Fisking a Guardian claim that Bibi believes in “Israeli exceptionalism”.

Nicholas Blincoe’s bio at the Guardian notes that he is an author, critic, screenwriter and former advisor to Nick Clegg – who “divides his time between the UK and Palestine”.  Naturally, his time in Palestine is devoted to anti-Israel activism, as he is an enthusiastic supporter of BDS and has written a book sympathetic to the terrorist-abetting International Solidarity Movement – which he risibly suggested is a non-violent group.

His other observations about the region include a claim that Christians are leaving Bethlehem due to Jewish persecution, and that the mission of Israeli archeology is “to erase the traces of non-Jewish civilizations.”

He also once claimed, at Comment is Free’, that the Har Homa neighborhood (in Jerusalem) is in fact located in Bethlehem.

Blincoe has even praised the writing of a neo-Nazi style racist named Gilad Atzmon. 

Additionally, some of his Tweets include even more fanciful claims:

Recently, he managed to criticize Israel in the context of Russia’s military aggression in Crimea, suggesting the existence of unnamed Israelis who (he claims) support Russia’s military’s actions.

There was also this, complaining of Labour’s historic support for Israel’s existence:

Then, there was this bizarre accusation that Israelis steal land from Palestinians to help prevent the country from going into a recession.

Here, he repeats a lie advanced at Mondoweiss, definitively refuted by Elder of Ziyon, that Israeli forces viciously attacked innocent Palestinian footballers – an assault, it is claimed, which included firing at the athlete’s feet in order to end their athletic careers.

Here, he can be seen legitimizing a comparison between Israeli occupation of the West Bank and US slavery.

So, with such a tortured relationship with the truth, our Guardian Spin detector was set to maximum when reading his March 14 essay (Cameron at the Knesset: helping to burst the bubble of Israeli politics?) at ‘Comment is Free’ on David Cameron’s speech before the Israeli Knesset.

After reflecting on a few relatively minor details of Cameron’s address, he pivoted to his primary argument: Israelis are a stiff-necked, arrogant people who don’t care much what others think about their delusional beliefs.

If Cameron learned anything from his visit, it ought to be that Israelis are fully engaged in arguing with other Israelis; the rest of the world does not get a look in. Israel’s political class exists inside a bubble in which only their views matter, no matter how detached from reality they might be.

These are small points to take from a long speech, true. But debates around Israel have tended to emphasise Israeli exceptionalism. The idea that Israel can create its own reality flows naturally from the idea that this is a young country, founded upon religious and/or revolutionary zeal less than 70 years ago. Yet the longer that Israel is allowed to operate by its own, different rules, the less chance for peace in a region and a world of equals, trading openly and negotiating freely.

He then made a specific charge about Netanyahu that we decided was worth investigating: 

Twenty-five years ago, Netanyahu wrote a book for the US market entitled A Place Among the Nations, which argued that it was time Israel was welcomed into the international fold. It seems a laudable thesis, but the argument was disingenuous. Netanyahu actually argued that Israel’s exceptionalism – its right to act according to its own principles rather than international norms – was the thing that the world should learn to love and embrace.

First, a Google Books search of the text in ‘A Place Among the Nations‘ does not turn up any references to the term “Israeli exceptionalism”, “exceptionalism” or “exception”.  Moreover, in several reviews of the book we read (some which were decidedly hostile to the Likud leader), not one echoed Blincoe’s claim that Bibi expressed a belief that Israel should not have to act according to “international norms”. 

Also, here’s a passage suggesting that Bibi complained that Israel is judged unfairly by the international community, and that he’d prefer it if Israel WAS judged (fairly), according to “international norms”, as you can see in this passage on page 170 – again, from a text search in Google Books:

normsIt’s possible Blincoe’s claim rests on a misinterpretation of the following passage, from page 376:

religious rightHowever, the necessary context relates to the fact that, as other sources demonstrated, Bibi’s not outlining his own views, but laying out (and clearly criticizing) the religious right view.  The passages in this chapter included criticism both of the far right and far left – positioning himself as representing the centre, against two-states (at the time that wasn’t right-wing), but also opposed to annexation and other policies likely to alienate the ‘international community’.

