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Despite Israeli restrictions on materials which could be used to manufacture rockets and other weaponry, everyday nearly 6,000 tons of food, fuel, materials and other supplies are transferred by Israel into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom Crossing. And, thousands of Gazans are treated for free in Israeli hospitals.

Regardless of the fact son the ground, Miliband clearly was intent on advancing a narrative of Palestinian victimhood and Israeli villainy, and writes:

“The situation in Gaza represents the ultimate failure of politics. Nearly three years ago, after the Gaza war, the international community was preoccupied with opening up Gaza. Three years on, there is a stalemate – to match the wider stalemate in the wider search for a Palestinian state that can live alongside Israel.

The first responsibility is with Israel.”

As there’s no moral points to be scored in the UK by holding Palestinians responsible for their own continuing political failures, Miliband, in an over 900 word essay, only mentions Hamas, who rules Gaza, three times, and never in a way critical of the Islamist terrorist regime. Egypt, which also borders Gaza, is mentioned in passing only twice.

Does it occur to Miliband that, whatever economic deprivations exist in Gaza, Hamas is responsible for importing deadly weaponry into the territory, and firing thousands of rockets into Israeli towns, necessitating Israeli defensive measures and restrictions? 

Does it occur to Miliband to hold Palestinian Gazans responsible for electing an Islamist group whose very founding charter calls the murder of Jews, and cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as “proof” that Jews are indeed trying to take over the world?

Nothing in Miliband’s essay acknowledges these facts, nor suggests that he assigns moral agency to Gaza’s leaders and citizens.

Jim Sleeper, in his book, “Liberal Racism“, defines the term thusly:

“The condescension involved in setting the bar so low that one denies intended beneficiaries…the hard-won satisfactions of real growth and accomplishment; in short, one fails to…hold them to basic standards of human decency and achievement.”

The former foreign minister’s CiF essay may have assisted his political career, but by setting the bar so low, and not demanding of the Palestinians in Gaza the hard-won satisfactions of real moral and political growth and accomplishments, nor to basic standards of human decency, he, as with so many Guardian left critics of Israel, fails to uphold genuine liberal values.

Milibands bigotry of low expectations hurts Israel for sure, but is much more injurious to the Palestinians.   

If rockets are fired at your city but the Guardian doesn’t cover it, did the attacks really occur?

If you counted on the Guardian’s Middle East page for your news about Israel, you likely wouldn’t know that, since Operation Cast Lead ended in January of 2009, 393 rockets and 337 mortar shells have been fired into Southern Israel from Gaza. 

Islamic Jihad operatives demonstrate firing a mortar

Here’s the distribution of attacks since 2010:

In fact, during the month of March (2011) – which saw a dramatic increase in the number of attacks from Gaza – there were only two stories in the Guardian which even mentioned the rocket fire, and, in true Guardian fashion, focused on the Palestinian casualties from Israel’s retaliatory actions.

For those who take the persistent threat posed to Israeli communities by enemy rocket fire seriously, you may want to follow the blog, This Ongoing War.

Elder of Ziyon also has a good monthly rocket calendar.

The Meir Amit Terrorism and Information Center is a great site for detailed information and analysis.