Guardian

Never Mind the Facts… Lie Back and Think of Brittain


This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

“Contaminated water is poisoning babies in Gaza” – so reads the strapline to the disgraceful article by Victoria Brittain today. Anyone who knows anything about medieval Jew hatred will shudder at the similarity to the Jews poison the well” trope.

Says Brittain: In Gaza “there is now no uncontaminated water; of the 40,000 or so newborn babies, at least half are at immediate risk of nitrate poisoning….Incidence of “blue baby syndrome”, methaemoglobinaemia, is exceptionally high; an unprecedented number of people have been exposed to nitrate poisoning over 10 years; in some places the nitrate content in water is 300 times World Health Organisation standards.”

I first heard the methaemoglobinaemia allegation from Omar Barghouti at the BRICUP meeting in London last Friday. Neither Barghouti nor Brittain cited any medical evidence in support of their claim. Given the agenda of both these Israel-haters, their credibility is at rock bottom …. except among the true believers of CiF. Brittain for example has blamed Israel for flooding in Gaza, totally unaware that when it rains heavily, the coastal areas of Israel are prone to flooding too.

Much of Brittain’s article is based on the recent Amnesty Report which has been comprehensively gutted here by CAMERA and here by me (and elsewhere too, no doubt CiFWatch readers will offer more links).

Indeed CAMERA has written no fewer than six pieces deconstructing the mostly fictional Amnesty Report!

Here is the comment on the Brittain thread by the estimable Petra Marquardt-Bigman:

Almost exactly a year ago, Ms. Brittain wrote an article complaining that the horrendous atrocities in Congo got some attention from British officials, instead of them focusing on Gaza (From Goma to Gaza, was the title). A year later, she complains that instead of all the fuss about global warming, the international community should focus on Gaza… Looks like a pattern to me.

But anyway, who will save Gaza’s children? How about Gaza’s rulers, who had no problem equipping an army that they boast has some 15 000 fighters, who had no problem building up an elaborate network of bunkers and tunnels for military purposes, who had no problem organizing the building of tunnels for smuggling, who had no problem setting up and running a TV station to “educate” their population in the way Hamas wants them to see things — ah, and btw, yesterday there was a new type of rocket launched from Gaza into Israel, and recently, Hamas reportedly tested a rocket that could reach Tel Aviv. So all in all, it seems that they don’t have a problem to get the things they care about done. Apparently, Ms. Brittain recently visited Gaza, given the colorful description she is giving here, maybe she should go back and ask the Hamas leaders why they don’t do anything about the sewage and water problem in order to “save Gaza’s children”.

Indeed. And Victoria Brittain has a track record of putting the facts in second place behind her personal agenda.

It has been said of her that “Victoria Brittain has never met a terrorist, jihadist, or enemy of a liberal and multicultural society that she doesn’t admire….”

Sounds ideal for a Guardian CiF author ….

77 replies »

  1. ExiledLondoner: I am sure that you would claim that you are not in any way prejudiced.. This was a very graphic illustration of how determined you are to interpret everything in the worst possible light. I had only considered you to be eager for a fight but otherwise fairly tepid. I am beginning to reconsider my conclusion.

    Listed under Grave breaches is giving the enemy a two-hour advance warning is it?

    You should please tell this to Col Richard Kemp who considers Israel’s behaviour with regard to civilians in warfare to be exemplary..

  2. MindtheCrap, somehow the good they may do elsewhere in the world is greatly undermined by the harm they do in the Middle East.

    They are shoring up the “either/or” thinking around the I/P problem by emphasising Israel’s shortcomings (and thereby implicitly supporting or excusing Palestinian extremism) and by not recognising Israel’s own contributions to the betterment of the welfare of Palestinians, as well as emphasising the Palestinian victim status.

  3. Margie,

    “I am sure that you would claim that you are not in any way prejudiced..”

    That’s for others to judge – the only prejudicial thing I can see, is the willingness of people to trash the reputation of Amnesty, in order to defend Israel. I would be more impressed if they tried to answer Amnesty’s charges – if Amnesty are 50% right, then Israel has a lot to answer for.

    You seem to think that by challenging a few points, or by challenging Amnesty’s credibility, the weight of evidence will disappear – it won’t.

    “This was a very graphic illustration of how determined you are to interpret everything in the worst possible light. I had only considered you to be eager for a fight but otherwise fairly tepid. I am beginning to reconsider my conclusion.”

    You reconsider as you like – I’m not here to gain admirers.

