The Guardian plays crooked lawyer for the Palestinians

A few months ago we published an essay arguing that, in the event talks between the two parties break down and another is Intifada is initiated by Palestinian leaders, we can expect the Guardian to morally justify the violence.  

What we didn’t address at the time was our similar confidence that their editors, reporters and commentators would blame Israel for the break down in talks.

Sure enough, as talks have all but broken down (due to unilateral Palestinians acts hours before the Israeli government was set to approve an American brokered deal to extend talks to 2015), the Guardian published an official editorial which parrots the discredited claim that an Israeli announcement for new home tenders in east Jerusalem was the culprit.

Here are the relevant passages in the Guardian editorial (The Peace Bubble Bursts, April 11):

[Kerry's] determined concentration on peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, his repeated trips to the Middle East, and many months of hard work by a small army of advisers, drafters and facilitators, have ended not in a bang but a whimper

The “poof” moment was Israel‘s announcement of permits to build 700 new homes for settlers in East Jerusalem, a clearly provocative move given the Palestinian demand for a halt, or at least a pause, in settlement activity, and their insistence that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state

Of course, the claim that an “announcement of permits to build [708] new homes for settlers in East Jerusalem” effectively ended the talks is not even remotely accurate. 

First, Israel never agreed to so much as curtail the construction of homes beyond the green line (in Jerusalem or the West Bank) in the initial agreement brokered by Kerry to begin talks last July. They agreed to release Palestinian prisoners, but made no such guarantees regarding ‘settlements’.

Second, the east Jerusalem homes were reportedly a reissue of an earlier pronouncement permitting these new apartments in Gilo to be built, which, as Adam Kredo noted, means “that the substance of the decree [on new homes in east Jerusalem] had not changed for months and had not [previously] been a roadblock to the peace talks”.  

Third, other such ‘settlement’ construction announcements during negotiations have been made by Israeli authorities without major incident – due, again, to the fact that Israel never agreed to curtail such activity – prior to the east Jerusalem tenders.  This includes a January announcement that tenders were released for the construction of 600 homes in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in east Jerusalem.

Finally, it’s important to note that the 708 housing tenders were issued for Gilo, a neighborhood in Jerusalem which almost everyone (including the Palestinians) agrees will remain under Israeli control upon a final status agreement.  In fact, the Guardian should look back at their own reports of the leaked Palestinian notes during negotiations between Abbas and Olmert in 2008 (known as the Palestine Papers), where they confirmed that Palestinians leaders agreed that Gilo would remain Israeli.

Here’s a passage from a Jan 23, 2011 Guardian report by Seumas Milne and Ian Black:

The concession in May 2008 by Palestinian leaders to allow Israel to annex the settlements in East Jerusalemincluding Gilo, a focus of controversy after Israel gave the go-ahead for 1,400 new homes – has never been made public.

Here’s the map they published showing the Jerusalem neighborhoods in Jerusalem (in blue) which (Palestinians agreed) would be Israeli under the plan.  As you can see, the neighborhoods (beyond the green line) which Israel would retain include the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, East Talpiot, and Gilo.

mapsIn short, the Guardian’s risible suggestion that 708 housing tenders for Gilo caused the peace talks to fail does not represent the dispassionate analysis of ‘professional journalists’, but, rather, the deceit and sophistry of a crooked lawyer.

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Does the Guardian object to Bob Carr’s antisemitic insinuation?

The charge that ‘Jewish money’ corrupts politics in Western countries is certainly nothing new, but we continue to marvel at the evolution - as this blog has observed on many occasions - by which such Judeophobic narratives about the injurious influence of Jews typically associated with the far-right are increasingly fashionable amongst commentators claiming a progressive orientation.

There was a good illustration of this disturbing trend in excerpts of new autobiography by Bob Carr, the former Australian foreign minister, as reported by the political editor of Guardian Australia Lenore Taylor.  The article, published on April 9, included the following passages:

Bob Carr: Diary of a Foreign Minister includes a detailed account of a period in October and November 2012 when Carr campaigned against [Prime Minister] Gillard’s insistence that Australia should support Israel and vote against Palestinian observer status in the United Nations.

The bitter fight became entwined in the leadership tensions that were reaching a crescendo at the time.

As it reached its height, he describes [former Prime Minister] Kevin Rudd arriving at his parliament house office “purse-lipped, choirboy hair, speaking in that sinister monotone. A chilling monotone”.

Rudd’s had a “morbid interest” in the issue which had the potential to impact both on Australia’s fate in the upcoming vote for a seat on the UN security council and on his own chances to return to the prime ministership.

How much of this is about money, I asked him,” Carr writes. “He said about one-fifth of the money he had raised in the 2007 election campaign had come from the Jewish community.”

Carr concludes that “subcontracting our foreign policy to party donors is what this involves. Or appears to involve.”

First, it’s important to note that Australia ended up voting to ‘abstain’ from the UN vote on ‘Palestine’, rather than voting ‘no’ as the U.S. and Israel was reportedly lobbying them to do.  So, if, as Carr suggests, the government’s decision on the ‘Palestine’ vote in the UN was indeed dictated by Jewish donations, why did they choose the course of action opposed by Israel and the Jewish community?

