4 questions for ‘Breaking the Silence’ that the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont won’t ask

If the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont had looked at financial reports from Breaking the Silence (BtS) he would have realized that the NGO is generously funded by foreign governments and foundations like the New Israel Fund and George Soros’s Open Society Institute, and, with a yearly income of roughly 3.7 million shekels, isn’t in need of the free PR he provided the group in a Guardian/Observer feature on June 8th.

observer

Observer print edition of Beaumont’s story

Additionally, if you think our claim that the story represents ‘PR’ is over the top, keep in mind that Beaumont’s piece – largely consisting of ‘testimony’ from former Israeli soldiers alleging that “war crimes” and “violations of international law” are routinely committed by the IDF – runs at over 2800 words, and yet is almost entirely devoid of anything critical of the Israeli activists, or the organization which they represent.

Beaumont sets up his feature by informing us that “350 soldiers, politicians, journalists and activists” organized an event at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on June 6 – the anniversary, we are told, “of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land in 1967″ – to recite soldiers’ accounts “collected by the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence“.

However, Naftali Balanson of NGO Monitor has persuasively argued that BtS tailors its “anecdotal and unverifiable accounts” of soldiers to fit their predetermined conclusion that it is Israeli policy to intimidate and instill “fear, and indiscriminate punishment [on] the Palestinian population.”  Balanson also noted that “many testimonies contradict this harsh claim, explicitly noting that incidents of individual misconduct were opposed and punished by officers”.

The group’s broader political message given to foreign audiences is, in the words of one BtS member,  ‘Israeli self-defense measures are pretexts for “terrorizing” Palestinians’. As another BtS member said: “We are the oppressors … We are creating the terror against us, basically.”

Though it’s next to impossible to fisk the soldier accounts published in the Guardian report, because they lack details necessary to research the specific incident they’re allegedly recounting, one account included by Beaumont (by an anonymous Sergeant from the Nablus Regional Brigade) is quite telling:

testimony

The logic is stunning.  According to the account, the IDF moved into Area B of the West Bank, an area in which they are permitted to operate per the Oslo Accords (as even the Guardian’s editor note in the [brackets] makes clear), likely to conduct a security or anti-terror operation, and the anonymous sergeant strangely accuses the army of “provoking [Palestinian] stone throwings”.

Beyond the specifics of the soldiers’ testimonies, however, and since Beaumont shows no interest in employing his professional skills (and honed journalistic skepticism) to critically scrutinize the group or its members in a manner he would do with almost any other story, here are a few questions for the NGO: 

1.  How can BtS claim they’re a human rights organization when, by any measure, they have a clearly radical political agenda? For instance, BtS members Yonatan and Itamar Shapira were on the Jews for Justice for Palestinians boat “Irene” which sought to violate Israel’s legal (arms) blockade of Gaza.  Yonatan Shapira also once sprayed “Liberate all the ghettos” on to a wall nearby the actual Warsaw Ghetto where so many Jews lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis. As NGO Monitor’s president Gerald Steinberg argued: “BtS’s campaigns to discredit the IDF have turned the organization into an invaluable ally of those NGOs behind the “Durban Strategy” – with the explicit goal of “the complete international isolation” of Israel, using repeated accusations of “war crimes,” “genocide” and “apartheid.”

2.  Why does BtS court the international media rather than presenting its allegations through the normal military chain of command?

3.  Relatedly, why won’t BtS give any identifying details in their accounts – such as the sector, date or unit – so that the incident can be properly investigated by the military, the media or other interested parties?

4. Finally, in light of the fact that Israel is such a strong democracy, with a robust grassroots civil society, and a free, feisty and adversarial media, what “silence” is this foreign-funded group attempting to break?

editors

Beaumont’s celebration of Breaking the Silence received the coveted ‘Editors Pick’, and was featured on the Guardian’s home page.

Of course, Peter Beaumont wouldn’t dare ask such probing and critical questions, as he (as with so many of his Guardian colleagues) clearly sees his role as an advocate for the Palestinians – and their radical NGO allies – and not a journalist in the traditional sense of the word – one who’s committed to fair, balanced and accurate reporting.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Why the Guardian’s new Jerusalem correspondent won’t take Palestinian antisemitism seriously

pb

Peter Beaumont

The Guardian’s response to a recent Anti-Defamation League poll demonstrating that Palestinian society was compromised by unparalleled levels of antisemitism – results which overlaps with other polls on antisemitism by Pew Global – was two-fold.

First, they published a straight forward post at their data-blog accurately reporting on the ADL figures, including the fact that Palestinians have the highest levels of antisemitism based on results from the 100 states they surveyed.  However, they also published a quite repulsive op-ed by two anti-Israel activists (Donna Nevel and Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark) which justified Palestinian antisemitism and accused ADL – a US based Jewish civil rights group – of cynically using the poll to silence and intimidate those who don’t share their views on Israel – in spite of the fact that the poll didn’t ask any questions about Israeli policy.

Though we were able to convince Guardian editors to remove the most offensive paragraph of the op-ed in question, the broader views expressed by the co-authors of the piece are in many ways consistent with the Guardian’s myopic coverage of the region – reporting which consistently fails to take Palestinian antisemitism seriously when contextualizing news within the framework of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.  

As we’ve argued previously, Palestinian antisemitism does grave harm to Palestinians themselves.  When Palestinians attribute “global events to the machinations of an all-conquering Jewish conspiracy” (Mead), they demonstrate evidence of profound social failure, and are unlikely to develop the vigorous, progressive and competent civil societies that can promote real democracy. Moreover, holding views about Jews which are indistinguishable from the narrative found in the Elders of the Protocols of Zion makes it extremely unlikely that they will ever truly come to terms with a permanent Jewish presence in the region. 

As such, the Guardian’s former Jerusalem correspondent, Harriet Sherwood, not only characteristically framed nearly every Palestinian failure as a result of the occupation, but failed (as best we can tell) to ever so much as mention the injurious impact of Palestinian antisemitism on their society and on the peace process – a pattern of antisemitism denial we believe will continue with their new regional correspondent, Peter Beaumont

Our pessimism is based partly on our firm belief (per his work at the Observer/Guardian to date) that Beaumont seems clearly cut out of the same ideological cloth as Sherwood, and also on a very revealing piece he wrote about antisemitism in 2002 for the Observer (sister site of the Guardian), titled ‘The new anti-Semitism?’.  His essay was written at a time when scores of Israelis were being murdered by Palestinian suicide bombings, and when antisemitic attacks against Jews in Europe were reaching dangerous levels

After noting an example (in December 2001) of a violent antisemitic attack “by a group of Arab-speaking youths” in Brussels, and citing complaints by Jewish leaders about the dangerous increase in such attacks across Europe, Beaumont then advances an argument (similar to what’s known as the Livingstone Formula) indistinguishable from what was advanced in the Guardian op-ed on May 15.

But the problem with all this talk of a ‘new anti-Semitism’ is that those who argue hardest for its inexorable rise are dangerously conflating two connected but critically separate phenomena. The monster that they have conjured from these parts is not only something that does not yet exist – and I say ‘yet’ with caution – but whose purported existence is being cynically manipulated by some in the Israeli government to try to silence debate about the policies of the Sharon government.

So, already, Beaumont steers the conversation away from antisemitic attacks against innocent Jews in Europe, and engages in an ad hominem attack against those who, it is claimed, “cynically” use such examples to stifle criticism of Israel. 

It gets worse.

Beaumont:

As data collected by the Stephen Roth Institute at Tel Aviv University, and other research, makes clear, the rise in anti-Semitism in Europe coincided with the beginning of al-Aqsa intifada – and Israel’s heavy-handed response – with most of these attacks limited to acts of vandalism on synagogues and cemeteries. As the institute also makes clear, the perpetrators of these attacks, like those who attacked rabbi Gigi, were largely disaffected Islamic youths, a group itself that is the victim of some of the worst race hate and discrimination in Europe.

First, Beaumont suggests that Israel’s alleged “heavy handed response” to Palestinian terrorism can help explain (if not justify) the rise in antisemitism.  Also, note that Beaumont imputes significance to the fact that the perpetrators of the attack in question were “disaffected Islamic youths” who, we are told, are themselves victims of racism – suggesting, perhaps, that antisemitic attacks by white Europeans (non-minorities) would somehow be more troubling.

However, perhaps the worse element of his essay can be found in his final rhetorical flourish. After insisting that “governments of Europe must attack real anti-Semitism wherever it is found”, he writes the following:

The Jewish community worldwide must be honest too about what is really being done in Israel, ostensibly in its name. For the rest of us who campaign and report and commentate and legislate on Israel and Palestine – we should not be cowed in our criticism of policies of which we disapprove by the threat of being accused by Sharon and his friends of being practitioners of the last taboo.

Beaumont, in the first sentence of the passage, is pointing the accusatory finger not at the antisemites, but at the Jewish community worldwide – millions of Jews who, he suggests, are guilty of insufficient honesty regarding the Israeli crimes committed ‘in their name’.  The victims have become the accused!  

True, it was only one essay 12 years ago, but it says so much about the Guardian worldview, and at least provides a glimpse into their reporters’ crippling moral blind-spot when it comes to even the most egregious examples of Palestinian Jew hatred. 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

CiF Watch prompts Guardian correction. Robert Serry DID attend Easter ceremony in Jerusalem

Last week we posted about an extraordinarily dishonest article in the Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) by Peter Beaumont, the paper’s new Jerusalem correspondent.  Beaumont pulled off quite a feat. He managed to turn a few security delays which occurred in the midst of thousands of Christian pilgrims freely attending Easter celebrations in Jerusalem last weekend into a story suggesting that Israel was abrogating the rights of Christians to freely worship.

The brief delays were caused by security and crowd control measures designed by Israeli security personnel to keep masses of worshipers from surging into the church.  Indeed, such measures are likely the main reason why there were no reports of violence despite the incredibly large number of visitors, and why Christian officials reportedly thanked Israeli police for their professional handling of the event.

Undaunted by the broader fact that Israel remains the only country in the Middle East where Christian aren’t being persecuted for their beliefs, Beaumont had a tale of Israeli oppression to tell, and was no doubt heartened when he ‘learned’ of reports that the UN’s peace envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry (and his delegation), were ‘denied’ entry to one of the Easter-related ceremonies at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Beaumont made the following claim which, in fairness, was evidently based on reports originally published by Reuters:

On Sunday morning it emerged that Israeli police had prevented the UN’s peace envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, other diplomats and a crowd of Palestinians from attending the Holy Fire ceremony on Saturday.

Beaumont then quoted Serry’s complaint that Israeli authorities engaged in “unacceptable behavior” and noted his demand that all parties “respect the right of religious freedom”.

However, there was one big problem.  As we reported in our initial post on Beaumont’s article, Serry and his party, after a 30 minute delay, were indeed permitted to pass, and in fact attended the Holy Fire ceremony.

We based our conclusion on reports in the Washington Post which we later confirmed with Israeli Police Spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld.

After contacting editors at the Observer, the paper acknowledged that Serry did attend the ceremony, and revised the passage accordingly.

It now reads:

On Sunday morning it emerged that for 30 minutes Israeli police had prevented the UN’s peace envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, other diplomats and a crowd of Palestinians from attending the Holy Fire ceremony on Saturday.

Additionally, there is this addendum:

update

So, one of the main ‘incidents’ used by Beaumont to suggest that Israel was oppressing Christians on Easter never actually occurred.

Though we commend Observer editors for revising the passage in question, the broader narrative of the day’s events in Jerusalem advanced by Beaumont again demonstrates the Guardian’s capacity to frame almost any event in the Jewish state in a manner consistent with their rigid anti-Zionist ideology. 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Guardian inflates the number of Palestinian refugees by 4,970,000

The Palestinian “refugee” problem is an issue this blog has explored on quite a few occasions, often in the context of pointing out UK media errors relating to the true number of actual refugees.

A case in point is a long article published on April 6 in The Observer (sister site of the Guardian) by incoming Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont, titled ‘Middle East: does either side have the will to strive for peace?.  Though the nearly 2,000 word article is largely unproblematic, the print version included the following graphic which includes extremely inflated figures on “refugees”:

refugees

First, the wording of the passage (underlined in red) on “refugees” is quite confusing, as the words “5 million refugees and their descendants” could be understood as implying that there are ’5 million Palestinian refugees’ from 1948, PLUS an additional number of descendants.  

Alternately, it could be an attempt to acknowledge that not all of the “5 million” Palestinians who are regarded as refugees (per UNRWA’s bizarre formula) are actually refugees, but, rather, are the descendants of the original (unstated number of) refugees.  However, even assuming it’s the latter, this is extremely misleading, since readers would likely never imagine that there are only 30,000 or so actual Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War (out of the original 711,000) still alive – or less than 1 percent of the ’5 million’ figure cited.

As we’ve noted previously, the 5 million figure (used by UNRWA) includes the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren (ad infinitum) of Palestinian Arabs who may have once lived somewhere in Mandate Palestine, and includes even those who are citizens of other Arab countries (such as Jordan or Lebanon) as “refugees”.

