The miracle of Guardian writer Phoebe Greenwood (Updated)

From the Hannuka miracle of the oil to the virgin birth (to mention but those currently being celebrated), Israel has a reputation for marvels of mystical intervention stretching back thousands of years.

But miracles are not a thing of the past in the Holy Land; even in contemporary times we frequently witness the wonder of a journalist becoming an expert authority on the Middle East faster than you can say “half a portion of falafel with amba and don’t forget the chips”.

The Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood is a classic case in point.

Having graduated in 2003 with a degree in English Literature, Greenwood began her career in journalism with an Australian celebrity gossip magazine before moving on to Grazia fashion magazine where, according to her own description, she  was engaged in “writing and commissioning news and showbiz features, editing party pages”. A brief stint at the Daily Mail was followed by a post at the in-house journalist for Christian Aid.  Eleven months later, Greenwood moved to another post within the NGO sector as she took on the role of media manager in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East on behalf of Save the Children UK. She has also worked with Amnesty International.

During her time with Save the Children (March 2009 – December 2010) Greenwood’s concurrent activity as a freelance writer saw a shift to world politics (with a heavy accent on the Arab-Israeli conflict) which have appeared in numerous outlets including Al-Jazeera, the Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph and the UN OCHA online magazine IRIN.

Since July 2011 she has been employed as a stringer – based in Jerusalem  – for the Guardian/Observer and the Daily Telegraph newspapers.

As anyone who has ever worked in the charity sector is aware, one does not attract the donations necessary for financing either the organization’s activities or its employees’ salaries by telling the public that the situation in that particular field of operation is not too bad. A freelance journalist doubling up as a charity worker therefore clearly has a conflict of interests when reporting – supposedly objectively – about the situation in a foreign country in which he or she is also employed by a charity working in the field.

Several of Greenwood’s articles have relied heavily upon information and quotes from Save the Children UK’s country director in what it terms the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories) – Ms. Salam Kanaan – who clearly has a very politicized agenda easily discernible in her quoted statements, reports and interviews.

Greenwood’s rapidly acquired ‘understanding’ of the Middle East (a subject which she herself now defines as one of her ‘specialties’) is obviously influenced considerably by the organizational culture she absorbed whilst working for Save the Children UK. According to her self-composed LinkedIn profile, she continues to act as a consultant to that organization, as well as for Amnesty International and ACT Alliance.

Greenwood is a clear example of what we at CiF Watch have termed in the past a ‘journavist’: someone promoting a political agenda by means of what the public assumes to be objective reporting.

Her increasingly frequent articles on the pages of the Guardian’s Middle East section (cost-cutting in progress?) may initially appear to be little different from the often ideologically-motivated reports filed by Harriet Sherwood until one remembers that Greenwood’s lightning apprenticeship for her new trade as ‘Middle East Specialist’ was learned not at a foreign editor’s news desk, but at the knees of several of the more offensive anti-Israel charities at work in the region. That she claims to still work as a consultant with some of them indicates a continuing conflict of interests.  

The fact that the Guardian is publishing supposedly serious reporting on the Middle East from a recently re-vamped former writer of celebrity gossip (with apparently no formal training in Middle East history, and whose ‘expertise’ on the subject was gained in a total of 22 months spent working on two far apart continents for a fairly notoriously biased charity) is hardly likely to cause regular CiF Watch readers to set aside their Christmas pudding or Hannuka donut in shock.

The ‘miracle’ of Phoebe Greenwood’s meteoric transformation into a regular Guardian contributor with a self-described ‘specialty’ in the Middle East clearly has more to do with the fact that her ‘progressive’ one-sided approach dovetails very conveniently with the Guardian World View of the region rather than any boring, earthly factor such as knowledge, expertise or understanding.

Actually, it might well be a miracle if she wasn’t writing for the Guardian.

UPDATE, May 13, 2012: We removed text which mistakenly including the professional background of another journalist named Phoebe Greenwood, who is a music editor for The Times.

10 replies »

    • Greenwood is a foreign correspondent for the Guardian (not a “stringer). Israeli Nurse writes for a small website. That tells a lot.

    • Greenwood is a junior foreign correspondent for the Guardian, one of Europe’s most prestigious newspapers. Israeli Nurse writes for a small website.

