The Questions Jonathan Freedland Must Ask

Jonathan Freedland was sent out on January 25th to man the barricades against the rising tide of criticism over the Guardian’s decision to publish the leaked ‘Palestine papers’.

It has to be said that he did his best; invoking fine principles such as the readers’ right to know and opposition to the suppression of information, as well as disconnecting journalistic obligations from the management of their aftermath.

“Of course publication will have political consequences, even awkward ones. But that cannot be for journalists and editors to decide: their job is to find out what is happening and report it, as best they can. The consequences are for others to manage.”

He even appears to have convinced himself to a certain extent that the Guardian is to be congratulated for playing the catalyst in the recent uprising in Tunisia by publishing the Wikileaks cables, although it may be prudent to wait and see how that pans out before handing out the bouquets. Should the Islamists gain power, the general population may yet prove to be no better off than before.

“The point here is that journalists shouldn’t be expected to weigh all the possible consequences of publication because the most important can – as in the Tunisia case – be unforeseen. Already there are signs of that with the Palestine papers.”

Loyalty, such as that displayed by Mr. Freedland to his paper and to his profession, is in general a fine thing, but only when the recipient of that loyalty has proved itself to be deserving of it. Freedland admits that he does not know the source of the leaked papers and is apparently unconcerned by that fact.

“ I don’t know the identity of the source for the Palestine papers, but I’d be pretty surprised if they didn’t have a purpose for their actions. That is true of every leak through recorded time.”

We must therefore presume that Freedland blindly places his trust in ‘those in the know’ at the Guardian. He must trust them to have ensured that the documents are in fact genuine, because all his fine claims regarding the journalist’s role in helping the public gain access to information only hold water if that information is true. He must trust that that the ‘purpose for their actions’ is a laudable and decent one because otherwise he may well find himself complicit in enabling processes which contradict his principles.

It is therefore crucial that honest brokers such as Jonathan Freedland do not balk at asking some of the more difficult and possibly complex questions surrounding the ‘Palestine papers’ leaks.

Do the Guardian’s claims to have authenticated the papers hold water? How and by whom was that process carried out?

How did the Guardian become involved in the publication of the leaked papers? Did Al Jazeera approach the Guardian, or the other way round?

Were financial transactions involved and if so, did they include Qatari government or Hamas money?

Did the source of the leaks approach Al Jazeera and/or the Guardian, or was the initiative to get hold of the papers born before the source was located?

What is the nature –if any – of connections between the source of the leaks and the British Government and/or the Adam Smith Institute?

What – if any – is the significance of the fact that the Guardian’s Seumas Milne attended a conference organized and hosted by Al Jazeera in Qatar in May 2010? Is there relevance in the fact that Azmi Bishara also attended that conference and that a member of his family who worked at the NSU has been suggested as a possible source of the leaks?

Does the fact that yet another participant in that conference  – Osama Hamdan of the Hamas political bureau – had an article on the subject of the leaked papers published in the Guardian on January 26th indicate more than mere cordial journalistic connections between certain employees of the Guardian and the Hamas leadership?

Does Jonathan Freedland condone the Guardian’s provision of a platform to a man who has expressed specific support for suicide bombings against Israeli civilians and who states his aim as being “to wipe that entity [Israel] off the face of the earth”?

These may not be easy questions to ask, but they are essential ones if Jonathan Freedland wishes to ensure that his integrity is not being exploited and he himself taken for a ride by others less principled than he.

30 replies »

  1. Of all the articles published by the Guardian in its orgasm over the Pallypapers, Freedland’s are by far the most disgusting.

    He is, I think, the very last of the “as-a-Jews” who used to write daily for the Guardian still clinging desperately to the Guardian in the hope of clawing his way into acceptance in gentile society.

  2. AKUS:
    Freedland’s articles’s are so consistently naive (I recall in particular his analysis of one Israeli election as a “secular revolution”, when everyone in Israel was saying the opposite), that I personally find it hard to take anything he says seriously, even when he says things that I agree with.

  3. Freedland tries to distance himself from his paymasters and wipe down some of the shit of his face when he writes:

    For the record, I disagreed with the Guardian editorial that described Palestinian concessions as “craven”: I prefer to admire the readiness of the Palestinians to move, urging Israelis to do the same.

    Jonathan, Jonathan you naughty boy you won’t be invited to Alan’s next party…

  4. The consequences are for others to manage.

    I “love” them folks publicly proclaiming that they have the right to do whatever takes their fancy and consequences be damned

  5. Freedland is no less to blame than Milne. The Guardian has had an anti-Israel and sometimes antisemitic agenda for years.

    If he has done anything to moderate it, let him say so here.

