Guardian logic used to blame Israel for ceasefire violation in one tweet

If you’ve been following our recent posts, you’re aware that the Guardian live blog on the Gaza War posted two entries a few hours ago that somehow managed to blame Israel for breaking the ceasefire which took effect this morning.

They made this claim despite the fact the dozens of rockets were fired at Israeli cities by Hamas since the time of the ceasefire, while Israel (who had accepted the ceasefire) held its fire for six hours until finally retaliating after it was clear that the Islamist group had no intention of standing down.  (As we noted, US Secretary of State John Kerry forcefully condemned Hamas earlier in the day for violating the terms of the agreement.)

Well, a Guardian deputy editor named Phoebe Greenwood doubled down on the Guardian claim a few hours ago, and the rhetorical somersault she employed to defend the indefensible was truly something to behold.

Here it is, along with a response (above Greenwood’s Tweet) by Yiftah Curiel, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London:


As one commentator suggested, Greenwood’s argument goes something like this.

  1. Israel accepted the ceasefire and held its fire for six hours, hoping Hamas would do the same.
  2. Hamas ignored the ceasefire and continued firing dozens of rockets at Israeli towns.
  3. Israel finally retaliated against Hamas rocket attacks which showed no signs of winding down.
  4. Ergo, Israel violated the ceasefire.

This is of course the time when we typically employ a rhetorical flourish, encapsulating the substance of the post in a few pithy lines.  

However, on this occasion, given the jaw-dropping nature of the logic used by Greenwood, we find ourselves for once truly speechless.


Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent takes aim at ‘hasbara goons’

Here’s a Tweet from earlier today by the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont:

Though we’re not sure what his Tweet was specifically referring to, the word ‘hasbara’ (a Hebrew word which merely means ‘explaining’) is often used by anti-Israel activists to characterize, in a pejorative manner, those who defend Israel online.

Tellingly, if you Google the term “Hasbara Goons”, the first two results show posts from the hate site, Mondoweiss.


Interestingly, Beaumont received some flack from his swipe at pro-Israel activists, in the following replies:


Beaumont perhaps should refer to the Guardian’s Social Media Guidelines for Journalists:

The Guardian has created a set of guidelines for staff on the use of blogging, tweeting and the use of social media in order to maintain editorial standards and help create effective communities on the web.

staff are asked to remember the former editor CP Scott’s famous dictum that “comment is free, but facts are sacred” by not blurring facts and opinions, and to exemplify the Guardian’s community standards in contributions.

The community standards, which Guardian journalists are asked to exemplify, include 10 guidelines, and summarizes their suggestions as follows:

In short:

- If you act with maturity and consideration for other users, you should have no problems. 
Don’t be unpleasant. Demonstrate and share the intelligence, wisdom and humour we know you possess.
Take some responsibility for the quality of the conversations in which you’re participating. Help make this an intelligent place for discussion and it will be.

In addition to being shrill and unprofessional, it seems clear that Beaumont’s Tweet was thoroughly inconsistent with his own company’s community standards. 

There’s room at the Inn: More evidence Catherine Philp misled on Bethlehem

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.

Musicians perform on stage in Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem, Dec. 1, 2013.

Musicians perform on stage in Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, Dec. 1, 2013.

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.

Related articles

The Israeli Bedouin issue beyond The Telegraph’s sensationalist headline

Phoebe Greenwood’s report in The Telegraph, Ex-South African Israel ambassador likens Bedouin treatment to Apartheid‘, June 19, is in many ways quite typical of mainstream media framing of issues relating to the nomadic Arab tribes living in the Negev region in Israel. Though Greenwood balances the sensationalist charge of ‘apartheid’ leveled by the the former ambassador with a response by a foreign ministry spokesperson, the title and text legitimize an extremely misleading narrative about the remarkably complex interplay between the Israeli government and the Bedouin.

Whilst my colleague Hadar Sela has done some superb reporting on the issue (which you can read here, here and here), blogger Elder of Ziyon recently filmed and narrated a very informative video on the subject – while on location in the Negev – that succinctly explains a few of the more vexing challenges faced by the Israeli government in determining how best to deal with unauthorized villages established by citizens who are part of this itinerant culture. 


Arafat Jaradat and the torture of Palestinian prisoners that the Guardian won’t report

In late February, the Guardian devoted six separate news items (three stories and three photo posts) to the death of a Palestinian – named Arafat Jaradat – in an Israeli jail.  The stories, which all portrayed Jaradat and his ’cause’ in a sympathetic light, focused on baseless allegations by the PA that Jaradat, an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade member who was arrested for terror activity, died as the result of torture – claims which were contradicted by the autopsy performed by Israel’s top forensic pathologists. 

Here are the Guardian’s reports:

Item 1 (Phoebe Greenwood)


Item 2 (Associated Press)


Item 3 (Phoebe Greenwood)


Items 4 and 5: (Two photos relating to Jaradat from the same Feb. 25 edition of the Guardian’s ‘Picture Desk Live’)

1 and a half

1 and a half part 2

Item (Picture Desk Live, Feb. 26)

Though the PA’s claims of torture received significant coverage, subsequent reports (only a few days later) by Israeli pathologists – that the hemorrhages and fractured ribs found during the autopsy were caused by resuscitation attempts performed by medical staff, and not due to physical abuse – received no coverage in the Guardian.

Indeed, such myopic and at times obsessive focus on Israeli culpability is part of a pattern at the Guardian.