    Anyone who looks at my posting record on CIF will know that I’m not part of the “Israel is always wrong” brigade – still less a Hamas supporter – but when Israel is in the wrong, I see no reason to beat around the bush. Here in the lion’s den, I spend much of my time refuting ridiculous claims about the almost saintly behaviour of Israel – that’s the nature of the forum. I guess that on hamas.com (if it exists?), I would find myself doing exactly the opposite….

    “Listed under Grave breaches is giving the enemy a two-hour advance warning is it?”

    It is if you jettison the provisions of the GCs after that two hours, yes. You are bound by exactly the same rules at the end of the two hours, as you were before you issued the warning.

    “You should please tell this to Col Richard Kemp who considers Israel’s behaviour with regard to civilians in warfare to be exemplary..”

    Ah, the often quoted Col Kemp! Funny you place so much store by one man’s opinion, and so little by the opinions of so many inquiries?

  4. EL The point is that the provisions are not ”jettisoned after two hours”which was a rather revealing assumption you made (on no evidence) which is why I came to the conclusion about your attitude.

    And why do I accept Col Kemp’s evidence over yours? or Amnesty’s? because he is a respected soldier and leader of vast experience who doesn’t make the kind of assumption you have just been caught making.

  5. MITNAGED,

    “They are shoring up the “either/or” thinking around the I/P problem by emphasising Israel’s shortcomings (and thereby implicitly supporting or excusing Palestinian extremism) and by not recognising Israel’s own contributions to the betterment of the welfare of Palestinians, as well as emphasising the Palestinian victim status.”

    Yes, evidence of war crimes does tend to emphasise shortcomings, ignore contributions to the betterment of people, and emphasise the victim’s victim status.

    That’s why it’s better not to commit them.

  6. To Exiled in London: You are obviously a well intentioned chap and you have been restrained in your criticisms. So I respect your views and will respond in an equally dispassionate way. Amnesty International never gives Israel credit for anything. Amnesty International always assumes the worst motives on the part of Israelis. Let’s look at some recent examples. In 2002, the IDF had no choice but to go back into Jenin and root out the dens of terrorism that carried out dozens of mass murders. The Israelis could have gone back into Jenin the way that was done in Iraq in 2003 or in the earlier Desert Storm. I refer to the shock and awe and massive air strikes. I find nothing wrong with those techniques (Lord knows Sadaam Hussein provoked them) but the Israelis went into Jenin with kid gloves instead. And that resulted in about 20 Israeli soldiers losing their lives. Yet Amnesty International would not give Israel credit for anything. There was nothing but accusations of genocide and war crimes, the type of accusations that Richard Goldstone hurls at Israel on a daily basis. After Jenin, Bianca Jagger, an Amnesty International favorite, was all over CNN and the BBC accusing Israel of war crimes and genocide. If her name was not Jagger (which she keeps decades after Mick wisely discarded her to the trash heap), no one would pay her attention. But she is a crowd pleaser for Amnesty International.
    And by the way, when was the last time anyone from Amnesty International wrote a letter to the editor or an oped criticizing Hezbollah for its grave human rights violations or its involvement in the murder of Fuad Hariri?

  7. exiled I am not going to get into a pissing contest with you.

    Just some questions: Why do you think Hamas seems to think it perfectly OK to brainwash its children into wanting to die by exploding themselves among Jews? Why doesn’t it rescind its hate-filled charter?

    Why don’t organisations like Amnesty (which isn’t a charity) and the Red Cross, War on Want, and other charities make clear alongside their one-sided condemnation of Israel that this is going on, as well as the deliberate endangerment of children by using them as human shields?

    And what matters the weight of evidence as you call it, if it’s collated and presented by people and organisations with an admitted bias?

    And how’s this for comedy – you have missed your calling exiled:

    “…Anyone who looks at my posting record on CIF will know that I’m not part of the “Israel is always wrong” brigade –….”

    No! Really? Do tell us how Israel is right then – go on, be a sport why don’t you? I ask this because I am confused given your reply to me at 12.06 which mentions “war crimes” by Israel (always the last resort of those mindlessly anti-Israel) but not the gross human rights abuses of their own people by various Palestinian governments.

    I am glad that you aren’t here to get admirers. I do hate to be a bystander when people get so publicly disappointed.

  8. IsraeliNurse,

    Thank you for a very interesting article, which I’ve both read and saved.

    I’m rather torn between it’s undoubted scholarly nature (more related to Jewish and moral law than the actual laws of warfare), and the clearly one-sided conclusions – which either provide justification for Israel at every stage of the process, or claim effectively that it’s too early to draw conclusions.