Further, Gillard’s tenure as prime minister was widely seen as a shift away from the staunchly pro-Israel policies of the government under prime minister John Howard, which governed the country for 11 years prior to Labor’s victory in 2007.  So, again, if money from Australian Jews dictated the government’s policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, why didn’t Gillard continue with the policies of her predecessor? 

However, putting aside the specious reasoning behind Carr’s imputation of Jewish influence in Australian politics aside, it’s quite interesting how the Guardian framed the story.   Here’s the headline and strap line to Taylor’s article:

headline

The strap line text is curious in that it frames Carr’s accusation (per the reasonably accurate headline) as ‘casting light‘ on the government’s alleged support for Israel – a term referring to something which provides an explanation for a phenomena or makes it easier to understand. 

Additionally, there’s nothing in the passages in Taylor’s report following Carr’s quote which would suggest that his accusation was at all problematic, controversial or tinged with bigotry.

To be fair, it’s far less than clear how Taylor interpreted Carr’s remark.  

However, it is indisputable that narratives suggesting the money and influence of Jewish or pro-Israel groups undermine the foreign policy of democratic countries is something akin to conventional wisdom within a segment of the U.S. and European Left.  And, it’s fair to conclude that – for most within the Guardian-Left political milieu – Carr’s words would likely represent ‘important insight’ into the root cause of the putatively pro-Israel bias in the West.

The Guardian inflates the number of Palestinian refugees by 4,970,000

The Palestinian “refugee” problem is an issue this blog has explored on quite a few occasions, often in the context of pointing out UK media errors relating to the true number of actual refugees.

A case in point is a long article published on April 6 in The Observer (sister site of the Guardian) by incoming Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont, titled ‘Middle East: does either side have the will to strive for peace?.  Though the nearly 2,000 word article is largely unproblematic, the print version included the following graphic which includes extremely inflated figures on “refugees”:

refugees

First, the wording of the passage (underlined in red) on “refugees” is quite confusing, as the words “5 million refugees and their descendants” could be understood as implying that there are ’5 million Palestinian refugees’ from 1948, PLUS an additional number of descendants.  

Alternately, it could be an attempt to acknowledge that not all of the “5 million” Palestinians who are regarded as refugees (per UNRWA’s bizarre formula) are actually refugees, but, rather, are the descendants of the original (unstated number of) refugees.  However, even assuming it’s the latter, this is extremely misleading, since readers would likely never imagine that there are only 30,000 or so actual Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War (out of the original 711,000) still alive – or less than 1 percent of the ’5 million’ figure cited.

As we’ve noted previously, the 5 million figure (used by UNRWA) includes the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren (ad infinitum) of Palestinian Arabs who may have once lived somewhere in Mandate Palestine, and includes even those who are citizens of other Arab countries (such as Jordan or Lebanon) as “refugees”.

Though such egregious distortions about the actual number of Palestinian refugees are ubiquitous throughout the UK media, we had at least one notable success when we prompted a correction last August in The Telegraph to a passage mirroring the language used by The Observer cited above.  After a series of communications with Telegraph editors, they agreed with our argument and our figures, and revised the original passage (which you can see here) thusly:

corex

Emphasis added

Even this passage isn’t perfect, because it fails to note how many Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War (of the original 700,000 or so) are actually still alive, but, in comparison to the Guardian, it at least represents an attempt to accurately represent this widely misunderstood issue. 

h/t Izzy

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The Economist falsely suggests that exports from Gaza are banned.

The Economist’s Middle East blog, Pomegranate, published a post on April 2 about the art scene in Gaza, titled ‘Not so bleak, which included the following closing passages:

Hamas now keeps its hands off the enclave’s burgeoning arts scene. “In the first years it banned exhibitions,” says Mr Haj. “Now it stages its own…There’s a kind of a glasnost.” Purists in the religious-endowments ministries stayed away. But the Hamas culture minister issued a licence, offering moral but not financial support and apologising that his $10,000 budget for such projects could not cover the show.

The interior ministry did summon an artist, but only to inquire menacingly how he had managed to exhibit a painting in Israel. “I sent it by e-mail,” came the reply. Selling the originals is trickier, since exports from Gaza are still banned.

First, it should be pointed out that there is nothing prohibiting the Palestinian artist in Gaza from sending the original painting to Israel, as there is regular postal service between the two territories. Moreover, The Economist blogger’s suggestion that ‘exports from Gaza are banned’ is flatly untrue.

The following graph published by Gisha – an NGO whose mission is to “protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents” – illustrates the number of truckloads of goods exiting Gaza for export (to the U.S., Europe and the Arab world).

gisha graphic

As you can see, though the quantity of trucks leaving the strip for export varies dramatically depending on the month, there is clearly no ban on exports, as The Economist seems to claim.  

Additionally, according to COGAT (the Israel Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), from the beginning of 2012 through July 2013 over 850 tons of fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices were exported abroad from Gaza. 

tut

Strawberries prepared for export from Gaza

In fact, it appears that there are few limits imposed by Israel on the quantity of consumer goods Gaza can export to foreign markets (outside of Israel and the West Bank), so it’s unclear how The Economist contributor – who only goes by the initials N.P. – arrived at the conclusion that ‘exports are (still) banned’.

