Matti Friedman helps us understand the Guardian’s coverage of Israel

In carrying out our mission, CiF Watch often attempts to contextualize the Guardian’s coverage of Israel by explaining not only what they get wrong, but also why they get it wrong.  So, in August we posted excerpts from a superb article by former AP Jerusalem correspondent Matti Friedman, in Tablet Magazine, which masterfully dissected the widespread institutional bias which distorts coverage of Israel and the Middle East.

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Friedman’s latest essay (What the media gets wrong about Israel),  published on Nov. 30th in The Atlantic, is another must-read for those who’ve thought seriously about the skewed coverage of Israel at the Guardian – and within much of the UK media.

Here are a few of the more interesting passages from Friedman’s essay.

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The truth about Gaza’s civilian casualties: Essay by Col. Richard Kemp

This essay was written by Col. Richard Kemp, and originally published at Gatestone Institute.

“So are you going after innocent civilians or is it incompetence Colonel Lerner?” asks the interviewer, her face contorted with a contempt apparently reserved only for Israelis. Such shrill disrespect hurled at an American or British officer would alienate viewers, and, at an Arab commander, provoke accusations of racism.

This line of questioning – repeated across the networks on a daily basis – betrays a naïve and uncomprehending willingness to believe, and encourages viewers to believe, the absurd notion that the Israel Defence Force [IDF] is commanded and manned from top to bottom by psychopathic baby-killing thugs.

To suggest that military incompetence is the only explanation for civilian deaths other than deliberate mass murder reveals a breathtaking but unsurprising ignorance of the realities of combat.

Although rarely allowed to complete so much as a single sentence, Israeli attempts to explain IDF targeting policies are inevitably dismissed as laughable fabrication.

The truth is very different. The IDF has developed the most comprehensive and sophisticated measures to minimize civilian casualties during attacks against legitimate military targets.

Mandatory, multi-sensor intelligence and surveillance systems to confirm the presence or absence of civilians precede attacks on every target from the air. Text messages, phone calls and radio messages in Arabic warn occupants to leave. Air-dropped leaflets include maps showing safe areas. When warnings go unheeded, aircraft drop non-lethal explosives to warn that an attack is imminent.

Only when pilots and air controllers are sure that civilians are clear of the target will authorization be given to attack. When pilots use laser-guided munitions they must have pre-designated safe areas to which to divert the missiles in flight should civilians suddenly appear.

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In the last few days IDF pilots have aborted many missions because civilians remained in the target area.

Ground forces have equivalent engagement procedures, although the nature of ground combat means that these are blunter and less sophisticated. Discussions with IDF infantrymen fresh from the fight on the Gaza border confirm, however, that avoiding civilian casualties is uppermost in their minds even when under fire themselves.

Meanwhile back in the safety of the studio, the interviewer’s visible fury at the IDF Spokesman has got the better of any professional objectivity: “You go on endlessly about all the warnings you give but the fact is you have killed one-and-a-half thousand people, the overwhelming majority of them civilians!”

But of course the colonel is not permitted to give a proper answer that might help viewers understand the reality of the situation.

With few exceptions, reporters, commentators and analysts unquestioningly accept the casualty statistics given by Gaza’s Hamas-controlled medical authorities, who ascribe all deaths to the IDF. Is anyone in Gaza dying of natural causes? Mass executions of “collaborators,” and civilians killed by malfunctioning Hamas rockets, are all attributed to IDF fire.

Are the “overwhelming majority” of the dead really civilians? It would seem so. We see a great deal of grotesque and heart-rending footage of dead and bleeding women and children but never so much as a glimpse of killed or wounded fighters. Nor do reporters question or comment on the complete absence of Gazan military casualties, an extraordinary phenomenon unique to this conflict. The reality of course is that Hamas make great efforts to segregate their military casualties to preserve the fiction that Israel is killing civilians only. There are also increasing indications that Hamas, through direct force or threat, are preventing journalists from filming their fighters, whether dead or alive.

We will not get to the truth until the battle is over. But we know now that Hamas have ordered their people to report all deaths as innocent civilians. We know too that Hamas has a track record of lying about casualties. After Operation Cast Lead, the 2008-09 fighting in Gaza, the IDF estimated that of 1,166 Palestinian deaths, 709 were fighters. Hamas – backed by several NGOs – claimed that only 49 of its fighters had been killed, the rest were innocent civilians. Much later they were forced to admit that the IDF had been right all along and between 600 and 700 of the casualties had in fact been fighters. But the short-memoried media are incapable of factoring this in before broadcasting their ill-founded and inflammatory assertions.

Analysis of casualty details released by Qatar-based Al Jazeera indicate that so far in the conflict most of those killed in Gaza have been young men of fighting age, not women, children or old people. According to one analyst, despite comprising around 50% of the population, the proportion of women among the dead is 21%.

Preliminary analysis by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center in Israel suggests that 71, or 46.7%, of the first 152 Palestinians killed were fighters and 81, or 53.3%, non-involved civilians.

