Stealth ‘corrections’ at the Indy in Mira Bar-Hillel’s confessional about Olmert

A couple of hours ago we posted about an op-ed by Mira Bar-Hillel, titled ‘I dated Ehud Olmert once. His ambition stood out, but the corruption was yet to come‘, which included two errors:

First, she got the date of Ariel Sharon’s coma wrong.

More significantly, Bar-Hillel greatly inflated the casualty figures from the 2008-09 war in Gaza.  Here’s the original passage:

he [Olmert] ordered the molten lead attack on Gaza in December 2008, which again left over 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead, 

As we noted, even B’tselem (the NGO which has one of the highest casualty tallies) didn’t claim that the three-week conflict between Israel and Hamas “left over 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead”.  While other sources (including, quite tellingly, Hamas) place the civilian casualty figures dramatically lower, B’tselem has claimed that 773 of the 1387 Palestinians killed “did not take part in hostilities”.

Shortly after contacting Indy editors and alerting them to the errors, we noticed two changes:

First, the date of Sharon’s coma was corrected.

However, though there was a second change, it was not at all sufficient.  They merely changed this…

Two years later, he ordered the molten lead attack on Gaza in December 2008, which again left over 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead… 

to this:

Two years later he ordered the molten lead attack on Gaza in December 2008, which again left nearly 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead..

So, do they accept B’tselem’s figures, or don’t they? If they do, then are we to believe that 773 is “nearly 1000″?

Finally, it’s important to note that though newspaper editors (at the Guardian and elsewhere) who respond positively to our correction requests typically explain the revision or acknowledge it somewhere on their site, the changes to Bar-Hillel’s op-ed were not acknowledged or explained via an email, nor noted by Indy editors anywhere on the page.

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UK journalist who dated Ehud Olmert corrupts Gaza War casualty figures

Mira Bar-Hillel, the British journalist who has admitted to being prejudiced against Jews, penned an op-ed on April 1 at the Independent which contained an even more startling revelation:
mira

In what reads at first glance as an April Fool’s joke, Bar-Hillel writes the following about the former Israeli Prime Minister.

Reader, I didn’t marry him. Not even close. But I did once go out with the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has just been convicted of bribery and corruption.

Back in late 1969 a blind date was arranged for us. We moved in the same circles for a few years: he as an aspiring politician, me as a journalist. Then as now, Olmert was highly intelligent, with a sharp legal mind. On the downside was his raw ambition.

Olmert was the accidental PM. ‘Arik’ Sharon made him his deputy mainly to force him to toe the line. But when Sharon fell into a coma in 2004, Olmert inherited the job without having to bother with an election which he would probably not have won.

His legacy as PM includes the ill-fated adventure in Lebanon in August 2006, which killed over 1,000 people, mostly civilians, devastated civil infrastructure and displaced approximately one million Lebanese. Two years later, he ordered the molten lead attack on Gaza in December 2008, which again left over 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead, many of them, as in Lebanon, children.

First, she of course got the date of Ariel Sharon’s coma wrong, which occurred in 2006, not 2004.

Additionally, Bar-Hillel significantly inflates the casualty figures in the 2008-09 war in Gaza.

Even such politicized pro-Palestinian NGOs such as B’tselem haven’t claimed that the three-week conflict between Israel and Hamas “left over 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead”.  While other sources (including, quite tellingly, Hamas) place the civilian casualty figures dramatically lower, B’tselem has claimed that 773 of the 1387 Palestinians they claim were killed in the war “did not take part in hostilities” – more than 20 percent less than the figure cited by Bar-Hillel.

While Bar-Hillel acknowledges that the failed shidduch with the disgraced former PM didn’t provide an opportunity to really get to know the man, readers of the Independent would likely benefit from an equally frank admission that the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is an issue about which she knows even less about.

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How Jewish prayer represents “an extreme provocation to Muslims worldwide”

UK media coverage of “tensions” at the Temple Mount at times devolves into the absurd, mostly due to the way in which ‘professional’ journalists accept and normalize the logic of Islamist intolerance towards Jews and other religious groups.  

A report by Ben Lynfield at The Independent (‘Mounting tension: Israel’s Knesset debates proposal to enforce its sovereignty at Al-Aqsa Mosque – a move seen as ‘an extreme provocation to Muslims worldwide’, Feb. 26) represents a classic example of this strange inversion in which those advocating for freedom of worship for all groups are labeled as provocateurs, while those seeking to curtail that religious freedom are cast as victims.

Lynfield begins:

The Arab-Israeli conflict took on an increasingly religious hue when the Jordanian parliament voted unanimously to expel Israel’s ambassador in Amman after Israeli legislators held an unprecedented debate on Tuesday evening over a proposal to enforce Israeli sovereignty at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites, currently administered by Jordan, and to allow Jewish prayer there.

The Indy reporter later acknowledges that the legislation has no chance of becoming law – due to opposition from, among others, Binyamin Netanyahu – but still contextualizes the debate as feeding the “perception of an Israeli threat to Al-Aqsa Mosque” which could “ratchet up tensions in the wider Arab and Muslim worlds.”

Lynfield then gives some background about the Temple Mount:

Al-Aqsa is situated in an area revered as Judaism’s holiest site for housing the temples destroyed in 586BC and AD70 and is in the locale where religious Jews pray a third temple will be built. The Mount, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, has been an exclusively Muslim prayer site for the last 1,300 years, with the exception of the crusader incursions to the Holy Land.

Indeed, this passage in indicative of the convoluted logic often at play in the debate: Because the site has been an exclusively Muslim prayer site for over a thousand years, any attempt to abrogate such an exclusionary practice is itself a dangerous provocation.

Later, Lynfield deceptively weaves the following into the story.

