Celebrating 5 years of CiF Watch!

 

Friends,

Last week, CiF Watch celebrated its 5th anniversary.

In our inaugural post on Aug. 24, 2009 we announced our intention to combat antisemitism and anti-Israel bias at the Guardian, and “to regularly post articles exposing the bigoted and one-sided nature of [their] obsessive focus on Israel and, by extension, the Jewish people.”

In recent years we have evolved in several respects:

  • We improved our efficacy by establishing an extremely successful affiliation with CAMERA.

Please continue reaching out to us – by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook, or the ‘old fashioned’ way, by emailing us at contactus@cifwatch.com – when you come across misleading claims, or outright factual errors, in reports and commentaries within the UK media.

On the occasion of our fifth anniversary, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the work we do, and how we can more effectively carry out our mission, and continue speaking truth to power.

Adam Levick, Managing Editor

UK media coverage of the kidnapping of three Israeli teens – a CiF Watch review

On June 15th, we posted about a Guardian report co-authored by Peter Beaumont which included a gratuitous (and erroneous) characterization to the three Israeli teens abducted by Palestinian terrorists on Thursday night as “teenage settlers”.  (As we noted in a subsequent post, the Guardian amended the article following our complaint.)

Today, we’re reviewing the coverage of the abduction by the Guardian and other major UK news sites (The Telegraph, Independent, Times of London, and Financial Times), to determine if other reports include tendentious, biased reporting or misleading claims.

The Guardian:

The first report on the incident was written by Peter Beaumont and Paul Lewis on Friday, June 13, was titled ‘Israelis launch search around Hebron after three teenage settlers go missing‘, and (as we noted) falsely claimed, in the headline and subsequent text, that the abducted teens were all “settlers”.

The second report by Beaumont was published in the Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) on June 14th, was titled Fears grow for missing Israeli teenagers and also included the false claim that the three were ‘settlers’. (The Guardian has not thus far revised this passage.)

A third report, Guardian/Associated Press, was published on June 14th and titled ‘Israeli raids target Hamas members as Netanyahu accuses group of kidnapping. Unlike the previous two reports, it didn’t characterize the teens as settlers, and included no other misleading claims.

A fourth report was published by Beaumont on June 15th titled ‘Israeli forces tighten grip on West Bank in search for three abducted teenagers‘. This report also didn’t falsely characterize the teens as settlers, and included nothing similarly problematic.

A fifth report was published by Beaumont (and Agencies) on June 15th titled ‘Israel detains scores in West Bank as fears grow for missing teenagers‘, and included nothing problematic. However, they used the following still shot – a deceptive photo illustrating the IDF’s search for the abducted teens, in an angle in which the soldier’s rifle appears to be pointing directly at Palestinian civilians – accompanying a brief video.

photo

A sixth report was filed by Beaumont (and Agencies) on June 16th titled ‘Palestinian parliamentary speaker arrested in search for kidnapped teens‘.  And, a seventh report by Beaumont was published on the same day titled Israel considering expelling Hamas leaders from West Bank to Gaza‘.  Neither of these articles included any especially problematic material.

The Independent

The first Indy report on the abduction was written by Ben Lynfield on June 15th, was titled ‘Israel lays blame for abduction of teenagers on Fatah-Hamas pact‘, and was largely fair, but did include the same highly inappropriate photo that the Guardian used.

photo

A second report (as we noted in our previous post on June 15th) in the Indy, written by Jack Simpson, was titled ‘Netanyahu accuses Hamas of kidnapping Israel’s three missing boys‘ and included the false suggestion that all three teens lived in settlements.  (Indy editors corrected the relevant passage shortly after our complaint.)  A third report in the Indy, by Lizzie Dearden, on June 16th, titled ‘Facebook campaign calls on Israelis to kill a Palestinian ‘terrorist’ every hour until missing teenagers found‘, focused on a marginal Israeli Facebook group while of course ignoring reports that the official Facebook page of Fatah openly celebrated the terrorist kidnapping. 

