Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guardian Watch: More Reprehensible Journalism

Just following up on the Guardian's distorted and inflammatory claims. The paper reports that Saeb Erekat recognized the principle of Israel "as a Jewish state," and that, correspondingly, Tzipi Livni pressed for the transfer of Israeli Arab citizens to Palestine, in effect, adopting the principle "backed in its wholesale form by rightwing nationalists such as the Yisrael Beiteinu party of the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman."

I just spoke with Tal Becker, Livni's aide, and her chief negotiator in the talks in question. Erekat in no way recognized Israel as a Jewish state. What he said, clearly, was that it was not the business of the Palestinians to determine what Israel would call itself, or, presumably, the business of Israelis how Palestinians called themselves, legislated identity, and so forth. He had said (the Guardian had this but ignored its implications), "This is a non-issue. I dare the Israelis to write to the UN and change their name to the 'Great Eternal Historic State of Israel'. This is their issue, not mine." Is this the same as recognizing Israel as a Jewish state?

As to "transfer," Livni certainly did not adopt Lieberman's vision. She was addressing only those towns which the Green Line already bisected, and she was hoping to settle the disposition of their municipal governments in a humane fashion; so she suggested that these towns be reunited, and then be either wholly Palestinian or wholly Israeli. Naturally, she assumed that it would make more sense for them to be Palestinian. But when Palestinian negotiators rejected the idea, assuming the residents would, she tabled the issue. The Guardian went on in its next paragraph to note that Livni had told Palestinian leaders how "the basis for the creation of the state of Israel is that it was created for the Jewish people," as if this were her rationale for "transfer." Really.

With editing and reporting like this, you have to wonder if the real story here is not the shoddiness of agenda-driven journalism. It also makes you wonder, Becker adds, "if the Guardian committed to this kind of spin in order to secure the leaks from Al Jazeera." Does the paper really not realize that headlines and teasers travel much faster than truths and that lives may be at stake?