Here’s the full passage:

A mirror image of this [left-wing] messianism is found on the religious right, where it is believed that the act of settling the land is in and of itself sufficient to earn divine providence and an end to the country’s woes. If Israel were merely to hang tough and erect more settlements, it could dispense with world opinion and international pressures.

It’s unclear if Blincoe actually read ‘A Place Among the Nations’, but he certainly has mischaracterized Netanyahu’s argument, as there seems to be no evidence that he ever used the term “Israeli exceptionalism”, or a similar term, nor argued that Israel has the “right to act according to its own principles rather than international norms.

Unless he can produce a quote from Bibi’s book we weren’t able to locate, it certainly looks as if Blincoe’s brand of pro-Palestinian politics includes smearing the Israel’s leaders with fabricated evidence in service of predictable anti-Zionist conclusions.

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Telegraph cites PLO claim that Israeli bill requiring vote on territorial withdrawal ‘stabs peace efforts’

For those of us used to hysterical claims made at the Guardian and elsewhere warning of the potential demise of Israeli democracy, it’s quite entertaining to see even the most robust democratic expressions within the Jewish state somehow framed as inconsistent with progressive values.  

A case in point is a March 11th article in the Daily Telegraph by Inna Lazareva (Israel set to pass bill on peace deal referendum) which focuses on the imminent passing of three bills in the Knesset – one of which would instill a requirement for a nation-wide ballot on any decision by the government to concede land in Israel, ‘eastern’ Jerusalem and Golan to achieve a peace agreement.  (What’s known as the Referendum Bill faces a final vote on Thursday morning.)

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After quoting some Israeli critics of the new law, including Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Isaac Herzog – who claimed that the legislation strips the Knesset of the power to cede land – Lazareva then pivots to the Palestinian reaction:

The new law demonstrates that Israel is “extending one hand for peace, and stabs peace efforts with the other hand”, said Yasser Abd Rabbo, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Executive Committee.

 So, are Palestinians, per the PLO – an organization evidently now passionately committed to peace and non-violence – truly outraged at the idea of a national referendum on a final status agreement between the two parties?

Not likely.

As several news sites – including the Guardian – reported last July, none other than Mahmoud Abbas himself (in an interview with a Jordanian paper) made a pledge that “any agreement reached with the Israelis will be brought to a [Palestinian] referendum.”

Indeed, this wasn’t the first time Abbas made such a claim.  

In February last year, Abbas said the following at a meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council in Ramallah:

If there is any development and an agreement, it is known that we will go to a referendum,” Abbas clarified. “It won’t be enough to have the approval of the Fatah Central Committee or the PLO Executive Council for an agreement. Rather, we would go to a referendum everywhere because the agreement represents Palestinians everywhere.”

The news sites which actually covered Abbas’s announcements naturally did not frame such a decision as a ‘blow to peace’.

Finally, though we’re not holding our collective breaths that such a Palestinian plebiscite will ever occur, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note that such a vote – if it takes place – would represent the first significant democratic expression in the Palestinian Authority in quite some time.

President Abbas just entered his tenth year of his four-year term in office.

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How Jewish prayer represents “an extreme provocation to Muslims worldwide”

UK media coverage of “tensions” at the Temple Mount at times devolves into the absurd, mostly due to the way in which ‘professional’ journalists accept and normalize the logic of Islamist intolerance towards Jews and other religious groups.  

A report by Ben Lynfield at The Independent (‘Mounting tension: Israel’s Knesset debates proposal to enforce its sovereignty at Al-Aqsa Mosque – a move seen as ‘an extreme provocation to Muslims worldwide’, Feb. 26) represents a classic example of this strange inversion in which those advocating for freedom of worship for all groups are labeled as provocateurs, while those seeking to curtail that religious freedom are cast as victims.

