British Medical Journal Attacks HonestReporting

One of the most prominent weapons deployed by Israel’s detractors is to accuse pro-Israel organizations and their supporters of being part of a shadowy and highly effective “Israel lobby”. The charge of shutting down all criticism of Israel and destroying freedom of speech is usually deployed, however, precisely to delegitimize organizations such as HonestReporting and curtail their own right to respond to anti-Israel bias.

Needless to say, if an “Israel lobby” was so influential over the media, there would be no need for HonestReporting to exist. Yet as the Jerusalem Post reports:

The editors of the ‘BMJ’ (British Medical Journal)’s widely read print and Internet editions have declared that they will “ignore” all “orchestrated e-mail campaigns” related to politics, and have just published an article strongly criticizing the “pro-Israel lobby” for using this weapon in the form of “pornographic,” “abusive” and “obscene” attacks – many by people “who have never read the original articles” they comment on.

In its latest edition, the BMJ devotes some five articles (1, 23, 4, 5) reviewing the “perils of criticizing Israel” and a substantial amount of print is concentrated on attacking HonestReporting itself.

Chief amongst these is Karl Sabbagh’s analysis of hundreds of e-mails sent to the BMJ in response to an article published way back in 2004. According to Sabbagh, “It seems likely that most of the hostile emails resulted from a request from HonestReporting, a website operated from the United States and Israel.” Citing HonestReporting and holding it responsible for a number of abusive e-mails, he states:

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with organising an effective lobby group, but lobbying for Israel seems to be in a different category from, say, lobbies against fluoridation and MMR vaccine. The ultimate goal of some of the groups that lobby for Israel or against Palestine is apparently the suppression of views they disagree with.

We certainly concede that abusive e-mails are absolutely unacceptable from both a moral standpoint and because such responses to the media are entirely counterproductive. We would remind our subscribers to always write courteously and from an informed perspective. (Click here to see letter writing tips.)

HonestReporting is not trying to block people from expressing themselves. It only holds people accountable for their statements. This is how democratic discourse is advanced. In addition, HonestReporting is promoting, not stifling, debate by getting the public involved in the issue. Those who accuse the organization of stifling debate are actually the ones seeking to suppress the voices of our readers the people who express themselves through emails to editors.

Indeed, the writer summarily dismisses the legitimacy or relevance of the hundreds of e-mails received by the BMJ from HonestReporting subscribers. It is easier to dismiss such people as deranged or part of an organized conspiracy than to actually deal with the content of their complaints, which the BMJ fails to do. HonestReporting stands by its original critique of Derek Summerfield’s 2004 article that compared the IDF’s acts to those of the 9/11 terrorists.

Also writing on this topic in the BMJ, Jonathan Freedland even states that “Derek Summerfield’s mistake was to open his piece with a clear error, one that inevitably made his essay appear tendentious.” So why shouldn’t HonestReporting and our subscribers hold Summerfield and the BMJ accountable for such an error?

Is the BMJ’s shot across our bows in preparation for upcoming articles that may be critical of Israel? Is this a pre-emptive strike meant to discredit us and our subscribers in order to make it harder to respond to the BMJ in the future? While we are not asking you to play into the BMJ’s hands by responding to its latest articles, HonestReporting will certainly not be silenced if we feel that any future BMJ (or any other publication’s) material deserves a response from you, our subscribers.

RESPONDING TO AMNESTY – RESOURCES

Powerful non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are able to push their agendas aided by the “halo effect“, whereby, because of their humanitarian focus, they are insulated from scrutiny and are regarded as above reproach by the media. Amnesty International, as detailed by NGO Monitor, is one such NGO and has released a report, picked up by many media outlets, accusing Israel of committing “war crimes” in Gaza and calling on the US to suspend arms sales to Israel.

A Jerusalem Post editorial sums up the issue:

Yesterday, Amnesty International, the world’s premier “human rights” brand, called for the destruction of Israel. Were overdramatizing? Were AI to get its way, the UN Security Council would impose a comprehensive arms embargo on the world’s only Jewish state – but not on any of the 22 member states of the Arab League, or on Iran. Over time, Israel would find it impossible to defend itself against conventional or WMD threats stemming from hostile states or Palestinian and Islamist terror organizations….

Either to simulate evenhandedness, or perhaps because it really is blinded by moral relativism, AI perfunctorily called for a weapons embargo against Hamas. It thus appears incapable of distinguishing between Israel and Hamas, between victim and aggressor – between an albeit imperfect Western nation which values tolerance, representative government, rule of law and respect for minority rights, and a medieval-oriented Islamist movement which mobilizes Palestinian masses to hate, teaches its young to glorify suicide bombers, and inculcates a political culture wallowing in self-inflicted victimization.

Criticism of AI’s report also came from the Anti-Defamation League, while Uri Dromi puts the IDF’s actions in Gaza into context on The Guardian’s Comment is Free site.

Please use the resources outlined above to respond to Amnesty’s flawed report and the publicity that it has generated in the media.

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[sc:graybox ]Cherryl Smith, PhD, is professor emerita in rhetoric and composition at California State University, Sacramento. Her blog is Framing ...