CiF Watch prompts improved language to Indy description of Israel’s security fence

On July 4th, we posted about a mostly unproblematic and indeed quite interesting report in The Independent by Michael McCarthy about Jerusalem’s Bird Observatory which nonetheless included a short passage containing a misleading characterization of Israel’s security fence. Here are the passages, with the relevant sentence in bold:

For Jerusalem overwhelms you. In the Old City, sacred to all three Abrahamical religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims, history and tradition are overpowering, as are the assaults on the senses: the sunlight flashing on copper coffee pots, an Arab flute being played somewhere, the bewildering mix of languages, the smells of cumin and cardamom and coriander.

But the politics is the most overpowering phenomenon of all, and the anguish of two hostile peoples struggling for one land is never more than a glance away. It’s seen above all now in The Wall, the 25ft-high separation barrier the Israelis have built between their Jewish citizens and the Palestinians of the West Bank, and whether or not you agree with the argument for it – that the Arab suicide bombings of the Second Intifada became an intolerable burden on Israeli civil society – there is no doubt that it now appears, snaking over the hills, as something monstrous. 

As we noted in our post,  Israel’s security fence was of course built to serve as a protective barrier between Israeli citizens (of all religious backgrounds) and Palestinians of the West Bank who are not Israeli citizens.  The language in McCarthy’s report could easily be interpreted as meaning that only the state’s Jewish citizens were being protected, and that the barrier had a racial component.

After contacting Indy editors we received an extremely thoughtful reply, explaining that the passage did accurately reflect the fact that the terrorist campaign during the 2nd Intifada which prompted Israel to construct the security fence did have a religious component, insofar as terror groups were attacking Israel due to the fact that it is a ‘Jewish’ state.   While this is a credible argument, editors ultimately accepted our concerns, and revised the language accordingly, omitting the word “Jewish”, so that the sentence now reads:

“It’s seen above all now in The Wall, the 25ft-high separation barrier the Israelis have built between their citizens and the Palestinians of the West Bank…”

We commend Indy editors for responsibly responding to our complaint.

Indy reporter misleads on Israel’s security barrier

In a largely non-political and quite interesting nature story on July 3 by the Indy’s Michael McCarthy (the paper’s Environmental Editor) about the Jerusalem Bird Observatory, there were the following passages, where the author pivoted to briefly exploring the politics of the region:

For Jerusalem overwhelms you. In the Old City, sacred to all three Abrahamical religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims, history and tradition are overpowering, as are the assaults on the senses: the sunlight flashing on copper coffee pots, an Arab flute being played somewhere, the bewildering mix of languages, the smells of cumin and cardamom and coriander.

But the politics is the most overpowering phenomenon of all, and the anguish of two hostile peoples struggling for one land is never more than a glance away. It’s seen above all now in The Wall, the 25ft-high separation barrier the Israelis have built between their Jewish citizens and the Palestinians of the West Bank, and whether or not you agree with the argument for it – that the Arab suicide bombings of the Second Intifada became an intolerable burden on Israeli civil society – there is no doubt that it now appears, snaking over the hills, as something monstrous.

Of course, Israel’s security barrier (mostly consisting of chain link or barbed wire) was built between ‘Israeli citizens’ and the Palestinians of the West Bank, not just the state’s “Jewish citizens and the Palestinians” as McCarthy claims. In addition to the state’s roughly six million Jews, Israel is home to 1.3 million Muslims, 155,000 Christians and nearly 130,000 Druze.

Moreover, for most Israelis of all faiths, the existence of the security barrier simply reflects the belief that, given their experience with deadly acts of terror originating from across the previously porous green line, their government has not only the right, but the moral duty to protect them from future attacks.  (It should also be noted that shrapnel tends not to distinguish between Jew and non-Jew.)

It’s remarkable that such an intuitive understanding of the Israeli right to self-defense continues to elude so many UK reporters and commentators.

Misleading Guardian caption below photo of Israeli injured by Palestinian rioters

On Friday, March 8, hundreds of Palestinians emerged from prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque to throw rocks and petrol bombs at Israeli security personnel stationed near the entrance of the compound.

Eleven policemen were injured during the violence, including one Israeli who was injured by a molotov cocktail thrown at officers by Palestinians, reportedly from inside the mosque. 

Police dispersed the rioters using stun grenades and other non-violent crowd control measures.

The Guardian’s ‘Picture Desk Live’ published the following photo shortly after the Friday riots showing the officer who was set on fire.

