Guardian spin on Michael White’s Jew-baiting begins

Fallout over Michael White’s Jew-baiting Tweet to Times journalist Daniel Finkelstein has reached the Guardian offices in London.

As we reported, here and here, Guardian assistant editor Michael White responded to a completely innocent Tweet by Finkelstein asking why BBC radio hadn’t yet reported a story about Lord Ahmed’s suspension from the Labour Party due to allegations that the life peer blamed his 2008 conviction for dangerous driving on a Jewish conspiracy.

White replied to Finkelstein thusly:

“I agree it’s a stinker and typical of double standards. Pity about the illegal settlements though. Best wishes”

Finkelstein responded by asking White what his Tweet, or the broader issue regarding Lord Ahmed, had to do with Israel.

Indeed, as we noted, Finkelstein is a British Jew and not an Israeli.  White’s reflexive reply evokes the antisemitic narrative of holding Jews collectively responsible for the perceived sins of the state of Israel – an association he’s made on at least one other occasionin a column about Sasha Baron Cohen at the Guardian.

Today, March 17, the Jerusalem Post reported the following:

On Friday, the Guardian told The Jerusalem Post that White’s remarks had been misrepresented and that no offense had been intended.

“[Michael White] sought only, in exchanges with Daniel Finkelstein, to explain why the Times story about Lord Ahmed’s remarks had not been instantly picked up. No offense was intended,” a spokesman for the Guardian News and Media told the Post

Misrepresented?

The Guardian’s explanation doesn’t make sense. If White was only trying to explain why the Times story about Lord Ahmed’s remarks wasn’t picked up by the BBC, what possible reason would he have for taunting the non-Israeli named Finkelstein about “the illegal settlements” in Israel?

Interestingly it looks like the Guardian is simply parroting White’s own defense on Twitter, where he’s been complaining that his comments have been “doctored” or “corrupted”. Here’s a recent exchange between White and another Tweeter.

white

Here’s another.

white 2

Again, here’s a snapshot of the exchange.

white 3

White’s defenders, however, must answer two questions:

1. What did Daniel Finkelstein’s Tweet have to do with Israel or Israeli settlements?

2.  How was the Guardian journalist’s Tweet doctored, distorted or in any way misrepresented?

In fairness, though, Finkelstein has recently defended White on Twitter, arguing that he is not antisemitic.

However, as we’ve argued previously, the question of whether someone is, by nature, antisemitic is not the point.  Antisemitism’ isn’t something you can test for, nor is it some sort of immutable character trait.  It is, rather, more aptly described as the willful embrace of narratives which have the effect of vilifying Jews.  One need not possess any visceral or emotional antipathy towards Jews as such to, nonetheless, succumb to classic antisemitic tropes.

The EU working definition on antisemitism specifically characterizes as antisemitic holding Jews collectively responsible for the state of Israel as, historically, persecution against Jews has often included the automatic imputation of collective Jewish guilt for the perceived crimes of other Jews anywhere in the world.

Holding British citizens – be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim – responsible for the actions of their co-coreligionists abroad is bigoted and morally indefensible.

The ‘settlements’ which occupy Michael White’s mind: Sasha Baron Cohen edition

The British Labour Party recently suspended Baron Ahmed, a Muslim member of the House of Lords, for claiming that his prison sentence several years ago for dangerous driving was the result of pressure placed on the court by Jews “who own newspapers and TV channels”.

Yesterday, as news of Ahmed’s suspension was reported, there was the following Twitter exchange between Guardian assistant editor Michael White and Daniel Finkelstein, a journalist for The Times.

The exchange continued:

continues

As we noted, Finkelstein is a British Jew and not an Israeli.  The Guardian reporter’s response to Finkelstein’s Tweet represents the classic antisemitic narrative which holds Jews collectively responsible for the perceived sins of Israel.

However, this episode of Jew baiting wasn’t a one-off, and can not be justified as merely an impetuous social media gaffe.

A 2011 piece by White ‘Borat ‘racism’ case reflects badly on employment tribunals, Aug. 24, took aim at another Jew, Sasha Baron Cohen.

White’s Guardian blog entry took aim at Cohen for mocking antisemites in the film “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”.  

The 2006 “mockumentary” focused on a fake Kazakh television personality who leaves his homeland of Kazakhstan for America to make a documentary film for the Kazakh Ministry of Information. The fake reporter utters sexist, racist and antisemitic comments as he crosses the US, encouraging those he encounters to make similarly bigoted remarks.

White’s commentary included the following:

“Like a lot of [Cohen's] work, it struck me as exploitative and inherently condescending to the kind of people who weren’t lucky enough to go to Cambridge as he did. It’s also a one-trick joke.

Nor was Cohen’s own justification for the film – he was roundly criticised and Kazakhstan allegedly threatened to sue him – convincing. He told the Rolling Stone magazine – here’s the Telegraph’s account – that “the joke is on the racists”, because only such people could imagine that his gross parody of Kazakhstan – a place where gays wear blue hats, women live in cages and anti-Semitism is rife – could really exist.

He then addressed Cohen directly in the following passage:

Well, if you say so, Sasha, though there are some pretty nasty countries out there. And I doubt if you’d enjoy the joke if a Cambridge-educated Palestinian pulled off a similar stunt travelling through the more red-neck Israeli settlements on the West Bank…” [emphasis added]

Again, for clarity, Sasha Baron Cohen (like Daniel Finkelstein) is a British Jew, and not an Israeli. 

