How The Guardian told me to steer clear of Palestine

Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian’s opinion editor, is an apologist for ethnic cleansing. (Chatham House/Flickr)

When I started out as a journalist in the 1980s, I asked an experienced Irish reporter for advice. “Read The Guardian,” he told me.

The message that there was no better newspaper had a lasting effect. For years, I wanted to write for The Guardian. Eventually, this desire was realized after I emailed the late Georgina Henry, then editor of its Comment is Free section, in 2007. Henry was immediately receptive to my idea of tackling the European Union from a critical, left-wing perspective.

I very much enjoyed contributing to The Guardian. Having previously worked for quite a stuffy publication, it felt liberating to be able to express opinions.

There was one issue, however, on which I felt my freedom curtailed: Palestine. Although The Guardian did publish a few of my articles denouncing Israeli atrocities, I began to encounter obstacles in 2009.

Sensitive

Early that year, I submitted an exposé of how the pro-Israel lobby operates in Brussels. While waiting to find out if the piece would be used, I phoned Matt Seaton, who had taken over as comment editor. We had a pleasant conversation but Seaton stressed that he regarded the subject as sensitive.

I, then, modified the piece to make its tone less polemical. Still, it was not published. (Seaton has subsequently moved to The New York Times.)

A few months later, I paid a visit to Gaza. From there, I contacted The Guardian to say that I had interviewed Sayed Abu Musameh, a founding member of Hamas.

Abu Musameh had expressed an interest in visiting Belfast to study how the Irish peace process worked. He had already held discussions with Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin leader who had persuaded the Irish Republican Army to call a ceasefire.

Abu Musameh, I felt, was saying something that jarred with the official view of Hamas presented by Israel and its Western supporters. Far from being addicted to violence, he was eager to learn about what policy wonks call “conflict resolution.”

The Guardian was not keen to have me writing from Gaza. Brian Whitaker, a commissioning editor at the time, told me that its comment section received more submissions about Palestine than any other subject. Whitaker, ironically a Middle East specialist, effectively recommended that I stick to writing about the EU. (The recommendation was bizarre both because Palestine is a key issue for the EU and because I am one of the few journalists to examine the Union’s complicity in Israel’s crimes.)

Frustration

I have decided to make my frustrating encounters with The Guardian public after reading the diatribe it published last week by Daniel Taub, Israel’s ambassador to the UK. Taub uses a quotation attributed to Golda Meir, Israel’s prime minister from 1969 to 1974, to hit back at aid agencies who accuse Israel of impeding Gaza’s reconstruction: “We will only have peace when our enemies love their children more than they hate ours.”

The inference that Palestinians hate Israelis more than they love their children is a racist caricature brilliantly demolished by Rafeef Ziadah in her poem “We teach life, Sir.” Yet, according to Taub, Meir’s words represent a “bitter truism.”

The Comment is Free section of The Guardian, where Taub’s nasty rant appears, is now overseen by Jonathan Freedland, a liberal Zionist. I contacted Freedland to enquire if he approved Taub’s article for publication.

Freedland referred my message to the paper’s “media enquiries” unit. A spokesperson, who did not give his or her name, replied by email that Comment is Free “hosts hundreds of discussions every month on a wide range of topics across the entire political and ideological spectrum.”

“We receive a huge amount of submissions for articles and aim to publish a plurality of voices from all over the world,” the spokesperson added. “Naturally, not all of these voices reflect The Guardian’s own editorial position.”

Apologist for ethnic cleansing

I am not in the least reassured by that response. Taub’s article was the second one published by The Guardian in as many months from a senior Israeli political or diplomatic figure. In February, the paper gave Yair Lapid, until recently Israel’s finance minister, a platform to describe calls for a cultural boycott of Israel as “shallow and lacking in coherence.”

Lapid’s view chimes with The Guardian’s “own editorial position,” to quote its anonymous spokesperson. While Israel was bombing Gaza last August, it ran a leader accusing London’s Tricycle Theatre of making a “bad error of judgment” in refusing to host a film festival sponsored by Israel.

