Chris McGreal story on Mandela omits his (discredited) Guardian ‘expose’ on SA nukes

The anti-Zionist malice of Guardian “journalist” Chris McGreal has been the subject of many posts at this blog.  Indeed, the errorprone propagandist – who seriously fancies the idea that Israeli snipers target Palestinian children, and is characteristically obsessed with the power of the Israel lobby – has achieved the rare status as one of the few Guardian reporters singled out by the Community Security Trust in their annual report on antisemitic discourse.


2011 CST Report on Antisemitic Discourse, Table of Contents

Though McGreal has been keeping away from his Israel obsession of late – and only sparsely reporting for the paper – he took time out of his busy schedule re-Tweeting Glenn Greenwald and Michael Moore to pen a ‘Comment is Free’ piece titled ‘Mandela: never forget how the free world’s leaders learned to change their tune‘.

What especially stands out in this particular polemic is not merely that McGreal cynically exploits Mandela’s death to again take aim at Israel, but that there is one juicy nugget of “information” he, for some reason, decided not to mention. 

After criticizing UK and US leaders for “extol[ing] South Africa’s first democratically elected president,” while failing to acknowledge their history of “consigning Mandela and the [ANC] to the terrorism list”, he pivots to his desired target, Israeli President Shimon Peres:

Israel’s president,Shimon Peres, issued a statement extolling Mandela’s sacrifices for freedom, apparently hoping that no one would remember that, as defence minister in the 1970s, Peres signed secret military pacts with Pretoria that, among other things, helped developed weapons used against black Africans.

At that time, Peres was also unctuously praising co-operation between Israel and the apartheid regime as “based not only on common interests and on the determination to resist equally our enemies, but also on the unshakeable foundations of our common hatred of injustice and our refusal to submit to it”. All this as Mandela sat in prison for seeking justice in equality

First, and quite tellingly, McGreal’s passage about the alleged “co-operation between Israel and the apartheid regime” has a hyper-link which leads to a story by Ben White, a propagandist (well known to CiF Watch readers) notorious for publishing a 2002 essay at CounterPunch sympathizing with anti-Jewish racists.

However, what is surprising is that McGreal’s passage dealing with the “co-operation” between Israel and South Africa fails to reference his own 2010 Guardian “scoop” (Revealed: how Israel offered to sell South Africa the bomb) purporting to show that Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons in the mid-70s – an omission suggesting perhaps that even he knows that the sensational claims were proven false.

Guardian, May 24, 2010

In his 2010 report McGreal claimed that “secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime.”

However, shortly after his story broke, CiF Watch (among others) demonstrated that McGreal manipulated a key document.  Specifically, McGreal “quoted from a part of the type-written document that was edited by hand soon afterwards”, including one sentence that implies nuclear weapons were available. It appeared that McGreal injected his own opinion to infer that Israel was ready to supply the apartheid regime with nuclear bombs.


Jerusalem Post, May 31, 2010

The Jerusalem Post summarized CiF Watch’s analysis as follows:

The paragraph McGreal used, written by a civil servant, states in its original form, prior to hand-written editing and deletions: “[South African Defense] Minister [P.W.] Botha expressed interest in a limited number of units of Chalet [said to be the Jericho missile] 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.”

CIF Watch points out that words “provide” and “could be provided” were crossed out in the by-hand edit, and that “provide” was replaced by the words “subject to.” The latter part of the paragraph was also deleted, so that the only part of the paragraph that remained was the first part of the first sentence, which now read: “Minister Botha expressed interest in a limited number of units of Chalet subject to the correct payload.”

Ignoring the edit and using the entire original draft to back his claim, McGreal, in his Guardian article, asserted, based on the deleted wording: “The ‘three sizes’ are believed to refer to the conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons.”

CIF Watch said that this was McGreal’s own opinion: “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.

The words ‘provide’ and ‘could be provided’ have both been deleted. The latter deletion is crucial and shows that Botha was expressing interest in acquiring ‘Chalets’ [missiles] with a certain payload, not asking for the payload itself to 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,” CIF Watch added.

CIF Watch then accused McGreal of adding words to make his argument work.