None of this analysis is definitive. But it does cast doubt upon the accusations of indiscriminate attack against the population by the IDF and upon the UN estimates – widely trumpeted as fact by the media and the not-exactly unbiased United Nations – that between 70 and 80% of Palestinian casualties have been civilians.

Nevertheless, many innocent civilians have tragically been killed. How has this happened, given the IDF’s measures aimed at minimizing such deaths?

IDF commanders say they never intentionally fire at targets where uninvolved civilians are present, a policy that goes much further than the Geneva Conventions demand. This policy has been confirmed to me by foot soldiers on the ground and F16 pilots carrying out strikes into Gaza.

But mistakes happen. Surveillance and intelligence can never be foolproof. There have been reports of Hamas forcing civilians back in once buildings have been evacuated. There is sometimes unexpected fallout from attacks, for example when an adjacent building containing civilians collapses, often caused by secondary explosions resulting from Hamas’s own munitions.

Errors can be made in interpretation of imagery, passage of information and inputting of target data. We don’t yet know what happened to the four boys tragically killed on a Gaza beach; it is not credible that they were identified as children and then deliberately killed.

Weapons guidance systems sometimes malfunction and bombs, bullets or missiles can land where they are not supposed to. Even the most hi-tech communications systems can fail at the critical moment.

Nowhere are these errors more frequent and catastrophic than in ground combat, where commanders and soldiers experience chaos, noise, smoke, fear, exhaustion, danger, shock, maiming, death and destruction that are beyond the comprehension of our interviewer in her air conditioned TV studio.

These mistakes and malfunctions happen in all fighting armies and in all conflicts. And in all conflicts, mistakes include the deaths of soldiers by friendly fire. Do those who condemn the killing of Palestinian civilians as deliberate acts by the IDF suggest that the friendly fire incidents in Gaza are also intentional?

The Israeli policy of not attacking targets where civilians are present is likely however to be deliberately waived in one specific situation. If troops are under lethal fire from an enemy position, the IDF are entitled to attack the target even with the certainty that civilians will be killed, subject to the usual rules of proportionality.

By definition Israeli soldiers’ lives are placed at greater risk by restrictive rules of engagement intended to minimize civilian casualties. But commanders in the field must balance their concern for civilians with the preservation of their own men’s lives and fighting effectiveness.

These realities aside, all Palestinian civilian casualties in this conflict result ultimately from Gaza terrorists’ aggression against Israel, and Hamas’s use of human shields – the most important plank of Hamas’s war-fighting policy.

Storing and firing weapons within densely populated areas, compelling civilians to stay put when warned to leave, luring Israeli forces to attack and kill their own people, the Palestinian body count is vital to Hamas’s propaganda war that aims to bring international pressure on Israel and incite anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic hatred around the world.

This sickening exploitation of their own people’s suffering, and media’s complicity in it, is nowhere more cynically demonstrated than in the operating theaters of the Gaza Strip. Without the slightest regard for life-saving hygiene, or for the care, privacy or dignity of the wounded, Palestinian officials enthusiastically hustle camera crews in to the emergency room as desperate surgeons battle for a bleeding and broken child’s life.

Colonel Richard Kemp spent most his 30-year career in the British Army commanding front-line troops in fighting terrorism and insurgency in hotspots including Iraq, the Balkans, South Asia and Northern Ireland. He was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003. From 2002 – 2006 he heading the international terrorism team at the Joint Intelligence Committee of the British Prime Minister’s Office.

Did an official Guardian editorial justify Hamas’s use of human shields?

The Guardian editorial team recently decided that readers needed to hear their sage reflections on the killing of children during wartime – no, of course, not just any war, but one fought by a political actor which (based on their documented history of obsessive, some would say ‘disproportionate, criticism) is especially in need of moral advice on the sanctity of childhood.

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Here are the opening paragraphs of the July 31st Guardian editorial, with the most important sentences emphasized in bold.

Wars kill people, including teachers in their classrooms, nurses in their hospitals, and farmers in their fields. But when children die in the hail of steel soldiers direct at one another there is a special kind of obscenity. Children have no agency, not even the slightest shred of the responsibility or complicity that adults to one degree or another may possess.

They know nothing of propaganda, they did not cheer in angry rallies, they did not send off their menfolk to fight with a blessing, they did not sit at meetings where the pros and cons of making war were gravely discussed by middle- aged men. No, they just die. Or lose their little legs, their arms, their eyes. The scenes at Jabaliya elementary school had seasoned United Nations officials, who have seen and endured much, in tears. The rapid transference of images to the world soon made this tragedy everybody’s property and everybody’s burden. Then, of course, a familiar game begins. Mournful spokesmen explain that the other side is to blame, because it has hidden its fighters, mortars and rockets in populated areas. They take great care, but mistakes can happen. They do not explain why that other side might be reluctant to put its fighters into, say, the local soccer stadium so that they could be mown down without risk to civilians.

If you read that last underlined sentence carefully, it’s difficult to avoid concluding that the Guardian is essentially acknowledging the Hamas use of civilians as human shields, but then asking: ‘howevergiven the group’s limited alternatives, who can really blame them?‘!