Similarly unreported by the paper are the myriad of credible charges of torture by Palestinian Authority security and prison personnel against Palestinian prisoners.  As Khaled Abu Toameh recently reported:

As a report [by Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)] shows, there has been a 10% increase in the number of complaints of torture and mistreatment by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority during 2012 compared with the year before.

More than half of the 306 complaints about torture that were received last year came from Palestinians who had been detained or imprisoned by Abbas’s security forces in the West Bank, the report revealed.

Altogether, 11 detainees died in Palestinian Authority and Hamas prisons last year, according to the report.

One recent example of torture by PA security personnel was detailed in an April ICHR report.

The complaint of torture filed by Muhammad Abdelkareem Dar Muhammad, from Hebron, was one of the major complaints ICHR received in this regard. He claimed that he was subjected to torture and ill-treatment while detained by the [Palestinian] Preventive Security Agency in Hebron. On [April 28] 2013, he was rushed to the Public Hospital of Hebron for the second time after suffering speech impairment and injuries due to being subjected to beating on the head while hand-cuffed in solitary confinement throughout the period of his detention.

Yet, in contrast to the Guardian’s intense focus on one unsubstantiated accusation of torture in an Israeli jail, we were unable to find any mention at all by Guardian reporters or ‘CiF’ contributors of Muhammad Abdelkareem Dar Muhammad’s case, nor any of the other instances of torture and abuse of Palestinian prisoners in PA jails.

Though we’ve often charged the Guardian with consistently engaging in ‘activist journalism’ – searching for evidence to buttress preconceived pro-Palestinian conclusions – this observation is likely only half correct. The ubiquity of reporting alleging Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians stands in contrast to the dearth of stories in the paper highlighting Palestinian mistreatment of fellow Palestinians – all of which suggests that advancing a narrative of Israeli oppression is of far greater concern to their reporters than genuine advocacy on behalf of Palestinian human rights.    

Guardian misleads on Israeli Druze, part 2: Unreliable Sources

In our previous post about a report by Phoebe Greenwood in the Guardian (‘Golan Heights braces for war as tensions rise between Syria and Israel, May 31) we exposed two errors.  The report grossly inflated the number of Druze in the Golan Heights (there are 20,000, not 80,000 as Greenwood claimed), and also falsely alleged that Druze is an “Islamic sect” when it is in fact a unique monotheistic religion which departed from Islam around the 11th century. 

As we noted in our last post (as a bit of background), Majdal Shams is one of the four Druze communities in the Golan Heights, with a population of about 9,000. After capturing the Golan Heights during the Six Day War, Israel offered all the Druze people living there citizenship—an offer most turned down. However, they all carry Israeli ID cards and are free to live, travel, work, and seek higher education anywhere in the Jewish state.


Majdal Shams (Photo courtesy of Hadar Sela)

However, in addition to these factual errors, Greenwood’s report on the precarious position of residents of the Israeli-Syrian border town of Majdal Shams – in the context of a Syrian civil war which has already spread to Lebanon and now threatens Israel’s northern communities – relies largely on a Druze who she fails to fully identify.

Greenwood writes the following:

“We are in a very special situation. We are lucky our village wasn’t destroyed in 1967 because Israel considers us Druze so we are not a target for them. We are Syrian so we are not a target for Syria or for Hezbollah. We are like an island in this region,” explains Dr Maray Taisseer [sic], a consultant at the Majdal Shams medical centre and community spokesperson.

Leaving aside the risible claim that the Syrian Druze community in the Golan wouldn’t ever be targeted by the Iranian sponsored Shiite Islamist movement or the regime of Bashar Assad because neither would dare target ‘Syrians’, it’s misleading to refer to Dr. Taisseer Maray (Greenwood conflated his first and last names) as a “community spokesman”.  

Maray, Greenwood primary source, is in fact the director of a highly politicized, pro-BDS NGO, Golan for Development, and has stated his opposition to the existence of a Jewish state within any borders.

Greenwood then quotes Maray further:

The war, if it comes, may not be a disaster, Taisseer suggests, if it delivers Golan back into Syrian hands.

“Whatever happens in Syria, everyone agrees we should be liberated – it doesn’t matter whether it’s by regime or rebel forces. This is Syrian land and that is clear,” he states unequivocally.

However, as my colleague Hadar Sela (a longtime resident of the Golan) observed, it’s clear to those who have truly gotten to know the Druze of Majdal Shams over a number of years that ‘everyone’ does not agree.  The vast majority of Druze there have family in Syria and they’re likely terrified about their safety. Hence, every word they say, Sela argued, “is likely measured because they know full well that a wrong word in the media may have serious consequences.”

Further, as Middle East analyst Michael Totten has observed about the Golan Druze in World Affairs Journal:

[Druze are] loyal to whoever is in charge of the country they live in…The Druze on the Golan are no different from Israeli or Lebanese Druze in this way, but their political geography is different. Though they’re governed by Israel now, they may be governed again by Syria later. So even though Israel offers them citizenship, most haven’t taken it. They’re afraid of the consequences if Syrian rule ever returns.

Also quite noteworthy are comments by the mayor of Majdal Shams, Dolan Abu-Salah, who suggested in an interview in 2012 that living in Israel was a “privilege”.  Abu-Salah went on to boast that, by living in the state of Israel, “we [Druze] enjoy all the benefits of a very democratic regime. We pay taxes. And we get excellent social benefits.”

Shefaa Abu Jabal, a prominent Majdal Shams Druze spokesperson (and anti-Assad activist) explained in an interview with Dissent Magazine last summer that though her heart may long emotionally for Syria, she is “100 percent aware that thanks to my education that I received here in Israel I can express my opinion more freely”. Indeed, last July Abu Jabal passed the Israeli bar after graduating from Haifa University Law School—the first Syrian Druze woman resident of Israel to graduate from an Israeli university.


Shefaa Abu Jabal in Majdal Shams

Just two weeks after Abu Jabal uttered those words, she emailed the journalist at Dissent to say that she had deactivated her Facebook page. She needed to “be out of the spotlight” for a while, and “to protect her allies living under Assad“.

Whilst it may be difficult to determine with any degree of empirical certainty how “most” Druze in Majdal Shams feel about the war in Syria, or their Israeli identity, Greenwood’s story – and her reliance on selected “spokespersons” – represents a good example of the risks of taking reports by Guardian journalists who are compromised by preconceived narratives about the region at face value.

Guardian misleads on Israeli Druze, part 1: False claims

Phoebe Greenwood’s May 31 report in the Guardian, ‘Golan Heights braces for war as tensions rise between Syria and Israel‘, contained two false claims regarding Israeli Druze in the Golan Heights town of Majdal Shams. (An additional post will fisk the broader misleading narrative advanced in Greenwood’s report.)

A brief summary of Majdal Shams and the Druze population in Israel

  • Majdal Shams is one of the four Druze communities in the Golan Heights, with a population of about 9,000.  The town sits high on the slopes of Mount Hermon.  
  • Golan, captured by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967, was effectively annexed when the state extended Israeli law to the territory in 1981.  Israel offered all the Druze people living there citizenship—an offer most turned down. However, they all carry Israeli ID cards.
  • Most Druze in Majdal Shams have family on the Syrian side of the border.
  • There are roughly 1 million Druze in the world, mostly in Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

Factual errors in Greenwood’s report:

False population statistics

Greenwood makes the following claim:

The Golan Heights is home to more than 80,000 Druze…

This is not accurate.  There are only 41,800 people living in Golan in total, of which 20,300 are Druze according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics.

Mischaracterization of the Druze religion

Greenwood makes the following claim: 

[Druze represents] an esoteric Islamic sect whose insular, self-governing communities are accommodated by governments across the Middle East.

Greenwood’s claim that Druze is an “Islamic sect” is also flatly untrue. Druze is a unique monotheistic faith which emerged during the 11th century from Islam and consider their faith to be a new interpretation of the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  In addition, Druze incorporates several elements of Gnosticism, Greek Philosophies and other ideologies. The Druze community in Israel is officially recognized as a separate religious entity with its own courts (with jurisdiction in civil matters), and spiritual leadership. The Druze religion is secret and closed to converts.

Whilst the second post we’ll publish on Greenwood’s report will detail the misleading narrative regarding the political views of the Druze of Majdal Shams, these last two specific claims noted above are unambiguously false and not open to interpretation. 

Harriet Sherwood and Phoebe Greenwood take steps towards understanding Palestinian incitement

gaza_2548597bThe failure of many to truly understand the ‘root causes’ of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and accurately contextualize news in the region is based in part on the MSM’s general tendency to ignore or significantly downplay the pervasive antisemitism and anti-Zionist agitation within Palestinian society.

This blog’s ‘What the Guardian won’t report‘ series often focuses on such disturbing stories about the official Palestinian glorification of violence, racist indoctrination of their children and other such grossly underreported examples of the reactionary Palestinian political ethos which ‘genuine’ advocates for peace can not reasonably ignore.

Whilst reasonable people can argue over what degree such Palestinian incitement represents an impediment to peace relative to other factors, such as the issue of Israeli “settlements”, the Guardian’s obsessive focus on the latter and their almost total silence about the former serves to grossly misinform their readers on the politics of the region.

As such, it was encouraging to read a recent story by the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood, entitled ‘Gaza schoolboys being trained to use Kalashnikovs, April 28, which reports on news that Hamas is now providing Gaza schools with military training for young boys.  The program, which includes the use of firearms and explosives, will likely be extended to girls next year.

Sherwood even quotes Al Mezan, a Gaza-based “human rights organisation”, criticizing the program thusly:

“It’s unbelievable. Hamas has been cutting sports activities in schools for the past six years, saying there is no time in the curriculum, but now they find the time to have military training inside schools,”

Additionally, on the very same day that Sherwood filed her story, Phoebe Greenwood published a piece at The Telegraph entitled ‘Hamas teaches Palestinian schoolboys to how to fire Kalashnikovs’ – a report which is especially noteworthy in the context of a CiF Watch post back in 2011 which noted Greenwood’s skepticism over ‘claims’ made by Israeli officials regarding Palestinian incitement. 

Though both reports are problematic in many respects, and indeed ignore the broader problem of Palestinian incitement in both the West Bank and Gaza, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Further, we can at least hope that Sherwood and Greenwood will follow-up on their stories and continue to inform their readers on the pathos within Palestinian political culture which inspires the constant vilification of Israel and dehumanization of Jews – a dynamic which makes most Israelis wary of the conventional wisdom which uncritically accepts that a two-state solution will necessarily result in peace.

The Palestinian Marathon and Phoebe Greenwood’s selective credulity.

The Guardian published a story on April 21 by Phoebe Greenwood entitled ‘First Bethlehem marathon staged in howling wind and rain‘, which focused on the putative challenges faced by Palestinians in organizing their first-ever full marathon.

Greenwood’s report includes the following passages:

A Palestinian city encircled by Israeli settlements, bypass roads connecting the settlements and checkpoints, Bethlehem cannot offer an uninterrupted 42.2km full marathon course. The 26 competitors who ran the full race were required to make two circuits of the city along a course that passed through two refugee camps, alongside the Israeli separation wall, turned back on itself at a checkpoint and finished back at the Church of the Nativity.

In any other country, a marathon runs from point A to point B. In the West Bank, we have to run from point A to point A.  It’s around 40km from Bethlehem to Hebron but runners would have to cross the Israeli settler roads, and that could never happen,” said Xavier Abu Eid, a Palestinian government spokesperson and native Bethlehemite.

Xavier Abu Eid is, according to his short bio at ‘This Week in Palestine’, a “Palestinian-Chilean student of political science and Vice President of the General Union of Palestine Students in Chile”.  He’s also a marathon participant.

Xavier to the left

Xavier Abu Eid is seen on the left

Greenwood naturally lets Abu Eid’s claim about the ‘atypically circuitous route’ of the marathon go unchallenged.

However, a quick glance at the Palestinian Marathon route in contrast with Israel’s annual Jerusalem Marathon undermines Abu Eid’s suggestion.

First, here’s the Palestinian marathon map, according to their own website:


As you can see, the route begins near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, then travels north before heading southwest towards Al Khader – where runners then turn around and run back towards the Bethlehem starting line.  Participants who did the half marathon ran one (roughly 21 km) Bethlehem-to-Al Khader loop, while those running the full marathon (42.2 k) ran two such loops.  

Now, here’s a map illustrating the route of the Jerusalem marathon:


As you can see (by following the race which begins by the black arrow), the 42K run begins by circling Givat Ram before, in a far less than direct route, heading towards Hebrew University’s Mt. Scopus Campus, where the runner doubles back (along some of the same route) to the finish line, which is positioned roughly 500 meters across from the original starting line.

(See black arrow indicating the start of the race, as well as numbers showing the path.)  

Additionally, the Tel Aviv Marathon doesn’t employ a direct route from “point A to point B” – but similarly requires that runners turn back at a certain point, and run a second time along part of the same route to reach the finish line.

Of course, it was just one throwaway line by the Palestinian spokesperson – but its significance transcends the minutiae of the specific claim.

In late 2011 we posted about a Tweet by Greenwood indicating her skepticism over a comment by then Israeli Vice Prime Minister (now Defense Minister) Moshe Ya’alon about incitement, racism and the glorification of terrorism in Palestinian school textbooks.  As we noted at the time, evidence regarding such hate education by the Palestinian Authority is extremely well-documented by sites such as Palestinian Media Watch, and its difficult to understand how a professional reporter could seriously question the veracity of such reports.

For those who carefully follow the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s very difficult not to observe the credulity of reporters at the Guardian and elsewhere in the face of even the most flippant and often unserious Palestinian statements, in contrast with their extreme skepticism when they cite even the most intuitive and empirically based Israeli claims.

Will Guardian report on Palestinian prisoner who died in ‘Palestinian Authority’ prison?

H/T This Ongoing War

On Feb. 25 we commented on the Guardian’s coverage of the death of Arafat Jaradat in an Israeli prison.  

Phoebe Greenwood led her Feb. 24 Guardian report with completely unsubstantiated claims by the Palestinian Authority that Jaradat, an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade member who was arrested on Feb. 18 due to his alleged involvement in a rock-throwing attack that injured an Israeli, died as the result of torture.  

Jaradat’s death, and subsequent funeral, inspired several days of rioting in the West Bank. 

The Guardian published two stories on Jaradat’s death in two days.

pal prisoner

We noted in our post that Israeli pathologists involved in Jaradat’s autopsy were awaiting the results of tests which would help determine the cause of the death and whether there was any credence to charges that he was tortured.

On Thursday, Feb. 28, Israeli authorities published the first results of the pathologists’ tests. 

Times of Israel wrote the following:

The preliminary results of Arafat Jaradat’s autopsy reveal no signs of violence or poisoning, Israeli pathologists revealed Thursday, contradicting previous statements by a Palestinian doctor who attended the procedure.

A team of Israeli doctors headed by Professor Yehuda Hiss of the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, Professor Arnon Afek, the Health Ministry’s Director of Health Administration, and Professor Iris Barshack, chief pathologist at the Sheba Medical Center, reported based on an examination of microscopic remains from the late Jaradat’s body that “no evidence was found of poisoning and no evidence was found of physical violence. According to a statement by the Health Ministry, Jaradat’s internal bleeding and fractured bones were characteristic of the 50 minutes of resuscitation attempts made by prison staff and emergency response staff to save his life. The forensic institute will continue to conduct examinations in order to determine Jaradat’s cause of death.”

Whilst the question of whether Greenwood, or anyone else at the Guardian, will update the story on Jaradat to include the latest evidence regarding his death is worth raising, another parallel event has occurred which may serve as an effective barometer on the consistency of the Guardian’s coverage. 

The following was reported at Ma’an News Agency on May 1.