Lynfield begins:

The Arab-Israeli conflict took on an increasingly religious hue when the Jordanian parliament voted unanimously to expel Israel’s ambassador in Amman after Israeli legislators held an unprecedented debate on Tuesday evening over a proposal to enforce Israeli sovereignty at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites, currently administered by Jordan, and to allow Jewish prayer there.

The Indy reporter later acknowledges that the legislation has no chance of becoming law – due to opposition from, among others, Binyamin Netanyahu – but still contextualizes the debate as feeding the “perception of an Israeli threat to Al-Aqsa Mosque” which could “ratchet up tensions in the wider Arab and Muslim worlds.”

Lynfield then gives some background about the Temple Mount:

Al-Aqsa is situated in an area revered as Judaism’s holiest site for housing the temples destroyed in 586BC and AD70 and is in the locale where religious Jews pray a third temple will be built. The Mount, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, has been an exclusively Muslim prayer site for the last 1,300 years, with the exception of the crusader incursions to the Holy Land.

Indeed, this passage in indicative of the convoluted logic often at play in the debate: Because the site has been an exclusively Muslim prayer site for over a thousand years, any attempt to abrogate such an exclusionary practice is itself a dangerous provocation.

Later, Lynfield deceptively weaves the following into the story.

On Tuesday morning, violence erupted at the Mount in advance of the debate. The police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that about 100 Palestinians, most of them masked, began throwing stones and fireworks at police, lightly wounding two officers. Police then entered the mount to ”disperse the rioters“, he said.

The suggestion here is as clear as it is erroneous: that Palestinians were rioting at the site due to a debate in the Knesset over a bill which will never become law.  However, as anyone who routinely reads news stories on such violence at the Temple Mount would know, such outbreaks occur, not due to any provocations by Israel – which arduously defends the rights of all faiths in the holy city – but by Palestinian extremists intent on provoking a conflict.  

As Israeli Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld continually tells journalists genuinely interested in understanding the cause of the violence, riots are usually coordinated by elements within Fatah and Hamas – as well as by local groups, such as Israel’s Islamist Movement.  (The northern branch of the Islamist Movement is led by a radical preacher fancied by the Guardian named Raed Salah.)

While the overwhelming majority of Israeli politicians are, as the Indy article suggests, not going to take any measures which will have the effect of inflaming the political situation, the surreal manner in which the issue is framed is best illustrated by a quote in the article by Hanan Ashrawi:

Hanan Ashrawi, the PLO spokeswoman, termed the holding of the Knesset debate an “extreme provocation to Muslims worldwide. Using religion as a pretext to impose sovereignty on historical places of worship threatens to plunge the entire region into great conflict and instability. It is reminiscent of the same regressive ideology that brought the crusades to Palestine in the Middle Ages’.’ 

So, let’s get this straight:

  1. Some Jews are asking for the right to quietly pray at the site in Jerusalem holiest to their faith.
  2. Millions of Muslims worldwide will, it is alleged, be provoked at the mere possibility that a faith other their own will have that right which they want exclusively for themselves.
  3. And, yet, it’s the Jews in this scenario who are portrayed as the “regressive” political force?

‘Orwellian’ doesn’t begin to fairly characterize the mental gymnastics employed by journalists in order to accept such bizarre logic.  

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CiF Watch prompts revision to Times headline referring to Haredi Jews as ‘Zealots’ (Updated)

(See update to this post below)

Yesterday, we commented on an example of the increasingly prevalent dynamic within the mainstream media of the blurring of news and opinion, in the following story at Times of London by their (error-prone) Middle East correspondent Catherine Philp.

The story, about debates in the Israeli Knesset over legislation aimed at ending an exemption that allows thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim) to skip military service, also included the word “zealots” in the opening passage.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews who refuse to serve in the Israeli army could face time in jail under a new law agreed by a parliamentary committee in a move likely to trigger fresh protests from zealots.

