Misquotes and Lies Guardian Style Part I

This is a guest post by a CiF Watch reader who prefers to remain anonymous and has performed a stunning forensic analysis of evidence adduced by McGreal

Below is a copy of the second page of minutes from an ISSA meeting produced by Chris McGreal in his “memos and minutes that confirm Israel’s nuclear stockpile“.

This piece of “proof” adduced by Chris McGreal serves as the lynchpin to McGreal’s claims. Here are some observations:

1. This is the second page of a multi-page document. No inferences can be drawn from it without seeing the whole document, and particularly the first page. At the moment one cannot even see the date even though McGreal disclosed the date of an earlier meeting (June 30, 1975) in other minutes produced in his “memos and minutes that confirm Israel’s nuclear stockpile”. Is the entire document available?

2. It is plainly draft minutes, on which substantial corrections have been made. This is very common in the civil service of all countries. The original note was obviously not very accurate. It is full of mistakes and what originally appears there is plainly not an accurate account of what was said, and the same or another official has later tried to correct it.

3. Is the finalised version available, and if not, why not? Has Sasha Polakow-Suransky tried to obtain it?

4. A point to remember is that the note-taker might not have had English as his first language, and might well have been Afrikaans speaking, which meant that the note itself might be wrongly expressed, and, more importantly, he or she might not have understood Minister Peres with his thick accent, and the fact that English is not his first language. The negotiations were probably conducted in English as the common language between Hebrew and Afrikaans speakers.

5. Paragraph 10 of the version actually quoted by McGreal is a figment of someone’s imagination.

This is the original typed version of Paragraph 10 before the handwritten corrections:

10 “Minister Botha expressed interest in a limited number of unit of Chalet provide [sic] the correct payload could be provided, Minister Peres said that the correct payload was available in three sizes. Minister Botha expressed his appreciation and said that he would ask for advice.”

This has been later corrected by hand by the same or another official to the following, which is presumably a more accurate rendition of what was actually said:

10 “Minister Botha expressed interest in a limited number of units of Chalet subject to the correct payload.”

The rest of the original paragraph 10 has been deleted. The other paragraphs on the page have also been extensively amended by the official who corrected the draft.

Here’s a snapshot of what McGreal actually wrote in relation to Paragraph 10 in his “expose“:

Now here’s the interesting part. Upon analysis of McGreal’s quotation of Paragraph 10 , he accepted the official “corrections” in some instances, rejected others and added in some of his own contributions. This is an unusual and very odd way of reporting. Here is what McGreal wrote this time with my comments in bold:

“The top secret minutes of the meeting record that: [note that what follows purports to be a quote from Paragraph 10] “Minister Botha expressed interest in a limited number of units of Chalet subject to [McGreal has accepted the official corrected insertion of the words “subject to”, and also the official deletion of the word “provide”] the correct payload being available [McGreal has accepted the official deletion of the words “could be provided” and inserted the invented words “being available”].” The document then records: “Minister Peres said the correct payload was available in three sizes. Minister Botha expressed his appreciation and said that he would ask for advice.” [McGreal has rejected the official deletion of all these words, and included them anyway in his corrected version.] The “three sizes” are believed to refer to the conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons.”

The person who “believes” this last sentence is not identified, nor are his qualifications to draw this inference given, nor is any source provided for the inference. Plainly, McGreal does not have enough confidence in it to say “I believe it” and give his grounds.

Going through it again: The words “provide” and “could be provided” have both been deleted. The latter deletion (which McGreal accepts) is crucial and shows that Botha was expressing interest in acquiring “Chalets” with a certain payload, not asking for the payload itself to be provided. That is why the person who corrected it deleted “provide” and “could be provided”.

The sentence which is left can only have one meaning: Botha expressed interest in acquiring a number of Chalets subject to them being capable of carrying the correct payload.

In order to enable his meaning to be attributed to the passage, McGreal has to insert the words “being available”. Otherwise, the inference doesn’t get off the ground. The actual sentence reads only: “Minister Botha expressed interest in a limited number of units of Chalet subject to the correct payload.” There is no suggestion that the payloads must be “available”, except in the McGreal version, where the words are falsely inserted.

The next key point is that the following sentence, on which this whole theory is based, i.e. what Minister Peres allegedly said, has also been deleted in its entirety. Peres obviously never said these words, and that’s why the official who corrected the draft deleted it. Anyone can check this.

I say “obviously” because (a) the deletion is there in black and white for all to see, and (b) the sentence makes no sense. Here the context is essential and that’s why nothing can be certain until we see the first page. It seems that they weren’t discussing the payload at all; they were discussing the development of, or the purchase of, the missile. That’s what Botha says: he “expressed interest in a limited number of units of Chalet” [here we are dependent on Polakow-Suransky to tell us that “Chalet” means missile, but I assume that’s correct]. The next words show that he probably said something about the missiles being capable of bearing the “correct payload”.

Even if the crucial words of Peres, which have been deleted, responding to that expression of interest, give some indication that Peres said something, it is obvious that the note-taker thought he was talking about the size of the payload which the missile could carry, (i.e. the nature of the missile) rather than the nature of the payload. This can be seen from the reference to the missile being capable of carrying payloads of different sizes.