Michael White saw a Jew ridiculing people who engaged in crude antisemitism and his first reflex was to associate him with the settlements in Israel. It’s as if he’s demanding that Jews must first prove they’re sufficiently opposed to the settlements before ‘complaining’ of anti-Jewish bigotry.

What other vulnerable minority in the world would be asked to pass such a moral test before their concerns about being subjected to racism are taken seriously?

Finally, some have argued that the people in Cohen’s film fell for a “trap”, and wouldn’t have uttered antisemitic remarks if not for Borat’s prompting.

Michael White, however, can offer no such defense.  He willingly volunteered his anti-Jewish bigotry without the slightest bit of coercion or ‘trickery’ to millions of “liberal” Guardian readers.

The antisemitic reflex: A Jew-baiting Tweet by the Guardian’s Michael White

Today, pending an investigation, the Labour Party suspended Baron Ahmed, a member of the House of Lords and the first male Muslim peer in the UK, for claiming that his prison sentence several years ago for dangerous driving resulted from pressure placed on the court system by Jews “who own newspapers and TV channels”.

He reportedly said the following during a TV interview last year.

“My case became more critical because I went to Gaza to support Palestinians. My Jewish friends who own newspapers and TV channels opposed this.”

Ahmed was imprisoned for 3 months in 2008 after sending text messages while driving.

Today, on Twitter, as news of Ahmed’s suspension was reported, there was this exchange between veteran Guardian journalist Michael White and Daniel Finkelstein, a journalist for The Times.

The exchange continued:

continues

Let’s be clear about what just transpired.

A reporter for The Times expressed surprise that news of a Labour Party investigation into racism against a member of Parliament was not in BBC radio news summaries.

A Guardian journalist, noting that Finkelstein was Jewish, immediately engaged in an ad hominem and completely irrelevant attack, raising the topic of settlements in the state of Israel.

The Guardian reporter’s ugly response to Finkelstein’s Tweet represents the classic antisemitic “reflex” of holding Jews collectively responsible for the perceived sins of the state of Israel – a bigoted association he’s made on at least one other occasion in a column at the Guardian.

Daniel Finkelstein is not an Israeli.

He happens to be a Jew but is no less British than Michael White.

Guardian’s Michael White defends Jenny Tonge’s anti-Israel fantasy, ignores O’Keefe’s Nazi analogy

It really was just a matter of time before the Guardian published a defense of Liberal Democrat Peer Jenny Tonge, who recently resigned from her Party after refusing to apologize for remarks morally justifying the Jewish state’s demise at Middlesex University’s campus in North West London.

The Guardian’s Deputy Editor Michael White, Jenny Tonge’s Israel remark simply stated an immutable law of history, March 1, wrote:

Jenny Tonge, a GP and local councillor who got lucky in 1997 when she became a Lib Dem MP (now a peer), has a track record of idiotic public pronouncements in her support for the Palestinian cause.

Among the “idiotic” pronouncements he’s likely referring to are Tonge’s remarks, in 2004, that she might have been a suicide bomber had she been born a Palestinian, as well as Tonge’s call for Israel to “investigate” the IDF in light of charges they were stealing organs in Haiti. 

White then added:

But should she have been effectively kicked out of her party over her latest controversy, the one in which she said Israel “is not going to be there for ever in its present form“?

Of course, White seems to not have seen the video (widely available on YouTube thanks largely to Richard Millett), as Tonge actually uses the word “performance“, not “form“. But, moreover, the last sentence in Tonge’s anti-Zionist fantasy is strangely omitted by White:

Tonge warned that eventually Israel “will lose its support and then they will reap what they have sown.

Moreover, White’s subsequent passages would have you believe that Tonge was merely elucidating soberly on the historical evolution of nation-states, rather than prophesying for the end of the Jewish state.

White:

With the possible exception of imperial China, no state lasts for ever,

Britain is not the state it was 100 years ago – those 26 Irish counties have gone their own way –

We can all cite such examples, the world is a restless place. So why be so neurotic about a not very important Lib Dem peer…shooting her mouth off on Middlesex university’s London campus?

But, more importantly, Tonge sat there in silence as Ken O’Keefe, an anti-Zionist activist who was on board the Mavi Marmara Gaza “aid“ ship, compared Jews to both the Nazis and to the German people whom, he suggested, collaborated with Nazi leaders.

O’Keefe:

So if Israel is inherently a racist state, if it is inherently an apartheid state, then I want no part of Israel. It has no place in this world. And it must in its current form, if you want me to use some inflammatory language, in its current form should be destroyed.

the Jewish state of Israel is, therefore, acting on behalf of the Jewish people. You, like the Nazis, have now a special obligation.

“The decent Germans, the so-called decent Germans of World War Two Nazi Germany, what did they do, what did the decent Germans do when the Nazis came to power and started to institute their policies, what did they do? They didn’t do enough, did they?

“Did they do enough to stop the Nazis? No, they didn’t. And what are the Jewish people doing right now? Are you doing enough to stop your racist apartheid genocidal state? 

“If you think that you are I beg to differ. You have a special obligation brought upon you just like the Nazis brought upon the decent Germans. Good  luck to you because the way of Israel, the way of Palestine is the way of the world. And you can mouth at me all you want. Good luck to you, because guess what, you are making enemies of all the people, not just me and the falsely accused anti-Semites.” 

O’Keefe also said Israel and the Mossad were directly involved in 9/11.

