uploaded : Thursday 15th May 2008 at 01:17
by : Honest Reporting UK
This is an update of the article below dated 28 April
11 May 2008
HonestReporting critiqued Johann Hari's op-ed in the Independent, systematically exposing the many distortions, omissions and Hari's reliance on fringe revisionist sources and individuals. We even caught Hari employing a quote that he had previously been warned was false. Despite this, he has responded not by addressing the issues raised but by attacking us:
In the US and Britain, there is a campaign to smear anybody who tries to describe the plight of the Palestinian people. It is an attempt to intimidate and silence - and to a large degree, it works....
There was little attempt to dispute the facts I offered. Instead, some of the most high profile "pro-Israel" writers and media monitoring groups - including Honest Reporting and Camera - said I am an anti-Jewish bigot akin to Joseph Goebbels and Mahmoud Ahmadinejadh, while Melanie Phillips even linked the stabbing of two Jewish people in North London to articles like mine. Vast numbers of e-mails came flooding in calling for me to be sacked.
Responding in his own Independent column, Howard Jacobson, a writer highly regarded by the political liberal left in the UK, argues that Hari is mistaken to invoke the spectre of a campaign, a front mobilised with aforethought to defame anyone who speaks ill of Israel. Indeed, accusing your detractors of carrying out a campaign often amounts to carrying out one in return - for it is a smear in itself to accuse people who disagree with you of acting out of no other motive than malice. He who says I smear him when I don't smears me.
Something else doesn't feel quite right to me about Johann Hari's unearthing of this "campaign", and that is his assertion that "it is an attempt to intimidate and silence - and to a large degree it works". To my ear, that answers intimidation with intimidation, since it impugns the intellectual honour of those of whom he speaks, and coerces us into thinking the worst of them.
Furthermore, it is patently untrue that "intimidation" has worked. Johann himself is demonstrably not intimidated. Nor is it easy to see who else is. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it cannot surely be argued that the Palestinian case is not heard.
Like us, Jacobson also questions Hari's use of revisionist historian Ilan Pappe, "something of a believer in campaigns and conspiracies himself, a man whose work has been questioned at every turn, not least by historians on whose findings he has drawn."
Melanie Phillips, who is also attacked in Hari's op-ed, responds to this statement:
Alan Dershowitz and Melanie Phillips are two of the most prominent figures sent in to attack anyone who disagrees with the Israeli right.
'Sent in', eh? By whom, exactly? By the world-wide Jewish/Zionist/Likudnik conspiracy, of course. Yup, it's those Protocols again. Whoops, what a giveaway. Case proved, I think.
We at HonestReporting are not so na´ve to believe that Israel is infallible and immune from legitimate criticism. However, Hari's one-sided reliance upon fringe, revisionist sources and individuals deserves to be exposed along with his use of a falsified quotation to back his case.
Hari's piece was one-sided and journalistically suspect - HonestReporting and our subscribers had every right to respond. Charging us with "McCarthyism" is merely a means to silence those who disagree with his own views.
We will continue to help you, our subscribers, to write considered letters to media outlets using the materials we provide, despite this latest attempt to delegitimize ours and your right to do so.
Rather than shutting down free speech as Hari would have you believe, we encourage you to contribute positively to the debate. Please make your views heard by sending e-mails to The Independent - email@example.com and posting to the comments section of Hari's op-ed.
Howard Jacobson may be read here:
28 April 2008
As the week-long festival of Passover comes to an end the Independent, who last week published a stinging and unfair article about the brutality of Israeli soldiers on patrol in Hebron, the same paper has produced a piece that casts all manner of calumnies at the Jewish State. What is it with the British media and their obsession with Israel? (That is, when they are not tormenting the hugely successful coach of Chelsea Football Club, Avram Grant, who happens to be a Jew...)
We will be writing out own response to Johann Hari of 'The Indy' but in the meantime we are grateful to HonestReporting UK for this excellent rebuttal:
28 April 2008
Dear HonestReporting UK Subscriber,
Israel's 60th anniversary will undoubtedly produce many negative opinion pieces in the UK press. In the latest assault, Johann Hari sums up his feelings towards Israel in The Independent: "Whenever I try to mouth these words [of reassurance for Israel], a remembered smell fills my nostrils. It is the smell of shit."