On Tuesday morning, violence erupted at the Mount in advance of the debate. The police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that about 100 Palestinians, most of them masked, began throwing stones and fireworks at police, lightly wounding two officers. Police then entered the mount to ”disperse the rioters“, he said.

The suggestion here is as clear as it is erroneous: that Palestinians were rioting at the site due to a debate in the Knesset over a bill which will never become law.  However, as anyone who routinely reads news stories on such violence at the Temple Mount would know, such outbreaks occur, not due to any provocations by Israel – which arduously defends the rights of all faiths in the holy city – but by Palestinian extremists intent on provoking a conflict.  

As Israeli Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld continually tells journalists genuinely interested in understanding the cause of the violence, riots are usually coordinated by elements within Fatah and Hamas – as well as by local groups, such as Israel’s Islamist Movement.  (The northern branch of the Islamist Movement is led by a radical preacher fancied by the Guardian named Raed Salah.)

While the overwhelming majority of Israeli politicians are, as the Indy article suggests, not going to take any measures which will have the effect of inflaming the political situation, the surreal manner in which the issue is framed is best illustrated by a quote in the article by Hanan Ashrawi:

Hanan Ashrawi, the PLO spokeswoman, termed the holding of the Knesset debate an “extreme provocation to Muslims worldwide. Using religion as a pretext to impose sovereignty on historical places of worship threatens to plunge the entire region into great conflict and instability. It is reminiscent of the same regressive ideology that brought the crusades to Palestine in the Middle Ages’.’ 

So, let’s get this straight:

  1. Some Jews are asking for the right to quietly pray at the site in Jerusalem holiest to their faith.
  2. Millions of Muslims worldwide will, it is alleged, be provoked at the mere possibility that a faith other their own will have that right which they want exclusively for themselves.
  3. And, yet, it’s the Jews in this scenario who are portrayed as the “regressive” political force?

‘Orwellian’ doesn’t begin to fairly characterize the mental gymnastics employed by journalists in order to accept such bizarre logic.  

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False charge of ‘Palestinian Kids in Cages’ lives on in Australian documentary

The following was published at CAMERA

The false accusation that Israel maintained a longstanding practice of caging Palestinian children outdoors was repeated in several media outlets before being corrected by those outlets and repudiated by multiple sources. Yet it continues to gain new life as one Israeli media outlet steadfastly refuses to set the record straight.

The media charges began with a news article on Dec. 31 in the Jerusalem Post, Livni halts practice of placing detained Palestinian children in outdoor cages.” The story cited an NGO, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), to allege that there was a “longstanding” Israeli policy of torturing Palestinian children by caging them outdoors. The following day, a London-based newspaper, The Independent, published a similar article entitled “Israel government tortures Palestinian children by keeping them in cages, human rights group says.” Two subsequent Ha’aretzarticles also mentioned the Israeli practice allegedly targeting Palestinian children.

PCATI, the original source of the false allegations, wrongly conflated the holding of Israeli detainees in outdoor prison cells (referred to as “cages”) with general accusations of ill-treatment targeting Palestinians.  Referring to  “caging” as an example of the alleged torture of Palestinian children, the NGO linked to an earlier Hebrew-language statement from the Office of the Public Defender, which in turn was based on interviews with Israeli detainees at a prison transit facility. (There was no mention here of any Palestinians.) Those detainees reported being held temporarily in outdoor cells during severe weather as they awaited transfer to their court hearings. The Public Defender’s Office gave the report to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who contacted the Minister of Public Security and the commissioner of the Israel Prison Service.  The practice, which had been in place for several months, was immediately stopped.  From the start, this was a domestic issue related to conduct by the prison system toward Israeli detainees of whatever background that was distorted into an allegation of torture and abuse targeting Palestinian children.

After CAMERA pointed out the discrepancy between PCATI’s accusation and the statement to which it was linked, the NGO acknowledged that Palestinians were never mentioned in the Public Defender’s report and posted a clarification to that effect on its website. CAMERA also contacted The Independent and Ha’aretz, who similarly corrected their stories.

CAMERA and its affiliates gathered additional evidence from multiple sources, including statements from the Public Defender’s Office, the Justice Ministry, the Israeli Prison Authority, as well as remarks about the matter by the Minister of Public Security at a Knesset session following the release of the Public Defender’s statement, the Knesset Public Petitions Committee session that was referenced in the Jerusalem Post article and Hebrew-language reports about the matter, all of which made it undeniably clear that the short-term practice of temporarily holding detainees in outdoor holding cells, or  “cages,” was never directed at Palestinian children or Palestinian adults.

 For the past six weeks, since the Jerusalem Post article was originally published, CAMERA has appealed repeatedly to the newspaper’s journalists and editors, urging them to correct the misleading story, but to no avail.  
 
Unfortunately, the Jerusalem Post’s  inexplicable refusal to set the record straight has opened the door to the ongoing perpetration of an egregious falsehood, as evidenced by a vitriolic Australian documentary yesterday. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary, “Four Corners,” promoted a narrative of brutal abuse by Israel of Palestinian children. It included the Jerusalem Post‘s story of holding children overnight in outdoor cages. At approximately 32 minutes into the broadcast, the documentary zooms in on the Post‘s print story, graphically underscoring just how much damage the uncorrected report inflicts:
jerusalempostfourcorners

 

 

CiF Watch prompts correction to false Indy claim that US views settlements as ‘illegal’

A Feb. 2 story at The Independent by Jonathan Owen, titled ‘Scarlett Johansson split with Oxfam may deter celebrity charity work‘, included the following passage:

One of SodaStream’s main factories is in Ma’aleh Adumim, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank which bodies such as the UN, the EU and the US government say are illegal under international law.

However, while it is true that UN and EU officials typically characterize Israeli communities across the green line as “illegal” – based on extremely specious legal logic – this is not true of the US, which has consistently refrained from rendering a legal decision about their status, opting instead recently for the more generic term, “illegitimate”.

