A Year of Dishonest Reporting — Why The Guardian WonDecember 13, 2011 10:24 by Pesach Benson
HonestReporting readers were asked to choose this year’s Dishonest Reporting Award, and they spoke out — with a vengeance we haven’t seen for nominations in previous years. Read about the winners in ten other categories on the Dishonest Reporting Awards main page.
In comments on our web site, our Facebook community,
and in emails, accusations of anti-Semitism turned the heat up on an annual discussion normally about imbalanced stories, spin games, and journalistic naivete.
“The Guardian, for sure.”
“Nobody comes even close to their level of plain antisemitism.”
“. . . they seem to have a consistent system of bashing Israel. ”
“Al-Guardian has to win; it’s almost impossible to be more biased than it is.”
The Guardian’s skewed news and commentary have a wide reach. In May alone, its web site drew in 50 million unique readers.
This paper systematically dislikes Israel. The sheer volume of The Guardian’s deliberately vicious output in 2011 necessitated a top 10 list of reasons it deserves the 2011 Dishonest Reporting Award.
Top 10 Reasons The Guardian Won the Dishonest Reporting Award
1. An Anti-Semitic Response to Gilad Shalit Swap
Responding to the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap, Deborah Orr said the disproportionate number of freed Palestinians for one soldier reflected the Jewish state’s “obscene idea that Israeli lives are more important than Palestinian lives,” and that “the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbours.”
Never mind that the disproportionate nature of the exchange was at the insistence of Hamas, or the fact that choseness actually refers to responsibility, not superiority.
HonestReporting was copied in on more than 500 complaints to The Guardian. The result?
Orr made a mealy-mouthed apology, but readers’ editor Chris Elliott acknowledged the presence of anti-Semitism in The Guardian, but didn’t directly judge Orr. Elliott appeared more concerned about the effects of anti-Semitism on the paper’s reputation than about the anti-Semitism itself.
When any paper’s public editor acknowledges anti-Semitism, that should raise red flags.
PLO documents on a decade of peace talks (The Palestine Papers, a.k.a. PaliLeaks) were leaked to The Guardian and Al-Jazeera. But the revelations — that Israel was actually serious about peace — sorely disappointed the editors.
In response, the editorial team displayed their objective detachment with a staff editorial that was “more Palestinian than the Palestinians.”
In The Guardian’s own words, PA negotiators were “craven” bootlickers who “conspire to build a puppet state in Palestine, at best authoritarian, at worst a surrogate for an occupying force.”
The Guardian also gave an op-ed platform to the Hamas chief of international relations, Osama Hamdan (more on the issue of giving an editorial soapbox to terror below) and published a controversial letter by Ted Honderich which legitimized and justified Palestinian terror. That letter sparked such outrage, readers’ editor Chris Elliott was compelled to weigh in — ultimately defending the decision to publish it.
Furthermore, the paper issued a correction for a quote box attributed to Tzipi Livni after editors conceded that the former foreign minister’s quote “was cut in a way that may have given a misleading impression.”
Overall, David Landau, Haaretz’s former chief editor, hit the nail on the head when he described The Guardian’s PaliLeaks presentation as “intended to poison the Palestinians against their leaders.”
3. Soapbox for Terror
Palestinian reconciliation efforts were on and off (mostly off) throughout the year. At one point, The Guardian gave Hamas spinmeister Musa Abu Marzuq the legitimacy of an op-ed soapbox.
Israel Law Center director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner told HonestReporting that newspapers which give terror groups like Hamas prominent op-ed bylines are skating on very thin legal ice. The op-ed is free publicity, which facilitates the terror organization’s PR:
Legally speaking, it would seem that there is not much difference between outlaw regimes like Iran and Syria, which illegally provide material support and resources to terrorist organizations, and liberal media outlets which provide millions of dollars in free advertising and access to groups like Hamas when they publish their leaders’ dangerous messages.
As mentioned above, The Guardian also gave a soapbox to to Osama Hamdan who discussed the Hamas response to the PaliLeaks affair.
4. Fishing for A Story
Correspondent Harriet Sherwood spent a day in July reporting and tweeting from a Gaza fishing boat testing the Israeli navy’s enforcement of a three-mile limit.
None of Sherwood’s 46 tweets acknowledged maritime arms smuggling as the reason for the naval restrictions. Four months before the jolly jaunt, the Israeli navy intercepted the Victoria, which was carrying anti-ship missiles, mortar shells, radar systems, and more.
Considering that Sherwood’s ditzy 2011 journalism included a claim that the Knesset is built on the ancestral farmland of the abandoned Palestinian village of Lifta (we debunked that false claim), and an airheaded look at an abandoned airplane (resolved by a reader’s biting comment), be thankful The Guardian left the Victoria story for AP.