A prisoner being held in a Palestinian Authority jail in Jericho died on Friday, a senior Palestinian official said.

Ayman Mohammad Sharif Samara, 40, died while being detained on charges of assault, Palestinian Authority attorney general Muhammad Abdul-Ghani al-Uweiwi told Ma’an.

He was arrested on Friday and transferred to a nearby hospital, where he passed away, al-Uweiwi said.

The PA attorney general denied that the prisoner was tortured or beaten during interrogations and said that an autopsy would be performed and the results made public once completed.

In addition to the question of whether Ayman Mohammad Sharif Samara will get a “hero’s welcome” by Palestinians after his funeral, it will be interesting to see if the Guardian devotes any coverage at all to the Palestinian prisoner’s death while in Palestinian Authority custody.

You may wish to Tweet the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood, or Phoebe Greenwood, to pique their interest in the story.

UPDATE: An AP feed on the Guardian’s site carried this report on the death of Samara.

The Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood cites Richard Silverstein…problems ensue

The question of what blogs and Twitter accounts journalists cum propagandists follow is always an interesting one – and one of the more under-explored dynamics which can help explain some of the more hysterical anti-Israel coverage in the mainstream media (and in the Guardian).

So, for instance, we weren’t surprised when Harriet Sherwood cited a quote by Joseph Dana (Sherwood referred to the anti-Israel activist as a “journalist”) in an effort to contextualize Netanyahu’s speech at the UN in late September, or when, in 2011, she characterized the slain International Solidarity Movement volunteer, Vittorio Arrigoni, as a “peace activist“.  Indeed, both incidents only confirmed what we knew about where the Guardian Jerusalem correspondent’s political sympathies lie. 

In the time Phoebe Greenwood has recently spent filling in for Harriet Sherwood (who’s evidently been ‘away from her desk’ for the past couple of weeks) she has cited the observations of two blogs whose editors explicitly call for a one-state solution – Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada in a Feb. 18 report and, most recently, Richard Silverstein’s ‘Tikun Olam’, in a Feb. 27 Guardian report titled ‘Second Laptop Stolen from Israeli nuclear chief‘. 

Silverstein and Greenwood

Silverstein and Greenwood

Greenwood’s story, about a burglary at the home of the head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, Shaul Horev, two nights ago, included the assertion that, among the items stolen from Horev’s home was a laptop – though other news sources are now reporting that a laptop was not in fact stolen.  While facts regarding the case are still sketchy, Greenwood attempted to frame the story for readers in the following paragraph:

The blogger Richard Silverstein pointed out the irony that Israel had previously claimed to have obtained secrets about Iran’s nuclear programme from a stolen laptop which it used as evidence of Iran’s ambitions for nuclear weapons – claims now widely believed to be untrue

Whilst you can gain a glimpse into Silverstein’s troubled relationship with facts – and his rush to publish faux “scoops” - here, I decided to check the particular assertion, cited by Greenwood, on his blog to see if there was any truth to it. 

Silverstein, who updated his original Feb. 26 post the following day to note that his initial report that a laptop was stolen from Horev appears to be untrue, nonetheless engages in the kind of Schadenfreude-inspired stream of consciousness blogging rampage which is a trademark of the anti-Zionist American Jewish left.

His post includes the following passages:

Israel boasts of its military and intelligence advantages over its enemies. It can, so the story goes, penetrate the most secure defenses of its enemies. Israel, on the other hand, is impregnable. It’s security assets are secure.  What’s important about this story is that Israel is beset by a major case of hubris. It creates a narrative that arrogates to itself permanent domination over its enemies. It foresees no weaknesses, no vulnerabilities. Except when there are.

There is another delicious irony in this scandal. Israel, several years ago persuaded the world that an allegedly stolen Iranian laptop containing top-secret documents about its nuclear weapons program had mysteriously come into its possession. The laptop was a fraud as was its supposed theft.

A brief check of the link he provided demonstrates that his suggestion of Israeli duplicity, regarding a laptop purporting to contain secret documents, is itself a fraud.

The link takes us to a 2008 post at the site, titled ‘Iran Nuke Laptop Data Came from Terror Group.

However, the post, by Gareth Porter, only claims that the “George W. Bush administration has long pushed the “laptop documents” – 1,000 pages of technical documents supposedly from a stolen Iranian laptop – as hard evidence of Iranian intentions to build a nuclear weapon.” Further, Porter notes that “German officials have identified the source of the laptop documents in November 2004 as the Mujahideen e Khalq (MEK)”.

Whilst the post includes idle speculation that Israel may have known about the “laptop documents”, it goes on to add that Israeli intelligence had “chosen not to reveal it to the public”.  Additionally, other more mainstream media outlets, such as the New York Times, which reported on the story, similarly claimed that it was US officials who lobbied the international community that the documents were authentic.  The NYT piece, ‘Relying on Computer, US seeks to prove Iran’s nuclear aims’, barely even mentioned Israel in any context.

Silverstein’s claim that Israel had attempted to “persuade the world” that the laptop documents represented a smoking gun regarding Iranian nuclear intentions appears to be completely untrue.

So, did Greenwood even bother to check the link in Silverstein’s post before publishing her report?

However, if your goal on any given report about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is to impute maximum malice to the Jewish state, bothersome issues such as the veracity of your sources are necessarily of less importance than advancing the desired narrative.  

The Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood ignores Arafat Jaradat’s terror affiliation

Israeli pathologists involved in the autopsy of a Palestinian prisoner named Arafat Jaradat, who died in Megiddo Prison on Saturday, are awaiting the results of toxicology tests (that might take weeks to receive) which may definitively determine the cause of death.

The death of Jaradat, who was arrested on Feb. 18 after residents in his West Bank village reported that he “was involved in a rock-throwing attack” that injured an Israeli, sparked rioting in Hebron and other cities in the West Bank – a characteristic rush to judgement by Palestinian radicals which mirrors the journalistic rush to judgement by Phoebe Greenwood.

Greenwood led her Feb. 24 Guardian report with unsubstantiated claims by the Palestinian Authority that Jaradat died as the result of torture.

greenwoodHere’s how the story is presented on the Guardian’s home page, employing inverted quotes around the words “tortured in prison” and deleting the qualifier, “says Palestinian Authority”.


Greenwood’s piece begins thusly:

A Palestinian prisoner whose death in Israeli custody fanned violent clashes across the West Bank over the weekend was tortured before he died, the Palestinian Authority has said.

The results of an autopsy conducted in Tel Aviv were revealed at a press conference in Ramallah on Sunday evening after a day of angry protests across the West Bank and Gaza in which dozens were injured.

The findings contradict the Israeli prison service’s claim that Arafat Jaradat died on Saturday from a cardiac arrest.

A Palestinian doctor’s investigations found that while Jaradat’s arteries were clear, the state of his body suggested he had been beaten in the days before his death.

It isn’t until the fifth paragraph that the Israeli version is emphasized.

That contrasts with an Israeli health ministry statement that said that the autopsy found “no signs of external trauma … apart from those pertaining to resuscitation [attempts] and a small graze on the right side of his chest”.

It said: “No evidence of disease was found during the autopsy. Two internal hemorrhages were detected, one on the shoulder and one on the right side of the chest. Two ribs were broken, which may indicate resuscitation attempts. The initial findings cannot determine the cause of death. At this stage, until microscopic and toxicology reports are in, the cause of death cannot be tied to the autopsy findings.”

Then, we’re treated to Greenwood’s selective bio of Jaradat.

The 30-year-old, a petrol station worker and father of two, was arrested on 18 February in relation to a stone-throwing incident in November during which an Israeli was slightly injured. [emphasis added]

However, unbeknownst to those who depend on the Guardian as their source for information on events in the Palestinian territories, when Jaradat wasn’t working in a petrol station and providing for his two children, he was evidently involved in other, far less noble pursuits.

According to multiple sources, including even the BBC and Arab sites such as Ahram Online, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, Jaradat was a member of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade – the terror group affiliated with Fatah.

Here’s the relevant passage from Ahram:

Al Aqsa brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah national liberation movement, mourns with all pride its hero, the martyr of freedom, the prisoner Arafat Jaradat,” the statement said, in reference to Jaradat’s membership of the group.

Here’s Al Jazeera:

Palestinians said Jaradat was a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement.

Remarkably, even Wafa, the official Palestinian Authority news agency, reported on Jaradat’s ‘suspected’ affiliation:

Violent clashes with Israeli soldiers broke out after the death of prisoner Arafat Jaradat, a father of three and charged of affiliation with al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in Megiddo Israeli prison Saturday as a result to possible torture during interrogation.

Whilst the PA’s motivation for propagandizing about Jaradat’s death is clear – and thoroughly consistent with what many believe has been their tacit encouragement for the increasing number of violent Palestinian confrontations with the IDF in recent weeks – Greenwood’s putative role as a professional journalist requires that she avoid ideologically inspired, selective reporting.  

Though we likely won’t learn the cause of Jaradat’s death for weeks, until that time we can be assured that subsequent Guardian reports on the incident will continue to ignore information which interferes with desired narratives invariably showing the deceased Palestinian prisoner in the most favorable light.

Overview of Guardian coverage of Israel, July 2012

An overview of the Guardian’s coverage of Israel for the month of July 2012 indicates yet again that a significant proportion of items placed of the ‘Israel page‘ of both CiF and the Guardian World news section actually have little to do with Israel.

It also shows once more that the choice of subjects not covered is no less significant than the stories which are run. 

On the Israel page of ‘Comment is Free (which is still for some reason headed by a now one year old article by Sam Bahour ), nine new items appeared during July. Of those, only four are directly related to Israel, with two pertaining to the IOC’s refusal to hold a minute of silence for the Israeli athletes murdered at the Munich Olympics, one concerning the social protests in Israel and one about the Church of England’s decision to support EAPPI.

Of the rest, two are actually about Syria and three (including a cartoon) are assorted interpretations of the US Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s short visit to Israel. 

The same nine items are also included on the Israel page of the Guardian’s World News section, where 73 articles appeared in total between July 1st and July 31st. There too, a proportion of the articles actually have little direct connection to Israel. 

Eight of them are about Syria, three about Iran, two about Eritrea, two about cyber espionage and two about healthcare issues in the Gaza Strip. Two items relate to the release of the PIJ member Mahmoud Sarsak, whose cause was widely championed by the Guardian, and one relates to family visits for Palestinian prisoners detained in Israel. One photo gallery item has Ramadan as its subject. 

One item concerns the visit of US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta to Israel and no fewer than 11 items (two of which are repeated, making 13) relate to the Romney visit. 

Four items pertain to the Olympic issue, two to the EU-Israel ACAA, one to the Church of England and of two obituaries appearing in the month of July, one is about Yitzhak Shamir, and the other a French actress named Tsilla Chelton who happens to have been born in Jerusalem 29 years before Israel existed. 

Of the articles which can be described as relating to Israeli politics, three relate to the subject of the Tal Law and the coalition, one to the plea bargain by Uri Blau, one to the trial of Ehud Olmert and six to the social protests. 

Several articles concern the IDF: one article is about gender equality in the Israeli army, four relate to various clashes between the army and Palestinians, and one rather bizarre piece predicts a ‘mutiny’ in the IDF.

Social and cultural themed articles include one on the Israeli TV series ‘Hatufim’, one on the singer Rita, one about kibbutzim and two concerning ‘settlements’.

Six items relate to the terror attack in Bulgaria, including two video reports. 

Events during July apparently not considered news-worthy by Guardian reporters include the sentencing of a former Hamas commander to 54 consecutive life sentences due to his involvement in the murders of 46 Israelis during the second Intifada. Also ignored were the violent demonstrations in Ramallah protesting a proposed visit by Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz aimed at jump-starting peace talks and an Iranian-funded project in Gaza which will provide housing for Palestinian terrorists released under the terms of the Shalit deal. 

Militia-style activities and indoctrination at Hamas-run summer camps for children in the Gaza Strip did not catch the attention of either Harriet Sherwood or Phoebe Greenwood, and neither did the Palestinian Islamic Jihad- related aspect of Mahmoud Sarsak’s homecoming or a flag-trampling rally held in Gaza by the Hamas-linked group ‘Palestinian Sons of Freedom’. 

Palestinian terrorist operatives march over the American and Israeli flags (PALDF forum website, July 7, 2012)

Palestinian terrorist operatives march over the American and Israeli flags (PALDF forum website, July 7, 2012)

Similarly, the arrest of a PFLP terror cell went unreported by the Guardian, as did the upcoming trial in Cyprus of a Swedish national suspected to be linked to Hizballah whilst planning terror attacks against Israelis.  An attack on a bus carrying soldiers near Eilat was also ignored, as was a shooting incident near Yad Mordechai and news of protests by Christians in Gaza over forced conversions. 

Given Harriet Sherwood’s penchant for Gaza-located nuptials, it was surprising to see that she passed up the opportunity to cover a Palestinian Islamic Jihad mass wedding financed by the IHH. Likewise ignored were the PIJ’s departure from Syria (and relocation to Iran) and the appearance of Hamas leader and sometime Guardian writer Khaled Misha’al at the Al Nahada conference in Tunisia, where of course he met the father of another Guardian writer

The firing into Israel of nineteen rockets and one mortar from the Gaza Strip during July did not – once again – prompt Harriet Sherwood to visit Sderot or any of the other communities close to the border area. Neither did she elect to cover some rather disturbing news a lot closer to home:

  “According to the Israel Security Agency, during the first half of 2012 there was a significant increase in the amount of “grassroots” terrorism in Jerusalem. It included mainly incidents of stabbing/personal attacks, as well as Molotov cocktails and stones thrown at Israeli civilians and members of the Israeli security forces. There were three cases of stabbing and/or other personal attacks, more than 70 Molotov cocktails were thrown, and there were hundreds of cases of stone-throwing. The attacks wounded 29 Israelis, 13 of them members of the security forces (Israel Security Agency website, July 2012).

An examination of events over the past year indicates three focal primary friction points in the Jerusalem region:

The A-Tour/Mount of Olives area east of the Old City

The Issawiya area northeast of the Old City

The neighborhoods of Ras al-Amud and Silwan southeast of the Old City”

‘Good news’ stories are also ignored by the Guardian’s reporters in many instances. A half-yearly report indicating that agricultural exports from Gaza rose by 86% compared to the previous year, unemployment in the Strip is slightly down and income has risen received no attention, and neither did the efforts made by the IDF and Israeli authorities to ensure smooth travelling in honour of Ramadan. 

As in we saw in previous months, the Guardian’s choice of which subject matter to ignore is a major factor in shaping the manner in which its readers perceive Israel as a whole and the Arab-Israeli conflict specifically. 

The Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood dramatically inflates the number Israeli settlements (Updated)

Though we already posted about Phoebe Greenwood’s July 23 report concerning the EU’s upgrade of Israel’s trading and diplomatic status, EU move to upgrade relations with Israel, I recently recognized a glaring error in the following passage from her piece:

“As recently as 8 June, [Catherine Ashton] issued a statement deploring Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to build an additional 800 settlements in occupied territory – compensation for the 17 Israeli families the country’s high court had ordered to be removed from the Migron settlement.” [emphasis added]

What Greenwood was evidently referring to are 800 new HOMES which Israel recently announced they plan to build – in the existing Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa (see here and here) – and not 800 new “SETTLEMENTS“.

Indeed, there are – even according to the far left, anti-settlement Israeli group Peace Now - 120 “settlements” in total in Judea and Samaria, and another 12 in “East” Jerusalem. 

I contacted the Guardian’s Readers’ Editor seeking a correction.

UPDATE: The Guardian has amended their article to correct the mistake. They’ve added this:


Life, death and terror on Israel’s Route 60: Phoebe Greenwood’s contrasting moral sympathy

The murder, September 23rd, 2011:

On September 23rd, 2011, Asher Palmer buckled his infant son Yonatan into the car and drove from Kiryat Arba heading to Jerusalem to meet his pregnant wife at her parents’ Jerusalem home, where they were to spend Shabbat. 