The dishonest reporting by McGreal was revealed by a number of other commentators as well:

  • Waldo Stumpf, who led the project to dismantle South Africa’s nuclear weapons in the late 80s, “doubted Israel or South Africa would have contemplated a [nuclear] deal seriously.”
  • Avner Cohen, author of Israel and the Bomb and The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb, said that “The headline, sub-headline, and lede of Chris McGreal’s story are erroneous and misleading“, and that “nothing in the documents suggests there was an actual offer by Israel to sell nuclear weapons to the regime in Pretoria“. To the contrary, Avner added, “the conversation amounted to a probe by the South Africans, which ultimately went nowhere.
  • Another analysis published by frequent CiF Watch contributor AKUS included a video clip of McGreal’s ‘source’ (Sasha Polakow-Suransky) on Al-Jazeera which showed Polakow-Suransky acknowledging that there was nothing even resembling a “smoking gun”.

Additionally, Shimon Peres’s office issued a definitive statement (shortly after McGreal’s story broke) that “Israel has never negotiated the exchange of nuclear weapons with South Africa“, that “there exists no Israeli document or Israeli signature on a document that such negotiations took place,” and there was “no basis in reality for the claims” which were “based on the selective interpretation of South African documents and not on concrete facts.”

Of course, the aim of McGreal – whose highly misleading articles in 2006 suggesting that Israel was an apartheid state (and of having had close ties to South Africa) were effectively refuted by CAMERA – wasn’t so much to ‘reveal’ a putative nuclear deal, but to demonize the Jewish state.

If such a deeply flawed article – including sloppy reporting and attempts to pass off wild speculation as “fact” – was published in the paper today we’d be in contact with Guardian editors immediately and aggressively pursue a correction.  

The failure of McGreal in this latest piece to even mention his sensationalist propaganda from only a few years back perhaps represents an implicit acknowledgement that there is now a price to be paid at the “liberal” broadsheet for “journalists” who attempt to defend the indefensible.

14 replies »

  1. ‘After criticizing UK and US leaders for ”trumpeting of the Afrikaner-led government as a beacon of democracy in Africa”’

    It’s worth pointing out again that this is a straw man. The closest any American or British leader came to praising South Africa as a ‘beacon of democracy’ was a sppech early in his Presidency which praised its leadership for fighting on the same side as the USA in WWII (in fact, Verwoed, Vorster and Botha had all opposed joining the fight against Nazi Germany). Even in this case, he later made a speech calling for an end to apartheid and the release of all political prisoners (including Nelson Mandela) if South Africa was ‘to belong to the family of Western nations’:

    Likewise, Thatcher herself called on Botha to free Mandela as far back as 1985.

    There were US Congressmen and Conservative MPs who were apologists for apartheid, but the position that the US and UK governments took was based on Cold War calculations. There was no pretence that South Africa was under anything other than a racist dictatorship, and Labour and Democratic administrations were notably hostile (e.g. the Wilson government abrogated the Simonstown Treaty in 1975). What motivated Thatcher and Reagan was the fear that – as in Angola – white supremacist rule could be replaced by Communist rule. As both came to understand the motives of the ANC better, both became more prepared to exert diplomatic pressure to push Botha for change. Indeed, the Thatcher government’s role in brokering the Lancaster House Accords in 1979 and the development of close ties with the Mozambican leader Samora Machel showed that the British Prime Minister did not have a problem with black majority rule – only with leaders who she thought might end up as Soviet proxies.

    The policies on sanctions were shameful, but then if you bear in mind that the Soviets were in business with De Beers even when the SADF was tearing Angola and Mozambique apart, that Arab states were selling Pretoria oil on the quiet, and that even the Angolan state diamond company was trading with SA, hypocrisy was not confined to London or Washington.

    But then this is the ‘Guardian’, and it is therefore not surprising to see that historical distortions are being practiced in its pages.

  2. The next breaking story by McGreal in the Guardian: According to reliable sources the Israeli Mossad used Polonium to poison Mandela.

  3. Never apologize, never retract, and if any correction has to be made, make it late, small, and preferably where it will never be seen.

    The Guardian style (book).

  4. I commented on that reprehensible propaganda piece by McGreal. I particularly objected to his use of the word unctuously to denigrate Shimon Peres.

    There’s little doubt that McGreal loathes Israelis because they are Jews.

  5. Not sure if this is what’s called a “retweet”, but McGreal has the following comment on his Twitter page:

    joseph dana‏:
    Due to their partnership with the Apartheid regime in South Africa, Israeli leaders won’t attend Mandela memorial

    I take it this means McGreal agrees with that provocative assertion/bullshit?

  6. Chris McGreal stated on today’s edition of PRI’s “The World” that “They [Israel and South Africa] developed military weapons together. They worked together on atomic issues, including South Africa’s development of a nuclear weapon.”
    To hear his remarks, go to:
    and click on “Listen.” McGreal starts discussing Israel around 40:00 on the 12/10/13 stream entitled “Listen to the latest from PRI’s The World.”