    The final line rather gives away the purpose of the exercise…

    “I am deeply impressed with the courage displayed by each and every one of the soldiers who participated in Operation Cast Lead and their commanders. They acted and suffered “for a noble end,” and endangered their lives “in war to save the community.” I would like most of all to commemorate the four officers and six soldiers who died in combat, along with the three civilian casualties, and to pay my respects to their families. At the same time, I am deeply grieved on behalf of each and every one of the harmless Palestinians who were not involved in terrorism, but nonetheless died during the operation due to the malicious designs of Hamas.”

    That a writer who has urged caution on those considering the numerous accusations of war crimes (on the basis of lack of investigation) should then state categorically that “each and every one of the soldiers” … “acted and suffered “for a noble end,” and endangered their lives “in war to save the community”, would seem to be sophistry at an extraordinary level.

    I wish I had the time to write a response line by line – the mingling of high principles with unswerving tribal loyalty would make it an interesting exercise.

    In terms of the concepts raised, and the questions asked, it’s a fascinating article – it would be very interesting as an examination of general principles – but in terms of his approach to answering those questions in relation to Cast Lead, Mr Kasher has abandoned any pretence at detatchment, and written a partisan propaganda piece, that neither questions Israel’s actions, or accepts that the evidence of war crimes undermines the theoretical claims of a just war.

    I think that it’s fair to say that if Mr Kasher were an Islamic militant, he could write a very similar piece about Hamas’s actions – if one starts from the assumption that the subject is morally upstanding at all times, then every action can be explained.

    Interesting though it is, the article is in effect little more than the usual “Israel is innocent of all charges” claims, written by those with rather less grasp of the principles involved – if anything, Mr Kasher’s obvious intellect makes his blind faith in Israel’s good intentions even more unacceptable. This is not the work of a dispassionate academic, but of a fully subscribed adherent to the faith.

    In the end, I’m left with the same feeling I get when I see a criminal’s mother pleading that her son would never do such a thing, despite all the evidence to the contrary – is she incapable of grasping what her son has done, or is she willfully refusing to accept the evidence?

    My first reaction would be that the Emeritus Professor of Professional Ethics and Philosophy of Practice at Tel Aviv University, should be capable of taking on board the simple principle that people – even people you trust – can do bad things. Then I read the last line of his CV – co-author of the first IDF code of ethics – and thought that here was one man with a rather large stake in avoiding any recognition of what happened in Gaza.

  9. Harve Smithfield,

    Oh, you want to talk about Jenin now?

    And I thought that you might want to defend your original statement….

    “Amnesty International is a fervently antiIsrael organization. That is not denied at Amnesty International. Amnesty Internation readily admits that it gives far more attention to alleged Israeli human rights violations than to glaring human rights violations in the Arab and Muslim world.”

    …which I’ve openly suggested is complete and utter tosh.

  10. Israelinurse
    “Exiled – please take the time to read the article below – preferably with an open mind.

    It’s quite long, but maybe it will help you understand the point of view of those of us who actually live in a war zone instead of just writing about it on the internet.”

    He can’t. And not just because he’s not there. How can we expect people who have neither the history nor the culture nor the family connections to even begin to understand where we are coming from?

    It won’t matter what we say or write, what we do or express, those who don’t share our history will take what we say and immediately come back with,
    “yes but…”

    It takes real, exceptional human empathy to get inside our heads (and hearts) and with all due respect, I can’t remember reading a post by exiled here or in the other place and thinking, ‘ah yes, he gets it’.

  11. MITNAGED,

    “exiled I am not going to get into a pissing contest with you.”

    Shame. Seven and a half feet, vertical, if you change your mind.

    “Just some questions: Why do you think Hamas seems to think it perfectly OK to brainwash its children into wanting to die by exploding themselves among Jews? Why doesn’t it rescind its hate-filled charter?”

    Because they’re a bunch of murderous fanatical tossers.

    “Why don’t organisations like Amnesty (which isn’t a charity) and the Red Cross, War on Want, and other charities make clear alongside their one-sided condemnation of Israel that this is going on, as well as the deliberate endangerment of children by using them as human shields?”

    Apart from the ICRC, which operates very differently, they do, where they have evidence for such acts – though it is fair to say that most investigations have concluded that Israel’s claims for this are often exagerrated.

    “And what matters the weight of evidence as you call it, if it’s collated and presented by people and organisations with an admitted bias?”

    Less than if it wasn’t – but hardly relevent for Amnesty.

    “And how’s this for comedy – you have missed your calling exiled: Anyone who looks at my posting record on CIF will know that I’m not part of the “Israel is always wrong” brigade –….”

    Glad you find it funny.

