4 questions for ‘Breaking the Silence’ that the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont won’t ask

If the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont had looked at financial reports from Breaking the Silence (BtS) he would have realized that the NGO is generously funded by foreign governments and foundations like the New Israel Fund and George Soros’s Open Society Institute, and, with a yearly income of roughly 3.7 million shekels, isn’t in need of the free PR he provided the group in a Guardian/Observer feature on June 8th.

observer

Observer print edition of Beaumont’s story

Additionally, if you think our claim that the story represents ‘PR’ is over the top, keep in mind that Beaumont’s piece – largely consisting of ‘testimony’ from former Israeli soldiers alleging that “war crimes” and “violations of international law” are routinely committed by the IDF – runs at over 2800 words, and yet is almost entirely devoid of anything critical of the Israeli activists, or the organization which they represent.

Beaumont sets up his feature by informing us that “350 soldiers, politicians, journalists and activists” organized an event at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on June 6 – the anniversary, we are told, “of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land in 1967″ – to recite soldiers’ accounts “collected by the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence“.

However, Naftali Balanson of NGO Monitor has persuasively argued that BtS tailors its “anecdotal and unverifiable accounts” of soldiers to fit their predetermined conclusion that it is Israeli policy to intimidate and instill “fear, and indiscriminate punishment [on] the Palestinian population.”  Balanson also noted that “many testimonies contradict this harsh claim, explicitly noting that incidents of individual misconduct were opposed and punished by officers”.

The group’s broader political message given to foreign audiences is, in the words of one BtS member,  ‘Israeli self-defense measures are pretexts for “terrorizing” Palestinians’. As another BtS member said: “We are the oppressors … We are creating the terror against us, basically.”

Though it’s next to impossible to fisk the soldier accounts published in the Guardian report, because they lack details necessary to research the specific incident they’re allegedly recounting, one account included by Beaumont (by an anonymous Sergeant from the Nablus Regional Brigade) is quite telling:

testimony

The logic is stunning.  According to the account, the IDF moved into Area B of the West Bank, an area in which they are permitted to operate per the Oslo Accords (as even the Guardian’s editor note in the [brackets] makes clear), likely to conduct a security or anti-terror operation, and the anonymous sergeant strangely accuses the army of “provoking [Palestinian] stone throwings”.

Beyond the specifics of the soldiers’ testimonies, however, and since Beaumont shows no interest in employing his professional skills (and honed journalistic skepticism) to critically scrutinize the group or its members in a manner he would do with almost any other story, here are a few questions for the NGO: 

1.  How can BtS claim they’re a human rights organization when, by any measure, they have a clearly radical political agenda? For instance, BtS members Yonatan and Itamar Shapira were on the Jews for Justice for Palestinians boat “Irene” which sought to violate Israel’s legal (arms) blockade of Gaza.  Yonatan Shapira also once sprayed “Liberate all the ghettos” on to a wall nearby the actual Warsaw Ghetto where so many Jews lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis. As NGO Monitor’s president Gerald Steinberg argued: “BtS’s campaigns to discredit the IDF have turned the organization into an invaluable ally of those NGOs behind the “Durban Strategy” – with the explicit goal of “the complete international isolation” of Israel, using repeated accusations of “war crimes,” “genocide” and “apartheid.”

2.  Why does BtS court the international media rather than presenting its allegations through the normal military chain of command?

3.  Relatedly, why won’t BtS give any identifying details in their accounts – such as the sector, date or unit – so that the incident can be properly investigated by the military, the media or other interested parties?

4. Finally, in light of the fact that Israel is such a strong democracy, with a robust grassroots civil society, and a free, feisty and adversarial media, what “silence” is this foreign-funded group attempting to break?

editors

Beaumont’s celebration of Breaking the Silence received the coveted ‘Editors Pick’, and was featured on the Guardian’s home page.

Of course, Peter Beaumont wouldn’t dare ask such probing and critical questions, as he (as with so many of his Guardian colleagues) clearly sees his role as an advocate for the Palestinians – and their radical NGO allies – and not a journalist in the traditional sense of the word – one who’s committed to fair, balanced and accurate reporting.

 

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Why the Guardian’s new Jerusalem correspondent won’t take Palestinian antisemitism seriously

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Peter Beaumont

The Guardian’s response to a recent Anti-Defamation League poll demonstrating that Palestinian society was compromised by unparalleled levels of antisemitism – results which overlaps with other polls on antisemitism by Pew Global – was two-fold.

First, they published a straight forward post at their data-blog accurately reporting on the ADL figures, including the fact that Palestinians have the highest levels of antisemitism based on results from the 100 states they surveyed.  However, they also published a quite repulsive op-ed by two anti-Israel activists (Donna Nevel and Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark) which justified Palestinian antisemitism and accused ADL – a US based Jewish civil rights group – of cynically using the poll to silence and intimidate those who don’t share their views on Israel – in spite of the fact that the poll didn’t ask any questions about Israeli policy.

Though we were able to convince Guardian editors to remove the most offensive paragraph of the op-ed in question, the broader views expressed by the co-authors of the piece are in many ways consistent with the Guardian’s myopic coverage of the region – reporting which consistently fails to take Palestinian antisemitism seriously when contextualizing news within the framework of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.  

As we’ve argued previously, Palestinian antisemitism does grave harm to Palestinians themselves.  When Palestinians attribute “global events to the machinations of an all-conquering Jewish conspiracy” (Mead), they demonstrate evidence of profound social failure, and are unlikely to develop the vigorous, progressive and competent civil societies that can promote real democracy. Moreover, holding views about Jews which are indistinguishable from the narrative found in the Elders of the Protocols of Zion makes it extremely unlikely that they will ever truly come to terms with a permanent Jewish presence in the region. 

As such, the Guardian’s former Jerusalem correspondent, Harriet Sherwood, not only characteristically framed nearly every Palestinian failure as a result of the occupation, but failed (as best we can tell) to ever so much as mention the injurious impact of Palestinian antisemitism on their society and on the peace process – a pattern of antisemitism denial we believe will continue with their new regional correspondent, Peter Beaumont

Our pessimism is based partly on our firm belief (per his work at the Observer/Guardian to date) that Beaumont seems clearly cut out of the same ideological cloth as Sherwood, and also on a very revealing piece he wrote about antisemitism in 2002 for the Observer (sister site of the Guardian), titled ‘The new anti-Semitism?’.  His essay was written at a time when scores of Israelis were being murdered by Palestinian suicide bombings, and when antisemitic attacks against Jews in Europe were reaching dangerous levels

After noting an example (in December 2001) of a violent antisemitic attack “by a group of Arab-speaking youths” in Brussels, and citing complaints by Jewish leaders about the dangerous increase in such attacks across Europe, Beaumont then advances an argument (similar to what’s known as the Livingstone Formula) indistinguishable from what was advanced in the Guardian op-ed on May 15.

But the problem with all this talk of a ‘new anti-Semitism’ is that those who argue hardest for its inexorable rise are dangerously conflating two connected but critically separate phenomena. The monster that they have conjured from these parts is not only something that does not yet exist – and I say ‘yet’ with caution – but whose purported existence is being cynically manipulated by some in the Israeli government to try to silence debate about the policies of the Sharon government.

So, already, Beaumont steers the conversation away from antisemitic attacks against innocent Jews in Europe, and engages in an ad hominem attack against those who, it is claimed, “cynically” use such examples to stifle criticism of Israel. 

