Hidden in the final sentence of a Guardian/Reuters report on Sept. 20th, Egypt to host Gaza talks between Palestinian factions, on upcoming reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas and subsequent indirect talks between Hamas and Israel, is a remarkable accusation – albeit one not surprising to those familiar with Hamas‘s widespread human rights violations against their own civilians.
Former AP correspondent Matti Friedman, in his essay at Tablet on media coverage of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, explained that reporters “working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel”, whose “every action and flaw is analyzed, criticized and aggressively reported”, while, alternately, “Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate”.
The Guardian coverage of Israel and the greater region perfectly reflects this principle.
‘What can ‘forensic architecture’ reveal about the conflict in Gaza?‘, Guardian, Sept 1, focuses on the Haifa-born, London educated architect Eyal Weizman, evidently famous in some circles as the “chief proponent of “forensic architecture”, which analyzes the “impacts of urban warfare” for clues about the crimes perpetrated there.
When he looks out across the landscape of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, as he does in the film The Architecture of Violence, to be aired on Al Jazeera today, [Eyal Weizman] sees a battlefield. “The weapons and ammunitions are very simple elements: they are trees, they are terraces, they are houses. They are barriers.”
In the kitchen of his east London home…he says the most obvious and contentious aspect of what he calls the “architecture of occupation” is the system of Israeli settlements. Perched on West Bank hilltops, they are strategically positioned, according to Weizman, so that they look out over the Palestinian valleys and towns below, in order “to dominate”.
Then, the kicker:
Each of the uniformly suburban-looking houses – all with mandatory red roofs so that on flyovers the Israeli army know[s] not to target them – is “itself like an optical instrument,” he tells me.
As bizarre as this claim is, amazingly it has been advanced previously. Just a few months ago, the Chairman of Norwegian People’s Aid, Finn Erik, said pretty much the same thing at a lecture in Norway. But, as popular blogger Elder of Ziyon demonstrated, there are multiple reasons why this claim doesn’t withstand even the slightest scrutiny.
- Most Palestinians in Judea and Samaria live in areas A and B under control of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA has full responsibility for zoning and import of building materials, including the type of roof tiles that can be used. There are no Palestinian regulations that prohibit the use of red roof tiles.
- Israel has no laws or regulations that prohibit the use of red roof tiles in Area C which is under Israeli control. This means that both Arabs and Jews who build in this area can use red roof tiles in their houses, if they want to.
- The Israeli air force uses precision weapons that can hit its target with great accuracy both day and night, and is completely independent of the color of the house or on the roof tiles.
- Most Palestinian houses do not have red roof tiles is that they do not tile their roofs at all. The traditional Arab architecture in the area includes a solarium that can be used for different purposes.
- A number of houses built in recent years in Arab settlements in Israel, Judea and Samaria, have red tiles.
Additionally, Elder noted that Israeli aircraft does not bomb houses in Judea and Samaria. And, indeed, as far as we can tell there hasn’t been an air strike anywhere in the West Bank, for any reason, since the height of the 2nd Intifada.
Since there were no local skilled builders at the beginning of the 19th century the English had even been forced to import stonecutters from Malta no antagonism was felt towards the foreign styles that sprouted on the local landscape. Consciously or not, that century witnessed the belated victory of the Crusaders, with the creation of a Christian presence in the Holy Land, which took over the educational and welfare system and began the Europeanization of this part of the world.
The local population began to copy the European styles of building. Wealthy Arab families who had left the Old City began building villas and mansions in the European style, albeit heavily decorated with traditional Moslem embellishments. The cities that were then growing adopted European terraced housing and the sloping red-tiled roofs.
The Jews, who had lived till then in homes rented from Arabs, also began to establish their own independent neighbourhoods. Mishkenot Shaananim (lit. “tranquil dwellings”) was the first such area in Jerusalem. It was built with the help of the British philanthropist, Sir Moses Montefiore, in 1860, as a series of long buildings topped by sloping, red-tiled roofs.
Red-tiled roofs, which came to symbolize the Jewish presence and represented the idealized “home”;
Just as in the beginning, the Israeli still sees the red roof as a status symbol.
As Matti Friedman explained in his masterful essay at Tablet Magazine, one of the iron-clad rules of media coverage of the region requires that “every flaw in Israeli society is aggressively reported”, to which he should have added: even those ‘flaws‘ which are merely a figment of the increasingly wild anti-Zionist imagination.
However, there were widely reported public executions in Gaza much more recently than the 90s.
- During the 2012 war (Pillar of Defense), Hamas “publicly put an end“ to at least 7 suspected ‘collaborators’.
- During the 2008-2009 war (Cast Lead), Hamas executed dozens of Palestinians in the streets, again for suspected ‘collaboration’.
- And, during their violent coup in Gaza in 2007, Hamas carried out at least eight known summary executions, mostly for ‘treason’.
So, it clearly is not accurate to claim that the recent public executions in Gaza were the first since the 1990s.
After our communication with Indy editors, they deleted the sentence which claimed that these recent executions were the first in the enclave since the 90s.
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.
If a radical right-wing U.S. group possessed an ideology which was homophobic, misogynistic, and anti-democratic, and continually attempted to murder a historically oppressed minority to clean the region of their ‘pernicious influence’ – due to their fundamentalist interpretation of a religious text – anti-racist commentators at the Guardian would stand proudly on the side of the besieged minority and rightfully demonize the racist extremist group.
Transplant this scenario to the Mid-East (and replace the white sheets with black face masks and green headbands) however, and such moral clarity – which distinguishes between a racist extremist group and the minorities they’re targeting – often gets blurred.
In a review of BBC2’s The Honourable Woman, the Guardian’s diplomatic correspondent Julian Borger (Can The Honourable Woman teach us anything about the Gaza conflict?, Aug. 20) presents another example of media group’s profound moral confusion when interpreting conflicts between Israel and Islamist extremists.
Borger characterizes the show as “a tale of intrigue, betrayal and silk blouses set against the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, and then adds: “Whether we will have learned anything about Gaza or the Israeli-Palestinian struggle is another matter”.
Border then writes:
So the ruthless and omnipotent assassin, a regular plot device of political thrillers, is in this case a Palestinian militant. Just like the show’s American inspiration, Homeland…it revives the spectre of the Arab bogeyman as the evil genius among us, ghosting across borders on false passports.
This is understandably vexing for Palestinians. After all, it is Mossad that has won itself the reputation in recent years for sending assassins to kill abroad on forged identity papers. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have largely fought their battles on home turf with much blunter methods.
Likewise, the agony of liberal British Jews looking on in horror at the bloodletting in Israel and the Palestinian territories is true to life. What feels like a sentimental anachronism is the central premise in the plot: that they can do anything to change it. It is hard to imagine in these dark times that it would be so easy for a well-meaning Jewish philanthropist to breeze through the West Bank and for her saccharine, slightly condescending speeches to be received so admiringly by Palestinian students. Hard to imagine, too, that Nessa Stein would have such an easy time of it in Netanyahu’s Israel. These days, there would be rightwing mobs outside her doveish events, chanting: “Death to the Arabs.”
Leaving aside Borger’s risible suggestion that Palestinian jihadist groups have shown more restraint than Israel when carrying out attacks on their enemies, the Guardian editor’s review is notable in which political actor in the Middle East is identified as the racist (Jewish mobs chanting “death to Arabs”) and which one is the unfairly stereotyped minority (the “Arab bogeyman”).
It’s important to read such passages in the context of the Guardian overall coverage of both the current war between Hamas and Israel, and the broader Israeli-Islamist Conflict.
Though Guardian correspondents sometimes note that Hamas is ‘considered’ a terrorist group by much of the West, their reporters, editors and commentators almost never explain to their readers that Hamas is an antisemitic extremist group - a reactionary racist, violent, fundamentalist movement at odds with the liberal, enlightenment values they claim to champion.
Whilst the Guardian never tires in highlighting racism (real or imagined) expressed by the most unrepresentative fringe elements in Israeli society, they almost uniformly avoid mentioning that the group currently ruling Gaza literally calls for the extermination of Jews. It simply isn’t possible for UK news consumers to clearly understand the battles being waged in Israel and Gaza while ignorant of this fundamental fact about Hamas’s eliminationist antisemitism.
Reports about ceasefire negotiations between the two parties in Cairo which merely emphasize that Hamas demands a loosening of the Israeli blockade, while ignoring that their end goal continues to be the annihilation of the only Jewish state, are akin to media reports during WWII noting Germany’s territorial aspirations without any context regarding Hitler’s belief in Aryan racial supremacy and his wish to exterminate Jews and other ‘undesirables’.
