Posted by Richard Millett in London.
While British Parliamentarians spend today debating whether to recognise “a state of Palestine” they might wish to view MEMRI‘s clip below.
In carrying out this blog’s mission, we often attempt to contextualize Guardian/UK media coverage of Israel and the Jewish world by explaining not only what they get wrong, but also why they get it wrong.
Tablet Magazine just published a long and extremely important article (by former AP correspondent Matti Friedman) which masterfully dissects such institutional bias against Israel – in the broader Western media – and we strongly encourage those who’ve thought seriously about the subject to read the 4,000 word essay in full.
Here are some excerpts:
The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry;
How Important Is the Israel Story?
Staffing is the best measure of the importance of a story to a particular news organization. When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined.
To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel.
What Is Important About the Israel Story, and What Is Not
A reporter working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel. If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate…
Israeli actions are analyzed and criticized, and every flaw in Israeli society is aggressively reported. In one seven-week period, from Nov. 8 to Dec. 16, 2011, I…counted 27 separate articles, an average of a story every two days….this seven-week tally was higher than the total number of significantly critical stories about Palestinian government and society, including the totalitarian Islamists of Hamas, that our bureau had published in the preceding three years.
The Hamas charter, for example, calls not just for Israel’s destruction but for the murder of Jews and blames Jews for engineering the French and Russian revolutions and both world wars; the charter was never mentioned in print when I was at the AP…
What Else “Isn’t” Important?
In early 2009..two colleagues of mine obtained information that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had made a significant peace offer to the Palestinian Authority several months earlier, and that the Palestinians had deemed it insufficient. This had not been reported yet and it was—or should have been—one of the biggest stories of the year. The reporters obtained confirmation from both sides and one even saw a map, but the top editors at the bureau decided that they would not publish the story….
This decision taught me a lesson that should be clear to consumers of the Israel story: Many of the people deciding what you will read and see from here view their role not as explanatory but as political. Coverage is a weapon to be placed at the disposal of the side they like.
How Is the Israel Story Framed?
The Israel story is framed in the same terms that have been in use since the early 1990s—the quest for a “two-state solution.” It is accepted that the conflict is “Israeli-Palestinian,” meaning that it is a conflict taking place on land that Israel controls—0.2 percent of the Arab world—in which Jews are a majority and Arabs a minority. The conflict is more accurately described as “Israel-Arab,” or “Jewish-Arab”—that is, a conflict between the 6 million Jews of Israel and 300 million Arabs in surrounding countries…
The “Israeli-Palestinian” framing allows the Jews, a tiny minority in the Middle East, to be depicted as the stronger party…
The Old Blank Screen
For centuries, stateless Jews played the role of a lightning rod for ill will among the majority population. They were a symbol of things that were wrong. Did you want to make the point that greed was bad? Jews were greedy. Cowardice? Jews were cowardly. Were you a Communist? Jews were capitalists. Were you a capitalist? In that case, Jews were Communists. Moral failure was the essential trait of the Jew…
Like many Jews who grew up late in the 20th century in friendly Western cities, I dismissed such ideas as the feverish memories of my grandparents. One thing I have learned…is that I was foolish to have done so. Today, people in the West tend to believe the ills of the age are racism, colonialism, and militarism. The world’s only Jewish country has done less harm than most countries on earth, and more good—and yet when people went looking for a country that would symbolize the sins of our new post-colonial, post-militaristic, post-ethnic dream-world, the country they chose was this one.
Who Cares If the World Gets the Israel Story Wrong?
Understanding what happened in Gaza this summer…requires us to understand what is clear to nearly everyone in the Middle East: The ascendant force in our part of the world is not democracy or modernity. It is rather an empowered strain of Islam that assumes different and sometimes conflicting forms, and that is willing to employ extreme violence in a quest to unite the region under its control and confront the West. Those who grasp this fact will be able to look around and connect the dots…
Israel is not an idea, a symbol of good or evil, or a litmus test for liberal opinion at dinner parties. It is a small country in a scary part of the world that is getting scarier. It should be reported as critically as any other place, and understood in context and in proportion.
Cross posted from This Ongoing War, a blog edited by Arnold and Frimet Roth
Yesterday’s post [“5-May-14: The making of a martyr: it takes more than a village“] reported on the Palestinian state funeral given to the remaining body parts of a Palestinian human bomb named Izz Al-Din Al-Masr.He exploded in August 2001 inside a [Sbarro] restaurant filled with Jews, and died a happy young man, perhaps even an ecstatic one. His life, in accordance with the insane religious dogmas that had been pumped into his head, had reached its point of fulfillment.
