Guardian Cowardice as it abandons Antony Loewenstein to Israel’s Ministry of Information

Guardian Cowardice as it abandons Antony Loewenstein to Israel’s Ministry of Information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

Antony Loewenstein’s profile on Guardian website which lists over a 100 articles he has written

The article below by Jonathan Cook, a freelance
journalist who used to work for The Guardian is self-explanatory.  A journalist, Antony Loewenstein, who has
contributed 90 articles to the Guardian over the past 3 years as a freelance
journalist, had the temerity to ask a difficult question of Israel’s uber-racist
politician Yair Lapid, the head of Yesh Atid. 
Lapid masquerades as a Zionist centrist but he is virtually
indistinguishable from Netanyahu. 
Antony Loewenstein – his crime was asking an uncomfortable question of Israeli MK and leader of Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid, a notorious racist opposed to ‘mixed-race’ i.e. Jewish-Arab liaisons

Loewenstein dared ask whether Israel’s treatment of
the millions of Palestinians under military rule merited the accolade of it
being an Apartheid state.   Nothing makes
the defenders of ‘Israeli democracy’ bristle more than the word ‘Apartheid’
though quite how you describe a situation where 4 million Palestinians are held
under military rule for nigh on 50 years at the very same time as Jewish settlers
are subject to normal civil law, defies me. 
Jimmy Carter, the former US President, was given similar treatment when
he made this obvious comparison too.

HonestReporting is one of the many Israeli funded groups which dedicated themselves to combating unsympathetic coverage of Israeli and Zionist repression and racism
Either way a nasty little campaign has arisen,
during which it has been falsely claimed that Loewenstein claimed to work for
the Guardian as a permanent correspondent. 
Loewenstein has been made the target of the so-called HonestReporting
group, one of these Israeli funded groups whose main purpose in life is to
intimidate journalists who are not singing from Israel’s hymn sheet.  When they contacted the Guardian to ask
whether in fact Loewenstein works for them, rather than being told he is a freelance
journalist who contributes copy, the Guardian distanced themselves from him. 
A cursory visit to Lowenstein’s profile on the
Guardian website shows just how many articles he’s contributed in the past
few.  The total is about 105. For the
Guardian to now distance himself from the Israeli government and its Zionist chorus
who wish to expel inconvenient journalists is despicable.
Tony Greenstein
Guardian newspaper fails to
support colleague facing deportation threat from Israeli government
23
December 2016
Mondoweiss
– 23 December 2016
Harriet Sherwood, former Guardian Israel correspondent, now their religious affairs correspondent.  Perhaps appropriate since her behaviour towards Loewenstein resembleds that of Judas towards Jesus
Israel is
reported to be ready to expel an award-winning Australian journalist and
writer, Antony Loewenstein, after he asked a too-probing question of an Israeli
politician at a media event last week. Government officials have said they are investigating how they can deny him his work visa when it
comes up for renewal in March.
It is
unsurprising to learn that Israel has no serious regard for press freedom. But
more depressing has been the lack of solidarity shown by journalistic
colleagues, most especially the Guardian newspaper, for which he has regularly
worked as a freelancer since 2013. Not only has the paper failed to offer him
any support, but its management and staff reporters have hurried to distance
themselves from him.
Sherwood on Twitter demonstrating that when it comes to solidarity with journalists under attack, the Guardian’s journalists retreat by example
A deferential foreign press

