The Guardian gets it wrong: Exit polls indicate no rightward political shift in Israel

If exit polls (as reported by Times of Israel and other media outlets) turn out to be accurate, the Guardian mantra – parroted by nearly every commentator and reporter who’s been providing ‘analysis’ on the Israeli elections – warning of a hard and dangerous shift to the right will prove to have been entirely inaccurate.

In the final days before the vote, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood seemed certain that the elections would bring “a more hawkish and pro-settler government“, and Guardian Middle East Editor Ian Black warned that “Netanyahu [was] poised to…head a more right-wing and uncompromising government than Israel has ever seen before“.

Rachel Shabi predicted that Israel would elect “the most right-wing government in its history“, while Jonathan Freedland expressed gloom that diaspora Jews would have to watch “the centre of gravity…shift so far rightward [in Israel] that Netanyahu and even Lieberman will look moderate by comparison.”

However, based on preliminary reports, not only does it appear that there has been absolutely no rightward shift, but the makeup of the next Knesset may be slightly more left than the current one.

While in 2009 the right-wing bloc bested the center-left bloc by 65-55, the tallies released tonight after polls closed in Israel at 10 PM showed that the new Knesset will have a narrower (61-59) right-bloc advantage.    

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Screenshot from Israel’s Channel 2, showing 61-59 right-left split based on exit polling

According various exit polls, the top three parties will be Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu with 31 Knesset seats, the centrist Yesh Atid with 19, and the leftist Labor Party with between 16-18. The rightist party, Jewish Home, headed by Naftali Bennett, came in fourth and will have 13 or 14, while Shas, the ultra-orthodox party, came in fifth with 12.

Some Israeli commentators are already predicting that Binyamin Netanyahu will attempt to form a centrist or even a right-center-left coalition.

Though the final results aren’t expected to be announced until the early hours of Wednesday, a few things are certain:

The Guardian invested heavily in promoting their desired political narrative of a Jewish state lurching dangerously towards the right.  

They got it completely wrong.

They will learn absolutely nothing from their egregious miscalculation.

   

Racist double standards watch: Guardian ignores Palestinians’ extreme right drift

Reports and commentaries in the Guardian (as well as in the mainstream media) analyzing Israel’s upcoming election which warn of a far-right shift within the Israeli electorate have been ubiquitous.  Much of the reporting has focused on the possibility that Binyamin Netanyahu’s party may form a more right-wing coalition government following the election, one which will be injurious – if not fatal – to the “peace process”.

Here are excerpts from such prognostications on the Guardian’s Israel page since early January.  

The left in Israel is its own worst enemy, Rachel Shabi, ‘Comment is Free’, Jan. 21

“Israel is expected to elect the most right-wing government in its history on Tuesday…”

Binyamin Netanyahu rejects calls for Palestinian State within 1967 lines, Harriet Sherwood, Guardian, Jan. 20:

“…a strengthening of the hard right in the next parliament [is expected]“

Obama’s dysfunctional relationship with Netanyahu likely to trundle on, Chris McGreal, Guardian, Jan 20:

…disillusioned former peace negotiators and Middle East policy officials expect his “dysfunctional” and confrontational relationship with Binyamin Netanyahu to stagger along even if the Israeli prime minister returns to power after Tuesday’s election with a government even further to the right of the present one.”

Arab gloom as Israel shifts rightward, Ian Black, Guardian, Jan. 19:

“To measure just how far Israeli politics have shifted to the right it is worth recalling that 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the Oslo accords in which Israel and the PLO recognized each other…

But with Netanyahu poised to return to power at the head of a more right-wing and uncompromising government than Israel has ever seen before…”

Binyamin Netanyahu on course to win Israeli elections, Harriet Sherwood, Guardian, Jan. 18:

Binyamin Netanyahu is on course to head a more hawkish and pro-settler government following Tuesday’s elections,

Support has drained to the ultra-nationalist, pro-settler Jewish Home, led by Netanyahu’s former chief of staff Naftali Bennett, in an indication of the hardening of opinion on the right of the Israeli political spectrum.”