Today, following a complaint filed by CiF Watch, The Times changed their headline and deleted the word “Zealots”, replacing it with the more accurate term “ultra-Orthodox”.

new header

Thought they kept “zealots” in the opening passage, the differing language used in the headline and the subsequent text does make some sense.  

While the text was referring specifically to those ultra-Orthodox Jews engaging in sometimes violent protests (who could arguably be called “zealous”), the headline is referring to the entire population of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the country who are exempt from military service – an extremely large number of Israelis who can’t reasonably be stereotyped in that manner.

Though the word “zealots” still seems quite tendentious in any context in a straight news story - and it’s difficult to imagine such a pejorative being used by The Times to refer to Palestinians who riot at the Temple Mount – the decision by Times editors to at least revise the headline represents a clear improvement over the original.

UPDATE on March 19: Catherine Philp just responded to our criticism in these Tweets:

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Times reporter Catherine Philp refers to nearly half a million Jews as ‘Zealots’

Remember when reading the following headline and text at The Times of London (pay wall) that this is not an op-ed, but a straight news story by their (error-proneMiddle East correspondent Catherine Philp.

timesAnd, no, this wasn’t simply the work of a sub-editor, as you can see by the opening passage:

Ultra-Orthodox Jews who refuse to serve in the Israeli army could face time in jail under a new law agreed by a parliamentary committee in a move likely to trigger fresh protests from zealots.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, will vote next month on the law aimed at ending an exemption that allows thousands of young ultra-Orthodox men to skip military service in favour of state-sponsored study of scripture. The prospect of legislation prompted thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews to block roads across Israel earlier this month, leading to clashes with police.

Given that roughly 8 percent of Israeli Jews are ultra-Orthodox (Haredi), Philps is lazily using the pejorative “zealot” to describe roughly 480,000 Israelis.

Leaving aside the Jewish historical connotations of the term “Zealots”, though some ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel can reasonably be described as extreme or zealous, to paint the entire community in such negative terms represents a crude stereotype – a simple-minded prejudice that putatively progressive journalists would typically abhor.

As with the frequent pejorative descriptions of Israeli “settlers” in the Guardian and elsewhere in the UK media, Philps’ lazy characterization of the multi-faceted and complex Haredi population in Israel represents more evidence that, when it comes to Israel, liberal taboos against painting large religious or ethnic communities with a broad brush are breezily ignored.

Editor’s Note: Following communication with CiF Watch, Times editors revised the headline.

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UK journalist responds positively to criticism (Hint: he doesn’t work at the Guardian)

In an overall commendable article about Oxfam at The Telegraph (The Darker Side of Oxfam, Feb. 5), Jake Wallis Simons wrote the following:

“In December, a controversial bill was passed [in the Knesset] which would levy a 45 percent on donations from foreign organisations or governments to NGOs that support BDS, demand Israeli soldiers to be tried in international courts, or support terrorism against Israel.”

The only problem, as Gidon Shaviv of Presspectiva (CAMERA’s Hebrew affiliate) immediately realized, was that the bill did not in fact become law.  This prompted the following exchange on Twitter:

screen captureNot only did Simons thank Shaviv for the information (backed up with an article about the bill in question), but he revised the passage accordingly.

Simons’ positive response to Shaviv’s Tweet is especially worth noting in light of the manner in which editors at the Guardian and other British newspapers often stubbornly resist making changes to articles with even the most obvious distortions or errors.  

Journalists and editors in the UK would be wise to heed Simons’ example, and view the work CAMERA and its affiliates undertake to promote media accuracy as consistent with the value of accountability that their crusading journalists are often demanding of others.

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Guardian headline fail: Zionist expansionism edition

Did the Israeli government just back the annexation of the Jordan Valley?!

Well, if you were to read the Guardian’s original headline yesterday accompanying a report by Harriet Sherwood, you’d be forgiven for believing that such an extreme policy was indeed backed by Netanyahu’s coalition.