White concludes:

The real issue is here is surely free speech. If anyone – say Abu Qatada or the chap with the hook whose name I usually manage to forget – incites violence against Israelis or anyone else the law is there to have them arrested, charged and (with luck) convicted. But vulgar abuse and historical prediction – especially when stating an immutable law of history – should be things we can live with.

There’s a larger point here as well as the narrow local politics and their geopolitical ramifications where the ever-helpful peer ventured – on a university campus – that the US will eventually “get sick of” providing $70bn (£44bn) a year to support what she called its floating aircraft carrier in the eastern Mediterranean.

I have no idea where Tonge got this erroneous number from, and why White repeated it, as the amount of aid Israel gets from the U.S. is around 3.2 billion per year. But, as a colleague pointed out, “What’s an extra $67 billion when it comes to demonising Israel?”

Further, the issue has nothing to do with free speech. Tonge wasn’t arrested or even fired. She was asked to apologize by her party leader, refused, and then resigned.

White’s post represents supreme journalistic dishonesty – consistent with reports and commentaries at the Guardian regarding politically inconvenient information about antisemitism – in curiously omitting O’Keefe’s analogy between Israelis and Nazis.

Does White not find it offensive, or of journalistic relevance, that the Baroness sat there and didn’t register the slightest objection as O’Keefe engaged in such ugly antisemitic smears and conspiracy theories?

Of course, given his own record, it’s certainly possible that White doesn’t find associations with extremists, terror supporters or antisemities morally concerning.

Here’s a photo of Michael White hosting an event by MEMO, an antisemitic group run by the decidedly pro-Hamas and pro-Jihad Daud Abdullah

And, White is no stranger himself to expressions of extreme anti-Israel bias.  During a discussion on BBC Radio London’s Breakfast Show, concerning the physicalvulnerability of political leaders, he said:

In Israel they murder each other a great deal. The Israeli Defense Forces murder people because they don’t like their political style...”

In contextualizing Jenny Tonge’s comments that perhaps the Jewish state doesn’t deserve to exist in a manner meant to make the narrative appear more benign, and completely omitting relevant information about explicit Jew hatred by Tonge’s co-panelist, Michael White is simply continuing in the long Guardian tradition of antisemitic sins of omission.

Whether reporting about Raed Salah, Khadar Adnan, or Gilad Atzmon, the Guardian’s selective reporting is supremely adept at providing cover for antisemites, just as long, of course, as their hatred of Jews maintains the requisite thin veneer of mere opposition to Israel’ existence.    

A Twitter exchange with the Guardian’s anachronistic “dear chap”, Michael White

Throughout my travels I have met many non-British people who are fascinated (and often perplexed), in an anthropological kind of way, by the British class system as portrayed in novels, plays, films and exported television programmes.

Of course the last half century or so has seen big (though perhaps not big enough) changes in British society on that front as well as many others, but now and then one comes across a residue of old-fashioned attitudes one might have assumed were anachronistic in today’s global village – at least as far as their public expression is concerned.

Take a look at this recent exchange on Twitter – one form of truly global communication – between the Guardian’s Michael White and CiF Watch. 

White:

CiF Watch

White:

CiF Watch

White:

The choice of use of a phrase such as “My dear chap” is rather revealing in a tweedy “To the Manor Born” kind of way. It is the kind of condescending turn of phrase employed rhetorically to assert superiority of status and opinion rather than to convey affection or respect.

Interestingly, CiF Watch has not been the only recipient of such anachronistic Bullingdon Club-style language in White’s Tweets. Here he is responding to criticism from a woman who describes herself in her profile as a ‘post op transexual‘.

White:

 

Twitter’s 140 character limitation makes White’s use of such unnecessary terms of phrase as ‘my dear chap’ and ‘old bean’ particularly interesting. After all, very few people actually talk like that these days unless they are auditioning for the part of Bertie Wooster in their local Amateur Dramatic Society’s latest production.

One wonders why White appears to consider the use of such specifically ethnocentric phrases appropriate on such a culturally diverse platform as Twitter.

Does he imagine that he can (in a passive-aggressive manner) get away with satisfying his own need to assert superiority in the face of criticism because the ‘chap’ at the other end will not be aware of the cultural context of his choice of words?

Or is this just the result of 40 years spent steeped in the anachronism of a Guardian environment practically impervious to criticism of its own failure to take certain kinds of bigotry seriously? 

The Guardian’s Michael White takes thinly vieled antisemitic swipe at Sasha Baron Cohen

The Guardian’s Assistant Editor Michael White, writing in his blog, “Borat ‘racism’ case reflects badly on employment tribunals“, Aug. 24, begins with the following:

An employment tribunal in Leeds has decided that the use of the name “Borat” by a Wakefield-based welder to tease a Polish colleague is racist, and may require the award of compensation for hurt feelings.

For those unaware, the film “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”, by Sasha Baron Cohen, is a 2006 “mockumentary” about a popular Kazakh television personality who leaves his homeland of Kazakhstan for America to make a documentary film at the behest of the fictitious Kazakh Ministry of Information.

The fake reporter utters sexist, racist and anti-Semitic comments as he crosses the States, encouraging those he encounters to be similarly politically incorrect.

As Cohen himself said,

“Borat essentially works as a tool. By himself being anti-Semitic, he lets people lower their guard and expose their own prejudice, whether it’s anti-Semitism or an acceptance of anti-Semitism. The joke is on the racists”

But, White isn’t buying it. Beyond his understandable criticism of the actions of the employment tribunal, White can’t resist going after Cohen.