Even the New York Times has acknowledged this distinction:

The United States has not taken a position on the settlements’ legality for several decades, saying instead, according to the State Department, “We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.”

The Indy’s own Middle East reporter, Robert Fisk, acknowledged it, as did ABC News, Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera and Al-Alam, just to name a few.

As Elliott Abrams, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations, explained: 

The U.S. position has fluctuated over time. In the Reagan years, the United States said the settlements were “not illegal.” The Clinton and George H.W. Bush administrations avoided the legal arguments but criticized the settlements frequently. President George W. Bush called the larger settlement blocs “new realities on the ground” that would have to be reflected in peace negotiations.

More recently, the official U.S. attitude has been more critical. In 2011, the Obama administration vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling the settlements “illegal” but former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice then denounced “the folly and illegitimacy” of continued Israeli settlement activity. “The United States of America views all of the settlements as illegitimate,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in August 2013.

The United States is the main broker of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, so American officials have tended toward pragmatic approaches. U.S. officials have viewed settlement expansion as an obstacle to peace talks and the conclusion of a comprehensive peace agreement, and opposed it on those practical grounds.

U.S. officials have tried to avoid an argument over the legal status of the settlements, instead urging that expansion is a bad policy. The use of the term “illegitimate” rather than “illegal” suggests a desire to express disapproval as a political judgment without getting bogged down in arguments over the international legal status of the Palestinian territories and Israel’s actions in them.

After we contacted Indy editors to complain about their characterization of the US position, they agreed to revise the passage in question.  It now reads:

One of SodaStream’s main factories is in Ma’aleh Adumim, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank which bodies such as the UN and the EU say are illegal under international law.  The US government regards such settlements as ‘illegitimate’.

We commend Indy editors for their prompt decision to correct this false claim.

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The UK media again show their obsession with the ‘Israel lobby’

Just yesterday, we posted about a cartoon published at the Economist on Jan. 18 (which they later retracted) with imagery suggesting that pro-Israeli (or Jewish) interests control US Congress.  We noted that such narratives, on the injurious influence of organized Jewry (and their money), have become something akin to an enforced orthodoxy within many circles, especially among the “enlightened” British opinion elite.

Additionally, Donald Macintyre (Jerusalem correspondent for the Independent) published a report on Jan 21 titled ‘William Hague swims around the fishy issue of Iran‘, which began thus:

To contrast the attitudes of the US Congress and the British Parliament, start with Iran. Today, the palpable welcome by MPs for Tehran’s suspension of high-level  uranium enrichment was matched only by anxiety about the UN excluding Iran from the Syria talks that start today in Switzerland.

The unease emanated not only in Labour but on the government benches. John Baron, who pressed William Hague for early “normalisation” of UK-Iran diplomatic relations after an “encouraging start” to nuclear negotiations, is his own man. But he was backed by fellow Tory Phillip Lee who deplored the “overnight debacle” of the cancelled invitation and wanted “a Gorbachev-like” approach to “reform-minded Iranian politicians”.

Many MPs, in other words, want to go further, faster in rapprochement, with Iran. Contrast that with Congress, where many members have been pressing for sanctions to be tightened. All of this makes it hard not to conclude that one difference is the much greater power wielded by the Israel lobby in the US legislature than in its British counterpart.

First, the Indy journalist conflates two separate issues: talks taking place in Switzerland today aimed at resolving the Syrian Civil War (known as Geneva II) on one hand, and an interim nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers (the P5+1) on the other.  While the role played by the ‘Israel lobby’ in influencing Congressional support for increased US sanctions against Iran is itself far less than clear, there is no evidence of any such lobbying on either side of the Atlantic to scuttle Iran’s participation in Geneva II.

More importantly, it’s quite remarkable that Macintyre – a journalist known for his exclusive investigations - failed to provide even a hint of evidence to back up his claim that only the contrasting strengths of the US and British ‘Israel lobbies’ could explain the differing government approaches to issues related to Iran. It’s as if, for Macintyre and those similarly subscribing to “the party of Mearsheimer and the clique of Walt“, no other explanation is even conceivable.  

A more astute observer of the American political scene, however, would of course recognize that the “power” of the lobby is primarily merely a reflection of the organic popularity of the issues they’re campaigning for. In fact, polls of American public opinion consistently demonstrate that Israel is extremely popular among all groups, while Iran is consistently disliked.  The following poll of Americans conducted by Gallup in 2013 reveals that Iran is in fact the least popular foreign country, while Israel is the sixth most popular foreign country.

gallup

Such data indicating that Iran is extremely unpopular would of course help contextualize more recent polls indicating that a plurality of Americans disapprove of the agreement between the U.S. and Iran over its nuclear program due, it seems, to their skepticism that Tehran would actually abide by the terms of any such deal.  Gallup reported that “62% of those polled believe that Iranian leaders are not serious about addressing international concerns about their country’s nuclear enrichment program compared with just 29% who think they are serious.”

It should be clear to the Indy journalist that Congressional support for Iran sanctions accurately reflects American public opinion on the issue, and, more broadly, that the conventional wisdom about supposed ‘root causes’ of US policy – which risibly often passes as ‘progressive’ political thought – is facile, often tinged with bigotry and empirically inaccurate. 

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Springtime for Rouhani: Jack Straw complains that pro-Israel cash stymies US-Iran peace

jack+straw

Jack Straw

In an op-ed on Friday at The Independent, former British foreign secretary Jack Straw revisited a narrative he advanced late last year regarding the alleged injurious impact of funds from Jewish and pro-Israeli groups in the U.S.

During a Parliamentary debate on diplomacy in the Mid-East in late October, Straw reportedly complained that the greatest obstacle to peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors is the “unlimited” funds available to Jewish groups and AIPAC which are used to control American policy – comments which Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub complained represented familiar tropes about “sinister Jewish power”.