Though such egregious distortions about the actual number of Palestinian refugees are ubiquitous throughout the UK media, we had at least one notable success when we prompted a correction last August in The Telegraph to a passage mirroring the language used by The Observer cited above.  After a series of communications with Telegraph editors, they agreed with our argument and our figures, and revised the original passage (which you can see here) thusly:

corex

Emphasis added

Even this passage isn’t perfect, because it fails to note how many Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War (of the original 700,000 or so) are actually still alive, but, in comparison to the Guardian, it at least represents an attempt to accurately represent this widely misunderstood issue. 

h/t Izzy

Enhanced by Zemanta

Guardian interviewer is incredulous at ScarJo’s refusal to cave to BDS bullies

In a 2700 word March 16 cover story about Scarlett Johansson – titled “In Alien Territory” –  published at The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian), roughly 600 words deal with the row involving the actress’s decision to step down as Oxfam ambassador after the NGO criticized her for becoming global brand ambassador for SodaStream.

alien

The Observer, March 16

While Johansson acquitted herself quite well in the interview, conducted by Carole Cadwalladr, what most stands out is how even their media group’s culture critics automatically become experts on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and adopt the Guardian narrative about the conflict.

 is a features writer for The Observer, and though it doesn’t seem she’s ever weighed in on the issues of BDS and Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria previously, she wasn’t shy about boldly making it known which party is in the wrong.

Cadwalladr begins discussing the SodaStream row in the following passages:

I move on to…a difficult subject. SodaStream. When I Google “Scarlett Johansson” the fizzy-drinks maker is the third predictive search suggestion in the list, after “Scarlett Johansson hot” – before even “Scarlett Johansson bum”. A month ago, Johansson found herself caught up in a raging news story when it emerged Oxfam had written to her regarding her decision to become a brand ambassador for SodaStream.

The company, it transpired, manufactures its products in a factory in a settlement on the West Bank, and while “Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors,” it wrote, it also “believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support”.

It of course would be more accurate to say that one of SodaStream’s 13 plants is located in the West Bank’.

Cadwalladr continues:

Johansson responded by stepping down from her Oxfam role. From afar, it looked like she’d received very poor advice; that someone who is paid good money to protect her interests hadn’t done the necessary research before she’d accepted the role and that she’d unwittingly inserted herself into the world’s most intractable geopolitical conflict. By the time Oxfam raised the issue, she was going to get flak if she did step down, flak if she didn’t. Was the whole thing just a bit of a mistake?

Johansson admirably defends her decision:

But she shakes her head. “No, I stand behind that decision. I was aware of that particular factory before I signed it.” Really? “Yes, and… it still doesn’t seem like a problem. Until someone has a solution to the closing of that factory to leaving all those people destitute, that doesn’t seem like the solution to the problem.”

Naturally, Cadwalladr has no rejoinder to Johansson’s central point: that Oxfam and the BDS crowd would evidently rather see hundreds of Palestinians lose a good paying job than tolerate an Israeli factory in the West Bank.

Cadwalladr continues, and pivots to the desired talking points:

But the international community says that the settlements are illegal and shouldn’t be there.

Johansson replies:

“I think that’s something that’s very easily debatable. In that case, I was literally plunged into a conversation that’s way grander and larger than this one particular issue. And there’s no right side or wrong side leaning on this issue.”

Cadwalladr, the Guardian Group journalist that she is, obviously has a little stomach for nuance on the dreaded ‘settlements’ issue, and feigns expertise:

Except, there’s a lot of unanimity, actually, I say, about the settlements on the West Bank.

Evidently, we can assume that the Observer journalist has thoroughly read Article 49(6) of the 1949 Geneva Convention (the primary document cited by international bodies in their determination that Settlements are illegal).  Further, we can be confident that she has come to the conclusion that Israelis who voluntarily moved beyond the green line in the years following  the Six Day War evoke the inhumane practices of the Nazis during and before World War II which that article of the Convention was meant to address.  And, she no doubt also believes that the Convention text concerning “the mass transfer of people into and out of occupied territories for purposes of extermination, slave labor or colonization” should be read to prohibit an Israeli factory in one such ‘settlement’ which employs both Jews and Palestinians.

Johansson responds:

“I think in the UK there is,” she says. “That’s one thing I’ve realised… I’m coming into this as someone who sees that factory as a model for some sort of movement forward in a seemingly impossible situation.”

Cadwalladr smugly replies:

Well, not just the UK. There’s also the small matter of the UN security council, the UN general assembly, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice… which all agree that they’re in contravention of international law

Then Cadwalladr gets patronising:

Half of me admires Johansson for sticking to her guns –

Then she gets insulting:

her mother is Jewish and she obviously has strong opinions about Israel and its policies. Half of me thinks she’s hopelessly naive. Or, most likely, poorly advised. Of all the conflicts in all the world to plant yourself in the middle of…

Cadwalladr of course has no idea whether the fact that Johansson’s mother is Jewish influenced her decision to represent SodaStream.

She then suggests a less than admirable motive which ‘some’ may impute:

“When I say a mistake,” I say, “I mean partly because people saw you making a choice between Oxfam – a charity that is out to alleviate global poverty – and accepting a lot of money to advertise a product for a commercial company. For a lot of people, that’s like making a choice between charity – good – and lots of money – greed.”

Johansson responds:

“Sure I think that’s the way you can look at it. But I also think for a non-governmental organisation to be supporting something that’s supporting a political cause… there’s something that feels not right about that to me. There’s plenty of evidence that Oxfam does support and has funded a BDS [boycott, divest, sanctions] movement in the past. It’s something that can’t really be denied.”

Finally, Cadwalladr writes:

When I contacted Oxfam, it denied this.

Oxfam may deny it all they like, but as NGO Monitor (NGOM) demonstrated, they simply are not being honest.

Not only is Oxfam – as Johansson said - a highly politicized organization, NGOM’s director Gerald Steinberg has written the following in response to Oxfam’s denial that they support BDS:

Oxfam denied that it was involved in BDS, but the facts proved the contrary. Between 2011 and 2013, the Dutch branch, known as Oxfam Novib, provided almost $500,000 (largely from government funds provided ostensibly for humanitarian aid) to one of the most radical BDS leaders, the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP). This group also received funds from Oxfam GB (Great Britain). The discrepancy between Oxfam’s claims and the documentation of its role in BDS was highlighted by SodaStream executives and in a number of media articles.

Although CWP is technically an Israel-based NGO, almost all of its activities are focused externally in promoting boycott campaigns, particularly in Europe. (For political purposes, ever since the NGO Forum of the infamous 2001 UN Durban anti-racism conference, the Arab and European leaders of BDS often use fringe Israeli and Jewish groups as facades, and this is the case with CWP.) 