It gets worse.

Beaumont:

As data collected by the Stephen Roth Institute at Tel Aviv University, and other research, makes clear, the rise in anti-Semitism in Europe coincided with the beginning of al-Aqsa intifada – and Israel’s heavy-handed response – with most of these attacks limited to acts of vandalism on synagogues and cemeteries. As the institute also makes clear, the perpetrators of these attacks, like those who attacked rabbi Gigi, were largely disaffected Islamic youths, a group itself that is the victim of some of the worst race hate and discrimination in Europe.

First, Beaumont suggests that Israel’s alleged “heavy handed response” to Palestinian terrorism can help explain (if not justify) the rise in antisemitism.  Also, note that Beaumont imputes significance to the fact that the perpetrators of the attack in question were “disaffected Islamic youths” who, we are told, are themselves victims of racism – suggesting, perhaps, that antisemitic attacks by white Europeans (non-minorities) would somehow be more troubling.

However, perhaps the worse element of his essay can be found in his final rhetorical flourish. After insisting that “governments of Europe must attack real anti-Semitism wherever it is found”, he writes the following:

The Jewish community worldwide must be honest too about what is really being done in Israel, ostensibly in its name. For the rest of us who campaign and report and commentate and legislate on Israel and Palestine – we should not be cowed in our criticism of policies of which we disapprove by the threat of being accused by Sharon and his friends of being practitioners of the last taboo.

Beaumont, in the first sentence of the passage, is pointing the accusatory finger not at the antisemites, but at the Jewish community worldwide – millions of Jews who, he suggests, are guilty of insufficient honesty regarding the Israeli crimes committed ‘in their name’.  The victims have become the accused!  

True, it was only one essay 12 years ago, but it says so much about the Guardian worldview, and at least provides a glimpse into their reporters’ crippling moral blind-spot when it comes to even the most egregious examples of Palestinian Jew hatred. 

 

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Revisiting the day when Tom Gross escorted Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger around Israel

We just came across a fascinating post by the prolific Tom Gross describing his experience in 2001 escorting Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger (and Ian Katz) around Israel and the Palestinian territories.

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What especially stands out is how much worse their coverage was during the early 2000s compared to today – which says a lot in light of the egregious institutional anti-Israel bias we’ve been exposing since our blog’s launch in 2009.

Gross begins:

LAST May, I escorted the editor of London’s Guardian newspaper, Alan Rusbridger, and his features editor, Ian Katz, round West Jerusalem and into Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem. It was Rusbridger’s first trip to Israel. His paper had been singled out by critics of press coverage of Israel – even in the context of highly selective and biased reporting across virtually the entire European media – as one of the most unfair. [Ian Katz is now editor of BBC's Newsnight.] 

Unlike many other journalists who have climbed aboard the anti-Israeli bandwagon over the last months without having ever even been to Israel, Rusbridger – to his credit – took five days off work to see the situation for himself. He is, after all, heir to the great C.P. Scott, editor of The Guardian for 57 years, who (in Rusbridger’s words) “fought tirelessly alongside Chaim Weizmann for the creation of the state of Israel.” (Indeed it was Scott who introduced Weizmann to Arthur Balfour).

A few days before our meeting, the Guardian’s chief Jerusalem correspondent, Suzanne Goldenberg, had been presented with Britain’s prestigious Edgar Wallace Trophy by Prime Minister Tony Blair in London. In a front-page announcement, The Guardian said that the London Press Club had decided to award her the prize, for her “courageous and objective journalism.”

Even though the prize is meant to cover reporting in general, and has no particular connection with the Middle East, the runner-up was another media crusader against Israel, Robert Fisk, of the Independent newspaper. Goldenberg’s news report in the Guardian on the morning the prize was announced, was titled “Mutilated Children of a Crippled Palestine,” which gives a flavor of the kind of writing which had so impressed her fellow journalists.

Guardian, May 1, 2001

Guardian, May 1, 2001

See our post (published last year) which fisked Goldenberg’s appalling 2001 report on the al-Dura incident.

Rusbridger, Katz and I crossed by car into Bethlehem. It wasn’t clear whether it was safe to go there that morning. The mutilated bodies of two 13-year-old Israeli boys had been found in a nearby cave just hours earlier, and tension was high. My car had Israeli, not Palestinian, license plates, and over the previous weeks several motorists had been shot dead for just such an offence.

The boys murdered in the cave were Yosef Ish Ran and Koby Mandell.

Two Israeli soldiers, aged about 18, were standing guard on the Israeli side of the border. When we showed our journalist identity cards and asked if we could cross, one of them said in English “But of course if you are journalists you must come in.” Then he added, with a wry smile, “You are the bodyguard of democracy, after all.” Rusbridger jotted down the soldier’s observation in his notebook.

“Is it safe to go in this morning?” I asked the soldier. “Yes, the Palestinians don’t start shooting until lunchtime these days,” he replied. Katz was worried: “You mean they have shooting here!”

We were pressed for time, so our foray into Bethlehem was a short one. But it was long enough for Rusbridger and Katz – a contemporary of mine at Oxford who told me that he hadn’t been to Israel “since his bar mitzvah” – to see with their own eyes that the Israeli soldiers were courteous and polite to Palestinians. They saw that Palestinians were allowed to cross the checkpoint by both car and foot in a matter of seconds. And they saw by contrast how the same soldiers were refusing religious Jews, who wished to go and pray at the nearby holy site of Rachel’s Tomb, entry to Bethlehem.

On our drive down one of Bethlehem’s main streets, we passed Palestinian-owned cars of a similar standard to those we had just seen being driven by Israelis in Jerusalem. Rusbridger and Katz also had a chance to observe that the local Arab shops were well stocked. And when we drove back out from Bethlehem into Israel, they could see that Palestinians were allowed to pass quickly – in about the same time it takes an average Israeli to enter a Tel Aviv shopping mall or movie theatre, as his bags are searched for explosive devices. At the same time the religious Jews we had seen before were still on the other side of the road, still pleading with the soldiers to be allowed entry to Bethlehem.

“BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL”

Two weeks later, Rusbridger wrote about his trip in a cover story for the Spectator magazine in London. The Spectator was an unexpected choice. It is owned by Conrad Black, one of the few prominent non-Jews in the West to have openly denounced media coverage of Israel. “The BBC, Independent, Guardian, Evening Standard and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are rabidly anti-Israel,” Black had written in The Spectator a few weeks earlier, “and wittingly or not, are stoking the inferno of anti-Semitism.”

Pay close attention to Rusbridger’s words:

Rusbridger began his Spectator article as follows: “In the last, dying days of apartheid I visited South Africa… A couple of weeks ago I made my first trip to another much-written about country, Israel. As with my earlier journey I found a lot that was shocking, but this time I was genuinely surprised. Nothing had prepared me for finding quite so many echoes of the worst days of South Africa in modern Israel.”

The Apartheid lie would later be advanced by Guardian reporters and commentators, including their former Jerusalem correspondents Chris McGreal and Harriet Sherwood.

He went on to give some examples – taken out of context – of shooting incidents, and of Palestinian poverty he had witnessed in what he called the “large prison” of Gaza. He wrote of the “endless humiliating queues waiting to pass through Israeli army checkpoints.” There was no mention of our very different experience crossing into the “occupied West Bank.”

