Did Mahmoud Abbas outrage Syria’s Palestinian refugees by waiving their right to live?

Mahmoud Abbas outrages Palestinian refugees by waiving his right to return‘ screamed the Guardian headline accompanying a November, 2012 report by Harriet Sherwood.  

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Sherwood explained that Abbas was “facing widespread condemnation” in ‘Palestine’ and abroad “after he publicly waived his right of return” – a repudiation, she added, which is “of huge significance for Palestinian refugees”.

She then wrote the following:

After his image was burned in refugee camps in Gaza, Abbas rejected accusations that he had conceded one of the most emotional and visceral issues on the Palestinian agenda, the demand by millions of refugees to return to their former homes in what is now Israel.

He insisted that comments made in an interview with an Israeli television channel were selectively quoted and the remarks were his personal stance, rather than a change of policy.

Abbas told Channel 2 he accepted he had no right to live in Safed, the town of his birth, from which his family was forced to flee in 1948 when Abbas was 13.

The comments sparked protests in Gaza, where people in refugee camps burned images of the Palestinian president. Abbas was denounced on Twitter by pro-Palestinian activists.

This story came to mind when Elder of Ziyon reminded us of news a couple of months later (which the Guardian didn’t cover) that Abbas rejected Israel’s conditional agreement to allow thousands of Palestinian refugees from war-torn Syria to resettle in the West Bank and Gaza.

AP reported the following on Jan. 10, 2013:

The Palestinian president said he has rejected a conditional Israeli offer to let Palestinian refugees in war-torn Syria resettle in the West Bank and Gaza, charging it would compromise their claims to return to lost homes in Israel.

Abbas said he asked U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon last month to seek Israeli permission to bring Palestinians caught in Syria’s civil war to the Palestinian territories. The request came after fighting between Syrian troops and rebel fighters in Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. About half of the camp’s 150,000 residents have fled, according to a U.N. aid agency.

Abbas told a group of Egyptian journalists in Cairo late Wednesday that Ban contacted Israel on his behalf.

Abbas said Ban was told Israel “agreed to the return of those refugees to Gaza and the West Bank, but on condition that each refugee … sign a statement that he doesn’t have the right of return (to Israel).”

Finally, AP noted Abbas’s chilling response:

So we rejected that and said it’s better they die in Syria than give up their right of return,” Abbas told the group.

Think about this for a moment.  

The Palestinian leader rejected a deal to save the lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians caught in an orgy of violence and deprivation in a neighboring country because they would (reportedly) have been forced to relinquish their ‘right of return’.  

According to Abbas’s own words, he’d rather let them die.

First, as we’ve demonstrated previously, the overwhelming majority of ‘Palestinian refugees’ aren’t even refugees but, rather, are the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of Palestinian Arabs who may have once lived in historic Palestine. (Indeed, the number of actual Palestinian refugees from the Arab-Israeli War who are still alive, out of the initial 710,000 or so, is estimated to be roughly 30,000.)

Additionally, everyone – including Abbas – of course knows that, in the event a final status agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel will, at most, only allow a few thousand Palestinian ‘refugees’ in total into Israel – as a symbolic gesture meant facilitate an end to the conflict.

So, here are two questions:

  1. Are Palestinians in Syria and throughout the Middle East – as well as their mouthpieces in the media - outraged by the fact that the Palestinian President decided that tens of thousands of Syrians of Palestinian descent should rather die than give up on the chimera that they will, one day, “return” to a land where they have never lived?
  2. Can anyone at this point refute the argument made at this blog and elsewhere that those keeping the ‘Palestinian refugee issue’ alive are engaged in a supremely cynical exercise meant to demonize Israel, and are not even remotely concerned with the actual welfare of Palestinian refugees and their descendants?

We’re not holding our breath for some sort of mea culpa from pro-Palestinian activists, but we can at least hope that those sympathetic to the cause of ‘Palestine’ will remember Abbas’s cold indifference to the lives of Syria’s Palestinians the next time he waxes eloquently on the plight of the ‘refugees’.

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Guardian fails to reveal that Brit arrested for terror is ‘Comment is Free’ contributor

As we first learned from Guido Fawkes, Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who became a spokesman for the “human rights” group Cageprisoners, was arrested by British police on Tuesday morning for terror offences which he is alleged to have committed in Syria.

Begg is widely believed by American intelligence officials to have been a jihadist involved with Al-Qaida and reportedly attended terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the UK “so he could assist in waging jihad against enemies of Islam.”  Begg reportedly assisted several prominent terrorists, recruited young operatives for jihad and provided financial support for terror camps.

AdditionallyBegg is believed to have been associated with the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki, the senior al Qaeda recruiter who was involved with planning operations for the group, and later killed by U.S. forces.  Al Awlaki helped motivate at least three terrorist attacks inside the U.S. (Begg’s group actually lobbied to free Al Awlaki from Yemeni custody after he was detained in 2006, broadcast his live messages and reproduced his propaganda on their website.) 