Though Cadwalladr was wrong on the facts, “half of me admires” her “for sticking to her guns”.  But “half of me thinks she’s hopelessly naive…or, most likely, poorly advised” by her Guardian handlers.

“Of all the conflicts in all the world to plant yourself in the middle of…”

Enhanced by Zemanta

Guardian Group editors fail to correct false claim on Sabra and Shatila massacre

We’ve been in communication with editors at The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) regarding a false claim (about the massacre of Palestinian civilians in 1982 by Christian Phalangists), by their foreign affairs editor, Peter Beaumont, in a Jan. 11 report titled ‘Ariel Sharon: a warrior blamed for massacres and praised for peace making‘.

Here are the relevant passages in Beaumont’s report:

It was during this period [the Lebanon War in 1982] he was found by the Kahan commission – investigating the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut, when Israeli forces allowed Christian Phalangist militiamen into two refugee camps in Beirut to slaughter hundreds of Palestinian refugees – to have been personally negligent in the killings “for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge [and] not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed”.

The average reader would likely take this to mean that Israeli forces sent Phalangist militiamen with the intent of “slaughtering” Palestinian refugees. However, the Israeli fact-finding mission on the massacre (Kahan Commission) that Beaumont cited was clear – in an over 51,000 word document – that there was no evidence of such an Israeli intent. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The commission found, per the highlighted passages below, that there was no intention by any Israelis to harm the non-combatant population in the Palestinian camps.

Here are a few of the relevant passages from the report:

Contentions and accusations were advanced that even if I.D.F. personnel had not shed the blood of the massacred, the entry of the Phalangists into the camps had been carried out with the prior knowledge that a massacre would be perpetrated there and with the intention that this should indeed take place; and therefore all those who had enabled the entry of the Phalangists into the camps should be regarded as accomplices to the acts of slaughter and sharing in direct responsibility. These accusations too are unfounded. We have no doubt that no conspiracy or plot was entered into between anyone from the Israeli political echelon or from the military echelon in the I.D.F. and the Phalangists, with the aim of perpetrating atrocities in the camps…. No intention existed on the part of any Israeli element to harm the non-combatant population in the camps. … Before they entered the camps and also afterward, the Phalangists requested I .D.F. support in the form of artillery fire and tanks, but this request was rejected by the Chief of Staff in order to prevent injuries to civilians. It is true that I.D.F. tank fire was directed at sources of fire within the camps, but this was in reaction to fire directed at the I.D.F. from inside the camps. We assert that in having the Phalangists enter the camps, no intention existed on the part of anyone who acted on behalf of Israel to harm the non-combatant population, and that the events that followed did not have the concurrence or assent of anyone from the political or civilian echelon who was active regarding the Phalangists’ entry into the camps.

The report further explains IDF instructions to the Phalangist militia prior to the operation to root out terrorists from the camps.

The commanders of the Phalangists arrived for their first coordinating session regarding the entry of their forces into the camps at about 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, 16.9.82, and met with Major-General Drori at the headquarters of one of the divisions. It was agreed at that meeting that they would enter the camps and coordinate this action with Brigadier-General Yaron, commander of the division. This coordination between Brigadier-General Yaron and the Phalangist commanders would take place on Thursday afternoon at the forward command post. It was likewise agreed at that meeting that a company of 150 fighters from the Phalangist force would enter the camps and that they would do so from south to north and from west to east. Brigadier-General Yaron spoke with the Phalangists about the places where the terrorists were located in the camps and also warned them not to harm the civilian population.

If Beaumont had decided to read the report he cited, he would have noted the egregious distortion in his claim that “Israeli forces allowed Christian Phalangist militiamen into two refugee camps in Beirut to slaughter hundreds of Palestinian refugees.”

We’re continuing to press editors at The Observer to revise the passage to more accurately reflect the findings of the Kahan Commission, and will update you when we receive a definitive response.

In the meantime, you can Tweet Peter Beaumont and ask him to address the error.

@petersbeaumont

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Guardian whitewashes antisemitism of Nicolas Anelka pal, Dieudonné

A major controversy erupted on Saturday at Upton Park in London after French Muslim footballer Nicolas Anelka used a gesture widely considered to be antisemitic and often described as “the Nazi salute in reverse”. After his first goal in the 3-3 draw at West Ham, “he celebrated with his right arm extended towards the ground, palm opened and the other one bent across his chest touching his right upper arm.”

anelka-600x357

Nicolas Anelka

Anelka is now under investigation by the Football Association for the gesture – which was almost certainly inspired by the gesture promoted by antisemitic French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala – and was swiftly condemned by the French Sports Minister as a “shocking, disgusting” display of antisemitism. 

dieudonne

Dieudonné M’bala M’bala (Left)

Dieudonne M’bala M’bala is a notorious racist “comedian” who, per Hope Not Hate, “has moved towards the antisemitic fringe of French politics”. The site notes that Dieudonne has become “increasingly marginal culturally and increasingly shrill in his antisemitism, denying the Holocaust, blaming Jews for the slave trade and more generally for the oppression of the Black and Arab peoples.” Dieudonne also traveled to Iran to meet with President Mohammed Ahmadinejad, and subsequently hailed Iran as “a place where anti-Zionists can meet and communicate and develop”.  

Additionally, Dieudonne had befriended the late far-right extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen, and also once invited Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson onstage at a performance, and asked the audience to applaud.

In reviewing UK newspaper coverage of the row, the Guardian naturally stands out in downplaying the episode and, more specifically, whitewashing Dieudonne’s antisemitism.

Guardian/Observer, Dec. 28: West Bromwich Albion’s Nicolas Anelka could face ban after arm gesture:

Relevant passage:

Dieudonné is a controversial figure in France, having been accused of insulting the memory of Holocaust victims. The quenelle is Dieudonné’s signature gesture, although he insists it is an anti-establishment gesture and not against Jewish people

Interestingly, other British papers were much clearer on Dieudonne’s antisemitic history, with some characterizing him as an “antisemitic comedian” or “antisemitic activist” without qualification:

The Independent, Dec.28: Nicolas Anelka gesture: Striker’s two goals overshadowed by controversial celebration after alleged anti-Semitic gesture

Here’s the relevant passage: 

His celebration was a mirror image of the gesture made popular by French, anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala…

The Telegraph, Dec. 29Nicolas Anelka’s ‘quenelle’ gesture in support of ‘racist’ friend Dieudonné causes outrage in France

Relevant passage:

In the last few years, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, his full name, has become an anti-Semitic activist and campaigner…

Mail Online, Dec. 28: Anelka’s ‘Nazi’ salute storm: Striker could face lengthy FA ban for offensive goal celebration along with sanctions in France

Relevant passage: 

Dieudonne has been convicted six times in France for alleged anti-Semitic remarks. He was fined £6,000 in 2008 for describing Holocaust remembrance as ‘memorial pornography’.

