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

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

headlineHere are the relevant passages:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The report continued:

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

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

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

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

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At the Guardian, Pope Francis morphs from ‘independent’ to an ‘appeaser’ in 24 hours

On Sunday, May 25, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont framed Pope Francis’s unscheduled stop at Israel’s security fence in Bethlehem as a confirmation of his “determined independence“.

It is an image that will define Pope Francis‘s first official visit to the Holy Land. Head bowed in prayer, the leader of the Catholic church pressed his palm against the graffiti-covered concrete of Israel‘s imposing “separation wall”, a Palestinian girl holding a flag by his side. It was, as his aides conceded later, a silent statement against a symbol of division and conflict.

The powerful gesture was made minutes after an appeal to both sides to end a conflict that the pope said was “increasingly unacceptable”. The unscheduled, conspicuous stop halfway through his three-day visit to the Holy Land – made en route to an open-air mass in Manger Square, Bethlehem – confirmed Francis’s reputation for determined independence.

On Monday, May 26, Beaumont reported on the pope’s visit to a Jerusalem memorial to Israeli victims of terrorism, an apparently unscheduled stop framed by Beaumont in an entirely different manner – as an attempt to “appease” his Israeli hosts:

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

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

So, to recap: the pope’s visit to a site which Palestinians seek to draw attention to is a sign of independence, while his subsequent visit to a site which Israelis seek to draw attention to is act of appeasement. 

Evidently, it didn’t occur to Beaumont that the pope’s visit to the terror memorial (a day after his visit to the security fence) likely represented an acknowledgement that though the fence causes hardships for Palestinians, its construction was motivated by the ethical imperative to save innocent lives – a decision based on moral calculus so simple that even cynical foreign journalists should understand.   

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CiF Watch prompts revision to Financial Times claim about Palestinian prisoners

On April 7, we posted about a shamefully propagandistic ‘analysis’ on the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks by their previous Associate Editor, David Gardner.  

The problems in Gardner’s article (pay wall) included a passage containing a toxic trope regarding ‘Jewish power’, a mischaracterization of Israel’s settlement freeze in 2010, an egregious distortion of the series of events leading to the current impasse between Abbas and Netanyahu, as well as a completely false claim seen in the following passage:

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

As we noted, this is flatly untrue.  

The pre-Oslo prisoners – scheduled for release under terms agreed upon last year to restart (and continue) negotiations – are all convicted of murder, attempted murder or being an accessory to murder, and there was no provision in the Oslo Accords requiring their release.   

Israel (per Annex VII of the agreement) agreed to release women, administrative detainees and minors, as well as elderly and sick prisoners, but stated quite clearly that they would not release “prisoners who killed Israeli citizens or were deemed likely to become involved in future acts of violence”, or otherwise had “blood on their hands”.  Additionally, “only members of organizations that had stopped supporting terrorism” would be considered for this amnesty.

Later, in a series of emails with editors at the Financial Times, they claimed that it was the Oslo 2 Accords that Gardner was referring to, and not Oslo 1.

However, as we noted in a subsequent email to editors, Oslo 2 (Article XVI, Confidence Building Measures) mentioned prisoners, but referred back to the language of the text in the original Oslo 1 Agreement, which (again) didn’t require Israel to release violent terrorists.

Following our last email with FT editors, they revised Gardner’s article and added this addendum:

corext

However, the change is completely inadequate.

Here’s the original:

orig

Now, here’s the slightly revised passage:

revised

The only change is that they added the modifier “some” to the original claim that “the prisoners in question were supposed to have been released…”.

However, as the language of the Oslo Accords cited above clearly indicates, NO violent terrorists (such as the pre-Oslo prisoners in question) were required to be released under the terms of either Oslo Agreement.

The Financial Times still has it wrong.

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The award for ‘UK paper blaming Israel for ruining Christmas in Bethlehem’ goes to….

Surprisingly, this year the award does NOT go to the Guardian.

timesIt goes to The Times for a story by Catherine Philp which is riddled with errors and distortions. (See our previous posts on Philp here and here.) 

Israeli settlements surround Bethlehem?

Philp:

From a barren hill, the settlers look down on snowy Bethlehem. “Just look at all this nature,” rhapsodises Yehuda Nesha as he turns from the fabled biblical town towards the Judean hills. Should the settlers get their way, though, nature will soon be banished from this hill, replaced by the red roofs and golden stone walls of hundreds of new homes, the latest links in a chain of Jewish settlements encircling the Palestinian town of Bethlehem.