Begg – who, you may recall, was promoted by the NGO Amnesty International - is also a frequent contributor to the Guardian’s blog ‘Comment is Free’, having penned 20 essays at the site since 2006, most of which were aimed at casting himself as an innocent victim of US and British intolerance and Islamophobia. 

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Interestingly, the Guardian’s report on Begg’s arrest by  (Moazzam Begg among four arrested in Birmingham terror raids, Feb. 25) didn’t even note this extremely inconvenient relationship.

While we don’t yet know the details of Begg’s alleged terror activity in Syria, if it turns out that he was fighting for jihadists it wouldn’t be at all surprising.  

As we’ve demonstrated previously, the Guardian is a media group which often promotes and defends Islamist extremists, and frequently welcomes into their ‘ ‘liberal’ salon ‘demopaths‘ such as Begg – those who cynically exploit the language of democracy when it serves their interests, and demand stringent levels of human “rights” of the West yet don’t apply these basic standards to their own behavior.

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American Studies Association ‘boycott Israel’ motion: The Justification

Here’s the 3rd post on the proposed ASA boycott, by Jon from DivestThis! (Here’s part 1 & part 2)

ASAProbably the most embarrassing part of the entire ASA boycott debate is the response of those defending a choice to flush devotion to academic freedom down the toilet for the sake of one (and only one) political pet peeve.

Long-time BDS watchers will recognize the well-rehearsed responses to typical questions about why an organization is choosing to target one nation and one nation only for boycott vs. targeting nations with far worse human rights records (which pretty much includes every nation supporting the BDS “movement”). 

First you’ve got the pre-digested word-blobs that seem to get trotted out whenever BDS selective morality is brought into question.  My favorite is the one about how the boycotters would gladly respond to any call if it came from members of non-Palestinian civil society organizations (implying that the best way to avoid the wrath of the morally perfect is to actually be a totalitarian government that crushes civil society, rather than one which lets it exist to organize global boycott campaigns).

And whenever these and all the other hypocrisies and inconsistencies are exposed (not to mention the truncated arguments and outright fabrications that fill the BDSer’s bill of indictment), the next automatic set of responses include:

  • Ignoring critics and pretending that smashed arguments were never responded to
  • Flooding the airwaves with pictures and stories of Palestinian broken children (even if some of those photos need to be imported from Syria) in hope to elicit an emotional response from the audience that will overwhelm reason
  • Claiming (falsely) that any argument against a boycott boils down to nothing but accusations of anti-Semitism

The thing is, when years ago I summed up the various defenses and responses you are now seeing used by the ASA leadership and its supporters as a blast shield against legitimate criticism, I was thinking about them in the context of how undergraduates use these tactics when making their case to other undergrads on a college campus.  But in the case of the ASA, it is not just grownups using the same tired strategies to avoid the debate they set in motion, but college professors who allegedly represent the virtues of open-mindedness, critical thinking and the importance of following evidence and inquiry wherever it leads.

In other words, the people claiming that their role as scholars gives them and their proposed boycott special meaning have chosen to act like garden variety propagandists – hiding facts, substituting gut emotion for rational debate, limiting rather than encouraging inquiry and debate – to get what they want.  And if they manage to eke out a victory, they will immediately try to use the virtues of scholarship they had so recently jettisoned to give their decision extra moral weight.

As this story plays out, don’t forget that nothing is preventing any ASA members from writing and saying anything they like about the Arab-Israeli conflict or joining a group dedicated to defaming the Jewish state.  But that’s not what they want, is it?  For a professor speaking in his own name is just a partisan individual who can be judged based on the strength and honesty of his or her arguments. 

But get a boycott passed by an organization (by any means necessary) and suddenly those partisans can claim to speak in the name of every man and woman in the association and, by extension, the field (if not the academy as a whole).  In other words, getting a voting majority (which may very well constitute a membership minority) to pass a boycott will allow a group of single-issue partisans to punch considerably above their weight, the needs of the association and the profession be damned.

As with other equally ill-conceived campaigns, Israel will survive this particular flaccid string and blunt arrow.  But I’m not sure the same thing can be said regarding the American Studies Association.

 

Guardian columnist blames the persecution of Mid-East Christians on Israel’s creation

Yes, the Guardian’s religion blogger Andrew Brown really did blame Israel for the Arab persecution of Christians in the Arab Middle East.

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Here are the relevant passages in his latest post on former president George W. Bush’s recent work with a group of Messianic Jews: 

…there is widespread confusion among evangelicals about whether Israel is really a kind of America overseas – a recent poll for the Pew Foundation found that twice as many American Evangelicals as American Jews were unwavering in their support for Israel. This is something that successive Israeli governments have deliberately cultivated.

But the links between Zionism and Christianity go much further and deeper than that. The conversion of the Jews, and their restoration to Jerusalem, was a great enthusiasm among English evangelicals in Victorian times. Barbara Tuchman’s marvelous book Bible And Sword chronicles some of the consequences.

It’s fair to say that without the belief of Victorian upper class evangelical Englishmen – almost exactly the equivalents of George W Bush – there never would have been a Balfour Declaration. And without that declaration, there could not have been the Jewish immigration to Palestine that laid the foundations for the state of Israel.