Loewenstein
has been under fire since he attended the event in Jerusalem, hosted by the
Foreign Press Association (FPA), on December 12. According to the Israeli
media, he asked former government minister Yair Lapid: “Is there not a deluded
idea here that many Israeli politicians, including yourself, continue to
believe that one can talk to the world about democracy, freedom and human rights
while denying that to millions of Palestinians, and will there not come a time
soon, in a year, five years, 10 years, when you and other politicians will be
treated like South African politicians during Apartheid?”
Peter Beaumont – Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent in the normal act of solidarity one expects of Guardian journalists denied all knowledge of Loewenstein 
Israeli
politicians are not used to hearing such difficult questions from members of
the FPA, a professional association for journalists working in Israel. The
reason for their deference to Israeli officials was explained to me a few years
ago by an FPA insider. He revealed that not only are most of these
correspondents Jewish – as Loewenstein himself is – but, unlike Loewenstein,
they deeply identify with Israel. They live in Israel, not the occupied
territories, they speak Hebrew, send their children to Israeli schools and
expect them to serve in the Israeli army. Some of the reporters have served in
the army themselves.
Perhaps
most famously, former New York Times bureau chief Ethan Bronner was embarrassed
in 2010 by the disclosure that he and the NYT had not divulged that his son was
serving in the Israeli army while Bronner reported from the region. There was
nothing exceptional about Bronner’s professional conflict of interest. My
confidant told me: “I can think of a dozen foreign bureau chiefs, responsible
for covering both Israel and the Palestinians, who have served in the Israeli
army, and another dozen who like Bronner have kids in the Israeli army.”
He added:
“The degree to which Bronner’s personal life, like that of most lead
journalists here, is integrated into Israeli society, makes him an excellent
candidate to cover Israeli political life, cultural shifts and intellectual
life. The problem is that Bronner is also expected to be his paper’s lead voice
on Palestinian political life, cultural shifts and intellectual life, all in a
society he has almost no connection to, deep knowledge of or even the ability
to directly communicate with.”
Most
publications appear to believe that the benefits of employing openly partisan
reporters – and all of them partisan towards the same party in the conflict –
outweighs any potential damage to claims that they are neutral and impartial.
The outlets hope their partisanship will offer them an advantage: gaining unfettered
access
to the corridors of power, whether in the Israeli government or
army.
With this
background in mind, it is possible to understand why Loewenstein described the
tenor of the FPA event in the following terms: “With a few notable exceptions,
the vast majority of journalists in attendance were deferential to Lapid and
asked him bland questions.”
No support from the FPA
Loewenstein’s
failure to follow the standard FPA rules of politesse when addressing an
Israeli politician triggered a campaign against him by Honest Reporting. The
group is one of several US-based media lobby organizations whose job is to
intimidate foreign media organizations on behalf of the Israeli government. In
this way, they have been successful in limiting critical coverage of Israel
even further. Staff reporters tend to self-censor, while freelance journalists
are pressured to leave the region.
In a
transparent maneuver, Honest Reporting sought to paint Loewenstein as
politically extreme for his past support for BDS (boycott, divestment and
sanctions), and as an activist rather than a journalist. That is no easy task.
In addition to the Guardian, he has written for many leading publications in
Europe, Australia and the US, including the New York Times, the Washington
Post, Newsweek, the Nation, Le Monde diplomatique, the Huffington Post, the
Sydney Morning Herald, the Age, and many more.
He has
also written several books covering a diverse range of topics, including his
best-seller My Israel Question, in which he considers his own Jewish identity
and relates it to issues of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. (Full disclosure:
I contributed a chapter to a 2012 volume, After Zionism, he edited with Ahmed
Moor.) He is currently working on a documentary based on his book Disaster
Capitalism.
In other
words, Loewenstein is not only a journalist; he is the gold-standard for
serious independent, critical-thinking journalists. Which, of course, is
precisely the reason Israel would want him gone.
Ignoring
the deep, but entirely acceptable partisanship of the vast majority of
reporters in Jerusalem, Honest Reporting has accused Loewenstein of partiality:
Loewenstein is clearly incapable of reporting on Israel in a fair and
objective manner. Yet Honest Reporting has learned that he happens to be a paid
up associate member of Israel’s Foreign Press Association.”
It is the
traditional and self-defined responsibility of journalists to hold power to
account, yet, sadly, the FPA has failed to come to Loewenstein’s defense. In
response to Honest Reporting, it said it had accepted him as a non-voting
associate member “based on his career as a freelance journalist”. But then
added only: “While we do not endorse his views, we also do not screen our members
for their opinions.”
So no
words of support from the FPA for Loewenstein as he faces being stripped of the
right to report from the region (and not just from Israel, as Honest Reporting
dishonestly claims, but also from the occupied territories, since Israel
controls all access to Palestinian areas). Not a word of condemnation of Israel
from the FPA for crushing press freedom. Just a shrug of the shoulders.
Loewenstein
should not be surprised. The FPA has barely bothered to raise its voice in
solidarity with journalistic colleagues in the region whose rights are being
trampled on a systematic basis. 
Palestinian journalists have been regularly
killed, wounded, beaten up or jailed, earning Israel a ranking of 101 out of
180 countries this year in the Reporters without Borders index. That places it below
Liberia, Bhutan, East Timor and Gabon, and a nudge ahead of Uganda, Kuwait, and
Ukraine.
Meanwhile,
Honest Reporting saw its chance to set a trap for Loewenstein to get him out of
the region. More than a decade ago, Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO)
introduced new rules that tightly controlled coverage in its favor. In a
non-transparent procedure, independent journalists have to persuade the GPO
that they deserve to be issued with a work visa.
In
February, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ executive director, Robert
Mahoney, criticised Israel for this patronage system. “It is
virtually impossible to work as a reporter in Israel and the occupied
territories without a press card,”
he said. “The threat of withdrawing
accreditation is a heavy handed approach at stifling unwelcome coverage.”
The Guardian distances itself
Honest
Reporting has created a phony controversy about how Loewenstein received his
work visa in a bid to discredit him. In fact, Loewenstein should easily meet
the formal requirements for a freelance visa, as he has written far more than
seven articles for major publications in the last year. But Honest Reporting is
seeking to confect a row to justify the GPO refusing to renew his visa in
March.
It did so
by questioning the Guardian about his connection to the paper, hoping that it
could get the paper to dissociate itself from him. Without a shred of evidence,
it suggested that Loewenstein might have lied to the GPO, claiming he was a
Guardian accredited journalist, to get his visa.
How did
the Guardian respond? According to Honest Reporting, its head of international
news, Jamie Wilson, told them that “Loewenstein
was contracted to write comment pieces for Guardian Australia and remains an
occasional comment contributor but he ‘is not a news correspondent for the
Guardian in Israel’. It
was also relayed to us that Loewenstein has now
been told to in future make sure he does not reference The Guardian at press
conferences unless he is working on a direct commission.”
Further,
their Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont emailed the group to deny any
knowledge of Loewenstein. And its former Jerusalem correspondent and now
religious affairs reporter Harriet Sherwood entered the fray on Facebook: “Why
is this guy claiming to be a Guardian writer when all I can find in our archive
is occasional opinion pieces and nothing since August?” For the record,
Loewenstein has written more than 90 articles for the Guardian since 2013.
One might
wonder how it is that neither Beaumont nor Sherwood appear to have heard of
Loewenstein when he has written several books on Israel and Palestine, and
writes for their own paper and other leading publications on a range of issues,
including Israel and Palestine. But then I suspect they may have a rather
narrow range of reference points for their coverage – most of them doubtless
FPA regulars.
But what
is more significant is that none of the relevant actors at the Guardian has
shown an ounce of solidarity with Loewenstein, as the Israeli lobby seeks to
get him kicked out of the country for doing proper journalism. They have also
inadvertently conspired with Honesty Reporting in misrepresenting him.
Despite
Honest Reporting’s accusations, Loewenstein says he stated clearly in his GPO
application that he was a freelance journalist. And it is simply inconceivable
that he could have professed to be a Guardian reporter to the GPO without being
found out. The GPO knows precisely who represents all the big media outlets in
Jerusalem.
Further,
according to a source at the FPA event, Loewenstein was clear about his status
when he addressed Lapid. He said he was freelance journalist who had
contributed to various publications including the Guardian.
Predictably,
Honest Reporting’s managing editor, Simon Plosker, was delighted by the
Guardian’s response: “The Guardian’s distancing itself from Loewenstein is a
welcome development.”
So far
the Guardian appears to have issued no criticism of Honest Reporting for its
deceptions in this matter, or retracted its own misguided comments.
The Guardian — far from the fearless watchdog