A fourth report in the Indy, by Ben Lynfield, on June 17th, titled ‘Israeli search for kidnapped youths turns into push against Hamas‘, actually included a photo of the three teens, and – as we note below in our summary – also stood out by reporting on the “60 attempts to carry out abductions  in the past 12 months” by Palestinian terrorists.  (As we note in our summary, such vital context was also non-existent in the UK media’s reporting on the incident.)

Times of London

A Times report by David Rankin on June 14th, titled ‘Search continues for three teens feared kidnapped in Israeland a second report by Tony Bonnici on June 15th, titled ‘Israel PM says teenagers ‘kidnapped by terror group‘, are both unproblematic.  A June 16th report at the Times by Joshua Mitnick titled ‘Hamas leaders held in Israeli hunt for kidnapped teenagers‘ was unusual in respect to the fact that Mitnick quoted the parents of Eyal Yifrach, one of the kidnapped boys, who addressed the media on Monday with ‘an emotional address to their son’. (As we note in our summary, the UK media mostly ignored the families of the kidnapped teens.)

The Telegraph

The Telegraph published a report on June 15th by their Jerusalem correspondent Robert Tait titled Hamas to blame for youths’ “kidnapping”, Benjamin Netanyahu says, and was unproblematic, save a curious use of quotes around the word “kidnapping” in the headline. (Note: even the Guardian refers to the incident as a kidnapping, without the use of quotes.)  And, on the same day, the Telegraph published a story (attributed partially to Reuters) titled ‘Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims Hamas militants behind teenagers’ abduction‘ which included a video of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s press conference that day.

The third article (Reuters) published at the Telegraph on June 16th, titled ‘Hamas kidnapping: Israel expands West Bank hunt for Palestinian teenagers as Palestinian killed‘, is illustrated with an unrelated and highly inappropriate photo depicting the aftermath of an Israeli strike in Gaza. Additionally, the caption failed to explain that the IDF strike came in response to the firing of Grad rockets at Ashkelon the previous day.  

telegrpah photo

However, almost as if to make up for the misleading and inappropriate Gaza photo, the story also included a photo of the abducted teens to illustrate the story.

addendumLater the same day, the Telegraph published their fourth report, by Robert Tait, titled ‘The bus stop that voices Israel’s anguish over missing teenagers‘, which, for the second time in their coverage of the kidnapping to date, used a photo which evokes sympathy for the missing teens.

bus

The report explained:

At first sight, it appears to be just an isolated, lonely bus shelter.

But the yellow ribbons and defiant messages bedecking it eloquently attested to how it has become a symbol of Israel’s anguish over three missing teenagers.

“We will bring you back” and “The people of Israel are alive” read Hebrew messages on large posters beside smaller leaflets bearing the English inscription “# bring our boys homes”

The report also included a photo of the three teens.

Financial Times

On June 15th the Financial Times published a report by John Reed, titled ‘Netanyahu accuses Hamas over kidnapping of Israeli teenagers‘, which opened with this curious passage:

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, on Sunday blamed the Palestinian militant group Hamas for the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, raising the stakes in a missing-person case that has transfixed the country and its leaders.

Though Reed’s obfuscatory language isn’t quite as egregious as the New York Times recent conflation of cause and effect, as revealed by CAMERA’s Tamar Sternthal, it is still troubling that the passage nonetheless suggests that the prime minister ‘raised the stakes’ in the kidnapping (what’s characterized as a “missing person case”) when he blamed Hamas for the abduction.  

Reed also makes a gratuitous reference to “radical Jewish settlers” in Hebron, who he claims represent the cause of “tensions between Israelis and Palestinians”, without noting the extremely destabilizing presence of a large number of Hamas terrorists in the city.