In case the Guardian needs reminding:

  • Geneva Convention IVArticle 28 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV provides: “The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations
  • Additional Protocol IArticle 12(4) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I provides: Under no circumstances shall medical units be used in an attempt to shield military objectives from attack. Whenever possible, the Parties to the conflict shall ensure that medical units are so sited that attacks against military objectives do not imperil their safety
  • Article 51(7) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I provides:
    The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations
  • ICC StatutePursuant to Article 8(2)(b)(xxiii) of the 1998 ICC Statute, “[u]tilizing the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations” constitutes a war crime in international armed conflicts

Indeed, no doubt much to the chagrin of Guardian editors and their fellow apologists for terror, it seems clear that international legal prohibitions against the use of human shields definitely do not include loopholes for Palestinian ‘resistance’ movements.

UK media fail to report evidence contradicting presumption of IDF guilt in UN school deaths

On July 25th we posted about the UK media’s rush to judgement after 15 Palestinian civilians were reportedly killed at a UNWRA school in the Gaza city of Beit Hanoun last Thursday. The Guardian, Independent, The Times, The Telegraph, Daily Mail, and Daily Mirror were among the publications which immediately blamed Israel hours after the incident, despite the dearth of evidence at the time.

However, as we noted in our most recent post last night (July 27), an Israeli army inquiry into the fighting at the UN facility in Beit Hanoun found that IDF mortars did NOT play a role in the killing of 16 people in the school courtyard. The army admitted that an errant IDF-fired shell did hit the UN-run school’s yard, but at a time when there were evidently no people in the area – as the video further in this post shows.

More details were provided by IDF spokesman Peter Lerner, who told reporters yesterday that the IDF had returned fired at Hamas targets (which were stationed near the school) on the day in question, and that one of the errant tank mortars landed in the school courtyard, “injuring no one“. Lerner said it was “extremely unlikely” that anyone had been killed by the mortar round that fell in the empty yard. Lerner also noted that it was quite “out of the ordinary” that Palestinian health officials in Gaza did not share the nature of the wounds of the casualties, which may have shed light on the causes of death.

Here’s the IDF video we posted yesterday, which shows the errant tank shell landing in what appears to be a vacant school yard:

Now, let’s look back at the UK news organizations which immediately blamed Israel for the attack on the UN school.

The Guardian, July 25 (One of the lead stories)

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The Guardian, July 25 (Additional story on the attack)

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The Guardian, July 24 (Their initial video report on the attack)

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(Additional live blog updates on the incident on July 24 at the Guardian similarly judged Israel guilty in the attack, and downplayed evidence of Hamas culpability.)

The Independent, July 24 (One of the lead stories)

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The Times

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The Times, July 24 (An updated article by Catherine Philp of the one seen above included a headline charging Israel with committing a “massacre”)

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Telegraph, July 24

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Telegraph, July 24

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 Daily Mail, July 24

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Daily Mirror, July 24

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Not one of these UK news sites, at the time of this post, have revised their original articles or published a new story which includes the IDF’s new video evidence. 

Since the new information at the very least calls into question the accuracy of the initial reports, editors should take note of the clause in the Editor’s Code of Practice which demands the following:

A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. 

British Priest (and Guardian journalist) defends Palestinian terrorism

A Church of England Priest named Giles Fraser penned a column at the Guardian defending the Palestinian right of armed resistance.  

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Giles Fraser

The column, If we can have a just war, why not just terrorism?‘ (which follows a similar pro-terrorism argument advanced by Guardian associate editor Seumas Milne in a column last week) begins by suggesting that the IDF intentionally targets civilians in Gaza, while benignly characterizing Palestinian acts of ‘retaliation’ against the ‘occupation’.

Or, to put it in terms of today’s news: the Israelis won’t have any definition that would make them terrorists for bombing old people’s homes in Gaza, and West Bank Palestinians won’t have any definition that will make them terrorists for fighting back against occupation with petrol bombs

In addition to the risible suggestion that the IDF targets the homes of innocent elderly Palestinians, such Palestinian ‘resistance’ includes much more than Fraser indicates.  Such acts of “resistance” have included (to cite just a few recent examples) the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, Palestinian sniper fire at an Israeli civilian vehicle that killed a father of five, and an attempted suicide bombing.

Fraser then introduces us to his Palestinian protagonist:

I am eating aubergines and flatbread with Dr Samah Jabr in a cool Palestinian cafe in Stoke Newington….She is an educated, middle-class Palestinian (in no way a rabble-rouser) but she insists that the word terrorist has become a powerful…political pejorative employed to discredit legitimate resistance to the violence of occupation.

What some would call terrorism, she would call a moral duty. She gives me her paper on the subject. “Why is the word ‘terrorist’ so readily applied to individuals or groups who use homemade bombs, but not to states using nuclear and other internationally proscribed weapons to ensure submission to the oppressor?” she asks. She insists that violent resistance must be used in defence and as a last resort. And that it is important to distinguish between civilian and military targets. “The American media call our search for freedom ‘terrorism’,” she complains, “despite the fact that the right to self-determination by armed struggle is permissible under the UN charter’s article 51, concerning self-defence.”