Not content with drawing analogies with South Africa, Rusbridger also made a comparison with Northern Ireland, implying that the situation is worse in Israel because Israelis don’t know what’s going on. He wrote – mistakenly – that “The difference in Israel is that almost no Jewish-Israeli journalists ever report firsthand on life and death on the West Bank or Gaza today… The exceptions – I think there are three – are brave and, by and large, despised by Jewish Israelis.”

He seemed to have forgotten our conversation about the workings of Israeli democracy, in which I had pointed out that every Israeli newspaper – without exception – has regular and comprehensive reporting about life in Gaza, some of it highly critical of Israel; that both national Israeli TV channels have correspondents in Gaza; that senior advisors to Yasser Arafat, and even spokespersons for Hamas, are regularly interviewed on Israeli television and radio; and that Israeli Arabs play a significant role in the Israeli media. Indeed, as I had told Rusbridger, probably the single most influential journalist in Israel, Rafik Halaby, the Director of News at Israel’s state-run Channel One TV, is an Arab.

In his article Rusbridger also made no reference to the many progressive elements of Israeli Jewish society which we had discussed in some detail. I had asked him why, if Israel is “an affront to civilization” – the headline given to a comment piece written by a former British Defense Secretary in The Guardian’s sister paper, the Observer, a few days before Rusbridger’s visit – the Jewish state should, for example, have some of the most liberal laws in the world for homosexuals, far more liberal than those in the US and Britain.

affront

Observer headline, May 13, 2001

As for his claim that “nothing had prepared me for finding quite so many echoes of the worst days of South Africa in modern Israel”, it made me wonder, for a moment, how carefully he reads his own paper, given that comparisons between present day Israel and South Africa in the apartheid era have become part of the Guardian’s stock in trade.

Take, for example, Goldenberg’s report of Saturday June 3, 2000. It was headlined, “Palestinians feel the heat as police enforce beach apartheid: With peace looming, Israel is keen to establish areas for Jews only”, and the article itself began: “In these early days of a sweltering summer, the long palm-dotted beaches of Tel Aviv are a natural escape. But if you are a Palestinian, a family day out can mean a night in jail. As Israeli Jews lolled on the sand yesterday, the Tel Aviv police were out in force in a zealous enforcement of beach apartheid… [an] operation to create Jewish-only beaches. Palestinians were arrested near the dolphinarium before they could even set foot on the sand…”

Guardian, June 3, 2000

Guardian, June 3, 2000

As someone who lives in Tel Aviv, and goes to the beach most days, I have never seen anything of the kind. Jews and Arabs mix freely on the beach, and did so when the article was written in June 2000, as any resident of Tel Aviv will confirm. This includes the area around the dolphinarium, site of a deadly Palestinian suicide bomb at a beachfront teenage disco exactly a year after Goldenberg wrote her piece.

About the same time that Rusbridger published his Spectator article, he wrote a massive editorial in The Guardian, running to well over 2,000 words, entitled “Between Heaven and Hell.”

Guardian, May 21, 2000

Guardian, May 21, 2000

A pull quote was reproduced in large type in a box on The Guardian’s front page. It read:

We are forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about how the dream of a sanctuary for the Jewish people in the very land in which their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped has come to be poisoned. The establishment of this sanctuary has been bought at a very high cost in human rights and human lives. It must be apparent that the international community cannot support this cost indefinitely.”

You can read the rest of Gross’s post, here.  

You can continue to read about the Guardian’s hostility towards the Jewish state on these pages.

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CiF Watch prompts Guardian correction. Robert Serry DID attend Easter ceremony in Jerusalem

Last week we posted about an extraordinarily dishonest article in the Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) by Peter Beaumont, the paper’s new Jerusalem correspondent.  Beaumont pulled off quite a feat. He managed to turn a few security delays which occurred in the midst of thousands of Christian pilgrims freely attending Easter celebrations in Jerusalem last weekend into a story suggesting that Israel was abrogating the rights of Christians to freely worship.

The brief delays were caused by security and crowd control measures designed by Israeli security personnel to keep masses of worshipers from surging into the church.  Indeed, such measures are likely the main reason why there were no reports of violence despite the incredibly large number of visitors, and why Christian officials reportedly thanked Israeli police for their professional handling of the event.

Undaunted by the broader fact that Israel remains the only country in the Middle East where Christian aren’t being persecuted for their beliefs, Beaumont had a tale of Israeli oppression to tell, and was no doubt heartened when he ‘learned’ of reports that the UN’s peace envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry (and his delegation), were ‘denied’ entry to one of the Easter-related ceremonies at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Beaumont made the following claim which, in fairness, was evidently based on reports originally published by Reuters:

On Sunday morning it emerged that Israeli police had prevented the UN’s peace envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, other diplomats and a crowd of Palestinians from attending the Holy Fire ceremony on Saturday.

Beaumont then quoted Serry’s complaint that Israeli authorities engaged in “unacceptable behavior” and noted his demand that all parties “respect the right of religious freedom”.

However, there was one big problem.  As we reported in our initial post on Beaumont’s article, Serry and his party, after a 30 minute delay, were indeed permitted to pass, and in fact attended the Holy Fire ceremony.

We based our conclusion on reports in the Washington Post which we later confirmed with Israeli Police Spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld.

After contacting editors at the Observer, the paper acknowledged that Serry did attend the ceremony, and revised the passage accordingly.

It now reads:

On Sunday morning it emerged that for 30 minutes Israeli police had prevented the UN’s peace envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, other diplomats and a crowd of Palestinians from attending the Holy Fire ceremony on Saturday.

Additionally, there is this addendum:

update

So, one of the main ‘incidents’ used by Beaumont to suggest that Israel was oppressing Christians on Easter never actually occurred.

Though we commend Observer editors for revising the passage in question, the broader narrative of the day’s events in Jerusalem advanced by Beaumont again demonstrates the Guardian’s capacity to frame almost any event in the Jewish state in a manner consistent with their rigid anti-Zionist ideology. 

 

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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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Guardian interviewer is incredulous at ScarJo’s refusal to cave to BDS bullies

In a 2700 word March 16 cover story about Scarlett Johansson – titled “In Alien Territory” –  published at The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian), roughly 600 words deal with the row involving the actress’s decision to step down as Oxfam ambassador after the NGO criticized her for becoming global brand ambassador for SodaStream.

alien

The Observer, March 16

While Johansson acquitted herself quite well in the interview, conducted by Carole Cadwalladr, what most stands out is how even their media group’s culture critics automatically become experts on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and adopt the Guardian narrative about the conflict.

 is a features writer for The Observer, and though it doesn’t seem she’s ever weighed in on the issues of BDS and Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria previously, she wasn’t shy about boldly making it known which party is in the wrong.

Cadwalladr begins discussing the SodaStream row in the following passages:

I move on to…a difficult subject. SodaStream. When I Google “Scarlett Johansson” the fizzy-drinks maker is the third predictive search suggestion in the list, after “Scarlett Johansson hot” – before even “Scarlett Johansson bum”. A month ago, Johansson found herself caught up in a raging news story when it emerged Oxfam had written to her regarding her decision to become a brand ambassador for SodaStream.

The company, it transpired, manufactures its products in a factory in a settlement on the West Bank, and while “Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors,” it wrote, it also “believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support”.