Some people will see this as an example of the destructive craziness of religion, and perhaps it is, but it is also an example of the way in which theology is only powerful and important when it is wrapped up in identity. Because if there is one group that has suffered as a result of the establishment of the state of Israel and its support by Western Christian countries, it is the historic Christians of the Middle East – who are now the victims of persecution throughout the region and scapegoats of an angry nationalism.

Whilst Brown’s characterization of the foundation of Zionism and the establishment of Israel is completely ahistorical, the magnitude of Brown’s fabrication regarding the cause of anti-Christian racism in the modern Middle East is simply difficult to comprehend. 

Christians are facing systemic persecution throughout the Arab and Muslim Middle East to the point where studies have predicted that “Christianity will disappear from its biblical heartlands”, or will at least “effectively disappear from the region as a cultural and political force within our lifetime”.  As The Telegraph commented on a recent study by the think-tank Civitas, “the most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam”. The report estimates that “between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the Middle East have left the region or been killed in the past century.”  Some 2 million Christians have reportedly fled in the past 20 years alone.

Such racist oppression against the beleaguered Christians occurs daily in countries such as Egypt, Syria and Iraq – as well as in Palestinian controlled cities in the West Bank.  

Of course, the one country in the region where the Christian population is growing in total numbers is Israel.

Yet, the Guardian blogger not only ignores this statistical evidence, but views the disturbing news broadcast daily of Coptic churches being burned, Christians arrested for ‘blasphemy’, and clergy kidnapped and killed in Muslim dominated countries in the region, and somehow sees the root cause in Israel’s very creation.  

As Walid Phares, a Lebanese-American scholar who advises the U.S. on issues related to terrorism, said at a conference on protecting Christians in the Middle East in 2012 sponsored by CAMERA, the plight of religious and ethnic minorities in Muslim and Arab majority countries in the region is ignored due in part to political correctness, cultural relativism and a malign obsession with Israel.

In the future when we cite examples of how antisemitism manifests itself in unusual ways at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’, Brown’s astonishing moral inversion, in which Muslims persecute Christians but Jews are still to blame, will be near the top of our list.

‘Comment is Free’ claim on Bibi’s ‘opposition’ to Syria peace begins to unravel

Yesterday we critiqued an essay at ‘Comment is Free’ (‘In the Middle East, the prize of peace is now there for the taking‘, Oct. 17which somehow managed to assign at least partial blame for the continuing wars and violence in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere in the region to Israel and its supporters.

cifWhilst we spent most of our response refuting the broad narrative of the ‘CiF’ commentary – jointly written by three former UN officials, including the Ahmadinejad-supporting Marxist who served as Daniel Ortega’s foreign minister – there was a specific claim about Netanyahu’s alleged opposition to peace in Syria which appears to be totally erroneous.

Here are the relevant passages:

There are signs that the situation is changing. First, the British and then the American people and their representatives rejected a new war in Syria. Russia, the US and Syria reached an agreement over Syria’s chemical weapons. US president Barack Obama is making moves towards honest negotiations with Iran, and the EU’s foreign policy chief and Iran’s foreign minister judged talks just concluded in Geneva as “substantive and forward-looking”.
All these developments should be pursued with the utmost energy. The planned second Geneva conference on Syria must include all internal and external parties to the conflict if it is to constitute an important step towards finding a solution to the tragedy of that war-torn country.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his supporters are staunchly opposed to these moves towards peace.

So, there are two issues raised by the authors regarding Syria: the chemical weapons deal, and the upcoming peace conference in Geneva.

First, Bibi’s response to the Syrian chemical weapons deal was certainly cautious, but there is nothing to suggest he ever opposed it. Indeed, most media outlets reported that the prime minister gave his cautious support to the deal.  Even the Guardian reported at the time that Netanyahu said that the “deal between the US and Russia over Syria’s chemical weapons must be judged on whether it achieves ‘complete destruction’ of the arsenal.”  

So, while it would be accurate to characterize Bibi’s response as cautious or guarded – or even as representing ‘qualified’ support – it is erroneous to suggest, per the ‘CiF’ contributors, that he “opposed” the deal.

Second, regarding the proposed Geneva Peace Conference (tentatively scheduled for late Nov.), upon searching for a source to back of the authors’ claim we were unable to find any report suggesting that Netanyahu is “staunchly opposed” to the proposed Syria peace conference, or that he’s taken a clear position on it either way.  

In light of the dearth of information online regarding his position on the Geneva conference, we contacted the Prime Minister’s office directly to inquire about their official position, and were informed by a spokesperson that they have not taken an official position on the matter.

It appears as if the strong suggestion at ‘Comment is Free’ that Bibi opposes Syria peace talks is completely without merit.

Finally, the apparent inaccuracy of these two particular claims likely don’t represent merely an honest mistake by Messrs. DEscoto Brockmann, Halliday, and Von Sponeck but, more likely, an intentional obfuscation which serves to advance the desired narrative of a war-mongering Israeli state and it’s equally belligerent Zionist supporters in the diaspora.

As we’ve demonstrated previously when critiquing the paper’s Middle East “analyses”, when facts clash with the desired Guardian narrative on Israel, the latter wins out over the former nearly every time.

