London embassy questions Guardian's agenda

Official: Newspaper wanted to build case against Israel, to build the accusation of war crimes.

foreign press 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
foreign press 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Israeli Embassy in London has questioned the methodology and agenda of The Guardian newspaper after it carried three stories and an editorial over two days attacking Israel and accusing it of committing "war crimes." On Monday, the paper accused Israel of deliberately firing on Palestinian medical staff and indiscriminately killing Palestinian civilians with unmanned aerial vehicles. Then, on Tuesday, it devoted an editorial and another article to accusations the IDF had used civilians as human shields. Embassy spokesman Lior Ben-Dor told The Jerusalem Post he had been called for comment last Friday by Julian Borger, one of the authors of Tuesday's story, but had felt from the conversation it was a fait accompli as the story was already complete, its conclusions drawn. He said he felt he was being called to "create a fake sense of balance." Borger told Ben-Dor he had already called the IDF spokesman in Jerusalem, but was told they would not comment as the issues raised were still under investigation. "The general feeling was that the story was already done, and they wanted a sentence or two from the Israeli side," he said. He also questioned the Guardian's methodology and agenda. "The problem with [their] methodology is that they are not going to Gaza with open mind," he said. "The agenda was to build [a] case against Israel - they knew they wanted to build the accusation of war crimes, and wanted to back it up with evidence juxtaposed with sound-bites from Amnesty and other human rights groups." He added that any evidence the paper presented should be looked upon with suspicion as Gaza residents could not speak freely without risking their lives. "We know of many cases of people who spoke against Hamas were denied charity aid, tortured or even killed," he said. "People in Gaza cannot speak freely, out of fear of intimidation, violence, and in some cases murder. Clancy Chassay [the Guardian journalist who wrote the stories] will go home to London the next day, but the Gazans will have to face Hamas." Citing the editorial in Tuesday's Guardian, Ben-Dor said the paper admitted that firing rockets at Israel was also a war crime. "None of this is to deny that a case also exists against Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza. Firing unaimable rockets at civilians in southern Israel is also a war crime," read Tuesday's editorial. "The editorial stated this," said Ben-Dor, "so why didn't they build a case to show that indeed the firing of rockets and mortars at civilian population centers is a war crime? They could have gone to Ashkelon or Beersheba to collect evidence from civilians targeted by Hamas. They could have devoted a paragraph to Hamas war crimes, instead of only a sentence in an editorial in which they try to create an atmosphere of balance but fool no one. "They could have collected evidence from Gazans, who could have told them how their houses were used as launch pads, or how Gaza residents were used as human shields, as Lorenzo Cremonesi [a reporter from the Italian Corriere Della Sera newspaper] did after Operation Cast Lead." Ben Dor said the Guardian would have to do more to be considered credible and balanced. "It's not because of laziness, it is because of a clear and embedded anti-Israel agenda: to vilify Israel whenever possible," he said.