Though Fraser uncritically cites Jabr’s claim that armed struggle is permissible under the UN charter’s article 51, a review of Article 51 demonstrates that there is no such right:

Here’s what Article 51 of the UN’s charter states:

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.

The language is quite clear. UN “member states” have the right of self-defense, not armed terrorist groups and illegal militias.  Such a doctrine clearly grants Israel (a UN member state) has the right to respond to rocket fire, while Hamas, as an internationally proscribed terrorist group which indiscriminately attacks civilians, is not granted such a right under Article 51.

Fraser finishes:

I took part in the Moral Maze recently on Radio 4 and was howled at for suggesting that there could be a moral right of resistance to oppression. And the suggestion was made that, as a priest, I ought to take no such line.

 

It is nonsense to think that being a state grants some sort of blanket immunity from the charge of terrorism – and certainly not from the moral opprobrium we attach to that term. We talk of asymmetric warfare. This is asymmetric morality: one that, in terms of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, loads the dice in favour of the occupation. This is just not right.

It seems that a priest should avoid emboldening a proscribed terror movement by distorting international law to suggest that attacks on civilians may be legally justified, and – even more importantly – refrain from obfuscating the profound moral difference between homicidal antisemitic extremists and the Jews they’re trying to kill. 

 

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Guardian incites the crowd: Israel quickly blamed for Gaza school attack

Is there any provocation in which bombing schools and hospitals can be deemed a proportionate response by a civilized state?

The above quote was just a stray comment (in response to media reports about the attack on a UN school in Gaza yesterday) by an acquaintance on Facebook, but it  sums up exactly what happens when the media presumes the worse about Israel before the facts are in, ignoring counter evidence.

The incident occurred yesterday when 15 Palestinian civilians were killed at a UN school in Beit Hanoun – an assault that both Hamas and Israel claim might well be the fault of the other.

Though all the facts aren’t completely clear, here’s what we do know:

  • According to the IDF, there has been, for several days, continuous fire by Hamas from near the UN school (representing a violation of international law). However, before retaliating, the IDF attempted (over the course of three days) to facilitate the evacuation of all civilians per an official humanitarian window from 10:00 to 14:00 on Thursday – a temporary ceasefire which was evidently communicated to the UN and International Red Cross. 
  • As far as the tank shells or rockets which may have hit the school on Thursday, resulting in the civilian casualties, we know that, according to official sources, IDF sensors detected ‘errant’ Hamas rockets falling at least in the neighborhood of the school. It is also is being reported that Hamas fired at the IDF from near the Beit Hanoun school and that “soldiers responded by targeting the source of the fire”, tank fire which may have hit the school or the area around the school.
  • So, while we know that Hamas was once again using its illegal human shield strategy at the school in Beit Hanoun to shield its fighters, as of now, the UN still hasn’t determined whether Hamas rockets or IDF tank shells were ultimately to blame.

So, though while the sequence of events are unclear at this point, a day after the tragedy, this didn’t stop the UK media’s immediate rush to judgment – blaming Israel for the Palestinian deaths, and ignoring Hamas’s use of human shields.

While some US media outlets were – quite tellingly – much more fair and circumspect in their initial assessments (avoiding headlines which blamed either side), the following headlines at the Guardian, Independent and Times (of London), published when very little information was known, indicate a troubling lack of restraint and objectivity. 

(First, here’s the Telegraph, the only major UK paper we reviewed that avoided immediately blaming Israel for the Palestinian deaths. Though the British tabloid The Daily Mail used an AP report with a similarly non-judgmental headline.)

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Now, for the others:

Owen Jones:

Indy, New Statesman and Guardian commentator Owen Jones Tweeted this, early in the morning on Thursday, before any facts were established (and even before major news sites reported the story), using the unproven allegation of an Israeli ‘atrocity’ to promote an anti-Israel event on Saturday.

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The Guardian being, well, the Guardian:

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Guardian home page, July 24

(Additional Guardian reportsand live blog updates, on the incident yesterday and this morning similarly judged Israel guilty in the attack, and downplayed evidence of Hamas culpability)

Times (of London):

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The Independent:

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One last thing. If you think that the media isn’t capable of employing restraint and avoiding the tempting rush to judgment, here’ are two stories featured side by side yesterday on the Indy’s Middle East page: one on the attack in Beit Hanoun and the other one focusing on reports that the Islamist extremist group ISIS (aka, The Islamic State) announced that women in the territory they control would be forced to undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

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Independent, July 24th, Middle East page

It’s interesting that while the Indy was quick to defend the jihadist group from the ‘smear’ that they’re enforcing FGM, they showed no such concern for what may be another vicious libel against the Jewish state – one which, as we’ve seen, may have dangerous repercussions for Jews in the UK and across Europe.  

 

Guardian brings back Jihad Misharawi photo to illustrate ‘Israeli attacks’

Hamas terrorists fired approximately 2270 rockets at Israeli civilians since the beginning of the current war. We know that a percentage of mortars and Grad rockets have fallen short and landed in Gazan territory – quite possibly (based on past experiences) injuring or killing Palestinian civilians. You may recall that most UK media outlets accused Israel of firing a missile, during the 2012 war in Gaza, which killed the 11 month old son of BBC Arabic cameraman Jihad Misharawi.