5. Goldstone Recants
In a Washington Post op-ed, Judge Richard Goldstone backtracked on the UN report into Operation Cast Lead which he headed. His mea culpa specifically stated, “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy” and accepted that the casualty figures were not as high as his report indicated.
The Guardian reacted with an arrogant, intellectually dishonest staff editorial denying that the Goldstone report ever accused Israel of deliberately attacking civilians in the first place.
As for the casualty numbers, the paper insisted on using the inflated casualty figures Goldstone disavowed — without explaining why. HonestReporting took apart that editorial in more depth.
6. Jawaher Abu Rahma
Palestinians claimed that Jawaher Abu Rahma died of tear gas inhalation at a demonstration in Bil’in.
Harriet Sherwood’s coverage compared Abu Rahma to Mohammed al-Dura, the 12 year-old Palestinian whose video (itself debunked) elevated the boy to iconic martyr status. Her report was also accompanied by Abu Rahma’s Red Crescent emergency case form, a CT scan and hospital report.
Lay readers can’t be expected to understand the meaning of these reports, but they did serve The Guardian’s purpose: disingenuously blaming Israel.
- The Palestinian medical report indicated no clear cause of death.
- Statements about tear gas inhalation were based on the family’s claims, not on any empirical determination.
- No post-mortem was performed.
In fact, an IDF investigation found that Abu Rahma died because of Palestinian medical malpractice.
Reporter Ana Carbajosa published a Jan. 9 puff piece interview with Abu Rahma’s mother giving further credibility to the Palestinian accusations.
7. A Bizarre Harangue
Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood displayed some of the groupthink we long suspected goes on at The Guardian with one unusually long and shrill telephone conversation in May.
The topic: Vittorio Arrigoni, a member of the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza who was kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian Salafists. Was it fair to label Arrigoni as an “activist?” There was a lot of debate. After the Jewish Chronicle published one forceful commentary, JC editor Stephen Pollard received a phone call from a very irate Sherwood.
She’s entitled to her views, but what Pollard described was a shocking inability to “agree to disagree.”
I pointed out again that I don’t agree with all the columns in the JC.
This came as a big shock to her: ‘But you’re defending your printing of the piece!’
‘Of course I am. I edit the paper.’ I replied.
There’s more, but you get the full drift.
Utterly bizarre. Or maybe not, given what she writes in the Guardian.
8. The Palmer Report on the Mavi Marmara
When the UN’s Palmer report vindicated the legality of Israel’s Gaza blockade, a Guardian staff-editorial rebuked the inquiry simply because the findings contradicted an array of UN documents already bashing Israel:
The Palmer panel’s finding went against every statement the UN secretary general has made about Gaza, the Goldstone report and a report by the UN human rights council in September. If, as Palmer found, the siege is legal in international law, the occupation is too. This must be challenged in court.
Does The Guardian tolerate no dissent from its warped worldview? Must it obtain court rulings validating every criticism of Israel?
9. Quantifying the Spin
A print edition op-ed by Greg Philo, the research director of Glasgow University Media Unit, claimed to quantifiably prove that Israeli spin doctors have hijacked the Mideast narrative in media coverage.
HonestReporting addressed the commentary in more detail, pointing out, among other things, that A) Philo ignored hundreds of rockets fired during the course of a six-month cease-fire, B) denied Israel the right to defend its citizens from terror, and C) appearances at pro-Hamas forums belie Philo’s neutral academic persona.
10. London Riots
As London boiled over in August riots, one report in The Guardian didn’t bother to mention the race, religion, or ethnicity of anyone — except for a reference to a group of Hasidic Jews jeering the police.
* * *
All these were just 10 of the most noteworthy examples of The Guardian’s obtuse brand of journalism HonestReporting observed.
On the macro level, the now-defunct Just Journalism (pdf) published a scathing report on The Guardian’s external op-eds over the first half of the year. Among its primary findings: more op-eds were published by Palestinians than by Israelis; all the Israelis given op-ed space were associated with the left-wing of Israeli politics. And three of the Palestinian contributors were either members of Hamas or strongly affiliated with it.
If the readers’ editor is really concerned about al-Guardian being perceived as an anti-Semitic newspaper, Chris Elliott should have some sleepless nights when he assesses the paper’s overall Mideast content from 2011.
Can the paper get any worse in 2012? Only time will tell.
Some images: CC BY-SA HonestReporting.com, flickr/kro-media, and flickr/Shorts and Longs | The Both And.