Cross posted from CAMERA’s blog Snapshots
Just how extreme and bigoted does someone have to be for Guardian editors to decide against granting his views on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict legitimacy?
Would you say that an ‘expert’ who’s a 9/11 conspiracy theorist – having argued that the attacks on NYC and Washington were an “inside job” – should be discredited as a source whose criticism of Israel has merit?
And, what if this same ‘expert’ accused Israel of having “genocidal intentions” and of slouching towards a “Palestinian Holocaust” while, conversely, praising the late Iranian dictator Ayatollah Khomeini for his “humane governance”?
Well, according to the Guardian, the racist conspiracist cum ‘expert’ in question – Richard Falk – indeed deserves to have his criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza amplified.
A recent update from the Guardian’s Live Blog of the war noted the following.
Dozens of international law experts, including John Dugard and Richard Falk, both former UN special rapporteurs on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, have said the “civilian population of the Gaza Strip is under attack”. They say that the launch of rockets from Gaza is illegal under international law as well as morally intolerable but that Israel’s actions are of “incomparable magnitude”.
- WSJ: Anti-Semitic, Anti-American Conspiracy Theorist Set for Princeton Honors (thetower.org)
- When anti-Semites at the Guardian fall out (cifwatch.com)
Cross posted by London-based blogger Richard Millett
“Boycott, Boycott, Boycott. Boycott Israeli products and settlement products. Put pressure on Israel economically. It’s the language THEY understand,” Mahmoud Doughlas implored his audience last night.
Doughlas wasn’t pressed on what he meant by “they”, but the language certainly seemed to contain a racist undercurrent.
Doughlas was speaking, via Skype from Nablus, at a PSC event hosted by P21 Gallery. The event was Education under Occupation – stories from West Bank and Gaza students.
Doughlas, an electrical engineering student at Birzeit University, was speaking from Nablus because, he said, Britain had refused him an entry visa.
He began by telling the audience that when he was in 7th grade Israeli soldiers entered his school “randomly injuring people” and throwing teargas into the classrooms. He couldn’t breathe for 15 minutes and ended up in hospital.
He claimed that one of his friends had been imprisoned for 18 months for writing graffiti on a settlement wall and, if I heard correctly, he said Palestinians have even “been arrested for dreaming about doing something”.
Meanwhile, Jehan al Farra, an alumnus of the Islamic University in Gaza, definitely was in London. She had been in the UK since September studying for a Masters in Computer Studies.
Her main preoccupation last night was describing the problems of studying in Gaza, especially getting to and from academic institutions there due to fuel shortages.
During the Q&A an audience member pointed out that she is highly articulate and very confident, which is a tribute to her teachers and the syllabus. This was a difficult point for her to address without admitting that, just maybe, the situation isn’t as bad as her and her colleagues were attempting to portray.
But she did address another point when an audience member claimed that “Israel had worked hard to destroy Palestinian heritage”. Al Farra said that Israel had even “occupied Palestinian culture”. An example she gave was the Israeli keffiyeh.
Maybe al Farra should read this interesting statement on the Israeli keffiyeh:
“Jews indigenous to the Middle East, such as my family is, have worn some variation of the “kefyah” (cap/kippah) and keffiyeh (head/neck scarves) for thousands of years.”
Here is al Farra last night describing how Palestinians sometimes get killed in accidents when using electricity generators:
Last night the PSC was sporting its brand new logo (see top photo – top left of screen). However, on the PSC website and their leaflets the logo is still the map of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, which is far more honest about their intentions for Israel:
And PSC’s Ameena Saleem, who was chairing last night’s event, wasted no opportunity to call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. This, as we know, is merely code for calling for the Jewish state’s destruction.
P21 Gallery, itself, has a fairly large space at 21 Chalton Street. It supported St James’s Church’s Bethlehemfest over the Christmas period when St James’s Church ran a number of anti-Israel events while also erecting a copy of Israel’s security wall outside its premises in central London.