Straw’s Jan. 17 Indy op-ed (In Hasan Rouhani’s Iran, you can feel the winds of change‘), addresses the broader issue of U.S. – Iran relations, and is giddy with excitement over the peace and harmony that could be achieved if we place our trust in the beneficence of Iran’s putatively moderate president, Hassan Rouhani.  

You can sense the thrill going up his leg as he waxes eloquently on the “courageous” Rouhani who has evidently imbued Tehran with the progressive spirit more akin to “Madrid or Athens” than “Mumbai or Cairo” – all of which would be news to the country’s oppressed Bahai, imprisoned democracy activists and opposition leaders, and families of the 33 Iranians executed in the last week alone. 

The antagonist in Straw’s Iranian Spring tale is clear by the third paragraph, where he recalls his encounters with leaders of the Islamic Republic in 2001:

My first visit to Iran was in late September 2001, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. The moderate Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, had courageously reached out to the United States with moral, and much practical, support in the struggle to counter al-Qa’ida.

Then, I went straight from Tehran to Israel. The Israelis concocted a diplomatic row over my using the noun “Palestine” rather than the adjective “Palestinian” in an article for the Iranian press. A banquet for me was cancelled and my meeting with the then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was delayed until the small hours. Behind this grammatical nonsense there was a much bigger issue – as there still is – about whether Israel wanted an end to the isolation of Iran, or whether it suited them for  Iran to be damned as a “pariah state” for all time.

Since Israeli and American politics are so intertwined, this was a major question for the US government, too. There are more American PhDs in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s Cabinet than there are in US President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. Yet the US quickly squandered all the potential of Mr Khatami’s bid for rapprochement with the West, with the ill-judged inclusion of Iran in President George W Bush’s “axis of evil”. Indeed, US policy  so undermined the Khatami administration that the reformists lost ground, to be replaced by the populist hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Pivoting to the Rouhani era and the nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and the P5+1, Straw writes:

President Rouhani’s election last summer was as overwhelming as it was surprising. “He only had 5 per cent in the polls when we started”, one proud supporter told us. The consequences of Mr Rouhani’s victory cannot be overstated. There’s a lightness in the air…

Sustained economic recovery depends in part on internal reform, but also on an end to the nuclear-related sanctions…Sanctions can have eccentric effects. Five hundred Porsches were imported last year, it is claimed. Coca-Cola is freely available; but banking sanctions mean that cancer patients cannot access life-saving imported drugs, even though formally these have been exempt from control.

November’s interim deal agreed in Geneva between Iran and the “P5 + 1” (the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, plus Germany) will come into force on Monday. There’s an obvious prize for Iran in ending all sanctions. There is for the UK too. Above and beyond big trade opportunities, a normalisation of relations will have profound benefits, not least in those troubled countries – Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine – where Iran has such influence.

Finally, Straw cites the greatest obstacle to the normalisation of relations and peace in the region:

Whether a comprehensive deal on Iran can be reached will crucially depend on how far Mr Obama is able to resist the intense lobbying (and financial support) Mr Netanyahu is able to muster in the US Congress.

Beyond Straw’s repugnant suggestion that pro-Israel elements in the US Congress take their marching orders from Jerusalem, and his failure to acknowledge that pro-Israel (and anti-Iran) sentiment is embraced by the overwhelming majority of Americans, it’s important to recall that his recent charges leveled at Jewish groups and Israel seem to reflect a broader narrative of Zionist root causes.  

A few weeks after 9/11, Straw led a Western delegation to Tehran, and delivered the following message in the context of the deadly attacks by al-Qaeda which killed nearly 3,000 Americans: “I understand that one of the factors which helps breed terrorism is the anger which many people in this region feel at events over the years in Palestine.”

Of course, one of the factors which undeniably leads to violence and instability in the Middle East is Iran’s role, according to the U.S. State Department, as the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world.

However, when you wake up in the morning genuinely convinced that Israel and the state’s Jewish supporters represent the biggest obstacle to peace in the Middle East, then even a reactionary, Islamist regime which exports terror abroad, while repressing religious minorities, women, gays and political dissidents at home, can evoke your ‘liberal’ sympathy.

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Death of an anti-Israel lie? CiF Watch prompts 2nd revision to Indy torture story

Those who follow this blog (and other sites which monitor coverage of Israel) are all too familiar with the cycle of misinformation often propagated by media gatekeepers with a pronounced political agenda, by which smears spread rapidly across the traditional and social media before they can be effectively refuted.

Though a horribly misleading report at The Independent (Israel government tortures Palestinian children by keeping them in cages, human rights group says‘, Adam Withnall, Jan. 1) hasn’t quite gone viral, it’s impossible to know how many of their readers casually accepted their false allegations in the weeks it took us to garner corrections to their primary claim in the story, which can be summed up in their leading original sentence:

“An Israeli human rights organisation has accused the government of torturing Palestinian children after it emerged some were kept for months in outdoor cages during winter.”

The Indy evidently based its claim on a report in the Jerusalem Post on Dec. 31 which was based almost entirely on a report from the NGO PCATI (Public Committee Against Torture in Israel).  However, as we noted previously, the PCATI report in question is itself based on a report at the website of the Israel Public Defender’s Office (PDO), where you learn the much less sensational truth: the Israel Prison Service had, on occasion, held some Israelis who were arrested – for various crimes – in outdoor holding pens (for a couple of hours) until they were transported to court in the morning. This practice has since been ended. 

As we noted in previous posts, NOWHERE in the PDO’s statement (which they sent to the Israel Justice Ministry) do they use the word “Palestinians”, nor the word “torture”.