On the other hand, it is heartening to see the support – among many Guardian contributors – for the West’s efforts to rein in an apocalyptic and genocidal Middle-East based, Sunni extremist offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood with a global expansionist worldview, which targets civilians, ruthlessly murders its enemies, possesses a pathological hatred for Jews and advocates Sharia Law over universal human rights.
So, what accounts for such a profound moral inconsistency? Why are Palestinian jihadists not like the other jihadists?
Though antisemitism is one factor which partly explains this phenomenon (among some Guardian contributors and journalists), the more widespread political dynamics at play are moral relativism, an egregiously skewed understanding of anti-imperialism, a glorification of ‘Palestinian resistance’ and an obsession with Jews and Israel - in short, the signature ideological ticks of the Guardian Left.
There is, however, one more factor.
We are often asked if we believe the Guardian to be institutionally antisemitic. While their obsessive and almost entirely negative coverage of the Jewish State fans the flame of antisemitism, this writer, for one, does not believe the media group is compromised institutionally by anti-Jewish racism.
It may be more accurate to observe in the Guardian worldview a capacity to forcefully condemn antisemitism in the abstract, but an inability to summon such righteous indignation when doing so would require parting company with other ‘historically oppressed’ groups, and indeed challenge their very ideological identity.
In their failure to condemn Hamas, and morally distinguish antisemitic extremists from the Jews they’re trying to kill, lies not a visceral antipathy towards Jews as such, but a tragic lack of courage to follow their convictions into uncomfortable political places – cowardliness which continues to bring dishonour to their once proud journalistic community.
However, the Guardian, in an especially egregious abuse of Holocaust memory, did publish a letter (originally posted by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network titled ‘Over 300 Survivors and Descendants of Survivors of Victims of the Nazi Genocide Condemn Israel’s Assault on Gaza‘) condemning alleged Israeli pro-genocidal policies.
We’re not sure which is more unlikely: that ‘liberal’ Palestinians would ever conceive of writing a similarly self-critical letter, or that the Guardian would ever publish it. But, here’s what such a letter – let’s say written by Palestinian Nakba survivors – condemning Hamas’s real plan of genocide against the Jews would possibly look like:
As Palestinian survivors and descendants of survivors of the Nakba, we unequivocally condemn Hamas’s genocidal ideology and statements by their top political and religious leaders attesting to their ongoing plan to exterminate the Jews.
We further condemn Western states more generally for failing to use their diplomatic muscle and moral authority to forcefully denounce this extreme form of anti-Jewish racism at every opportunity.
Genocide begins with the silence of the world.
We are similarly alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Jews within Palestinian society, which has reached fever-pitch.
We are saddened by polls indicating that 93% of Palestinians hold antisemitic views, that Politicians and pundits in the state-controlled Palestinian media (in Gaza and the West Bank) have openly called for genocide, and that innocent Palestinian children are indoctrinated on the necessity of murdering Jews.
Furthermore, we are outraged by the media’s failure to adequately inform readers, in the ubiquitous articles and commentaries published about the current war, that Hamas has no discernible political objectives, save of course the extermination of Jews from the Middle East.
Though we continue to mourn the loss of our homes at the hands of Israeli forces in the war of 1948, and hope for a just solution to the refugee problem, nothing can justify firing rockets at Israeli civilian communities, targeting Jewish children in mass terror attacks and nurturing Palestinian men, women and children on the virtues of Jihad.
We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to condemn the scourge of Palestinian antisemitism and say ‘Not in our name’!
Hamas does not speak for us and does not represent our values.
“Never again” must mean “Never again”.
Survivors of the Palestinian Nakba and their descendants
Guardian readers’ editor Chris Elliott, in an Aug. 18th column on the Hamas ‘child sacrifice’ advert featuring Elie Wiesel, wrote the following in the context of suggesting that his paper’s decision to publish the ad was not a wise one.
whatever the intention, the biblical language, the references to child sacrifice, all evoke images of that most ancient of antisemitic tropes: the blood libel. The authors may believe that they have steered a careful course by aiming these matters at an organisation, Hamas, rather than all Palestinians, but the association is there. If an advertisement was couched in similar terms but the organisation named was the IDF rather than Hamas, I can’t imagine the Guardian would run it – I certainly hope it wouldn’t. I think that’s the issue.
