On 22 January, the Guardian published an editorial about Israel. Called The Guardian view on Israel’s democracy: killing with impunity, lying without consequence?, the piece describes what happened on the so-called Israel/Gaza border during the Great March of Return protests in 2018.
There is no new plan – just a rebranding of the status quo, maintained by force by Israel, and with Palestinians within and without Israel’s borders subjugated and dependent. Israelis must turn away from the occupation, which is debasing their society and suffocating the Palestinians.
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And it has led to the Israeli government launching an extraordinary attack against the paper.
Spokesperson for Israel’s Foreign Ministry Emmanuel Nahshon claimed the piece was “cheap moralizing”, saying:
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The Guardian has decided to engage in an exercise of cheap moralizing, deliberately ignoring Palestinian terror and violence.
The Guardian knows very well that the Gaza Strip has been transformed by Hamas into a launch pad of rockets and violent attacks, endangering Israeli civilians on a daily basis, but prefers to ignore this reality, which would deprive it of the perverse pleasure of attacking Israel.
The Guardian editorial had highlighted figures showing that, in the last nine months of 2018, an average of one Palestinian per day was killed during the protests. It said:
Most of the dead were unarmed and posed no danger to anyone, with little more than rocks in their hands and slogans on their lips. Yet Israel continued with an immoral and unlawful policy that sees soldiers of its military, which is under democratic civilian control, shoot, gas, shell and kill protesters, including those who pose no credible threat.
“Killing with impunity”
According to the United Nations (UN):
Over 150 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli security forces and more than 10,000 demonstrators have been wounded; half of them by live fire.
At the same time as killing these people, the Israeli military stated in a later deleted tweet that it “know[s] where every bullet landed”.
In October 2018, UN special rapporteur Michael Lynk condemned Israeli violence, saying its actions could “amount to… a war crime”. Lynk continued:
Lethal force against demonstrators is absolutely forbidden unless strictly unavoidable in the case of an imminent threat to life or threat of serious injury. …[M]any of those killed and wounded appear to have presented no such imminent threat.
No wonder the Guardian editorial was called “killing with impunity”.
Nahshon: ‘Left-wing antisemites will be very happy’
But Nahshon’s attack went even further, claiming the editorial would make “left-wing antisemites” “very happy”:
One can only assume that left-wing antisemites in the UK will be very happy with this editorial.
Presumably referencing the ongoing antisemitism row in the Labour Party, the attack is a strange one. Because the Guardian has been one of the main papers pushing such allegations. The paper was named, for example, in a Media Reform Coalition report into biased coverage of the row. And the report identified eight “false statements or claims” made by the paper.
A letter about the report, signed by Ken Loach and Noam Chomsky, stated:
We have long had serious concerns about the lack of due impartiality and accuracy in the reporting of allegations of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party.
It claimed the coverage:
served to weaken the Labour leadership and to bolster its opponents within and outside of the party.
Criticism of Israel – off limits?
Nahshon shows just how far the Israeli government is prepared to push antisemitic accusations. Because even if he doesn’t go quite as far as explicitly stating that the Guardian piece is antisemitic, his implication is clear: criticism of Israel is antisemitic. But this is counter to the IHRA‘s guidelines on antisemitism, which says:
criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic
Nahshon’s accusation is also sickening. Because the idea that anyone could be “very happy” reading about the killing of children and unarmed civilians is a vile one.
This is an extraordinary attack on the Guardian. And it’s a real shame that Nahshon focused on wild accusations rather than actually addressing the important points which the paper made.
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