Our post made the point that representatives of the major segments of Palestinian Arab society took part in last week’s funeral.
If you were looking for moderates – say, the so-called moderates of the Mahmoud Abbas regime – they were indeed there but they were not moderating anything. When it comes to murder and incitement to murder of Israelis and of Jews, they are not moderate; they are enthusiastic. In last Wednesday’s funeral procession in Tubas, they participated, heart and soul, to ensure the strongest possible message of support, encouragement, adulation for acts of calculated murder like the one in which the dead human bomb had engaged, and that stole the life of our 15 year old daughter Malki. They amplified this message of hatred and jihad via the official Palestinian Arab state media, as did the Hamas regime in Gaza. They wanted everyone to know – at least, everyone who speaks Arabic.
As for publishing the same news in other languages, they were much less interested. Try (just as one random example) finding any mention on the English-language, Bethlehem-based, high profile European-funded Maan News Agency website. But Maan’s Arabic side [here] has all the death-cult worship an Arabic reader with an interest in such things could want. Interesting, no?
We received some feedback that suggested this characterization was unfair. They said there are voices in the Palestinian Arab world that are as sickened as people like us are by the unconcealed blood-lust of Hamas, of Islamic Jihad, of Fatah, of the Palestinian Authority and of Mahmoud Abbas.
So here’s an invitation for anyone who has such evidence to send us public, published statements in the Arabic language, in which Palestinian Arab voices condemn what sickens the rest of the world: the process of turning psychopaths like the human bomb who murdered our daughter Malki into martyrs, heroes, figures to be emulated.
Over to you.
Send what you have to email@example.com or add them to the comments below. We’ll publish what we receive here. (Remember – in Arabic. We’ll take care of the translating into English.)
In ‘Middle East peace talks edge towards collapse despite Kerry’s frantic efforts, Guardian, April 2, the newspaper’s incoming Jerusalem correspondent writes the following about the collapsing ‘peace process’.
Eight months ago, Netanyahu signed a US-sponsored agreement to release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners in a quid pro quo that would block the Palestinian application to membership of a raft of UN bodies in exchange for talks. But despite the agreement, Netanyahu has refused to release the fourth group of prisoners unless the Palestinian Authority recognises Israel as a Jewish state.
This is flat-out untrue.
The Jewish state recognition demand is a separate issue, was voiced prior to the current crisis about the release of the final batch of pre-Oslo prisoners and has never been cited as a factor why Israel is reluctant to release the remaining 26 Palestinians.
As reported by media sites across the political spectrum, Israeli negotiators have only demanded that – for the prisoner release to go ahead – Palestinians must at least agree to extend talks past the April 29 deadline, and have asked why they should release these prisoners when (immediately following their release) Palestinians will likely decide to end the talks.
Interestingly, three days prior to his April 2 story, Peter Beaumont himself acknowledged that the fear of Palestinians walking away from talks was the reason for Israel’s hesitation over the final prisoner release.
In his report on March 31, he wrote the following:
The Israeli government has said it is unwilling to go ahead with the latest prisoner release until it has a commitment from Abbas to extend this phase of the negotiations. On Sunday the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said the talks were “verging on a crisis”.
Just to make it easier, here are snapshots of the competing Peter Beaumont passages.
Beaumont, March 31:
Beaumont, April 2:
Which one is it, Peter?
Last month, we posted about a remarkably misleading claim by Harriet Sherwood in an article about recent investigations into the death of Yasser Arafat:
Arafat was a man who divided the world: revered by Palestinians and their supporters, reviled by Israel and its allies. Nine years after his death, a portrait of him still hangs in most Palestinian homes. Nonetheless, the Palestinian people have inevitably moved on. Acts of violence, espoused by Arafat, are rare in the West Bank, and rocket fire from Gaza has dropped; instead, the Palestinian leadership has invested its hopes in diplomacy and negotiations.
We noted that her broad suggestion that Palestinians have largely abandoned Arafat’s ‘strategy’ of terrorism represented an egregious distortion based on empirical data detailing the quantity of terror attacks since his death. Further, we argued, though such attacks have decreased overall in comparison to the height of the 2nd Intifada, this reduction can largely attributed to the construction of Israel’s security fence and more effective counter-terror measures – not an evolution in Palestinian attitudes towards terror.