“Like a lot of his work, it struck me as exploitative and inherently condescending to the kind of people who weren’t lucky enough to go to Cambridge as he did. It’s also a one-trick joke.

Now, this is rich. An elitist paper like the Guardian – see the number of Guardian journalists who went to expensive private schools – which routinely publishes articles and commentary suggesting that vast swaths of ordinary, working class Americans are racist (See CiF America) accuses a Jew who reveals antisemitic (that is, racist) attitudes held by a number of Americans of “elitism”.

But, White’s enmity towards the Jewish artist reaches its peak in these passages:

Nor was Cohen’s own justification for the film – he was roundly criticised and Kazakhstan allegedly threatened to sue him – convincing. He told the Rolling Stone magazine – here’s the Telegraph’s account – that “the joke is on the racists”, because only such people could imagine that his gross parody of Kazakhstan – a place where gays wear blue hats, women live in cages and anti-Semitism is rife – could really exist.

Well, if you say so, Sasha, though there are some pretty nasty countries out there. And I doubt if you’d enjoy the joke if a Cambridge-educated Palestinian pulled off a similar stunt travelling through the more red-neck Israeli settlements on the West Bank…” [emphasis mine]

Just to be clear, the term “red-neck” is a historically derogatory slang term used in reference to poor white farmers in the American South – and is a stereotype always used in the pejorative to refer to those who are bigoted, loutish, and politically reactionary.

Such a gratuitous and off-topic attack on Israeli Jews who live on the “wrong” side of the Green Line is, in itself, indicative of White’s clear and unambiguous prejudice.

But, more importantly, what possible moral justification does White have for associating Cohen – a British Jew – with Israel?

What connection is there between Israeli “settlers” and a British Jew named Sasha Baron Cohen? 

Cohen’s film exposed quite clearly, how predisposed many people are to antisemitism.

White’s reference to Cohen’s Judaism – as well as his efforts to associate Cohen with the Jewish nation-state – to impugn his motives is an act of Jew-bating, clearly ad hominem and, arguably, racist.

Requisite photo of Palestinians behind bars accompanies “report” by Harriet Sherwood on anti-BDS bill

Last year, Akus commented on the Guardian’s use of often highly inappropriate photos, in Israel related stories, in service of reinforcing a desired narrative.

He noted the debacle of the Guardian’s use of the following pre-disengagement picture from Gaza in 2005 to illustrate an article by Leila El-Haddad – which they eventually removed – to reinforce the narrative of Gaza, in 2010, as a place worse than a prison camp.

Indeed, Honest Reporting issued an excellent report in December on the use of bars in images (by the mainstream media) to enhance the impression of Palestinians suffering as “prisoners” of Israeli occupation and brutality.

So far, Harriet Sherwood has posted three pieces on Israel’s controversial new anti-BDS law in as many days.  And, while the latest (Israelis divided over new law that backs business hit by trade boycotts, July 15th) is actually not as one-sided as the first two (as it actually marginally presents the views of some who support the law), the editors’ choice of a photo to advance the paper’s desired narrative regarding the broader conflict is quite transparent.

 

It’s fair to ask why this photo – which, based on a search I did from the image’s URL, turns out to have been taken in February of 2007 – was chosen to illustrate the story.

Sherwood’s piece, after all, is about attempts by Israel to fight efforts to isolate the state, by use of boycotts and other means of delegitimization, and it’s unclear what a photo of Palestinians passing through a checkpoint along Israel’s security fence in 2007 has to do with either the recently passed Knesset bill, or the broader issue of BDS.

If this was a commentary attempting to demonstrate Palestinian suffering in service of a broad moral defense of BDS against Israel, then the image (though still highly problematic) would at least have been contextually consistent.

However, as Harriet Sherwood is the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, and the piece does not purport to be a polemic, it’s clear that the editor who chose to insert that stock photo was making an editorial decision to show Israel in the worst possible light, and highlight Palestinian suffering – the only narrative about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict which has any credibility among Guardian readers.

As Guardian Assistant Editor Michael White acknowledged, in a remarkably frank blog post in March, regarding the paper’s disproportionate criticism of Israel:

“[editors] strive much of the time to tell [Guardian readers] what [they'd] rather know rather than challenge [their] prejudices and make [them] cross.”

The Guardian: reinforcing their readers’ egregious biases against Israel – one story, and one image, at a time.

Guardian Assistant Editor Michael White’s revealing admission about his paper’s coverage of Israel

H/T Just Journalism

In Guardian Assistant Editor Michael White’s Blog yesterday, on the topic of media self-censorship – in the context of recent crackdown by the Turkish government on voices critical of the regime – there was a remarkable admission about his paper’s coverage of Israel.

White, who’s been with the Guardian for over 30 years, said:

[The Guardian has] always sensed liberal, middle class ill-ease in going after stories about immigration, legal or otherwise, about welfare fraud or the less attractive tribal habits of the working class, which is more easily ignored altogether.

Toffs, including royal ones, Christians, especially popes, governments of Israel, and US Republicans are more straightforward targets.

White concluded:

So while we hacks do not fear the knock at the door in a Turkish dawn, we should not feel too pleased with ourselves. And remember, dear reader, that we are also striving much of the time to tell you what you’d rather know rather than challenge your prejudices and make you cross.