    “No! Really? Do tell us how Israel is right then – go on, be a sport why don’t you? I ask this because I am confused given your reply to me at 12.06 which mentions “war crimes” by Israel (always the last resort of those mindlessly anti-Israel) but not the gross human rights abuses of their own people by various Palestinian governments.”

    It’s the last resort of those mindlessly anti any war criminals….

    Why do you need me to tell you about Palestinian war crimes and human rights abuses? Nobody here seems to be disputing them? Are you more comfortable talking about the other side’s behaviour?

    I’ve mentioned Palestinian crimes any number of times on CIF Watch, and I’ve not had a single person challenge me. Any mention of Israeli crimes, and the roof falls in. Strange that?

    “I am glad that you aren’t here to get admirers. I do hate to be a bystander when people get so publicly disappointed.”

    No such worries. Being “about as welcome as a smelly fart in a lift” is part of the deal. Anyway, the smelly fart has a plane to catch, so I guess that will be it for the time being…

  12. You seem to have a lot of time, exiled, to preach at us here. Why not do the same exercise about the “unswerving tribal loyalty” of Islamists who kill their own brethren in front of their families?

    And Israel has made mistakes, but don’t you see that the more she is excoriated without proof (ie judged guilty so that she cannot prove her innocence) the less inclined will her government be to open itself to scrutiny from what it perceives (and I think correctly) to be a hostile and biased world?

    Now, I would like a full enquiry into the funding of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, et al, by the EU and other governmental bodies via their aid to Palestinians who rarely seem to receive it, for we are always hearing about their abject poverty.

    It’d be a great boost for the view of yourself you seem to want to convey here – ie that you are open-minded if you could call for that too in the same breath as you call for investigation into Israel’s alleged war crimes.

    Israel is innocent of all crimes until she is proven guilty by an unbiased court. After all the same tests applied to her Islamist neighbours should be applicable to her, and they aren’t about to submit themselves to international investigation any time soon, are they?

    Incidentally, what do you think of the metal wall that Egypt is constructing in Gaza, see

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/10/egypt-underground-wall-gaza

  13. Exiled – So, the bottom line is that you are absolutely determined to remain entrenched in your opinions and anything that might point you towards a contrary view is ‘tribal’ and self-preserving ‘propaganda’. How sad.

    Seems you were correct Cityca…I owe you a pint for your realism.

  14. To Exiled, I believe that my comment about Amnesty International was accurate and true although I will concede that I may have used some rhetorical flourishes. The main problem with Amnesty International is its almost singleminded focus on Israel. The problems and human rights violations in Iran, Syria and under the Hezbollah controlled Lebanon dwarf anything Israelis could ever dream up. But Amnesty International always focuses on Israel first and everyone else last. There is a vast gulf between making someone wait at a checkpoint for 20 minutes and dragging someone off to a prison where he is never seen or heard from again. But Amnesty International always focuses on the first and not the second. Now I have given you factual evidence to go along with my conclusions and if you feel that I have not convinced you, then I will be glad to try again. Hope springs eternal.

  15. yeah righto, Leni

    AI do report on Lebanon, but how often?

    There are some 21 members of the Arab league and I am willing to wager (I haven’t checked) that the sum total of all critical reports against them is overall fairly small.

    I’ll even speculate that the total critical reports of Arab League countries is less than or equal to one country in the Middle East, Israel.

    Not because Israel is 21 times worse than those countries but because of AI’s unhealthy attitude.

  16. Leni your citation of Amnesty’s Lebanon report has a section that reads as follows:

    Aftermath of the 2006 war
    One person was killed and seven others working with clearance teams were injured, as well as 22 civilians, by unexploded cluster bombs fired by Israeli armed forces during the 2006 war. The Israeli authorities continued to refuse to provide the data to assist clearance of unexploded munitions and were still occupying the border village of Ghajar at the end of the year.
    On 16 July, the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbullah from northern Israel in July 2006 were handed to Israel in exchange for five Lebanese prisoners, four of them Hizbullah members, and the human remains of almost 200 Arab nationals.

    I am the first to condemn the way that cluster bombs ere used in the Lebanon campaign – a war that should never have happened. It is the way that Amnesty has chosen to present ”just the facts” that leaves out the true inhumanity of the method by which the parents and friends of the two soldiers were deliberately tortured for two years – over two dead bodies. Amnesty continues to see Israel as a country of faceless, automatons soldiers without human identities and certainly without human feelings. In an earlier report I quoted in this thread an Amnesty report gave names ages and medical history of four Gazans and pityingly, names and ages of dead children.