Mideast Israel Palestinans

Here’s the Guardian caption:


Note that the Israeli policeman is described as “injured”, with no text indicating that he was injured by a Palestinian who intentionally hurled an incendiary device in his direction. (Other news sites which published photos of the injured Israeli managed to explain that the injury was indeed caused by Palestinians.) 

Another glaring distortion is achieved by the caption’s blurred causation. Readers are informed only that “clashes broke out”, without assigning blame, as if there was any doubt that it was Palestinian ‘worshipers’ who initiated the violence. 

A twenty-eight word caption: so much obfuscation. 

What the Guardian didn’t mention about their Palestinian ‘prisoner of the day’

H/T Al-Gharqad

While we often post in response to Israel related news stories and commentary at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ which are biased, misleading or inaccurate in some manner, often a Guardian ‘photo of the day’ can similarly serve as a vehicle for propaganda due to the emotive strength of the image, along with a paucity of relevant context.

The following was included in the Feb. 11th edition of the Guardian’s ‘Best Photos of the Day’.

Mideast Israel Palestinians

Here’s the Guardian caption:

Palestinian women hold pictures of prisoners jailed in Israel during a rally calling for their release in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Photograph: Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP

Now, here’s what a Guardian reader casually glancing at the Palestinian “prisoner” wouldn’t have known.

A friend who’s fluent in Arabic read the poster and identified the ‘prisoner’ as Ayman Ismail Al-Sharawna. 

Al-Sharawna was jailed in Israel because of his involvement in a terrorist attack in in May 2002, in which two Palestinians placed an explosive device near a group of civilians in Beersheba and fled the scene. Eighteen Israelis were injured in the attack. (A technical fault prevented the bomb from exploding fully.)

He was sentenced to 38 years in prison, but released on October 18, 2011 as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal.

On January 31, 2012, the IDF re-arrested Al-Sharawna, resident of a Palestinian town near Hebron, on suspicion of having returned to terror planning with a Hamas cell in the West Bank.  He recently began a hunger strike.

Al-Sharawna is a “prisoner” because he tried to murder innocent Israelis, and, after his release, is evidently determined to try to murder again.

What the Guardian won’t report: Arabs bully religious Jews in Jerusalem

When I first saw the clip, posted on Facebook by a friend shortly after Shabbat, my stomach churned with a discomfort nurtured by a very particular history.

1A small group of religiously observant, traditionally dressed, peyote wearing Jews are seen outside in some city centre, hurriedly attempting to get to their destination, as they are confronted by a group of hooded youths.

 One of the pursued men falls as he slips on a step while attempting to escape the mob.

The shaky hand-held camcorder follows the Jews as they are pelted with snowballs, pushed and shoved. The sound of mocking laughter is heard.

As the Jews continue onto the sidewalk, attempting to distance themselves from the original gang, others emerge to confront them.

There are menacing shouts from the crowd. More snowballs are thrown at the moving targets as they attempt in vain to avoid the confrontation.

A traditional hat is quickly snatched from one of the pursued men.

One spectator is seen excitedly photographing the moment, clearly enjoying a first-hand view of the frightened Jew.

More laughter.

Soon, backpack wearing children now take their turn. Additional keffiyeh-wearing youths seize the moment.

Without any context, I had on some level initially believed that the one minute and fifteen second YouTube video was filmed on the streets of a European city and not, as I later learned, near the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The attack took place on Shabbat. The victims were possibly on their way back from praying at the Kotel (Western Wall).

A quick glance at the Israel page of the Guardian confirms that such ugly images of antisemitic bullying by Arabs, in the capital of the Jewish state, do not pique the journalistic curiosity of the paper’s Jerusalem correspondent.

Harriet Sherwood can see Palestine from here.

Harriet Sherwood’s recent Guardian story, ‘Winston Churchill sculpture unveiled in Jerusalem‘, Nov. 4, reported on a new statue of Churchill, and a plaque proclaiming him “a friend of the Jewish people and the Zionist cause”. 

Sherwood notes that the bust was unveiled at Mishkenot Sha’ananim, “outside the walls of the Old City, in recognition of the contribution made by Britain’s wartime leader to the creation of the state of Israel“.

Sherwood added that the commissioning of the bust followed the publication five years ago of ‘Churchill and the Jews’ by Martin Gilbert.

