What kind of democratic state threatens to expel a journalist for asking the ‘wrong’ question of a politician? The Jewish Democratic State of Israel

What kind of democratic state threatens to expel a journalist for asking the ‘wrong’ question of a politician? The Jewish Democratic State of Israel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

As Israel Threatens to
Withdraw Antony Loewenstein’s Press Credentials why does the Guardian abandon him to the
wolves?

Can you
imagine it?  Theresa May is asked an
awkward question about her £1,000 leather trousers or about what  ‘Brexit means Brexit’ actually means.  Or maybe Boris Johnson is asked to give the
name of a foreign leader who he hasn’t offended or insulted?  You get the message.
Antony Loewenstein – Journalist Threatened by Israel with Expulsion for Asking Zionist Politician Lapid an Awkward Question!

 

Yair Lapid says Jews can live nowhere else but Israel – Lapid has previously gone on record as saying it would ‘bother him greatly’ if his son married Rona not Rina.
The next
day the Prime Minister’s press spokesman announces that serious consideration
is being given to withdrawing the journalist’s press credentials, meaning that will therefore have to leave the country.  This is what happened to BBC correspondents
in the democratic state of Zimbabwe, when they started asking awkward questions about Robert Mugabe.  Of course Israel is not Zimbabwe and therefore the BBC will not cover this story.
Even in the UK or Western Europe,
i.e. in most bourgeois democratic countries, journalists don’t get threatened
with expulsion for asking awkward questions.
However Israel is a bogus democracy.
Sure it has the trappings of a democracy but pierce beneath the surface
and it is a police state in all but name.  Torture, censorship, violent state racism, inbuilt discrimination.  It has the lot.
Lapid is seen here at a press conference with Israeli officers attacking the Israeli human rights organisation Breaking the Silence for publishing the testimony of Israeli soldiers that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza
Yair
Lapid, a former Israeli TV journalist, is the leader of the ‘centrist’ Yesh
Atid party in Israel’s Knesset.  He was
in the coalition government with Netanyahu until 2015 and politically he is on
the far-Right.  The fact that he is
called a centrist demonstrates the nature of Israeli politics.  Earlier this year when the soldiers’
group, Breaking the Silence, published testimony from soldiers who had served
in Operation Protective Edge about the war crimes that had been committed, it
was Lapid who went
out of his way
to take part in demonising BTS.
In The Times of Israel Lapid said he would be ‘bothered’ if his son married a non-Jew.  Speaking on Galei Israel radio, Lapid said, “It bothers me, I admit. I
say that if tomorrow my son came to me and said, ‘Dad, I want you to
meet Rona, not Rina, and she’s Russian Orthodox or Catholic and we’re
getting married and the kids won’t be Jewish’ — would that bother me? It
would bother me greatly.’
 
This is not a matter of religious preference but out and out racism, because in Israel being Jewish is a question of race and national identification and that is the primary objection. 
Loewenstein
asked a very reasonable question about Apartheid and Israel.  Understandably Zionists and Israeli politicians
are sensitive about being compared to the Apartheid regime.  Having had the best of relations with the
Apartheid regime when it was in existence, including supplying it with weapons,
including nuclear technology, Israel doesn’t like
being compared to Apartheid.  It is understandable.
The fact
that Israel rules over 3-4 million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories
without according them any civil or political rights, including the vote, and
that it has done so for nearly 50 years is not apartheid according to Zionist apologists.  The fact that a Palestinian state is out of
the question, because ‘there is no partner for peace’ doesn’t mean that the Palestinians can be allowed to destroy the ‘Jewish’ state through being granted the right to vote, thus making a fetish of
democracy.
Israel
within the 1948 borders is an ethnocracy, a Jewish state, despite 20%
of the population being non-Jewish.  In practice that means that Israel within the
1967 borders is also an apartheid state.
But these are questions reasonable people can debate and discuss.
The real question however is, what kind of state is it that expels a journalist for
asking the ‘wrong’ kind of question?
Tony
Greenstein
 