As Ben White demonstrated in a trenchant 2014 analysis for Middle East Monitor, Jonathan Freedland is an apologist for ethnic cleansing. Freedland has tried to justify how “400 [Palestinian] villages” were “emptied” by Zionist forces in 1948 on the grounds that “the creation of a Jewish state was a moral necessity.”

If Freedland is prepared to defend Zionist war crimes, I guess it is not surprising that he is reserving space for naked Israeli propaganda in The Guardian’s comment section. While it is difficult to imagine that this bastion of liberalism would welcome openly racist submissions from far-right organizations like the British National Party or English Defence League, it is somehow acceptable for an Israeli diplomat to peddle bigotry against Palestinians.

Freedland has been tipped as a contender for The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, a post that is soon to be vacant.

In a perverse way, it might be a good thing if he gets the job. With Freedland at the helm, it would be easier to show how a supposedly progressive newspaper is in thrall to the toxic ideology of Zionism.

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Comments

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The Guardian published a full page ad in which Elie Wiesel called for unconditional support for Israel in the middle of the conflict with Gaza. Shocked and disappointed, I have not since bought a copy of the weekly Guardian, which I loved. Newspapers owe their readers more than milk toast neutrality at the price of non-informing, just as countries owe other countries to speak out against injustices and to follow their words up with actions.

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I'm turning 68 in a few months and have read the Guardian since I was 13 or 14 yrs old. I was an avid reader and would not consider any other newspaper, i was known for quoting The Guardian in most of my discussions as a bastion of truth and honesty in reporting but I have to say I totally agree with Carol Scheller and her comments regarding Israel Newspapers owe their readers more than milk toast neutrality at the price of non-informing, just as countries owe other countries to speak out against injustices and to follow their words up with actions." I will not be buying The Guardian. It has become a disappointing and irrelevant newspaper maybe only fit for blatant propaganda on behalf of its friends in Israel, but then i suppose they pay well.

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How were 400 Palestinian villages emptied in 1948? Was it moral to let something like that happen?where were the human rights?

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I'm a 60 year old Jew. My grandma, who I spent weekends with between just born & 15 or 16, told me all the stories about the worlds first international terrorists and somehow, in her inimitable resourcefulness, she told me all of these gruesome and horrid stories in such a way that I was never scared of the terrorists or the stories. But I knew who the terrorists were.

Isis, Boko Harem & Al Qaeda learned from the worlds greatest terrorists.

These terrorists were crazed religious fanatics with a warped sense of faith just like Boko Harem, ISIS and Al Qaeda today. Their fanatic extremism worked. But they had to kill A LOT of people over the course of several years. The terrorists achieved their goals and finally won using terrorism.

"Poisoning the wells of Arce," a phrase you've never heard but it refers to an incident of biological warfare in 1948 in Palestine. Israeli historian Uri Milstein states “in many conquered Arab villages, the water supply was poisoned to prevent the inhabitants from coming back.” Even the Typhoid epidemic that occurred in the Palestinian Acre before it fell to Jewish terrorists was a deliberate biological attack not just a coincidence of war.

In 1948 Egyptian soldiers arrested 4 Jewish terrorists disguised as Arabs near wells in Gaza. The Egyptians issued a statement saying that four “Zionists” had been caught trying to contaminate artesian wells in Gaza with “a liquid, which was discovered to contain the germs of dysentery and typhoid.”

One of the terrorists, David Horin, confessed that their commander had given them a canteen filled with dysentery and typhoid bacteria “to be thrown into the well to kill the Egyptian army.” The four terrorists were tried, convicted, and executed.

These 2 religiously fanatic terrorist organizations were called "terrorists" by the NYT, the Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry, Winston Churchill and even Jews like Albert Einstein and my grandma.

