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Just Journalism or just Zionism?

January 28, 2014 at 2:40 am

In the time since his shocking arrest in London on 28th June, Sheikh Raed Salah’s name has been the focus of vicious and potentially libellous headlines in the British media. Moreover, some people in Britain actually began a concerted process of character assassination of the Sheikh long before he even set foot on British soil; among them was Michael Weiss.

In the last few months Weiss has dedicated many of his blogs in the Daily Telegraph (June 22ndJune 28thJune 29thJuly 5thJuly 8th among others) and in other media outlets, to criticising Sheikh Raed. Unsurprisingly, he has based his criticisms on rumour, unfounded allegations, statements taken and twisted out of context, and biased opinions expressed in the Israeli media; no attempt at all has been made to strike any balance by presenting both sides of the argument. His articles, which describe Sheikh Raed among other things as a “frothing hate-cleric” and a “vile sheikh” who is leader of the Islamic movement – Weiss labels this as “a Hamas-like gang of nutters” – are clearly not examples of serious journalism. They are nothing more than desperate attempts to smear the character of Sheikh Raed and those associated with him; the question is, why?

The answer for this can be found in the profile of Weiss alongside his Telegraph blogs: “Michael Weiss is the Communications Director of the Henry Jackson Society and the Spokesperson of Just Journalism.” There you have it; Weiss is a representative of two notoriously pro-Israel organisations which regard individuals like Sheikh Raed and other vociferous critics of the Israeli state and its military occupation of the Palestinian Territories as a threat to Israeli ability to break international laws with impunity. The Sheikh is a staunch advocate of the right of return of Palestinian refugees; he calls for the protection of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem from Israeli organisations intent on tearing the mosque to pieces and building a temple in its place; he campaigns for human rights, peace and freedom in the region. Such things are anathema to the likes of Weiss and his fellow Zionists of the pro-Israel Lobby. So exactly what are these groups with whom Weiss works, and why is he waging such a hate-filled vendetta against someone like Sheikh Raed Salah?

Just Journalism

Just Journalism exposes itself as a privately-funded mouthpiece for Israel. It says as much in its mission statement: “We believe that a skewed portrayal of Israel is rendered in much of the mainstream media that extends beyond fair analysis and deserving criticism of Israeli policies. We also believe that key regional developments are significantly downplayed or ignored at the expense of sensationalist reporting.” And while Just Journalism really does go all out to counter what it believes is “a skewed portrayal of Israel”, what it offers instead is a distorted vision of reality.

One of the most damning indictments of Just Journalism is that its former Director has disassociated himself completely from the organisation and has levelled serious criticisms against it, eviscerating any hope it may have had of ever being considered as an objective or legitimate source of information about Israel. Adel Darwish resigned as Director of Just Journalism after nine months in the post on 31st December 2008 and clearly felt the need “to alert everyone to the fact that I have nothing to do with the organisation any more” and that “what has become of the organisation ‘Just Journalism’ after I left has nothing to do with me and I am not responsible for what goes on their website.” In his blog he made it abundantly clear that serious questions have been raised about “whether Just Journalism has become a Zionist propaganda organisation or not”. Reading what he, as a former insider at the highest level has to say, one can only conclude that Just Journalism is indeed no more than a Zionist mouthpiece.

One point Darwish made about the organisation is that even though it calls itself Just Journalism “none of them was a journalist in the first place”. According to Darwish: “I explained to staff that if journalists do not have full access to facts on the ground and to the subject they report then we should take this situation into account when subjecting their copy to our criteria of analysis. And without being sensitive to journalists’ condition on the ground, our work can become a [McCarthyite] witch-hunt of fellow journalists and would make us fall into the same bog of imbalance of which we criticised fellow journalists. But they were not fellow journalists to the researchers, the chairwoman or the board, since none of them was a journalist in the first place.” His warning about a McCarthyite witch-hunt seems to have been prescient.

“As weeks and months passed,” added Darwish, “it was obvious that within Just Journalism, there [were] two irreconcilable views of media reporting on Israel. Mine, seen from a standpoint of a long experience in journalism; and that of the chairwoman, with her commercial background and experience in corporate management who wanted ‘value for money’ which had only one translation   ‘as many items on the site as possible’ – obviously items of analysis of unbalanced or biased against Israel, and how many journalists per week were ticked off or contacted to be told that their work did not meet the criteria. It was inevitable that I had to resign since the person who signs the cheques calls the tune. In fact the chairwoman called the tune by instructing staff, who were young, impressionable and also zealous, to place analysis on the website without referring to me as a director. Hence, I resigned from 31 December and disassociated myself from Just Journalism and anything to do with the organisation.”

The bias that the group has in promoting the Israeli narrative is evident for all to see; a glimpse at the catalogue of past articles offers an entertaining twist on reality. Type “flotilla” into Just Journalism’s search engine and you find articles that do not mention the illegal siege of Gaza or the imprisonment of 1.5 million people but do, for example, whine about apparent omissions in the media concerning the poor “Israeli commandos being subjected to sustained assaults by a mob of protesters on the deck” during Israel’s hijacking in international waters of the 2010 Freedom Flotilla. Of course, the only “mob” on the decks was a group of trigger-happy Israeli soldiers-cum-pirates and JJ’s warped analysis lies way beyond the bounds of serious journalism. Genuine journalists covering the flotilla incident in an objective manner would explain why the participants were trying to break the siege in the first place; what the siege of Gaza is all about; and why Israel believes that it was perfectly in order to kill nine Turkish citizens in cold blood on the MV Marmara and then kidnap the hundreds of pro-justice for Palestine activists and humanitarians on board. These are the sort of facts that the “journalists” of Just Journalism are bent on hiding or distorting.