It of course would be more accurate to say that one of SodaStream’s 13 plants is located in the West Bank’.

Cadwalladr continues:

Johansson responded by stepping down from her Oxfam role. From afar, it looked like she’d received very poor advice; that someone who is paid good money to protect her interests hadn’t done the necessary research before she’d accepted the role and that she’d unwittingly inserted herself into the world’s most intractable geopolitical conflict. By the time Oxfam raised the issue, she was going to get flak if she did step down, flak if she didn’t. Was the whole thing just a bit of a mistake?

Johansson admirably defends her decision:

But she shakes her head. “No, I stand behind that decision. I was aware of that particular factory before I signed it.” Really? “Yes, and… it still doesn’t seem like a problem. Until someone has a solution to the closing of that factory to leaving all those people destitute, that doesn’t seem like the solution to the problem.”

Naturally, Cadwalladr has no rejoinder to Johansson’s central point: that Oxfam and the BDS crowd would evidently rather see hundreds of Palestinians lose a good paying job than tolerate an Israeli factory in the West Bank.

Cadwalladr continues, and pivots to the desired talking points:

But the international community says that the settlements are illegal and shouldn’t be there.

Johansson replies:

“I think that’s something that’s very easily debatable. In that case, I was literally plunged into a conversation that’s way grander and larger than this one particular issue. And there’s no right side or wrong side leaning on this issue.”

Cadwalladr, the Guardian Group journalist that she is, obviously has a little stomach for nuance on the dreaded ‘settlements’ issue, and feigns expertise:

Except, there’s a lot of unanimity, actually, I say, about the settlements on the West Bank.

Evidently, we can assume that the Observer journalist has thoroughly read Article 49(6) of the 1949 Geneva Convention (the primary document cited by international bodies in their determination that Settlements are illegal).  Further, we can be confident that she has come to the conclusion that Israelis who voluntarily moved beyond the green line in the years following  the Six Day War evoke the inhumane practices of the Nazis during and before World War II which that article of the Convention was meant to address.  And, she no doubt also believes that the Convention text concerning “the mass transfer of people into and out of occupied territories for purposes of extermination, slave labor or colonization” should be read to prohibit an Israeli factory in one such ‘settlement’ which employs both Jews and Palestinians.

Johansson responds:

“I think in the UK there is,” she says. “That’s one thing I’ve realised… I’m coming into this as someone who sees that factory as a model for some sort of movement forward in a seemingly impossible situation.”

Cadwalladr smugly replies:

Well, not just the UK. There’s also the small matter of the UN security council, the UN general assembly, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice… which all agree that they’re in contravention of international law

Then Cadwalladr gets patronising:

Half of me admires Johansson for sticking to her guns –

Then she gets insulting:

her mother is Jewish and she obviously has strong opinions about Israel and its policies. Half of me thinks she’s hopelessly naive. Or, most likely, poorly advised. Of all the conflicts in all the world to plant yourself in the middle of…

Cadwalladr of course has no idea whether the fact that Johansson’s mother is Jewish influenced her decision to represent SodaStream.

She then suggests a less than admirable motive which ‘some’ may impute:

“When I say a mistake,” I say, “I mean partly because people saw you making a choice between Oxfam – a charity that is out to alleviate global poverty – and accepting a lot of money to advertise a product for a commercial company. For a lot of people, that’s like making a choice between charity – good – and lots of money – greed.”

Johansson responds:

“Sure I think that’s the way you can look at it. But I also think for a non-governmental organisation to be supporting something that’s supporting a political cause… there’s something that feels not right about that to me. There’s plenty of evidence that Oxfam does support and has funded a BDS [boycott, divest, sanctions] movement in the past. It’s something that can’t really be denied.”

Finally, Cadwalladr writes:

When I contacted Oxfam, it denied this.

Oxfam may deny it all they like, but as NGO Monitor (NGOM) demonstrated, they simply are not being honest.

Not only is Oxfam – as Johansson said - a highly politicized organization, NGOM’s director Gerald Steinberg has written the following in response to Oxfam’s denial that they support BDS:

Oxfam denied that it was involved in BDS, but the facts proved the contrary. Between 2011 and 2013, the Dutch branch, known as Oxfam Novib, provided almost $500,000 (largely from government funds provided ostensibly for humanitarian aid) to one of the most radical BDS leaders, the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP). This group also received funds from Oxfam GB (Great Britain). The discrepancy between Oxfam’s claims and the documentation of its role in BDS was highlighted by SodaStream executives and in a number of media articles.

Although CWP is technically an Israel-based NGO, almost all of its activities are focused externally in promoting boycott campaigns, particularly in Europe. (For political purposes, ever since the NGO Forum of the infamous 2001 UN Durban anti-racism conference, the Arab and European leaders of BDS often use fringe Israeli and Jewish groups as facades, and this is the case with CWP.) 

Though Cadwalladr was wrong on the facts, “half of me admires” her “for sticking to her guns”.  But “half of me thinks she’s hopelessly naive…or, most likely, poorly advised” by her Guardian handlers.

“Of all the conflicts in all the world to plant yourself in the middle of…”

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Guardian Group editors fail to correct false claim on Sabra and Shatila massacre

We’ve been in communication with editors at The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) regarding a false claim (about the massacre of Palestinian civilians in 1982 by Christian Phalangists), by their foreign affairs editor, Peter Beaumont, in a Jan. 11 report titled ‘Ariel Sharon: a warrior blamed for massacres and praised for peace making‘.

Here are the relevant passages in Beaumont’s report:

It was during this period [the Lebanon War in 1982] he was found by the Kahan commission – investigating the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut, when Israeli forces allowed Christian Phalangist militiamen into two refugee camps in Beirut to slaughter hundreds of Palestinian refugees – to have been personally negligent in the killings “for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge [and] not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed”.

The average reader would likely take this to mean that Israeli forces sent Phalangist militiamen with the intent of “slaughtering” Palestinian refugees. However, the Israeli fact-finding mission on the massacre (Kahan Commission) that Beaumont cited was clear – in an over 51,000 word document – that there was no evidence of such an Israeli intent. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The commission found, per the highlighted passages below, that there was no intention by any Israelis to harm the non-combatant population in the Palestinian camps.

Here are a few of the relevant passages from the report:

Contentions and accusations were advanced that even if I.D.F. personnel had not shed the blood of the massacred, the entry of the Phalangists into the camps had been carried out with the prior knowledge that a massacre would be perpetrated there and with the intention that this should indeed take place; and therefore all those who had enabled the entry of the Phalangists into the camps should be regarded as accomplices to the acts of slaughter and sharing in direct responsibility. These accusations too are unfounded. We have no doubt that no conspiracy or plot was entered into between anyone from the Israeli political echelon or from the military echelon in the I.D.F. and the Phalangists, with the aim of perpetrating atrocities in the camps…. No intention existed on the part of any Israeli element to harm the non-combatant population in the camps. … Before they entered the camps and also afterward, the Phalangists requested I .D.F. support in the form of artillery fire and tanks, but this request was rejected by the Chief of Staff in order to prevent injuries to civilians. It is true that I.D.F. tank fire was directed at sources of fire within the camps, but this was in reaction to fire directed at the I.D.F. from inside the camps. We assert that in having the Phalangists enter the camps, no intention existed on the part of anyone who acted on behalf of Israel to harm the non-combatant population, and that the events that followed did not have the concurrence or assent of anyone from the political or civilian echelon who was active regarding the Phalangists’ entry into the camps.