St James’s Church called for the real wall, which saves lives, to be dismantled. An astonishing £30,000 was spent building the copy wall.
Meanwhile, the charitable objectives of P21 Gallery (registered number 1153141) are:
“TO WORK IN COLLABORATION WITH BRITISH AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, ORGANISATIONS, ARTISTS, CURATORS AND DESIGNERS TO PROMOTE, DOCUMENT AND FACILITATE PUBLIC ACCESS TO ARAB ART AND CULTURE IN BRITAIN BY ESTABLISHING AND MAINTAINING AN ART GALLERY AND CULTURAL CENTRE FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PUBLIC.”
But the website of P21 Gallery states:
“The P21 Gallery is a London-based non-profit organisation promoting contemporary Middle Eastern and Arab art and culture with distinct focus on Palestine.”
Judging by last night’s event I think that the charitable objectives could possibly be more clearly defined as: Facilitating the destruction of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian state.
But then that wouldn’t have sounded too charitable to the Charity Commissioners.
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.
Did the Indy get it wrong again?
You may have been following our ongoing investigation into a wild story by Indy reporter Adam Withnall, in an article on Jan 1, which claimed the Israeli government is torturing Palestinian children – a reckless charge that the paper seems to have no real evidence to support. (Though we’ve already prompted a correction to one of the specific claims made by Withnall, we’re continuing to press them to take further action and, barring any new evidence, acknowledge that the entire story is untrue.)
More recently, the Indy published an article by Business Editor Jim Armitage (based on an unnamed source) claiming the UK security company G4S “is facing an investigation by international authorities into its alleged activities in…the occupied Palestinian territories”. However, this also may be completely inaccurate.
Though, according to Armitage, the “Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) UK staff have indicated that it will be investigating the company’s work supplying Israeli security services,” according to a story in The Jewish Chronicle (The JC), a G4S spokesperson said that the Indy report was ‘wrong’. The spokesperson further said that “the firm was not under investigation and that it had not been contacted by the OECD or any government department.”
Further, per The JC, the “OECD said it was not directly involved with any such inquiries.”
We’ll continue to follow this story and update you if there are any further developments.
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:
- She falsely claimed that Israeli settlements “encircle” Bethlehem.
- She falsely claimed that Bethlehem is more densely populated than Gaza (a claim later corrected following our communication with Times editors).
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.
A British lawyer named Roy Amlot wrote an op-ed for The Times, ‘West Bank: justice in the military courts‘, Nov. 14, recounting his recent experiences visiting the West Bank “to observe the military courts in action…under the aegis of the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC).”
BHRC claims it is dedicated to “promoting principles of justice and respect for fundamental human rights through the rule of law in different parts of the world”, by working within the legal and human rights sectors of various countries.
Amlot begins by explaining his visit to the region:
A small group of barristers recently visited the West Bank to observe the military courts in action — our second such visit under the aegis of the Bar Human Rights Committee. Since our first visit a few years ago a number of changes have been made by the Israeli authorities, such as the introduction of a Juvenile Military Court, and the purpose of the visit was to see what impact these had made. Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank are tried for a wide range of offences, including motoring ones, in military courts run by the Israeli Army, and in which all officials from judges to prosecutors to translators are serving Army officers.
Some of his reflections seem painfully obvious, such as his observation that the atmosphere at military courts can be “intimidating”.
A whole range of sentences is available to the court. We visited the two courts of Ofer and Salem in the West Bank, where both adults and children were on trial, separately, but without any obvious sign when the court moved from one jurisdiction to the other. In both courts the atmosphere is intimidating.
In other passages, Amlot’s attempts to provide context strain credulity, such as when he employs the following absurd political analogy:
A large Berlin-like wall runs north to south along a route declared unlawful by the International Court of Justice for the fact that it cuts deep into Palestinian territory, dividing families and their communities from their lands.