However, as this map by B’tselem demonstrates, Israeli settlements do NOT encircle Bethlehem.

circle

map

Bethlehem has become more densely populated than Gaza?

Philp:

With little space left to expand, Bethlehem has become more densely populated than Gaza, despite the steady exodus of wealthier residents, mostly Christians, anxious to escape what the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called “a choking reality”.

Interestingly, this exact claim was also advanced in a story by Harriet Sherwood last year, citing an unnamed Palestinian official.  But, as we demonstrated at the time, this too is false. According to the PA’s own statistics, the population density of the city of Bethlehem is 4,757 persons/km², which is LOWER than Gaza’s, which (per the CIA Fact World Book) is at 4,898 persons/km².

Who’s to blame for the Christian Exodus from Bethlehem?

Philp:

Down in Beit Sahour, which is mostly Christian, residents of one housing development have been living under the threat of demolition for more than a decade since an Israeli court ruled its building illegal. The order was frozen but never lifted, leaving families in limbo, wondering if or when the bulldozers will arrive and where they will go if they do. “This is the only place left for us,” says William Sahouri, whose family has lived in the area for more than 300 years. “There are no lands to expand.”

He is one of seven brothers, but only three remain in Bethlehem. The other four have gone abroad, part of a migration that has seen Bethlehem’s Christian population fall from about 50 per cent to under a third.

In this year’s Christmas message, Mr Abbas highlighted the Christian exodus, lamenting “the sad fact that more Bethlehemites will be lighting their candles in Santiago de Chile, Chicago, San Pedro de Sula, Melbourne and Toronto than those in Bethlehem”.

Beyond her implication that Israel is to blame, Philp fails to seriously explain why the Christian population in the city has fallen.

In addition to demographic dynamics, such as higher Muslim birthrates, there is the widespread problem of Palestinian Christians being targeted for violence at the hands of Muslim extremists.  As reported in a detailed CAMERA analysis last year, Pastor Nihad Salman (who serves in Beit Jala, a Palestinian Christian town opposite Bethlehem) has testified extensively about Muslim hostility toward Christians.  Additionally, Dexter Van Zile, CAMERA’s Christian Media Analyst, interviewed Steven Khoury, assistant pastor at The First Baptist Church in Bethlehem, in a piece that was published in The Algemeiner. Khoury told Van Zile that anti-Christian animus has gotten worse in Bethlehem over the years, and that there is serious pressure placed on Christians in the West Bank to convert to Islam. 

Telegraph story in 2011 reported that Church leaders in the Holy Land had compiled a “dossier” of alleged incidents of abuse by ‘Islamic fundamentalists against Palestinian Christians, and accused the Palestinian Authority of doing nothing to stop the attacks.  According to the Telegraph, “the dossier includes a list of 140 cases of apparent land theft, in which Christians in the West Bank were allegedly forced off their lands, backed by corrupt [Palestinian] judicial officials.”

Remarkably, in 880 words written by the Times reporter about the fate of Christians in Bethlehem, there isn’t a single word about the problem of Islamist extremism. Nor does she note that the only country in the region where the Christian population is increasing is Israel.

Indeed, the fact that the only nation in the Middle East where Christians are flourishing just happens to be the sole place where radical Islam is not a serious threat is essential to understanding the fate of Christianity in that part of the world – vital context about contrasting values of tolerance in the region which Catherine Philp fails to provide.  

Guardian ‘inadvertently’ acknowledges that the Western Wall is NOT Judaism’s holiest site

As we’ve noted in previous posts, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (where the First and Second Jewish Temples stood) is the holiest site in Judaism.  The Western Wall, on the other hand, is merely the holiest site where Jews are currently permitted to pray – an uncontroversial, firmly established fact we leveraged to prompt a correction to a story at The Telegraph on Oct. 24 which falsely claimed that the Western Wall was the holiest site.  

Other news sites which have corrected their original false claims over the significance of the Western Wall include the LA Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the BBC (corrections which were prompted over the years by CAMERA).

In contrast to these corrections, however, the Guardian has engaged in characteristic obfuscations and stonewalling in refusing to revise Harriet Sherwood’s false claim regarding the Western Wall back in June.  Here’s Sherwood’s erroneous claim, which still hasn’t been amended.