Sunday Times, Dec. 29: FA acts over Anelka’s ‘race-hate’ gesture (pay wall)

Relevant passages: 

Dieudonne has been prosecuted for making antisemitic comments

Dieudonne has been convicted six times in France for alleged anti-Semitic remarks. He was fined £6,000 in 2008 for describing Holocaust remembrance as memorial pornography.

The Guardian stands alone in whitewashing the “comedian’s” clear record of anti-Jewish rhetoric – another antisemitic sin of omission at the “liberal” broadsheet which has, by now, achieved a well-earned reputation for such curious moral blind spots.

Gaza fisherman fight Israeli “savagery”: Fisking a Guardian Group feature

The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) devoted over 3400 words to a Sunday Magazine feature on the Israeli ‘assault’ on Gaza’s fishing industry.

gaza

The article was written by Alex Renton, a commentator on issues relating to global poverty, and was based largely on his first-person account with Palestinian fishermen on a vessel off the coast of Gaza. 

We’re first introduced to the skipper of the fishing vessel in the following passage, which notes the putatively argumentative and abrasive nature of the people in the region.

It’s nearly dark. A couple of Israeli F-16 jets make twin scratches across the glow in the southeast, above the Egyptian border. “They own all the world,” mutters old Abu Nayim. But, for now, this feels like the most peaceful place you could find on this crowded coast, where there live some of the most disputatious people in the planet. There’s not much to tell you that this is a very risky way to catch fish.

Israeli Navy fires on vessel?

The passage above is followed by this photo – the same one used to illustrate the feature in the Observer print edition.

fishing under fire

The caption reads:

Under fire: an Israeli gunboat fires on a Palestinian fishing boat/ Photograph: Gianluca Panella for the Observer

However, the illuminated water rising above the vessel would likely indicate that warning shots were fired into the water, near the vessel.

Israelis shoot the messenger?

The previous passage continues thus:

But his son, 22-year-old Mukhtar, is more anxious. He was on the boat on Monday when the Israeli navy put four bullets into the fibre-glass tender – a felucca – that’s bobbing behind us. He warns Gianluca, the photographer, who has his telephoto lens out – “If they see you poking that out, they will shoot at you.”

The quote – suggesting that the Israeli Navy has a habit of firing on photojournalists – is of course left un-examined by Renton.

“To go over six miles is death”?

They bob at anchor, their lights festive against the dark ocean. We’re close to the limit, as close as Abu Nayim dares, because the further out to sea the more sardines there are. “To go over six miles is death,” says Abu Nayim.

Actually, the most recent Palestinian civilians killed at sea were killed by the Egyptian Navy which, by all accounts, appears to be much more trigger-happy than the IDF when patrolling the seas

Israeli Navy tosses live grenades at fishing nets?

The above passage continues thus:

Once, when he may have drifted over, an Israeli gunboat tossed a live grenade on to the nets. In the past month the fishing boats of Gaza have come under fire 10 times.

The charge, left unchallenged by the Observer contributor, that the Israeli Navy “tossed a live grenade on to the nets”, seems highly unlikely. And, we were unable to find any news sources making a similar claim.

Israeli Navy “curses the prophet”?

There’s another one-second blast of machine-gun fire. I can see the Israeli boat, so close to the fishing boat that its huge bow-wave gleams white in the lights. It’s circling the fishermen at high-speed, the wake throwing the fishing boat around. There’s shouting, through a megaphone. “The Israelis are insulting them,” says my interpreter. He doesn’t want to say the words. “They curse the prophet. They call the fishermen ‘son of a dog’. Tell them to go back to Palestine.”

Though there is no way to prove or disprove it, the claim – alleged by Renton’s interpreter – that Israelis cursed Muhammad through the boat’s megaphone again simply strains credulity. 

Israel is destroying a once thriving fishing industry.

Not so long ago, Gaza had a thriving fishing industry. In 1994 the Oslo peace accords with Israel granted the Palestinian enclave, which was formed largely by refugees from the 1948 war that followed the founding of Israel, rights to fish up to 20 nautical miles offshore. That supported a fishing industry, according to a study done by the United Nations Foodand Agriculture Organisation (FAO), of some 4,000 boat-owning families. In 2004 they landed nearly 3,000 tonnes of fish. It was crucial to the nutrition of the 1.7 million people of the Gaza Strip, more than half of whom were dependent on food aid, even then.

It’s true that in 2004 Palestinians in Gaza landed nearly 3,000 tonnes of fish. However, the implication most would draw from this is that the tonnage has decreased every year since the Israeli blockade in 2006 – a claim easily disproven by figures provided by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).  As you can see, 2004 was a statistical anomaly.  In 2003, the catch was roughly 1.5 tons, while in 2005 the catch was 1.8 tons.   The catch in 2012 (just under 2.1 tons), as you can see in the PCBS chart below, was higher than in the three previous years.

PCBS. (click to enlarge)

PCBS Data. (click to enlarge)

 Sewage.

Three miles or six, the industry’s collapse was inevitable. Fishing inshore is poor, and there’s an added danger because of Gaza’s failed sewage system. That was built to serve 400,000 people, and it has collapsed because of war damage and lack of materials to maintain it. Eighty-nine million litres of raw or partially treated waste water go straight into the sea every day. Last year the fishermen’s catch was less than half what it had been 10 years before

However, as Reuters reported last month, the sewage system’s failure is largely due to “Egypt’s…crackdown on cross-border smuggling tunnels that used to bring fuel in cheaply”, which forced Gaza’s waste water treatment plant to close. Additional factors leading to the fuel crisis include “political infighting” between Hamas and Fatah, a fact confirmed recently by a Hamas spokesperson (and one notable Gaza resident).  If the sewage is indeed harming the Gaza fishing sector, it seems largely due to Egyptian restrictions and Palestinian infighting.

“Savage” Israelis?

Fishing is a harsh trade at any time, but here it is made rather more risky by the Israeli navy. As I witnessed, it makes its own arbitrary rules about the fishing zone, and exacts savage punishments for those who break them. 

As Renton noted elsewhere in the article, the overwhelming majority of fishermen who go beyond the nautical limit are not harmed at all.  Some are detained, while others are simply led back to an area closer to the Gaza coast.  Renton wrote that “often fishermen will be taken to Israeli ports, blindfolded and handcuffed and questioned under ‘aggressive interrogation’ (the UN’s phrase) and then, after what may be several days’ detention, charged a fee to be transported back to the border.”  However you can reasonably characterize such consequences, the word “savage” is clearly meaningless hyperbole.

The “World’s largest prison”?

For the people of Gaza, then numbering 1.5 million, normal life ended. Not since they were children had any of the young men I went fishing with left the “prison” – that’s David Cameron’s term.

Actually, per Twitter, that’s also a term fancied by Alex Renton:

tweet

It’s your fault the Jews are here.

In the penultimate paragraph there is this curious exchange between the journalist and one of the protagonists:

“You’re from Britain,” says the eldest son, Nayim. “It’s your fault. You invited the Jews to come from Europe to here, to take our land.” I demurred: it was more complicated than that. “What about the Balfour declaration?” he asked – referring to the note signed in 1917 by Britain’s foreign secretary AJ Balfour, declaring that Britain favoured the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. I thought about telling him that Balfour was my grandmother’s uncle, and that my own great-uncle fought Israeli terrorists in Jerusalem in 1947, as a British policeman. But what I said was: “It’s true, we are part of the history. We are responsible, too.”

There’s so much to unpack in this exchange between the ‘victim and accused’.  Even more troubling than Renton’s failure to challenge the anti-historical charge that Jews were “invited” from Europe to take Palestinian land is his insistence on his own moral innocence. Renton is on the right side of history. His family fought the Jews. 

Finally, someone wrote a response to Renton in the reader comment section beneath his article at The Observer.  The response (to the passage we noted above) was inexplicably deleted by ‘CiF’ moderators.  However, we were able to take a screen shot of the comment before its deletion. Here is the text:

Palestine once the Arabs (not in those days called Palestinians) made it clear they didn’t want Jewish immigrants, even though Ottoman censuses showed that Jerusalem had a Jewish majority from the first census in the mid-19th century.

Following bloody pogroms in Palestine by Arabs against Jews in the late 1920s and into the 1930s the pro-Arab British assured the Arab leadership that only a few thousand European Jews a year would henceforth be allowed in with an absolute total limit of 75,000. This was after Hitler had come to power and when Jews from across Europe were desperately seeking sanctuary somewhere, anywhere. Britain, the Dominions and colonies didn’t want most of them before, during or after the Holocaust. From the 1930s until 1948 the Royal Navy blockaded the coast of Palestine and turned back and even sunk (yes, sunk) merchant ships carrying Holocaust survivors to prevent them reaching ports. Thousands of Holocaust survivors from across Europe were interned by the British in camps on Cyprus.

Even before 1948 when Israel came into existence as a legal state and was immediately attacked by several Arab armies and air forces, there were Arab schemes to destroy any prosperity that Jews might generate even though thousands of Arabs from Jordan, Lebanon and Syria had settled in Palestine as Jews immigrated, attracted by the economic benefits Jews were developing. That is why as early as 1945 there was an Arab Boycott of Jews organization sponsored by the Arab League. (Not boycott of Israel, which didn’t then exist, but boycott of all things Jewish.)

As Alex Renton also knows, I am sure, approximately 850,000 Jews were forced to leave Muslim countries from 1948 onward and most of them tried to get to Israel. These were not Jews from Europe, these were Jews who lived in Arab countries, spoke Arabic and had absorbed Arab culture and had lived in North Africa and the Middle East since long before most of these regions were conquered by the Arabs and long before the arrival of Islam.

It is never explained why it seems to be a perfectly acceptable stance for some pro-Palestinians to support those Arabs who want to ‘remove’ Jews who live in Israel, even if they are from families who have always lived in what is now Israel. Both Hamas and the PA have publicly stated that no Jew will be permitted to live in ‘liberated’ Palestine.

Yes, Mr. Renton, it is indeed “a bit more complicated” than you suggest.

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)

Related articles

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.)

The Guardian AGAIN whitewashes the ethnic cleansing of Jews

We recently posted about a stunning omission at the Guardian, an entry at their data blog which in effect erased the plight of hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees in the latter half of the 20th century from the pages of history.  The July 25th report, edited by Mona Chalabi, was titled What happened to history’s refugees?‘, and included, in a supposedly complete list of history’s refugees, the following events: Israelites: Canaan (740 BC), Edict of Fontainebleau (France 1685), Muhacirs (Ottoman Empire 1783), Pogroms (Russia 1881), WWI (Europe 1914), WWII (Europe 1945), and the Nakba (Palestine 1948).

It then skipped right over the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab lands and listed, as the next refugees crisis in the 20th century, Idi Amin’s Order (Uganda 1972) – Amin’s expulsion of more than 50,000 Asians from the country.

The Guardian data blog completely omitted the expulsion of more than 800,000 Jewfrom Middle Eastern and North African countries between 1948 and 1972, an undisputed event in which Arab leaders (beginning in 1948) conspired to target the Jewish populations in their respective countries.  This antisemitic persecution included confiscating Jewish property and assets, and stripping Jews of their citizenship – forcing them to flee their homes and surrender their nationalities. Whereas in 1948 there were 850,000 Jews in Arab states, today there are less than 7,000.

This Arab collective punishment against innocent Jews was initiated of course to exact revenge for the ‘sin’ of the Jewish state’s rebirth.

Additionally, Harriet Sherwood published a report at The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) on Saturday which again erased the Arab expulsion of Jews in the period after Israel’s birth.  The piece is titled ‘The new Jerusalem‘, July 27, and focuses on “the problem” of Jews who are (legally) purchasing property from Arabs in eastern Jerusalem – imputing, naturally, the darkest motives to everyday commercial transactions in the Israeli capital.  Indeed, as the following passage from her report indicates, Sherwood seems intent on characterizing Jews’ desire to live in neighborhoods outside of the 1949 armistice lines as something akin to ethnic cleansing.

Around 1,000 Jewish settlers now live among 31,000 Palestinians in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, taking over homes that have been inhabited by Muslim families for decades or even centuries, and flying Israeli flags from the walls and rooftops of their properties. They are the frontline fighters in a broader battle – backed by the Israeli government, city authorities and security services – to ensure Jewish control of Jerusalem and to drive its Palestinian population down to a minimum.

Sherwood of course doesn’t provide much in the way of details about this ‘Israeli plan’ to drive Palestinians from Jerusalem, but suffice to say that if there were such a scheme population figures would indicate that it is failing miserably.  

Per the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies:

Over the years, there has been an evident decline in the proportionate size of Jerusalem’s Jewish population, with a concomitant increase in the proportion of the Arab population. The proportion of the Jewish population fell from 74% in
1967 to 72% in 1980, to 68% in 2000, and to 64% in 2009. Simultaneously the Arab population rose from 26% in 1967 to 28% in 1980, to 32% in 2000, and to 36% in 2009.