No, Mr. White, you’re right. You and your colleagues shouldn’t be too pleased with yourselves.

While its refreshing to hear White seem to acknowledge (or at least suggest) that The Guardian’s obsessively negative coverage of Israel serves to reaffirm its readers’ considerable prejudices about the Jewish state, I frankly doubt that he realizes just how injurious his organization’s legitimization of this bigotry is to both Israel and the broader Jewish community.

Yes – as White suggests – a responsible newspaper (especially one which claims a liberal orientation) should challenge its readers’ prejudices, not grant them moral license.

Indeed – outside the comfortable bubble of White’s London Salon – for those of us living in Israel and diaspora communities around the world who are increasingly vulnerable to the real world consequences of anti-Zionist and Judeophobic narratives, such egregious journalistic bias isn’t a mere abstraction.

White’s candor is to be commended, but it would seem that only those predisposed to the most puerile optimism could sustain a belief in the capacity of such an enormous institution to break free of its own ideological inertia.

Our battle against the Guardian will be a long and arduous one.

Thought experiment: Imagine if the Deputy Editor of the Guardian hosted a forum at a pro-Jihad, pro-Hamas event

H/T Harry’s Place

Suppose there’s a group which is known to be a pro-Hamas propaganda operation. And, suppose the leader of this group is the former deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, a signatory of a pro-Jihad, pro-extremism, pro-terrorism document which called for:

Jihad and resistance against the occupation until the liberation of all Palestine”.

Suppose, further, that the leader of this group has such a prolific record of promoting hate and extremism that the co-director of a counter-extremism think tank said that “the man is a fanatic.”

Wouldn’t progressives be shocked and appalled to learn that the Deputy Editor of the Guardian – the world’s leading liberal voice – hosted such an event?

Close your eyes for a second.

Now open them:

The Guardian's Michael White on left

Here’s The Guardian’s Deputy Editor, Michael White, hosting an event (with Sir Gerald Kaufman, MP) by MEMODaud Abdullah‘s organization. Abdullah, deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), attended a conference of Islamic extremists in Istanbul - an assembly for jihad. Delegates at the February conference included representatives of Hamas and theological and political supporters of some of the worst forms of Sunni extremism.

Abdullah’s deputy at MEMO is Ibrahim Hewitt, chairman of Interpal, another British charity that serves Hamas.

On MEMO’s pages you will find work such as the vile accusation of dual loyalty against the Jewish British ambassador to Israel, support for blood libel charges, and multiple essays by Abdel Bari Atwan, the journalist who has said he would “dance in Trafalgar Square” if Israel were annihilated by Iran in a nuclear strike.

Of course, White is no stranger to extreme anti-Israel bias.  During a discussion on BBC Radio London’s Breakfast Show, concerning the physical vulnerability of political leaders, he said:

“In Israel they murder each other a great deal. The Israeli Defense Forces murder people because they don’t like their political style and what they’ve got to say and it only means that people more extreme come in and take their place.”

Regarding the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh (allegedly by Israel), a senior Hamas military commander and one of the founders of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades – who was prolific in smuggling deadly weapons into Gaza – White said this:

“I’m not ‘one of those’ liberals who relentlessly denigrates Israel, but murdering Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was a crime.”

White then added:

“The trouble is with killing [such terrorists], you never know when you’ve just killed Nelson Mandela. Apartheid South Africa was wise in that respect.”

(Right, you just “never know” when leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah are going to lay down their arms, cozy up, and reconcile with Jewish citizens of the “Zionist entity,” and join the Arab equivalent of Peace Now.)

Still, White’s attendance at – indeed, endorsement of – an event by an openly Jihadist organization makes such comments seem mild by comparison.

So, to sum up:  White is “not one of those liberals who relentlessly denigrates Israel”, but sees nothing inappropriate about legitimizing Jihadists who openly seek that state’s annihilation and routinely engage in explicit classic anti-Semitism.

As Harry’s Place noted:

“If the Guardian and Kaufman are not aware of [MEMO's] record, they are incompetent. If instead they are [aware], their decision to attend a MEMO event is nauseating”

That deafening silence you’re currently hearing is the outrage expressed by the progressive community to the Guardian’s tacit support for such a reactionary, and extremist, movement.

Mossad expulsion: Michael White still doesn’t get it

This is a guest post by AKUS

Michael White, he of the infamous comment about Israel during an interview that had nothing to do with Israel:

“In Israel they murder each other a great deal. The Israeli Defence Forces murder people because they don’t like their political style and what they’ve got to say. And it only means that people more extreme come in and take their place”

Apparently glued to his laptop while waiting for a new episode in the Peter Pan series to begin in the House on March 24th – “waiting for Alistair Darling to deliver his budget”– what better way for an “assistant editor [who] has been writing for the Guardian for over 30 years, as a reporter, foreign correspondent and columnist” to pass the time than to condemn the Mossad’s assumed evil-doings: Mossad expulsion: they still don’t get it and explain how this excuses his comment.