While Sherwood’s report is mostly straight forward, she decided to take an odd detour in the penultimate paragraph, where she wrote the following:

“The bust is situated close to the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City and within distant sight of the 8m-high concrete wall which cuts off Palestinian communities in east Jerusalem from the rest of the city.”


My guess is that Sherwood is likely referring to this view of the wall, as seen from Mishkenot, beyond which are Arab communities such as  Shu’afat.

(Note to those of you who actually rely on Harriet Sherwood for “news” about Israel: The mysterious upside down red building, seen way, way in the distance, umm, isn’t actually there.)

As a colleague observed about Sherwood’s interesting criteria for selecting her landmarks, she could just as easily have written that the bust is within walking distance of the Mahane Yehuda market (The Shuk), which was the site of several terror attacks. 

Her urge to make an unrelated reference to some aspect of Palestinian suffering was evidently beyond her ability to control.

In fact, Sherwood’s selective vision made me think of what other arbitrary links she could have made in order to make a political point, and I thought it would be fun to see how far we can take it – using the same sentence.

So, here’s my effort.

The bust is situated near Keren Hayesod St, where you can find the number 8 bus, which takes you to Jaffa St, where you can catch the Jerusalem Light Rail which serves Arab neighborhoods such as Shu’afat – part of a deliberate plan to link the East Jerusalem settlements to the city centre, thus consolidating Israel‘s grip on the eastern part of the city that Palestinians want as a capital of their future state.

I’d like to see what tales of Israeli oppression you can contrive from the words, “The bust is situated”. The possibilities are endless. 

The Six-Day War: Day Three

Cross posted at Jewish Ideas Daily

This week, Jewish Ideas Daily commemorates the forty-fifth anniversary of the Six-Day War with a day-by-day synopsis, for which we are indebted to Michael Oren’s comprehensive Six Days of War.

As Nasser was ordering his army to flee the Sinai, King Hussein commanded his to stay put. But within the Old City, only a hundred soldiers remained, the rest having already retreated toward the East Bank. Doubting that he could retain the city by force, Hussein opted to negotiate an immediate ceasefire. The Jordanian Prime Minister, Sad Juma, petitioned both the UN and the U.S. Ambassador, Findley Burns, Jr., to convince Israel not to seize the Old City or Nablus. If Israel did, he warned, the Hashemite monarchy could collapse.  Relaying the message to President Johnson, Burns perceived a much more dangerous threat: The Soviets could intervene.

Wary of Nasser’s wholly unsubstantiated allegations of direct American support for Israel, Johnson neglected to recommend any course of action to Eshkol—short of informing him of the offer, and warning, from Hussein. More problematic was an impending Security Council decision, coupled with the gradual return of Jordanian troops to the Old City. If they couldn’t win the battle, they could at least delay the Israelis until the Security Council stepped in. Eshkol, Dayan, and Rabin agreed: for Israel to retake the Old City, she had to act now.

As the sun rose on June 7th, 1967, artillery started shelling the area around the Augusta Victoria hospital east of the Old City, swiftly followed by air raids, clearing the way for paratroopers. The soldiers proceeded southwest, taking the Mount of Olives, and then descending the hillside until they stood outside Lions’ Gate. They were soon joined by tanks, which opened fire, cleaving the gate.  The troops charged into the square, through a hail of gunfire from Legionnaires on the walls and rooftops, and onwards into the city’s narrow, medieval streets. As soldiers spread out, heading for the Via Dolorosa, the Damascus, Jaffa, and Zion Gates, Lt. Gen. Mordechai Gur led his men up to the Temple Mount. After another exchange of fire, Gur relayed back the words that the country was waiting to hear, now immortalized: “Har ha-Bayit b’Yadenu”—”The Temple Mount is in our hands.”

But the Temple Mount was still not the biggest prize: Gur had yet to take the Kotel.  But neither he nor any of his men knew the way down. At a loss, Gur asked directions from an old Arab man. But this time, Gur was beaten to the punch. Men from the Jerusalem Brigade and the 71st Paratroopers Battalion were already there—celebrating, in spite of the continuing sniper fire.

In an interview with the Observers Conal Urquhart, Zion Karasenti, who appears in David Rubingers iconic photo, claimed to have been the first to the wall—though at the time he had no idea where he was: 

I was the first paratrooper to get to the Wailing Wall. I didn’t know where I was, but I saw a female Israeli soldier, so I asked “Where am I?” and she said: “The Wailing Wall.” She gave me a postcard and told me to write to my parents before she disappeared. It might have been a dream, but then many years later I met the woman. She had been in the postal corps.     

