The Independent fails to fact-check claim in story about ‘Jewish State’ proposal

As our posts noting CiF Watch-prompted corrections often demonstrate, beyond the UK media’s biased coverage of the region there lies another somewhat related problem – the failure to fact-check claims used to buttress their anti-Israel narrative.

A case in point is an article at The Independent by Ben Lynfield on May 2nd titled ‘Netanyahu’s Jewish state law angers Arabs‘, reporting on the prime minister’s proposal ‘to advance a constitutional Basic Law identifying Israel as a Jewish nation-state’.  While the article itself was predictably hostile to the proposal, and quoted critics who charged that defining Israel as ‘a Jewish nation-state’ would erode the rights of non-Jews, the following passage particularly caught our eye.

The Arab citizens of Israel, who number a fifth of the population, comprise Palestinians who remained behind when their compatriots were expelled or fled when Israel was established in 1948. They have the right to vote but regularly face discrimination from authorities. For example, while hundreds of new cities, towns and localities for Jews have been established since 1948, not a single new Arab town has been created.

First, Lynfield’s claim that hundreds of towns and cities have been built “for Jews” is, at best, highly misleading, as new Israeli cities, towns and localities generally do not distinguish between Jews, Muslims, Druze, Christians or members of other faiths.

Additionally, his claim that “not a single new Arab town has been created” since 1948 is false. In fact, there have been 7 new towns built specifically for Israeli Bedouins. (Bedouins are a sub-group within Israel’s Arab minority.)

Human Rights Watch:

in 60 years [there] have been seven towns that the government planned and constructed for Bedouin residents of the Negev

Ha’aretz:

Between 1965 and 1990, Israel indeed built seven new towns, which were able to absorb half of the Negev Bedouin…

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):

State-planned [Arab-Bedouin] towns…were set up in the 1960s and 1970s: Hura, Kseifa, Laqia, Arara, Rahat, Segev Shalom and Tel-Sheva.

We don’t know what led Ben Lynfield to believe that there were no Arab towns built since 1948, and why Indy editors didn’t fact-check the passage in question, but the claim is clearly inaccurate. 

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Guardian publishes letter by Gilad Atzmon ally Karl Sabbagh

Karl Sabbagh, the British academic and author of Palestine: A Personal History, had a letter published at the Guardian on Jan 9:

Harry Goldstein’s assertion (Letters, 7 January) that the Palestinians were “offered [a state] in 1947 and refused, preferring to make war on Israel“, must be challenged. The Palestinians were told that 56% of their existing state of Palestine was to be taken away and made into a Jewish state, even though half of the population of the “Jewish” area was Arab. Since the Jews made it clear they wanted even more than the 56% and would take it by force, the Arab armies, far smaller in number and less well-armed than the Jews, moved up to the border of the Jewish state, in an attempt to protect the remaining territory they had been allocated, and stop Israel taking those areas by force. They failed either to stop the Jewish armies or to prevent them expelling Palestinian Arabs from a land in which they had once formed 90% of the population. – Karl Sabbagh

Even by Guardian standards, this is an especially egregious distortion of historical reality.  

First, contrary to what Sabbagh implies, there was never an “existing state of Palestine”. Further, the suggestion that Jews were the belligerent party in 1947-48 represents a remarkable inversion, as it was the Jews (and not the Arabs) who accepted partition, despite the fact that it gave them only a small portion of the land previously promised to them. (Indeed, 77% of the landmass of the original Mandate for the Jews was excised in 1922 to create a fourth Arab state – today Jordan.)

Arab leaders didn’t unleash their armies merely to adjust the borders, but were completely clear that their goal was the total annihilation of the nascent Jewish state.

“I personally wish that the Jews do not drive us to this war, as this will be a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Tartar massacre or the Crusader wars”. – Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League, October 11, 1947

To Arab leaders in the months before and after partition, a Jewish state of any size was intolerable.

Of course,  Sabbagh’s historical distortions concerning Israel’s creation aren’t at all surprising when you consider that he wrote a blurb for one of the most antisemitic books to be published in several years.

“Gilad Atzmon’s book, The Wandering Who? is as witty and thought-provoking as its title.  But it is also an important book, presenting conclusions about Jews, Jewishness and Judaism which some will find shocking but which are essential to an understanding of Jewish identity politics and the role they play on the world stage.” Karl Sabbagh 

(You can see more about Atzmon’s extreme antisemitism here.)

Finally, here’s a video of Sabbagh in a panel discussion about the book ‘The Wandering Who?’ heaping more effusive praise on Atzmon.