But, not only does Sherwood suggest, without evidence, an Israeli attempt to purge the city of Palestinians, but when in the course of her narrative there’s an opportunity to provide balance and context, and detail the expulsion of Jews from eastern Jerusalem in 1948, the Guardian reporter merely writes the following:

at the end of the war following the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, Jerusalem was divided, with the Old City on the Jordanian-controlled eastern side of the armistice line, known as the Green Line. The Jewish population within the ancient stone walls sank to zero.

Why the Jewish population “within the ancient stone walls” magically “sank to zero”, she of course doesn’t say.

Readers aren’t told that on May 28, 1948 the Jewish Quarter of the Old City fell to the Arab Legion and upon its capture Jews were expelled from eastern Jerusalem and barred from returning, or even visiting Jewish holy places – and that the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was all but destroyed.  

Expelled Jews shoved out of Zion Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem after the Arab conquest of 1948.

Expelled Jews shoved out of Zion Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem after the Arab conquest of 1948.

Additionally, in the immediate aftermath of the expulsion, the following occurred:

Fifty-eight synagogues—some hundreds of years old—were destroyed [by the Jordanians], their contents looted and desecrated. Some Jewish religious sites were turned into chicken coops or animal stalls. The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, where Jews had been burying their dead for over 2500 years, was ransacked; graves were desecrated; thousands of tombstones were smashed and used as building material, paving stones or for latrines in Arab Legion army camps. The Intercontinental Hotel was built on top of the cemetery and graves were demolished to make way for a highway to the hotel. The Western Wall became a slum area.

In short, any trace of Jewish life was destroyed. The misnomer “historically Arab East Jerusalem” is of course based on this 18 year historical blip when the city was forcibly rendered Judenrein - a moral injustice which was only brought to an end when Israeli soldiers liberated the city on June 7, 1967.   

Did the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent really not know any of this?  

In an over 1800 word story, did she not consider providing her readers with even a brief mention of the cleansing of Jews, or that such context would help readers understand Israel’s hesitancy to relinquish sovereignty over the birthplace of Judaism, a city representing nothing short of the spiritual epicenter of their faith?

For the second time in a week the Guardian has attempted to expunge from the public record an indisputable saga regarding the ethnic cleansing of Jews – innocent victims of Arab malevolence who reluctantly continue to assume the role of history’s forgotten refugees.

Observer contributor fails to mention terrorist career of Palestinian ‘novelist’ Ghassan Kanafani

A report in the culture section of The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) by Omar al-Qattan, a Palestinian-British film-maker (‘The best 10 Arab films‘, July 7) included a brief synopsis of a 1973 feature film by Tewfik Saleh titled ‘The Dupes.”

Al-Qattan writes, thusly:

Set in Iraq, shot in Syria, based on a famous Palestinian novel by Ghassan Kanafani (assassinated by the Israelis in 1972) and directed by an Egyptian, this harrowing film is about a group of Palestinian workmen in the early 50s trying to cross the border illegally from Iraq into Kuwait, to join the oil boom. They get a lift inside a water tank and are stuck there when the driver is held up by customs officials. The action takes place inside the tank in the searing desert heat as the men dream of the homes and loved ones they left behind. A classic of the Palestinian experience.

Of course, the Observer contributor failed to inform readers that Ghassan Kanafani wasn’t a mere novelist, but also a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – a Marxist-Leninist Palestinian terror group responsible for a number of hijackings and deadly terror attacks, including the murder of Israel’s tourism minister in 2001.  

Here’s a photo of a PFLP march, at the Dheishe “refugee camp(a Palestinian city near Bethlehem)with a banner of Kanafani, which took place on July 8, 2012, the 40th anniversary of his death.

tumblr_m6v75m0bII1qap9gno1_500

In addition to editing the magazine of the PFLP, Kanafani was a member of the group’s Political Bureau and played a key role in developing and shaping its political positions.  Additionally, as CAMERA noted, Kanafani was reportedly the right hand man to PFLP’s leader George Habash, and even helped plan – along with members of the Japanese Red Army – the Lod Airport Massacre in May 1972 in which 26 people were killed.

We can likely assume that if the Observer culture contributor knew that the Mossad allegedly assassinated Kanafani, he also was at least minimally aware of his terror affiliations.

In a manner similar to Harriet Sherwood’s characterizations of Islamic Jihad terrorists Khader Adnan and Mahmoud Sarsak respectively as a “baker” and “football player”, Al-Qattan’s focus on Kanafani’s literary prowess serves to evoke sympathy for the man – a Palestinian who, during his life, demonstrated a clear disregard for the humanity of Israelis.

Pictorial representations of Israel promoted by the Guardian

Over at the BBC Watch site we have a link to an interesting 2005 report by Trevor Asserson and Michael Paluch on the subject of the BBC’s use of images to depict the Palestinian – Israeli conflict and the way in which editorial decisions regarding which pictures to use can influence audience perception of the conflict. 

“We detected frequently used techniques for evoking sympathy or antipathy. Israelis were almost always depicted as armed, male and as soldiers. They were often disembodied, showing arms, legs, boots or weapons, but not faces. Palestinians by contrast were very frequently depicted as women and children. Palestinian men, when shown, were generally unarmed (even Policemen) and were often praying, kneeling or bowing.”

Of course the BBC is by no means the only media organization to use selectively chosen images in order to communicate subliminal messages regarding Israel and Israeli society. On the Guardian’s “Israel” page on May 11th we find a link to a feature from its sister paper The Observer entitled “The Observer’s 20 photographs of the week” and sub-headed “The best news and culture images from around the world over the past seven days”. 

Guardian Israel page 12 5

Among the twenty photographs from around the world, two come from Israel and both have a military theme. 

Observer 1

Observer 2

The caption to the first photograph reads:

“From a series of excellent images by Menahem Kahana, an Israeli soldier prays inside a net tent pitched close to Merkava tanks deployed in the Israeli annexed Golan Heights near the border with Syria. UN chief Ban Ki-moon has appealed for restraint after Israeli air strikes on targets near Damascus.”

It is possible to count seven more soldiers in that picture – none of whom are praying – but interestingly the reader’s attention is steered towards the one soldier who is. The suggestion of linkage between the IDF and religion is a popular theme with both photographers and editors – as shown, for example, by the BBC’s use of images to illustrate last November’s conflict between Hamas and Israel. 

The inclusion of the last sentence in the picture’s caption mistakenly suggests direct linkage between the alleged Israeli air strikes on consignments of Iranian weapons bound for the terrorist organization Hizballah and the presence of the tanks depicted in the photographs in the Golan Heights. In fact, tank crews have been training in the Golan Heights for decades, so the pictures can hardly be said to represent “news”. 