Even if Peres mentioned three (and that’s been deleted), all he seems to have said is that the missile was capable of carrying different sized payloads.

However, since the words the note-taker had originally used could imply that Peres was talking about the payload being available, the official correcting it has deliberately deleted it, presumably because it is ambiguous and conveys the wrong impression of what happened at the meeting.

Why should Peres have responded to an “expression of interest” in a missile capable of carrying a certain size payload, by talking only about the payload, let alone offering to supply it, still less offering to supply nuclear weapons. You have to be very obtuse and motivated to draw that inference.

An equivalent would be: I express an interest to you in obtaining a limited number of crystal glasses provided they can contain the correct liquids. You respond by saying that three types of liquid are available. McGreal would add: “It’s believed this refers to beer, wine, and spirits being available.”

It’s a complete non-sequitur and makes no sense.

78 replies »

  1. JerusalemMite, Berchmans says he’s on holiday.

    I hope he’s gone to Gaza, to see first hand the starvation there and to shop in the same supermarket as Lauren Booth did her photocall in and to bleat about the wretched conditions as Hamas march him around and show him the sights they want him to see.

    Perhaps he’ll get kidnapped and we can have a collection to pay them to keep him….

  2. Gabor Frankl, Rusbridger is indeed from southern Africa – Zambia, the former British imperial territory of Northern Rhodesia, where his father was a big-shot in a colonial administration built on the conquest, subjugation and exploitation of the indigenous black population. And as you may have noticed – as I keep going on about it – it pisses me off that a man whose very name is tainted by racism and injustice, waxes lyrical with an obsessive arrogant hypocrisy about the iniquities of Israel. His bigotry against the Jewish state is truly visceral, but I imagine that’s how it is when you grow up with an innate sense of entitlement at the expense of your racial and social inferiors.

  3. Gábor Fränkl

    “As I’ve read a couple of articles in the FP website, it’s clear to me that it is rather hostile to Israel per se.”

    Foreign Policy is intrinsically hostile to Israel; Foreign Affairs is not. They are two different publications and different sponsoring organisations.

    Sasha Polakow-Suransky works for Foreign Affairs but has also written for Foreign Policy.

  4. Watching Richard Hutton’s antics would be amusing if they weren’t so lengthy, dubious and fixated.

    This is amply illustrated by part of his reply above:

    “Technically, Israel’s possession of them is also illegal regarding the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; “

    Frankly, Hutton doesn’t give a monkey’s about the NPT, because if he did he would have focused on those nonmembers who have actually conducted nuclear tests in the last few decades, namely India, Pakistan and North Korea.

    But he doesn’t care about that, Hutton’s focus is, as ever on Israel.

    So the issue of membership of the NPT is a complete red herring, as there are various countries who are not members of the NPT with more nuclear activity, than Israel

    PS: Hutton, please spare me your verbose reply.

    I have no interest in engaging in any exchange of views with you.

    I am merely illustrating what a bigot you are, and what your obsessions are.

  5. Toko LeMoko’s inane post from 11:18 am has garnered 12 largely positive ratings.

    That’s what I get for displaying some honesty. Who are all these morons, I wonder? Plus ça change indeed …

    I’ve now read the entire article and still do not see how McGreal’s addition of the words “being available” distorted the essence of the document – even though it was in technical terms a massive faux pas for a journalist.

    If someone can enlighten me, then I really am all ears.

    @ RichardHutton

    @Pretzelberg: I’m not sure which article you’re referring to. McGreal’s original article was …

    Of course I’m referring to that article. And as I said: I think he was reading too much into the document.

    Storm in a teacup.

  6. Joe, maybe he doesn’t, but his success is in part due to his colonial legacy and all the benefits that brought him in material wealth and privileged education. So if he feels bad about it maybe he should project his guilt onto more deserving targets than Jewish sovereignty.

  7. Hutton says

    ‘Documents reveal how then-defence minister Shimon Perez tried to sell South Africa’s apartheid government the bomb”’

    But it doesn’t. The section of the memo that suggests Peres offered a “payload” in “three sizes”, or that “Chalet” was offered with “the correct payload”, is scrawled out. Which fact is totally omitted by McGreal.

    May I suggest that constitutes less than accurate journalism?

    So what if “Burglar” was an ICBM? It doesn’t mean Peres offered to sell the Bomb. In any case, it could have other uses e.g. launching spy satellites.

    And what does it matter if the author is anonymous?

    I think I played a part, since I was the first person on this site to observe the written corrections, and, I think, to write J Hoffman about them.

  8. Also, to iterate, Hutton’s assertion that Israel acquired nuclear weapons illegally is spectacularly ignorant rot.

  9. I think Hawkeye preferred to keep the author anonymous because, inter alia, it was a joint effort.

  10. As someone else has already written on this blog, pretzel, you have a singularly unfortunate turn of phrase.

    And for someone who claims he doesnt give a damn about the star ratings here you are making one hell of a fuss about them.

    Modernity, does Hutton post to CiF? If so, he is among good company, obsession-wise.