‘Comment is Free’: The West’s militarism inspired by “blind support for Israel”

An Oct. 17 essay at ‘Comment is Free’ titled ‘In the Middle East, the prize of peace is now there for the taking not only assigns partial blame for the wars in the Middle East to Israel and its supporters, but takes the imputation of Israeli responsibility a step further, risibly evoking the Roman destruction of Carthage in 146 BCE to illustrate Zionist villainy.

The essay was jointly written by  (Former UN assistant secretary-general and participant in the 2010 Gaza ‘Freedom Flotilla‘) (former UN assistant secretary-general) and , the Sandinista-style Marxist  (and president of the UN general assembly between 2008 and 2009) who previously served as Daniel Ortega’s foreign minister.

Brockmann has an especially noteworthy anti-Zionist pedigree, one forged in part by his response to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hate-filled diatribe in front of the General Assembly in 2008 which evoked classic racist canards of Jewish domination. Ahmadinejad’s conspiratorial speech – which accused “Zionists” of “dominating an important portion of the financial…centers [and] political decision-making centers of…the US in a deceitful…manner” - may have earned him wide scorn, but also the warm embrace of Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann

Brockmann embraces Ahmadinejad after his 2008 UN speech.

The ‘CiF’ commentary by Brockmann and his co-contributors addresses the issue of how peace in Middle East conflict zones can be realized and begins by noting how peace has been achieved elsewhere in recent history:

In 1973 Nixon and Henry Kissinger signed the Paris accords that put an official end to the US war in Vietnam. A decade before that, John F Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev resolved the Cuban missile crisis by, on the Soviet side, withdrawing missiles from Cuba, and, on the US side, by promising not to attack Cuba and withdrawing missiles from Turkey.

These events changed the course of history away from endless confrontation and the risk of global war.

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Peace is not something to be made between friends but between adversaries. It is based on a recognition of reality. When countries or ideologies are in conflict, there are only two issues: total destruction of one side, as with Rome and Carthage, or peace and negotiations.

So, there are really only two choices: “total destruction of one side, as with Rome and Carthage, or peace and negotiations“.  

Brockmann and his co-contributors continue:

All these developments should be pursued with the utmost energy. The planned second Geneva conference on Syria must include all internal and external parties to the conflict if it is to constitute an important step towards finding a solution to the tragedy of that war-torn country. The unjust sanctions against Iran, as in the earlier case of Iraq, are severely punishing the population and must be lifted as soon as possible.

Who stands in the way of diplomatic solutions to these problems? Brockmann and his co-contributors explain:

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his supporters are staunchly opposed to these moves towards peace.

Other than the Israeli Prime Minister, what is the primary obstacle to achieving similar peaceful results throughout the Middle East? Brockmann and his co-contributors elaborate:

During recent decades, when it comes to the Middle East, the west has forgotten the very notion of diplomacy. Instead, it has followed the line of “total destruction of the enemy“, whether Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the Assad regime in Syria or the Islamic Republic of Iran. That line has been based on ideology: a mixture of human rights fundamentalism and blind support for the “only democracy in the region”, Israel.

So, the West’s failure to pursue diplomacy in the Middle East (in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Libya), and their adoption instead of an ethos of “total destruction of the enemy” is based, in large measure, on “blind support for…Israel.”

According to these ‘CiF’ contributors, Israel and its blind supporters in the West are in the ‘Roman destruction of Carthage’ camp.

Up to 110,000 have been killed in Arab on Arab violence in Syria since 2011, thousands of Iraqis continue to die as the result of Islamist inspired terror attacks which continue to ravage the country, and ‘Comment is Free’ contributors look around the region and see the ideological footprint of Zionism.

Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann is a Marxist ideologue – whose ‘special advisors‘ as UN president included Noam Chomsky and Richard Falk – so the extreme nature of the commentary he co-authored is not surprising. However, the licensing of such hateful anti-Zionist agitprop by ‘Comment is Free’ editors again demonstrates how the Guardian continues to make mockery of their claim to represent ‘liberal’ values.

Note to Gary Younge: The year 2002 called, and they want their Ha’aretz link back!

Gary Younge, a Guardian feature writer, didn’t focus his latest essay at ‘Comment is Free’ on Israel but, rather, on the potential U.S. military intervention in Syria. Nonetheless, Younge, in opining against an American attack against Bashar al-Assad, based largely on what he claims is the nation’s moral hypocrisy, couldn’t help but add this throwaway line about the ‘truculent’ Zionists he’s taken aim at in the past:

The problem for America in all of this is that its capacity to impact diplomatic negotiations is limited by the fact that its record of asserting its military power stands squarely at odds with its pretensions of moral authority. 

Its chief ally in the region, Israel, holds the record for ignoring UN resolutions,

Whilst it’s difficult to take seriously those, like Younge, who don’t understand the endemic and obsessive anti-Zionist bias at the United Nations (and UN Human Rights Council), I was nonetheless curious about Israel’s ‘world record’ of snubbing the esteemed international club of despots, and so opened the link in the passage highlighted.