Here’s a cached page of the original:

header

However, as Guardian editors evidently soon realized, the text of Sherwood’s article doesn’t support the sensational title.  All that had occurred was a symbolic vote in favor of annexation by eight ministers within the Ministerial Legislative Committee.  Dissenting ministers will appeal the vote, which places the matter in the hands of Netanyahu, who opposes the resolution and has reportedly agreed to dismantle all Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley.  Indeed, the legislation will almost certainly be killed before it even reaches the full Knesset.

A few hours after the Guardian article was published, the title was changed to more accurately reflect reality:

new

Despite the improved headline, it’s still remarkable that the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent devoted an entire article (and over 700 words) to a symbolic vote on a resolution which will almost certainly never be voted on, yet alone become law.

If Sherwood wanted to focus on actions which undermine trust between the two parties, she could have devoted a column to the hero’s welcome offered by the PA for the 26 newly released terrorists – and Mahmoud Abbas’s characterization of such murderers as Palestinian role models.

But, of course, stories on Palestinian incitement and the glorification of terror – actions which are clearly inimical to peace – would not serve to advance the Guardian narrative of the conflict.

Did the Guardian double the actual number of Bedouins facing relocation?

harrietOn Dec. 1 we posted about Harriet Sherwood’s story at the Guardian titled ‘Israel’s plan to forcibly resettle Negev Bedouins prompts global protests‘. 

The legislation Sherwood reported on is known as Prawer-Begin (which passed its first Knesset reading) and concerns Israeli-Bedouin settlement in the Negev – a plan formulated to address economic development issues for the Bedouin and to resolve their long-standing land claims.

According to the commission studying the issues, there are some 210,000 Israeli-Bedouin in the Negev. Of this number, 120,000 already live in planned, legal communities (and won’t be effected by the new plan), while another 60,000 live in unauthorized communities which will now be legalized and developed by Israeli authorities.  Plans for the remaining 30,000, who live in non-regulated, illegal communities and encampments, will include relocation of only a few kilometers, and the offer of agricultural, communal, suburban or urban homes, all with full property rights.

We were able to confirm the accuracy of these numbers this morning with a spokesperson at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Interestingly, most blogs and news sites – even some which are extremely hostile to Israel – have accurately reported the number (30,000) of Israeli-Bedouin facing relocation.

Despite the characteristically one-sided nature of Sherwood’s report, we focused our original post on her inaccurate use of the term “Jewish settlements” to refer to future Israeli cities in the Negev which are envisioned under the plan. However, her Dec. 1 report also included another claim – in the following sentence – which seemed highly suspect.

Under the Prawer Plan, which is expected to pass into Israeli law by the end of the year, 35 “unrecognised” Bedouin villages will be demolished and between 40,000 and 70,000 people removed to government designated towns

Additionally, the title of her Nov. 29 story on the same issue also included this 70,000 figure:  ‘Britons protest over Israel plan to remove 70,000 Bedouins‘.  The story contained this passage:

More than 50 public figures in Britain, including high-profile artists, musicians and writers, have put their names to a letter opposing an Israeli plan to forcibly remove up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic desert land…

This passage linked to the original Guardian letter, signed by the usual gang of anti-Zionist activists, and included this:

Earlier this year, the Israeli Knesset approved the Prawer-Begin plan. If implemented, this plan will result in the destruction of more than 35 Palestinian towns and villages in Al-Naqab (Negev) in the south of Israel and the expulsion and confinement of up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins.

So, how did the Guardian and their “high profile artists, musicians and writers” arrive at the 70,000 figure?

Here are the top Google hits when you type a few of the key search terms:

google

In the first link, Russia Todaycites the Guardian figure.

The second hit is the Guardian.

The third hit is Socialist Worker Online and links to the fourth hit, the site of the radical NGOAdalah.

The fifth hit, JewsNews, also cites the Guardian letter.

The sixth and seventh hits also go to the Guardian.