  11. Hutton’s lovely company:

    Google search:
    euphemism “correct payload”

    SA-Bianco e Israele – StormfrontThe use of a euphemism, the “correct payload”, reflects Israeli sensitivity over the nuclear issue and would not have been used had it been referring to … – Cached

  12. @ Yohoho

    As someone else has already written on this blog, pretzel, you have a singularly unfortunate turn of phrase.

    Yes it can happen – as my missus repeatedly reminds me. But what exactly are you referring to?

    And for someone who claims he doesnt give a damn about the star ratings here you are making one hell of a fuss about them

    Doesn’t give a damn = very, very rarely award them myself.

    I was merely expressing my bewilderment re. the masses of recommendations for purile posts like Toko’s.

    Counter-example on CiF:

    The poster iamid’s opening comment on the current Rachel Shai thread:

    A preposterous post, I’m sure you’ll agree.

    I challenged said post and was duly accused of “whataboutery”.

    Would you say I was in that case “making one hell of a fuss”??

  13. @ Yohoho

    What I forgot to mention re. that last point: I regularly ask on CiF how various stupid and inane posts critical of Israel can get so many recommendations. Am I in that case “making one hell of a fuss”?

  14. Yohoho,

    I can’t tell you if Hutton posts on CiF, as I rarely read it, but having read his “whataboutry” here and at Deborah Lipstadt’s Blog I have seen enough.

    If you are curious you could read his blog, it is the usual stuff, numerous bits on Israel, etc etc

    I am not curious about him, his meandering style and inability to hide his obvious prejudices are not of interest to me.

    PS: Apparently he does post on CiF, see

  15. Yohoho

    Perhaps [Berchmans]’ll get kidnapped and we can have a collection to pay them to keep him….

    No need. He’d drive them mad – as he would any army. Berch brings peace to the ME by mistake?

    Reminds me of a Norman Mailer short story: The Patron Saint of Macdougal Alley.

  16. I remember playing with my brother in the 50’s when we played war with each other and then later reading various newspapers and history books; for me and, I think, my brother payloads always meant the size of the warheads whether they 20 megatons, 50 kilotons, whatever of explosives.

    However McGreal infers 3 sizes of payloads to mean conventional, chemical and nuclear. Most commentators have focused on the M’s mention of nuclear payloads; but to myself the mention of chemical payloads strikes as most strange and even less a believable inference than nuclear. I do not think that chemical weapons were even a part of the war lexicon of the middle east in 1975. Did they not enter the lexicon of war only with Saddam Hussein’s gassing of the Kurds in Iraq circa 1988.

    blue skies and fair winds

  17. Toko Le Moko
    “Gábor Fränkl, just for you, I’ve located Foreign Affairs’ excellent article (by Walter Russell Mead) debunking Mearsheimer-Walt’s “Israel Lobby””

    Yes, a few of pro out of dozens, if not more, anti…
    Please consider that FP is overwhelmingly hostile, often rabidly and mendaciuosly so. This turns out even from their majority of commenters – hardly, if at all!, any better than the Guardian!

  18. Mea Culpa, my BAD! Of course it’s a misunderstanding. Of course FA is a wholly diff nature than that FP rubbish.

  19. Something separate: Please take up the challange and as some talked about it, continue the campaign against the Guardian’s advertisers! This is of utmost importance! Don’t let the this opportunity to actually do something worthwhile slip into oblivion! Perhaps a permanent feature-column or something on top among the mission statememnt, “about us” etc. could do it!

  20. Larry R

    Did they not enter the lexicon of war only with Saddam Hussein’s gassing of the Kurds in Iraq circa 1988.

    Gamal Nasser of Egypt, used chemical weapons against Muslim militants in Yemen in the 1960s.

  21. modernityblog

    PS: Apparently he does post on CiF, see

    Yes. Rather reminds me of a person called XXX Lindsay who comments on CiF and Harrys Place. He also has a site that he is constantly trying to get people to visit.

    I have seen Hutton’s rather voluminous comments on CiF. Sounds like a person who feels that he must be heard at any price.

    Must irritate him and others the obvious success of CiFWatch which manages to provide entertaining and interesting posts with lively comment. Georgina must have a knicker twist every time she thinks of CW.

  22. ‘However McGreal infers 3 sizes of payloads to mean conventional, chemical and nuclear.’

    I said that, and I may be totally wrong. They could indeed be yields. It’s just that Jericho one could only carry a maximum of 20 kt, being only a ballistic missile of 600 miles range. But Peres could have indicated it could carry tactical nuclear warheads.

    Even so, it’s only an indication of capability.

  23. I was trying to think where I had read something like this recently, then it occurred to me that there was a review of Polakow-Suransky’s book in last week’s Economist.

    So a couple of things become clear:

    1) it ain’t a scoop, merely some cherry picking of a book
    2) that publicity surrounding this topic is related to the book launch
    3) that the “research” in this book will now be subject to deserve scrutiny, which it seems to have missed.
    4) even the Economist questioned Polakow-Suransky polemical style, etc etc

  24. It’s beginning to look as if the only thing nuked has been the Guardian’s already-shredded reputation.