 

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Palestine Solidarity Campaign holds anti-Israel hate event at P21 Gallery.

Cross posted by London-based blogger Richard Millett

PSC at P21 Gallery, London last night.

PSC at P21 Gallery, London last night.

“Boycott, Boycott, Boycott. Boycott Israeli products and settlement products. Put pressure on Israel economically. It’s the language THEY understand,” Mahmoud Doughlas implored his audience last night.

Doughlas wasn’t pressed on what he meant by “they”, but the language certainly seemed to contain a racist undercurrent.

Doughlas was speaking, via Skype from Nablus, at a PSC event hosted by P21 Gallery. The event was Education under Occupation – stories from West Bank and Gaza students.

Doughlas, an electrical engineering student at Birzeit University, was speaking from Nablus because, he said, Britain had refused him an entry visa.

He began by telling the audience that when he was in 7th grade Israeli soldiers entered his school “randomly injuring people” and throwing teargas into the classrooms. He couldn’t breathe for 15 minutes and ended up in hospital.

He claimed that one of his friends had been imprisoned for 18 months for writing graffiti on a settlement wall and, if I heard correctly, he said Palestinians have even “been arrested for dreaming about doing something”.

Meanwhile, Jehan al Farra, an alumnus of the Islamic University in Gaza, definitely was in London. She had been in the UK since September studying for a Masters in Computer Studies.

Her main preoccupation last night was describing the problems of studying in Gaza, especially getting to and from academic institutions there due to fuel shortages.

During the Q&A an audience member pointed out that she is highly articulate and very confident, which is a tribute to her teachers and the syllabus. This was a difficult point for her to address without admitting that, just maybe, the situation isn’t as bad as her and her colleagues were attempting to portray.

But she did address another point when an audience member claimed that “Israel had worked hard to destroy Palestinian heritage”. Al Farra said that Israel had even “occupied Palestinian culture”. An example she gave was the Israeli keffiyeh.

Maybe al Farra should read this interesting statement on the Israeli keffiyeh:

“Jews indigenous to the Middle East, such as my family is, have worn some variation of the “kefyah” (cap/kippah) and keffiyeh (head/neck scarves) for thousands of years.”

Here is al Farra last night describing how Palestinians sometimes get killed in accidents when using electricity generators:

 

Last night the PSC was sporting its brand new logo (see top photo – top left of screen). However, on the PSC website and their leaflets the logo is still the map of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, which is far more honest about their intentions for Israel:

psclogo

And PSC’s Ameena Saleem, who was chairing last night’s event, wasted no opportunity to call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. This, as we know, is merely code for calling for the Jewish state’s destruction.

P21 Gallery, itself, has a fairly large space at 21 Chalton Street. It supported St James’s Church’s Bethlehemfest over the Christmas period when St James’s Church ran a number of anti-Israel events while also erecting a copy of Israel’s security wall outside its premises in central London.

St James’s Church called for the real wall, which saves lives, to be dismantled. An astonishing £30,000 was spent building the copy wall.

Meanwhile, the charitable objectives of P21 Gallery (registered number 1153141) are:

“TO WORK IN COLLABORATION WITH BRITISH AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, ORGANISATIONS, ARTISTS, CURATORS AND DESIGNERS TO PROMOTE, DOCUMENT AND FACILITATE PUBLIC ACCESS TO ARAB ART AND CULTURE IN BRITAIN BY ESTABLISHING AND MAINTAINING AN ART GALLERY AND CULTURAL CENTRE FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PUBLIC.”

But the website of P21 Gallery states:

“The P21 Gallery is a London-based non-profit organisation promoting contemporary Middle Eastern and Arab art and culture with distinct focus on Palestine.”

Judging by last night’s event I think that the charitable objectives could possibly be more clearly defined as: Facilitating the destruction of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian state.

But then that wouldn’t have sounded too charitable to the Charity Commissioners.

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Peter Beaumont vs Peter Beaumont: Guardian journo contradicts himself on prisoner release

In ‘Middle East peace talks edge towards collapse despite Kerry’s frantic efforts, Guardian, April 2, the newspaper’s incoming Jerusalem correspondent writes the following about the collapsing ‘peace process’.

Eight months ago, Netanyahu signed a US-sponsored agreement to release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners in a quid pro quo that would block the Palestinian application to membership of a raft of UN bodies in exchange for talks. But despite the agreement, Netanyahu has refused to release the fourth group of prisoners unless the Palestinian Authority recognises Israel as a Jewish state.

This is flat-out untrue.

The Jewish state recognition demand is a separate issue, was voiced prior to the current crisis about the release of the final batch of pre-Oslo prisoners and has never been cited as a factor why Israel is reluctant to release the remaining 26 Palestinians.

As reported by media sites across the political spectrum, Israeli negotiators have only demanded that – for the prisoner release to go ahead – Palestinians must at least agree to extend talks past the April 29 deadline, and have asked why they should release these prisoners when (immediately following their release) Palestinians will likely decide to end the talks.