First, less than 10% of the security fence – built in response to waves of deadly terrorist attacks during the Second Intifada – is actually a “wall”, with the vast majority composed of a chain-link fence. Additionally, the sections which are concrete walls were designed with the decidedly humanitarian purpose of preventing Palestinian snipers from shooting at Israeli civilian vehicles. More importantly, in case it needs reminding, the Berlin Wall was built by communist East Germany to keep their citizens from leaving, whilst the Israeli security fence was constructed to keep terrorists from entering.
However, the most egregious smear is found in the last paragraph of Amlot’s piece:
Where sentences are imposed [against Israeli soldiers], they are woefully lenient. Killing a Palestinian child may attract no more than a few months of community service. It is discrimination at its worst.
First, the dearth of anything resembling details in his broad claim makes it difficult to know what incidents he’s referencing. Even assuming Israeli culpability in the unlisted cases, is he referring to soldiers convicted of murder, manslaughter, or negligence? Further, what is the time frame? Is he referring to recent cases, or ones which go back many years?
If his claim is based on cases which date back several years or so, the NGO B’tselem lists 12 Palestinian minors (under 18) killed in the West Bank (under any circumstances) during anti-terror operations since Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, and reported the details in cases involving the deaths of three Palestinian minors which they believed suggested possible IDF culpability. The circumstances surrounding these three – two aged 16 and one age 15 – vary (and all but one are still under investigation) but all took place during violent Palestinian riots or terror attacks.
Additionally, a more extensive report on Palestinian fatalities since 2000 by the NGO Yesh Din only lists only two examples (both occurring more than 10 years ago) in which Palestinian minors were killed and Israeli soldiers were found guilty. In both cases the soldiers were convicted for negligence (not murder), and even in these situations the sentences handed down exceeded “a few months community service”.
Beyond the specifics, however, the smear that Israeli soldiers murder Palestinian children with impunity is part of a larger lethal narrative advanced by anti-Israel activists and some Guardian “journalists” which we’ve addressed previously. Indeed, no matter how absurd the charges that the IDF targets innocent Palestinian kids, such morally reckless memes evoking the specter of unimaginable Jewish malevolence have become so ingrained in the Islamist and extreme-left imagination that the facts regarding such libels become almost irrelevant.
However, as it is the job of professional journalists to distinguish between proven facts and unsupportable accusations, we eagerly await a clarification by Amlot (or Times editors) which includes details on the supposed ‘impunity’ granted to Israeli soldiers who allegedly have ‘killed Palestinian children’.
Over at the blog Huffington Post Monitor, Zach writes:
There’s a new video making its way around “debunking” Danny Ayalon’s video that came out (wait for it) two years ago. As is usually the case with ‘Palsbara’, insults, ridicule, whining, the race card, and straw man arguments take the place of actual arguments. So Matt and I thought we would create a video debunking their debunking.
Here’s their video reply, The ACTUAL Truth about ‘Palestine’.
- ‘Mail & Guardian’ parrots description of Marwan Barghouti as a “political prisoner” (cifwatch.com)
- CiF Watch prompts Guardian correction: Evidently, Jews didn’t ‘storm the mosque’ (cifwatch.com)
- New CAMERA office in Jerusalem (bbcwatch.org)
- CiF Watch prompts improvement to false Telegraph claim on Palestinian refugees (cifwatch.com)
What’s the first thing you think of when you see this headline?
A great human interest story on rock ‘n roll artists modelling “peace and understanding” between two peoples who have historically been in conflict, right?
Indeed, here are the opening passages from the story:
They are united by facial hair, frayed jeans and a love of heavy metal – plus a belief that music is above politics, religion and conflict. Now the Israeli band Orphaned Land is joining forces with the Palestinian group Khalas to take a message of coexistence through rock’n’roll across Europe.
An 18-gig tour will see the bands perform in six countries, including Britain, this autumn. The musicians will share both a stage and a tour bus for three weeks, proving in practice that their “metal brotherhood” overrides differences of religion and national identity.