Summary:

  • The Guardian has published the greatest number of stories on the kidnapping to date, filing seven out of the nineteen total reports covered in this review.
  • With the exception of two reports in the Telegraph, and one in the Independent, every photo used to illustrate the teens’ abduction by terrorists focused on the Israeli military response to the incident, rather than on the boys, their families or reactions by the Israeli public.  In contrast, as we’ve noted in previous posts, the UK media almost uniformly focused on the families of Palestinian terrorists released over the past year by Israeli authorities, rather than on the families of the Israeli victims.
  • With the exception of Robert Tait’s story on June 16th and a report the same day by Peter Beaumont in the Guardian, no other UK media outlet quoted a family member of one of the teenage victims.  Alternately, several reports quoted Palestinians in the West Bank condemning the IDF’s military response to the terrorist abduction.
  • Only one report, in the Indy, provided context on the high number of thwarted kidnapping attempts by Palestinian terror groups over the last year.  However, the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont did cite three specific examples of previous kidnappings – one in 2001, one in 2011 and another in 2013. 
fatah-e1402847026600-635x357

This caricature depicting three rats caught on a fishing line was posted on the official Facebook page of Fatah (Mahmoud Abbas’s party) shortly after the kidnapping was reported

Telegraph cites PLO claim that Israeli bill requiring vote on territorial withdrawal ‘stabs peace efforts’

For those of us used to hysterical claims made at the Guardian and elsewhere warning of the potential demise of Israeli democracy, it’s quite entertaining to see even the most robust democratic expressions within the Jewish state somehow framed as inconsistent with progressive values.  

A case in point is a March 11th article in the Daily Telegraph by Inna Lazareva (Israel set to pass bill on peace deal referendum) which focuses on the imminent passing of three bills in the Knesset – one of which would instill a requirement for a nation-wide ballot on any decision by the government to concede land in Israel, ‘eastern’ Jerusalem and Golan to achieve a peace agreement.  (What’s known as the Referendum Bill faces a final vote on Thursday morning.)

telegraph

After quoting some Israeli critics of the new law, including Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Isaac Herzog – who claimed that the legislation strips the Knesset of the power to cede land – Lazareva then pivots to the Palestinian reaction:

The new law demonstrates that Israel is “extending one hand for peace, and stabs peace efforts with the other hand”, said Yasser Abd Rabbo, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Executive Committee.

 So, are Palestinians, per the PLO – an organization evidently now passionately committed to peace and non-violence – truly outraged at the idea of a national referendum on a final status agreement between the two parties?

Not likely.

As several news sites – including the Guardian – reported last July, none other than Mahmoud Abbas himself (in an interview with a Jordanian paper) made a pledge that “any agreement reached with the Israelis will be brought to a [Palestinian] referendum.”

Indeed, this wasn’t the first time Abbas made such a claim.  

In February last year, Abbas said the following at a meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council in Ramallah:

If there is any development and an agreement, it is known that we will go to a referendum,” Abbas clarified. “It won’t be enough to have the approval of the Fatah Central Committee or the PLO Executive Council for an agreement. Rather, we would go to a referendum everywhere because the agreement represents Palestinians everywhere.”

The news sites which actually covered Abbas’s announcements naturally did not frame such a decision as a ‘blow to peace’.

Finally, though we’re not holding our collective breaths that such a Palestinian plebiscite will ever occur, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note that such a vote – if it takes place – would represent the first significant democratic expression in the Palestinian Authority in quite some time.

President Abbas just entered his tenth year of his four-year term in office.

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The Telegraph publishes fair & balanced report on Israeli settlement ‘growth’

telegraphOur increasing commentary on Israel related coverage by sites such as The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times, The Economist and the Irish Times is often helpful in properly contextualizing coverage at the Guardian.

Regarding The Telegraph, though we have criticized them on occasion, the coverage of Israel by their regional correspondent Robert Tait is often much more fair and professional than the pro-Palestinian activism consistently peddled by the Guardian’s outgoing Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood.

Indeed, a March 4 Telegraph story, titled ‘Israel issues figures on huge settlement expansion‘, by two other correspondents (Inna Lazareva and Peter Foster) deserves some credit for citing various views on the announcement, from both the Left and the Right.