Of course, the difference between charging soldiers of the Jewish State with a blood libel (the historic allegation that Jews murder non-Jews, especially children, and use their blood for religious rituals, part of a broader narrative regarding Jewish “murder-lust”) vs leveling such charges at Hamas is that there is no history of racist anti-Palestinian blood libel tropes.
However, there’s another claim in Elliott’s critique of the ad which is even more dubious:
Each advertisement has clearly got to be decided on a case-by-case basis, bearing in mind not just specific criteria but the context of the times as well. I entirely support the argument that freedom of expression means the freedom to offend. On that basis I don’t think it was wrong to run an advertisement that expressed a viewpoint, with which the Guardian has no sympathy, about the alleged use of human shields by Hamas, which the organisation has strenuously denied. But there are always limits.
So, Hamas has “strenuously denied” the charge? Really?
Contrary to Elliott’s claim, the official Hamas spokesman couldn’t possibly have been clearer about the use of human shields: “We in Hamas call upon our people to adopt this policy“.
- Hate emerges from beneath the surface: Antisemitism in the UK (July 2014) (cifwatch.com)
- London Times rejects anti-Hamas advert for fear it could upset their readers (cifwatch.com)
- The Anti-Jewish Riots Have Exposed Hamas (algemeiner.com)
- Owen Jones, and the Left’s blind spot over antisemitism (cifwatch.com)
- Britain’s The Guardian Blocks Dershowitz Ad on Hamas Tactics (algemeiner.com)
- Buried by the Guardian: Hamas War Crimes (cifwatch.com)
Since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas, the Independent has been competing with the Guardian to see who can most effectively demonize the Jewish state while excusing or ignoring the reactionary Islamist group running Gaza. And, though today’s commentary in the Indy may not represent the defining contribution in this race to the moral bottom, it should at least be noted in the category of great achievements in modern manifestations of ancient anti-Jewish calumnies.
Leave it to Mark Steel, a commentator and comedian, to even outdo fellow British comedian cum anti-Israel activist Alexei Sayle – who had compared Israel to a child rapist, in a video highlighted by both the Indy and Guardian – in an op-ed titled ‘How silly of me to assume it was Israeli bombs causing all the damage in Gaza‘.
Here’s Steel’s attempt at mockery, likening Israelis to a community of child murderers.
In recent years most of humanity has become more tolerant of groups who once seemed to be on the margins of society. But until now it’s still been acceptable to be offensive about one minority: the child murdering community.
At last it seems the mood is changing, and finally we’re beginning to hear the child murderers’ point of view.
Steel, again evoking the Israeli child murderer theme, mocks Israeli ‘claims’ that Hamas uses Palestinian non-combatants, including children, as human shields to protect their fighters and to score PR victories by the resulting civilian casualties – a strategy that Hamas spokesmen (and some journalists in Gaza) have openly acknowledged.
Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out for child murderers’ civil rights by informing us the Palestinians deliberately arrange the “telegenically dead” to be filmed, to attract sympathy. So it seems Hamas stroll round bomb sites, placing the prettiest corpses on view for film crews, otherwise we’d all think “it doesn’t matter that the Israelis killed that kid, he was an ugly little bastard anyway”.
Steele then alludes to Israeli ‘ethnic cleansing’.
As the bombing continues I expect we’ll hear more reasons why the Palestinians are to blame for being bombed. An Israeli minister will say, “These people in Gaza are always complaining that they live in a densely populated area, so we’re trying to help them out by reducing the population as much as we can to give them more space. But they’re still not happy. Some people are never satisfied.”
In less enlightened times, those responsible for such murder would be snarled at in the street and their pictures displayed on newspapers under inflammatory headlines. But thankfully we’re growing more liberal, and can only regret that more thought wasn’t given to treating murderers kindly in the past.
Steele then evokes the crimes of Fred West, the British serial killer who, over a span of twenty or so years, tortured and raped scores of young women and girls.