After our initial complaint to the Indy, the false charge that Palestinian children were caged for months was quickly amended and, more recently (following subsequent communication with their editors), they also agreed to make additional changes to more accurately reflect the actual language of the Public Defender’s Office’s statement.

This past Friday, the Indy finally removed all references to the word “Palestinians”, and included an addendum at the bottom of Withnall’s article noting that the change was prompted by their acknowledgement that the PDO never mentioned anything about Palestinians.

(Additionally, we’ve been in communication with editors at the Jerusalem Post over their report on the Public Defender’s Office complaint, and expect a reply soon.)

While the Indy correction represents a significant improvement over the original, what remains is still extremely misleading, as it suggests that a “human rights group” (PCATI) accused Israel of ‘torturing’ children, when the PCATI page in question does NOT characterize the ceased practice of keeping some prisoners in open-air cells for several hours (while in transit to court) as “torture”.  

There is of course a huge difference between an unfair or abusive detention practice and the outright ‘torture’ of prisoners, and it strains credulity to characterize what occurred at the IPS transition facility in Ramla as torture. 

Though it is of course the job of such NGOs to investigate any credible allegations of such abuse, it is the job of responsible journalists to accurately characterize the specific charges being leveled, and avoid false characterizations and hyperbole which mislead readers into believing something which either is completely untrue, or which egregiously distorts a few kernels of truth to advance an entirely misleading narrative.

Finally, Withnall’s hatchet job is especially galling in light of an official editorial published by the Indy in Oct. in which they emphatically denied charges leveled by some that they were guilty of demonizing Israel.

However, their decision to publish a sensational report with a scare headline falsely accusing the Israeli government of sadistically torturing Palestinian kids by holding them in outdoor cages for months during winter – among other libels they’ve published in recent months – significantly undermines their claim that they don’t engage in such reckless and libelous smears. 

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Did the Indy get it wrong again? G4S denies being investigated over West Bank contracts

Did the Indy get it wrong again?

You may have been following our ongoing investigation into a wild story by Indy reporter Adam Withnall, in an article on Jan 1, which claimed the Israeli government is torturing Palestinian children – a reckless charge that the paper seems to have no real evidence to support.  (Though we’ve already prompted a correction to one of the specific claims made by Withnall, we’re continuing to press them to take further action and, barring any new evidence, acknowledge that the entire story is untrue.)

More recently, the Indy published an article by Business Editor Jim Armitage (based on an unnamed source) claiming the UK security company G4S “is facing an investigation by international authorities into its alleged activities in…the occupied Palestinian territories”. However, this also may be completely inaccurate.  

indy

Though, according to Armitage, the “Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) UK staff have indicated that it will be investigating the company’s work supplying Israeli security services,” according to a story in The Jewish Chronicle (The JC), a G4S spokesperson said that the Indy report was ‘wrong’.  The spokesperson further said that “the firm was not under investigation and that it had not been contacted by the OECD or any government department.”

Further, per The JC, the “OECD said it was not directly involved with any such inquiries.”

We’ll continue to follow this story and update you if there are any further developments.

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Indy’s wild claim that Israel ‘tortures’ Palestinian kids continues to unravel

h/t Gidon Shaviv

We posted on Jan 2nd about a wild accusation at The Independent with the following headline:

The charge that Palestinian kids were tortured by Israel – by being “caged” for “months” during winter – was repeated in the text of the story which was written by Adam Withnall:

An Israeli human rights organisation has accused the government of torturing Palestinian children after it emerged some were kept for months in outdoor cages during winter.

To back up this claim, Withnall cited a report from the NGO PCATI (Public Committee Against Torture in Israel).

Withnall wrote the following:

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) published a report which said children suspected of minor crimes were subjected to “public caging”,

However, as we observed in our original post, when you go to the actual report (open the Word document at the bottom) at PCATI’s site, you learn that the NGO does NOT actually level specific charges that Palestinian children were kept in “cages” or “tortured.  We noted further that the statement by PCATI in question links to a report (in Hebrew) at the Israel Public Defender’s Office (PDO).  Indeed, Withnall actually cited the PDO report, which similarly did not mention anything about Palestinians children.

Withnall wrote:

“During our visit, held during a fierce storm that hit the state, attorneys met detainees who described to them a shocking picture: in the middle of the night dozens of detainees were transferred to the external iron cages built outside the IPS transition facility in Ramla,” the PDO wrote on its website.

Upon looking more thoroughly through the PDO website, and reading the entire letter their office sent to the Israel Justice Ministry about such detention methods, we learned that they were only charging that some Israelis arrested in the middle of the night spent a number of hours in outdoor (open-air) jails until they were taken to the court early in the morning.  The PDO statement further clarifies that this practice (which was recently ended) in general – under which detainees sometimes waited in outdoor holding cells for several hours - had existed for a number of months.

Again, there is no mention of Palestinian children.

Following our communication with Indy editors, they minimally revised the passage which falsely claimed that prisoners were kept “for months” in “outdoor cages”, as they evidently realized that the word months only signified the length of time the practice had been going on.

However, upon further investigation by Presspecitva and CiF Watch, it increasingly appears likely that the entire Indy story is untrue. We weren’t able to find any evidence that anyone even alleged that Palestinian children were kept in these outdoor facilities (“caged”), or “tortured”, during transit to court.

In addition to the fact that the Israel Public Defender’s Office doesn’t mention Palestinian children in any context, we checked with the Israel Prison Service, whose spokesperson (Sivan Weizman) told us quite clearly that the entire PDO complaint submitted to the Justice Ministry only refers to Israeli prisoners (some of whom were evidently teens) and NOT Palestinians, yet alone Palestinian kids. Weizman stated emphatically that this had nothing to do whatsoever with Palestinian children, and that the prisoners in question were common criminals, not suspects being held for security (terrorist) offenses.

