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Israeli hasbara-propaganda machine swings into action with shoddy journalism

April 19, 2014 at 11:39 am

Still reeling from the fallout of the Dubai “passport” scandal, Israel’s propagandists in Britain have gone on to the offensive. Short on facts and weighted heavily with innuendo both the Jewish Chronicle and the Spectator this week featured articles citing an Israeli report arguing that Britain has become the “hub” and “epicentre” of Hamas activities. Neither articles are entirely original in their claims, despite calling the Israeli source a “shocking new report”; a close examination of both reveals some striking inconsistencies and a deliberate effort to conceal the fact that their main source of information is linked closely to the Israeli intelligence and military establishment.

Mossad links

The JC article, written by Martin Bright, attributes its information to “the Israel-based Intelligence and Terrorism Centre”; Melanie Phillips, in her Spectator blog, calls it the “Intelligence and Analysis Information Centre” and informs us that it is “authoritative”. The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center was opened in 2001 and forms part of the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Centre (IICC), an NGO dedicated to the memory of fallen members of the Israeli intelligence community.

Despite the fact that its proponents cannot agree what the organisation is called, MEMO research shows that as a research body it is neither neutral nor objective. According to Associated Press, “The private think tank has close ties with [Israel’s] military leadership and maintains an office at the Defence Ministry. It compiled [a previous] report in conjunction with lawyers from the army and Foreign Ministry.” A bulletin published in January 2007 by the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Centre said that the organisation’s then president was Meir Amit and his deputy was Efraim Halevy. Amit was head of the Israeli Secret Service, Mossad, from 1963-68 and Halevy was head of the same organisation from 1996-98. The “think-tank” quoted heavily by Bright and Phillips is, therefore, very closely linked to the Israeli Secret Service held to be responsible for the murder in Dubai of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh. Moreover, the website of the Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center boasts a display of Palestinian documents and materials “related to terrorism” obtained by the IDF during raids in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories; it also boasts an archive of Palestinian documents, which were also taken by the IDF. The links between this self-proclaimed “NGO” with the military establishment of Israel are undisputable.

Nevertheless, these apparently give this “Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center” and the retired Israeli Lieutenant-Colonel at its head the right to propagate lies and half-truths on behalf of Israel through their well-placed collaborators in the British media, while seeking to deny the British public the right to hear the other side of the debate. The real aim is neither to encourage thinking – it’s more empty tank than think, in fact – nor to tackle issues with reasoned debate; rather, the intention is to tarnish the integrity and reputation of any individual or body daring to seek justice for the Palestinians.

Martin Bright says, “The report identifies Britain as a vital strategic centre for the terror group and names key Hamas activists in this country. Many of them cannot be named [in the JC] for legal reasons”. Why not? Well, probably because the JC’s lawyers must know that the sort of garbage printed in the report (which is available online) would be – and in some cases already has been – rejected by the authorities in Britain in the inevitable libel cases that would have followed if the JC named names. In short, this is another attempt by Israel’s supporters to bypass discussions of the message and go straight to shooting the messengers. In the light of what happened in Dubai that may not be simply metaphorically-speaking.

“Sexed up dossiers”

However, the days of extravagant sound-bites and “sexed up” dossiers are surely over; the general public in the real world beyond these apologists’ comprehension are fed up with being treated as if they are incapable of reaching their own informed conclusions. Only credible, well-supported studies will do for the British people now, especially after the disaster of Iraq and Israel’s role in instigating the invasion and war; former Prime Minister Tony Blair told the Chilcot inquiry recently that Israeli officials were party to the decision-making process and went on to say that Israel had a major part in the discussions, recalling that during his private discussions with Bush there were “conversations” with the Israelis.

In his article Martin Bright claims that there is “an online children’s magazine published in Britain, alleged by the report to be affiliated to Hamas” which is inciting anti-Jewish sentiment among impressionable youngsters. That magazine is apparently called “Al Fateh”. However, the text of the report by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, on which he based his article, suggests something not quite so definite: “The [Al-Fateh] magazine does not specifically say it is affiliated with Hamas, but its content is clearly Hamas-oriented.” Clearly the centre is ambiguous about this magazine being published by Hamas. Perhaps this is because there are hundreds or perhaps thousands of websites run by people who support Hamas in one way or another, but they are not official Hamas websites nor are they Hamas affiliates.

MEMO has conducted a quick survey among Arab-speaking citizens in London whose children had participated in pro-Palestinian demonstrations, and asked them if they had ever heard of or visited this website. The answer was – unanimously – negative to both questions. This suggests that in terms of influencing the discourse on Palestine in Britain – or even engendering “anti-Jewish sentiment”, as Bright claims   this website is irrelevant.

