The Independent’s Foul Play

A Palestinian youth football team from Gaza has been unable to tour the UK after falling afoul of British visa regulations as well as the continuing problems in leaving the Gaza Strip following the Hamas takeover. Writing in the UK’s Independent, Mark Steel criticizes the British Foreign Office, which is his right, before launching an astonishing diatribe against Israel, based not on facts nor reason, but on overt hate and disinformation.

All Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip may encounter problems exiting crossings at Israeli and Egyptian borders, particularly following Hamas’ violent takeover of the area. But since the question of visas reached the British Foreign Office, it implies that Israel did not block the footballers from traveling.

Yet, Steel suggests “that the Foreign Office has been leaned on by the Israeli government to refuse entry to the team.” Since when did the Israeli government exercise any power or control over British policy? Is Steel attempting to play on classic prejudice that ascribes such mythical power and influence to Israel and its supporters?

Steel’s brand of ‘satire’, littered with inappropriate sporting analogies and terms that British readers will be familiar with, descends into simple hatred and demonization of Israel. For Steel, “the latest incident is simply part of the process of petty vindictiveness that occupying forces often dish out. Even if there’s no obvious military or political advantage to be gained, you can imagine them passing a law that no one in Gaza is allowed to hum, or on Mondays everyone has to speak in a Geordie accent.”

In accordance with such nastiness, Steel states that Israel bombed the only football pitch in Gaza. He conveniently forgets to mention that the pitch in question had been used for terrorist training exercises. The field, which had also reportedly served as a missile launching pad, was empty at the time; the strike itself came in response to the continuing barrage of Qassam rocket attacks directed at Israeli towns and villages.

Steel ignores the reality of the Gaza situation claiming that “for over a year they’ve been under siege, the hospitals have run out of essential medicines, there’s no electricity and hundreds of thousands are trapped there, unable to visit family or complete their education if it means leaving the occupied area. The justification offered often comes down to how Palestinian organisations refuse to recognise Israel’s right to exist.”

In fact, as outlined by HonestReporting in a previous communique, essential humanitarian aid and electricity continues to reach the Gaza Strip despite the efforts of Hamas to attack Israeli border crossings and Qassam missile strikes against Sderot and the surrounding region. Indeed, blaming Israel is all the rage – the EU cuts off payments for electricity to Gaza - Israel is at fault. The UK Foreign Office denies visas to Palestinians – Israel is responsible.

Ignoring genuine security concerns and the nature of the Hamas administration in Gaza, Steel belittles the refusal to recognise Israel’s right to exist while disingenuously claiming that this is the primary reason for the current situation in Gaza.

Steel charges that “the Israelis seem so determined to refuse Palestine’s right to exist that they won’t even allow them a football team” – a claim completely divorced from reality. While Hamas openly refuses to recognize Israel, the Israeli government and the Israeli people have consistently expressed their support for a two-state solution, which envisages a Palestinian state. In addition, for good measure, while it may not be a sovereign state, Palestine is a recognized member of FIFA, international football’s governing body, with its own competitive football team.

Send your comments to The Independent – letters@independent.co.uk

TALKING POINTS:

  • Israel policy towards the Palestinians is dictated by genuine security concerns and not the vindictiveness that Mark Steel attributes to Israel.
  • The decision by the British Foreign Office and other policies are not the result of some nefarious Israeli influence. Israel has not made any official decision to prevent the Palestinian football team from traveling to the UK.
  • Mark Steel fails to provide any genuine context behind the situation in Gaza and deliberately distorts Israeli policy for the purpose of demonization.

COOKED TO IMPERFECTION

The Guardian’s Comment is Free blog site is a regular source of anti-Israel articles, complemented by hateful and incitement contributions from some of CIF’s readership. In a recent article by Jonathan Cook, we were almost flattered to be named as one of an all-encompassing network of ‘pro-Israeli propaganda’ organizations who are carrying out “a relentless campaign to target, discredit and silence critics of Israel.”

We were surprised, considering Cook, who peddles such false charges against Israel as “ethnic cleansing”, has the freedom to publish his screeds on CIF. The Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post and LA Times happily give op-ed space to spokesmen from Hamas. Jimmy Carter appears on primetime television to promote his book. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer are able to spread their flawed charge that the “Israel Lobby” exerts control over US foreign policy while still claiming that their voices have been silenced. Has a pro-Israel “lobby” really managed to silence critics of Israel?

In an editorial criticizing Walt and Mearsheimer’s new book, New York Jewish daily, the Forward aptly addresses the trend of anti-Israel critics who claim “martyr” status:

“The trick follows a typical pattern. Step one: Publish your views in as provocative a manner as possible. Use words like “apartheid,” as Jimmy Carter did in his book, or paint Jewish lobbying efforts in darkly conspiratorial terms, as Walt and Mearsheimer did in a paper published last year. Step two: Dare the Jewish community to lash out at you, then whine about being victimized by bullies. Step three: Implore fair-minded liberals to line up behind you, forcing them to choose between endorsing your vision - however skewed – or becoming part of the censorship juggernaut.”

For more analysis of Walt and Mearsheimer’s book and its charges, see Dore Gold’s Understanding the U.S.-Israel Alliance: An Israeli Response to the Walt-Mearsheimer Claim.

HonestReporting encourages its readers to write informed correspondence to media outlets in order to balance the one-sided debate in the media. Jonathan Cook’s agenda and that of others, it seems, is to delegitimize and silence the very legitimate opinions held by those in opposition to theirs. Please continue to support HR in the fight against media bias.

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