Antony Loewenstein
The
Jerusalem Post reports
that the Israeli government
is thinking of ending Antony Loewenstein’s
press credentials, forcing him to leave Jerusalem, because he asked a tough
question of a government official.
Loewenstein,
the Jerusalem-based author most recently of the book Disaster Capitalism, has gotten
wide support from journalists in the hours since the story broke, including Max
Blumenthal
and Mairav Zonszein and
others on Loewenstein’s
twitter feed
.
Here’s
the story.
On
December 12, Loewenstein attended an appearance of Yair Lapid, the leader
of the Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party and a former finance minister, at
the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel.
Loewenstein
asked
him: 
You
talked before about the idea that since Oslo, Israel has done little or nothing
wrong but the truth is that 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the occupation,
there are now 600,00 to 800,000 settlers, all of whom are regarded by international
law as illegal. 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 those things to millions of
Palestinians and will there not come a time soon where you and other
politicians will be treated like South African politicians during Apartheid?
 
Lapid
gave an answer, video of which he posted on his
Facebook
page.
“We live in a post-truth postfacts era… You just
gave us a perfect example. These are presumptions, not facts. It’s a declared
policy of Israel that we need to go to a two-state solution and the ones who
refused it were the Palestinians. The ones who call Jews pigs and monkeys in
their school books are the Palestinians. And the problem is that the
Palestinians are encouraged by the Guardian and others saying we don’t need to
do anything in order to work for our future because the international community
will call Israel an apartheid country. Israel is not an apartheid country,
Israel is a law-abiding democracy. Unlike by the way the Palestinians, Israel
is make sure that human rights are protected in this area. Why don’t you go to
the Palestinian Authority or to Gaza and ask them about women rights and gay
rights and Christian rights and why is it that you can’t be safe there if you
don’t follow the Islamic sharia?
Loewenstein posted
an account on his site
, “Senior
politician doesn’t like question about occupation, spits dummy.”

Loewenstein commented: 
It was a
depressing and dishonest answer. Furthermore, with a few notable exceptions,
the vast majority of journalists in attendance were deferential to Lapid and
asked him bland questions. Lapid is a man who proudly
talks
about building a wall around all Palestinians. Like in so many
countries, most reporters rarely challenge establishment power; they’re afraid
of losing access…
I’ve been
writing about Israel and Palestine since 2003, and visiting since 2005 (I now
live in Jerusalem), and all that’s worsened is the extremism and vitriol of
Israel supporters.
That day
the Jerusalem Post then covered
the question and answer
. “Lapid: ‘Guardian’ delays Mideast conflict
solution.”
Then a pro-Israel
site began
publicizing the fact that Loewenstein has supported Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, or BDS, and spoke in favor of it at a
rally in Sydney in 2014: “BDS is growing and I’m proud to be part of a
global movement that’s led by the Palestinians most directly affected.”
Today the
Jerusalem
Post has followed up with a story
saying that the Israeli government is
considering not renewing Loewenstein’s press card, so that he would have to
leave the country in the spring.
A
journalist who has allegedly engaged in activity supportive of the Boycott,
Divestment, Sanctions movement may not be able to remain in Israel, the
Government Press Office told The Jerusalem Post exclusively on Sunday.
GPO
director Nitzan Chen said he was leaning against renewing the press card of
Antony Loewenstein, a Jerusalem- based freelance reporter who writes for The
Guardian
and other publications. If the card is not renewed when it expires
in March, the Interior Ministry will not allow him to remain in Israel.
“We are
leaning toward recommending that his work permit not be renewed due to
suspected BDS activity,”
Chen said. “We are checking the incident because
unfortunately, the journalist did not give enough information to our staff. We
will learn to check better so there won’t be such incidents in the future.”
 