Here’s where it takes you:

2002

The Ha’aretz report, citing a “study” on Israel’s refusal to heed the advice of many countries hostile to its very existence (written by an apologist for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad named Stephen Zunes), is eleven years old.

Whilst, relatedly, we have been indeed noticing a greater tendency by Guardian contributors to use actual links in support of their often fantastical allegations about Israel, as we revealed recently about Glenn Greenwald (who tried to hoodwink readers into believing that President Obama intentionally kills Muslim civilians), the links they use often don’t even minimally buttress their claims.

In Gary Younge’s case, we’d humbly recommend that, when assaulting Israel’s legitimacy in the future, he should attempt to cite sources which are more recent than, say, 2002!

Tripod: CAMERA links in 3 languages, Sept. 1-9. BBC Watch, Presspectiva, In Focus and ReVista

Our regular roundup of posts from CAMERA affiliated sites:

Sept. 4-9

Toned down BBC reporting on Iranian, Syrian threats against Israel
Despite its intensive coverage of the Syria crisis, the BBC is barely reporting threats against Israel coming out of Tehran and Damascus. (BBC Watch)

Filmed reports on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in August
Over half the Israel-related filmed reports appearing on the BBC News website during August promoted the theme of Israeli building as an obstacle to peace . (BBC Watch)

Our CCAP groups are starting the new year tabling on campus
Scroll down to see photos. (In Focus)

Parallel Manual of Style
The Spanish news agency Europa Press Israeli police raids are “reprisals” instead of operations to find those responsible for a crime or an offense. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

Anti-Israel Professors at Northeastern
Students are studying in a biased and anti-Israel climate created by their professors. A new documentary is coming out soon exploring this issue. (In Focus)

Ma’ariv Proves It Can Be Haaretz
Maariv gives a one-sided (and erroneous) summary of the case of fire zone 918 (Presspectiva)

Middle East in the Spanish speaking press
The press points out the possibility of a chemical attack from Syria to Israel but, at the same time, emphasizes Syria’s decision to deliver their chemical arsenal to the UN. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

The Guardian again promotes myth that Ariel Sharon started 2nd Intifada
One of the more common false narratives regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict advanced by the Guardian is that Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in 2001 “sparked” the 2nd Intifada – a lie repeated so often that casual observers could be forgiven for believing it.. (CiF Watch)

Sept. 1-4

BBC defence correspondent: Al Kibar was a ‘suspected’ nuclear facility
The International Atomic Energy Agency says it was. US intelligence says it was. The BBC, however, is apparently not convinced. (BBC Watch)

BBC ESC: ‘lack of due accuracy’ on Davies Tweet from Operation Pillar of Cloud
Twitter – being fast-moving ‘instant’ messaging and cutting out the editorial ‘middle-man’ between the journalist and the public – is particularly susceptible to breaches of BBC editorial guidelines. (BBC Watch)

Robert Fisk finds Zionist smoking gun in likely U.S. attack against Syria
Before the U.S. has launched even one cruise missile against Syria in response to the regime’s use of deadly chemical weapons, the Indy’s Robert Fisk has already concluded that such an attack would be motivated by Zionist interests. (CiF Watch)

Haaretz Translators Are Back in the Habit
A Haaretz mistranslation turns a visiting Syrian nun from an Israeli fan to an Israeli critic (Presspectiva)

Lets Try Sticking To Facts
Haaretz op-ed falsely claims Netanyahu has never condemned racially motivated violence. (Presspectiva)

Palestinians Support Caterpillar
The BDS campaign calls for boycotting companies such as Caterpillar, while Caterpillar dealerships do business in Gaza and Ramallah. (In Focus)

Middle East in the Spanish speaking press
The press points out that “all the alarms” have been started in the region due to Israel’s military exercise, but not because of Syria’s internal turmoil. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

 

Guardian publication corrects false claim that Israel used ‘chemical weapons’ in Gaza

The Jerusalem Post just reported the following regarding a false allegation against Israel made by Nabila Ramdani in an Observer commentary on Aug. 31:

Israel won a small battle Sunday against creeping attempts to equate Israel’s use of white phosphorous in Gaza to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons when the Observer in Britain issued a correction on the matter Sunday.

“Contrary to the impression given in Assad is a war criminal, but an attack will do nothing for the people of Syria”(Comment, last week, page 34), white phosphorus, used by Israeli forces in Gaza in 2008, is not a chemical weapon as understood by the Chemical Weapons Convention, and its use is in itself not ‘in breach of all international conventions,” the paper [a sister publication of the Guardian] noted on Sunday.

 Read the rest of the story here.

(Note: Though the correction was published at the Observer’s ‘For the record‘ page, the essay by Ramdani has not yet been revised accordingly.)

In article on Syria, Deborah Orr again throws in antisemitic ‘chosen people’ slur

Deborah Orr evidently can’t help herself.  

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In 2011 the veteran Guardian journalist was forced to apologize after engaging in a gratuitous and ugly smear against Jews as inherently racist by completely distorting the concept of ‘the chosen people’ in a commentary on the Gilad Shalit prisoner release exchange. Here’s the infamous passage:

“At the same time, however, there is something abject in [Hamas's] eagerness to accept a transfer that tacitly acknowledges what so many Zionists believe – that the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbors.”

Her apology – a quite mealy-mouthed one at that – included the following:

Last week, I upset a lot of people by suggesting Zionists saw themselves as “chosen”. My words were badly chosen and poorly used, and I’m sorry for it.

Remarkably, given the paper’s history with sanctioning such Judeophobic narratives, the Guardian’s readers’ editor wrote the following about Orr, two weeks after her column, in a piece titled ‘on averting accusations of antisemitism’:

Two weeks ago a columnist used the term “the chosen” in an item on the release of Gilad Shalit, which brought more than 40 complaints to the Guardian, and an apology from the columnist the following week. “Chosenness”, in Jewish theology, tends to refer to the sense in which Jews are “burdened” by religious responsibilities; it has never meant that the Jews are better than anyone else. Historically it has been antisemites, not Jews, who have read “chosen” as code for Jewish supremacism.

Though Orr has been relatively silent about issues pertaining to Jews and Israel since then, in an essay she penned yesterday, on the Jewish New Year, she managed to again revisit the ugly ‘chosen people’ smear. Though the article was ostensibly about Syria, (‘Russia is holding a lot of the cards in the Syria crisis. We should face that, Sept. 6), she was only able to stay on topic for eleven paragraphs, before pivoting inexplicably to Israel, ending with the following five paragraphs:

This would be a splendid time to try to get Egypt to sign the [chemical weapon] convention as well. And Israel, as yet, has not ratified. One can hardly blame Israel for this when two hostile countries on its borders haven’t even signed. However, one can blame Israel – and also the US – for going ahead with missile testing when the region is in crisis. The excuse given was that the exercise had been long-planned. Oh, dear. Could there be a more powerful declaration of the long-standing partisan interest the west has in the Middle East?

In the Middle East, people insist that all their troubles come back to Israel. It’s certainly true that some of them do. Israel, of course, is another country brought into being in the region largely by outsiders. Also, it was done without the agreement of either the majority of those living on the land at that time, or the neighbours, who have predictably proved to be so determinedly hostile. The creation of Israel has not been what anyone could call an unmitigated success, least of all the refugees whose descendants live until this day in camps, the product of a stalemate that has remained since 1948.

Israel has a right to exist, because it exists and because millions of people need it to continue to exist. But Israel’s creation was in part a response to another refugee crisis, after another terrible war. Just like all other religious groups, Judaism tends not fully to understand that its own sacred beliefs are true only to itself. I believe that the Jews are God’s chosen people no more than I believe that Christ was the son of God, or that Mohammed was God’s final prophet. How can I, when I don’t believe in God? I do believe, however, that the Middle East is the cradle of all three monotheistic religions. That’s a fact.

The idea that Israel is the product of some sort of ancient first-dibs right to a slice of the Middle East? That’s something that Jewish people – and anyone else – have every right to believe. But, in all religious groups there needs to be an understanding that even if a belief forms a crucial part of their own identity or faith, it isn’t a fact to be accepted by others who don’t share that identity or faith. A workable Israeli/Palestinian peace settlement grounded in 21st-century geopolitical fact, and stripped of ancient religious belief, is a necessary part of any wider settlement in the region.

Israeli Jews are no different to other religious, ethnic or nationalist groups in the Middle East in a basic respect: they want a land to call their own, in which they are safe. That’s only human. It’s time for the Middle East and the world to start trying to build on the things that humans have in common with each other, even if progress is difficult and slow. The things that make us different are the things we tend to insist are more important. These, unfortunately, offer no basis for agreement at all – only for continued conflict.

First, the degree to which Orr deviated off-topic is simply staggering – imputing significance to a concept in Judaism (which she egregiously misinterprets) in a piece ostensibly about an Arab on Arab conflict that has nothing to do with Jews.  In the face of unimaginable savagery in a Syrian war which has claimed over 100,000 lives, and has included the regime’s use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians, the Guardian journalist looks around the region and can’t help but see Jews. 

More importantly, however, she once again shamefully legitimizes the distorted idea of ‘chosenness’ – derived from a passage in the Torah understood as a Jewish requirement to uphold an especially high standard of ethical behavior – as Jews’ belief in something akin to religious supremacy, an idea her readers’ editor dismissed as the propaganda of antisemitic extremists.  

The Guardian readers’ editor, in his piece on “averting antisemitism” cited above, concluded thusly:

I have been careful to say that these examples may be read as antisemitic because I don’t believe their appearance in the Guardian was the result of deliberate acts of antisemitism: they were inadvertent.

The Guardian should not be oppressed by criticism – some of the language used by our critics is abusive and intimidatory – or retreat into self-censorship. But reporters, writers and editors must be more vigilant to ensure our voice in the debate is not diminished because our reputation has been tarnished.

Try as they may to “avert” such charges, their journalists and contributors’ obsession with Jews will continue to earn the “liberal” broadsheet the just reputation as one of the leading mainstream media purveyors of antisemitic tropes. 

Robert Fisk finds Zionist smoking gun in likely U.S. attack against Syria

Although an Aug. 30 op-ed by the ethically and morally challenged Robert Fisk at The Independent didn’t reach level of lunacy seen in George Galloway’s claim that Israel supplied Assad with the chemical weapons used to kill over 1400 civilians, it was absurd enough to again prove that anti-Zionist polemicists can find Israeli fingerprints on almost any political phenomena in the Middle East.

Fisk’s essay, Iran, not Syria, is the West’s real target, began thusly:

Before the stupidest Western war in the history of the modern world begins – I am, of course, referring to the attack on Syria that we all yet have to swallow – it might be as well to say that the cruise missiles which we confidently expect to sweep onto one of mankind’s oldest cities have absolutely nothing to do with Syria. 

They are intended to harm Iran. They are intended to strike at the Islamic republic now that it has a new and vibrant president – as opposed to the crackpot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – and when it just might be a little more stable.

Iran is Israel’s enemy. Iran is therefore, naturally, America’s enemy. So fire the missiles at Iran’s only Arab ally.

I would have included additional passages used by Fisk to defend his suggestion of Israeli root causes, except that the accusation abruptly ends there. Fisk’s polemical hit-and-run then quickly pivots to another theme in his broad attempt to impute the darkest motives to likely US military action against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

In addition to the obvious point that Iran, since the 1979 revolution, has been America’s enemy as well as Israel’s, even by the low standards of anti-Zionist agitprop, Fisk’s thesis rests on a comically thin argument.  He would have Indy readers believe that the U.S. decision to engage in what will almost certainly be a very limited use of force against a few military targets in Syria, in retaliation for crossing President Obama’s red line over chemical weapons, actually represents a stealth plan to aid Israel.

It’s unclear of course how a few cruise missiles launched against Syrian chemical weapons sites would change the balance of power in the civil war, or even minimally disrupt Iran’s continuing military support for the regime in Damascus, or how any of this would affect Israel’s efforts to rein in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.  However, to those preaching to the anti-Zionist choir – and engaging in the facile “who benefits?” causation – such pesky questions regarding empirical evidence are obviously never relevant.

Indeed, here’s what appears beneath the essay, where Indy readers are allowed to express their opinion of Fisk’s allegations:

chart

Fisk clearly understands the simple truth (proven by the continuing popularity of even the most comical Middle East conspiracy theories) that the mere absence of facts or logic is rarely a barrier for those determined to reach a preconceived anti-Zionist conclusion.

Tripod: CAMERA links in 3 languages, Aug. 29-30: BBC Watch, Presspectiva, In Focus, and Revista

Our regular roundup of posts from CAMERA affiliated sites:

BBC R2 promotes and mainstreams anti-Israel Greenbelt Festival
A BBC live broadcast from the recent ‘Greenbelt Festival’ avoided all mention of its anti-Israel campaigning agenda. (BBC Watch)

BBC presentation of Israeli view on Syria intervention replete with inaccuracies
Saddam Hussein only attacked Tel Aviv; Israelis have to buy gas masks – just two of the inaccuracies in a three paragraph BBC presentation of Israel’s view of intervention in Syria. (BBC Watch)

EFE: impartiality, credibility and immediacy
The Spanish wire agency has difficulties offering a complete account of an event, devoid of opinion. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

Reflections on Interning with the CAMERA Campus Department
Life as an intern at CAMERA. (In Focus)

CAMERA Fellow Published in Tulane Paper
Ben Kravis writes that one can be a passionate pro-Israel activist and be pro-Palestinian. (In Focus)

Farewell to Journalism
Spanish news agency Europa Press bids farewell to journalism, and promotes pro-Palestinian activism. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

The lies of George Galloway
British MP George Galloway advanced a bizarre anti-Israel conspiracy theory on Iranian TV regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and then, when challenged on it in the House of Commons, flatly lied about it. (CiF Watch)

The lies of George Galloway

When he’s not engaging in antisemitism, licking the boots of fascist dictators, or contributing to ‘Comment is Free’, George Galloway provides commentary on world events for PressTV Global News.

Recently on the Iranian network, he offered a classic conspiracy theory, alleging that Israel supplied the Syrians with chemical weapons used to murder several hundred civilians last week – a charge which found its way onto the floor of the House of Commons.

Here are a few passages from an entry at 5:18 PM at the Guardian‘s Live Blog of the House of Commons debate on Syria intervention yesterday:

Matthew Offord, a Conservative, asks Galloway if it is true that he said on Iranian TV that the Israelis supplied the Syrians with chemical weapons.

Galloway says Offord should not believe what he gets told in green ink letters from constituents. But the rebels in Syria have been caught with sarin gas, he says. It is relatively easy to produce.

Interestingly, the Guardian didn’t include the rest of what Galloway said, where he flatly denied making such accusations.

Now, here’s a video posted by Trending Central of the House of Commons debate, and Galloway’s comments on PressTV which prompted Offord’s query:

Galloway blatantly lied.

Trending Central suggests the following to hold the MP from Bradford West accountable:

Do Guardian editors fact check the letters they choose to publish?