Interestingly, three days prior to his April 2 story, Peter Beaumont himself acknowledged that the fear of Palestinians walking away from talks was the reason for Israel’s hesitation over the final prisoner release.

In his report on March 31, he wrote the following:

The Israeli government has said it is unwilling to go ahead with the latest prisoner release until it has a commitment from Abbas to extend this phase of the negotiations. On Sunday the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said the talks were “verging on a crisis”.

Just to make it easier, here are snapshots of the competing Peter Beaumont passages.

Beaumont, March 31:

1

Beaumont, April 2:

2

Which one is it, Peter?

 

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Factual errors behind the anti-Israel vote by Royal Institute of British Architects

CiF Watch recently posted about a motion passed by the Royal Institute of British Architects calling on the International Union of Architects (UIA) “to suspend the Israeli Association of United Architects’ (IAUA) membership until it acts to resist projects on illegally-occupied land and observes international law and accords”.

The decision was based partly on a presentation given to the group by an anti-Israel activist (and Guardian contributor) named Abe Hayeem.

abe

Here is a response to some of the glaring factual errors which led to the RIBA anti-Israel vote.

1. RIBA claimed that their vote was based partly on Union of International Architects (UIA) Resolution 13 which states that Israeli projects in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) were ‘illegal’, as well as the Resolution’s claim  that “The UIA Council condemns all action contravening the fourth Geneva Convention”.  

First, the claim that “Israeli projects in the West Bank are “illegal” – despite what the UK media claims – represents a highly disputed legal contention.  Additionally, almost all Israeli settlements are in ‘Area C’ of the West Bank, and is under full Israeli military and administrative control per the Oslo II Accord (1995) – an agreement, signed by the Palestinians, which contains no prohibition against settlement construction.

Also, Israel has not contravened the Geneva Convention.  Article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention states

“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

No court of law has ever found Israel to be in breach of this Article. The Article was written after WW2, when German and Russia forcibly transferred populations. Israel has not forced anyone to move into the West Bank, nor has it displaced local populations. In fact, the Palestinian population within the territories has increased dramatically

The International court of Justice did find in 2004 that Israel was in breach of the Geneva Convention, but this was in an advisory opinion which is not legally binding.

2. Abe Hayeem’s presentation to the RIBA Council included a characterization of the Prawer Plan for resettlement of the Israeli Bedouin as “ethnic cleansing”.

However, the plan does not even remotely resemble “ethnic cleansing”. It is a plan to give the Bedouin citizens of Israel more services and to reduce the economic and social gaps between the Bedouin and the rest of Israeli society. Many Bedouin supported the Plan (which has been shelved) under which a minority, some 20,000 to 30,000 Bedouin, would have been relocated (a few kilometers from their current place of residence) to recognised Bedouin towns, in order to be connected to Israel’s utility networks and have better access to state services.  Further, most Bedouin would have their current land legalized.  The plan also stipulated that those forced to move would receive financial compensation as well as new plots of land.

3. Hayeem also told the RIBA Council the following:

“Palestinian land has become so fragmented that a viable Palestinian State has been rendered impossible. The map of Palestine, for the indigenous Palestinians, has shrunk from being 97% of the land in 1917 to 44% in 1947 to 22% in 1967.”

First, the “map” he’s referring to has been exposed as a lie.

Further, it is not true that a “viable Palestinian state has become impossible”. Under the final status negotiations, Israel accepts that some settlements will need to be evacuated in the event of a peace agreement. And Hayeem’s figures (97% to 22%) ignore the impact of the immigration of Jews to Palestine in 1917-1947 as well as the 1948 War of Independence which was started by the Arabs but in which the new State of Israel successfully defended itself. In 1917 Israel did not exist! – hence the 97% figure.

4. Hayeem’s presentation to the RIBA Council accused Israel of pursuing “apartheid policies”.

This is an egregious falsehood, as you can see by a thorough refutation of the smear published by BICOM.  (See also Jonathan Hoffman’s critique of Ben White’s book.)

Finally, it’s worth noting that in April 2000 Nelson Mandela came to London and spoke to the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He spoke of the need for Israel to leave the lands taken in 1967 but not unless there was first recognition of the Jewish State by the Arab States:

I added a second position, that Israel cannot be expected to withdraw from the Arab territories which she legitimately conquered when the Arab States wanted to whip her out of the map of the world.”

No mention of ‘apartheid’ in Israel – from a man who spent 27 years as a prisoner of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

(Editor’s Note: To assist those in the UK who oppose the boycott, please sign this petition, and consider contacting the president of the Union of International Architects (UIA), Prof. Albert Dubler, and ask that the group reject RIBA’s endorsement of a policy of racist exclusion targeting Israelis.)

uia@uia-architectes.org (UIA email)

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Why is former Guardian journo David Hearst afraid of a few Zionist activists?