The report begins by citing “a new report by the Israeli Bureau of Statistics” which revealed “that Israel increased settlement construction in the West Bank by as much as 123% in 2013, compared with the previous year.”  Then, after quoting Israeli left-wing critics of the increased settlement construction, and right-wing critics complaining that there wasn’t enough construction, the report cited the Israeli Housing Ministry’s explanation that the “higher rate of settlement construction [represents] the cumulative effect of the building backlog dating back to the 2009 ten-month long settlement freeze, and subsequent delayed constructions in the following years”.

Then, there was this interesting passage:

Other critics were quick to point out that, while 2013 was indeed an exceptional year for West Bank settlement construction, overall the rate of building in the settlements over the nearly five years that Mr Netanyahu has been in power has actually decreased by nearly a quarter, compared to the five years prior to him assuming the role of Prime Minister.

We’re not sure who exactly they are referring to by “critics”, but, as you may recall, just yesterday (about 9 hours before the Telegraph story appeared) we published a post titledWhat the Guardian won’t report: West Bank settlement building has DECLINED under BiBiwhich included this passage:

Though housing starts did increase dramatically in 2013, based on numbers from the previous year, construction for the nearly five years Netanyahu has been prime minister shows a decrease from the previous four years when Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon were in power.  From 2009 through 2013, there were 7477 housing starts in the West Bank, while from 2004 through 2008 there were 9293 starts.  So, under Netanyahu, there has been a nearly 20% decline in West Bank construction in comparison to the five years before he became prime minister

In short, The Telegraph provided the kind of context and nuance that professional reporters owe their readers when reporting from a region awash in clichés, hyperbole, agitprop and Guardian-style activist journalism.

We commend The Telegraph for their largely fair and balanced report.

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UK journalist responds positively to criticism (Hint: he doesn’t work at the Guardian)

In an overall commendable article about Oxfam at The Telegraph (The Darker Side of Oxfam, Feb. 5), Jake Wallis Simons wrote the following:

“In December, a controversial bill was passed [in the Knesset] which would levy a 45 percent on donations from foreign organisations or governments to NGOs that support BDS, demand Israeli soldiers to be tried in international courts, or support terrorism against Israel.”

The only problem, as Gidon Shaviv of Presspectiva (CAMERA’s Hebrew affiliate) immediately realized, was that the bill did not in fact become law.  This prompted the following exchange on Twitter:

screen captureNot only did Simons thank Shaviv for the information (backed up with an article about the bill in question), but he revised the passage accordingly.

Simons’ positive response to Shaviv’s Tweet is especially worth noting in light of the manner in which editors at the Guardian and other British newspapers often stubbornly resist making changes to articles with even the most obvious distortions or errors.  

Journalists and editors in the UK would be wise to heed Simons’ example, and view the work CAMERA and its affiliates undertake to promote media accuracy as consistent with the value of accountability that their crusading journalists are often demanding of others.

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Did Bibi or his ministers label John Kerry an “anti-Semite”?

No, neither the Israeli prime minister nor his ministers labeled John Kerry an anti-Semite.

However, here’s the photo and caption used to illustrate a Feb 2nd story at The Telegraph written by their Israeli correspondent Robert Tait:

headlineHere’s the caption:

strapline

First, note that the headline is “John Kerry labelled ‘anti Semite’ for warning of possible boycott of Israel”. Then, there are two big pictures: one of Netanyahu and the other of Kerry, which some casual readers may initially interpret as indicating that Bibi was the one who called Kerry an anti-Semite.  (Indeed, the Telegraph’s Facebook post uses this same hook to inspire interest in the story.)

Additionally, note that the photo caption claims that “Ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet accused John Kerry of effectively endorsing “anti-Semitic” efforts to impose sanctions on Israel”.  This claim is repeated in the opening passage of the story.

However, this too is misleading.

Here’s what Tait writes, after quoting Kerry’s warning about the potential risks concerning boycotts if a peace accord isn’t reached.

Yuval Steinitz, the intelligence and strategic affairs minister and a close ally of Mr Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said America’s top diplomat was “holding a gun to [Israel’s] head”.

“The things Kerry said are hurtful, they are unfair and they are intolerable,” Mr Steinitz told reporters.

“Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a gun to its head when we are discussing the matters which are most critical to our national interests.”

Naftali Bennett, the industry minister and leader of the far-Right Jewish Home party, said: “We expect of our friends in the world to stand by our side against the attempts to impose an anti-Semitic boycott on Israel, and not to be their mouthpiece.”

His comments were echoed by Adi Mintz, a senior official in the Settler’s Council, who accused Mr Kerry of “an anti-Semitic initiative”.

“The anti-Semites have always resorted to a very simple method – hit the Jews in their pockets,” he told Israel’s Channel 10 TV station.

Mr Netanyahu was more restrained, telling Sunday’s cabinet meeting that efforts to impose a boycott were “immoral and unjust” and doomed to fail.

So, based on the quotes used by Tait, only one minister, Bennett, even used the word “anti-Semitic” to characterize boycott efforts, and the only one who actually accused Kerry of antisemitism was Adi Mintz, an official in the Settler’s Council.  Mintz is not a minister.  

Contrary to the strong suggestion of the headline, photo and subsequent text, neither Bibi nor any of his ministers labeled Kerry an “anti-Semite”.  But, of course, a headline soberly noting that “an official at the Settler’s Council” labeled Kerry an anti-Semite would be a lot less likely to elicit the interest of Telegraph readers or those who casually peruse Facebook, Twitter and RSS feeds looking for interesting content. 

The Telegraph story of course also fits neatly into the frequently heard criticism about those ‘pesky Israelis always crying about antisemitism’ to stifle criticism of Israel – what’s known as the Livingstone Formulation.

Finally, it’s quite interesting that Tait writes the following near the end of his article, quoting a US State Department spokesperson responding to the row:

“[Mr Kerry] expected opposition and difficult moments in the process, but he also expects all parties to accurately portray his record and statements.”

Yes, and news consumers expect newspapers to accurately portray statements by political leaders and not – like unserious British tabloids – use misleading photos and captions to falsely impute drama to relatively mundane stories.

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The Telegraph’s 14 weaselly words about the power of ‘the lobby’

It’s less than clear how Telegraph Middle East correspondent Richard Spencer views the nuclear deal recently signed in Geneva, but in his latest report he certainly seems to take pleasure in the Israeli prime minister’s profound disappointment over the terms and implications of the agreement between Iran and the P5+1.

spencer

Spencer’s story, titled ‘Iran nuclear deal: Israel rages and no one cares‘, Nov. 24, begins thusly:

Everyone expected Israel‘s furious response to the Iranian nuclear deal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had used every weapon in his considerable diplomatic and rhetorical arsenal to oppose one, up to hand-drawn drawings at the United Nations Security Council of circular bombs with cartoon fuses to illustrate his “red lines”.

What fewer can have expected is that no one would listen.

 Then, after citing statements by UK Foreign Minister William Hague and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry he interprets as dismissive of Israeli concerns, he writes the following:

If ones takes Israel’s public position at face value, however, it is hard not to ask how it got itself into a position where its wishes could be ignored by its closest ally, the United States (an ally that according to popular opinion its Washington lobbies have in their pockets).

One answer might be the extraordinary, prickly, combative persona of Mr Netanyahu.

Of course, there is another answer to the question of why the American president didn’t take Israel’s concerns about the deal into consideration that Spencer didn’t explore: the possibility that the narrative suggesting that ‘pro-Israel lobbies have the U.S. government “in their pockets” has no foundation in reality, and represents the kind of crude, simplifying hypotheses fancied by weak minds, conspiracists and bigots who can’t grapple with the complexities of the world.  

ShowImage

Ar-Risala, June 22, 2008
Headline: “The Wagon [that gets you] to the White House.”

images

Two papers published the same cartoon: Al-Watan, June 10, 2008 and Arabnews, June 11, 2008

Zionist lobby with Obama and Clinton in pocket

Akhbar al-Khalij, June 9, 2008
The bearded man is labeled: “Zionist Lobby” and has then Senator Barack Obama in its pocket, and Obama has Senator Hillary Clinton in his pocket.