Poor Fred West, for example, instead of barely being given a chance to make his case, could have sat in television studios saying, “Of course I regret the deaths of civilians. But you have to understand these people I murdered could be a bloody nuisance. I was lured into killing them, and I’m not even sure I did kill them until I’ve carried out my own investigation. Some of them kill themselves to get sympathy by booby-trapping their ironing boards, you know
As times change, maybe Netanyahu and his spokesmen will become more forthright, and organise “Child Murderer Pride” in which child murderers can get together for a procession and carnival, where they can at last feel safe, and no longer feel looked down on for carrying out their basic human right to bomb a school to bits.
Though I must admit to at times being tone-deaf to British humour, I have enough experience deciphering the musings of the pseudo ‘sophisticated’ liberal left in the UK to deduce that the witty Brit who penned the Indy column honestly believes that political and military leaders of the Jewish State – perhaps just for kicks, or maybe motivated by some sadistic homicidal fantasy – intentionally murders innocent children.
No doubt it was lost on Steel – who evidently sees nothing to remotely offensive, yet alone mockable, in calls by Hamas’s religious and political leaders to literally exterminate the Jews – that his meme regarding ‘Jewish blood lust’ comports perfectly with a decidedly medieval element of the Palestinian Islamist group’s historically familiar propaganda campaign.
Here’s the latest Peter Brooks cartoon published at The Times (of London)
First, note that the pile of dead Israeli bodies shows a mix of soldiers and civilians, while the Palestinian pile seems to depict only civilians. Evidently, Brooks is uncritically accepting figures provided by the Hamas run Gaza Health Ministry (cited uncritically by the media) claiming that up to 80% of those killed in Gaza have been civilians, rather alternative figures suggesting that the number may end up being closer to 50% civilians.
However, more interesting than his statistical assumption is his specious moral calculus, one which seems to rest upon the argument that the disparity in casualties between Gaza and Israel demolishes Israel’s claim to the moral high ground. This faulty assumption is refuted by examining the disparity in casualties in other just wars, such as the Kosovo Campaign, in which NATO forces suffered no casualties during their 77 days of bombings, while over 500 Yugoslav civilians and another 500 or so combatants were killed.
Would anyone argue that the NATO campaign (to stop the ethnic cleansing of Albanians), was morally compromised by virtue of this huge disparity pf roughly 1,000 to 0?
Of course, similar disparities in casualties were evident in the NATO operation in Afghanistan and the ongoing US drone campaign on al-Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan. Yet, very few would suggest that NATO lost the moral high ground by virtue of this imbalance in deaths.
The real moral disparity in this war relates to the fact that the IDF diligently protects its own citizens while taking precautions few if any other armies would take to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties. While Hamas, on the other hand – whose leaders just repeated their mantra that they love death while Israelis love life – launches rockets almost exclusively at Israeli civilians, while intentionally placing their own civilians in harm’s way (the documented use of human shields) to protect their fighters and gain PR points when civilians are killed.
Since the start of the war, Hamas has fired 2,830 rockets and mortars at Israeli communities, while the IDF has struck over 4200 Hamas targets. Though of course there have been Israeli misfires, and Palestinian civilians have tragically been killed as the result of Hamas forces firing from civilian buildings, drawing IDF return fire. Yet, despite the sensational media reports suggesting otherwise, Israeli forces don’t intentionally target Palestinian civilians.
If the Times cartoonist is suggesting that more Israeli deaths would allow the state to lay claim to the moral high ground, he should remember that the primary duty of any country is to protect its citizens from harm, that there is neither nobility nor virtue in victim-hood, and Israelis certainty need not apologize for their effectiveness at protecting their citizens from attacks launched, let’s remember, by an antisemitic extremist group which seeks its destruction.
Before posting two of the letters that Guardian editors decided to publish, on July 30, first let’s look at the headline.
Again, remember that these are not simply comments below the line, but letters to the editor that Guardian editors believed had merit, and provided “historical context” to help understand the conflict.
Moral justification of Palestinian terrorism / Genocide charge.
A few observations: First, the letter is comparing Israel’s war against Hamas (and, presumably their conflict with the Palestinians more broadly) with genocides in the Balkans, Rwanda and Sudan. However, what particularly stands out is the implicit justification of Palestinian terrorism. Of course, we should remember that the Guardian has, on several occasions, amplified and legitimized voices which justified, on moral grounds, the Palestinians’ right to murder Israelis.
- In 2011, the Guardian published a letter by a British philosophy professor which explicitly defended the right of Palestinians to murder Israeli civilians in terror attacks – an editorial decision which was actually defended by their readers’ editor following the uproar which ensued.