(Before continuing, let me say that the expulsion of an Israeli “diplomat” or whatever status that person really had represents a new low in Britain’s descent from its once much-admired standing as an example of democracy, law, and order. Whatever the suspicions, there is no proof whatsoever that Israel was involved in the Dubai assassination of Mabhouh. The clownish nature of the operation makes me believe it was very unlikely to have been the Mossad. Nevertheless, a precedent has been set in Britain now. On the basis of suspicion alone, without proof, the British government will act against those against whom it feels represent some kind of threat. Of course, that does not mean the new rule will be applied equally – there are a number of notorious Hamas supporters at large in Britain, and it is clear that Mabhouh travelled on more than one false passport – yet no action has been taken against his terrorist colleagues happily sipping teas and eating scones in posh cafes in London while whipping up enthusiasm for the supposedly starving masses of Gaza. But now the door is open to this abuse of power and what starts with the Jews and Israel will not end with them).

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Not the White Response

This is a cross-post from Honest Reporting

The Guardian Associate Editor’s weak excuses and justifications for outrageous comments against Israel.

Frosty US-Israeli relations and a very public and direct rebuke by Britain for alleged cloning of UK passports by Israel’s Mossad have created a storm of negative headlines in recent days.

Some (but not all) British media took particular glee in reporting the expulsion of a diplomat from Israel’s embassy in London. The Guardian even livebloggededitorial referred to Israel as “an arrogant nation that has overreached itself”, thus smearing more than just Israel’s government but also its entire population. the event as it unfolded while an

Some took advantage of Israel being hauled over the coals to justify their own failings. In December 2009, The Guardian’s Associate Editor Michael White made the following comment during a discussion on BBC Radio London’s Breakfast Show concerning the physical vulnerability of political leaders:

In Israel they murder each other a great deal. The Israeli Defense Forces murder people because they don’t like their political style and what they’ve got to say and it only means that people more extreme come in and take their place.

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A FORMAL COMPLAINT TO THE BBC – PART 5

This is a guest post by Mitnaged

As those of you who have been following this will know, BBC Radio London aired an interview with the Guardian’s Political Editor, Michael White on 14th December last year.  On the 19th December last, I initiated a formal complaint about the content and conduct of that interview.  You can find accounts of the various stages of the process here, here, here and here

Readers may remember that I sent a further email to Andrew Bell, the Complaints Director of the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit, which I printed at the end of Part 4 of the saga.  It went as follows:

“Dear Mr Bell

“Thank you for your letter of 4th March.

“In it, you write, “… I do not feel that there was any lack of impartiality shown by the fact that he [ie Michael White] was not challenged….”

“I am afraid that you miss the point completely:

“My complaint was not only that the presenters failed to challenge Michael White but that they indicated agreement with his views.

“It is evident to me that you have singularly failed to address this evident bias on their part in your reply to me and I would like an explanation of whether this was because you ignored this in your investigation and, if so, why you did not think it important.

“Yours sincerely”

I got the following reply:

From: Andy Bell [mailto:andy.bell@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 12 March 2010 15:19
To:
Subject: RE: For the attention of Andrew Bell ref: AB/1000029

“Dear

“Thank you for your email.

“I have gone back to your original complaint where you did raise the issue of the presenters making noises which you think signified agreement with Michael White’s views. However, you offered this as support for your complaint that Michael White’s contribution was inaccurate and misled the audience not as evidence of bias. I believe I dealt with the point about accuracy substantively in my letter though I did not refer to these noises specifically. However, I am very happy to consider it as evidence of bias now.

“I have listened to the report again. There are three occasions, while Michael White is speaking, where Jo Good says “mmmm”. I have to say that I think I would be hard pressed to take this as evidence of bias. Interviewers say this, and similar things, all the time whilst interviewing contributors and it usually means no more than “I understand what you’re saying” . I can speak from personal experience in saying this, having spent many years interviewing people for television myself. Even when an interviewer might use the word “Yes” during the course of an interview even this would not necessarily signify agreement, but simply “Yes, I understand what you’re saying”.

“I do appreciate that you were upset by Michael White’s remarks, and as I said in my letter, I do agree that he did not express himself at all clearly, but I am afraid that I don’t consider what he said, given the background I set out in my letter, or indeed any noises that the presenter may have made, to represent serious breaches of editorial standards.

“However, if you are still unhappy with my finding it remains open to you to appeal to the Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust. Correspondence for the Committee should be addressed to its Secretary, Bruce Vander, at the BBC Trust Unit, 180 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QZ or by email to trust.editorial@bbc.co.uk. The Trust normally expects to receive an appeal within four weeks of the date of this letter, or of any subsequent correspondence between us.

“Thank you again for writing to us. .

“Yours sincerely

“Andy Bell
Complaints Director
Editorial Complaints Unit
Room 5168
BBC White City
201 Wood Lane
London W12 7TS”

And I replied to him by return:

“Dear Mr Bell

“I disagree with your interpretation, which I think is disingenuous and as subjective as you imply mine is.

“Much depends on the tone of the “mmm” or the “yes” and I believe that Jo Good was agreeing with Michael White.  Given the BBC’s past record of anti-Israel bias, it is very difficult to understand Jo Good’s noises as not being in agreement.   I also believe that she may have been totally out of her depth, which begged the question as to why she was allowed to conduct the interview.

“Yours sincerely”

If we look at Andrew Bell’s reply to me above, it is evident that he is engaged in hair splitting.   He is not examining the presenter’s noises in the context of the interview as a whole but chooses to focus instead, rather bizarrely, on the aspect of where I mentioned them in my complaint:

“However, you offered this as support for your complaint that Michael White’s contribution was inaccurate and misled the audience not as evidence of bias….”

(It seems that Mr Bell is afflicted of the same malaise as CiF moderators, that of blinkered literalism.  He appears to have no idea that a contribution may be inaccurate and misleading and therefore very likely biased as a result of both of these, whether or not “bias” is actually mentioned).