Though Spencer doesn’t explicitly endorse this ‘Zionist root cause’ scenario, his failure to dismiss it provides succor to the alarming number of putatively mainstream commentators who, as Leon Wieseltier wrote, continue to “proclaim in all seriousness, without in any way being haunted by the history of such an idea, that Jews control Washington.” 

Editor’s Note: The title was amended at 12:00 EST to more accurately reflect the substance of the post

3rd time’s a charm: CiF Watch prompts correction to Telegraph “correction” on refugees

On Aug. 20th we posted about a report at The Telegraph by their Middle East correspondent, Robert Tait, which grossly inflated the number of Palestinian Arab refugees from the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli war.  

Here’s the passage in question:

On the table are the familiar sticking points that have defied several previous peace-making attempts — namely borders, Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian lands, the fate of almost five million Arab refugees expelled to neighbouring countries during Israel’s 1948 war of independence, and the status of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital.

We complained to Telegraph editors, explaining that the number of refugees from the war was actually, per UN figures, 711,000 (of whom only 30,000 remain today), while the 5 million figure only represents those who presently qualify for “refugee” benefits (which includes the descendants of refugees) under UNRWA’s bizarre guidelines.

Shortly after our complaint, the passage was amended as follows:

On the table are the familiar sticking points that have defied several previous peace-making attempts — namely borders, Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian lands, the fate of almost five million Arab refugees and their descendants expelled to neighbouring countries during Israel’s 1948 war of independence, and the status of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital.

Unfortunately, the ‘revised’ passage (as we noted in a new post) was still extremely misleading, as it would likely be understood to mean that there were 5 million refugees from the ’48 war plus an additional number of descendents from these 5 million. 

So, we again contacted Telegraph editors, and recently saw the following new revision to the passage:

On the table are the familiar sticking points that have defied several previous peace-making attempts — namely borders, Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian lands, the fate of 700,000 Arab refugees and their descendants (a number that has now swelled to almost five million) expelled to neighbouring countries during Israel’s 1948 war of independence, and the status of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital.

Though it took a while, we commend Telegraph editors on finally getting it right on the number of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war.

Telegraph revision to false claim on Palestinian refugees is still misleading

On Aug. 20 we posted about an article published at The Telegraph by their Middle East correspondent, Robert Tait, which grossly inflated the number of Palestinian Arab refugees from the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli war.  

Here’s the passage in question:

On the table are the familiar sticking points that have defied several previous peace-making attempts — namely borders, Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian lands, the fate of almost five million Arab refugees expelled to neighbouring countries during Israel’s 1948 war of independence, and the status of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital.

We complained to Telegraph editors, explaining that the number of refugees from the ’48 war was actually 711,000 (of whom only 30,000 remain today), while the 5 million figure represents those who qualify for “refugee” benefits (which includes the descendants of actual refugees) under UNRWA’s bizarre rules.

Yesterday the passage was amended, and now reads:

On the table are the familiar sticking points that have defied several previous peace-making attempts — namely borders, Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian lands, the fate of almost five million Arab refugees and their descendants expelled to neighbouring countries during Israel’s 1948 war of independence, and the status of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital.

However, the new passage is still extremely misleading, as it could easily be understood to mean that there were 5 million refugees from the ’48 war plus an additional number of their descendents. 

We will continue communicating with Telegraph editors until the passage clearly conveys the correct number of refugees.

(See Update to this post, here.)

Telegraph’s Mid-East reporter grossly inflates the number of Palestinian refugees

The Arab-Israeli War of 1948-49 produced around 711,000 Palestinian Arab refugees, according to official records.  (To provide some context to this figure, there were roughly 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries between 1948 and the early 1970s.)

The relevant UN General Assembly document from Oct. 23, 1950 states the following about the Palestinian refugee problem:

The estimate of the statistical expert, which the Committee believes to be as accurate as circumstances permit, indicates that the refugees from Israel-controlled territory amount to approximately 711,000.