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Jewish “terrorists” vs Arab “fighters”: An open letter to the Guardian’s Richard Norton-Taylor

The following is a letter written by a CiF Watch reader named David Shayne, and originally submitted to the Guardian’s Richard Norton-Taylor in response to his report entitled ‘British officials predicted war – and Arab defeat – in Palestine in 1948‘.
heading

Dear Mr. Norton Taylor,

I read your article with great interest, but I must say I was rather appalled to read your following claim:  

The documents, which have a remarkable contemporary resonance, reveal how British officials looked on as Jewish settlers took over more and more Arab land.”

This statement is extremely misleading, evoking an image that  Jewish government or other entity was forcing Arabs off their lands in large numbers.  This picture is false.

It is well documented that, during the British Mandate, Jews in fact acquired very little settled Arab land.  All Jewish land acquisitions were commercial, land purchased from willing sellers (and often at exorbitant prices).   The Jews, being politically powerless, had no means to compel Arabs to sell their lands.  Moreover, a vast majority of these purchases involved unused lands in sparsely settled areas, e.g. the Jezreel and Hefer valleys, swampy areas that the Arabs tended to avoid.  The Jews, in turn, avoided moving into heavily populated areas.  That is why to this day Arab and Jewish population concentrations are in different parts of the country (e.g, the West Bank and the Coastal plain).  

There are many books that describe these issues, a particularly good one is “From Time Immemorial” by Joan Peters.

Even today, when there is a Jewish government which can and does exercise its power regarding the controversial settlements policy in the West Bank, most of these were likewise built on uninhabited stretches of land.  Generally, Arabs were not expelled in order to create these towns.

Another severely erroneous statement in your article was this:

In the weeks leading up to the partition of Palestine in 1948, when Britain gave up its UN mandate, Jewish terrorist groups were mounting increasing attacks on UK forces and Arab fighters, the Colonial Office papers show.”

It is not clear what time period is meant here.  If the reference is prior to November 29, 1947 (the UN Partition Plan vote) then it is true that some Jews did engage in “terrorism” and Jewish forces did attack British forces (which the British always called “terrorism” even the targets were legitimate military targets and no British soldiers were killed).  But there was also plenty of Arab terrorism, meaning the random murder of unarmed Jews and Britons that had occurred during the same time.  The British, too, engaged in “terrorism” of their own from time to time (see the book “Major Farran’s Hat“). Singling Jews out as “terrorists” is grossly misleading.

If the reference is to the period between November 29, 1947 and May 15, 1948, then the statement is a flat-out lie.  Arab forces attacked Jews all across Palestine the very next day after the UN vote.  Dozens of Jews were killed immediately, the Jews tried to organize to defend themselves.  Since the British were leaving, and the Jews had their hands full just protecting themselves from the Arabs, all anti-British operations ceased.  I am not aware of a single significant incident of Jews attacking Britons during this time period.

The British, on the other hand, continued to severely oppress the Jews and prevent them from acquiring the necessary arms to defend themselves.  Moreover, many Britons openly aligned themselves with Arabs and some participated in anti-Jewish terror (e.g, the February, 1948 bombing of Ben Yehudah Street in Jerusalem).

The very characterization of Jews as “terrorists” and the Arabs as “fighters” when it was Arab terrorist violence that launched the 1947-48 war to start with reveals a deep prejudice that belies any semblance of objective reporting.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to your response.

David Shayne

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.

Genocide Abuse Day at the IHRC

Cross posted by Mark Gardner at the blog of the CST

With Holocaust Memorial Day (27th January) fast approaching, so does its annual bastardisation by our local pro-Iranian and pro-Hizbollah fans, the Islamic Human Rights Commission.

(See previous CST blog for IHRC’s role in London’s annual version of the Iranian-inspired anti-Israel hate festival, Quds Day, replete with Hizbollah assault rifle flags.)

Unlike the Iranian regime and its Press TV outlet, the Islamic Human Rights Commission is not so stupid or crass as to engage in outright denial that the Holocaust ever happened, but the group is still stuck between a rock and a hard place: how to acknowledge the reality of the Holocaust, without lending legitimacy to the most basic and blatant of arguments in favour of Zionism?

The far left have tackled this problem by keeping Jewish victimhood centre stage, whilst alleging that Zionists wanted the Holocaust and/or actually colluded with the Nazis to bring it about. They turn the moral tables on Zionism, by claiming that Zionists needed and desired and worked towards dead Jews in order to gain global sympathy for their enterprise.

The pro-Iranian IHRC, however, prefer the tactic of declaring a Genocide Memorial Day. This year it is subtitled  “Remembering Man’s Inhumanity to Man” and will be held on 20th January. The day’s title enables the IHRC to gently subsume the genocide of European Jewry under the sheer scale of man’s inhumanity to man. Challenge this as sophistry and you are forced into a somewhat nauseating comparative study in human suffering.

