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

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

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

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

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

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

Human Rights Watch:

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

Ha’aretz:

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

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

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

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

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Financial Times or Electronic Intifada? ‘Serious’ UK paper descends to agitprop

The blurring of ‘professional’ journalism with political advocacy was on full display recently in a “serious” journal known as the Financial Times – the British equivalent of the U.S.-based Wall Street Journal, which largely focuses on international business and economic news.  The April 3 report by David Gardner descends to hyperbole in the very strap line of the story by employing a trope – suggesting that Israel controls the United States – often used by those who claim a decidedly more extremist political pedigree.

strap line

In the second paragraph of the report, Gardner attempts to explain the reason for the current impasse in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians:

The ostensible new roadblock concerns prisoners. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the interim Palestinian Authority, came back to the negotiating table even though Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, refused yet again to freeze settlement building, thus allowing Israel to continue eating up the shrinking territory over which the Palestinians are negotiating to eventually build their state.

It’s important to remember that Abbas previously refused to talk to Netanyahu about peace for the first nine months of a ten-month settlement freeze instituted by the Israeli prime minister in November 2009. Additionally, as almost all new ‘settlement’ construction in recent years has taken place within existing settlement boundaries, it’s extraordinarly misleading to characterize such construction as “eating up the shrinking territory”.

Gardner continues:

Mr Abbas, seen by admirers as a moderate and by critics as a quisling, has abjured radical siren calls for resistance in favour of a negotiated solution. He has nothing to show his people. He looks weak and discredited.

First, “radical siren calls for resistance” is of course a euphemism for violent attacks against Israeli civilians – and Gardner seems to be suggesting that mere absence of an organized intifada suggests that the Palestinian leader is somehow a moderate. (Quisling, by the way, is a term used to demonize political leaders who betray their own country by aiding an ‘invading enemy’, referring to Vidkun Quisling, the pro-Nazi Norwegian leader.)

Then, Gardner proceeds to completely mischaracterize the reason for the impasse.

To offset this, Israel was persuaded to release 104 Palestinian long-term prisoners. The Netanyahu government’s refusal to hand over the last batch on the due date precipitated the current crisis. In retaliation, Mr Abbas this week signed articles of accession to 15 multilateral treaties, investing Palestine with some of the international attributes of a state – which he had promised the US to defer while negotiations continued

This is flatly untrue. The prisoner release was always meant to serve as an incentive to keep Palestinians talking.  The crisis began when Abbas refused to commit to extending the April 29 deadline, even after the last round of prisoners were to be released.  However, a tentative deal, brokered by the US, was reportedly agreed to by both parties to keep the talks going through 2015 – which included the release of the final 26 prisoners along with an additional 400 other prisoners, as well as a curb on settlement construction in the West Bank.  

The Israeli government was reportedly only hours away from agreeing to the terms of the deal to extend talks when Abbas announced the move to join 15 international conventions and treaties – in violation of his agreement when talks began to avoid such unilateral steps – thus effectively sabotaging the agreement.

Gardner’s claim that “Abbas this week signed articles of accession to 15 multilateral treaties” in “retaliation” for Netanyahu’s “refusal to hand over the last batch” of prisoners represents an egregious distortion of the sequence of events.  Netanyahu’s government temporarily delayed the release of the 26 prisoners in order to first get a commitment from the Palestinians to continue the peace talks past the April 29 deadline.  If Abbas hadn’t initiated his unilateral move, the 26 prisoners were almost certainly going to be released.

Gardner continues:

The prisoners in question were supposed to have been released 20 years ago as part of the Oslo accords, at the high water mark for hopes that these two peoples could close a deal on sharing the Holy Land. They were not.

This is not true.  The pre-Oslo prisoners are all convicted of murder, attempted murder or being an accessory to murder and there was no provision of the Oslo Accords requiring their release.  Israel only agreed to free 4,000 Palestinian prisoners (women, administrative detainees and minors, as well as elderly and sick prisoners), and stated quite clearly that they would not release “prisoners who killed Israeli citizens or were deemed likely to become involved in future acts of violence”.

Here’s the text of the relevant agreement from 1995, as published on an official Palestinian website

prisoners

Then, to demonstrate Israel’s “pattern of the US consistently over-rewarding a recalcitrant ally, as well as being snubbed by Israel for its pains”, Gardner makes the following claim:

In 2009, for example, it was Mr Obama who blinked when Mr Netanyahu simply refused to halt colonisation of Palestinian land. Instead, in 2010, the US president offered Israel the Jordan Valley – a big chunk of the occupied West Bank that is not his to give – in return for a short pause in settlement building. Mr Netanyahu, in any event, refused.