    Plus he shilled for Livingstone at the last London election despite that man’s appalling record on Israel:

    (On Livingstone): “he is an anti-semite in that he subscribes to the dominant kitsch-left (originally Stalinist) account of 20th-century Europe and of the Middle East which demonises Zionists and Israel; denies the right of the Jews in Palestine and then in Israel to defend themselves, to aspire to self-determination (in fact, though it is less “politic” than it used to be to say so, their right to exist as a collective); habitually equates Zionism with Nazism; and condemns Jews, especially Jews who will not share this attitude to Israel, as suspect or downright “racists”. ”

  6. At best he’s an AsAJew. An equally correct term would be House Jew. Someone less polite as me might call him a Capo.

  7. I notice that no one has challenged Greg’s last comment and AKUS’s that Freedland is an ‘AsAJew’ and Greg’s coy inferring that he could be called a Capo. Now whatever you think of Freedland, he is far from being someone who simply uses his Jewish background cynically as a way of legitimising attacking Israel (which is what an AsAJew is supposed to be). He is deeply involved in the Jewish community – amongst other things he is a leading member of a new Masorti synagogue in Hackney and he speaks all the time at Jewish fund-raisers and meetings (such as the Leo Baeck College annual dinner later this year). His book ‘Jacob’s Gift’ is a sensitive and passionate discussion of what it means to be Jewish today.

    You may call him naive, mistaken or whatever else but to call him an AsAJew is simply crude abuse.

    There’s a wider issue here: CiFWatch works hard to point out when the Guardian and its commenters cross the line into antisemitism and crude insults. Even if I don’t always agree with the line you take, this is a reasonable thing to do. But what does it do to the case you are making when your commenters and sometimes your articles too are filled with the same kind of anonymous hate speech that you condemn CiF for? This is particularly the case with the ‘Capo’ comment. This trivialises the holocaust and undermines everything you are trying to do.

    Perhaps CiFWatch would get a more sympathetic hearing with the Guardian if you showed them, in an examplerary fashion, how to create a civil discourse.

  8. @Keith
    Why are you setting up a straw man here?

    A COMMENTER is making a comment. Why do you attribute this to CiF Watch which for the record we would never say about Freedland?

    Note also that Greg made the comment two days after publication, a point at which this thread was dead so it should come as no surprise there is no countervailing view.

    Now when CiF Watch has 30 million unique users a month, is read by the hacks at the BBC and a team of full time moderators is on staff then perhaps we can talk about comparisons between the Guardian and CiF Watch. Until then …

    And please don’t make yourself sound more naive than you already are – do you not think that the Jewish community has tried to tell the Guardian the error of its ways in that oh so softly softly manner that the Jewish community in the UK excels at. Pray tell. Where has it got them?

    You may also remember this excellent report by Jonathan Hoffman. Did anyone at the Guardian take notice?

    In fact, you’ve really got some nerve preaching to us about civil discourse. Wouldn’t your time be better spent writing an article complaining to the Guardian about its coverage over the Palestine Papers and how its laying the groundwork for the death of more Israelis. You need look no further than the letters page for some good examples.

  9. Perhaps, instead of creating smoke screens, Mr. Kahn Harris would care to contemplate the above questions too. After all, as a not infrequent contributor to CiF, they apply as much to him as to Jonathan Freedland.

  10. Ever notice that the Islamophiliac left cannot take the same rhetorical medicine it loves to dish out?

    Keith, do you want cheese with your whine?

  11. Mr Kahn-Harris I agree that Cifwatch is far from perfect but it is honest and passionate about justice. Why is it that so many British Jews turn their critical gaze onto Israel and its defenders, instead of on the huge army of detractors and those who wish to deny its legitimacy? Have you not noticed the war of lies against Israel? Are you not aware of the unfair tactics employed? Why do you wish to find perfection in us before you tackle our enemies?

    By the time you get there we might very well no longer exist.

  12. Keith Harris

    The Guardian is the most anti-Israeli paper in Europe and maybe the only one who gives forum to Hamas and publish stuff openly justifying murderous terrorism against Jews. Part of its anti-Israeliness comes from the anti-semitism of its contributors, bloggers and readers.
    Jonathan Freedland is a leading staff member of the same Guardian and he’s a Jew. (I hardly can hold back my tears hearing about his pious activity in his synagogue).

    Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t consider him a kapo, kapos (with the exception of some natural born sadists) behaved as they did in very extreme circumstances and tried to save their skins losing their morality.

    But what motivates Freedland? Is his life in danger not cooperating with the Guardian? The kapos at least had an excuse…

  13. Harris. If Freedland had any self respect, he would not be writing in The Guardian.

    He should be deeply ashamed to have his words published on such a dishonest and evil platform.

    If you don’t know it, you should be ashamed too.

  14. Greg.

    However distastefully I see the Guardian and Freedland, you might consider apologizing for using the ‘Capo’ word.

  15. Why? “Capo” is an entirely accurate term for those who willingly collaborate with the evil of eliminationist anti-Semitism.

  16. Why? “Capo” is an entirely accurate term for those who willingly collaborate with the evil of eliminationist anti-Semitism.

    Kapos have an excuse. Most of them collaboreted in the persecution of their fellow Jews under extreme pressure.