The Jews of Irgun & Haganah

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I am also Jewish, and as everyone knows here, against Zionism. Lately, there has been a lot of trolling, but it's of great comfort, to know that there are more Jews, like me, who support and follow this important new's source. Thanks,
Jane Zacher
Student
Philadelphia, Pa Turtle Island

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The Guardian is not alone. The other major 'liberal' paper in the UK has been featuring strong pro-Israeli articles for some time now. Apart from the veteran Bob Fisk who has always been critical of the occupation, there is no-one to speak for the occupied terrorised Palestinians. Every media outlet is strongly supporting the zionists, yet any mention of this results in ridiculous accusations of anti-semitism. Neutrality and balance have been wiped off the map.

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Thanks for this. I pull my hair out at the number of my posts to the Guardian which are deleted. I have had anodyne and dismissive replies. Now I know why

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Thank you. I salute you.

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There is no justice for Palestine.If it was North Korea or another country then the U.N would intervene .In case of Israel though..no justice applies.Its zionist leaders are above justice and god himself.

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If you want to understand the relationship between Israel and Palestine, all you need to do is to see the wall. This is a huge monument both in terms of its size and what it symbolises. I heard the word "apartheid" mentioned before I went to Palestine last year, but I didn't realise how accurate that word is. How can Europe continue to support Israel?

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David Cronin offered to write about the EU for Comment Is Free, and was hired as a freelance contributor on that basis. He later decided to start writing about Israel/Palestine and seems miffed that the Guardian wanted him to continue doing the job he had been hired to do.

At the time, Comment Is Free was not over-endowed with people writing about the EU but had a surfeit of writers wanting to comment on Israel/Palestine. For that reason, as a commissioning editor, I advised him to focus on Europe and as far as I'm concerned it was sound advice.

Shortly after its launch, Comment Is Free became established as a place where critical articles about Israel/Palestine could be published. This led to more and more people offering articles of that kind, until eventually we were deluged with them.

With a finite number of publication slots each day (20-30 if I recall correctly), we were also trying to ensure that the Israel/Palestine coverage did not squeeze out too many other important topics, including others relating to the Middle East. For that reason, most unsolicited articles abotu Israel/Palestine ended up being rejected.

That still resulted in a huge amount Israel/Palestine coverage, as can be seen from the archive. Within that, Hamas voices were amply represented. Comment Is Free also published at least two articles by David Cronin about Europe and Palestine.

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mealy-mouthed Guardian apologist nonsense. anyone who is familiar with Guardian editorial policies for some time knows the shameful Zionist bias they display. there is no other reason why fine investigative journalists like Jonathan Cook and Nafeez Ahmed were punished by the paper and now do their excellent reporting independently. the Guardian serves its corporate masters just as all mainstream media outlets do. the sooner people vote with their wallets and stop supporting the most hypocritical publication in British media, the better

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I cannot tell you how many hundreds of comments critical of Zionist war crimes I've had obliterated by The Guardian. Nothing but the mildes rebuke will get through and anything questioning the right of Israel to exist has no chance. The Guardian were all over the Telegraph not long ago for pulling the story on HSBC because of its reliance on advertising from that source but The Guardian are far worse on Israel and their opportunist desire to crack the US market.

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Zionist sponsored terrorism intimidates practically every newspaper editor in the world today, and determines which comments appear in practically every comment section of most internet sites.

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This is a good piece.

We pretty much know this kind of thing goes on all the time, but we rarely get to learn of details of a case.

If Israel is right, why are such tactics required by its apologists all over the Western world?

Of course, this is not the only subject treated this way by the mainline press.

America's many atrocities abroad are virtually ignored, but then again many of them - Iraq, Syria, Libya, or drone extrajudicial murders by the thousand - are not unrelated to Israel and its behaviors and demands made by its apologists to enhance Israel's security.

No one even speaks of the greatest single step towards peace and decency in the world that could be taken: force Israel into a fair settlement and end its constant mistreatment of millions.