We then get to the explanation of why he thinks so:

“.. There are three occasions, while Michael White is speaking, where Jo Good says “mmmm”. I have to say that I think I would be hard pressed to take this as evidence of bias. Interviewers say this, and similar things, all the time whilst interviewing contributors and it usually means no more than “I understand what you’re saying” . I can speak from personal experience in saying this, having spent many years interviewing people for television myself. Even when an interviewer might use the word “Yes” during the course of an interview even this would not necessarily signify agreement, but simply “Yes, I understand what you’re saying”.

(So Bell is arguing, and probably with a straight face and as earnestly as he knows how, that just because HE sees no bias in the presenter Jo Good’s “mmm” remarks – and I would lay odds that she was nodding too but obviously I have no proof – then her “mmm” on the three occasions when Michael White was libelling the IDF was no more than a “Yes, I understand what you’re saying.”   Moreover Bell is arguing that my subjective interpretation of Jo Woods’ part in this egregious and highly insulting exchange must needs be set aside in favour of his subjective interpretation, because he is an employee of the BBC with “many years of interviewing people for television…”  because “interviewers say this and similar things all the time…”

Bell seems to have completely ignored that conversations have at least two participants, a speaker and a listener – in this case many listeners – but that the speaker dare not assume that he/she will be completely understood.  Therefore for Michael White to say, “..In Israel they murder each other a great deal…” may be taken as meaning precisely that, in spite of its lamentable grammar.   For me, to hear a presenter to not only allowing him to say this unchallenged but also making sounds of agreement throughout the part of the interview which deals with that is evidence of bias in that case, regardless of Bell’s opinion of what tends to happen in other interviews with less contentious subject matter).

I noted above that the BBC, like CiF, tends not to view contentious remarks or statements within their context unless it suits them to do so.   Michael White writes for the Guardian.  Because of this, I believe that he saw an opportunity to deliberately derail the discussion about the attack on Silvio Berlusconi and took it so that he could undermine his newspaper’s number one bête noire.

The BBC, of course, has its own history of animus towards Israel, which means that any remarks by Michael White which were consonant with that would be acceptable to it.   For myself, however, I believe that at least some of the responsibility for letting the interview be sidetracked must lie with Jo Woods herself.   Michael White is wily and knew exactly what he was doing.  Jo Woods, however, clearly showed herself to be out of her depth when it came to reining him in, and she therefore adopted the course of least resistance towards something she probably knew very little about – that of agreeing with everything he said.

A FORMAL COMPLAINT TO THE BBC – Part 4

This is a guest post by Mitnaged

BBC Radio London aired an interview with the Guardian’s Political Editor, Michael White on 14th December last year.  On the 19th December last, I initiated a formal complaint about the content and conduct of that interview.  You can find accounts of the various stages of the process here, here and here

The saga has come to an end.  I received two pages of very underwhelming guff from Andrew Bell, the Complaints Director of the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit.

Embedded in it, at the beginning of the penultimate paragraph, was the information that he had not been able to uphold my complaint.   There were clues earlier on, of course, notably where he told me that he had researched into targeted killings by Israel, which seemed to me to be over and above the call of duty, but no matter.  The letter informs me that I can if I wish take the complaint further still, but I get the distinct sense that that would be rather like shouting down a well.

I was treated to a reiteration of exactly what Michael White said.   In a discursive paragraph which set the scene (which I already knew by heart) of the discussion which had been prompted by the attack on Silvio Berlusconi, Bell told me that White began “recounting stories of broadly similar attacks on other politicians before changing tack slightly (emphasis mine) and addressing the rather distinct subject of political assassination.”

Bell reminded me about White’s mention of the lack of political assassinations in Northern Ireland during the troubles, that they “…didn’t take to murdering each other in a serious way…” (??)

This of course led on to the infamous and grammatically ridiculous statement from White:

“In Israel they murder each other a great deal.  The Israeli Defence Forces murder people because they don’t like their political style and what they’ve got to say and it only means that people more extreme come in and take their place….”

Andrew Bell admits that Michael White’s terminology is “not as exact as it might be” (this has to be the understatement of 2010 so far) but then goes on to presume to tell me what Michael White actually means by this fatuous nonsense – that “it is clear” that White is referring to Israel’s controversial targeted killings of opponents it believes are involved in terrorism.

Bell’s research appears to have taken him on a long journey outside the remit of his investigation when he tells me that these extra-judicial killings are called “foilings” and that, although they are approved by the Israeli Supreme Court, others, including Michael White, appear to believe that they are extra-judicial killings and “possibly murder.”

And how does Bell know what White had in mind?  Why, the implied comparison, by White, of Israeli leaders with political leaders in Northern Ireland who may have had a background in Republican terrorism but who “didn’t take to murdering each other in a serious way…!”

(The fundamental differences between the Northern Ireland conflict and that between Israel and her neighbours seem to have escaped Andrew Bell and Michael White both.  The Northern Irish conflict was always far less toxic than that in the Middle East, according to Lord Alderdyce, one of the main architects of the Northern Ireland peace process.  It seems to me therefore that any comparison between them is inherently flawed, but nevertheless Michael White, Andrew Bell and other misguided souls continue to try to use Northern Ireland as a template for solving Israel’s problems with Hamas’ murderous inclinations towards her).