- Also in 2011, the Guardian editorialized about the ‘Arab Spring’, and actually praised the Palestinians for launching intifadas.
- In 2012, during the war in Gaza, Associate Editor Seumas Milne wrote an op-ed of Hamas terrorists to launch terror attacks against Israelis, and argued that Israel has no such moral right to defend itself.
- On July 16, 2014, Seumas Milne again revisited the same topic in a column about the current war in Gaza, and reiterated his belief that Palestinians have the right to engage in deadly acts of terrorism, while Israelis have no such right to defend themselves against Hamas.
- On July 25th, a Guardian journalist and British priest named Giles Fraser published a column which defended, on moral grounds, ‘just’ acts of Palestinian terrorism.
We should point out that there is absolutely no international law which legally codifies the right to commit terrorism.
There was one more letter worth examining, one which evoked Nazi Germany in contextualizing Israeli crimes.
We have deconstructed such comparisons in the past, but let’s suggest to Mr. McCulloch that the only relevant analogy to Nazi Germany in the current conflict is that the world is once again silent in the face of expressions of openly genocidal Jew-hatred by Islamist extremists such as Hamas. And, if anyone out there believes our characterization of Hamas is over-the-top, here’s a speech delivered by Mahmoud al-Zahar, senior leader and co-founder of the group, on Al-Aqsa TV in 2010:
If you’d like a more recent example, here’s Hamas’s Friday Sermon which aired on Al Aqsa TV on July 25th.
Of course, as anyone who has taken the time to look at sites such as Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI would surely know, homicidal (and often genocidal) antisemitism is not the exception within Palestinian society.
Those in the Western media who legitimize narratives suggesting that Israelis are engaged in a project akin to genocide against Palestinians, thus justifying acts of violent resistance, are engaging in a profound historical inversion – blinded perhaps by a far-left ideology which can’t morally distinguish between antisemitic extremists and the Jews they’re trying to kill.
- British Priest (and Guardian journalist) defends Palestinian terrorism (cifwatch.com)
- The Guardian fetishizes the ‘culture’ of Palestinian terrorismcifwatch.com)
On July 25th we posted about the UK media’s rush to judgement after 15 Palestinian civilians were reportedly killed at a UNWRA school in the Gaza city of Beit Hanoun last Thursday. The Guardian, Independent, The Times, The Telegraph, Daily Mail, and Daily Mirror were among the publications which immediately blamed Israel hours after the incident, despite the dearth of evidence at the time.
However, as we noted in our most recent post last night (July 27), an Israeli army inquiry into the fighting at the UN facility in Beit Hanoun found that IDF mortars did NOT play a role in the killing of 16 people in the school courtyard. The army admitted that an errant IDF-fired shell did hit the UN-run school’s yard, but at a time when there were evidently no people in the area – as the video further in this post shows.
More details were provided by IDF spokesman Peter Lerner, who told reporters yesterday that the IDF had returned fired at Hamas targets (which were stationed near the school) on the day in question, and that one of the errant tank mortars landed in the school courtyard, “injuring no one“. Lerner said it was “extremely unlikely” that anyone had been killed by the mortar round that fell in the empty yard. Lerner also noted that it was quite “out of the ordinary” that Palestinian health officials in Gaza did not share the nature of the wounds of the casualties, which may have shed light on the causes of death.
Here’s the IDF video we posted yesterday, which shows the errant tank shell landing in what appears to be a vacant school yard:
Now, let’s look back at the UK news organizations which immediately blamed Israel for the attack on the UN school.
The Guardian, July 25 (One of the lead stories)
The Guardian, July 25 (Additional story on the attack)
The Guardian, July 24 (Their initial video report on the attack)
The Independent, July 24 (One of the lead stories)
The Times, July 24 (An updated article by Catherine Philp of the one seen above included a headline charging Israel with committing a “massacre”)
Telegraph, July 24
Telegraph, July 24
Daily Mail, July 24
Daily Mirror, July 24
Not one of these UK news sites, at the time of this post, have revised their original articles or published a new story which includes the IDF’s new video evidence.
Since the new information at the very least calls into question the accuracy of the initial reports, editors should take note of the clause in the Editor’s Code of Practice which demands the following:
A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.