In response to Sherwood’s specific claim that “acts of violence…are rare in the West Bank“, we cited a report by BBC Watch’s Hadar Sela which noted the following:
“Statistics provided by the ISA [Israel Security Agency] for the months July to November 2013 shows that the number of terror attacks taking place in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and Jerusalem since the renewal of direct negotiations between Israel and the PLO on July 29th has more than doubled“.
Now, five weeks after Sherwood’s report, Guardian columnist Michael Cohen has made a similarly false claim about Palestinian terror. His Jan. 19th op-ed about current peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians included the following:
But with the head of Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas as supportive of a two-state solution as any Palestinian leader ever; with Hamas in a historically weak position and with Palestinians having largely turned their back on violence as a political tool the Palestinian leadership have stuck along with Kerry’s diplomacy even they are almost certain to get something less than a good deal.
In addition to statistics provided above which clearly contradict claims by Sherwood and Cohen that Palestinians have abandoned terror, a report on Arab public opinion by Pew Global in September demonstrated that “support for suicide bombing and other violence aimed at civilian targets [is] widespread in the Palestinian territories“. A full 62% of Palestinian Muslims believe that such attacks “are often or sometimes justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies”.
Without taking into account the impact of such terror – particularly Israeli fears that, even in the event a final status agreement is reached, they’ll continue to be terrorized by sniper fire, bombings and rocket attacks – it’s impossible to honestly assess the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and consider the real factors impeding a just resolution.
Israeli security officials recently presented the annual “Palestinian Incitement Index” which includes findings from recent months in which peace talks have been taking place. The findings demonstrate that incitement against Israel (and Jews as such) is continuing in the state controlled Palestinian media, and that during the period of negotiations, not only did incitement not lessen, but in certain areas even increased.
The data suggests that incitement encompasses several main messages:
Though the documentation on Palestinian incitement was made available to foreign journalists – and subsequently covered even by the New York Times – the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood, never shy about framing every Israeli announcement on housing tenders across the green line as an obstacle to peace – has not, as of yet, reported on the disturbing findings.
Here’s the sideshow that was released by the government:
(Note: The video clips seen in some slides can be viewed by clicking on the image.)
In our post on Dec. 25, we commented on a tendentious and highly misleading story published by Catherine Philp at The Times (Settlements choke peace in little town of Bethlehem) which argued that Israeli settlement policy was choking religious and economic life in the “fabled biblical town” and causing Christians to flee.
Specifically, we demonstrated that Philp made two significant errors:
Additionally, Philps’ piece was extremely misleading, as it completely ignored the primary reason for the Christian exodus from the town – the threat of violence and intimidation from Islamist extremists, mirroring the root cause of the flight of Christians from the Middle East more broadly. But, there was another implicit narrative advanced by Philps - and other journalists who have engaged in the annual Bethlehem-centered Israel bashing tradition: that tourism (and economic life in general) has been negatively affected by Israeli settlements and the security fence.
Interestingly, a report in the Jan. 3rd Jerusalem Post (print edition) by Omri Gaster, citing stats compiled by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (JIIS) – based on numbers from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) – further contradict Philps’ story. According to the report, Bethlehem has become a tourist destination which in some ways “rival[s] the city of Jerusalem”.
(Note about the graph below: Though the PCBS includes both Hebron and Bethlehem in Palestine’s “Southern District”, the overwhelming majority of the tourist trade is concentrated in Bethlehem. So, the data illustrated below refers primarily to overnight hotel stays in Bethlehem.)
As the author notes, in 2009 there were 287,000 hotel stays recorded in Bethlehem, while in 2012 the figure reached 550,000 – a 92 percent increase over the course of only four years. According to the JIIS, the primary factor behind this increase was a greater number of European tourists staying overnight in the city.
Moreover, such increasing hotel stays reflect broader economic trends, such as the fact that the overall number of visitors to Bethlehem has been increasing steadily over the years - a number which now approaches 2 million visitors annually.
Over the last two years, we’ve fisked stories about Bethlehem published at the Guardian – by Harriet Sherwood and Phoebe Greenwood – advancing misleading narratives about the alleged Israeli economic strangulation of the Christian holy city similar to Philps’ story in the Times, and again we come to the same conclusion: There seems to be little if any actual empirical data to indicate that the presence of settlements (or the security fence) is having an injurious economic impact on Bethlehem.
As U.S. brokered peace negotiations continue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, we thought it would be helpful to provide some context regarding reports by Harriet Sherwood that, in any final agreement, Israel wants permission to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley. The JCPA created a site dedicated to explaining why Israel feels it cannot withdraw from the area and rely on protection from the UN or other international forces.