Finally, it’s quite telling that neither the Guardian nor other British and U.S. news outlets – which typically are not shy about smearing Israel with unsubstantiated allegations – have jumped on the story.  If there was any credible evidence that Israel was “torturing” kids, you’d think the usual media suspects would be all over it.

The Indy hatchet job should never have seen the light of day in the first place, and – barring any new evidence which would justify the original charge – it seems clear that further corrections are no longer sufficient. Indy editors should retract the entire story.

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Guess which British journalist re-tweeted Gilad Atzmon?

Say you’re a British Jew and work professionally as a journalist.

And, though you are highly critical of both Israel and many Jews, you still fancy yourself a progressive and anti-racist.  Indeed, you are buoyed by the fact that a mainstream “enlightened” British newspaper continues to publish your commentaries about Israel.

Again, supposing that you were such a “progressive”, ‘independent’ Jewish voice, what would your response be to an article written by Gilad Atzmon, an extremist who has advanced the following arguments?

  • Jews stifle debate about the scope of the Holocaust.
  • The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a prophetic document which accurately characterizes (and predicts) Jewish behavior.

You would completely distance yourself from the views of such an extreme racist, wouldn’t you?  Further, you would emphatically denounce his views at every opportunity, right?

Well, there is one British Jew (who contributes to the London Evening Standard and the Independent) claiming the mantle of anti-racism who, when encountering the commentary of Mr. Atzmon decided to tacitly endorse it.

retweet

If you’re entertaining the notion that Bar-Hillel’s re-tweet of Atzmon did not in fact ‘imply endorsement’, consider that Atzmon’s post (The Milibands, The BBC and The Proloteriat, Oct. 13) included passages which are quite consistent with Bar-Hillel’s own complaints about the stifling of debate about Israel.

Atzmon’s post, which Bar-Hillel re-tweeted, included the following:

Now, is this a legitimate concern or, is socialism, like Jewishness, beyond any criticism or scrutiny?

Of course this is a rhetorical question. Apparently in Britain 2013, any attempt to question the intellectual foundations, history and meaning behind Marxism and socialist thinking is reduced simply to ‘antisemitism’. So, it looks like Marxism and cosmopolitanism, like Jewishness and Israeli racism, have been merged into one vague entity removed from our public discourse, let alone criticism.  

Now, here’s Bar-Hillel in an interview published in Haaretz:

Any criticism of the policies of Israel…is regarded as treason and/or anti-Semitism. Most papers and journals will not even publish articles on the subject for fear of a Jewish backlash

Also of note, this was not a one-off between Atzmon and Bar-Hillel, as you can see in this ‘enlightened’ exchange in September:

tweet convo

One of the most common deceits advanced by many Jewish critics of Israel is that, though they may demonize Israel and even reduce its Jewish citizens to grotesque caricatures, they are nonetheless passionately opposed to “real” antisemitism.

Though there are some Jewish critics of Israel who can credibly claim to walk such a moral tightrope, Bar-Hillel’s decision to engage (and legitimize) a vile neo-Nazi style anti-Semite like Gilad Atzmon demonstrates that she can no longer fancy herself a principled anti-Zionist and a principled anti-racist.  

Her tolerance towards one of the most repugnant promoters of Jew hatred should, at the very least, disqualify her from contributing to any publication which takes its moral reputation seriously

Email shows The Independent got it wrong on Antisemitism working definition

Recently we posted about a peculiar essay about the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism at The Independent, written by a journalist who’s admitted to being prejudiced against Jews.  Though you can read our post to see several of her erroneous claims about antisemitism, and Israel more broadly, we recently were provided evidence which refutes one specific claim made in the article – that the EU retired the Working Definition.

indy headline

First, here’s the EUMC Working Definition:

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Despite Bar-Hillel’s enthusiastic suggestion that the Working Definition was retired, which she claimed (per the Livingstone Formulation), served to allow Jews to stifle the free speech of Israel’s critics, we pointed to the following facts:

  • In 2010, the UK All-Party Inquiry into antisemitism recommended that the Working Definition should be adopted and promoted by the Government and law enforcement agencies.
  • An official document published by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) recommends the Working Definition as a valuable hate crime data collection tool for law enforcement agencies, and for educators.

Recently, a CiF Watch reader forwarded us her email exchange with a representative from the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) – the successor agency to the EUMC (European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia). 

email 1

Now, here’s the FRA reply:

email 2

The next time a commentator hostile to Jews or Israel claims that the EU “retired” or “repudiated” the EUMC Working Definition, you can definitively respond that their Fundamental Rights Agency – per their own words – did nothing of the sort.  

As we’ve noted on numerous occasions, the Working Definition is not law.  

However, it does represent a widely respected and practical guide (formulated by NGOs and reps from the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination section of the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in 2005) used by law enforcement agencies and human rights bodies in the EU to help determine what constitutes anti-Jewish racism. 

Those committed to defending the fundamental human rights of Jews would be wise to follow their lead. 

Antisemitic reporter Mira Bar-Hillel pens op-ed (on antisemitism!) for The Independent

The Jews of today scare me and I find it almost impossible to talk to most of them, including relatives. Any criticism of the policies of Israel – including the disgraceful treatment of Holocaust survivors as well as refugees from murderous regimes – is regarded as treason and/or anti-Semitism. Most papers and journals will not even publish articles on the subject for fear of a Jewish backlash. Goyim (gentiles) are often treated with ill-concealed contempt, yet the Jews are always the victims. Am I prejudiced against Jews? Alas, yes. - Mira Bar-Hillel

As we’ve reported previously, Mira Bar-Hillel is a British journalist who has admitted (per the quote above) to being prejudiced against Jews.  