Let’s jump to their main argument:
The chain of causation, as with so much else in Israel, leads back to Ariel Sharon
The Guardian explains:
He conceived of withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 as above all a tactic which would allow him to postpone wider negotiations on the future of the West Bank and weaken the Palestine Liberation Organisation. He would garner some peace laurels while inducing the Americans to give commitments on what Israel could keep when and if West Bank negotiations began again. It was a skillful and even a brave piece of political maneuvering both domestically and internationally; but it was also a cynical and ultimately a counter-productive one.
Israeli divide and rule policies had already had the effect of strengthening the PLO’s more militant rivals. Before disengagement, Israeli security forces attempted to decapitate the extremist leadership. Hamas might even so have opted for co-existence, but it did not. It went on to win the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, and then the Hamas coup of 2007 set the stage for the periodic confrontations of which this month’s fighting is the latest, but not necessarily the last.
It will only be the last if it is grasped that the way Israel left Gaza institutionalised violent conflict rather than made it less likely. Those Israelis who portray the disengagement as an act of generosity for which they have received no credit misunderstand what happened. Unilateral disengagement in Gaza weakened Palestinian moderates, enabled successive Israeli governments to drag their feet in peace negotiations and is even now being used by prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who opposed it at the time, to lay down Israeli security requirements for any future disengagement from the West Bank which would make a peace settlement almost impossible to achieve
So, Ariel Sharon, and not Palestinians, was the party responsible for electing, in 2006, an antisemitic extremist terror group which rejected Israel’s right to exist within any borders, to run their affairs.
And, evidently, Ariel Sharon, and not Hamas, was the party responsible for subsequently firing thousands of rockets at Israeli towns, abducting Israeli soldiers and engaging in other acts of terror.
Further, apparently it was Ariel Sharon’s fault that the leaders of Hamas diverted billions of dollars in aid money to construct a labyrinth of terror tunnels in the hopes of launching even more deadly cross border attacks on Israeli civilians.
Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza was, you see, was apparently just a sinister, furtive plan by Ariel Sharon to further subjugate Palestinians and – in the Guardian’s words – “institutionalize” Palestinian violence.
We’ve often argued that the Guardian’s denial of Palestinian moral agency – the liberal racism of no expectations – informs much of their coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and this editorial is, in many respects, exhibit A.
(Editor’s note: The strap line for the Guardian editorial, “The roots of the violence go back to the Israeli withdrawal in 2005″, was cropped out of the graphic above to allow readers to see how they reached their conclusion further in the text.)
While The Times (of London) is one of the better British newspapers on issues relating to Israel, it’s surprising nonetheless that any major paper in the UK would publish the following cartoon (by Peter Brooks), as it represents an unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and calls out the Islamist group for their tactic of using human shields.
Such open criticism of an antisemitic extremist group is, sadly, the rare exception within a UK media which, conversely, often posts graphic agitprop advancing the most toxic calumnies about the democratic Jewish State – a sad commentary on the moral confusion which grips the opinion elite in that country.
Hamas terrorists fired approximately 2270 rockets at Israeli civilians since the beginning of the current war. We know that a percentage of mortars and Grad rockets have fallen short and landed in Gazan territory – quite possibly (based on past experiences) injuring or killing Palestinian civilians. You may recall that most UK media outlets accused Israel of firing a missile, during the 2012 war in Gaza, which killed the 11 month old son of BBC Arabic cameraman Jihad Misharawi.
Their skepticism was well-founded.
On March 6th 2013 the United Nations Human Rights Council issued an advance version of its report on the November war and noted the following about the death of Ahmad Misharawi.
“On 14 November, a woman, her 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult in Al-Zaitoun were killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.” [emphasis added]
Following communication with CiF Watch in the days following the release of the UNHRC report, quite a few UK media outlets corrected their original stories, and noted that a Palestinian rocket likely caused the death of Misharawi’s son.
So, we were somewhat surprised to say the least to see the following photo accompany a batch of Guardian letters published on July 23rd. (Note the caption below the photo.)
They decided to use a photo of an infant who was killed by an ‘errant’ Palestinian rocket to illustrate the view – expressed by one letter writer – that “Israel’s attacks are an extension of military rule and collective punishment by a brutal apartheid state”.
Evidently, old, disproven media smears against Israel never actually die.
They simply get recycled at the Guardian.