  1. Maybe Duvidl should have a chat with Phoebe in Hebrew or Yiddish to discover more about her Middle East linguistic specialities. Or, better still, Duvidl should have his friends make some investigative enquiries of Phoebe in Arabic, Farsi, Amharic or Russian to find out how special her command of these languages much spoken in Israel is.

    Harriet Sherwood, Duvidl understands, has minimal abilities in any of these, but he knows she is good at speaking in Tongues.

    Duvidl also follows Israeli pop music and if, as he suspects, Phoebe speaks none of these languages, he might ask her views on The Black Velvet Band, who play regularly in Molly Malone’s pub in Tel Aviv. To enjoy hearing some real specialists, see them on Youtube.

  2. Yes, about time that you pointed out Greenwood. I think her husband is also some sort of NGO’er on the Pal side.
    I too, am involved in monitoring the anti-Zionist press and see a disturbing trend where people like Greenwood are moving up the food chain and often eventually end up as “journalists”. I classic case in the making is 972’s Joseph Dana. He is an academic and activist. Lately after a stint as “media coordinator” with Anarchists Against the Wall, he is a popular “media commentator” with Al Jazzy and RT-TV. His sole credentials for these to media outlets are his stints as a blogger and of course taking active part in weekly demonstrations & propaganda talks at US and UK universities with u know who….
    This was most likely necessary to be employed as the quota Jew. Dana is an American who made Aliya. His “expertise” -perversely- is that he has two MA’s in Jewish history. In his work he likes to compare the Inquisition to what “the Jews are doing to the Arabs”.
    The NGO sector is a great starter for bleeding heart anti-Zionists and goody goos who cut their teeth in Aza or the WB. Dana was to cover the second flotilla for The Nation Magazine ( US ) from one of the ships. It is fairly interchangeable NGO/Guardian/Media Commentator.
    Their soppy hyperbole is self evident at every headline they crank out. Dana’s archive at 972mag is legendary. As are his co-prodcutions with his mate Max Blumenthal. Ali Abunima and the female boss at ISM yada yada yada
    Please all be aware of this dynamic. The left whines about the right moving their people into FOX etc.. Well, they seem to have learned and are positioning an entire generation of social media activist to get ready and fill in some gaps at the usual Arab & far left media outlets.

    • “I think her husband is also some sort of NGO’er on the Pal side.”

      Really? Where did you get that information from? You’re sorely misinformed.

      Not everyone can access the foreign correspondents club in Jerusalem, my friend…

    • Ariadne,
      sadly it is not about what they know or not, it is more – as I see it – an attempt to cover as much media space as they can. Especially social media, Dana tweets much and has 11.000 followers. Listening to Dana’s Uni talks on Youtube he clearly states that what is in the pipeline is an upswell across the social media front a la Cairo and Tunis.
      The far left has identified this well and they are positioning the troops. As has been written about @ CIF the give away of twitter are the retweets and visible connections to say Robert Mackey at the NYT’s The Lede. Robert Mackey also engages in anti-Zionism, I have written to the NYT Editor about this before and it stopped at once. Mackey is in cahoots with Ali Abunima and Dana. Mackey will change from the NYT to the US Guardian early in the new year and lead, yes, the social media section acting as a multiplier.

      These connector positions are vital to shape the discourse. Dana is a guest commentator at Al Jazzy’s The Stream which works with tweets and q’s live from the studio. I just spotted Ben White in Al Jazzy’s comment section, White is a hard core anti-Zionist and activist who moonlights as a journalist.

      Arab media especially sucks up Western socialists and anti-Zionist activists and gives them a good international stage. White will be presenting his new book with Amnesty International early in the new year. The cross over effect is rather impressive, and shows that AI has dropped all pretense and is clearly in bed with anti-Zionist forces, again, acting as an amplifier. I wish the poor people in Iran had this sort of back up, but I guess they are not sexy enough.

      John Cook has found a home with Electronic Intifada and so the story goes. I often read him bitch at 972, he felt that the “Jews” at 972 weren’t anti-Zionist enough, poor man.

      Israel will have to come up with some ideas to counter this groundswell which is being orchestrated for the long run. What we have going for ourselves at the moment is the continued inter-Arab slaughter across the region. It is more interesting what is happening in Damascus and that well may go on for some time, ditto Cairo.

      • Robert, it took me a while to find my way back to this. I was thinking specifically of the factless “journalists” we know.

        I will come back since your post is so full of detail.