Paratrooper Moshe Amirav, who left his hospital bed to visit the Kotel after hearing of its capture on the radio, recalls following in Gur’s footsteps down from the Temple Mount through Mughrabi Gate:

We ran there, a group of panting soldiers, lost on the plaza of the Temple Mount, searching for a giant stone wall. We did not stop to look at the Mosque of Omar even though this was the first time we had seen it close up. Forward! Forward! Hurriedly, we pushed our way through the Magreb Gate and suddenly we stopped, thunderstruck. There it was before our eyes! Gray and massive, silent and restrained. The Western Wall!

Among Gur’s party was Shlomo Goren, the IDF’s Chief Rabbi, who said kaddish and then blew the shofar—perhaps heralding the advent of the Messiah. Goren suggested to Dayan, Rabin, and General Uzi Narkiss, who had arrived in a triumphant procession, that the IDF use its remaining ammunition to destroy the mosques in anticipation of the reconstruction of the Temple.

But Eshkol had preempted Goren’s reverie.  Refusing to be caught up in the euphoria, unlike the rest of the country—including his senior officers—Eshkol had placed the holy sites of the Old City under the jurisdiction of their respective religious authorities. Moreover, as his forces continued their conquest of the West Bank, he was already starting to worry about what to do with its inhabitants.

Similarly cut off from the Jerusalem fever were the troops still fighting in the Sinai. In the early hours of the morning, an aerial reconnaissance mission went to scout what were presumed to be redoubtable Egyptian defenses at Sharm el-Sheikh, only to find it deserted. The garrison at Sharm el-Sheikh had received orders directly from Amer to fall back. A similar scene awaited Israeli soldiers in the central Sinai. The second line of the Egyptian defense had dissolved into isolated pockets of resistance, as the troops fled back towards the Suez Canal, burning their own bases as they went. The Israelis gave chase, aiming to circumvent the Egyptians and cut off their escape. But with men and burning vehicles clogging the roads, the Israeli advance was held up by the Egyptian retreat. 

Meanwhile, cognizant of the collapse of the Arab forces, the USSR issued Eshkol an ultimatum: “If Israel does not comply immediately with the Security Council Resolution, the USSR will review its relations with Israel [and] will choose and implement other necessary steps which stem from the aggressive policy of Israel.” The immediate response to this new Soviet belligerence came not from Eshkol, but from Amer. Having ordered a general retreat, Amer now told those battalions which had already crossed the canal to turn around to make one last stand on the western shore.

The war was not over, but the symbolic victory was overwhelming, and the spirit of the people indelibly altered.  While Eshkol and his cabinet were debating strategy, “Hatikvah” was ringing out at the Kotel and “Jerusalem of Gold” was filling the airwaves. 

Jews to build new bridge. Guardian characterizes it as a provocation.

If there’s one story to help you understand how unhinged Israel’s critics really are, it’s this recent Guardian report by , “Row over Jerusalem plan to close Mughrabi bridge“, Dec. 8.

Mughrabi bridge

The Mughrabi Bridge in Jerusalem’s Old City, which leads from the Western Wall Plaza to the Temple Mount, is in danger of collapse, which poses a serious danger to the  public, the municipality’s engineers have warned.  The engineers added that the wooden bridge (which replaced the Mughrabi Ramp which was damaged in a 2004 storm) is also highly flammable and if a fire breaks out it could spread to the Temple Mount.

So, an unsafe bridge which could collapse is to be taken down and replace by a new, safer bridge.

And, the controversy?

The Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood explains:

“Officials in Jerusalem are set to close a footbridge connecting the region’s most sensitive Jewish and Muslim sites, inflaming religious tensions”

Though Greenwood doesn’t dispute the fact that the bridge is unsafe, and acknowledges that most Muslims reach the mosque through a separate gate from the Old City’s Muslim quarter, Greenwood asserts that such construction will inflame tensions.  

How so?

Greenwood adds:

“Some fear a newer, stronger bridge could be used by Israeli soldiers to enter the site.”

It’s unclear precisely what this means as thousands (including soldiers) have used the current bridge.  

But, Greenwood’s story becomes a bit more clear:

“Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, has made the bridge’s fate a critical issue in the Egyptian elections. On Thursday he called on Jordan’s King Abdullah to convince Israel not to replace it.”