Yet another misleading piece of information in the JC article which is inconsistent with the information from the Israeli report relates to the Filastin al Muslimah magazine. Martin Bright says, “According to the report, another Hamas magazine, also published in Britain…” [emphasis added] whereas, again, the Israeli report is actually uncertain about the magazine’s publishing base: “In the past its address in London appeared on the front page but currently no address is listed… it is unclear whether the publishing house continues its activity in Britain”. Again, Bright’s shoddy journalism is exposed as he seeks to mislead his readers.

Rent-a-Zionist quote

That hasn’t stopped two well-known supporters of Israel right-or-wrong from lending their rent-a-Zionist quotes to Bright’s article; step forward Louise Ellman, MP and Denis MacShane, MP. The latter makes outrageous, sweeping claims about “Whitehall, intellectuals and editors [who] have become desensitised to anti-Jewish politics and propaganda”. Both are members of the Labour Party. Once again, people who dislike the pernicious nature of Zionism and have the audacity to stand up and say so, are accused of being “anti-Jewish”. Is Hedy Epstein, a Holocaust survivor, “anti-Jewish” because she supports efforts to break the siege of Gaza and opposes what Israel is doing to the Palestinians in the name of all Jews? Is Rabbi Yisroel D. Weiss from New York “anti-Jewish” because he opposes Zionism and the state of Israel for what it is doing to the Palestinians? It is shocking that a senior MP can be so naive.

Having realised that it is no longer credible to scream “anti-Semitism!” at those who call for justice for Palestinians because more and more Jews like the courageous Hedy Epstein and Rabbi Weiss are working towards that objective, Bright, Phillips and their ilk now resort to accusing everyone of being “Hamas supporters” the minute that they stand up for Palestinians struggling under Israel’s illegal military occupation and the immoral blockade of the Gaza Strip. The irony is that Bright and Phillips themselves defend a state accused of war crimes by an investigation far more independent, and with more legal weight, than the obviously biased unthinking think-tank’s report they support so enthusiastically. They defend the actions of a state whose leaders have, according to David Gardner writing in the Financial Times, “tended to take the view that international law does not really exist or, if it does, it simply does not apply to them”. How have they got away with it? “Because they have been able to rely on the US veto in the Security Council, exercised 29 times to shield Israel’s behaviour in the occupied Palestinian territories and 11 times to protect its actions in Lebanon.” Perhaps the law enforcement agencies in Britain should take a closer look at the people espousing support for the state terrorism of Israel and its blatant disregard for the laws and norms that the rest of us have to live by.

In February 2009 a group of prominent diplomats including former Israeli ministers repeated a warning that “there can be no meaningful peace process that involves negotiating with the representatives of one part of the Palestinians while simultaneously trying to destroy the other”The signatories included Chris Patten (former EU external relations commissioner who also worked on implementation of peace in Northern Ireland), Gareth Evans (former foreign minister of Australia and peace negotiator in Cambodia), Thorvald Stoltenberg (former foreign minister of Norway and peace negotiator in former Yugoslavia) and Álvaro de Soto, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Envoy to the Quartet (2005-2007). Any sensible person knows that you make peace with your enemies, not your friends, and you can’t make peace without talking to people.

However, it is obvious that Israel and its apologists are not interested in peace with the Palestinians if that peace involves justice for the people dispossessed in 1948, 1967 and right up to the present day due to Israel’s policies, including ethnic cleansing, the hateful Wall, house demolitions and military occupation. Peace for the likes of Martin Bright, Melanie Phillips and the right-wing audience they serve means simply an absence of fighting; justice for the oppressed has no place in their ideal scenario. The Palestinians must simply keep quiet and accept whatever crumbs the Zionists condescend to throw them. Anyone who objects is, in their eyes, a “terrorist” or a “supporter of terrorism”.

The agenda driven “journalism” on the part of a foreign state embroiled in extrajudicial killings using EU passports will not succeed in stifling legitimate debate whatever the accusations, innuendoes or unsubstantiated smears. Supporters of the Palestinians’ right to justice have not exploited Britain’s pluralism and tolerance as is claimed. They are continuing with a long-held and cherished British tradition of support for the weak and oppressed. That is a status that Europe’s Jews once held in the face of media and political attacks by, irony of ironies, the right-wing that now supports Israel so ardently. It is, however (no matter how much Bright and Phillips dress up their arguments), a status that nuclear-armed regional superpower Israel can no longer claim. Truth has a habit of coming to the fore and triumphing in the end, and more and more people are beginning to see through Zionist falsehoods and the justice of the Palestinian cause that they seek to hide.