I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are. There are, in fact, a number of reasons. One is the state of Israel, its ideology of racial supremacy and its subsequent crimes committed against the Palestinians. It is because Zionists have always sought to equate their colonial project with Judaism that some misguidedly respond to what they see on their televisions with attacks on Jews or Jewish property….Secondly, and related to the first point, is the widespread bias and subservience to the Israeli cause in the Western media.Ben White (‘Comment is Free’ contributor, and anti-Israel activist)

In late June we cross posted a piece by the CST on a forum held at the Front Line Club in London which was titled “Critiquing the media’s approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict”.  The forum included British Islamist, Ibrahim Hewitt, ex-BBC Middle East correspondent Tim Llewellyn, and former Guardian chief foreign leader writer David Hearst.  

Sure enough, the event did not disappoint, with participants continually attempting to explain the dangerous influence of the Israel lobby (which was alternately referred to as the Jewish lobby) on media coverage of the Middle East.

Additionally, a fascinating glimpse into the mind of the British anti-Zionist Left was offered by Hearst, which you can hear in full if you forward to the 24 minute mark of this video.   Here’s part of what Hearst said:

In my short time as lead writer [at the Guardian] I felt that pressure very, very personally, both within and outside the organization.

If you just Google my name you’ll see…there’s a whole organization which is there to monitor everything I write from a point of view of antisemitism. I mean, the whole thing is disgusting….but it’s pressure. It really is pressure.

Of course, the idea that a well-paid journalist for a global media group felt “pressure” from a blog which combats antisemitism – and employs such ‘chilling’ tactics as publishing sharply worded posts, amplifying that message on Twitter and Facebook, and sending respectful complaints to their readers’ editor – is risible enough.

However, a recent exchange between Hearst and blogger Richard Millett would suggest that Hearst really does fear the subterfuge of CiF Watch Zionists.

The Tweet from Millett links to his blog post - cross posted at CiF Watch – about his experience on Friday at Amnesty International’s London HQ for the launch of Ben White’s (long-awaited!) updated Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide. The event was chaired by Hearst and, as you’ll see from the video clip in his post, Millett was denied the chance to ask a question due to his ‘affiliation’.

Hearst’s exact words, when Millett asked why he was denied the right to speak, were as follows:

“I know exactly what you’re up to. And who you are. And who you write for.”

In response to Hearst’s bizarre reply, Millett wrote:

So, what was I up to? Who am I? Who do I write for? Well, since starting this blog in 2009 I have mainly written for myself. I have occasionally written for the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish News, the Jewish Chronicle and CiF Watch, but I never realised writing could get me boycotted.

Here’s Millett’s subsequent Tweet, which tagged White and Hearst, and linked to his post:

Here’s Hearst’s reply, two days later:

Whilst Hearst was referring to a charge by Ben White – in a post published at the pro-Hamas site, Middle East Monitor (MEMO) – that the Israel Embassy in London tried to nix the Amnesty event, it’s unclear how – even assuming this is true – Millett was connected to this.  And, what did he mean by “folk”?  Is he referring to Israelis? Zionists? The pro-Israel ‘lobby’? 

Millett – who, by the way, is British and not Israeli – tried to get a clarification from Hearst, but, so far, to no avail:

It’s almost as if, in the mind of Hearst, the Israel Embassy, the ‘Israel lobby’, CiF Watch and Richard Millett are all part of one centrally organized international Zionist “pressure” group.

However, let us humbly suggest that, just perhaps, Hearst should be a bit less concerned with the blog posts and Tweets of a few Zionist activists, and bit more concerned with the fact that he chaired an event with an anti-Israel extremist who has expressed sympathy towards Jew-haters.

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Times Mid-East correspondent Catherine Philp responds to our criticism

In late February we commented on an apt illustration of the increasingly prevalent dynamic within the UK media of the blurring of news and opinion, in a story at Times of London by their Middle East correspondent Catherine Philp

Catherine Philp

Catherine Philp

The story, about debates in the Knesset over legislation aimed at ending an exemption that allows thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews to skip military service, originally included the following headline:

zealots

As we noted at the time, given that roughly 8 percent of Israeli Jews are ultra-Orthodox (Haredi), Philps was in effect using the pejorative “zealot” – a term with very specific Jewish historical connotations - to describe roughly 480,000 Israelis.  Though some ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel can of course fairly be described as extreme or zealous, to paint the entire community in such negative terms represents the kind of crude stereotype that progressive journalists would typically abhor.

Following our complaint to Times editors, the headline was revised, and the loaded word “zealots” was replaced with the more accurate term “ultra-orthodox”.

new header

On March 18 (three weeks after the original post), we received the following Tweets from the Times journalist.

However, the word “zealot” was also used in the body of the story, here:

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.

We asked her about this on Twitter, and she responded with the following:

We appreciate Ms. Philps’ clarification and have updated the original post accordingly.

UPDATE: Some time after this post was published, it appears as if Ms. Philps deleted the the two last Tweets we highlighted.  (We embedded the code from the original Tweets, but now that they are deleted from Twitter the html doesn’t work, and, as you see, merely the text appears.) However, we found copies. Here they are:

cache tweet

 

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How a Guardian editorial on homophobia in Africa explains their Israel coverage

Post-colonial ideologies…blame the West (particularly the US and Europe) for the ills of the ‘global South’ or the under-developed world, and understate the criticism of dictatorships and terror groups (or liberation movements). In this political culture, Israel and Zionism (Jewish nationalism) are labelled as powerful aggressors intricately connected with Western ‘imperialism’ and ‘neoliberalism’, while Palestinians are automatically labelled as weak victims. – Gerald Steinberg, Fathom

Though the mission of this blog is to combat antisemitism and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy at the Guardian, at times it’s important to look beyond their reports and commentary on Israel and the Palestinian territories (and the broader Middle East) to fully understand the political persuasion which informs their coverage.