In his opinion piece, Hari's use of an invented quotation is enough to bring the rest of the content and his own judgement into disrepute:
Hari relies upon the notorious anti-Zionist historian Ilan Pappe, who openly acknowledges that he is not objective
and cares little about factual accuracy, readily admitting that ideology drives his historical writings and statements.
Using Pappe's accusations of a systematic plan of "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians to create the Israeli state, Hari quotes Israeli PM David Ben-Gurion: "The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war."
Having previously employed this particular quote in a November 2006 op-ed, it is surprising that Hari has repeated it as "revisionist" historian and critic of Israel, Benny Morris, wrote in a letter at the time to The Independent, addressing the charge of "ethnic cleansing" and referring to the above quote as:
an invention, pure and simple, either by Hari or by whomever he is quoting (Ilan Pappe?)....
Neither Ben-Gurion nor the Zionist movement 'planned' the displacement of the 700,000-odd Arabs who moved or were removed from their homes in 1948. There was no such plan or blanket policy. Transfer was never adopted by the Zionist movement as part of its platform; on the contrary, the movement always accepted that the Jewish state that arose would contain a sizeable Arab minority.
Hari questions Israel's very legitimacy through the lens of historical revisionism.
Ignoring 3000 years of Jewish history and legitimate rights to the land, Hari claims that "It [Palestine] was already inhabited by people who loved the land, and saw it as theirs." In fact, it was the Arabs who attempted to expel the Jews during Israel's 1947-48 War of Independence as Palestinian Arabs mounted attacks on Jewish communities followed by the invasion of five Arab armies from surrounding states.
To reinforce his belief that Jews have no connection to the land, Hari employs a ridiculous analogy: "How would we react if the 30m stateless, persecuted Kurds in the world sent armies and settlers into this country to seize everything in England below Leeds, and swiftly established a free Kurdistan from which we were expelled?" Thus Hari compares non-existent Kurdish historical links to Britain with proven and legitimate Jewish links to the land of Israel.
(See here for a detailed rebuttal of the charges against Israel's legitimate historical roots.)
In a modern day "poisoning the wells" libel, Hari accuses Israel of sole responsibility for polluting West Bank groundwater supplies. It is no secret that Israel has a chronic water problem and lags behind many other developed nations in environmental protection. However, the Palestinians are equally to blame for polluting the environment in the West Bank, which has, in turn, also caused damage to Israel's own water supplies. The West Bank mountain aquifer is one of the largest freshwater sources supplying both Israelis and Palestinians. Indeed, Israelis and Palestinians have jointly tackled such pollution and Israel has used its own expertise to provide Palestinian population centres with sewage treatment facilities. Why would Israel purposely destroy its own limited water supply?
Continuing his sewage analogy, Hari simplisticly accuses Israel of punishing Gaza's population for voting "the wrong way". Has Hari forgotten the continuing terrorism and missile attacks on Israeli population centres such as Sderot? Or the refusal of Hamas to conform to the international community's demands to renounce terror, recognise Israel and adhere to previously signed agreements?
Hari claims that "the Israeli army are not allowing past the checkpoints any replacements for the pipes and cement needed to keep the sewage system working." In fact, the IDF is restricting the entry of materials such as pipes into Gaza as Hamas has preferred to use these for the manufacture of Qassam rockets rather than dealing with the repair of the sewage system.
Hari's opinion piece concludes: "Israel, as she gazes at her grey hairs and discreetly ignores the smell of her own stale shit pumped across Palestine, needs to ask what kind of country she wants to be in the next 60 years."
Perhaps Hari needs to ask what kind of columnist writes such one-sided, biased and inflammatory material with enough holes to drive a horse and cart through, including the use of a doctored quote.
Hari has a track record of misguided and anti-Israel opinion pieces, once tastelessly describing the Virgin Mary as a "Palestinian refugee in Bethlehem", and present-day pregnant Palestinian women as "21st century Marys" who "have been giving birth in startlingly similar conditions to those suffered by Mary 2,000 years ago."
Hari has also previously attacked HonestReporting UK, preferring to abuse us rather than addressing the issues raised. Then, as now, we stand by the materials we have provided our readers to respond to Hari's latest screed.
There are almost too many areas that a letter to the editor could focus on. Please pick one or two and send your considered comments to The Independent - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hari article:
We are grateful to Simon Plosker of Honest Reporting UK for this article: