Guardian editor struggles with Jewish Geography, but puts ‘Israeli hawks’ back in Jerusalem

On Nov. 18 we reminded readers that until the summer of 2012 the Guardian’s Style Guide stated that Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel – a shamefully false claim which was only officially retracted by their editors after a complaint was filed with the PCC.  We noted this quintessentially Guardianesque misinformation in response to a recent report by their Middle East editor, Ian Black, titled ‘Hawks squawk even before Iran nuclear deal is sealed‘, Nov. 8.  

Black’s report included this sentence:

Hardliners in Tehran, hawks in Tel Aviv and Washington, nervous Saudis and their Gulf allies are all alarmed at the prospect of a nuclear deal between Iran, the US and the international community [in Geneva].

As we noted, the context made it clear Black was referring to the putatively “hard-line” and “hawkish” political leaders within the governments of Iran, Israel and the United States.  Yet, while the capitals (where the ‘seats of government’ is located) in Iran and the United States were of course correct, the paper’s Middle East “expert” bestowed this status to the wrong Israeli city.

Though no change was prompted to Black’s misleading Nov. 8 report after our complaints, the following sentence in Black’s latest report (a ‘Middle East Year in Review’ published on Dec. 19) included an update on the nuclear deal which, at the very least, is quite curious.

It is an interim [nuclear] agreement and faces opposition from hardliners in Tehran who mistrust the emollient Rouhani, Republicans in Washington and hawks in Jerusalem, where Israel – anxious to maintain its monopoly of (undeclared) nuclear weapons – was ignored by Barack Obama

Yes, those ‘squawking Zionist hawks’ are safely back in their nation’s capital.  

We of course can’t formally claim credit for Black’s ‘evolving’ expertise in the subject of Jewish Geography which likely inspired his implicit acknowledgement that it is wrong to suggest that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital.  But, in the event that one of their contributors attempts similar rhetorical slights of hand in the future, you may want to ‘gently’ remind them of the following:


Execution, Inc.: Quick tutorial for Peter Beaumont on an Iranian moderate’s first 100 days

A guest post by Gidon Ben-Zvi

Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor for the Guardian and Observer, argued in a November 30 article that the interim deal inked in Geneva between Iran and the world’s six leading powers could, “redraw the map of an area that has been gripped by conflict or the threat of conflict for generations.”  Specifically with regards to Israel, Beaumont notes that “An Iran a step further back from conflict with Israel, and potentially minded to meddle less in the region, would be a good thing if Tehran sticks to its part of the deal.”

Beaumont is placing his faith in a regime founded on the systematic suppression of Iranian citizens and dissidents – a nearly thirty-five year record of domestic oppression which has been facilitated to a large extent by a decidedly expansionist foreign policy. Indeed, creating scapegoats – such as Iraq, Israel and the United States – for tens of millions of Iranians to target their rage and misery allows Iran’s ruling clerics to legitimize their barbarity under the cloak of religion.

Beaumont believes that that the “…diplomacy that led to the interim six-month agreement is the first indication that [Iran’s] new president Hassan Rouhani now sees the benefit of negotiating solutions to the region’s problems.”

However, Rouhani’s domestic policy to date is one marked by executions, persecution, torture, denial of political rights and a general assault on the rule of law.

Frequently hailed at the Guardian as a moderate and a pragmatist, the Iranian leader’s actions over the course of his first 100 days in office leave little doubt that – behind the diplomatic window dressing – little has changed. In fact, since Rouhani’s election, the rate of executions has actually accelerated.  Iran’s regime imposed the death penalty on over 200 people during Rouhani’s tenure, including a record number of 50 executions during a two-week period in September. So far in 2013, Iran has executed more than 400 of its citizens.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said in a report presented to the General Assembly on October 31 that he’s “alarmed by the spate of executions.” 

And while Rouhani’s rhetoric inspired hope in Geneva, it is not being matched by his regime’s draconian policies vis-a-vis Iran’s minorities. The best hope for peace in our time’s government continues to disregard the rights of its Christians, Bahais, Sufis, Jews and members of other religious groups. Furthermore, homosexuality under Iranian law remains punishable by imprisonment and even the death penalty.

Yet, just when this bloody tyranny was beginning to wobble as a result of a crippling sanctions regime that was battering the nation’s economy, the thuggish Mullahs were handed a lifeline: the release of approximately $7 billion – a sum equivalent to 1.4 per cent of Iran’s entire national income.

As a result of this partial lifting of sanctions, Beaumont postulates that “Tehran’s clerical regime might now see the benefit of negotiating solutions to the region’s problems, rather than its previous angry posturing…”.

Yet the tone inside Iran has been anything but conciliatory. Here’s a direct quote from the state-controlled Press TV: “…but so far with the Geneva joint plan, the knife has scarcely been pulled out [of Iran’s economic back] three inches.”

Has ‘conflict resolution’ ever sounded more ominous?

(Gidon Ben-Zvi is a Jerusalem-based writer who regularly contributes to Times of Israel and the Algemeiner)

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The Guardian AGAIN falsely suggests that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital

As absurd as it may seem to those unfamiliar with the ideological bias which colors most Israel related items published at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’, up until the summer of 2102 the Guardian’s Style Guide stated that Jerusalem is NOT the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is”.  This false claim was only retracted after a complaint was filed with the PCC.  

In the August 7 edition of their ‘Corrections and Clarifications’ section, the Guardian accepted that “it is wrong to state that Tel Aviv – the country’s financial and diplomatic centre – is the capital”.

Here’s the Guardian Style Guide before the change:


And, now:


So, while reading the following opening passage, in a Nov. 8 article by the Guardian’s Middle East Editor Ian Black (Hawks squawk even before Iran nuclear deal is sealed), keep in mind that the paper has at least officially ‘acknowledged’ that Tel Aviv is NOT the capital of Israel and that the seat of government is located in Jerusalem.

Hardliners in Tehran, hawks in Tel Aviv and Washington, nervous Saudis and their Gulf allies are all alarmed at the prospect of a nuclear deal between Iran, the US and the international community.

The context makes it clear that Black is referring to the putatively “hardline” and “hawkish” political leaders within the governments of Iran, Israel and the United States.  Yet, while the cities (where the ‘seat of government’ is located) in Iran and the United States are correct, the paper’s Middle East “expert” bestows this status to the wrong Israeli city.

Jerusalem is of course where the Israeli Knesset, Supreme Court, Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office are located, and thus – by the Guardian’s own definition per it’s ‘amended’ style guide – is where the evidently ubiquitous ‘squawking’ Israeli ‘hawks’ routinely gather.


The Israeli Knesset, Jerusalem

The Guardian erred on a fundamental fact about the Jewish state – ‘a mistake they’ve made more than once’.

Guardian report on Iranian president’s ‘Jewish New Year Tweet’ appears to be untrue

Jews who were online on the first day of Rosh Hashanah were treated to the following ‘good news’, enthusiastically reported by Harriet Sherwood:


Sherwood’s report began thusly:

Amid a global exchange of greetings and good wishes to mark Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, which began at sunset on Wednesday, there was one from a particularly surprising quarter. 

Iran‘s president, Hassan Rouhani, tweeted: “As the sun is about to set here in #Tehran I wish all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah.” A picture of an Iranian Jew praying at a synagogue in Tehran accompanied the tweet

However, shortly after the initial reports on the alleged Rosh Hashanah Tweet by the new Iranian president, it began to emerge that the story was likely not true. On the same day Sherwood filed her story, Fars News Agency (the official Iranian news agency) emphatically denied that Rouhani posted such Tweets:

TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior advisor to the Iranian President rejected western media reports alleging that President Rouhani has tweeted a felicitation message to the world Jews on Rosh Hashanah, the new Jewish year, underlining that the Iranian president has no official twitter account.

Mr. Rouhani does not have a twitter account,” Presidential Advisor Mohammad Reza Sadeq told FNA on Thursday

Sadeq said the Twitter account is likely run by Rouhani supporters.

Whilst many in the news media published stories noting that the Tweet story was untrue on the same day (Sept. 5) that it was originally reported, Sherwood’s claim remains unchanged at the Guardian’s site at the time of this post, three days later. 

The Guardian or PressTV? Iran’s president to export the Islamic Revolution ‘peacefully’

If you were to glance at the Guardian’s home page today, you’d be treated to the following featured story:


So, apparently, the newly sworn-in Iranian president is launching a “peace” agenda.  

Interestingly, if you open the link on the Guardian graphic you get a report by  titled ‘Hassan Rouhani sworn in as president of Iran, urging moderation and respect‘ – indicating that the home page title was the creation of a Guardian editor, and not the author.  Dehghan’s piece is actually a pretty straight forward assessment, simply repeating the highlights of Rouhani’s speech.

However, here’s the passage of Rouhani’s speech highlighted by Dehghan which likely inspired the Guardian headline about the new “peace agenda”:

Rouhani said Iranians sought “peace” and “stability” in their region and across the world and said Tehran was against “foreign intervention” in any country. 

Pardon our cynicism, but it seems reasonable to ask if, as part of Rouhani’s new campaign for peace, the Islamic Republic will indeed stop providing money, arms and personnel to the Syrian army – support which has perpetuated the unimaginable bloodshed in a more than two-year long civil war.

Similarly, we can be forgiven for remaining skeptical that the new peace campaign will bring an end to a foreign policy which bestows upon Iran the distinction of being arguably the largest exporter of terror around the globe – which includes crucial support for Islamist terror movements such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

And, those genuine peace advocates among us may reasonably believe that it strains credulity to imagine a brave, new ‘dovish’ Islamist regime which will suddenly cease in its coordinated campaign of antisemitic propaganda, which includes Holocaust denial and incitement to genocide.

So, while continuing to export the Islamic Revolution by providing a military lifeline to the butcher in Damascus and sending sophisticated weapons to terror movements in Lebanon and Gaza, thus helping to destabilize the region, we are being asked to believe that the new President will, nonetheless, emphatically oppose all forms of “foreign intervention”.

Iranian imperialism with a ‘smiling face’, courtesy of the Guardian. 

Sounds Israeli: CiF Watch interview with Rita

rita 2On the April 13 edition of our weekly series highlighting the music of Israel (‘Sounds Israeli’) we featured Rita, the Iranian born Israeli (Rita Yahan-Farouz) who has become a critically acclaimed actress and the country’s most successful singing artist, with an international career spanning 25 years.  Born in Tehran in 1962, her family immigrated to Israel in 1970 and lived in a suburb outside of Tel Aviv. She began performing publicly as a band member in the IDF during the 1980s.

On June 19th I was one of the few bloggers at the Israeli President’s Conference in Jerusalem who had the privilege of sitting down with Rita – a warm, personable and engaging woman without even a hint of pretension – and ask her a few questions.  

We naturally spoke about a good deal about her music, which is inspired by the lullabies sung by her mother who, she proudly explained, had an “absolutely beautiful voice” – a Persian influence which can especially be heard in her most recent album, sung in Farsi, titled ‘My Joy’.  However, it was the memories, which she briefly conveyed to me, of her family’s experience as Jews living in a Muslim country which I found most interesting.

Though she was only 8 when her family emigrated she explained that she still has “memories of the smells and tastes of the food and the sound of the music” of Iran. And, though her family escaped 9 years prior to the Islamic revolution, the cruel reality of antisemitic persecution even in Arab and Muslim lands which were putatively ‘tolerant” of its Jews inspired me to ask how they were treated by their neighbors and the larger community.

Though the years between 1953 (the fall of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh) and the 1979 revolution were arguably the most prosperous for Iran’s Jews, Rita told me that even in the 1960s everyone in her family was firmly instructed to keep their Jewish identity hidden from neighbors – a secret, however, which would eventually be revealed.

My sister“, she said, “came home from school one day in tears because her teacher asked her to recite a Muslim prayer in front of the entire class. The teacher was appalled when she didn’t know how to ,” Rita recalls. “After that incident, my father decided we should leave Iran.”

Iran’s Jewish community, numbering more than 100,000 in 1948, has dwindled down to less than 9,000 today.

Rita, however, shows no bitterness towards her former country.  Iranians, she proudly informed me, have embraced her new Persian album –  “me, this Jewish, Israeli woman, as their own“.  She has received a huge volume of emails from Iranians expressing their admiration for her personally, and their love of her music. And, though Iran’s Internet is strictly censored to keep out “Zionist” influences, Rita’s album has become a hit on the black market, and her songs are even played by Iranian Muslims at weddings and clubs. 

She believes that language and music transcend boundaries and can really forge meaningful bonds between peoples across the globe – “even amongst ‘enemies’.” “I believe”, she added, that people can “break down the walls built by tyrannical regimes with small gestures of joy”.

You don’t need to understand Persian to appreciate Rita’s passion and joy while performing the following song from her new album, titled ‘Shah Dumad”.


Guardian removes claim about Iran’s nuclear “weapons” program from ‘the pages of time’

If you go to the Guardian’s business page you’ll see a report by Rupert Neate about a British company which allegedly earned millions of pounds selling goods to Iran, “including to a state-owned firm that supplies the regime’s nuclear programme”

The title of the report, as it now appears, is “Glencore traded with Iranian supplier to nuclear programme”.


However, the if you go back in time a few days (to a cached page), you can see the title they originally used: “Glencore traded with Iranian supplier to nuclear weapons’s programme”.  


Cached page, as it originally appeared

At some point after the story was published on April 21 the word “weapons” was deleted from title.

Whilst we’ll likely never know for sure what prompted the Guardian “correction” to the evidently counter-revolutionary suggestion that Iran is working on a nuclear weapons program, the paper’s history in denying the obvious about the regime’s nuclear ambitions provides some context.

For instance, there was Seumas Milne’s attempt, in a 2011 Comment is Free post, to obfuscate on the issue, which included an urgent plea for readers to prevent a “covert US-Israeli campaign against Tehran” from exploding into a global war.  He further argued that “a US-Israeli stealth war against Iran” would be “shocking” as “the case against Iran is so spectacularly flimsy.” He concluded thusly:

“There is in fact no reliable evidence that Iran is engaged in a nuclear weapons programme…. the evidence suggests Iran suspended any weapons programme in 2003 and has not reactivated it.”

In fact nothing could be further than the truth.  A Nov. 2011 IAEA Report included the following conclusions:

  • Iran has been conducting research and experiments geared to developing a nuclear weapons capability
  • Iran had carried out tests relevant to the development of a nuclear device.

Even a Guardian story (which included a pdf of the full IAEA report) characterized the IAEA findings as establishing that that “Iran appears to be on a structured path to building a nuclear weapon.”  Further, as recently as early April 2013, IAEA head Yukiya Amano said in an interview that his agency “has information indicating that Iran was engaged in activities relevant to the development of nuclear explosive devices in the past and now.”

But the award for great achievements in ideologically driven propaganda goes to their former veteran journalist Brian Whitaker, who actually served as the Guardian’s Middle East editor for seven years.  In a ‘CiF’ piece in Nov. 2011 titled “Why do the US media believe the worse about Iran?”, Whitaker not only ignored IAEA reports but suggested that the clandestine Iranian program may not even be a military program at all, but merely a ‘peaceful civilian project’ to manufacture nanodiamonds.


Nanodiamonds – a substance used in polishing compositions, coatings, lubricants and polymers.

Though the question of whether or not the Islamist regime in Iran will be able to successfully carry out their mission to develop nuclear weapons depends on the resolve of Western political and opinion leaders to stand up to the threat, the Mullahs in Tehran can always count on the Guardian Left to run interference on their clear aspirations to regional hegemony.

Guardian’s Julian Borger warns of “minority elements” provoking US-Iran war

Julian Borger, the diplomatic editor of the Guardian, published a story on Nov. 9 titled “Iran’s strike on US drone demonstrates the fragility of uneasy peace“.

Borger’s piece provided analysis on an incident earlier in the week in which two Iranian jet fighters fired at a US Predator drone which was carrying out a classified surveillance mission 16 miles off the Iranian shore.

While other analysts echoed Borger’s broader theme that the episode highlighted the risks that encounters between American and Iranian forces could quickly escalate into a military confrontation, you get a glimpse into Borger’s unique angle by reading the strap line:

Western officials warn that minority elements on both sides have vested interest in triggering ‘spoiler’ incident that leads to war

So, who are the “minority elements” hoping for an incident which triggers a war?

Borger writes the following:

“Western officials are concerned that minority elements on both sides of the confrontation in the region have a vested interest in triggering such a clash. Some Israeli leaders would like to see Washington drawn in so that superior US forces could strike a crippling blow to Iranian nuclear facilities, while a “war party” in Tehran sees a conflict as a means of rallying support for the regime and cracking down yet further on dissent, officials say.” [emphasis added]

While we’ll never know which Western officials he’s referring to, perhaps he’d like to ask them how Israel could have anything to do with decisions by the United States military to deploy surveillance drones over the Persian Gulf, or anywhere else in the world.

Even if you accept the premise that Israel has a “vested interest” in a US war with Iran, Borger’s suggestion relating to this latest incident seems to rest on nothing more than the classic non-sequitur: Who benefits?