A case in point is a recent official Guardian editorial on Uganda’s new anti-gay law (and similar homophobic legislation throughout the continent) titled ‘Homophobia: hatred carried on a Westernly wind.

Here’s some of their March 9th editorial:

It doesn’t take a team of medical experts, such as that commissioned by Kampala, to establish that homosexuality predates western power in Africa, or to work out that far from encouraging homosexuality, the colonialists exported homophobia, in the form of anti-gay legislation then on European statute books. 

In the case of Buganda, the kingdom that formed the heart of present-day Uganda, the British deposed the male monarch on the pretext that he had a harem of page boys.

More recently, homophobia has travelled with a new band of westerners, the American evangelicals, exposed in the documentary God Loves Uganda, in which toothsome Midwesterners preach their message to Africa. Their influence is immense. As the newly out Kenyan novelist Binyavanga Wainaina has noted, whether “in the media, or in conversation” one can “quickly hear almost the exact wording that has been distributed … in the churches.”

In 2009, as their gay “curing” agenda was discredited in the US, three American evangelicals travelled to Kampala to “instruct” thousands of influential Ugandans on how gay men sodomise teenagers and how the gay movement promotes sexual promiscuity. A month after that, a Ugandan politician introduced a bill to create a capital offence of “aggravated homosexuality”. It is a version of this bill that has now been passed by Mr Museveni, and which will open up hundreds of thousands of gay Ugandans to persecution.

So, are three American evangelicals responsible for anti-gay legislation in Uganda, a country which has been independent for over 50 years? And, did the West export homophobia to Africa?

First, as the Washington Post reported, Evangelical leaders in the US have strongly condemned the Ugandan law. And, as one Evangelical who attended the conference in 2009 argued in response to others blaming his community for the legislation, it’s extremely insulting to the Ugandans to suggest that a few American pastors are so powerful that they overwhelmed the intelligence of an entire government.

Additionally, the Guardian editorial fails to note that homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda.  (What the new law did was greatly increase the sentences for such illegal acts.)

Even more relevant to the debate is a Pew Global Poll published in 2013 which showed that a staggering 96 percent of Ugandans don’t believe society should accept homosexuality, strongly suggesting that the new law merely reflected the existence of strongly held (and indigenous) anti-gay attitudes.  

Further, whatever the moral influence of European colonialism, those who are rightfully concerned with the persecution of gays in the world would have to acknowledge that the problem of homophobia is largely centered in Africa and the Middle East.  Though 51 African and Middle East countries have laws explicitly prohibiting gay sex, there is no country in Europe which has such a law. (Though, tellingly, the last holdout in Europe, which only two months ago dropped its law banning homosexuality, was Turkish-Occupied Northern Cyprus.)

Beyond the narrow issue addressed in the editorial, the dynamics at play whereby the Guardian fails to hold independent African states responsible for reactionary legislation passed by their own legislatures helps to understand the dearth of reports at the paper on human rights abuses committed by Palestinians against other Palestinians.  The criticism we direct towards Guardian reports often focus on their failure to hold Palestinians responsible for destructive behavior and cultural attitudes which are illiberal and inimical to peace - a failure to assign moral agency to Arabs and Muslims which is part of a broader ideological tick.  

Many Guardian contributors seem unable to countenance such a politically inconvenient human rights divide in the world – one fundamentally at odds with their post-colonial divide - and so often resort to the most tortured causation in explaining cruelty and violence meted out by ‘the formerly oppressed’. 

This ideology partly explains why the Guardian associate editor Seumas Milne blamed 9/11 on US foreign policy, why Glenn Greenwald similarly blamed terrorist attacks by American Islamists on “horrific violence brought by the US and its allies to the Muslim world”, and why the Guardian religion blogger Andrew Brown blamed the Muslim persecution of Christians in the Mid-East on “the establishment of the state of Israel and its support by Western Christian countries“.

Genuine progressives, it seems, who advocate passionately for a Palestinian state would have to acknowledge that Israel is by any measure the most liberal country in the region, and would have to address the likelihood that a newly independent Palestinian state – regardless of the merits of the Palestinian nationalist movement – will mirror the misogyny, religious intolerance and homophobia which permeates neighboring Arab states.

However, when you base your political analysis on pre-assigned moral roles – a victims’ casuistry in which the correct opinion is invariably derived by ordering the story by virtue of the powerful vs the powerless – then Palestinians are blameless victims, and Israelis (and often Jews qua Jews) will invariably fail to evoke your moral sympathy.