During his three days in the Holy Land, he is scheduled to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to be the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection; the Western Wall, the most revered site in Judaism

So, we were quite surprised to see the following caption accompanying a Guardian photo of a member of ‘Women of the Wall’ praying at the Western Wall (10 Photo Highlights of the Day, Nov. 4).

kotel

Whilst this is of course merely a photo caption, Guardian editors have, on occasion, revised such accurate descriptive text below their photos when they believed it to be misleading.  So we’ll continue to monitor this entry and see whether this inadvertent collision with accuracy is eventually ‘rectified’. 

Harriet Sherwood misleads on religious significance of the Western Wall

Harriet Sherwood’s June 25 report on the upcoming visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, devoted some text to outlining his itinerary while in the Holy Land, and included this passage: 

During his three days in the Holy Land, he is scheduled to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to be the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection; the Western Wall, the most revered site in Judaism; and the Haram al-Sharif, the site of the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque and the third-holiest place in Islam. All three sites are inside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.

However, Sherwood gets the significance of the Western Wall and Haram al-Sharif wrong – an error which she has made previously and which has been made (and at times corrected) by other media outlets as well.

Haram al-Sharif is known in Judaism as ‘The Temple Mount’ (Har Habayit), and is identified in Jewish (and Islamic) tradition as the area of Mount Moriah where Abraham offered his son in sacrifice.  It is where the Second Temple stood between roughly 515 BCE until 70 CE and – while it is true, per Sherwood, that it is the third holiest place in Islam – it is recognized as the holiest site in Judaism. While the Western Wall is the holiest site where Jews are permitted to regularly pray, it derives its holiness from its proximity to the Temple site.

Western Wall (Kotel) looking towards Temple Mount (Har Habayit)

Western Wall (Kotel) looking towards Temple Mount (Har Habayit)

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Jews touring the Temple Mount (Har Habayit)

Though we have credited Sherwood recently on her progress towards more fair and accurate coverage of the region, this report on the Archbishop’s upcoming visit to Jerusalem includes clearly misleading information about the significance of these Jewish and Muslim holy sites which is simply not open to interpretation.  

(We recommend you consider reading a great CAMERA backgrounder on the issues surrounding the Temple Mount, here.)

Shlomo Sand at SOAS: Israel is “a shitty nation” and “the most racist society in the world”

Cross posted by London based blogger, Richard Millett

Shlomo Sand in full flow at SOAS last night.

Shlomo Sand in full flow at SOAS last night.

Last night Tel Aviv University history professor Shlomo Sand referred to Israel as a “shitty nation” (clip 1).

He called Israel “the most racist society in the world” and said that he has been fighting “Jewish racism all my life” (both clip 2).

And he declared that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist in the western world today (clip 3).

He was speaking in London at the SOAS launch of his new book The Invention of The Land of Israel.

The much discredited thesis of his previous book The Invention of The Jewish People is that there was no expulsion of the Jews from the Holy Land; diaspora Jews, therefore, must have all descended from converts and so have no right to return to Israel.

The already much discredited thesis of The Invention of The Land of Israel is, simply, that the land of Israel holds no religious significance for Jews either.

First, he claimed, there is no mention of “Israel” in the bible; it is only mentioned in the Talmud. This is not true (see note 1). Second, he claimed that political Zionism grew out of Christianity, not Judaism, and he solely credits Lord Shaftesbury and the evangelical Christian movement in London for the idea that Jews should return to the Holy Land.

But Sand, conveniently, regards great religious figures like Rabbi Alkalia and Rabbi Kalischer, who in the early nineteenth century wrote voraciously about the pressing need for Jews to return to Zion, as only minority influences.

Sand claimed that the Balfour Declaration came about due to three main reasons:

1. The ideological background of many leaders who wanted Redemption via a Jewish return to the Holy Land.
2. The colonialist interests of Britain in the Middle East.
3. Anti-Semitism – Balfour didn’t want suffering Jews from the East coming to Britain.

Sand said Jews preferred to move to America but after 1924, when America stopped eastern European immigration altogether, no country would accept Jews who then had no choice but to go to the Holy Land against their will.

Sand, again, conveniently ignores the examples of the Jewish pioneers in the Hibbat Zion and BILU movements who volunteered to move to the harsh conditions of the Holy Land during the 1880s to try to make a life there.