So, as Adalah seems to be one of the few ‘sources’ citing the 70,000 figure, we checked their claim and saw it in this passage from one of their many pages on the Bedouin/Prawer-Begin issue:

If fully implemented, the Prawer-Begin Plan will result in the destruction of 35 “unrecognized” Arab Bedouin villages, the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel…

However, even Adalah’s official legal argument - Adalah and ACRI Objection to the Prawer Plan - notes only that there are roughly 70,000 Bedouin (in total) currently living in unauthorized villages, and makes no claim that all of these 70,000 are facing relocation.

In other words, those suggesting that 70,000 are “under threat of displacement” are not taking into consideration the actual (Prawer-Begin) plan which – if implemented – will result in less than half of these 70,000 Bedouin (who are currently living in unauthorized communities) being displaced.

If the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent decided to spend some more time researching the issue, she would have concluded that there is no evidence to support the 70,000 number.

The Guardian AGAIN falsely suggests that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital

As absurd as it may seem to those unfamiliar with the ideological bias which colors most Israel related items published at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’, up until the summer of 2102 the Guardian’s Style Guide stated that Jerusalem is NOT the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is”.  This false claim was only retracted after a complaint was filed with the PCC.  

In the August 7 edition of their ‘Corrections and Clarifications’ section, the Guardian accepted that “it is wrong to state that Tel Aviv – the country’s financial and diplomatic centre – is the capital”.

Here’s the Guardian Style Guide before the change:

jlem

And, now:

new-jlem

So, while reading the following opening passage, in a Nov. 8 article by the Guardian’s Middle East Editor Ian Black (Hawks squawk even before Iran nuclear deal is sealed), keep in mind that the paper has at least officially ‘acknowledged’ that Tel Aviv is NOT the capital of Israel and that the seat of government is located in Jerusalem.

Hardliners in Tehran, hawks in Tel Aviv and Washington, nervous Saudis and their Gulf allies are all alarmed at the prospect of a nuclear deal between Iran, the US and the international community.

The context makes it clear that Black is referring to the putatively “hardline” and “hawkish” political leaders within the governments of Iran, Israel and the United States.  Yet, while the cities (where the ‘seat of government’ is located) in Iran and the United States are correct, the paper’s Middle East “expert” bestows this status to the wrong Israeli city.

Jerusalem is of course where the Israeli Knesset, Supreme Court, Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office are located, and thus – by the Guardian’s own definition per it’s ‘amended’ style guide – is where the evidently ubiquitous ‘squawking’ Israeli ‘hawks’ routinely gather.

knesset

The Israeli Knesset, Jerusalem

The Guardian erred on a fundamental fact about the Jewish state – ‘a mistake they’ve made more than once’.

Israel slouches ‘Left’? MK Aliza Lavie undermines the ‘Guardian narrative’

After the results of Israel’s national elections on Jan. 22 became clear, we published a post noting that, contrary to dire predictions by Guardian reporters and analysts that the state was poised to lurch dangerously to the extreme right, no such rightward shift actually occurred.  Contrary to the scare prediction by the paper’s Middle East editor that Netanyahu was poised to head “a more right-wing government than Israel has ever seen before”, the government which formed in March actually represented a move to the center – one which, for instance, excluded ultra-orthodox parties for only the third time since 1977

On a few important issues – such as negotiations with Palestinians, universal army conscription, and the rights of women and gays - the thirty-third Israeli government has in fact largely leaned somewhat left.  So, we thought it would be informative to hear from Aliza Lavie, an MK with Yesh Atid (part of the governing coalition), on her work on the issue of women’s rights in the Jewish state.

Aliza-Lavie_Web (1)

MK Aliza Lavie

Lavie has a PhD from Bar Ilan and currently serves as the Chair of the Knesset’s Committee on the Status of Women, working on issues such as sexual harassment in the workplace, equality in the military, spousal abuse, and human trafficking.  Her book, “A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book,” has sold more than 150,000 copies.  She was recently part of a delegation of Israeli experts from the fields of politics, economics, women’s rights, and law and policy-making a multi-city tour  in the U.S. called ‘Israel Up-Close 2014, led by Professor Eytan Gilboa.  We were able to speak briefly with Lavie by phone a couple of days ago during her U.S. tour, which included talks specifically on the topic of women’s issues in Israel.

