This is a cross-post from UK Media Watch
When it was revealed that Jeremy Corbyn participated in a Passover Seder with members of the radical left British Jewish group Jewdass, Times of London columnist Daniel Finkelstein, writing in the Jewish Chronicle, argued that it was no gaffe or political error. Rather, Finkelstein observed, Corbyn’s evening with the fringe non-Zionist group which once tweeted that Israel was “a steaming pile of garbage” which needs to be properly disposed of, and holds the mainstream British Jewish community in contempt, makes sense insofar as it’s an accurate reflection of his views.
Likewise, the Guardian’s decision to publish a recent op-ed, co-authored by Illana Hammerman, a fringe radical left Israeli who’s suggested that Israel was no longer a morally legitimate state, and has excused Palestinian terrorism as a natural reaction of Israel’s ‘state terrorism’, wasn’t merely a narrow decision to provide a ‘alternative view’. It accurately reflects the editors’ often palpable disgust with Israel and discomfort with the values shared by the overwhelming majority of Israelis and diaspora Jews who support the Jewish state.
The op-ed, by Hammerman and David Harrel, vice-president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, “As Israelis, we call on the world to intervene on behalf of Palestinians”, June 29th, calls on the international community to save Israel from itself – to place “political, economic and cultural pressure” on the state “before it’s too late”. Foreign governments, Hammerman and Harrel opine, need to force Israel to abandon their pursuit of what they allege is an ideology which claims all “the land, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river” – bizarrely suggesting that the government not only claims all of the West Bank, but Gaza as well.
The Guardian contributors also predictably accuse Israeli of engaging in “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians living in the West Bank – completely counter-factual agitprop which is easily contradicted by population statistics. In Jerusalem, for instance, the Palestinian population since 1967 has outpaced the growth of the Jewish population. Whereas in 1967 Palestinians constituted 26% of the overall population of Jerusalem, by 2011 they constituted 36%. Further, the Palestinian population in the West Bank increased from 462,000 in 1949 to over 2.7 million today, whilst in Gaza the population increased from 82,000 in 1949 to roughly 2 million today. Israelis, we’ve cheekily noted previously, are clearly the most incompetent ethnic cleansers on the planet.
Hammerman and Harel’s further claim that “Palestinian residents “enjoy no civil or political rights”, ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of West Bank Palestinians live under the Palestinian Authority, and are largely subject to their laws and restrictions.
They end their op-ed by calling for international “enforcement mechanisms” to curb Israel’s “destructive, violent and explosive” reality, UN parlance suggesting trade embargoes, the cutting off the diplomatic relations and – conceivably – even the use of military force. The Israeli commentators commissioned by Guardian editors seek nothing short of the complete international isolation of their own country to bring about the policy change they can’t achieve democratically.
This is more than just one misleading, inaccurate and extreme op-ed. It reflects the Guardian’s long history of amplifying voices completely unrepresentative of Israeli society who echo the Guardian’s ideologically driven characterization of the state – not the progressive, democratic, vibrant and successful Israeli reality, but what Jonathan Spyer has characterised as “mythical” Israel, a fictional “place of uninterrupted darkness and horror, in which every human interaction is ugly, crude, racist, brutal.”
When, in May, the Board of Deputies’ outgoing president Jonathan Arkush met with Jeremy Corbyn, he asked the Labour Party leader: “Why is there nothing good you can say about Israel? According to Arkush, Corbyn didn’t respond, but remained silent – a silence likely driven by the same “mythical Israel” that continues to haunt the political imagination of Guardian editors.