Sand views Israelis as a nation even if a “shitty one”. But, for Sand, they aren’t a Jewish nation because he doesn’t recognise such a concept exists. Sand views being Jewish as a purely religious concept and said that Hamas in Gaza are much more likely to be descended from the ancient people who once inhabited the Holy Land than he is.

Sand says he desires a two-state solution with equal rights for Arabs living in Israel and for Jews living in a future Palestine. Presumably, it would be an Israel where diaspora Jews would have limited, if any, rights to move to.

And on anti-Semitism Sand said:

“The century of anti-Semitism between 1850 and 1950 is finished. Pro-Zionists don’t understand history. I don’t think that political public anti-Semitism exists today in the western world. You cannot find members of Parliament in Britain or the United States who are openly anti-Semitic. You cannot find journalists who are anti-Semitic. You cannot find films that are anti-Semitic.”

This is what many in the audience wanted to hear. It was their official certificate that they are not Jew haters even though they focus solely on opposing the Jewish state while ignoring atrocities by both sides in Syria, by Hamas in Gaza and by the Saudi Arabian monarchy and the Iranian government which both brutally oppress their own people. To name but a few.

Once again, Sand conveniently ignores or is unaware of the example of Liberal Democrat David Ward who recently accused “the Jews” of inflicting something akin to a Holocaust on the Palestinians.

Sand is the master of cherry-picking anything that backs up his argument while ignoring anything inconvenient that might detract from it.

His recent books are not based on proper fact, record or history. They are simply driven by a hatred for the Jewish state.

Notes:

1. For a superb taking down of Sand’s new book see here via Elder of Ziyon.

2. For  a superb analysis of Sand speaking at The Frontline Club the previous night see here via Jonathan Hoffman.

Clips from last night (not good sound quality):

Clip 1 – Sand declares Israel a “shitty nation”:

Clip 2 – Sand declares Israel “the most racist society in the world” and says he has been fighting “Jewish racism all my life”:

Clip 3 – Sand claims there is no anti-Semitism in the west today:

 

Not reported by the Guardian: The “plot to celebrate Christmas” in Saudi Arabia

The following story about an incident in Saudi Arabia, published in Alakhbar, reads as satire, but is all too real, and represents and interesting postscript to our recent critique of Harriet Sherwood’s tall tale about Christmas in Bethlehem , which conjured fanciful images of Christians under siege in the Holy Land.

20110531_SaudiArabiaMap

Here are excerpts from the Alakhbar piece:

“Saudi religious police stormed a house in the Saudi Arabian province of al-Jouf, detaining more than 41 guests for “plotting to celebrate Christmas,” a statement from the police branch released Wednesday night said.

The host of the alleged Christmas gathering is reported to be an Asian diplomat whose guests included 41 Christians, as well as two Saudi Arabian and Egyptian Muslims.

The kingdom, which only recognizes Islamic faith and practice, has in the past banned public Christmas celebrations, but is ambiguous about festivities staged in private quarters.

member of the Higher Council of Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Mohammed al-Othaimin recently prohibited sending holiday wishes to “heretics” on Christmas or other religious Christian holidays.”

As Christians throughout Israel were freely celebrating the birth of Christ, in the neighboring state of Saudi Arabia dozens were detained for ‘conspiring’ to celebrate the holiday.

Meanwhile, on the Guardian’s Saudi Arabia page, there was nothing on the crackdown against Christianity.

saudi

While Harriet Sherwood and her team of journalistic and polemical investigators continue to conduct a never-ending moral DNA analysis of the Jewish state for any trace amounts of racism or discrimination, the abominable treatment of religious minorities in the non-Jewish Middle East avoids serious scrutiny.

While we continue to report on the Guardian’s bias against the only Jewish state in the region, it’s impossible to properly contextualize such skewed coverage without noting the regional stories they don’t report.  

Such expansive moral blind spots, as much as any other dynamic, continue to define the ideological space occupied by the Guardian Left.   

The Guardian: Divorced from Holy Land Reality

This is cross posted at Backspin, the blog of Honest Reporting.

Here’s a new canard leveled against Israel: Many Christians living in the Holy Land have to convert to Islam or to a different Christian denomination in order to obtain a divorce.