So, concerns about plans to rebuild a bridge to Judaism’s holiest site, expressed by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, who has previously used his authority as  Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader to call on his followers to literally “kill every last Jew on earth”, is of value to the Guardian reporter.

However, Greenwood’s penultimate paragraph may provide some insight into why precisely the mundane act of rebuilding a structurally unsound bridge is seen as a provocation, and will serve to “increase tensions”.

“Isra, a 20-year-old Palestinian woman, said: “We don’t mind about the bridge itself. Muslims are concerned about the whole site and the mosque in particular. What we don’t want is for many Jewish people to come here.” [emphasis]

Of course, it is simply inconceivable that the Guardian could ever characterize Palestinian “objections” to Israeli plans to rebuild the bridge as evidence of profound cynicism, and religious intolerance.

As I noted when Jerusalem’s light rail project went into service – a transportation system characterized as a violation of international law by an anti-Israel activist in Harriet Sherwood’s report – the obsessive coverage of Israel by the Western media includes a stunning capacity to frame even the most routine, banal Israeli move as an act of aggression.

Guardian reporters are so sympathetic to the Palestinian cause that even the most ludicrous criticism of Israel, and the most specious arguments, are granted license and moral credibility. 

Their fierce skepticism regarding every Israeli explanation (no matter how sober, thoughtful and intuitive) stands in stark contrast with their credulousness in the face of the even the most surreal Palestinian narrative. 

Guardian’s Israel Correspondent, Harriet Sherwood, Still Clueless

This is cross posted by Simon Plosker at the blog of Honest Reporting

The Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood just keeps demonstrating her gross ignorance of the region that she is meant to be covering. In May we caught her mistakenly claiming that Israel’s Knesset and other national buildings were located on Palestinian-owned land.

Prior to that, Sherwood was critiqued by HonestReporting for referring to the Western Wall as Judaism’s most holy site while promoting the Palestinian narrative of the Temple Mount as a primarily Muslim site.

This, despite the incontrovertible fact that the Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site.

Evidently, Sherwood doesn’t learn from her mistakes. In an article concerning US broadcaster Glenn Beck holding rallies in Jerusalem, Sherwood writes:

Reinforcing his point, the rally is to be staged in the shadows of the Old City, close to boththe Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, and the Haram al-Sharif, also known by Jews as the Temple Mount, which is revered by Muslims.

We don’t deny the attachment of Muslims to their holy sites but Sherwood not only gets her facts wrong but peddles a false historical narrative that denies and delegitimizes Jewish roots in Jerusalem.

See our previous expose of Sherwood’s error and why the Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site here.

Palestinians riot in Jerusalem

Per the Jerusalem Post

Dozens of Palestinians on Wednesday that barricaded themselves in the al-Aksa mosque on Temple Mount in Jerusalem dispersed and left the scene after Israeli security forces exited the area.

Police reported that a relative calm has been restored in the area after a day of violent clashes.

The violence started when riots erupted in Silwan early in the morning after a 35-year-old east Jerusalem resident was killed.

Throughout the day, violence spread from Silwan to the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives, as angry rioters threw thousands of stones at police forces.

Ten people were injured, including a 35-year-old Israeli in moderate condition who was stabbed in the back near the Mount of Olives. Police reported that attendees threw stones at officers, vehicles and buses causing injuries and damage, and that a police vehicle and several other vehicles were set alight near Jerusalem’s Old City.

Three Egged buses were destroyed by stoning near the Western Wall, injuring one of the bus drivers. The buses were missing all of their windows and one had blood splattered on the driver’s seat.

Eight people were arrested for disturbing the peace, five at the Temple Mount and three on Derech HaOfer, the road that leads from the Mount of Olives cemetery towards the Old City and back to Silwan.

The death of the east Jerusalem resident happened early Wednesday morning, when a security guard was driving a security vehicle on his way to a Jewish home when residents blocked the street with trash cans and began hurling rocks at him.

UPDATE, Sept 24:

Jerusalem District Police Commander Aharon Franco on Wednesday backed an Israeli security guard who shot an east Jerusalem resident to death in Silwan. “According to an initial investigation, the guard encountered a preplanned ambush which put his life in danger, prompting him to open fire.” The killing sparked Arab riots in the capital, with rioters throwing firebombs and rocks at Israeli security forces and civilians. Four buses were badly damaged, as were private vehicles. Palestinians also hurled stones from the Temple Mount at Jewish worshippers below.

Read rest of article here