Peace process dead if Netanyahu wins Israeli election, academics war, Paul Owen, Guardian, Jan. 15:

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is dead if Binyamin Netanyahu wins next week’s Israeli election, leading academics have warned.” [quote from strap line]

Jewish Americans may be increasingly disenchanted with Netanyahu. But their priorities lie elsewhere, Peter Beinart, Guardian, Jan. 12:

“In Israel, public discourse is moving right. You can see it in the rise ofIsrael Hayom, the free, pro-Likud newspaper that has eclipsed Israel’s more traditional, centrist press. You can see it in the rise of Naftali Bennett, the settler leader whose party could come in third in the elections due later this month. You can see it the election campaign as a whole, in which the two-state solution is a virtual afterthought.”

Israel election: country prepares for next act in the great moving right show, Harriet Sherwood, Guardian, Jan. 12:

“Secular liberalism once dominated politics in Israel, but polls next week are set to confirm a long-term shift to the right

Naftali Bennett interview: ‘There won’t be a Palestinian state within Israel, Harriet Sherwood, Guardian, Jan. 7:

“Jewish Home is all but certain to be part of the next coalition government, tilting it significantly further to the right.”

Binyamin Netanyahu: strong man with a fearful heart. Peter Beaumont, Observer, Jan. 5:

“The question of the nature of Netanyahu’s conservatism has been complicated by Israel’s right-shifting political scene.”

Israel’s shift to the right will alienate those it needs most, Jonathan Freedland, ‘Comment is Free’, Jan. 4:

“For now the focus is on the Israeli elections of 22 January. The polls suggest that a government ranked as one of the most right-wing in Israel’s history is set to be replaced by one even further to the right

Even if Bennett is kept out of coalition, Netanyahu will still head a more rightist government.

The centre of gravity is about to shift so far rightward that Netanyahu and even Lieberman will look moderate by comparison.”

Meanwhile, if you were curious about the political center of gravity in Palestinian society, you wouldn’t find much information on the Guardian’s ‘Palestinian territories’ page.

In fact, the ‘Israel’ page and the ‘Palestinian territories’ page look exactly the same:

Guardian Israel page, Jan. 21:

israel

Now, here’s the Guardian’s Palestinian territory page, Jan. 21:

pal

However, for those interested, news regarding a possible extreme right Palestinian political coalition – which was reported in the Algemeiner, as well as in the Arab media - may provide some vital insight into Palestinian political culture.

The Algemeiner reported the following on Jan. 20:

“A member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Dr. Ahmed Majdalani, told Al-Quds newspaper that he expects Hamas and Islamic Jihad to join with the PLO after National Council elections later this month, though the government will still headed by President Mahmoud Abbas.”

Hamas, in case it needs reminding, is an Islamist terrorist group which refuses to recognize a Jewish state within any borders, cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in their founding charter, and whose leaders calls for the mass murder of Jews. Hamas advocates the destruction of Israel through violent means, indoctrinates their children to become suicide bombers, and displays extreme intolerance towards women, gays, non-Muslims and their Palestinian political opponents.

Islamic Jihad (PIJ) , funded by Iran, is another radical Islamist terrorist group, which was formed in 1979 by fundamentalists in Egypt who split from the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood because they were deemed too moderate. PIJ advocates the destruction of Israel through violent means, indoctrinates their children to become suicide bombers, and displays extreme intolerance towards women, gays, non-Muslims and their Palestinian political opponents.

Even if PIJ doesn’t join with the PLO, Hamas and Fatah are currently working out plans to implement, by the end of this month, previous reconciliation agreements signed between the two parties.

So, any way you look at it, right-wing extremism within Palestinian politics is evidently so endemic that “terror groups who urge the ethnic cleansing of Jews” are considered mainstream – a dangerous phenomena which would certainly explain why, at least on national security issues, citizens of the Jewish state seem to have reached a more right leaning political consensus.