Additionally, here’s a short video, produced by the JCPA, which effectively illustrates Israeli concerns.
A CiF Watch post on June 7 focused on a report by the Guardian about questions raised by some board members at the annual meeting of G4S – a British multinational security services company – regarding their business operations in Israel.
The Guardian story by Jennifer Rankin featured the following photo from an anti-G4S protest, organized by Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), outside the meeting.
The hooded prisoner represented in this display of political street theater was meant to draw attention to what anti-Zionist groups allege is the mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails. Indeed, PSC, parroting the narrative of the Palestinian Authority, characterizes the prisoners in question as “political prisoners”, a term, as CAMERA has demonstrated, which is a euphemism for all Palestinians in Israeli custody, even those convicted of lethal terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
Moreover, the sincerity of the “pro-Palestinian” sentiment of activist groups, and the Guardian editors who continually grant their cause a forum, seems quite questionable given their silence thus far in response to the disturbing sight of the following real hooded Palestinian – one of several photos released by the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza recently.
The imagery above does not represent leftist theatrical agitprop, but a genuine photo of one of two Palestinians just before they were hanged to death on Saturday on charges of ‘collaborating’ with Israel – two of at least 16 Palestinians who have been executed in Gaza for spying since Hamas seized the territory in 2007.
There is no mention of the execution on the site of PSC. Additionally, the Guardian’s correspondent in the region, Harriet Sherwood, though finding time recently to publish 3 stories about a Palestinian from Gaza who was a contestant on an Arab reality show, has thus far not covered the story. Moreover, this lapse in journalistic scrutiny of an extremely pressing issue relating to the human rights of Palestinians in Palestinian custody is not a one-off for Sherwood. She has also failed to cover the death of a Palestinian named Ayman Samara while in a Jericho jail, as well the broader disturbing story, reported elsewhere, involving the abuse and torture of Palestinian prisoners in PA run prisons.
In reading the Guardian’s coverage of the region, it’s impossible not to conclude that their reporters’ activist journalism on behalf of the human rights of Palestinians is necessarily subservient to the broader ideological aim of vilifying Israelis.
A Palestinian boy named Mohammed Al-Farra, now 3 1/2, was born in Khan Younis, Gaza with a genetic disease which led to amputations of his feet and hands, and left him with a compromised immune system and other debilitating conditions.
Though the boy naturally became completely dependent on others, his parents abandoned him and the Palestinian government refused to pay for his medical care. So, he now lives at Safra Children’s Hospital, in the Israeli city of Ramat Gan, where doctors began treating him when he was just an infant.
Mohammed spends his days undergoing treatment, getting around in a tiny wheelchair and learning how to use prosthetic limbs – and is cared for by his 55-year-old grandfather, Hamouda. The Israeli doctors have reportedly grown quite attached to the boy, and fundraise to cover the cost of his care, and which also allows him and his grandfather to live in the pediatric ward.
A recent report on the young disabled Palestinian boy in AP noted the following, which, though quite moving, wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has spent any time in Israeli hospitals.
On a recent day at the children’s hospital, patients and medics chatted in Hebrew and Arabic. Women in Muslim headscarves strolled in a corridor. An Orthodox Jewish woman affectionately patted Mohammed on his head. She nodded kindly at al-Farra.
In 2012, Israeli authorities approved 91.5 percent of applications from Gaza to receive medical care in Israel, a year in which a total of 219,469 Palestinian patients from the West Bank and Gaza received treatment in Israeli hospitals – a number which includes over 20,000 children.
A guest post by Gidon Ben-Zvi, who blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind
The Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood recently alerted loyal readers to the growing phenomenon of violence perpetrated by Jewish settlers throughout the West Bank (Jewish settler attacks on Palestinians listed as ‘terrorist incidents’ by US, August 20th). In fact, per Sherwood, assaults against Palestinians have become so rampant that “…violence by Jewish settlers has been cited for the first time in a US state department list of terrorist incidents“.
However, as the blog Mostly Kosher revealed, contrary to Sherwood’s claim, this isn’t “the first time”. In fact, State Department reports from 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010 similarly characterized specific acts of settler violence as “terrorism”.
Moreover, while these ‘price tag’ attacks have indeed grown in recent years, the overwhelming majority of Israelis deplore them. Additionally, a quick comparison between how the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority have respectively responded to these waves of violence reveals an Israeli resolve to address the issue rubbing up against predictable Palestinian cynicism aimed at exploiting it for political gain.