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Elder of Ziyon and BBC Watch (and other blogs) were among those who examined the evidence and suggested that Omar Misharawi was actually more than likely killed by an errant Palestinian rocket.

Their skepticism was well-founded.

On March 6th 2013 the United Nations Human Rights Council issued an advance version of its report on the November war and noted the following about the death of Ahmad Misharawi.

“On 14 November, a woman, her 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult in Al-Zaitoun were killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.” [emphasis added]

Following communication with CiF Watch in the days following the release of the UNHRC report, quite a few UK media outlets corrected their original stories, and noted that a Palestinian rocket likely caused the death of Misharawi’s son. 

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So, we were somewhat surprised to say the least to see the following photo accompany a batch of Guardian letters published on July 23rd. (Note the caption below the photo.) 

masharawiThey decided to use a photo of an infant who was killed by an ‘errant’ Palestinian rocket to illustrate the view – expressed by one letter writer – that “Israel’s attacks are an extension of military rule and collective punishment by a brutal apartheid state”.

Evidently, old, disproven media smears against Israel never actually die.  

They simply get recycled at the Guardian. 

How the 30,000 remaining Palestinian refugees from ’48 morph into 5 million

The Times of Israel reported today that, during his meeting with Barack Obama last Monday, Mahmoud Abbas not only refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but reiterated his refusal to abandon the so-called “right of return” for Palestinian “refugees”. 

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To understand why Abbas continues playing the “refugee” card, a brief look at how the world’s refugees are treated is necessary. 

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the UN agency responsible for aiding all the world’s refugees – “all” the world’s refugees, that is, except for the Palestinians. The tens of millions of actual refugees this agency aids receive initial assistance – which often entails helping to resettle them in a new state – and then they are no longer refugees.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) – the UN agency which deals exclusively with Arabs of Palestinian descent – ‘Palestinian refugees‘ are defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.”  And, the number of Palestinian refugees from the ’48 war who are still alive – out of the initial 711,000 or so – is estimated to be roughly 30,000.  However, due to UNRWA’s expansive definition of who qualifies for “refugee” benefits – which includes the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of Palestinian Arabs who may have once lived in Historic Palestine – over 5 million Arabs of Palestinian descent are considered “refugees”.  This means that 99 percent of their clients are NOT in fact refugees.

Remarkably, under UNRWA’s bizarre rules, even Arabs of Palestinian descent who are citizens of other Arab states – such as Jordan – are still considered “refugees“.  

(Additionally, given that there are 30,000 actual Palestinian refugees, and UNRWA has a payroll of 29,000 employees, the ratio of UNRWA employees to actual refugees is nearly 1:1. In contrast, UNHCR, which handles roughly 43 million refugees throughout the world, has a payroll of only 7,685.)

Keep this mind when reading the following passage from Karma Nablusi’s op-ed at ‘Comment is Free’ titled Despite the cruelties heaped on them, Palestinian refugees’ spirit has not broken, March 21:

The only thing heard nowadays about the majority of the Palestinian people – those made refugees in the Nakba of 1948 – is that they must consider themselves and their fate entirely forfeited. Surrendering their right to return to the place they were expelled from the most basic right every refugee has under international law – is apparently a given.

However, there is no such “right of return” enshrined in international law – and certainly no such right afforded to descendants of refugees. 

When Nablusi, Mahmoud Abbas and most Palestinian advocates speak of the so-called ‘right of return‘ in international law for 5 million Palestinians, they’re possible referring to an amorphous passage from the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which says “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country”.

Or, more likely, they’re alluding to UN General Assembly Resolution 194 – a non-binding resolution from December 1948 which reads in part:

This Resolution established a Conciliation Commission for Palestine and instructed it to “take steps to assist the Governments, and authorities concerned to achieve a final settlement of all questions outstanding between them.” Paragraph 11 deals with the refugees: “The General Assembly … resolves that the [48] refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

Regardless of the proper interpretation of 194 regarding the status of the 30,000 remaining refugees from 1948, there appears to be no serious legal argument which would support the inclusion of the descendants of Palestinian refugees, those who were never Israeli citizens or residents – which, again, constitutes 99 percent of the total Palestinian “refugee” population.  

Such an expansive definition would, if applied universally, guarantee the right of millions of descendants of Jewish refugees to ‘return’ to the Arab nations from which they were expelled.

Given that UNRWA and the international community refuses to resettle this population into their host countries in the Middle East where most have lived for generations – and Palestinian leaders won’t allow them into the future state of Palestine – there will likely be no end anytime soon to the ‘refugee crisis’.

As one study projects, if descendants maintain their current status, the number of “refugees” in 2050 will reach 15 million.  

If those truly inspired by a desire to reach a two-state deal would honestly grapple with finding a just resolution to the problem of 30,000 Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War, a solution could easily be found.  