The report further explains IDF instructions to the Phalangist militia prior to the operation to root out terrorists from the camps.

The commanders of the Phalangists arrived for their first coordinating session regarding the entry of their forces into the camps at about 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, 16.9.82, and met with Major-General Drori at the headquarters of one of the divisions. It was agreed at that meeting that they would enter the camps and coordinate this action with Brigadier-General Yaron, commander of the division. This coordination between Brigadier-General Yaron and the Phalangist commanders would take place on Thursday afternoon at the forward command post. It was likewise agreed at that meeting that a company of 150 fighters from the Phalangist force would enter the camps and that they would do so from south to north and from west to east. Brigadier-General Yaron spoke with the Phalangists about the places where the terrorists were located in the camps and also warned them not to harm the civilian population.

If Beaumont had decided to read the report he cited, he would have noted the egregious distortion in his claim that “Israeli forces allowed Christian Phalangist militiamen into two refugee camps in Beirut to slaughter hundreds of Palestinian refugees.”

We’re continuing to press editors at The Observer to revise the passage to more accurately reflect the findings of the Kahan Commission, and will update you when we receive a definitive response.

In the meantime, you can Tweet Peter Beaumont and ask him to address the error.

@petersbeaumont

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Gaza fisherman fight Israeli “savagery”: Fisking a Guardian Group feature

The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) devoted over 3400 words to a Sunday Magazine feature on the Israeli ‘assault’ on Gaza’s fishing industry.

gaza

The article was written by Alex Renton, a commentator on issues relating to global poverty, and was based largely on his first-person account with Palestinian fishermen on a vessel off the coast of Gaza. 

We’re first introduced to the skipper of the fishing vessel in the following passage, which notes the putatively argumentative and abrasive nature of the people in the region.

It’s nearly dark. A couple of Israeli F-16 jets make twin scratches across the glow in the southeast, above the Egyptian border. “They own all the world,” mutters old Abu Nayim. But, for now, this feels like the most peaceful place you could find on this crowded coast, where there live some of the most disputatious people in the planet. There’s not much to tell you that this is a very risky way to catch fish.

Israeli Navy fires on vessel?

The passage above is followed by this photo – the same one used to illustrate the feature in the Observer print edition.

fishing under fire

The caption reads:

Under fire: an Israeli gunboat fires on a Palestinian fishing boat/ Photograph: Gianluca Panella for the Observer

However, the illuminated water rising above the vessel would likely indicate that warning shots were fired into the water, near the vessel.

Israelis shoot the messenger?

The previous passage continues thus:

But his son, 22-year-old Mukhtar, is more anxious. He was on the boat on Monday when the Israeli navy put four bullets into the fibre-glass tender – a felucca – that’s bobbing behind us. He warns Gianluca, the photographer, who has his telephoto lens out – “If they see you poking that out, they will shoot at you.”

The quote – suggesting that the Israeli Navy has a habit of firing on photojournalists – is of course left un-examined by Renton.

“To go over six miles is death”?

They bob at anchor, their lights festive against the dark ocean. We’re close to the limit, as close as Abu Nayim dares, because the further out to sea the more sardines there are. “To go over six miles is death,” says Abu Nayim.

Actually, the most recent Palestinian civilians killed at sea were killed by the Egyptian Navy which, by all accounts, appears to be much more trigger-happy than the IDF when patrolling the seas

Israeli Navy tosses live grenades at fishing nets?

The above passage continues thus:

Once, when he may have drifted over, an Israeli gunboat tossed a live grenade on to the nets. In the past month the fishing boats of Gaza have come under fire 10 times.

The charge, left unchallenged by the Observer contributor, that the Israeli Navy “tossed a live grenade on to the nets”, seems highly unlikely. And, we were unable to find any news sources making a similar claim.

Israeli Navy “curses the prophet”?

There’s another one-second blast of machine-gun fire. I can see the Israeli boat, so close to the fishing boat that its huge bow-wave gleams white in the lights. It’s circling the fishermen at high-speed, the wake throwing the fishing boat around. There’s shouting, through a megaphone. “The Israelis are insulting them,” says my interpreter. He doesn’t want to say the words. “They curse the prophet. They call the fishermen ‘son of a dog’. Tell them to go back to Palestine.”

Though there is no way to prove or disprove it, the claim – alleged by Renton’s interpreter – that Israelis cursed Muhammad through the boat’s megaphone again simply strains credulity. 

Israel is destroying a once thriving fishing industry.

Not so long ago, Gaza had a thriving fishing industry. In 1994 the Oslo peace accords with Israel granted the Palestinian enclave, which was formed largely by refugees from the 1948 war that followed the founding of Israel, rights to fish up to 20 nautical miles offshore. That supported a fishing industry, according to a study done by the United Nations Foodand Agriculture Organisation (FAO), of some 4,000 boat-owning families. In 2004 they landed nearly 3,000 tonnes of fish. It was crucial to the nutrition of the 1.7 million people of the Gaza Strip, more than half of whom were dependent on food aid, even then.

It’s true that in 2004 Palestinians in Gaza landed nearly 3,000 tonnes of fish. However, the implication most would draw from this is that the tonnage has decreased every year since the Israeli blockade in 2006 – a claim easily disproven by figures provided by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).  As you can see, 2004 was a statistical anomaly.  In 2003, the catch was roughly 1.5 tons, while in 2005 the catch was 1.8 tons.   The catch in 2012 (just under 2.1 tons), as you can see in the PCBS chart below, was higher than in the three previous years.

PCBS. (click to enlarge)

PCBS Data. (click to enlarge)

 Sewage.

Three miles or six, the industry’s collapse was inevitable. Fishing inshore is poor, and there’s an added danger because of Gaza’s failed sewage system. That was built to serve 400,000 people, and it has collapsed because of war damage and lack of materials to maintain it. Eighty-nine million litres of raw or partially treated waste water go straight into the sea every day. Last year the fishermen’s catch was less than half what it had been 10 years before

However, as Reuters reported last month, the sewage system’s failure is largely due to “Egypt’s…crackdown on cross-border smuggling tunnels that used to bring fuel in cheaply”, which forced Gaza’s waste water treatment plant to close. Additional factors leading to the fuel crisis include “political infighting” between Hamas and Fatah, a fact confirmed recently by a Hamas spokesperson (and one notable Gaza resident).  If the sewage is indeed harming the Gaza fishing sector, it seems largely due to Egyptian restrictions and Palestinian infighting.

“Savage” Israelis?

Fishing is a harsh trade at any time, but here it is made rather more risky by the Israeli navy. As I witnessed, it makes its own arbitrary rules about the fishing zone, and exacts savage punishments for those who break them. 

As Renton noted elsewhere in the article, the overwhelming majority of fishermen who go beyond the nautical limit are not harmed at all.  Some are detained, while others are simply led back to an area closer to the Gaza coast.  Renton wrote that “often fishermen will be taken to Israeli ports, blindfolded and handcuffed and questioned under ‘aggressive interrogation’ (the UN’s phrase) and then, after what may be several days’ detention, charged a fee to be transported back to the border.”  However you can reasonably characterize such consequences, the word “savage” is clearly meaningless hyperbole.

The “World’s largest prison”?