As a bonus ball, IHRC also get to define and blur the meanings of the word “genocide” and the phrase “man’s inhumanity to man”. So, they include Palestinian suffering and seamlessly move Palestinians and Israelis onto the same moral planes as Jews and Nazis.

In 2011, CST blog detailed that year’s IHRC Genocide Memorial Day calendar. For brevity, here are four of the entries:

January – Gaza: During the Israeli assault on Gaza during the 22 Day war (2008 – 09), 1,434 Palestinians were killed of which 288 were children and 181 were women. A further 5,303 Palestinians were injured in the assault, including 1,606 children and 828 women.

April – Auschwitz: Estimates of numbers of Roma and Sinti people killed by the Nazis in the second world war range from 200,000 to 500,000.

October – Treblinka: The Treblinka concentration camp was set up by the Nazis in Occupied Poland. Between July 1942 and October 1943, 800,000 people were killed there, the majority of whom were Jewish, and a substantial number of whom were Roma.

November – Palestine: The Nakba (The Catastrophe) refers to the events of 1948 when Israel was created. That year saw the mass deportation of a million Palestinians from their cities and villages, massacres of civilians, and the razing to the ground of hundreds of Palestinian villages.

Note how the Gaza and Palestine entries balance those of Treblinka and Auschwitz. Note how Treblinka mentions Jews and Roma, whilst Auschwitz mentions Roma and not Jews. Note how Treblinka seeks to play up the Roma element, despite the overwhelming majority of its victims having been Jewish. (I write this to show the IHRC’s underhand ghastliness, not to diminish the dreadful suffering of Roma and Sinti.) Note how there is no actual mention of the Holocaust, nor of gas chambers. The spin is both subtle and repugnant.

This year, to mark Genocide Memorial Week 2013, we have a cutesy little animation video on the IHRC website. (It can be viewed here, but does not need to be.)

The animation shows an adorable child holding a red balloon. The child’s ethnicity and religion gradually changes (including Jewish and Muslim). The child is simply drawn in a charming and naive style, walking along without a care in the world to the tune of a happy background jingle. At the foot of the animation runs a series of children’s names that begins with “Ann Frank (Germany)”. This is followed by “Renate Wolff (Germany)” and “Agnes Ringwald (Hungary)”, before listing one Kurd, two Guatemalans, two Japanese and two Australians, then ending with “Mu’tassim – Muhammad Ali Samour (Gaza)”.

The name “Ann Frank (Germany)” (sic) is, of course, very well-known. It immediately establishes for the viewer what the other names are all about. Unavoidably, your awareness is heightened that you do not actually recognise most, or perhaps any, of the other names scrolling along the screen. This causes you to pay greater attention to them. You cannot help asking yourself, ‘why don’t I know these other names and what tragedies have they suffered?’. (In actuality, not all of those listed were actually murdered in genocides and some of them are still alive. Again, this is to be forced into a comparative study of human suffering.)

The names change as the animated child also changes. As the words “Muhammad Ali Samour (Gaza)” appear, so the screen explodes blood-red and the music changes to gunfire. The words “Sabra & Shatilla” are now stamped on the blood-red background, with the figure 3,500. Next, there is “Srebrenica 8,000”, then “Nazi Holocaust 11,000,000”.

So this year, the IHRC did actually mention three Jewish child victims of the Holocaust by name and they did draw a sweet picture of a boy in a kippah. The Nazis’ six million Jewish victims are, however, conveniently subsumed within the larger figure of eleven million victims. Why commemorate the ethnocentric six million total, when you can commemorate the universalist eleven million total? (Whether this eleven million figure is even accurate is another, not unrelated, matter. See for example here.)

In all, 16 events and death tolls appear. Having begun with “Sabra & Shatilla 3,500″, the list ends with “Gaza 2009 over 1,000”. The opening and closing sections are the only ones that relate to Palestinians. It is their victimhood that literally brackets all of the other entries: this is subtle stuff, but it is highly effective and, as with the 2011 calendar, it moves Palestinian suffering centre stage and places it on an equal, or even higher plane, than that of Jewish suffering. The message is as subtle as it is unmistakable; and the IHRC’s motivations for Genocide Memorial Day are shown up for being not quite as universalist as they would have you believe.       

The Iranian regime (and indeed the far left) could learn a great deal from this sleight of hand. Will the IHRC advise them to follow suit?

Finally, it should be noted that when searching “Genocide Memorial Day” on Google,the top result is a Wikipedia entry saying that this is a national holiday in Armenia. Curiously neither this, nor any Armenian children, feature in the IHRC’s video.