The Post
did say eight paragraphs down:
Loewenstein
noticeably directed what was seen as a hostile question toward Yesh Atid leader
Yair Lapid at an FPA event last Monday.
In his
post today, titled Free
Speech in the Jewish State
, Loewenstein offers some corrections and
comments:
  • For over a decade, I’ve been
    an independent journalist and best-selling author
    who has written for major media outlets from across the world, including
    the Guardian
    and New
    York Times
    , and I’ve worked and lived as an investigative reporter
    in some of the toughest places in the world including Afghanistan,
    South
    Sudan
    and Honduras. I’m currently based in Jerusalem as an accredited,
    freelance journalist – my freelance credentials were accepted by the
    Israeli Press Office this year as I’m not formally associated with any
    media group – and have published my work this year in many publications
    including Newsweek
    Middle Eas
    t
    , the Guardian,
    The
    Nation
     
    and The
    National
    .
  • Truly free nations respect
    and encourage free speech. They welcome it;
  • Real democracies value
    diversity of opinion.
Loewenstein
is a dear friend, so we can’t even pretend to be objective, but this is
disheartening, and we’ll keep you posted.
Australia’s biggest media union opposes expulsion of Loewenstein

Australia’s biggest media
union supports free speech in Israel

In the
last 24 hours the Media, Entertainment and Arts
Alliance
(MEAA) union, Australia’s leading media union representing the
country’s best journalists, (I’ve been a member since 2003/2004), has sent the following
letter
to the Israeli Ambassador in Australia, the Australian Ambassador in
Israel, Dave Sharma, and the Israeli Government Press Office:
His
Excellency Shmuel Ben‐Shmuel
Embassy of Israel in Australia
6 Turrana Street
Yarralumla ACT 2600
Email:
info@canberra.mfa.gov.il
20
December 2016
 
Your Excellency
 
Antony Loewenstein is a member of
our union and a well known freelance journalist in Australia.
 
We write to seek your assistance
in ensuring he continues to receive appropriate support and accreditation
to continue his journalism while in Israel.
 
We have been concerned by recent
reports
suggesting the Government Press Office in Israel may be considering
either withdrawing or not renewing his accreditation. As an issue of free
speech, any assistance you could offer would be greatly appreciated.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Paul Murphy
Chief Executive Officer

Israel
threatens to expel reporter who asked apartheid question

Israel jails Palestinian journalists and threatens to revoke permits of
international journalists, including Australia’s Antony Loewenstein, pictured
in 2014, over unfavorable coverage. (Claudio
Accheri
)
 
Israel is
threatening to expel an Australian journalist in Jerusalem, accusing him of
being a supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
The
threat against Antony Loewenstein comes after the freelance journalist asked a
question about Israeli apartheid at a press conference given by former
government minister Yair Lapid, and after a campaign against him by the
anti-Palestinian group HonestReporting.
“We are
leaning toward recommending that his work permit not be renewed due to
suspected BDS activity,
” Nitzan Chen, director of the Government Press Office, told
The Jerusalem Post
. “We are checking the incident because
unfortunately, the journalist did not give enough information to our staff. We
will learn to check better so there won’t be such incidents in the future.”
Speaking
to The Electronic Intifada, Loewenstein, who has won recognition
for his reporting from South Sudan and Afghanistan, dismissed any suggestion he
had misrepresented himself.
“I am an
accredited freelance journalist which is how I presented my work to the Israeli
government in March, which they accepted,”
Loewenstein said. “I’m not here
associated with any organization. I’m here as a freelancer, officially, so
there’s been no misrepresentation by me, ever.”
Loewenstein
has written about the region for more
than a decade
, including the bestselling
book My Israel Question.
 