While the PA is quick to condemn price tag attacks on West Bank mosques, it actively glorifies acts of terror perpetrated by Palestinians against Israelis. The Palestinian Authority – a supposed island of moderation in a sea of Islamist-lead governments – simultaneously gives its assent to murder and entices future terrorists with assurances of glory and honor.
Sherwood goes beyond just whitewashing official PA compliance in such heinous acts: she doesn’t mention the Palestinian Authority once in her piece. And this is no mere oversight. By portraying the Palestinians as innocent and helpless, the taint and stink of institutionalized corruption and officially sanctioned terror is kept from contaminating the fairy tale that has been created of jackbooted Jewish thugs running roughshod over the perpetually persecuted Arabs.
Were that it were so. It makes for such delicious drama, doesn’t it? The truth is that while the PA lacks many powers associated with a proper state—such as complete control of its territory—it is responsible for providing such varied government services as education, criminal justice and health care for approximately three million Palestinians.
The US government has long categorized Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the secular al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as terrorist groups. All these groups and others have at one time or other operated from the Palestinian-ruled territories governed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
And the Palestinian Authority is not content to leave the dastardly deed of killing Israeli Jews to others. The PA does not just glorify or outsource terrorism, it actively funds it by paying monthly salaries to thousands of prisoners in Israeli prisons, including terrorists with blood on their hands. The source for these salaries is the Palestinian Authority’s general budget.
Sadly, the PA’s decades-long campaign to honor terrorists, presenting them as heroes and role models, has borne fruit. According to a new poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey (PSR), nearly half of all Palestinians (47.5 percent) support terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians inside the 1949 armistice lines.
In contrast, eighty-eight percent of the Jewish public has expressed opposition to price tag acts against Palestinians.
And while the Palestinian Authority has fanned the flames of racist incitement among its people, the Israeli government has loudly condemned any and all attacks on Palestinians. From Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Yesha settlers council head Danny Dayan, the response from Jerusalem has been uncompromising and clear: such acts “… of lawlessness and intolerance…” are committed by “criminals” and the government will “…act swiftly to bring the culprits to justice.”
Yet, Sherwood must have run up against a hard deadline since she neglected to include any of this historical and political context in her report. For while Jewish criminal elements must be held to account and brought to justice, their behavior has not occurred in a vacuum. To focus only on settler misbehavior is to ignore the context in which attacks on Jews in the West Bank is a regular occurrence, including Arab attacks on synagogues and other Jewish holy places.
Sherwood, while seemingly enthralled with the Palestinian narrative, evidently holds the Palestinian people and their government in such low regard that Arab violence is perceived as par for the course while Jews behaving badly illicits cries of condemnation that spill over into a questioning of Israel’s moral legitimacy.
While Sherwood’s talents and value as a reporter of news are questionable, she has a bright future as a romance novelist or fantasy writer. Perhaps she can call her first official work of fiction: “Arabian Knights Versus the Jewish Horde”.
(Editor’s note: I had to make a few ‘minor’ revisions to my original story.)
Israeli Palestinian Authority police arrested six Jews Muslims in Jerusalem Nablus and Jericho for publicly eating on the fast of Tisha B’Av Ramadan.
Jew Muslim was sentenced to one month in prison by Israeli courts the PA.
Breaking religious fasts are prohibited in
Israel many Arab and Muslim countries, with legal penalties varying from fines to short prison terms. According to Israeli law article 274 of the Palestinian penal code, citizens who violate Tisha B’Av Ramadan by eating in public risk up to one month in prison or a fine of the equivalent of $21.
Israeli religious authorities Chairman of the PA Supreme Court for Shari’ah Law said Israeli PA law should prohibit even non-Jews non-Muslims and those who cannot fast for health reasons from eating in public during the month. Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger Sheikh Yusuf Ida’is explained: “Our streets are Jewish Islamic,” and formal legislation should be enacted to “severely punish” anyone who eats publicly during Tisha B’Av or Yom Kippur Ramadan. Rabbi Metzger Sheikh Yusuf Ida’is told Israeli Palestinian TV that Tisha B’Av Ramadan offenders should be jailed as a warning to others.
“I call upon others to be considerate of
Jews’ Muslims’ feelings,” Metzger Ida’is added, asking non-Jewish non-Muslim Israelis Palestinians to refrain from eating in public on the holiday as well.
devoted considerable coverage to ignored the Israeli Palestinians’ egregious violation of religious freedom.
Several human rights NGOs announced that they will
issue a special report turn a blind eye to such anti-democratic and illiberal laws in Israel the Palestinian Authority.