Yet, despite this explicit admission of racism, editors at The Independent deemed her qualified to comment on the Ralph Miliband-Daily Mail antisemitism controversy in October - a column which dismissed charges of racism against the DM and accused Jews (per the Livingstone Formulation) of trying to “gag into submission any critic of Israel…”.

In her latest Indy op-ed (an essay addressing the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism), Bar-Hillel again regales British readers with her ‘penetrating insights’ into the danger posed by ‘false accusations of antisemitism’ by organized Jewry - a piece riddled with distortions.

False claim that ‘EU Working Definition of Antisemitism’ has been “retired”

Here’s the headline of the op-ed:

headlineHowever, as we noted in a previous post on the issue, it is untrue that “the EU has retired its working definition”.

To cite a few examples: 

  • In 2010, the UK All-Party Inquiry into antisemitism recommended that the Working Definition should be adopted and promoted by the Government and law enforcement agencies.
  • An official document published by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) recommends the Working Definition as a valuable hate crime data collection tool for law enforcement agencies, and for educators.

False claim about Israeli Bedouin

Bar-Hillel writes:

There was not, in that lengthy and detailed definition, anything new or that I would disagree with – apart from a dangerous sting in the end. This stretched the definition of anti-Semitism from the simple 2,000-year-old Jew-hating and baiting to “attacking Israel … by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation, or holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.”

It was this dubious extension which has been used recently to gag, or at least mute, free speech and most criticism of Israel in the UK media and beyond.

For example, the Prawer Plan, now being enforced in Israel. Under it, between 40,000 and 70,000 Bedouin, nomads who became Israeli citizens in the 1950s, will be forcefully removed from land they roamed for centuries to make way for “military firing zones”.

First, Bar-Hillel (much like Glenn Greenwald) implicitly smears the Jewish community with charges that they work to stifle free speech.  

Further, as we demonstrated in a post last week, the number of Israeli Bedouin who will be relocated is not “between 40,000 and 70,000″ as Bar-Hillel claims.  Under what’s known as the Prawer-Begin Plan, most (about 60,000) of those currently living in unrecognized villages in the Negev will have their land legalized, while a much smaller number (30,000) will be moved a few kilometers (from their current encampments) to planned communities.  

Additionally, her claim that the land where some of these Bedouin currently reside will “make way for IDF “military firing zones” seems to be completely untrue.  Though new Israeli cities will be built where these encampments now stand, nobody is claiming that “military firing zones’ will be established in its place. (It’s possible Bar-Hillel is conflating the Israeli Negev with the South Hebron Hills, an area in the West Bank where a row over IDF “firing ranges” has indeed been reported.)

Almost no reports about the Bedouin issue in the British media?

Bar-Hillel, commenting more broadly on the Prawer-Begin plan for the Bedouin and the protests surrounding the row, also makes the following claim:

Moreover, only one newspaper in this country covered the proposal – or the extremely violent protests which followed.

However, a quick Google search shows that the Indy, Guardian, Telegraph and Financial Times have all reported on the issue.

‘Jewish pressure’ on the media?

Bar-Hillel then provides an explanation for the (erroneous) ‘fact’ that “only one newspaper in the country covered the proposal”. 

I can only speculate on the reasons why, but suspect that the “working definition”, which has recently allowed all those who criticise Israel – including myself – to be labelled anti-Semitic, had something to do with it.

Get it?  Bar-Hillel not only comes to the risible conclusion that British newspapers don’t provide enough coverage of Israel, but that this putative dearth of coverage is inspired by fear of being labeled antisemitic.

Of course, her working theory is undermined by recent studies on British media coverage of Israel (and, more specifically, the Guardian’s own data) which demonstrates quite the opposite: that news relating to the Jewish state represents something approaching an obsession to UK editors, reporters and commentators. 

Conclusive proof that British papers don’t fear accusations of antisemitism can of course also be found in the simple fact that Indy editors felt no hesitation in publishing an essay – on the topic of antisemitism – by a journalist who has admitted to possessing an antipathy towards Jews.  

If the organized Jewish community is indeed trying to stifle the free speech of anti-Semites, they’re clearly failing miserably at this task.

Sally Idwedar ‘forgets’ to mention the H-word in her Indy essay on “life in Gaza”

Sally Idwedar is just your average girl living in Gaza.  

sally

She’s also a blogger who, at some point in her life, acted “on impulse”, quit her corporate job in Washington D.C. and made “Aliyah” to Gaza to start her life anew. 

Idwedar also just published an essay at The Independent describing life in the Palestinian controlled territory. 

life

Her polemic on the difficulties of life in the Strip as the result of Israeli villainy includes the following passages:

I was thinking about how I would start to write about life in Gaza – how I would lay the words out with eloquence – when suddenly an explosion boomed close by and those thoughts fled my mind.I didn’t know the source; maybe it was internal training or perhaps another air strike.

The UN issued a report last week saying Gaza is becoming uninhabitable and the humanitarian conditions are deteriorating – sadly that is true.

Two weeks ago the sewage pumping stations stopped working in many areas – they simply did not have the fuel to work. Raw sewage leaks into the streets. Fathers carry their children to get to school and most cars won’t venture into it. The sludge reeks and brings mosquitoes in swarms.

There is fear it will end up in the water supply as well…

..

This is life in Gaza now: a constant struggle to find the bare necessities.

As Elder of Ziyon observed today in his post on Idwedar’s ‘meditation’, she oddly doesn’t use the word “Hamas” even once.  

This omission is even more glaring in light of her own Twitter battle with Richard “faux scoop” Silverstein (richards1052) in October (as noted by the blog Israellycool) where she was much less reticent about using the ‘H-word’.  Indeed, Idwedar’s exchange with the evidently pro-Hamas Jewish blogger is especially revealing in light of her complaint about Gaza sewage noted above.  

Who needs to take action?

Who could import needed parts?