Loewenstein
may have hoped that the Guardian would stand by him. But my own early
experiences in Israel with the paper suggest this is part of a pattern of
cowardly behavior when it is under attack from Israeli officials or the Israel
lobby.
I had an
established relationship with the Guardian when I arrived in Israel as a
freelancer early in the second intifada, in September 2001. I had previously worked
on staff in its foreign department in London for several years. I used those
contacts to begin pitching stories, and a few of the less controversial ones
were commissioned by the paper.
It is
standard journalistic practice when writing articles to give parties that come
in for criticism a chance to respond. Therefore, in a piece on the Israeli
army, I called the army spokesperson’s office for a comment. As is also
standard practice, I introduced myself and cited where the piece would be
published.
Less than
an hour after the conversation, I was surprised to receive a furious phone call
from the Guardian foreign desk in London. The Israeli army spokesperson had
called the paper’s then-correspondent, Suzanne Goldenberg, to ask who I was and
why I was writing for the paper. Goldenberg called the desk and threw a tantrum
about my referring to the Guardian.
Then I
had the most bizarre exchange in my journalistic career – and I have had a few.
The foreign desk banned me from mentioning the Guardian in calls to any Israeli
officials.
“But if I
am commissioned by the Guardian to write a piece, like this one, and an
official asks me who I am writing for, what am I supposed to say?” I asked
incredulous.
I was
told: “We don’t care – just don’t mention the Guardian. Things are difficult
for us and Suzanne right now, and we don’t need you making more trouble for
us.”
It was a
revealing moment. Far from the fearless watchdog of popular imagination, the
Guardian showed its true colors. It was petrified of actually doing its
self-professed job of monitoring the centers of power. And the Guardian is one
of the most critical publications on Israel. Imagine how much more feeble the
rest are, if Guardian staff are so fearful of incurring the wrath of Israeli
officials.
Time for the Guardian to step up

The
Guardian now needs to make amends to Loewenstein, rather than allowing itself
to be implicated in Israel’s ugly McCarthyism. It could stand in journalistic
solidarity with him. It would not take much, just a simple act of journalistic
courage and refusal to allow Israel to control who gets to report on the
region.
The
Guardian could do it by giving Loewenstein official accreditation. That would
remove the GPO’s pretext for expelling him. It would not mean he was the
paper’s Jerusalem correspondent. It would simply be a declaration by the paper
that it believes in a free press and does not wants to see him silenced. Or is
that too much to expect from the Guardian? 

 

 

 

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