Of course, a truly “liberal” media institution would report on Palestine’s dangerous extreme right-wing drift, condemn a possible political coalition which includes groups espousing homicidal antisemitism – and which would necessarily end any hopes of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement – and contextualize Israeli political sentiments accordingly.  

In other words, you won’t read much about Israel’s legitimate fears regarding the ominous strengthening of the Palestinian extremist right on the pages of the Guardian. 

If visiting Jordan, take precautions in light of the Kingdom’s dangerous lurch to the right

jordanThose of us who live in the liberal Jewish state have become accustomed to suffering through the steady stream of unhinged, if predictable, stories in the Guardian – as well as in the mainstream media – warning ominously of Israel’s dangerous political lurch to the right.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland (one of the more sober Guardian journalists) was the most recent Guardian contributor to warn of Israel’s pronounced shift to the right, but such warnings, with varying degrees of hysterics, have been advanced continually – with several CiF contributors even evoking the risible specter of an Israeli descent into fascism

The relative media blackout (outside a few Jewish and Israeli sources) about recent news from Jordan, on the other hand, demonstrating an extreme right political culture, is quite telling.

If you’re planning to visit the sprawling, modern metropolis of Amman, the ancient city of Petra, or one of the many beautiful seaside resorts in Aqaba, you may want to pack your bags taking into account the necessary cultural sensitivities.

The the Jordanian Tourism Ministry has recently issued a memo to tour operators warning Jewish visitors not to wear “Jewish clothing”, or pray in public places, in order to avoid possible antisemitic attacks.

Times of Israel reported the following:

“According to a copy of a ministry memo issued at the end of November, Amman instructed Jordanian tour operators to inform their Israeli counterparts to advise Israeli visitors not to wear “Jewish dress” or perform “religious rituals in public places” so as to prevent an unfriendly reaction by Jordanian citizens.

Israelis and Jews are typically advised not to wear outwardly Jewish clothes or symbols, and occasionally are met with trouble from Jordanian authorities when crossing the border.

Earlier this year, six Israeli tourists were assaulted in a market in southern Jordan after vendors were angered by their traditional Jewish skullcaps.

The six men and women arrived at a market in the town of Rabba, 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of the capital Amman, when one of the vendors identified the tourists as Israeli due to mens’ skullcaps, which “provoked the sensibilities of the vendors,” independent daily Al-Arab Al-Yawm reported.”

Yes, those “sensibilities”. 

Now, remember that the Jewish population of Jordan is literally zero, and while the phenomenon of antisemtism without Jews is not unique to Jordan the mere ubiquity of such irrational anti-Jewish racism certainly shouldn’t render it any less abhorrent. 

Further, while Israel’s progressive advantages in the Mid-East are self-evident, and well-documented, Jordan is consistently given one of the worst scores on human rights by the respected organization, Freedom House. In addition to the state’s systemic abrogation of political rights (such as severe restrictions on political expression and the media), an even more remarkable and under-reported violation of democratic norms relates to the Kingdom’s treatment of a much discussed group: hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are still denied the right to vote.   

So, if, according to the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood, Likud-Beiteinu represents a “right-wing alliance”; the Jewish Home party is an “extreme right-wing nationalist”, how should observers characterize the political center of gravity in a neighboring state which denies basic civil rights, creates an apartheid like system for Palestinians, and is so infected with Judeophobia that the government warned Jewish visitors not to pray, wear Jewish symbols, or even wear “Jewish clothes”? 

Can we fairly characterize Jordanian political culture as dangerously reactionary, racist, extremist, and ultra, ultra, ultra far-right?

Naturally, Guardian’s Jordan page has absolutely nothing by any of its liberal reporters or commentators warning of the nation’s dangerous lurch to the extreme right abyss. 

Could it be that most journalists within the mainstream media – and at the Guardian – fail to hold Arab states accountable to the same moral standards as they do the Jewish state?

Of course, such an ethnically and religiously based disparity in journalistic critical scrutiny would be racist, wouldn’t it?

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