Type in the “search” box the names of any pro-Palestinian rights groups or supporters and a long list of ill-informed articles pop up for your delectation. It doesn’t take long to realise that there, before your eyes, is the evidence of a concerted campaign to target Palestinian rights campaigners. It is no surprise that such a campaign is based in London; it was not so long ago that Israel’s Reut Institute referred to Britain’s capital as the hub of efforts to “delegitimise” the Zionist state. That in itself is total nonsense, of course; the Israeli government is doing a superb job of delegitimising itself without any help from anyone else. Just Journalism is simply one cog in the Israeli hasbara or propaganda machine that seeks to legitimise the illegitimate, namely Israeli policies, practices and illegal occupation.

The Henry Jackson Society

The other organisation that Michael Weiss is affiliated with by virtue of his position as Communications Director is The Henry Jackson Society. To gain an insight into this group’s Islamophobic tendencies, take a look at the “recommended reading list”; all of the titles are listed on Amazon under “Radical Islam and Terror”  and includes “While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within”; “The Caged Virgin: A Muslim Woman’s Cry for Reason” by notorious Muslim apostate Ayaan Hirsi Ali; “The Trouble with Islam Today: A Wake-Up Call for Honesty and Change” by Irshad Manjii; World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism” by Norman Podhoretz, and so on.

Another good indication of the affiliation of the Henry Jackson Society is offered by looking at the blogs promoted in the “links” section of its website, which include the rabidly Zionist blog Harry’s Place; Jewish Chronicle Editor Stephen Pollard’s; and the personal blog of Henry Jackson Society Director of International Affairs Robin Shepherd whose recent writings include the ridiculous contention that “The tragedy of the Palestinian people is a tragedy of their own making.

To get a further idea of where the Henry Jackson Society’s loyalties lie one need only glimpse at the list of guest speakers it has hosted: Israeli Major-General (ret.) Danny Rothschild was to be hosted in a meeting in Parliament before he fled the country fearing arrest, using Eurostar to avoid having to go through any passport control at an airport. The Middle East Monitor wrote an article just before his sudden departure, exposing some of the various offences to have befallen the Palestinian people under his watch and calling for the arrest of Rothschild and the release of Sheikh Raed Salah. These offences include calls for the building of structures which would further ghettoise Palestinian communities in Jerusalem; the killing of a large number of Palestinian children by Israeli forces at a time when he was Co-ordinator of Government Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; Commanding IDF units in Southern Lebanon during the war; and so on.  Actual and very deadly offences, mind you, not allegations of saying things which have been levelled against Sheikh Raed. When MEMO contacted the Henry Jackson Society for confirmation that Rothschild had indeed left the country it was Weiss who responded. The double standards and hypocrisy of the man who writes in the crudest terms about a respected Palestinian leader like Sheikh Raed Salah, while working for an organisation which is hosting a man like Rothschild are breathtaking.

The Henry Jackson Society has also co-sponsored events where speakers like Israeli Major-General (ret.) Doran Almog have spoken by video link. Almog could not take part in person because the last time he attempted to visit Britain he would not get off the aircraft at Heathrow following a leak that he was about to be served with an arrest warrant on charges of committing war crimes. Clearly, therefore the Henry Jackson Society does not characterise people on the basis of whether or not they have committed war crimes or other serious and deadly offences; for the HJS it is as simple as seeing if someone is pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli.

In June the Henry Jackson Society hosted historian Prof. Benny Morris in the House of Commons to discuss “The Arab Spring and Israel’s Security”. Morris is alleged to have made a number of offensive statements about Palestinians, including this little racist gem: “Something like a cage has to be built for them. I know that sounds terrible. It is really cruel. But there is no choice. There is a wild animal there that has to be locked up in one way or another.”

On 12th July, the Society hosted Brooke Goldstein, the Director of the “Lawfare Project“. This group’s website offers a definition of “lawfare” by which, according to them: “Lawfare denotes ‘the use of the law as a weapon of war’ or, more specifically, the abuse of the law and judicial systems to achieve strategic military or political ends. It consists of the negative manipulation of international and national human rights laws to accomplish purposes other than, or contrary to, those for which they were originally enacted.” In other words, they want immunity for Israeli war criminals to be able to travel the world freely without fear of arrest warrants being issued against them. Given that this is the major thrust of the Lawfare Project and that these are the types of guest being hosted by the Henry Jackson Society it should be no surprise that while they campaign against the arrest of Israeli war criminals they laud the arrest of pro-Palestine activists and leaders like Sheikh Raed Salah in an effort to further the state of Israel and to discredit the Palestinian cause.

Of course, people like Michael Weiss are, in a democracy, free to voice their opinions, no matter how repugnant or unjustifiable they may be. What is worrying is that they are given access to the mainstream media in order to employ double standards in pushing the Israeli narrative of the conflict in the Middle East at the same time as demonising pro-Palestinian speakers and organisations. Of even more concern is that such stooges for a foreign state appear to be able to influence unduly the British government and its policies. Any reasonable person must have serious concerns about that, for the implications go way beyond the Palestine-Israel conflict and have a destructive impact on the democratic process in this country, which affects us all.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.