    Not one Israeli has a name for Amnesty. Not one child has an identity or an age if he is Israeli.

    Even Gilad Shalit is not named.

    To Amnesty we are not people. How can we see them as fair? Knowing that, how can you expect them to be fair in their dealings with us?

  17. ModernityBlog: There are some 21 members of the Arab league and I am willing to wager (I haven’t checked) that the sum total of all critical reports against them is overall fairly small.

    I’ll even speculate that the total critical reports of Arab League countries is less than or equal to one country in the Middle East, Israel.

    Not because Israel is 21 times worse than those countries but because of AI’s unhealthy attitude.i

    Try to call up reports on Israel before 2009 at http://www.amnesty.org – no results. Results are there for Jordan and Ireland but not for Israel. Interesting, isn’t it?

  18. ‘and were still occupying the border village of Ghajar at the end of the year.’
    Just that line shows that there are two possibilities.
    Either AI is institutionally biased against Israel or they glean their information from sources hostile to Israel and do not bother to check it. Or maybe both.
    When Israel pulled out of Lebanon in 2000 it was done with the close co-operation of the UN, the latter giving their signed and sealed agreement that, according to their maps, Israel had withdrawn from every last centimetre of Lebanese territory. The unfortunate residents of the Alawi village Rajar (or Ghajar as AI spell it) had their village cut in half as a result of that, as it straddles the official international border, and have suffered greatly as a result. The residents of that village were keen for it to remain Israeli, but in order to ensure that Israel complied with UN maps, their request was denied.
    However, along with the Shabba Farms area (which according to the UN belongs to Syria), Rajar is one of Hizbollah’s pet subjects. They have repeatedly made claims that Israel still occupies Lebanese territory, citing these two places as proof, even though the UN says differently. This is one of their many excuses for continuing the ‘resistance’ against Israel.
    This line from the AI report could have been lifted from the Hizbollah press releases or one of Nasrallah’s speeches. Why didn’t AI check the legal status of Rajar with the UN before committing that statement to paper?

    And of course a few words about the blatant disregard of UN resolution 1701 would have been nice too, because that’s an HR disaster in the making if ever I saw one.

  19. exiled, I believe that we have established that AI being an anti-Israel/antisemitic organisation is not complete and utter tosh. Granted that might not satisfy you, but you are hardly the sole arbiter, are you?

    Israelinurse, AI are slip-sliding along the same path as so many organisations, charities and otherwise (and AI is not a charity), which emote about the I/P issue rather than think, thereby generating more heat than light about the conflict. Perhaps the complexity of the situation is too great for them to unravel so they choose the soft option, thereby misrepresenting, or allowing to be misrepresented, the full facts. We should not forget either that the Islamist propaganda machine makes full use of this total lack of curiosity about the full facts.

    If that is the case it seems to me to matter little whether there is or is not institutional bias against Israel in AI. That they are so ready to believe the negative information generated about Israel without checking it out indicates that they have made up their minds and don’t want to be confused by facts. This, I think, answers your question about why AI did not check the legal status of Rajar with the UN beforehand. What they would have found out would have spoiled their story.

  20. Mitnaged – quite, but one would expect them (and others) to have learned their lesson after the Jenin ‘massacre’ debacle. Obviously, learning from previous mistakes is not their strong point…

  21. “Anyone who knows anything about medieval Jew hatred will shudder at the similarity to the “Jews poison the well” trope.”

    Nonsense. If Israel were wrongly and maliciously accused of deliberately poisoning Palestinians, then of course there would be a similarity. Obviously Israel has done no such thing, nor is she making such an accusation.

    But this is something different altogeher.
    You may as well launch the blood libel accusation at those who say IDF action in Gaza 12 months ago was excessive.

    MITNAGED

    “exiled, I believe that we have established that AI being an anti-Israel/antisemitic organisation is not complete and utter tosh.”

    Oh come off it. Have “we”?

    AI anti-Semitic? Proof please – or is it a case of Israel critics being guilty until proven innocent?

  22. Pretzelberg I believe that a case has been made for the fact that Amnesty International treats Israel differently from other countries. Read in particular IsraeliNurse’s comments on what is not included in the Lebanon report and my remarks about depersonalisation of Israelis. I find it highly suspicious that reports about Israel prior to 2009 have completely vanished from the AI webpage though others still remain.

    Perhaps you can find a reason other than antisemitism for this treatment – Israel is certainly no worse (whataboutery) than most other ME country and in many ways it is a great deal better.

    Here is a very perceptive and fitting quotation:

    Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction — out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East — is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest” Thomas Friedman