Bell then continues that because White admitted that he had digressed from the original topic of discussion, this absolved the presenters from prolonging the digression by taking issue with his distinctly questionable and highly offensive views by challenging him about them!   Bell explains that the presenters did not want to challenge or open up a debate about the merits and legitimacy of a policy of targeted killings because it would have taken them even further away from the topic.

(The disingenuousness of this excuse almost beggars belief.  Bell has obviously forgotten that I, too, heard the broadcast.  Quite apart from the impression the presenters gave, that they could not have challenged their way out of a paper bag, Bell studiously omits to mention, much less to address, my concerns that not only did these two not challenge White, but actually indicated agreement with what he said!)

For myself, I care very little about White’s opinions about anything.  He is a Guardian political editor and little more need be said in the light of that.  I do care, however, that presenters of a radio programme showed partiality and bias in their agreement with White’s distinctly questionable anti-Israel views and his choice of where and how to air them, and have been allowed to get away with it.

I am also very concerned that the BBC, which I fund from my licence fee, can promulgate such drivel from Andrew Bell under the guise of an investigation into a complaint.  (In this it operates very much like CiF, which believes it can have the reader believing at least six impossible things before breakfast if it spins them correctly).  The letter was verbose and unclear from the beginning and, as I have said, I realised that my complaint had not been upheld only at the end of the penultimate paragraph.  In this it was rather like the tale told by an idiot, but one which completely lacked sound and fury and signified absolutely nothing and I began thinking, after the second reading of it, that Bell’s intention was to bore me into a stupor.

I am not surprised, of course.  This is, after all, the BBC.

However, I did email Bell once more:

“Dear Mr Bell

“Thank you for your letter of 4th March.

“In it, you write, “… I do not feel that there was any lack of impartiality shown by the fact that he [ie Michael White] was not challenged….”

“I am afraid that you miss the point completely:

“My complaint was not only that the presenters failed to challenge Michael White but that they indicated agreement with his views.

“It is evident to me that you have singularly failed to address this evident bias on their part in your reply to me and I would like an explanation of whether this was because you ignored this in your investigation and, if so, why you did not think it important.

“Yours sincerely”

A Formal Complaint to the BBC

This is a guest post by Mitnaged

After the Guardian’s Political Editor, Michael White, made ill-judged and scurrilous allegations about the IDF on the BBC Radio London’s Breakfast programme on 14th December, I felt constrained to make a formal complaint to the BBC.   Those who missed what White said can find it verbatim by clicking here.

A copy of the BBC’s reply to me follows, prefixed by “>” and embedded in it, in italics, is my subsequent reply to them:

>—–Original Message—–
>From: complaintresponse@bbc.co.uk [mailto:complaintresponse@bbc.co.uk]
>Sent: 19 December 2009 10:58
>To: [intentionally omitted]
>Subject: [intentionally omitted]
>
>Thanks for your email about the interview on BBC London 94.9′s
>’Breakfast’ programme on December 14 with the Guardian newspaper’s
>assistant editor Michael White.
>
>Mr White was invited to give his views on the news story of the attack
>on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
>
>Having investigated your complaint, BBC London would like to apologise
>for any offence you might have felt on hearing Mr White’s comments.
>However, we would point out that Mr White is not a BBC journalist, and
>he was clearly introduced to listeners as a commentator from the
>Guardian newspaper.

I am glad that you apologised.  It matters little whether or not
Mr White was one of your journalists (given the paper for which he writes his comments were hardly surprising – but most offensive was the fact that he was allowed to make those remarks unchallenged by the BBC hosts of the programme.

>He was putting forward his own views with his own choice of words, and,
>as with other commentators, the listener is free to make up their own
>mind on the validity of his arguments. The BBC’s advice to its own
>journalists would be to use plain and simple language, rather than make
>value judgements, but we cannot apply the same guidance to interviewees.

See my point above.  The BBC has a responsibility to those who pay it to make sure that lies are not promulgated unchallenged.  That the hosts remained silent implied that they agreed with those lies. (Additional note, not in the original:  I have since been reminded that actually, the interviewer did not remain silent.  She made a noise expressing agreement, as if what White said was as obvious as the fact that the sun always rises, and then they went on).

>Mr White’s comments about Israel were a brief aside, along with other
>remarks about Northern Ireland, during the interview about Signor
>Berlusconi. In these circumstances, the presenter had to judge whether
>to divert the interview into a discussion about what Israel calls
>’targeted killing’ or his comments about Northern Ireland rather than
>concentrate on the matter in hand.

I disagree.  Brief asides can nevertheless be offensive and inciteful.  The presenter could either have challenged White or carefully steered him away from digging himself a hole by a statement that his remarks were beyond the remit of the programme.
>
>Given this background and the incidental nature of Mr White’s comments,
>we believe the presenters were right to concentrate on the substance of
>the interview.

I am not surprised, given the BBC’s record in the past.  I however want to remain on record as taking issue with your reasoning.

I intend to take this up to the highest level.  Not only did the presenters not concentrate on “the substance of the programme” as the BBC called it, but their presenter actually agreed with what White said, or at least failed to correct it.  More predictable, however, was the standard BBC excuse and divesting themselves of all responsibility by reminding me that White was not one of theirs.   That makes little difference – indeed I would argue that there is precious little clear blue water between the BBC’s attitude towards Israel and that of Michael White – but the BBC put out the programme, therefore the BBC was responsible for the content of it and for any offence caused.