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CAMERA monitors media coverage of Israel, Jan 28-Feb 25: Guardian, BBC, NYT, Ha’aretz

English Posts

UMass Amherst Chancellor Condemns Academic Boycotts of Israel (in Focus) 

A Tough Legacy for a Tougher Man
Setting the record straight on Ariel Sharon, written by Alisa Rudy and first published in Baruch College’s paper: The Ticker. Alisa is a junior majoring in Middle East Studies and is the current President of the CCAP group Youth Organization For Israel, Baruch’s student pro-Israel club. (in Focus)

Inciting Violence Through Inaccuracy
A look at the Arab world inciting violence in the land of Israel, from the Hebron riots 80 years ago to today, by Boston University student Lindsey Cohen. (in Focus)

Learn How to Table From These Guys
Our pro-Israel CAMERA supported group at McNeese University tables about Israel and CAMERA at their campus center. (in Focus)

Jon Haber Relaunches His Blog
Jon of “Divest This” has restarted his fantastic blog debunking myths about the Boycott Divest Sanctions movement. (in Focus)

Chloé Valdary Speaks on Canada’s Sun News on how CAMERA Helps
Watch: CAMERA helps students access accurate information about Israel on their campuses. (in Focus)

Correction in Weekly Portuguese Paper Thanks to CAMERA Israel Trip Participant
Major Portuguese paper falsely claims Israel is building 1400 new settlements. Former CAMERA Israel Trip participant Romeu Monteiro helps set the record straight. (in Focus)

Erasing the Jewish Connection to Israel
A common strategy in delegitimizing Israel is to erase the historic connection between the Jewish people to the land of Israel. (in Focus)

CAMERA Visits California and Boston University
Two campus staff members visited with students at USC who had just returned from Birthright, and spoke to them about inaccuracies in the media. (in Focus)

A Realistic Approach to the Israeli-Arab Conflict
Our Fellow at Washington University is published in her campus paper as she sheds some light on the current conflict and international law. (in Focus)

A Stand Against Boycotts

Our CAMERA Intern explores how some Israelis are taking a pro-active step in the fight against boycotts. (in Focus)

Speakers Discredit SJP

Students for Justice in Palestine bring in a former Israeli soldier to defame Israel and spread inaccurate information about the conflict. Our CAMERA Fellow writes a letter to the editor to set the record straight. (in Focus)

BBC’s ‘Today’ programme ‘should know better’ than to engage in covert promotion of the PSC’s agenda
Despite a recent recommitment to summarizing the standpoint of interviewees, BBC Radio 4 broadcast an interview with an unidentified member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. (BBC Watch)

In which BBC News abandons all pretence of fact checking
Fact checking has apparently become too much of a bother for BBC website journalists. (BBC Watch)

Guardian caves to anti-Israel bigots, revises SodaStream article to please Ben White
The power of the pro-BDS lobby at the Guardian was revealed when editors at the London-based newspaper caved to pressure from Ben White, and revised an article which originally referred to anti-SodaStream activists as “anti-Israel” – opting instead fro the more benign term “anti-settlement”. (CiF Watch)

A Harriet Sherwood tale of Palestinian love and Israeli darkness
A nearly 4,000 word story on Israeli ‘villainy’ by Harriet Sherwood reached new lows, even in the context of the Jerusalem correspondent’s three and a half-year pattern of filing such tendentious and egregiously biased reports from the region. (CiF Watch)

Hebrew Posts

Ynet puts Gaza under siege
Is it accurate to refer to Gaza as “under siege?” (Presspectiva)

Are these celebrities really boycotting Israel?
Dustin Hoffman, Meg Ryan and others are listed by Israeli media as celebrities boycotting Israel. However the evidence shows otherwise. (Presspectiva)

The New York Times repeats Palestinian propaganda
Last week we chastised Ha’aretz for repeating without any examination the claim that President Truman intentionally erased the words “The Jewish State” from his recognition of Israel. Now the New York Times does it as well. (Presspectiva)

What is incitement?
An op-ed writer in Ha’aretz displays a fine sense of irony, when accusing others of inciting hatred, but bases her argument on completely false charges. (Presspectiva)

The return of the Palestinian Children in Cages story
Presspectiva continues to correct papers accusing Israel of holding Palestinian children in cages. (Presspectiva)

Wikipedia’s “Lion of God” bites Journalists
Did various respectable news organizations (and Al-Jazeera) base their obituary of Ariel Sharon on Wikipedia? (Presspectiva)

Spanish Posts

Is Israel really isolated, as some media outlets portray?
Israel holds diplomatic relations with over 150 countries and has recently joined the Pacific Alliance as an observer. Is the country really “internationally isolated”? (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

Excelsior, from Mexico, corrects mistaken information about Israel
In an article about Tel Aviv as a technological hub, the Mexican paper said that city was Israel’s capital. ReVista questioned the paper and the editors corrected the mistake. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

Europa Press unmasked
We highlight possible financial and political reasons behind the biased information about Israel in the Spanish-speaking news agency. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

Russia Today claims Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital
Not only does the RT claim that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital, it also falsely suggests that Globes, an Israeli media outlet, is the source of the information. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

Bethlehem celebrates Palestinian terrorism
Political and religious leaders honoured two suicide bombers and promoted violence against Israel, while the Spanish press didn’t consider the event as news. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

