EXCLUSIVE: HR Exposes Accredited Journalist as BDS Activist

UPDATE 2

According to the Jerusalem Post, as a result of HonestReporting’s work, Israel’s Government Press Office will not be renewing Loewenstein’s press accreditation, meaning he will have to leave the country.

UPDATE

Judging by Antony Loewenstein’s Twitter feed, it looks like we’ve caught his attention:

 

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When Yesh Atid chairperson Yair Lapid responded to a hostile question at a press conference this week in Jerusalem, he may not have realized how close to the mark he was when he attacked The Guardian and some media outlets for taking a one-sided approach towards Israel and the Palestinians.

For the question was being posed by an anti-Israel activist at an event organized by Israel’s Foreign Press Association. The activist was also the holder of an official press card issued to him by Israel’s Government Press Office. Serious questions need to be asked concerning his FPA membership, the GPO’s due diligence and his dubious self-claimed links to The Guardian.

The questioner was Antony Loewenstein, a self-described freelance journalist for publications including The Guardian. Yet when HonestReporting asked The Guardian directly about him, incredibly Peter Beaumont, the newspaper’s Israel correspondent replied in an email: “I don’t anything [sic] about Antony Loewenstein.

Furthermore, Harriet Sherwood, a former Israel correspondent and The Guardian’s current religion correspondent posted the following on Facebook in response to the original Jerusalem Post story of Loewenstein’s appearance at the FPA event:

 

harrietsherwood_loewenstein

 

Either way, Loewenstein was at the press conference. The Jerusalem Post described the exchange as follows:

“You talked before about the idea that since Oslo, Israel has done little or nothing wrong, but the truth is that 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the occupation.

 

There are now 600,000- 800,000 settlers, all of whom are regarded by international law as illegal, including your good friends in Amona apparently.”

 

“Is there not a deluded idea here that many Israeli politicians, including yourself, continue to believe that one can talk to the world about democracy, freedom and human rights while denying that to millions of Palestinians, and will there not come a time soon, in a year, five years, 10 years, where you and other politicians will be treated like South African politicians during Apartheid?” he asked.

Lapid pushed back stating: “The problem is that the Palestinians are encouraged by The Guardian and others saying we don’t need to do anything in order to work for our future because the international community will call Israel an apartheid country.”

[See the video below for Lapid’s complete response.]

 

 

Who is the Real Antony Loewenstein?

Antony Loewenstein isn’t simply a journalist. He is also a prominent anti-Israel activist in his native Australia and a public supporter of the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement.

His own blog includes a post titled “Personally supporting BDS against Israel” where he publishes a statement that he made at a BDS event in Sydney in 2014.

 

loewensteinblog

 

Some telling excerpts:

I support BDS as a human being first and a Jew second. Don’t believe the false rhetoric from the corporate press, some politicians and media as well as the Zionist lobby that BDS is anti-Semitic or discriminatory. …

 

BDS is working, removing the legitimacy of a nation that claims to be a democracy but oppresses millions of Palestinians every day. I have seen this with my own eyes in Israel proper, the West Bank and Gaza. …

 

BDS is growing and I’m proud to be part of a global movement that’s led by the Palestinians most directly affected.

 

Loewenstein’s Twitter feed also contains evidence of his BDS activism.

 


Loewenstein is clearly incapable of reporting on Israel in a fair and objective manner. Yet HonestReporting has learned that he happens to be a paid up associate member of Israel’s Foreign Press Association.

How is it that the FPA, which represents the interests of hundreds of foreign journalists whose jobs are to report on Israel and the Palestinians, allows an anti-Israel activist to be a member? HonestReporting directly asked this question to the FPA’s board.

The FPA’s Executive Secretary Glenys Sugarman answered, acknowledging these concerns yet stating that Loewenstein is a freelance journalist and has been accredited by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO). But as far as the FPA is concerned, it “bars members from seeking or holding political office – a ban we recently enforced – but beyond that we don’t regulate their political views.

Of course Loewenstein is entitled to hold any political position he likes. This, however, is not the issue. The FPA evidently prefers not to confront the inherent contradiction between a credible journalist and a BDS activist.

Having revealed that Loewenstein has been accredited by the GPO, the question needs to be asked as to how he was able to get a press card, something that should now be revoked. Such accreditation gives a journalist the rights to work in Israel and the benefits of access that this brings. It is entirely possible that Loewenstein could potentially find himself deported from Israel and banned from entering under a policy of targeting foreign BDS activists currently in the country if proposed legislation passes in the Knesset.

 

Other Questions Raised

guardianlogoDid Loewenstein gain his official press card by claiming to be a Guardian writer? If so, then it looks like this may be one avenue that could be cut off. HonestReporting contacted The Guardian directly, pointing out that hiring Loewenstein was the equivalent of hiring a corporate lobbyist to be the newspaper’s business correspondent.

Did Loewenstein misrepresent himself at the FPA event to Yair Lapid as working directly for The Guardian? Given the reactions of both Peter Beaumont and Harriet Sherwood, has Loewenstein just been caught dishonestly burnishing press credentials in an effort to present himself as a credible journalist?

This could well be the case. The Guardian’s Head of International News Jamie Wilson responded to HonestReporting by stating that Loewenstein was contracted to write comment pieces for Guardian Australia and remains an occasional comment contributor but he “is not a news correspondent for the Guardian in Israel.” It was also relayed to us that Loewenstein has now been told to in future make sure he does not reference The Guardian at press conferences unless he is working on a direct commission.

HonestReporting Managing Editor Simon Plosker said:

The Guardian’s distancing itself from Loewenstein is a welcome development. We now call on the Foreign Press Association to revoke his membership of the organization as his BDS activism is incompatible with reporting on Israel in a professional manner. Having been exposed as a BDS activist, Loewenstein’s Government Press Office accreditation should be immediately revoked and questions asked as to how a BDS activist was able to acquire a press card in the first instance.

 

Ultimately, the exposure of Loewenstein is a wakeup call for the mainstream media when it comes to journalistic ethics and the use of freelance reporters. All too often the grey area between journalist and activist is ignored and professional and objective reporting on Israel is the victim. This time, there is a clear line and Antony Loewenstein has crossed it.

We await responses from those involved as well as further developments concerning Loewenstein’s status. We will, of course, keep our readers updated.

 

Featured image credit: YouTube screengrab

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