Guardian publishes cartoon showing Israeli leader as puppet master controlling Hague & Blair (Updated)

Here’s a cartoon by Steve Bell, Guardian, Nov. 15., titled “Steve Bell on Tony Blair and William Hague’s role in Israel-Gaza clash – cartoon”.

Some relevant background:

Here’s a cartoon in Al-Ahram Weekly, October 4-10, 2012 (Egypt) depicting both Romney and Obama kissing Bibi’s hands.

Here’s another Al-Watan cartoon of Obama nad Romney on Sep­tem­ber 10, 2012.

The Saudi paper Al-Watan, on October 11, 2008, published this, depicting Jews were puppet masters, controlling both McCain and Obama.

The message the Guardian cartoon is trying to convey – similar to the Arab cartoons posted above – is unambiguous.

Bell is complaining that recent expressions of support for Israel’s operation in Gaza by UK foreign secretary William Hague (and Tony Blair) suggest they are being controlled by the Prime Minister of the Jewish state. 

Walter Russel Mead summed it up best in response to a BBC journalist who stated recently that “The American Jews influence US foreign policy and that explains Washington’s unwavering support for Israel.”

“…weak minds…are easily seduced by attractive but empty generalizations. The comment attributed to August Bebel that anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools can be extended to many other kinds of cheap and superficial errors that people make. The baffled, frustrated and the bewildered seek a grand, simplifying hypothesis that can bring some kind of ordered explanation to a confusing world; anti-Semitism is one of the glittering frauds that attract the overwhelmed and the uncomprehending.”

Steve Bell simply couldn’t accept that British expression of support for Israel’s action in Gaza is based on their understanding of the threat posed by Hamas and other terrorists movements, or other strategic considerations.

He needed an easy explanation as to why his nation’s leaders don’t share his hostility towards Israel, and the temptation to attribute such a vexing dynamic to sinister Israeli control was too great for him to resist.

The Guardian cartoonist has succumb to historically antisemitic (and necessarily reactionary) narrative which imputes Jewish power and Jewish control to the decisions of non-Jewish world leaders.

(Bell, and the Guardian, needs to be held account, so please consider emailing the Guardian’s readers editor, Chris Elliott, reader@guardian.co.uk, to respectfully voice your complaint.)

UPDATE: Per The JC, Steve Bell responded to criticism that his cartoon is antisemitic, thus:

“I can’t be held responsible for whatever cultural precepts and misapprehensions people choose to bring to my cartoon. My intention, I think, is fairly clear.”

UPDATE II: The Guardian published a letter (21.00 GMT, Nov. 16) protesting Bell’s cartoon by the CST’s Dave Rich.

The explicit racism of a British journalist

Here’s an altered quote by a journalist who works for a British newspaper.

“The blacks of today scare me and I find it almost impossible to talk to most of them. Any criticism of the policies of African countries  is regarded as racism. Most papers and journals will not even publish articles on the subject for fear of a black backlash. Whites are often treated with ill-concealed contempt, yet the blacks are always the victims. Am I prejudiced against blacks? Alas, yes.”

Outrageous, isn’t it? Morally indefensible, don’t you think? Such naked racism should get this journalist fired, wouldn’t you say?

Ok, here’s the exact quote by a London Evening Standard journalist named Mira, as quoted in Haaretz.

The Jews of today scare me and I find it almost impossible to talk to most of them, including relatives. Any criticism of the policies of Israel – including the disgraceful treatment of Holocaust survivors as well as refugees from murderous regimes – is regarded as treason and/or anti-Semitism. Most papers and journals will not even publish articles on the subject for fear of a Jewish backlash. Goyim (gentiles ) are often treated with ill-concealed contempt, yet the Jews are always the victims. Am I prejudiced against Jews? Alas, yes.”

While writing posts at this blog on what we believe is antisemitism at the Guardian, our contributors often have to argue why particular narratives, tropes and passages should be interpreted as consistent with the EU Working Definition of antisemtism

Reasonable people can, of course, disagree with our analysis of what constitutes antisemitism, and we take the task of making persuasive arguments about the nature of anti-Jewish racism – especially when it concerns morally gray areas – very seriously.

To those critics of ours who argue that they are indeed opposed to “real” antisemitism, but simply disagree with us on what constitutes such bigotry, the case of Mira Bar-Hillel presents a completely unambiguous example to test your assertion.

If you sincerely oppose antisemitism, and believe that racism should not be tolerated within the UK journalism profession, then you must acknowledge that a woman stating clearly, and without qualification, that she is, in fact, ‘prejudiced against Jews’ should not be employed by a British newspaper.

It is that simple.