Middle East headlines in the Spanish-speaking press
Read the Israel and Middle East related headlines of the main newspapers and news agencies in Latin America and Spain. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

Télam adopted an anti-Israel ideological stance
The Argentinian news agency chose to quote only those sources that were critical of the Government of Israel and blamed the Jewish State for threatening the peace negotiations and presented opinions as facts. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

Johanssen and El País (the country) of shame 

The effort of the Spanish newspaper to become a professional and reference media is of no use if they allow crude ideology to pop into its pages. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

EFE forgets the Israeli version of the facts again
One of the main premises of journalism is to contrast the information. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

EFE, please, check the information
The Spanish news agency is wrong when informing about the Oslo accords. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

EFE and sex change
Ariel Zilber is not a woman! (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

EFE: the Israelis also exist
Maybe, the Spanish news agency EFE doesn’t like the Israeli version, but readers have the right to learn about it and judge for themselves. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

 

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Did the Guardian once again cave to intimidation from ‘the lobby’?

We recently learned that the Guardian changed the headline to a Feb. 26 ‘Comment is Free’ op-ed by , of the far-left group J Street, arguing that the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC should do more to back John Kerry’s efforts to promote a two state solution.

Here’s the headline as it currently appears, with AIPAC being characterized the America-Israel lobby:

now

However, here’s how it looked a few hours earlier, with AIPAC originally being characterized as the American-Jewish lobby:

earlier

There is no footnote or editor’s note on the page to indicate why they made the change, but – in the view of many faithful Guardian Left readers – they may have tried to ‘avert charges of antisemitism‘ and thus, in effect, caved to intimidation from the Jewish lobby  Israel lobby CiF Watch.

Finally, in case anyone thinks our characterization of J Street as “far-left” is unfair, you may want to watch the following clip of attendees at the group’s 2011 national conference telling us how they really feel about Israel, the Palestinians, Hamas and the greatest impediments to peace in the Middle East.

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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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Guardian text & image almost suggest Israeli culpability in Egypt bus bombing

Take a look at the following headline, strap line and photo in a Feb. 18 Guardian story:

headline failThe title, image and caption would leave many readers with the false impression that ‘Israeli agents’ may have played a role in the recent terror attack on a civilian bus in the Egyptian Sinai that killed four tourists.  In fact, you’d have to read pretty far into the report to determine that this isn’t of course the case.

Here are the first six paragraphs:

Egypt’s public prosecutor has charged two men said to be Israeli intelligence agents and two Egyptians with conspiring in Israel’s interests, according to a statement from the prosecutor’s office.

“The public prosecutor ordered Ramzy Mohamed, Sahar Ibrahim, Samuel Ben Zeev and David Wisemen – two officers in the Israeli Mossad – to be sent to a Cairo criminal court for spying for the interests of the state of Israel,” the statement read.

The two Egyptians are already in jail pending investigation, the statement said. The public prosecutor ordered the arrest of the two Israeli officers. It was not clear from the statement if the Israelis were in Egypt. There was no immediate reaction from Israel.

The Egyptians are accused of providing information about Egypt to the Israeli officers with “the intent of damaging national interests in exchange for money and gifts and sex”.

The statement accuses Mohamed of sleeping with women who work in Israeli intelligence. He is also accused of recruiting the accused woman, Ibrahim, to work for Israeli intelligence.

The statement said the two Egyptians had admitted during investigations that they had spied for Israel.

Here are the subsequent paragraphs:

Earlier on Tuesday, a militant group claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on a Egyptian bus that killed three South Korean tourists and an Egyptian driver close to the border crossing into Israel in the volatile Sinai desert.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, Arabic for Champions of Jerusalem, said in a statement posted on militant websites late on Monday that one of its “heroes” carried out Sunday’s bombing in Taba as part of an “economic war” against the army-backed government.

Egyptian officials have called it a suicide attack, but the Ansar statement did not use any language that would suggest the perpetrator was dead.

The al-Qaida-inspired group has claimed responsibility for previous attacks, but has previously targeted primarily police and the military.

The authenticity of the statement could not be verified but it was posted on al-Qaida-affiliated websites.

As you can see, following the headline and image – which evoke the recent terror attack in the Sinai – we immediately learn that Israeli Mossad agents were arrested by Egyptian authorities.  Then, with no transitional text, we learn that “earlier in the [same] day”, there was an attack near the Israeli border.

So, we’re left with two completely different stories which almost seem connected based on the report.  

As you can see by opening these links to other news sites (including in the Arabic media), the Guardian seems to be the only major news site conflating the two events, and juxtaposing a photo the burned bus with the arrest of Israeli ‘agents’.  Indeed, if you want to get an idea of how egregiously misleading the Guardian headline and photo truly is, even the anti-Zionist conspiracy-minded ‘journalists’ at Iranian PressTV showed greater restraint in their report on the story:

mossad

Though the Guardian report is attributed to news “Agencies”, someone at the paper had to review and approve the headline, photo and text – an editor who clearly failed to abide by basic journalistic standards requiring that the media “take care not to publish “misleading or distorted information”.

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