At a concert to launch their European tour in Tel Aviv last week, Orphaned Land’s lead singer, Kobi Farhi, and Khalas’s lead guitarist, Abed Hathut, explained their mission.
“We can’t change the world, but we can give an example of how coexistence is possible,” said Farhi. “Sharing a stage and sharing a bus is stronger than a thousand words. We’ll show how two people from different backgrounds who live in a conflict zone can perform together.”
“We are metal brothers before everything,” said Hathut. But, he added, “there is no bigger message for peace than through this tour”.
Coexistence ventures may be new in the world of heavy metal, but precedent was set in the high-brow realm of classical music more than two decades ago, when Jewish conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian intellectual Edward Said co-founded an orchestra of young Israeli, Palestinian and Arab musicians.
So, it indeed still seems that Israeli and Palestinian bands are touring together to champion peace and reconciliation, doesn’t it?
Except that, by the seventh passage, we learn something which changes the context a bit. Pay especially attention to the text I’ve place in bold.
The members of Khalas, which is the supporting act on the tour, and Orphaned Land have “become soulmates” since meeting at a radio station and realising they have more in common than divided them, said Farhi. Last week’s gig was their second performance together. But joint ventures between Jewish and Arab artists in Israel have in the past met with boycott calls from Palestinian activists, who argue that coexistence projects sanitise discrimination against Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens…
Further passages in the story finally confirm what the above text implies – that the band, Khalas, is made up of Arab citizens of Israel (from Acre) not, as the title and most of the text suggests, Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories who don’t have Israeli citizenship. Whilst some activists do use the term “Palestinian citizens of Israel’ instead of ‘Arab Israelis’ to refer to Israelis who are ethnically and linguistically Arab (but full citizens of the state), the average reader looking at the headline and accompanying text wouldn’t likely understand this distinction.
Moreover, as anyone who lives in Israel, or has spent any serious time here, would surely know, Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel mix, mingle and interact in nearly every area of daily public and private life, and whilst the notion of Arab and Jewish (Israeli) bands going on tour together certainly is a nice symbol, it’s hardly groundbreaking.
Surely, Harriet Sherwood has been in the country long enough to realize this.
Harriet Sherwood’s latest report, ‘Palestinian hopes for two states ‘not possible‘, June 17, devotes 10 of 13 paragraphs to remarks by Israel’s Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett at a Jerusalem meeting of “settlers” (Yesha Council’s annual Public Diplomacy Conference) that the two-state solution was hopeless.
An additional paragraph covered recent comments by Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon two weeks ago opposing a two-state deal, and another paragraph focused on Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s skepticism about the possibilities for progress in talks with Palestinians. (The final paragraph deals with a general overview of European, Israeli and Palestinian views on the prospects that efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will be successful.)
In addition to the fact that Sherwood failed to provide a complete account of Bennett’s comments (see Yisrael Medad’s post on the meeting, here), missing from her report was any mention of the fact that the second largest party in Netanyahu’s coalition, Yesh Atid, supports a two-state deal, and that the minister tasked with leading negotiations, Tzipi Livni, is a committed supporter of the creation of a Palestinian state.
However, of greater significance than her myopic focus on the views of one minister, whose views on the peace process were already widely known, is the fact that Sherwood included no context about Palestinian views to balance her report – nothing about statements by Palestinian officials at odds with not only a two state deal, but to the existence of a Jewish state within any borders. While there are hundreds of examples available of Palestinian leaders advancing rhetoric fundamentally at odds with peace and co-existence which Sherwood could have cited, here’s one mock Guardian headline which would accurately reflect a recent well-publicized example of Palestinian incitement and intransigence.
PA official, Jibril Rajoub…praised the use of violence against Israel. During an interview on a Lebanese TV channel [on May 2], the host referred to “the negotiations game” with Israel, and Rajoub expressed the view that negotiations are held because the Palestinians lack military strength: “I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning.”