While it is estimated that somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 Palestinian Arabs, out of this original refugee population, are still alive today, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) allows the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren (ad infinitum) of actual refugees to continue to inherit their ancestor’s status.  So, based on this bizarre formula, there are officially 4.9 million Palestinians who are eligible for “refugee” benefits.

Robert Tait is the Telegraph’s Middle East correspondent, and you’d therefore expect him to have some familiarity with such statistical and historical details.  However, his latest report about the current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks contains a passage indicating he is either unfamiliar with the numbers, or unwilling to contradict the official Palestinian narrative on the “right of return” for millions Palestinians who were never actually refugees and never set foot within the boundaries of Israel. 

His Aug. 18 story, ‘While Egypt burns, Israel talks peace‘, includes the following:

On the table are the familiar sticking points that have defied several previous peace-making attempts — namely borders, Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian lands, the fate of almost five million Arab refugees expelled to neighbouring countries during Israel’s 1948 war of independence, and the status of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital.

Whilst the unwillingness of the mainstream media to critically scrutinize the broader refugee narrative is itself a topic worthy of debate, the part of the sentence we underlined is not merely misleading, but a flat-out falsehood – and we intend to hold the paper accountable. 

Telegraph reporter lazily asserts that “settler” Jews violate Geneva Convention

A report in The Telegraph, ‘EU to label products from Israeli settlements, by Ben Lynfield, included the following claim, in a passage attempting to provide context to the recent EU decision over labelling Israeli products made across the green line:

The settlements contravene the Fourth Geneva Convention’s ban on an occupying power moving its nationals into occupied territory but are seen by right-wing Israelis as an expression of historic Jewish rights to the biblically resonant areas of Judea and Samaria

Lynfield, a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem who has contributed to the (British) Independent, The Scotsman,The Nation, the Egypt Independent and elsewhere, imputes an empirical certainty to a highly complex and disputed international legal issue regarding the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention which is extraordinary.  Reading that passage, you’d certainly believe that everyone except “right-wing Israelis” is in agreement over the illegality of such Jewish communities.  You’d believe such a thing, and you’d of course be wrong.

As CAMERA has noted on many occasions, “prominent non-Israeli legal scholars have pointed out the Fourth Geneva Convention’s inapplicability to the disputed territories.”  This group of scholars includes Prof. Julian Stone; Prof. Stephen Schwebel, a former judge on the International Court of Justice; former U.S. Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow; and Ambassador Morris Abram, a member of the U.S. staff at the Nuremberg Tribunal who was later involved in the drafting of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  

CAMERA explains thusly:

Essentially, the Fourth Geneva Convention [according to, among other bodies, the International Committee of the Red Cross] forbids forcible transfer of populations into or out of territories belonging to parties to the convention that were captured in aggressive wars. None of that applies to the West Bank. Israeli Jews were not forcibly transferred in nor Arabs out, the land was captured by Israel in a war of self-defense and it was not the sovereign territory of any country party to the Geneva Conventions. Rather, pending an agreement negotiated according to U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 and related documents, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) is disputed territory in which, the sources noted, Jews as well as Arabs have claims.

Historically, the Geneva Convention was attempting to address the over 40 million people (during WWII) who were subjected to “forced migration, evacuation, displacement, and expulsion,” including 15 million Germans, 5 million Soviet citizens, and millions of Poles, Ukrainians and Hungarians.  The vast numbers of people affected and the aims behind such population transfers have no relation whatsoever to the decision by Jews to live in historically Jewish (albeit currently disputed) areas within the boundaries of the historic land of Israel.

Jews have lived in Judea and Samaria—the West Bank—since ancient times, and, in fact, the only time Jews have been prohibited from living in these territories in recent decades was during Jordanian rule from 1948 to 1967.

Whilst reasonable people can of course disagree with Israeli settlement policy – in the context of efforts to reach a final status agreement with the Palestinians – lazy assertions that such settlements are “illegal” at best have a questionable basis in international law, and should certainly not be presented as an incontrovertible fact by a serious newspaper.

The Israeli Bedouin issue beyond The Telegraph’s sensationalist headline

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

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

a