However, if we fail to challenge the fabricated figure of 5 million, then, even when the last actual Palestinian refugees from ’48 have passed on, Palestinian leaders (and activists provided a forum by sympathetic media groups) will still have an endless supply of ‘refugees’ to bludgeon Israel and stymie a possible peace agreement – all of which helps to explain the position of the Palestinian President at the White House last week. 

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Harriet Sherwood misleads on UNRWA statement about Gaza construction ban

Harriet Sherwood’s Nov. 22 report continues in the Guardian tradition of ignoring Hamas’s responsibility for the situation in Gaza, devoting nearly all of the text to highlighting Egyptian and (mostly) Israeli responsibility for the reported economic downturn in the territory.  

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The two opening paragraphs set the tone for her story:

Gaza is becoming uninhabitable as humanitarian conditions deteriorate rapidly following Egypt’s destruction of smuggling tunnels and Israel’s renewed ban on the import of construction materials, the United Nations and aid agencies have said. 

A year after the end of the eight-day war between Gaza and Israel last November, the UN said the situation in the tiny coastal strip was worse than before the conflict.

Further, a passage later in her report – about the IDF’s discovery last month of a tunnel from Gaza into southern Israel – represents a classic Guardian obfuscation: 

In addition, Israel last month halted the import of building materials through the crossings it controls, after the discovery of a sophisticated tunnel built by Hamas militants from Gaza to Israel. According to the Israeli military, it was constructed using materials that Israel had permitted to enter Gaza.

Sherwood doesn’t acknowledge that the purpose of this 1.7 km tunnel was to kidnap Israeli soldiers, nor does she acknowledge – in a story devoted to Gaza’s economic situation – that the construction materials diverted by the Islamist regime to build such an elaborate terror facility could have been used to build schools, hospitals and other vital infrastructure projects.  The Guardian Jerusalem correspondent also failed to note that, prior to the discovery of the tunnel, Israel had actually started to increase the quantity of construction materials allowed into Gaza to compensate for the draconian anti-tunnel measures taken by the Egyptian government.

But the most deceptive paragraph appears near the end, where Sherwood addresses the alleged effects of the new Israeli restrictions: 

As a result of the renewed [Israeli] ban, 19 out of 20 construction projects – including 12 schools – initiated by Unrwa have ground to a halt, putting at risk thousands more jobs. Unwra [sic] said Israel’s action was collective punishment, which is illegal under international law.

It appears as if Sherwood significantly mischaracterized UNRWA’s position, as she is almost certainly referring to a statement by the outgoing Commissioner General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, as reported by the agency on Nov. 19.  Here is the UNRWA text in its entirety. 

The outgoing Commissioner General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, has warned that 19 out of 20 UNRWA construction projects in Gaza have “ground to a halt”. Speaking to the Advisory Commission of major donors and governments hosting Palestinian refugee populations, Grandi said that since March UNRWA has “not had any construction projects cleared by the Israeli government, and for the past month, has been “unable to import building materials.”

Grandi told the “AdCom” delegates that “following the closure of most smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt”, and “given that Israel does not allow exports and hence a resumption of normal economic activities, prices are rising because commodities are becoming scarce, lack of fuel has provoked the closure of the power plant, the few jobs available in the construction industry are disappearing; and the list continues”, said Grandi.

Grandi had a stark warning about regional stability. “Gaza is quickly becoming uninhabitable, and further conflict is bound, as before, to affect civilians in Gaza and southern Israel, unless its causes are addressed.”  Grandi, who leaves office in the new year, called on the international community not to forget Gaza and to address the human dimension.

The time had come to rethink security concerns and political considerations, Grandi argued. “Perhaps strengthening the human security of the people of Gaza is a better avenue to ensuring regional stability than physical closures, political isolation and military action. To obtain this, first and foremost, the Israeli blockade – which is illegal – must be lifted. Meanwhile, the United Nations must be allowed to at least continue construction projects and provide a few extra jobs to the beleaguered population.”

First, Grandi makes no mention in the statement of “collective punishment”.  Moreover, it’s clear that he wasn’t merely arguing – as Sherwood seems to suggest – that the renewed Israeli ban on construction materials was “illegal”, but that Israel’s entire military blockade to prevent the import of rockets and other deadly weaponry was “illegal”.  However, as Sherwood surely knows, the UN Palmer Commission concluded in 2011 that the IDF blockade is fully consistent with international law and is NOT a form of collective punishment.  It’s especially curious that Sherwood didn’t reveal this fact as she reported on the conclusions of the Palmer Commission herself in a story published on Jan. 23, 2011. In ‘Israeli soldiers fired at Gaza aid flotilla in self-defence, says inquiry‘, she wrote the following:

The commission also found that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, which the flotilla was attempting to breach, was primarily for security reasons and was imposed lawfully. It added that it did not “constitute ‘collective punishment’ of the population of the Gaza Strip”.

Whilst the language in her Nov. 22 report is not completely clear, if Sherwood is claiming that UNRWA characterized the recent Israeli restrictions on construction materials into Gaza as “illegal”, and as a form of “collective punishment”, it is clear that the outgoing UNRWA Commissioner General never in fact made such an argument.  