I’d imagine that the Guardian receives thousands of letters submitted by their readers for publication, of which only a few are likely published.  

letters

Their Letters page notes that the paper reserves the right to edit each submission, which prompted me to wonder whether the following letter, one of many about Syria published on Aug. 28, was even minimally fact checked: 

• Just to get a bit of balance on the excessive coverage of the children who were perhaps killed by a chemical attack by either Assad’s forces or the rebels. On 15 January 2009, Israel attacked Gaza and 210 to 300 children were killed in the raids; 700 adults were also killed. The list of names was published by al-Jazeera on 15 January 2009. Children have been killed throughout the Middle East, but the west only focuses on certain cases that help its political interests.
Janet Salmon
Richmond, Surrey

First, whilst the prose is quite confusing, Ms. Salmon’s letter could easily be understood as (falsely) asserting that, just as Syrian children were (“perhaps”!) killed by chemical weapons (“by either Assad’s forces or the rebels”), Israel perpetrated a similar crime in January of 2009. Of course, the writer doesn’t say this explicitly but, based on the wording, that is how it could easily be interpreted by an average reader. 

Second, in reading the letter you’d be forgiven for assuming that on January 15, 2009 Israel launched an attack on Gaza, resulting in the death of a thousand Palestinians, including 300 children, on that one day alone.  Of course, however, Israel’s war against Hamas terrorists in Gaza (Operation Cast Lead) lasted a little over three weeks – commencing on Dec. 27, 2008 and ending on Jan 18, 2009. And, whilst claims regarding the total death toll varied, the casualty figures cited in Salmon’s letter did not occur on that one January day, but over the course of the entire 23 day war. 

All of this information could easily have been revealed by a simple Google search, a fact-checking task which doesn’t seem too arduous for a team of professional Guardian editors.

Guardian clashes with much of the Islamic world over U.S. military action in Syria

The likelihood that the Guardian would eventually publish an editorial opposing U.S. led military action in Syria in response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons to murder of hundreds of civilians, and that the op-ed would evoke the 2003 Iraq War, was something approaching an empirical certainty.

Sure enough, yesterday, Guardian editors launched their pre-emptive polemical attack against even limited Western military action: 

guardian

Here are the highlights from their editorial:

The West’s ‘war against Arabs and Muslims’

“After eight western interventions in Arab or Muslim countries in 15 years, sceptical generals and a hostile western public at large are entitled to answers.”

It’s about Iraq, stupid!

“Specifically in Syria, the most toxic and enduring element of the civil war – the sectarian battle between Sunnis and Shias – though a historic one, is a product of the way US forces used Shia militia when they first came under sustained attack from Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Syria is so intractable not just because of where it is, and who its neighbours are, but because the damage caused by such interventions is cumulative.”

Iran and Russia, the peacemakers:

“The return to Geneva [for peace talks] has to involve Russia and Iran, both of whom have acknowledged that chemical weapons have been used in Syria but blame their use on jihadi groups fighting on the rebel side

If the process of trying to prevent the use of chemical weapons in Syria was kept within the framework of the UN, or if, as the price of avoiding an airstrike, Iran could back the idea of a permanent UN presence in Syria monitoring Mr Assad’s stocks of chemical weapons, then a way back to the negotiating table could be found.”

Anyone familiar with Guardian editorials on the Middle East would surely recognize the narrative – a template for opposing military action in the Middle East which is employed seemingly regardless of the particular circumstances. 

Interestingly, however, especially in the context of the paper’s political sympathies towards the Arab and Muslim world, if you were to visit the homepage of The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – which defines their group as representing “the collective voice of the Muslim world” – you’d see the following:

oic

Here are highlights from their statement on Syria:

The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) reiterated its condemnation of the dreadful attack on the suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus with internationally banned chemical weapons, inflicting a heavy loss of lives among civilians. 

The General Secretariat also stressed the need to hold the Syrian Government legally and morally accountable for this heinous crime and to bring its perpetrators to justice. It called on the Security Council to discharge its duty of preserving international security and stability, take a unified position against this monstrous crime and its perpetrators, and put an end to such violations, while reaffirming OIC’s consistent position on the preservation of Syria’s unity and stability. 

The General Secretariat indicated that this attack is a blatant affront to all religious and moral values and a deliberate disregard of international laws and norms, which requires a decisive action. 

The stance echoes an even more definitive resolution by the organization of Arab Gulf states (GCC), which earlier condemned the attack and called on the UN Security Council to authorize decisive action. 

Remarkably, such the positions suggest that much of the Arab and Muslim world doesn’t see a limited attack against Syrian military assets as representing an ‘attack against Muslims’, that they don’t give a damn what the Russians or Iranians think, and are not haunted by the fact that 10 years ago NATO forces launched a major war in Iraq and put an end to the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Whilst the motivations of Muslim and Arab states supporting Western intervention in Syria vary, they certainly aren’t paralyzed by the obtuse historical understanding and crippling ideology which informs a Guardian Left groupthink that surrenders to pacifism, if not cold indifference, in the face of even the most barbaric Muslim on Muslim violence in the MIddle East.