CiF Watch: You (along with Natan Sharansky) were key in convincing the Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites, Shmuel Rabinovitch, not to arrest women for saying the Kaddish prayer at the Wall.  Relatedly, are you confident that the compromise you helped broker on prayer at the Wall – to add an alternative egalitarian prayer site in addition to the men’s and women’s sections – is a step forward for those who seek a more religiously pluralistic society?

MK Lavie: I’ve been extremely pleased to see how many groups from across the political and religious spectrum have agreed to work with my committee on the issue of prayer at the Western Wall.  Our work influenced Women of the Wall to be part of the solution, and agree to the current compromise.  There has always been a consensus that the status quo wasn’t fair to women, and wasn’t consistent with Israeli law. Our work simply galvanized this silent majority in favor of change.

CiF Watch. What are other important issues on gender and religion you’re trying to address? 

MK Lavie: We’re currently working to change the current set up at the Western Wall so that the women’s prayer section at the main prayer site is equal in size with the men’s section and has similar facilities. I’d like to add that we’re working well with the Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall on this and other issues. Also, we’re extremely glad that, for first time [due to a law proposed by MK Lavie] four spots are guaranteed for women on the eleven member committee which appoints rabbinical judges to serve on the rabbinical court. This panel, as you know, is critical in attempting to alleviate some of the problems faced by women seeking to obtain a religious divorce (a “Get“) from their husbands.

CiF Watch: What, broadly, do you hope to achieve by participating in the ‘Israel Up Close’ delegation?

MK Lavie:  So many women in America who I’ve spoken to seem much more concerned with the status of women in Israeli society, for instance, than with the Palestinian issue.  Further, many of these same women may strongly identify as Jewish but without any affiliation, and are concerned that Judaism in Israel is in some people hands, but not others. I’m hoping to educate American audiences on the truth about Israel, and explain the exciting changes occurring on gender issues and other social issues of extreme importance to the future of the Jewish state. 

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.

   

Harriet Sherwood ‘forgets’ to note place of relative Jewish significance in Jerusalem

SherwoodHarriet Sherwood’s latest report, ‘Israeli elections set to amplify religious voice in Knesset‘, Jan. 21, highlights commentators predicting that Knesset representation for religiously observant Jews will likely increase following the Jan. 22 election.

While Sherwood’s report represents the latest in a string of Guardian news stories and commentaries suggesting a ‘rightward’ electoral shift in the Jewish state, one passage in particular stood out:

“Binyamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, currently in an electoral alliance with the former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, is also expected to be more hardline rightwing in the next parliament. Among those expecting to become new members of the Knesset is Moshe Feiglin, who this month proposed that the Israeli government pay Palestinians in the West Bank $500,000 a family to leave. “This is the perfect solution for us,” he said.

Feiglin, a hardline settler from Karnei Shomron in the West Bank, was recently arrested for praying near the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque. Israeli law forbids Jews from praying at the compound.”

Yes, why indeed would a religious Israeli Jew be provocatively praying “near the the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque” in Jerusalem?

Could there be a place of Jewish religious significance near these sacred Islamic sites?

Indeed, yes there is.  

A little place known as ‘The Temple Mount’, or Har Habayit, is identified in Jewish (and Islamic) tradition as the area of Mount Moriah where Abraham offered up his son in sacrifice, and it is where the Second Temple stood between roughly 515 BCE until 70 CE.

It is universally recognized as the holiest site in Judaism.

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Millions pray each year at the Western Wall (a retaining wall initiated by King Herod) due to its close proximity to the original Temple. 

Though Israel does not allow non-Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount to avoid offending Muslims (which is indeed why Feiglin was arrested), it strains credulity to imagine that Sherwood, who’s been the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent since 2010, just innocently forgot to mention the Jewish significance of the site where the Israeli MK was praying.

While we have credited Sherwood for her few recent minimal steps towards more balanced reporting, this glaring omission again demonstrates the degree to which her view from Jerusalem is still egregiously skewed by a knee-jerk anti-Israel bias. 