Alternately, if Sherwood was merely attempting to characterize the Commissioner General’s opinion on the broader issue of the Israeli blockade, then she failed to reveal that this view was definitively contradicted by the UN inquiry which she herself reported more than two years ago.  

Either way you read Sherwood’s awkward prose, the reader is significantly misinformed. 

The Guardian tries out a new narrative: Islamist “dove” vs the Zionist “hawk”.

Here’s the Guardian headline used in Joel Greenberg’s report on Sept. 29: bibi Whilst we addressed the fictitious narrative that Hassan Rouhani is a “moderate” in a previous post, note that this latest story not only imputes such liberal politics to the president of a country which leads the world in exporting terror abroad, while terrorizing women, gays and religious minorities at home, but contrasts the “dovish” Islamist with the “hawkish” Zionist. Of course there is one serious problem with the claim made in the headline: It isn’t at all supported in the subsequent text.  

Here’s the entire story:

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, vowed to “tell the truth” about Iran‘s nuclear programme as he flew to the US on Sunday to meet Barack Obama and address the United Nations.

diplomatic offensive at the UN last week by Iran’s new president,Hassan Rouhani, who had a historic 15-minute phone conversation with Obama on Friday, has raised concerns in Israel, which fears improving relations between the US, one of its closest allies, and Iran, one of its worst enemies.

There is concern that if the US eases economic sanctions and removes any military threat, Tehran would be freer to create a nuclear bomb.

Officials say Netanyahu will present evidence of continued Iranian efforts to attain a nuclear weapon, and will urge the US and others not to be taken in by Rouhani’s charm offensive.”I will tell the truth in the face of the sweet talk and offensive of smiles,” Netanyahu said on Saturday night before boarding his plane to New York. “One must talk facts and tell the truth. Telling the truth today is vital for the security and peace of the world and, of course, it is vital for the security of our country.”

As Netanyahu travelled to the US, Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency announced it had arrested an Iranian with Belgian nationality who was suspected of spying for Tehran. The agency said Ali Mansouri, 58, carried photos of the US embassy in Tel Aviv and had been promised $1m (£620,000) to set up companies in Israel on behalf of the Iranian intelligence services “to harm Israeli and western interests”.

Israeli commentators said Netanyahu would have to work hard to offset the impression left by Rouhani in his UN speech and media appearances, where he presented himself as a peace-seeking moderate. “The Iranian president was very successful in convincing many in the US who want to be convinced that there is a new spirit in Tehran and a great willingness now for compromise. It will be an enormous challenge for Netanyahu to reverse that trend,” said Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya.

In the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, prominent columnist Nahum Barnea wrote that, in his phone conversation with Rouhani, Obama had “folded the flag which Netanyahu had waved to Israelis and the world, the basis of his diplomatic existence”.

Barnea added: “The threat of a military attack by the US has been removed, at least in the coming months, and it is doubtful if there ever was an Israeli military threat.”

Netanyahu has argued for increased sanctions on Iran, backed by a “credible military threat” that he said proved itself in the case of Syria, which under threat of a US strike agreed to international control of its chemical weapons.

The Israeli leader has urged that Iran be pressed to halt all uranium enrichment, remove enriched uranium from the country, dismantle the Fordo nuclear plant and stop “the plutonium track” to a nuclear weapon.

Yossi Alpher, an Israeli strategic analyst, said that Netanyahu’s “strident tone”, which included ordering the Israeli UN delegation to walk out of Rouhani’s speech, meant that “he’s coming across as a kind of spoiler”.

“I don’t think he will be able to persuasively argue that Rouhani is not worth talking to,” Alpher said. “We lose a degree of credibility when we allow ourselves to be totally out of synch with our allies on this issue.”

As you can see, if there has been any strident “anti-Iran” rhetoric by the Israeli prime minister, such quotes certainly weren’t included in Greenberg’s report. 

Moreover, the Guardian continues to all but ignore reports which contradict their desired narrative of a new “peaceful” Iranian president.  These include vitriolic rhetoric by Rouhani claiming that Israel is “an occupier and usurper” that has brought instability to the region with its “warmongering policies” and “institutionalized aggression”, and even comments by the new president which seem to liken the Holocaust to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Such obfuscations are par for the course at the Guardian.  Indeed, as the paper’s associate editor, and chief “anti-imperialist”, Seamus Milne even expressed sympathy for the ‘tragically misunderstood’ former Holocaust denying president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, we shouldn’t be surprised by continued selective reporting – and what will almost certainly be a chorus of pro-Rouhani propaganda – in the weeks, months and years to come.

Buried by the Guardian: The extremism of Hassan Rouhani

If you were to rely solely on the Guardian to understand what the new president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, said during an NBC interview last week you’d never know that he described Israel as “an occupier and usurper…that has brought instability to the region, with its warmongering policies.“  

rouhani-ayatollah-khomeini

You wouldn’t know this because the report on the interview by the Guardian’s Dan Roberts only mentioned those comments by Rouhani which could be interpreted as conciliatory, while completely omitting his demonizing rhetoric about Israel, quotes which featured prominently in the NBC report which Roberts’ report was based on.