For the people of Gaza, then numbering 1.5 million, normal life ended. Not since they were children had any of the young men I went fishing with left the “prison” – that’s David Cameron’s term.

Actually, per Twitter, that’s also a term fancied by Alex Renton:

tweet

It’s your fault the Jews are here.

In the penultimate paragraph there is this curious exchange between the journalist and one of the protagonists:

“You’re from Britain,” says the eldest son, Nayim. “It’s your fault. You invited the Jews to come from Europe to here, to take our land.” I demurred: it was more complicated than that. “What about the Balfour declaration?” he asked – referring to the note signed in 1917 by Britain’s foreign secretary AJ Balfour, declaring that Britain favoured the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. I thought about telling him that Balfour was my grandmother’s uncle, and that my own great-uncle fought Israeli terrorists in Jerusalem in 1947, as a British policeman. But what I said was: “It’s true, we are part of the history. We are responsible, too.”

There’s so much to unpack in this exchange between the ‘victim and accused’.  Even more troubling than Renton’s failure to challenge the anti-historical charge that Jews were “invited” from Europe to take Palestinian land is his insistence on his own moral innocence. Renton is on the right side of history. His family fought the Jews. 

Finally, someone wrote a response to Renton in the reader comment section beneath his article at The Observer.  The response (to the passage we noted above) was inexplicably deleted by ‘CiF’ moderators.  However, we were able to take a screen shot of the comment before its deletion. Here is the text:

Palestine once the Arabs (not in those days called Palestinians) made it clear they didn’t want Jewish immigrants, even though Ottoman censuses showed that Jerusalem had a Jewish majority from the first census in the mid-19th century.

Following bloody pogroms in Palestine by Arabs against Jews in the late 1920s and into the 1930s the pro-Arab British assured the Arab leadership that only a few thousand European Jews a year would henceforth be allowed in with an absolute total limit of 75,000. This was after Hitler had come to power and when Jews from across Europe were desperately seeking sanctuary somewhere, anywhere. Britain, the Dominions and colonies didn’t want most of them before, during or after the Holocaust. From the 1930s until 1948 the Royal Navy blockaded the coast of Palestine and turned back and even sunk (yes, sunk) merchant ships carrying Holocaust survivors to prevent them reaching ports. Thousands of Holocaust survivors from across Europe were interned by the British in camps on Cyprus.

Even before 1948 when Israel came into existence as a legal state and was immediately attacked by several Arab armies and air forces, there were Arab schemes to destroy any prosperity that Jews might generate even though thousands of Arabs from Jordan, Lebanon and Syria had settled in Palestine as Jews immigrated, attracted by the economic benefits Jews were developing. That is why as early as 1945 there was an Arab Boycott of Jews organization sponsored by the Arab League. (Not boycott of Israel, which didn’t then exist, but boycott of all things Jewish.)

As Alex Renton also knows, I am sure, approximately 850,000 Jews were forced to leave Muslim countries from 1948 onward and most of them tried to get to Israel. These were not Jews from Europe, these were Jews who lived in Arab countries, spoke Arabic and had absorbed Arab culture and had lived in North Africa and the Middle East since long before most of these regions were conquered by the Arabs and long before the arrival of Islam.

It is never explained why it seems to be a perfectly acceptable stance for some pro-Palestinians to support those Arabs who want to ‘remove’ Jews who live in Israel, even if they are from families who have always lived in what is now Israel. Both Hamas and the PA have publicly stated that no Jew will be permitted to live in ‘liberated’ Palestine.

Yes, Mr. Renton, it is indeed “a bit more complicated” than you suggest.

Execution, Inc.: Quick tutorial for Peter Beaumont on an Iranian moderate’s first 100 days

A guest post by Gidon Ben-Zvi

Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor for the Guardian and Observer, argued in a November 30 article that the interim deal inked in Geneva between Iran and the world’s six leading powers could, “redraw the map of an area that has been gripped by conflict or the threat of conflict for generations.”  Specifically with regards to Israel, Beaumont notes that “An Iran a step further back from conflict with Israel, and potentially minded to meddle less in the region, would be a good thing if Tehran sticks to its part of the deal.”

Beaumont is placing his faith in a regime founded on the systematic suppression of Iranian citizens and dissidents – a nearly thirty-five year record of domestic oppression which has been facilitated to a large extent by a decidedly expansionist foreign policy. Indeed, creating scapegoats – such as Iraq, Israel and the United States – for tens of millions of Iranians to target their rage and misery allows Iran’s ruling clerics to legitimize their barbarity under the cloak of religion.

Beaumont believes that that the “…diplomacy that led to the interim six-month agreement is the first indication that [Iran’s] new president Hassan Rouhani now sees the benefit of negotiating solutions to the region’s problems.”

However, Rouhani’s domestic policy to date is one marked by executions, persecution, torture, denial of political rights and a general assault on the rule of law.

Frequently hailed at the Guardian as a moderate and a pragmatist, the Iranian leader’s actions over the course of his first 100 days in office leave little doubt that – behind the diplomatic window dressing – little has changed. In fact, since Rouhani’s election, the rate of executions has actually accelerated.  Iran’s regime imposed the death penalty on over 200 people during Rouhani’s tenure, including a record number of 50 executions during a two-week period in September. So far in 2013, Iran has executed more than 400 of its citizens.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said in a report presented to the General Assembly on October 31 that he’s “alarmed by the spate of executions.” 

And while Rouhani’s rhetoric inspired hope in Geneva, it is not being matched by his regime’s draconian policies vis-a-vis Iran’s minorities. The best hope for peace in our time’s government continues to disregard the rights of its Christians, Bahais, Sufis, Jews and members of other religious groups. Furthermore, homosexuality under Iranian law remains punishable by imprisonment and even the death penalty.

Yet, just when this bloody tyranny was beginning to wobble as a result of a crippling sanctions regime that was battering the nation’s economy, the thuggish Mullahs were handed a lifeline: the release of approximately $7 billion – a sum equivalent to 1.4 per cent of Iran’s entire national income.

As a result of this partial lifting of sanctions, Beaumont postulates that “Tehran’s clerical regime might now see the benefit of negotiating solutions to the region’s problems, rather than its previous angry posturing…”.

Yet the tone inside Iran has been anything but conciliatory. Here’s a direct quote from the state-controlled Press TV: “…but so far with the Geneva joint plan, the knife has scarcely been pulled out [of Iran’s economic back] three inches.”

Has ‘conflict resolution’ ever sounded more ominous?

(Gidon Ben-Zvi is a Jerusalem-based writer who regularly contributes to Times of Israel and the Algemeiner)

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The Guardian’s perverse moral logic about terror bleeds onto their culture page

In a piece published on Aug. 10th in the culture section of The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) Anthony Sattin reviews a ‘book’ titled ‘Walls: Travels Along the Barricadesby Marcello Di Cintio, which details “eight walls around the word”.  Sattin briefly comments on Di Cintio’s ‘insights’ into the factors at play in the erection of walls in the U.S., CyprusIndia, Africa, Ireland, Canada, and Israel.

Regarding the wall in Israel, here are the relevant passages from Sattin’s review:

In eight chapters, eight walls, Marcello Di Cintio visits some of the world’s most contended regions to witness glaring examples of exclusion. Some are well-known because they continue to make headlines – the illegal wall the Israelis have built to keep out Palestinians, for instance.