Another noticeable phenomenon in pictorial portrayals of Israel is the tendency of photographers and photo editors to over-represent the Orthodox stream of Israeli society, which even the highest estimates put at a mere 10% of the whole population. The Observer is apparently no exception: the previous edition of this photo feature also included two photographs from Israel (out of a total of 20) and both of those images concentrated on members of the Orthodox community during the festival of Lag B’Omer. However, elsewhere in Israel at the time, considerably more Israelis were celebrating the same festival by having bonfires, baking potatoes in the embers and toasting marshmallows. Images depicting those activities would of course have been more likely to prompt a sense of identification in most Observer readers. 

Observer 3

Observer 4

Images of Israel with a non-military and/or non-religious theme are to be found all too rarely among the growing number of pictorial features produced by media organisations. That fact is undoubtedly influencing public perception of Israel in general and the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular, and it is a factor to which photo editors need to address. 

Peter Beaumont’s “unnamed source” affirms Guardian narrative about ‘Prisoner X’

Observer foreign affairs editor Peter Beaumont just published his seventh report over the course of three days on Prisoner X – a man believed to have been an Australian-Israeli Mossad agent jailed by Israel because he was about to reveal state secrets to Australian authorities or the media, who committed suicide in his cell in 2010.

His latest piece, co-authored with Phoebe Greenwood, on Feb. 16 is titled ‘Israeli government to compensate family of Prisoner X‘, and is based on “an unnamed source” quoted in Haaretz, claiming a compensation deal was agreed to following the conclusion of an inquiry into the death of the prisoner (aka, Ben Zygier).

Beaumont’s latest post attempts to buttress the narrative, advanced in his other reports on Prisoner X, that Israel behaved in a manner inconsistent with democratic norms.  As we noted previously, one of Beaumont’s reports from Feb. 14 includes the following passage, citing the analysis of unnamed commentators:

“The latest revelations come amid a growing outcry over the case in Israel, with some comparing the treatment of Zygier to that meted out in the Soviet Union or Argentina and Chile under their military dictatorships.”

In his latest report, he cites an “unnamed source“, thus:

“According to one unnamed source familiar with the Zygier case who spoke the YNet website: “When an Israeli is detained for security offences, a process begins, but no one knows how it will end. He disappears into interrogation rooms, and no one knows where he is. They do it using two tools: A gag order and an injunction that prevents the detainee from meeting with an attorney.”

However, contrary to the claims made by the source cited by Beaumont, not only did the detainee in this case meet with his attorney (Avigdor Feldman), but did so, according to an official at the State Prosecutor’s Office quoted in the same Feb 15. Ynet story Beaumont cited, “within days” of being incarcerated.

The official at the State Prosecutor’s Office added the following: 

 “…the picture painted by the media is far from reality. There are no ‘prisoners x’ in the State of Israel…It’s an expression taken from dictatorships where people were made to disappear without having seen a lawyer or family. There was no such thing here.”

In the past 25 years there were very few cases in which it was decided for security reasons to hold prisoners under pseudonyms.

In those cases, as in this particular case, the families were immediately made aware of the arrest and within a number of days the prisoner was given access to legal counsel. As in regular cases, there was due criminal process with the prisoner able to petition the court like any other inmate.”

Consistent with this Israeli official’s argument, a definitive study in ‘Homeland Security Affairs’ determined that, regarding issues “such as how long an individual can be detained without access to counsel for purposes of interrogation”, Israel “provides more overall due process and substantive rights to [security] detainees than America’s years of incommunicado and indefinite executive detention”.

To serious journalists, providing readers with relevant context and a comparative political or legal analysis of the issue matters.

Beaumont’s story, on the other hand, like so many other reports about Israel written by his fellow Guardian Group ‘journavists‘, cited only those “sources”  who confirmed his desired political narrative.

Guardian publication contributor evokes Warsaw Ghetto in describing Israel’s security fence

On Oct. 21 the Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) published a review, by film critic Philip Frenchof the film ‘5 Broken Cameras, a documentary produced by a Palestinian about his “resistance” to Israel’s security fence in Bil’in.

French writes the following:

“Emad Burnat, the peasant and smallholder who spends his days and nights recording life about him in his native Bil’in, the township where his family has lived for generations

Like Filip in Camera Buff, Emad bought his first camera when his fourth son, Gibreel, was born in 2005. He initially used it for home movies and then, at their invitation, to make similar pictures for his neighbours.

But fairly soon Emad developed a sense of empowerment and a duty to serve his community. His camera became a way of uniting his fellow [Bil'in] citizens, publicising their struggle and becoming a witness for posterity when the Israeli authorities sent in troops to deprive them of land to create a defensive barrier of steel and wire that later became a high concrete wall.”

Background not provided by French includes the fact that, before the fence was erected, terrorists moved freely from Palestinian cities such as Bil’in to Israeli ones killing hundreds of innocent Jewish civilians. 

French also fails to note the 2011 relocation of the fence bordering Bil’in due to a ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court, which enlarged Palestinian territory, making the village more suitable for Palestinian agricultural.

Map outlining the new security fence route bordering the Palestinian village of Bil’in

However, in addition to the story’s predictable Palestinian narrative, the most absurd claim is made by French in the following passage:

“Emad developed a sense of empowerment and a duty to serve his community. His camera became a way of uniting his fellow citizens, publicising their struggle and becoming a witness for posterity when the Israeli authorities sent in troops to deprive them of land to create a defensive barrier of steel and wire that later became a high concrete wall. Inevitably, seeing this barrier going up in Israel we think of the wall surrounding the Warsaw ghetto, the one that appeared overnight in Berlin…”

Of course, any sane commentator would dismiss out of hand the notion that Israel’s security wall evokes (in any conceivable manner) the Jewish ghetto walls erected by the Nazis.

The Warsaw Ghetto, the largest Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Europe, was established in the Polish capital in 1940. Eventually, over 400,000 Jews resided in an area of 3.4 km. From there, at least 254,000 ghetto residents were sent to the Treblinka death camp over a period of two months in 1942.

Average food rations in 1941 for Jews in Warsaw were limited to a mere 184 calories, and, among the Jews who weren’t sent to Nazi death camps, over 100,000 of the ghetto’s residents died due to disease, starvation or random killings.

Starving Jewish boy in the Warsaw ghetto, 1942.

Bil’in is a Palestinian administered town, and is not a ghetto in even the broadest sense of the word. 

The Warsaw ghetto walls were designed to keep Jews from escaping. 

Israel’s security fence was designed to keep terrorists from infiltrating Israel and murdering Jews.  

Israel’s security fence would only evoke a Holocaust-related comparison for those inebriated by the constant drumbeat of Guardian anti-Zionist propaganda.