Again, this is a complete fabrication.

Nobody disputes that, at Obama’s urging in 2009, Israel agreed to a 10-month construction freeze on new homes in the West Bank.  The curb in construction can be demonstrated by housing statistics for the year in question.   It’s possible Gardner is referring to an incentive offered by Obama to Netanyahu to extend the 10-month freeze by another 2 months in exchange for the President’s support, in principle, to Israel retaining some sort of military presence in the Jordan Valley in the context of a final peace deal, but to write that Obama “offered Israel the Jordan Valley”, which implies that ‘settlements’ in that area would be retained by Israel, is highly misleading.

Then, following a passage which repeats the “Israeli tail wagging the US dog” claim from the strap line, Gardner adds:

Far from pushing Israel to roll back the occupation enough to enable Palestinians to build a viable state on the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital, it looks as though the US is planning to hand Israel almost all the settlement blocs, about three-quarters of East Jerusalem, and the Jordan Valley

First, Gaza isn’t on the table as there is a political division between Hamas and Fatah, the former (which controls the strip) refuses to agree to negotiation or recognize Israel under any circumstances.  Second, the US isn’t handing Israel anything, as responsibility for an agreement rests in the hands of both parties.  Additionally, as negotiations haven’t even come close to concluding, it’s impossible to know for sure what the final map would look like.  And, again, the US isn’t offering Israel the Jordan Valley. 

Gardner continues:

In addition, the Palestinians are being pressed to recognise Israel as a Jewish state – rather than, as they have long since done, recognise the state of Israel and its right to exist. Agreement to that could compromise a negotiated deal on the future of nearly 5m Palestinian refugees, prejudice the position of that fifth of the population of Israel proper that is Palestinian Arab by origin, as well as require Palestinians to repudiate their history.

By arguing that the demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people (a requirement by Israeli leaders going back to Sharon) “could compromise a negotiated deal on the future of nearly 5m Palestinian refugees” (a number corresponding to the number of Palestinians recognized by UNRWA as “refugees”, not the number of actual refugees, which is closer to 30,000) he’s implicitly endorsing the unlimited right of return, a concept which will Israel will never agree to as it is a thinly veiled way to achieve a one-state solution.

Naturally, Gardner doesn’t mention that Abbas – during his recent meeting with Obama – not only refused to compromise on the ‘right of return’ and mutual recognition, but also reportedly refused to commit to an ‘end of conflict’ proviso, “under which a peace deal would represent the termination of any further Palestinian demands of Israel”.

Gardner ends by warning Israel that failing to compromise with the Palestinians “will chip away at Israel’s hard-won legitimacy”, but it is such intellectually dishonest pro-Palestinian propaganda parading as journalism which chips away at the veneer of his professional credibility.

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The Telegraph publishes fair & balanced report on Israeli settlement ‘growth’

telegraphOur increasing commentary on Israel related coverage by sites such as The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times, The Economist and the Irish Times is often helpful in properly contextualizing coverage at the Guardian.

Regarding The Telegraph, though we have criticized them on occasion, the coverage of Israel by their regional correspondent Robert Tait is often much more fair and professional than the pro-Palestinian activism consistently peddled by the Guardian’s outgoing Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood.

Indeed, a March 4 Telegraph story, titled ‘Israel issues figures on huge settlement expansion‘, by two other correspondents (Inna Lazareva and Peter Foster) deserves some credit for citing various views on the announcement, from both the Left and the Right.

The report begins by citing “a new report by the Israeli Bureau of Statistics” which revealed “that Israel increased settlement construction in the West Bank by as much as 123% in 2013, compared with the previous year.”  Then, after quoting Israeli left-wing critics of the increased settlement construction, and right-wing critics complaining that there wasn’t enough construction, the report cited the Israeli Housing Ministry’s explanation that the “higher rate of settlement construction [represents] the cumulative effect of the building backlog dating back to the 2009 ten-month long settlement freeze, and subsequent delayed constructions in the following years”.

Then, there was this interesting passage:

Other critics were quick to point out that, while 2013 was indeed an exceptional year for West Bank settlement construction, overall the rate of building in the settlements over the nearly five years that Mr Netanyahu has been in power has actually decreased by nearly a quarter, compared to the five years prior to him assuming the role of Prime Minister.