If you use the Guardian as your sole news source on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict you’d be forgiven for believing that the Palestinians had no responsibility whatsoever for the impasse. Indeed, the paper almost completely fails to report important political dynamics which erode Israeli confidence, like the Palestinian Authority’s glorification of terrorists, as well as Mahmoud Abbas’s demand that Israel release over a hundred violent terrorists from Israeli jails as a precondition for talks to commence.
The Guardian’s reporting on the region fails miserably at recognizing the injuriousness of Palestinian incitement to peace building efforts, and seems completely disinterested in honestly communicating to its readers very real Israeli concerns that the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state may result in greater regional instability, not peace.
- Arafat Jaradat and the torture of Palestinian prisoners that the Guardian won’t report (cifwatch.com)
- BBC’s Knell uses F1 to amplify PA propaganda on Jerusalem (bbcwatch.org)
- CiF Watch prompts Guardian correction to report on Palestinian prisoners (cifwatch.com)
- Harriet Sherwood gets it right about settlers and violence (cifwatch.com)
- Harriet Sherwood visits town of Nabi Selah – forgets to mention the little monster it spawned (cifwatch.com)
Harriet Sherwood’s May 23 story in the Guardian – inspired by coverage of a recent Israeli government report which concluded that the IDF did not kill Muhammad Al Durah in September 2000 – is entitled ‘Disputed deaths in Palestinian territories‘. Sherwood’s report includes brief summaries of three additional controversial cases – Rachel Corrie death in 2003, the Gaza Beach Incident in 2006 and the 2011 death of Jawaher Abu Rahma in Bil’in.
Regarding the incident in Gaza on June 6, 2006 – in which, in the midst of ongoing rocket attacks against Israel and IDF military responses, eight Palestinian civilians were reported killed in highly disputed circumstances by an explosion on a Gaza beach – Sherwood writes the following:
In June 2006 seven members of the Ghaliya family, including five children, died in an explosion while picnicking on a Gaza beach. Footage of 10-year-old Huda Ghaliya sobbing hysterically beside the body of her father was broadcast repeatedly on Arab television networks. Witnesses said the family had been struck by an artillery shell fired from out at sea by the Israeli military. The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, initially apologised for the incident, but an investigation by the IDF exonerated its forces. It admitted it had fired six shells towards land that afternoon, but said a separate explosion – caused by a mine planted by Hamas or an old shell – had killed the Ghaliyas. An American pro-Israel group, Camera, suggested the footage of the aftermath had been faked.
We’re of course thankful for the shout-out – CiF Watch is a CAMERA affiliate – and were also interested to learn, after a quick glance at the Guardian’s site for additional CAMERA references, that their former Jerusalem correspondent, Chris McGreal, was much less restrained than Sherwood in his characterization of the media watchdog group.
A June 17, 2006 report McGreal authored on the incident in Gaza, titled ‘The battle of Huda Ghalia: who really killed girl’s family on Gaza beach?‘, included the following.
The military declared its version of events definitive. Others went further and saw a Palestinian conspiracy. An American pro-Israel pressure group, Camera, which seeks to influence media coverage, went so far as to suggest that the film of Huda Ghalia’s trauma was faked: “Were the bodies moved, was the girl asked to re-enact her discovery for the camera, was the video staged?”
McGreal was certainly right about one thing. CAMERA and its affiliates certainly are extremely successful at influencing the media to correct false claims about Israel and to revise reports on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict that are misleading.
So, in this spirit, we strongly suggest that those interested in learning more about the 2006 incident read the following characteristically well-researched CAMERA reports which Sherwood alludes to in her story.
Additionally, the following 2006 video by Richard Landes effectively fisks media coverage of the event.
Hadar Sela recently commented on Harriet Sherwood’s report in the Guardian (“Gaza gastronomy”, May 14) which focused on a food collective in Gaza called Zeitun, as well as a recently published book titled ‘The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey‘ co-written by Maggie Schmitt and ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Laila Haddad.