So claims Jill Hamilton in a shocking commentary published in The Guardians print edition:

In Israel, Christians come under 10 personal status codes: Latin Catholic, Melkite, Maronite, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Chaldean, Anglican, Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and Armenian. Some can divorce; others cannot. Some codes give equality; others do not.

In the Holy Land, Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans can only separate; to remarry they first have to convert to Greek Orthodox or Islam to obtain a divorce. Annulment is possible, but there are only about five cases finalised in the region annually . . . .

But if Arab Christians had the same legal rights as their Muslim neighbours and fellow Christians in the west, there would be no need for conversions.

If Hamilton did her homework, she would discover that Israel gives autonomy to each of these communities, respecting their rules and authorities on matters of personal status. (Israel only steps in to enforce human rights or civil rights such as in cases of wife-beating, child marriage, etc.)

Denominations have varying outlooks and rules on divorce; couples choosing to fast-track a divorce by converting aren’t Israel’s concern. If Hamilton wants to take issue with denominational differences over divorce, that’s a discussion for the clergy, not the Israeli government.

Hamilton is misleading, and scandalously so.

She’s also divorced from reality.

A Guardian Christmas tale of Christian Pilgrims, Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity (and exploitative Jews)

Even in the U.S., by any standard the most tolerant country towards Jews in the diaspora, it still isn’t uncommon to hear someone being accused of trying to “Jew someone down” – which means, of course, the unseemly effort to get a merchant to lower his price.   I was once in the company of a woman who casually referred to a building in our city which had just burned down as the result of a “Jewish” fire – referring to speculation that the owner set the fire to collect insurance money.

Indeed, bigoted accusations that Jews are cheap, greedy, and materialistic have proven to have – much like the broader phenomenon of anti-Semitism around the world – remarkable staying power.

The myth of Jewish greed dates back at least to the New Testament story of Jesus forcing the Jewish money changers out of the Temple. Teachings concerning Jews as greedy subsequently took hold throughout the Christian world. In the Middle Ages, some Jews became moneylenders — in part because the Church had forbidden Christians from practicing usury (lending money at interest). Usury was condemned as a sin, but since Jews were not subject to Christian law, both the Church and the State appointed Jews as moneylenders and tax collectors.

More recently, many people believe that wealthy Jews get ahead due to cheapness, greed, materialism, unethical business practices, or their “natural skill with money” rather than through a commitment to education and hard work.

One of the more recent Israel contributors to the Guardian is Ana Carbajosa – who writes for the Spanish Daily, El Pais – the most widely read paper in Spain.

As Akus has demonstrated, as well as Eamonn McDonagh, Carbajosa’s anti-Israel views are quite clear.

However, a closer look at Carbajosa reveals a writer operating in a professional and national culture where outright anti-Semitism thrives.

As ADL reported, the mainstream media in Spain engages in vicious and repeated anti-Semitism.

In 2009, Carbajosa’s paper, El Pais, published a blatantly antisemitic cartoon accusing Jews of using their financial power to enable Israel to “violate…all human and international laws.” (El País published yet another anti-Semitic cartoon the same year by Romeu, this time likening Israel to the Nazis by equating Gaza with the Warsaw Ghetto.)

Further, based on polling data compiled on anti-Semitic attitudes in European countries by the ADL in 2009, Spain had the highest percentage of respondents agree with the statement that “Jews have too much power in international financial markets”, with a staggering 74% agreeing.

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The Guardian claims that Jews are the real “Palestinians”

A guest post by AKUS

The Guardian has reported on a proposed Christian theme park in Mallorca, similar to one that apparently already exists in Buenos Aires:

Welcome to Holy Land – Europe’s first Christian theme park

Scan to the end of the article and you will find the Guardian making it clear who the real Palestinians are, and refuting the increasingly frequent claim by those who today call themselves “Palestinians” that there never was a Temple in Jerusalem:

“With a cast of extras in the costumes of Romans and early Palestinians, the park advertises itself as ‘a place where everyone can learn about the origins of spirituality’. Visitors include tourists and groups of young Roman Catholics studying for their first communion.

The park planned for Mallorca reportedly intends to build replicas of, among other things, the Wall of Lamentations and a Roman court house.”

It’s pleasing to see that instead of simply saving space by using the word “Jews”, they preferred to make it clear that they, like most Jews, know who lived in Palestine in Roman times.

It looks like the editorial shakeup at the Guardian may be having a positive effect