Some of these stories are more immediate than others, the power of the narrative being in direct relation to the level of injustice meted out on people on the wrong side of the wall. It’s not hard to empathise with Palestinians whose lives have quite literally been cut by the wall – for many of them, their land lies on one side and their village on the other. 

Occasionally Di Cintio gets it wrong, as when he describes Palestine as “less a place than it is an idea”. Millions of Palestinians would dispute that comment. More often he gets it right, as when he considers the ways people find to subvert walls, from climbing them to cutting through them, tunnelling under them, walking around them, decorating them – Banksy being the most famous of many artists who have decorated Israel’s West Bank wall

The Observer culture critic of course completely fails to “empathize” with Israelis, and is unable to acknowledge the most obvious fact about the inspiration for the security fence – the need to prevent the murder of innocent Israelis by Palestinian suicide bombers who had infiltrated Israel from the West Bank en masse during the 2nd Intifada.

(Here are the victims from just one attack, the Sbarro bombing in 2001.)  

Victims_of_Sbarro_Massacre

Image from the blog ‘This Ongoing War’, edited by Arnold and Frimet Roth

These attacks at cafes, pizza parlors and other crowded public places popular with families and children (which ultimately resulted in more than 1,000 killed) are obviously what prompted the construction of the security fence – a quite rational (and non-lethal) measure to defend its citizens which governments have the moral obligation to undertake.

Whilst I didn’t read the book Sattin reviewed, this passage written by Di Cintio (in an essay posted on his website) provides a good indication of his politics on the matter:

Those that have been following this blog know that I’ve seen these things first hand. I’ve come to realize that the [Israeli] Wall is not a ‘security’ barrier. The Wall appropriates Palestinian land for settlement expansion in the West Bank. The Wall disrupts the Palestinian economy by dividing farmers from their fields, or by destroying their orchards altogether. The Wall creates de facto and non-negotiated borders. Rather than create security, the Wall creates the anger and frustration that inspires violence.

Yes, Israel’s security wall inspires Palestinian violence!

In Di Cintio’s warped political reality the consequences of homicidal attacks becomes the cause – an Orwellian logical inversion which befits the moral inversion between Jewish victim and Palestinian perpetrator that continues to define the politics of the Guardian Left.  

CiF Watch prompts correction to Guardian publication claim about Israeli immigrants

On July 31, we posted about a false claim, in a caption beneath an EPA photo published at The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian), that most Israeli immigrants (Olim) move to “settlements in the West Bank”.  (‘Observer’s top 20 photographs of the Week, July 31.)

Here’s the photo and original caption:

pre

Click to Enlarge

In our post we demonstrated (per information we obtained from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics) that, contrary to the Observer/EPA claim, only a small percentage of new immigrants to Israel move to “settlements in the West Bank”, and then contacted Observer editors to seek a correction.

Per our communication with The Observer’s Readers’ Editor, EPA Photo Agency researched the matter and promptly issued the following the correction:

Attention editors, on July 23rd, 2013 we moved a set of images showing immigrants arriving from New York to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. We have been made aware of that the part of our caption saying ‘… New immigrants predominately move to Israeli settlements in the West Bank,..’ is wrong and is not supported by figures of the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics that we have received.

We apologize for any inconveniences EPA/OLIVER WEIKEN

Following the EPA retraction, The Observer followed suit, and amended their caption accordingly. Here’s the caption now:

new captionWe commend EPA and The Observer for their prompt response to our complaint. 

Guardian falsely claims that most new Israeli immigrants move to the West Bank

A recent edition of The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) published their weekly top 20 photographs, which included this image of a new Israeli immigrant being greeted outside the old airport terminal by a cheering crowd:

aliyah

The photographer is Oliver Weiken of EPA.  Here’s the Observer caption:

An Israeli immigrant from the US is cheered by a crowd after her arrival at the Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv. New immigrants predominantly move to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a key negotiation point in potential new peace talks between Israel and Palestine

So, a photo depicting a joyous occasion for a new arrival to the Jewish state was contextualized by the editor to suggest that since such immigrants disproportionately become “settlers”, they can be seen as injurious to the peace process.   

However, contrary to the claim made in the caption, most new immigrants do NOT move to “settlements” in the West Bank. As statistics over the last several years published by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics indicate, the most popular destinations are Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, with a small minority going to the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).

In 2012 there were 16,557 new Israeli immigrants, out of which only 664 moved to the West Bank.

In 2011 there 16,892 new Israeli immigrants, out of which only 540 moved to the West Bank.

In 2010, there were 16,663 new Israeli immigrants, out of which only 666 moved to the West Bank.  

In 2009, there were 14,572 new Israeli immigrants, out of which only 675 moved to the West Bank.

So, over this four-year period, out of 64,684 new Israeli immigrants (Olim), 2,545 (about 4%) decided to move to communities across the green line – a figure which corresponds (roughly) with the total percentage of all Israeli citizens who live in the “settlements”.

The claim made in the Observer photo captions is false, and we will be seeking a correction.

(UPDATE: CiF Watch obtained a correction to this photo caption on August 6.)

Guardian photo caption runs interference for ‘Hamas Jihad Camp’, again.

On June 18, we  noted  a photo  caption from  the Guardian’s ‘Picture Desk Live’ series which softened the combat training  of a Palestinian youth  at a Hamas summer camp  as “physical training.”   Further, as we noted, the original image in question (at Getty Images) by the same photographer included a caption clearly noting that the youths were indeed engaged in “military exercises”, and that the photojournalist site Demotix  included several photos of the exact same ‘camp’ with the title: ‘Palestinians participate in military style exercises run by Hamas’.  

Additionally, we included links to other news sites and photos which clearly indicated that the primary focus of the Hamas run camps is military training and ideological indoctrination.

More recently, the Guardian published another photo with a caption describing camps in Gaza even more misleading than their June 18th edition.

A photo story in the Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) titled ’20 photographs of the week’, June 29th, included one image of a Palestinian girl jumping rope at a UN-run traditional camp in Gaza City, but added the following caption, noting other camping opportunities for Gaza’s children over the summer.

Palestinian girl Alaa Soboh participates in a skipping rope game during UN-run summer fun games week in Gaza City. Tens of thousands of children from the Gaza Strip spend part of their holidays in special summer camps. Some, organised by the UN, offer sports, art and dance classes. Others, laid on by Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas, include fun and games, while seeking to reinforce religious values and awareness of the conflict with Israel.

So, according to the Observer caption, Hamas-run camps merely reinforce “awareness of the conflict with Israel.”  As such language would leave the impression that children are merely receiving educational instruction on the political dynamics of the “conflict”, here are some photos from the camps, which (as reported on multiple new sites), are clearly military in nature.

hamas03

Hamas-summer-camp-10

Though Harriet Sherwood did file one report, back in April, on Hamas military training of Palestinian children in Gaza schools, the Guardian has thus far failed to devote any coverage on such summer camps (run by both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad), which train over 100,000 kids (ages 6 to 16) each summer in skills such as firing machine guns, assaulting military positions, kidnapping soldiers, and planting land mines.

It’s impossible to understand the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict without at least a basic understanding of the role which incitement, the glorification of violence and antisemitic propaganda play in inculcating generations of Palestinians with values fundamentally at odds with peace and coexistence with the Jewish state.  