In addition to the important questions raised by Sela about Haddad – a one-stater who has previously ‘informed’ readers at ‘Comment is Free’ that Gaza is worse than a prison camp, and has used Electronic Intifada to warn of an impending “Gaza genocide” – the Guardian report is notable for the following claims made by Sherwood in the context of explaining the broader challenges of cooking in the Palestinian run territory:
In Gaza, almost 1 million people – more than half the population – receive basic food assistance from the United Nations. The 13 women of the Zeitun Kitchen co-operative [a women’s co-operative, which caters for weddings and family parties in Gaza] have learned to adapt to the privations of life in Gaza: shortages of power and cooking oil; Israel’s ban on many foodstuffs during the three years in which a stringent blockade was in place; the fluctuations in black market supplies through the tunnels to Egypt; the destruction of and restrictions on access to prime agricultural land; the imposition of strict limits on how far from shore Gaza’s fishermen can lower their nets.
Olive oil is just one example. An essential ingredient in most Palestinian dishes, the uprooting of olive trees in both Gaza and the West Bank has made the once-abundant oil prohibitively expensive for many families. Now it is often used just to dress a dish, rather than create it.
So, is there a shortage of olives or olive oil in Gaza, as Sherwood contends?
An increase in Palestinian olive trees:
- CAMERA’s Tamar Sternthal, in fisking a Los Angeles Times review of ‘Gaza Kitchen’ by Carol J. Williams, addressed the specific contention by Williams – similar to Sherwood’s claim – that “locally made olive oil has disappeared” due to the Israeli blockade, and was able to demonstrate that there are actually “significantly more olive trees in Gaza now than in the years before Israel imposed a blockade.”
An increase in olive oil production
- Sternthal also demonstrated that there was an increase in Gaza (after the Israeli blockade versus before the blockade) in both the number of active olive oil presses and the actual quantity of olive oil produced.
- Additionally, the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) on March 17, 2013 noted that there was a significant “increase in olive oil production in Palestine [West Bank and Gaza] in 2012“. The quantity of olive oil extracted in “Palestine” in 2012 rose, PCBS statistics demonstrated, by 10.6% compared to 2011. (Additionally, there is evidence that olive oil production in Gaza specifically increased significantly in 2012)
A surplus of olive oil:
- A detailed economic report by the PCBS in 2012 indicated that Palestinian olive oil production was expected to be 18 thousand tons in 2012. Taking into account the 6 thousand ton surplus from the previous year, the total available supply of olive oil in the Palestinian territories was expected to be nearly 24 thousand tons. Since the local annual consumption of olive oil, again per the PCBS, is about 14 thousand tons, there was an expected surplus of approximately 10 thousand tons of olive oil in “Palestine” for the current year.
- Additional data by the World Bank supports the PCBS conclusion that olive oil production in the Palestinian territories greatly exceeds local consumption.
Exports of olives and olive oil
- The Palestinian territories continue to export relatively large quantities of olives and olive oil [Table 1].
Data suggests that olive oil prices have recently decreased in Gaza.
- The economic analysis of Gaza by the PCBS cited above suggested a decrease in the price of olive oil in the Palestinian territories in 2012, compared to 2011. [Table 6.2]
So, not only is there no evidence to support Harriet Sherwood’s claim that there is a shortage of olive oil in Gaza (and related higher prices) due to “the uprooting of olive trees” by Israel, but PCBS data suggests an abundant supply of olives and olive oil in the West Bank and Gaza, and that prices, if anything, may have fallen a bit from 2011 levels.
Once again, it seems likely that the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent relied solely on anecdotal evidence from ‘Palestinian sources‘ without fact-checking the specific claims using readily available open source information.
- Guardian promotes book by ‘one-stater’ (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian’s BDS promotion fails to tell readers what it really is (cifwatch.com)
- Harriet Sherwood and Phoebe Greenwood take steps towards understanding Palestinian incitement (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian’s Sherwood self-conscripts to PR campaign for Israeli law breaker (cifwatch.com)