  17. I would prefer to see Greg’s post deleted.

    We shouldn’t let such personal abuse as “Capo” stand. After all, we mustn’t sink to the Guardian’s standards.

  18. Keith Kahn-Harris – Freedland may talk and write about Jewish issues all over the place and at Jewish functions and synagogues as you say (I only know him through his writings for the Guardian), but I cannot recall a favorable article about israel, even when the topic is actually the apparent duplicity of Israel’s enemies, AKA “a partner for peace”.

    He uses his Jewish background to continually bash Israel, claiming authority to do that “as a Jew”. Does he ever point out the terrible issues, human rights violations, murders, etc. in the context of “being a Jew”?

    I have no time or patience for holier-than-thou Jews who see their mission in life as demonstrating why Israel’s minor infractions – and very often they are not infractions – are so much worse than the horrifying actions that are the meat and potatoes of other countries, not only in the Middle East, but in Europe and elsewhere. And I cannot ascribe any motive to this other than a desire to ingratiate themselves with the gentile community they can never really be part of.

  19. Correction

    Does he ever point out the terrible issues, human rights violations, murders, around the world etc. in the context of “being a Jew”?

  20. Look, I’m not arguing against your right to criticise whatever you want – including Freedland. But don’t you think you might get a more sympathetic hearing with a different tone? This is about effective politics as much as some abstract concern with civility. Emotive and harsh language tends to alienate – you end up preaching to the converted. I don’t for a second think that the fault is all on one side. Some of the language on CiF is foul. There’s a hard core who will not be persuaded whatever anyone says and however they say it. But in most things there is a middle ground that is open to persuasion and careful language may be a better approach to winning them over.

    For the record, I don’t just confine these criticisms to one side. See my article here:

    I’ve also made these points on many occasions to leftist Jewish groups (admittedly mostly in private rather than on comment threads).

  21. Keith Kahn-Harris. You’re lecturing again.

    If you personally had been even-handed or fair I would have remembered you as such. As it is, you always oppose Israel while your writings have a plaintive undertone asking why we see you personally in such a negative light. The link you sent is not even handed about the situation but makes the commenters all seem equally dedicated and what’s more equally valid.

    I will take the opportunity to lecture to you in return. A detached look at the events and situations proves that Israel almost invariably tells the truth. The Palileak papers show this: Israel’s reports of the discussions match exactly with the leaked papers. The Palestinians lie consistently.

    Have an honestly detached look the proofs of at Al Dura, Jenin, Gaza Beach, the number of casualties in Cast Lead, the Mavi Marmara and you will notice that though Israel always apologises, you find afterwards that Israel has been libelled and lied about. For this reason the commenters for both sides are not equal. (To be boring and repetitive) one side is lying and the other is telling the truth.


  22. @Keith, we try to allow readers here to comment freely, so occasionally there will be comments in support of a CW post which contain language we don’t agree with and would never use, but we simply don’t have the time or manpower to refute every comment we think may have crossed the line. I think you’ll find that our critiques of Freedland to be sober and thoughtful and would simply ask that you pay more attention to what our writers are saying rather than the stray comment btl. Thanks.

  23. Adam: I understand. Yes there is a distinction between comments and articles which I acknowledge. There are pros and cons to a free comment policy. Would you rather the Guardian had a free comment policy rather than one which you are arguing is a) imperfectly applied and b) imperfectly formulated? Not being snarky here – genuinely interested in your views.

  24. Keith Kahn-Harris

    But in most things there is a middle ground that is open to persuasion and careful language may be a better approach to winning them over.

    Is there a middle ground? For you, for Freedland and for your kind of morally superior outsiders certainly is, but for us lesser beings living in Israel there is only one question – the question of our survival. No middle ground, no polite approach, no Freedland’s prayers in the synagogue for the wellbeing of the Israeli victims of the Palestinian terror what he himself justifies passively simply being on the staff of the Guardian.

  25. Geary

    I agree with you that calling Freedland a Kapo is way over the top and it is not justified by Freedland’s behaviour – probably he never harmed physically an other Jew and never participated in this kind of actions.
    But deleting is not the solution. Where is the limit? Should Cifwatch delete the snide antisemitic remarks of the troll posting under the mostly harmless alias? Or should Cifwatch delete only the pro-Israeli overreactions? Not tolerating personal abuse but tolerating the abuse of a whole nation?

    Freedland is definitely not a kapo, but:

    He is a paid contributor and a leading staff member of the Guardian whose comissioned publications actively incite for the elimination of Israel, vilifies its citizens, a main mover in the delegitimization of the country and tolerates the most vile and sometimes openly anti-semite BTL comments – posted on and provoked by his own articles too.
    He does the above knowing that his Jewishness will be exploited and used for defending his paymasters from the charge of antisemitism and he does this voluntarily without anybody holding a gun against his head.

    True – he is not a kapo – but what kind of a person is he?