The Guardian’s tendency to avoid accurately reporting on Jihadist indoctrination in Gaza certainly represents an egregious lie of omission.  However, it also has the injurious impact of ensuring that their readers will never understand that Palestinians possess moral agency, and therefore should be held completely accountable for collective decisions which result in their society’s continuing social, economic, and political failures.

William Sutcliffe’s Guardian-approved anti-Israel propaganda for teens

Alison Flood’s March 31 Guardian/Observer report on a new novel by William Sutcliffe about the Israeli ‘occupation’ includes a quote by the self-described Jewish atheist which encapsulates how the most facile understandings of both the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the broader political realities of our day often pass for serious commentary.

‘…the story of our era is the divide between the haves and the have-nots, and it seemed the wall in the West Bank was very specific to that situation, but also symbolic of other things happening elsewhere”.

As befits such platitudinous prose, Sutcliffe’s new work is targeted towards a less mature audience.

teens

Flood’s review and interview begins thusly:

Pitched as a fable, his crossover novel is set in a city split in two by a vast wall. On one side live the privileged, the occupiers – and our hero Joshua. On the other live the desperate, the occupied, and when Joshua, hunting for his lost football, discovers a tunnel that leads under the wall, he sets in action a series of dreadful consequences. Without making it explicit, it soon becomes clear that this is the West Bank, that Joshua, 13, is Jewish, and that Leila, the girl who saves his life on the other side of the wall, is Palestinian.

The cover art chosen to illustrate the story of “privileged” Jews and “desperate” Palestinians is thoroughly consistent such an obtuse paradigm: An olive tree encircled with barbed wire, juxtaposed with a title evoking the morality tale Sutcliffe is demanding the young reader to imagine.

wall

What finally pushed the writer to commence the project?  Flood explains:

“…he heard about PalFest, Palestine’s annual travelling festival of literature, and decided he needed to travel to the region. He’d been to Israel before, but after experiencing PalFest, “everything I thought I knew about Israel was shattered.”

As CiF Watch has noted (here and here), Palfest (the Palestine Festival of Literature) is the (partially UK-funded) anti-Israel advocacy vehicle which has included a significant proportion of participating writers (and ‘recommended authors) who have been featured in the Guardian or ‘Comment is Free’ – including Ali Abunimah, Ben White, and Ghada Karmi.

Sutcliffe’s commentary on the ‘revelatory’ benefits of his Palfest journey continues:  

 He’d been to Israel before, but after experiencing PalFest, “everything I thought I knew about Israel was shattered. Seeing a military occupation up close, seeing a small number of people with guns telling a large number without guns what to do… it was so much more brutal than I thought it could be.”

It’s unclear where precisely Sutcliffe ventured in the West Bank, but it’s curious that in his apparently serious overall examination and research of the region he somehow failed to learn of the ubiquity of Palestinians ‘with guns‘, explosives and other weaponry – ‘activists’ who are of course waiting for the opportunity to deploy such lethal instruments of terror against Israeli civilians without guns.

Archive: Weaponry Uncovered in Palestinian's Home

Weaponry Uncovered by the IDF in a Palestinian’s Home, 2012

To critics who may question Sutcliffe’s expertise on such a subject, his answer is as follows:

“it’s reportage – which is why I went out of my way with the two research trips”.

Yet, Sutcliffe’s reporting cum ‘activist tourism’ left him unable to grasp the most elementary story about the fence which divides Palestine and Israel, the muse which inspired his Middle East tale: That there once was a time when the borders dividing the two peoples were porous, when a genuine peace seemed, to some, to be within reach – an ideal which was shattered by an onslaught of snipers, bombings and suicide belts.  

The security fence about which he writes was born of shrapnel, savagely fired, coursing through organs and limbs, tearing apart bodies, and shattering lives.   

Flood then adds the following:

[Sutcliffe] is also playing on another familiar children’s literary motif – that of the portal from the mundane to a world of fantasy. “What’s happening in this book is a kid living in a complete fantasy, who discovers a portal to reality. I’m taking the cliché and turning it upside down,” he says. “I’ve been with the settlers… and I think they are living in a world of complete fantasy.”

However, as one ‘Comment is Free’ critic recently and quite keenly observed about such lazy depictions:   

‘Whilst Palestinians have names, faces and form – their injured children…blazoned across headlines – Israelis are faceless, without history or family. They are not cute or charming or tragic. They are not gifted musicians or parlour comedians.  Israelis are just, coldly and callously, ‘Israelis’, unnamed, numbered and otherwise ignored, unless they are ‘settlers’ or soldiers, when they are as if motherless, amorphous.

In his evocation of Israeli caricatures, unrecognizable as they are crude, it is  Sutcliffe who conjures the most risible and fantastical tale.

Peter Beaumont’s absurd political analogy regarding Israel and ‘Prisoner X’

Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor at the Observer (sister publication of the Guardian), has already authored, or co-authored, six separate reports (totaling over 5000 words) in less than two days at the Guardian on the row over ‘Prisoner X’.

part 1

part 2

Prisoner X is believed to have been a Mossad agent (reportedly an Australian Israeli dual citizen named Ben Zygier) jailed by Israel because he was about to reveal Mossad secrets to Australian authorities or the media.  He reportedly committed suicide in his cell in 2010.

Due to the secrecy involved in any alleged spy case, there is a relative dearth of verifiable facts regarding Prisoner X’s background and incarceration.  However the absence of such information hasn’t prevented Beaumont from advancing the desired Guardian narrative regarding alleged Israeli violations of human rights and international legal norms.

Though the Observer is supposedly the more moderate of the two Guardian Group publications, Beaumont’s framing of the spy row has included one particularly hysterical political analogy, casually leveled without even an attempt to support its validity.

One of Beaumont’s reports from Feb. 14 includes the following passage:

“The latest revelations come amid a growing outcry over the case in Israel, with some comparing the treatment of Zygier to that meted out in the Soviet Union or Argentina and Chile under their military dictatorships.”

Naturally, Beaumont doesn’t inform us who specifically is making such a comparison, and even a cursory look at the judicial process, and the rights afforded Prisoner X, makes a mockery of the charge.

First, the prisoner’s incarceration was supervised by the Israeli judiciary, the original arrest warrant was issued by the authorized court, and the proceedings were overseen by the most senior Justice Ministry officials. We also now know that Prisoner X was legally represented by a top Israeli lawyer who reported, after meeting with his client, that he was in good health, was considering a plea bargain and didn’t appear to have been mistreated.

After the prisoner was found dead in his cell roughly two years ago, the President of the Rishon Lezion Magistrates Court held a coroner’s inquest into the cause of death and, though it was determined that suicide was the cause, “the Presiding Judge sent the file to the State Attorney’s Office for an evaluation regarding issues of [possible] negligence” by prison authorities.  

Further, the prisoner’s family was notified during the course of his incarceration, and Australian officials knew of the proceedings.

Though Prisoner X likely represented a serious security risk for Israel, he was afforded due process in a manner which certainly seems consistent with democratic norms.

To evoke a comparison with the USSR – where, for instance, several million Soviet “enemies of the state” died (due to overwork, starvation, torture or summary executions) after being sent, without trial, to Gulag camps spread out across the entire country – is beyond parody.

Indeed, it’s likely that the true identity of Beaumont’s unnamed commentators comparing Israel’s handling of the spy case to that of the most repressive totalitarian regimes of the 20th century will prove to be far more elusive and mysterious than the identity of Prisoner X himself.