Finally, just in case there’s any doubt as to who precisely she’s criticizing:

Yet, for some reason, Idwedar indeed “tried to hide” her opposition to the Islamist group in her more than 1100 word first person account of the “constant struggle to find the bare necessities” in Gaza.

I simply can’t imagine why.

What about the Grand Mufti’s desire to ‘liquidate the Jews’ doesn’t Robert Fisk understand?

Fisking “Middle East expert” Robert Fisk can be especially challenging, as he often pivots seamlessly between mere distortions and outright fabrications within the same essay.  His latest op-ed at The Independent, The real poison is to be found in Arafat’s legacy, Nov. 18, represents a great example of his talent for such multi-faceted misrepresentations.

fisk

Though he dismisses recent accusations that Arafat was poisoned, Fisk, in attempting to explain the legacy of the late Palestinian leader, whitewashes his decades-long involvement in lethal terrorist attacks against Israelis, and risibly claims that his biggest character flaw was that he was in fact ‘too trusting’ of Israeli leaders.

Fisk writes:

He made so many concessions to Israel – because he was growing old and wanted to go to “Palestine” before he died – that his political descendants are still paying for them. Arafat had never seen a Jewish colony on occupied land when he accepted the Oslo agreement. He trusted the Americans. He trusted the Israelis. He trusted anyone who appeared to say the right things. And it must have been exhausting to start his career as a super-“terrorist” in Beirut and then be greeted on the White House lawn as a super- “statesman” and then re-created by Israel as a super-“terrorist” again.

However, the most egregious lie by omission appears later in the essay when he addresses comments Arafat reportedly made about the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, per a conversation he had with Edward Said:

Edward Said told me that Arafat said to him in 1985 that “if there’s one thing I don’t want to be, it’s to be like Haj Amin. He was always right, and he got nothing and died in exile.”

Hunted by the British, Haj Amin, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, went to Berlin during the Second World War in the hope that Hitler would help the Palestinians.

His claim that the pro-Nazi Haj Amin was merely attempting to “help the Palestinians” represents an extraordinary obfuscation.  

As a CAMERA report (based on documentation in a book by Jennie Lebel titled ‘The Mufti of Jerusalem: Haj-Amin el-Husseini and National-Socialism‘) makes clear, Haj Amin’s desire to ‘help the Palestinians’ was superseded by a greater passion – to annihilate the Jews.

Haj Amin El-Husseini, who was appointed Mufti of Jerusalem in 1921 aided by sympathetic British officials, advocated violent opposition to Jewish settlement in the Mandate for Palestine and incited the Arabs against the growing Jewish presence. Lebel describes the violence of 1929, where Haj Amin spread the story that the Jews planned to destroy the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa mosque. Using falsified photos of the mosque on fire and disseminating propaganda that borrowed from the anti-Jewish forgery, the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the mufti instigated a widespread pogrom against Jews in Palestine. On Aug. 23, Arabs streamed into Jerusalem and attacked Jews. Six days later, a second wave of attacks resulted in 64 dead in Hebron

Hebron_massacre_newspaper

The Mufti injected a religiously based anti-Jewish component into the emerging Palestinian national consciousness….Presaging modern boycott proposals against Jewish settlement, Haj Amin called on all Muslims to boycott Jewish goods and organized an Arab strike on April 10, 1936.

He saw in the Nazis and Italian fascists natural allies who would do what the British were unwilling to do — purge the region of Jews and help him establish a unified Arab state throughout the Middle East…Believing that the Axis might prevail in the war, the mufti secured a commitment from both Italy and Germany to the formation of a region-wide Arab state. He also asked for permission to solve the Jewish problem by the “same method that will be applied for the solution of the Jewish problem in the Axis states.” 

On Nov. 28, 1941, he met for the first time with Adolf Hitler, relaying to the German leader the Arab conviction that Germany would win the war and that this would benefit the Arab cause. 
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, meets Hitler for the first time. Berlin, Germany, November 28, 1941.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, meets Hitler in Berlin

While Hitler shared the mufti’s belief that the present war would determine the fate of the Arabs, his priority was the struggle against what he saw as Jewish-controlled Britain and the Soviet Union. Lebel reveals Hitler’s promise that when the German army reached the southern borders of the Caucasus, he would announce to the Arab world their time of liberation had come. The Germans would annihilate all Jews who lived in Arab areas.
… 

[Haj Amin's] conspiratorial view of Jewish ambitions are reflected in the widespread dissemination of such publications as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in the Arab and Muslim world. The view of the Jews as contaminators of society and malevolent conspirators resonate today in the founding Charter of Hamas.

In a radio broadcast from Germany on Nov. 16, 1943…Haj Amin laid out his vision of the conflict with the Jews:

“The Jews bring the world poverty, trouble and disaster … they destroy morality in all countries… they falsify the words of the prophet, they are the bearers of anarchy and bring suffering to the world. They are like moths who eat away all the good in the countries. They prepared the war machine for Roosevelt and brought disaster to the world. They are monsters and the basis for all evil in the world ….” 

As Nazi official Wilhelm Melchers testified after the war:

The mufti was an accomplished foe of the Jews and did not conceal that he would love to see all of them liquidated.

It’s clear that Haj Amin’s relationship with Hitler was no mere ‘alliance of convenience’, but was based on shared eliminationist antisemitic fantasies.  As Jeffrey Herf wrote in his 2009 book, ‘Nazi Propaganda for the Arab world‘, the Mufti “played a central role in the cultural fusion of European with Islamic traditions of Jew-hatred [and] was one of the few who had mastered the ideological themes and nuances of fascism and Nazism, as well as the anti-Jewish elements within the Koran and its subsequent commentaries.”

Robert Fisk’s innocuous description of Haj Amin as ‘pro-Palestinian’ is as morally perverse as characterizing Adolf Hitler as merely  ‘pro-Aryan’.