It has been given a free hand at endless abuse and violation of all international laws and norms, and it doesn't require great learning to understand that intuitively, as millions do.

And that is precisely why so many young men in Arab or Muslim lands have been willing to resort to violence over what is such huge and on-going injustice, simply ignored by the press year after year with governments too pretty much silenced by American pressure.

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I saw that article on Saturday and it angered me so much that I wrote what I think was my 1st Guardian comment in response. I later saw it had been removed due to "guidelines" The article written was far more provocative than my comment yet it received a welcome from the Guardian.

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I was about to subscribe anew to the Guardian after a lapse of several years. After reading David Cronin, not likely. Zionist power and influence have their claws into just about every mass media outlet so that one must rely on the internet to have a clue what crimes Israel is committing.

Several years ago, I studied the Boston Globe letters column over about 18 months after noticing clearly Zionist-biased pieces getting no letters reaction (the Globe was then owned by the New York Times). I had had one very brief letter published, changed by the editor to give the appearance that I was anti-semitic, as the editor admitted in response to my complaint, without making any correction. On 18 occasions when one would have expected critical letters in response and I had submitted a letter on each occasion, the Globe printed only a single response--by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to an attack on him just before he was appearing at a conference on Palestine in Boston.

My thanks to Cronin for his integrity at the certain cost of publication opportunities for his good work.

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A new book by Alison Weir called Against Our Better Judgment revealed that US support enabled the creation of modern Israel. Very few people know that US politicians pushed this policy over the forceful objections of top diplomatic and military experts. US politicians were bombarded by a massive pro-Israel lobbying effort that included Supreme court Justice Louis Brandeis, appointed by Truman.

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The blizzard of deletions of readers' comments during last year's Gaza Massacres illustrated just how far the paper's editors were prepared to go to protect Israel from criticism. While blatant hasbara disinformation and hysterical charges of antisemitism appeared in CiF threads, thousands of measured, non-abusive comments were scrubbed by vigilant "moderators". It was really something to see- or rather, not see- an avalanche of deletions in the midst of poisonous racist rants from defenders of Israel, the latter perfectly permissible according to Guardian "community standards". Many long-time contributors were silenced, their accounts frozen, and driven from further contact with the paper.

The Guardian is today a right-wing publication with a mildly left-wing readership. They continue to print important breaking stories purchased from outside their narrowing circle, but that's largely a question of serving their market. The company is shifting its business to the US, and beats the drum relentlessly for neo-con wars.

It has been widely speculated that Jonathan Freedland personally took command of Comment is Free censorship during "Protective Edge". While I have no way of ascertaining the truth on that score, the unprecedented and glaring number of comment deletions attached to their Gaza reporting and opinion pieces led me to conclude at the time that a set of orders must have been drawn up. The policing was just too uniform, aggressive, partisan and vindictive to represent a random event. Many readers I've spoken with drew the same conclusion- someone had clamped down.

Currently the paper is conducting a semi-public exercise in choosing a new editor-in-chief. Freedland has not been declared among the official candidates for the post. Of course that's not to say it won't fall into his hands. Cardinal Ratzinger and Dick Cheney come to mind.

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I gave up writing letters to the Guardian on Palestine after some seven or eight over a sixteen month period were binned, not one being printed. My offence would appear to have been that all of them were critical of Zionism and a number deployed the term 'apartheid.'
In the same period two letters of mine to the paper critical of the UK's ruling Conservative /Liberal coalition were printed.
Fortunately the Guardian's appeasement of Zionism and its apartheid state is less significant now than might previously have been the case because of alternatives such as Electronic Intifada that are prepared to speak 'truth to power.' Thanks to David Cronin for breaking the illusion that The Guardian is in any way progressive on this issue.

David Cronin

David Cronin's picture

David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada. His latest book is Corporate Europe: How Big Business Sets Policies on Food, Climate and War (Pluto, 2013). His earlier book is Europe’s Alliance With Israel: Aiding the Occupation (Pluto, 2011).