Growing crackdown
The
effective threat to expel Loewenstein comes a week after the Committee to
Protect Journalists revealed that this year Israel remained among the world’s
worst jailers of reporters – all
of those in its cells are Palestinians
.
And
earlier this month, Israel detained
and expelled
Isabel Phiri, associate general secretary of the World Council
of Churches, claiming she too supports BDS.
Last
week, Israel’s Shin Bet secret police barred entry to two leaders of a British
Muslim humanitarian aid group, citing “security reasons.” The two officials
from Muslim Hands were invited to the country by the Abraham Fund Initiatives,
which the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz describes as “a
nonprofit group that promote coexistence, cooperation and equality between
Jews and Muslims.”
In
August, Israel’s public security and interior ministries set
up a joint task force
to deny entry to or expel foreign activists allegedly
affiliated with organizations that support BDS.
This is
part of a broader crackdown, whose primary targets are Palestinians.
On
Friday, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said
that it has been receiving a “worryingly high number of complaints” about
Israel violating basic rights of Palestinian human rights activists.
It said
that human rights defenders living under Israeli occupation “face daily violations
of some of the most fundamental protections afforded by international human
rights and humanitarian laws.”
 
The UN
said peaceful protest and opposition to the occupation is effectively outlawed.
 
Anatomy of a smear
Loewenstein
became a target after he asked a challenging question at a press conference
last week to Yair
Lapid
, head of the Yesh
Atid
party that was formerly part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s
coalition government.
“You
talked before about the idea that since Oslo, Israel has done little or nothing
wrong, but the truth is that 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the occupation,”
Loewenstein began, according
to The Jerusalem Post
.
Pointing
to the large number of Israeli settlers now in the occupied West Bank,
Loewenstein continued: “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, where you and other politicians will be treated like South African
politicians during apartheid?”
In
response, Lapid attacked The Guardian, claiming that it and other
publications are encouraging Palestinians to be intransigent.
From
there, HonestReporting,
a pro-Israel group whose managing editor once worked in the Israeli army
spokesperson’s unit
, launched a campaign against Loewenstein.
It called
him “an anti-Israel activist” and
implied he had obtained his official Israeli press card and membership in the
Foreign Press Association under false pretenses.
 
“Loewenstein is clearly incapable
of reporting on Israel in a fair and objective manner,”
HonestReporting asserted.
Did Loewenstein
gain his official press card by claiming to be a Guardian writer?
” the group asked, effectively making an
allegation without any basis.
HonestReporting
took its campaign to The Guardian directly, complaining to the newspaper
that
hiring Loewenstein was the
equivalent of hiring a corporate lobbyist to be the newspaper’s business
correspondent.”
This
apparently elicited the desired response: The Guardian threw Loewenstein
under the bus – presumably without speaking to him first.
According
to The Jerusalem Post, The Guardian’s head of international news,
Jamie Wilson, said 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.”
And The
Guardian’s
correspondent in Jerusalem, Peter Beaumont, emailed
HonestReporting that he had never heard of Loewenstein.
The
Guardian’s
distancing itself from Loewenstein is a welcome development,”
HonestReporting’s managing editor Simon Plosker said,
adding that the Foreign Press Association should revoke Loewenstein’s
membership and the Israeli Government Press Office should cancel his
accreditation.
Loewenstein
told The Electronic Intifada that he identifies himself accurately as a
freelancer and author of several
books
, who contributes to many publications, including The
Guardian
, The
New York Times
and Newsweek
Middle East
.
Loewenstein
noted that in the tight-knit world of foreign correspondents in Israel, it
would be impossible to get away with misrepresentation: “It’s a pretty small place.”
But the
smear did its job and now Loewenstein is a target for government expulsion for
asking a challenging question of an Israeli leader.
In
February, the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned
Israel’s intimidation of the international media, including threats to revoke
the credentials of reporters who published headlines it didn’t like.
 
“It is virtually impossible to
work as a reporter in Israel and the occupied territories without a press
card,”
the
group’s executive director Robert Mahoney said. “The threat of withdrawing accreditation is a heavy handed approach at
stifling unwelcome coverage
.”

 

 

 

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