We’re not sure who exactly they are referring to by “critics”, but, as you may recall, just yesterday (about 9 hours before the Telegraph story appeared) we published a post titledWhat the Guardian won’t report: West Bank settlement building has DECLINED under BiBiwhich included this passage:

Though housing starts did increase dramatically in 2013, based on numbers from the previous year, construction for the nearly five years Netanyahu has been prime minister shows a decrease from the previous four years when Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon were in power.  From 2009 through 2013, there were 7477 housing starts in the West Bank, while from 2004 through 2008 there were 9293 starts.  So, under Netanyahu, there has been a nearly 20% decline in West Bank construction in comparison to the five years before he became prime minister

In short, The Telegraph provided the kind of context and nuance that professional reporters owe their readers when reporting from a region awash in clichés, hyperbole, agitprop and Guardian-style activist journalism.

We commend The Telegraph for their largely fair and balanced report.

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What the Guardian won’t report: West Bank settlement building has DECLINED under Bibi

headerThough Binyamin Netanyahu agreed last summer to release over 100 so-called pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners (who all were serving sentences for murder, attempted murder or being an accessory to murderas a good faith measure to restart peace talks, he made no such promise to the U.S. that his government would curtail settlement construction in the West Bank as a pre-condition.

Despite this fact, those in the UK media who argue that homes built across the green line represents the biggest obstacle to peace can be expected – in the event negotiations between the two parties break down – to inform readers that Bibi’s ‘aggressive settlement construction’ (as Saeb Erekat and others have phrased it) is, in large measure, what scuttled the talks.

So, when it was reported throughout the media yesterday that data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics revealed that settlement construction in the West Bank in 2013 represented a 123% increase from the previous year, we decided that look a bit further into the history of such housing starts and came across some rather counter-intuitive information.  

Ha’aretz was one of the sites reporting the ‘dramatic’ increase in housing construction, and they used the following graph which illustrates housing starts in the West Bank each year, beginning in 2001.

graph

Settlement construction in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) between 2001 and 2013, per Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics

As you can see, though housing starts did increase dramatically in 2013, based on numbers from the previous year, construction for the nearly five years Netanyahu has been prime minister shows a decrease from the previous four years when Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon were in power.  From 2009 through 2013, there were 7477 housing starts in the West Bank, while from 2004 through 2008 there were 9293 starts.  So, under Netanyahu, there has been a nearly 20% decline in West Bank construction in comparison to the five years before he became prime minister. (Netanyahu was sworn in on March 31, 2009)

Construction decreased dramatically after Bibi agreed to a 10-month construction freeze (beginning in late 2009), but the rate of building still remained low in the 2 1/2 years after the freeze ended – and only increased significantly in 2013.

Whilst such dry data will of course never pose an obstacle to Guardian journalists intent on advancing the tried and true narrative about Israeli settlements, those who take the time to carefully scrutinize news coming out of the region will at least understand that claims made that such construction has increased under Netanyahu are not supported by the empirical evidence.

 

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Guardian headline fail: Zionist expansionism edition

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

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

Here’s a cached page of the original:

header

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

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

new

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

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

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

CiF Watch prompts Indy correction to false claim by Robert Fisk about Netanyahu

On Oct. 3 we posted about a Robert Fisk commentary focusing on Israel and Iran in The Independent which was full of hyperbolic rhetoric and apparent fabrications. (’US cowardice will let Israel’s isolated right off the hook‘). 

robert-fisk_60394t

Arguably the most egregious example of Fisk’s sloppiness was the claim made in the following passage regarding Binyamin Netanyahu’s response to the “charm offensive” of Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani:

What we do know is that when Mr Rouhani started saying all the things we had been demanding that Iran should say for years, Israel went bananas. Mr Netanyahu condemned him before he had even said a word. “A wolf in sheep’s clothing.” “An anti-Semite.” 

As we noted in our post, the suggestion by Fisk that Netanyahu called Rouhani an “anti-Semite” appears to be a complete fabrication, as we were unable to find any examples of anything even resembling such an accusation by the Israeli prime minister.

Evidently, The Independent agreed. After contacting the paper’s editors, the passage has been amended and the claim that Netanyahu called Rouhani an “anti-Semite” was completely removed.

We commend Indy editors for their prompt revision to Fisk’s false claim.

The Guardian tries out a new narrative: Islamist “dove” vs the Zionist “hawk”.

Here’s the Guardian headline used in Joel Greenberg’s report on Sept. 29: bibi Whilst we addressed the fictitious narrative that Hassan Rouhani is a “moderate” in a previous post, note that this latest story not only imputes such liberal politics to the president of a country which leads the world in exporting terror abroad, while terrorizing women, gays and religious minorities at home, but contrasts the “dovish” Islamist with the “hawkish” Zionist. Of course there is one serious problem with the claim made in the headline: It isn’t at all supported in the subsequent text.  

Here’s the entire story:

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, vowed to “tell the truth” about Iran‘s nuclear programme as he flew to the US on Sunday to meet Barack Obama and address the United Nations.

diplomatic offensive at the UN last week by Iran’s new president,Hassan Rouhani, who had a historic 15-minute phone conversation with Obama on Friday, has raised concerns in Israel, which fears improving relations between the US, one of its closest allies, and Iran, one of its worst enemies.

There is concern that if the US eases economic sanctions and removes any military threat, Tehran would be freer to create a nuclear bomb.

Officials say Netanyahu will present evidence of continued Iranian efforts to attain a nuclear weapon, and will urge the US and others not to be taken in by Rouhani’s charm offensive.”I will tell the truth in the face of the sweet talk and offensive of smiles,” Netanyahu said on Saturday night before boarding his plane to New York. “One must talk facts and tell the truth. Telling the truth today is vital for the security and peace of the world and, of course, it is vital for the security of our country.”

As Netanyahu travelled to the US, Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency announced it had arrested an Iranian with Belgian nationality who was suspected of spying for Tehran. The agency said Ali Mansouri, 58, carried photos of the US embassy in Tel Aviv and had been promised $1m (£620,000) to set up companies in Israel on behalf of the Iranian intelligence services “to harm Israeli and western interests”.

Israeli commentators said Netanyahu would have to work hard to offset the impression left by Rouhani in his UN speech and media appearances, where he presented himself as a peace-seeking moderate. “The Iranian president was very successful in convincing many in the US who want to be convinced that there is a new spirit in Tehran and a great willingness now for compromise. It will be an enormous challenge for Netanyahu to reverse that trend,” said Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya.

In the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, prominent columnist Nahum Barnea wrote that, in his phone conversation with Rouhani, Obama had “folded the flag which Netanyahu had waved to Israelis and the world, the basis of his diplomatic existence”.

Barnea added: “The threat of a military attack by the US has been removed, at least in the coming months, and it is doubtful if there ever was an Israeli military threat.”

Netanyahu has argued for increased sanctions on Iran, backed by a “credible military threat” that he said proved itself in the case of Syria, which under threat of a US strike agreed to international control of its chemical weapons.

The Israeli leader has urged that Iran be pressed to halt all uranium enrichment, remove enriched uranium from the country, dismantle the Fordo nuclear plant and stop “the plutonium track” to a nuclear weapon.

Yossi Alpher, an Israeli strategic analyst, said that Netanyahu’s “strident tone”, which included ordering the Israeli UN delegation to walk out of Rouhani’s speech, meant that “he’s coming across as a kind of spoiler”.

“I don’t think he will be able to persuasively argue that Rouhani is not worth talking to,” Alpher said. “We lose a degree of credibility when we allow ourselves to be totally out of synch with our allies on this issue.”

As you can see, if there has been any strident “anti-Iran” rhetoric by the Israeli prime minister, such quotes certainly weren’t included in Greenberg’s report. 

Moreover, the Guardian continues to all but ignore reports which contradict their desired narrative of a new “peaceful” Iranian president.  These include vitriolic rhetoric by Rouhani claiming that Israel is “an occupier and usurper” that has brought instability to the region with its “warmongering policies” and “institutionalized aggression”, and even comments by the new president which seem to liken the Holocaust to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Such obfuscations are par for the course at the Guardian.  Indeed, as the paper’s associate editor, and chief “anti-imperialist”, Seamus Milne even expressed sympathy for the ‘tragically misunderstood’ former Holocaust denying president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, we shouldn’t be surprised by continued selective reporting – and what will almost certainly be a chorus of pro-Rouhani propaganda – in the weeks, months and years to come.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guardian Israel page, Jan. 21:

israel

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

pal

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

The Algemeiner reported the following on Jan. 20:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guardian story on Bab al-Shams falsely suggests Israeli PM violated court order

Yesterday, we reported on a Guardian correction, prompted by an earlier CiF Watch post, to a story written by Harriet Sherwood on Jan. 13 about the recent removal of Palestinian protesters from a tent city named Bab al-Shams – located in an area between the cities of Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim known as E-1.

Less than 24 hours after our post, which challenged claims made in the story that Palestinians were arrested by Israeli police during the evacuation, Guardian editors removed the inaccurate information and noted the correction in the ‘Corrections and clarifications‘ section of their website.

However, there’s one additional substantive mistake in Sherwood’s story which requires correction.

Note the language used in the strapline:

strapline

So, is Sherwood suggesting that the eviction carried out, under the orders of the prime minister, in violation of an Israeli Supreme Court ruling and thus not in accord with the rule of law?

Here are the relevant passages from the report which mention the Supreme Court:

On Saturday evening, Netanyahu demanded the Israeli supreme court overturn an injunction preventing the removal of the protesters, and ordered the area to be declared a closed military zone.

The activists sought legal protection from the supreme court, which granted an injunction against eviction and gave the state of Israel up to six days to respond.

Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouti, who was among those detained, said the eviction was “proof that the Israeli government operates an apartheid system. Firstly it decided that supreme court decisions do not apply to Palestinians.

A reasonable person reading the strapline and subsequent text would likely conclude that Netanyahu, furious at a court’s decision explicitly forbidding the removal of Palestinian protesters from the tent city, decided to simply ignore the court order. 

However, such a conclusion would be erroneous.

As CAMERA reported, “the court injunction, issued Friday (Jan. 11) by Justice Neal Hendel, and available in Hebrew on the High Court’s Web site, merely forbade the removal of the tents that the Palestinian activists had set up”, and not the protesters themselves.

Further, per the Supreme Court ruling, even the tents could be legally removed “so long as the state replied to the court within six days that there was a security need”.

Here’s the text from the ruling:

“After studying the petition I hereby impose a temporary injunction according to clause 1 — preventing the evacuation or destruction of tents that were erected by the petitioners on a-Tur lands, east of Kfar al-Azeem, unless an urgent security need arises.

The respondents [the state] will respond to this temporary injunction within six days.”

The bottom line is that, contrary to the clear suggestion in Harriet Sherwood’s report that Palestinians were removed from the protest site illegally (a narrative also parroted by Ali Abunimah at Electronic Intifada), the court order pertained to the tents, not the people.  

Any way you parse it, the Guardian clearly needs to make another correction to the story.

Harriet Sherwood gets it right

I never thought I’d be writing these words, but Harriet Sherwood deserves credit for providing balance in a Guardian report on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

Sherwood, whose Palestinian sympathies have been revealed time and again, wrote a piece on Dec. 3 (‘Israeli settlement move risks further isolation say Netanyahu opponents‘) which, to put it mildly, was unlike almost all of her other ones.

Of course, the main thrust of her report was consistent with the Guardian narrative on Netanyahu’s decision to build homes in the area known as E-1 (between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim), focusing on the possibility that such plans will isolate Israel diplomatically and framing the decision as an indication of the nation’s move to the right.

However, in the fourth to the last paragraph Sherwood pivots and provides context on Israel’s political environment rarely explored on the pages of the Guardian or ‘Comment is Free’.

Sherwood writes, thus:

“The Israeli public has moved steadily to the right over recent decades, and the political reach of relatively leftist and “pro-peace” parties has collapsed. Part of the explanation is disillusion in the so-called peace process and alarm at the rise of Islamist parties in Gaza and elsewhere in the region.”

While the definition of “right” is open to interpretation, Sherwood deserves credit for accurately characterizing Israeli disillusionment with the the logic underlying Oslo, and the general concern over the rise of radical Islamist parties in the region.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom of the Western and Israeli left, territorial concessions (particularly in S. Lebanon and Gaza) since Oslo have largely not produced the desire results.  Israeli withdrawals only strengthened Islamist terror groups (Hezbollah and Hamas), producing greater instability on the state’s southern and northern borders, thus undermining the rationale of the ‘land for peace’ formula.

Sherwood concludes her report by quoting a surprising source – and Israeli who doesn’t work for a radical NGO, nor otherwise identifies with the far left:

Increasing diplomatic isolation could indirectly shore up support for Netanyahu, according to Gil Hoffman, chief political correspondent of the Jerusalem Post. “Israelis are under the impression that the entire world is against them, no matter what they do,” he said.

Most Israelis supported the expansion of “quality of life” settlements close to the pre-1967 Green Line, as distinct from ideologically hardline settlements deep inside the West Bank, he added. “By making such an uproar over a consensus issue, the international community is actually discouraging concessions in the future.”

On issues relating to Israel’s security and the Palestinians, “no one on the right can challenge Netanyahu. This strengthens him, it plays into his hands,” Hoffman said. “The international community has made that mistake time and time again. It’s not Netanyahu who’s shifting Israel to the right, but European politicians like [the British foreign secretary] William Hague.”

While Hoffman’s analysis is open for debate, it’s refreshing to read a Guardian analysis which gives voice to the overwhelming majority of Israelis who tire of the imperiousness and moral condescension consistently displayed  by the European left towards their nation – a hubris which manifests itself in the audacious belief that citizens of the Jewish state continually need to be ‘saved from themselves’.