America’s political leaders and US security agencies are the only parties dictating US security policy, so if there are “elements” hoping to provoke a confrontation with the regime in Tehran Mr. Borger may wish to look to Washington, D.C., and not Jerusalem, for answers.

Guardian and rest of British media get it wrong about Iranian threat.

This is cross posted by Tom Wilson, and originally published at The Jerusalem Post.

When Iranians stormed the British embassy in Tehran, it was reported that they had burned the British flag, yet the truth is that they actually burned the Israeli and American flags along with the British one. This should have told observers something.

It should have alerted them to the ideology at work there, an ideology that singles out Western democracies less for what they do and more because of what they are and what they represent in the world. And, just as the British media has so often gotten it wrong on Israel’s attempts to defend its civilians, so too this error of judgment seems to extend to Britain’s own international efforts. 

Seeing members of a mob brandishing a portrait of England’s Queen Elizabeth II as they stormed her embassy in Tehran, with the Iranian police initially appearing pretty impassive, you would have thought it would be clear to the British media which side they ought to be on. After all, with the Iranian parliament having voted to downgrade diplomatic relations to the sound of some of its members chanting “death to Britain,” many suspected that the ‘student’ riot was anything but spontaneous and, indeed, far from independent of the Iranian authorities’ influence.

Yet for some, this was not an occasion to rally to Britain’s defense, but rather to chastise its government for its policy on Iran and its nuclear program. A flurry of opinion pieces appeared, mostly in the liberal press, arguing that Britain had brought this on itself through its harsh dealings with Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s regime. This reaction, however, only reveals the extent to which some commentators in the West refuse to recognize that people in other cultures also have agency in their actions, that they are not simply reactive to our alleged geopolitical mismanagements.    

In one opinion piece for The Guardian, former British Minister of State Mark Malloch-Brown argued that Britain had acted as a “ringleader of efforts to squeeze Iran” and, as such, has made itself an American proxy in the eyes of the Iranians, a cardinal sin in the view of Britain’s liberal circles.

The Independent’s Middle East editor Robert Fisk went further still, arguing the case that the recent sanctions are just a small part of a long history of reasons “that makes Iranians hate the UK.” Fisk has dismissed former Bristh prime minister Tony Blair and British governments for “raving” about “the necessity of standing up to Iranian aggression” and what he calls “the supposedly terrorist nature of the Iranian government”. These commentators seem to possess short memories, choosing to ignore the Iranian kidnapping of three British naval personnel in 2007.

Perhaps none of this should surprise us since the IAEA report was published last month, which provided the clearest evidence yet that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, sections of the British media rushed to Iran’s defense, either calling into doubt Iran’s activities or warning that all intervention, military or otherwise, would be futile and damaging.

Predictably these writers tended to chastise Israel and the US for allegedly risking an escalation in the situation and a leading article by The Independent went so far as to allege that “America’s Jewish voters” were driving US policy on Iran. More startling still was British journalist Simon Jenkins’ Guardian piece in which he coldly stated that “No one seriously supposes that Iran, under whatever ruler, would seek to wipe out Israel – and anyway that is Israel’s business”.

All of this appears to indicate a stark failing in moral judgment on the part of sections of Britain’s media. The automatic assumption seems to be one of an irredeemable West committing unceasing aggression against the ever innocent developing world. Ultimately, it has been the very same people who fail to recognize the values that the Jewish State stands for who have similarly proved unable to maintain any kind of moral clarity when it comes representing the dealings of liberal and democratic Britain with the belligerent and terror sponsoring Islamic republic. 

The writer is a researcher and analyst at the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy where he heads the Centre Transatlantic Affairs project. Tom currently lives in London where he is completing a Doctorate at UCL.


The Guardian’s Cartoon Analysis

This animated short is a stunningly effective reply to the Guardian’s Algonquin Round Table of anti-Israel Middle East “experts” recently put together to analyze the U.S. Embassy Cables in the context of Middle East policy – most of whom demonstrate contempt for Israel while minimizing the threat from Tehran.  The collection of wise-men included Juan Cole, whose sage analysis included his apparently serious contention that, “There is no evidence that the Iranians have a nuclear weapons program…”.   When I read the passage by Cole, the look on my face was not unlike that of the character in the video (wearing blue) in the last scene.  You’ll see what I mean.

H/T Barry Rubin and Mere Rhetoric