Similarly, upon reading two recent reports by the Guardian’s Saeed Kamali Dehghan, pertaining to Rouhani’s address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, you’d be forgiven for believing that Rouhani avoided criticizing Israel at all.  Dehghan wrote the following in one of his two Sept. 25 reports:

Rouhani made sure his speech was a step forward, however minimal, and that it did not add fuel to the existing tensions, not further complicate the current standoff.

Nevertheless [the speech] was positive. Western representatives at the UN remained seated and did not join Israel’s inevitable boycott of the speech. Intriguingly, Rouhani did not mention, even once, the word that so infamously was associated with his predecessor: Israel (or, as Iranian leaders prefer, “the Zionist regime”). At the end of his speech, he recited a verse from the Qu’ran that talked about the Jewish holy book, the Torah. Those two choices should have pleased the sole Iranian Jewish MP accompanying Rouhani in his UN visit to New York.

 Dehghan’s second report on Sept. 25 that dealt with Rouhani’s speech at the UN included the following:

During his visit to the UN in New York, Rouhani attempted to revamp the image of Iran so badly hurt under Ahmadinejad. He was accompanied by Iran’s only Jewish MP, Siamak Moreh Sedgh, and made no direct mention of Israel in his speech to the general assembly on Tuesday.

Despite the charm offensive, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ordered his delegation to boycott Rouhani’s speech at the general assembly on Tuesday.

However, despite the implicit message conveyed by Dehghan in two reports, that the new Iranian President stayed clear of polarizing, anti-Israel rhetoric, his UN address included the following:

What has been – and continues to be – practiced against the innocent people of Palestine is nothing less than structural violence. Palestine is under occupation; the basic rights of the Palestinians are tragically violated, and they are deprived of the right of return and access to their homes, birthplace and homeland. Apartheid as a concept can hardly describe the crimes and the institutionalized aggression against the innocent Palestinian people.

Rouhani didn’t explicitly use the word “Israel”, but those listening to the speech obviously understood that Israel was the state Iran’s President was referring to.

Moreover, whilst some have justly focused on an extremely misleading report by CNN claiming that Rouhani, in a recent interview, acknowledged the Holocaust, (a narrative parroted by the Guardian), critiques of this specific obfuscation should be contextualized as part of a larger pattern, in which media outlets cherry pick quotes by Rouhani and fail to report information which contradicts the desired story of “Rouhani the moderate”.  

Here are a few examples of Rouhani’s far less than moderate political record:

Rouhani: ‘Death to America':

Rouhani, boasting of duping the West on the nuclear issue:

  • Rouhani, who was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator with Europe for two years (2003-2005), “proudly admitted that he successfully bought time to advance nuclear technology while the EU leaders were busy in negotiations with him.” (The Telegraph)

Rouhani, supporter of terror abroad:

Rouhani, supporter of terror and repression at home:

  • Rouhani (as head of the Islamic National Security Council) had a major role in the violent crackdown on a 1999 student uprising against the Islamist regime, and said, at a pro-regime rally in July that year: “At dusk yesterday we received a decisive revolutionary order to crush mercilessly and monumentally any move of these opportunist elements wherever it may occur.” (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Rouhani’s current pick for Justice Minister, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, has been criticized by human rights groups for his role in the summary executions of thousands of Iranian political prisoners in 1988, the assassination of political figures abroad, and the 1998 killings of intellectuals inside the country while he was a director at the Intelligence Ministry. – Al Monitor and Radio Free Europe

As Charles Krauthammer wrote recently about the president of a nation which is among the world’s leaders in fomenting terrorism abroad, and terrorizing women, gays, religious minorities and political dissidents at home:

“[Rouhani has a] strange résumé for a moderate: 35 years of unswervingly loyal service to the Islamic Republic as a close aide to Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei [and] one of only six presidential candidates, another 678 having been disqualified by the regime as ideologically unsound. That puts him in the 99th [per]centile for fealty.

And, if the past is any guide, we can expect the Guardian – inspired by an ideology which evokes sympathy for the political aspirations of the most reactionary, anti-Western political movements in the world – to rank in the top percentile for fealty to the new president as he engages in a surreal campaign to cast himself as a political “moderate”.   

UNRWA Summer Camp: Planting the seeds of perpetual war against the Jews

H/T Israellycool

The following documentary by David Bedein about UNRWA children’s camps represents another example of how the UN agency ostensibly charged with caring for the few remaining refugees from the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War (and, mostly, their descendents who have never set foot in historic Palestine), perpetuates the conflict.

As you watch this film (made up almost exclusively of interviews with children and instructors at UNRWA camps), those committed to two states for two peoples should ask themselves this:

How can any agreement be expected to bring genuine peace when Palestinian children are continually indoctrinated in jihad, martyrdom, and perpetual belligerence – values which, by definition, reject the existence of a Jewish state within any borders?

Peace isn’t made on paper, but among people – an intuitive understanding of human affairs which continues to elude so many.