The twenty-five year old Israeli man was driving on Route 60 (a south-north intercity road in Israel that stretches from Beersheba to Nazareth) between the Jewish communities of Kiryat Arba and Karmei Tzur when several large rocks – thrown by Palestinians waiting nearby – crashed through their windshield, causing Asher to lose control and the car to overturn.

Asher and Yonatan were pronounced dead at the scene.  The police said that the front window was shattered and a large rock was found inside the car with Palmer’s blood on it.

Two Palestinian citizens from Halhoul were arrested a couple of weeks later (by the Shin Bet) and admitted to throwing a rock that caused the fatal crash. The two were also investigated  for the possibility that they were behind 17 other similar attempts to kill Israeli drivers.

Remarkably, IDF figures revealed that the month during which the Palmers were attacked had been the most violent month in the previous year and a half in terms of rock throwing in the West Bank.  There were a staggering 498 incidents of rocks being thrown at Israeli vehicles in September 2011 alone.

Phoebe Greenwood, who has been contributing to the Guardian from Israel and the Palestinian territories since January 2011 did not report the story.

In fact, there were only two brief mentions of this deadly act of terrorism at the Guardian. One was a throw-away passage buried in an AP story about a mosque vandalized in Northern Israel, on October 3rd, and the other was a reference to the attack by Harriet Sherwood, (in a piece titled “Israel approves new settler homes in East Jerusalem“), which callously referred to the victims in passing as a “settler and his son.” [emphasis added]

Here is the Guardian headline and photo in Sherwood’s story which mentioned the attack.

And, here’s the headline and photo from the AP story:

A total of eighty-eight words in the Guardian have been devoted to the terror attack. There has been no mention of the names of the victims and no follow-up report on the arrest of the two Palestinians.

The accident, February 16th, 2012:

A bus carrying children and their teachers from a kindergarten in Shuafat refugee camp (on an expedition to a park near Ramallah) was struck head-on by a truck travelling in the opposite direction, during a heavy rain, and forced off the road on a section of Route 60 ten minutes from Qalandiya . Nine children and the driver of the bus were killed in the crash. Thirty more children were injured.  Several Palestinian children are still receiving care at Israeli hospitals for burns and post accident trauma.

The exact sequence of events leading to the crash is not in doubt, though there is an investigation being conducted by the PA over what was perceived as the relatively slow emergency response to the accident.

In two reports (one for The Telegraph and one for the Guardian) Phoebe Greenwood has devoted 1444 words to the bus accident. The latest, in the Guardian, June 26th, included this scare title: “West Bank’s route 60 a ‘road of death‘ for Palestinian children” and was placed in the Global Development (Global Road Safety in Focus) section of the site. [emphasis added]

Here is the headline and accompanying photo:

Characteristically, Greenwood has focused much of her writing on Israel’s perceived role in the accident.

In The Telegraph, Greenwood cited a couple of hateful comments about the Palestinian victims, within one Israeli Facebook thread beneath a link to a story about the accident from the site of Walla, to contextualize the story, suggesting, evidently, that such views were indicative of Israeli sentiment.

Greenwood also wrote that “roads open to Palestinian drivers in the occupied West Bank are notoriously dangerous…” – a theme she explored in greater detail in her June 26th Guardian story, where she wrote:

“Many Palestinian roads are unpaved and take circuitous routes to avoid the separation wall [checkpoints] and settlements….”

“Mohammed Shtayeh, the Palestinian Authority’s minister for homes and public works until 2010, says the Israeli authorities’ refusal to allow the Palestinian Authority to repair and maintain roads running through Area C can be linked to a rise in road accidents in the West Bank.”

Greenwood fails to provide any context regarding Palestinian acts of terror (which prompted the construction both the security fence and checkpoints) which, since the Oslo Accords in 1993 through the 2nd Intifada, claimed nearly 1400 Israeli lives.

But beyond such insinuations, much of Greenwood’s Guardian piece reads as simple human interest story and devotes quite a bit of space to the pain expressed by two Palestinian mothers – one who lost a five-year old so and another whose daughter is lying in a drug-induced coma at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, after suffering burns to 75% of her body.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a reporter based in the region attempting to humanize and provide color to the often abstract contentious political issues involving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. 

Indeed, Greenwood’s empathy towards the Palestinian victims of February’s fatal bus accident was evident throughout her reports.

In her Guardian piece, she observed:

“…it is still difficult…for all the parents whose children were killed or injured in the inferno on the West Bank’s route 60 – to identify who is to blame.”

However, in contrast, Asher’s wife Puah Palmer and his parents Moshe and Molly know precisely who is to blame for their devastating loss: two Palestinian terrorists who were intent on taking Israeli lives and apparently unmoved by the possibility that the act of terror they were committing could take the life of a baby.   

Has Greenwood ever considered talking to the surviving family and friends of Asher and Yonatan Palmer in Kiryat Arba – to give voice to their pain, grief and anger?

It is really difficult to read the Guardian each day, observing its egregious lack of empathy towards Israeli victims of terror and its continuing sins of omission regarding the Palestinian perpetrators without coming to the conclusion that, at the paper, Israeli Jewish life is cheap and the lives of “settlers'” even cheaper.

Asher and Yonatan Palmer