In a separate development…Harriet Sherwood tries to connect the dots

What do the following have in common?

1.  The recent anti-BDS bill which passed in the Knesset.

2.  A proposal to give Israeli MKs some say in Israeli Supreme Court nominations.

3.  Israeli nursery school students singing the national anthem.

Well, it depends on who you ask.

If you’re Harriet Sherwood, and you’re trying desperately to advance the narrative of an Israeli society moving to the extreme right, all three are not separate phenomena but interconnected political components which are part of a larger whole.

Sherwood’s latest dispatch, Israel’s boycott ban draws fire from law professors, which includes a requisite photo of a furious, downright scary, looking Netanyahu, returns to the political terrain she visited only yesterday - which included a quote suggesting that the anti-BDS law was evidence that “Fascism at its worst is raging [in Israel]” - noting that, while the Prime Minister defended the bill, it continues to be condemned by an increasing number of prominent Israelis, before pivoting to the following (related?) legislation.

“Two rightwing members of the Knesset announced on Wednesday they would present a further bill allowing the Knesset to veto supreme court appointments.”

While Sherwood acknowledges that this proposal didn’t have wide support and would likely not be adopted, her attempt to contextualize that legislative proposal as part of a wider right-wing trend is spurious.  

In the U.S., for instance, while the President proposes nominees for the Supreme Court, they must be approved by the Senate (first the Judiciary Committee, then the full Senate) – one of the “checks and balances” which represent an important component of America’s democracy.

In Israel’s current system the President appoints Supreme Court nominees upon the advice of the Judges Nominations Committee – which is composed of three Justices of the Supreme Court, two Ministers (one of them being the Minister of Justice), two Members of the Knesset and two representatives of the Israel Bar Association. 

It’s hard to understand how vesting in elected members of the Knesset the power to veto a Supreme Court nominee could be considered illiberal, or right wing. 

Finally, her concluding paragraph contains information even more tangential to the story she’s ostensibly reporting.

“In a separate development, nursery schools in Israel are to be required to raise the Israeli flag and sing the national anthem at least once a week to strengthen children’s Zionist values.”

Unless Sherwood meant to say, “In a separate AND COMPLETELY UNRELATED development”, I honestly don’t know what ties in the last passage with rest of the report.

But, of course, I’m not being completely sincere, as I fully understand that she’s trying to characterize the new requirement by the education ministry as another sign of Israel’s lurch to the far right.  

I hope I can be forgiven for, again, citing my own background in a quite democratic country to contextualize this completely innocuous “development”, but, in the public school I went to in Philadelphia, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance, while placing our hands on our hearts and facing the American Flag, every day – a national custom deemed helpful in inculcating students with important civic values, such as patriotism, and has been controversial only on the fringes of American society.

Moreover, as I read that last add-on I decided to have some fun and see if I could top Sherwood with an even more egregious effort to tie together a fact completely irrelevant to the anti-BDS legislation.  

How about this as an alternative ending to Sherwood’s story to replace the throw away passage about Israeli children being “required” to sing the national anthem once a week?

In a separate development,  Guardian News and Media (GNM) announced that The Guardian and its sister paper, The Observer, had lost £33m in cash terms last year after failing to staunch losses that ran to £34.4m the year before.

What’s the connection? Exactly. Absolutely nothing.

How To Make An Ugly Story Even Uglier to Fit Your Agenda

This is a cross-post from Backspin

The Guardian posted footage of yesterday’s scuffle in the Knesset.

It’s a legitimate story when Israel’s parliament has an ugly moment. But The Guardian misrepresents the story by making it even uglier.

How?

The video specifically highlights that Israeli Arab MKs were ejected despite the fact that there were a total of 10 MKs ejected during the session — mostly Jews.

It seems to me that The Guardian is singling out the ejection of Arab MKs to push an agenda that Israel discriminates. You’ll have to see the Jerusalem Post for the context The Guardian lacks.

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