Revisiting the day when Tom Gross escorted Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger around Israel

We just came across a fascinating post by the prolific Tom Gross describing his experience in 2001 escorting Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger (and Ian Katz) around Israel and the Palestinian territories.


What especially stands out is how much worse their coverage was during the early 2000s compared to today – which says a lot in light of the egregious institutional anti-Israel bias we’ve been exposing since our blog’s launch in 2009.

Gross begins:

LAST May, I escorted the editor of London’s Guardian newspaper, Alan Rusbridger, and his features editor, Ian Katz, round West Jerusalem and into Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem. It was Rusbridger’s first trip to Israel. His paper had been singled out by critics of press coverage of Israel – even in the context of highly selective and biased reporting across virtually the entire European media – as one of the most unfair. [Ian Katz is now editor of BBC’s Newsnight.] 

Unlike many other journalists who have climbed aboard the anti-Israeli bandwagon over the last months without having ever even been to Israel, Rusbridger – to his credit – took five days off work to see the situation for himself. He is, after all, heir to the great C.P. Scott, editor of The Guardian for 57 years, who (in Rusbridger’s words) “fought tirelessly alongside Chaim Weizmann for the creation of the state of Israel.” (Indeed it was Scott who introduced Weizmann to Arthur Balfour).

A few days before our meeting, the Guardian’s chief Jerusalem correspondent, Suzanne Goldenberg, had been presented with Britain’s prestigious Edgar Wallace Trophy by Prime Minister Tony Blair in London. In a front-page announcement, The Guardian said that the London Press Club had decided to award her the prize, for her “courageous and objective journalism.”

Even though the prize is meant to cover reporting in general, and has no particular connection with the Middle East, the runner-up was another media crusader against Israel, Robert Fisk, of the Independent newspaper. Goldenberg’s news report in the Guardian on the morning the prize was announced, was titled “Mutilated Children of a Crippled Palestine,” which gives a flavor of the kind of writing which had so impressed her fellow journalists.

Guardian, May 1, 2001

Guardian, May 1, 2001

See our post (published last year) which fisked Goldenberg’s appalling 2001 report on the al-Dura incident.

Rusbridger, Katz and I crossed by car into Bethlehem. It wasn’t clear whether it was safe to go there that morning. The mutilated bodies of two 13-year-old Israeli boys had been found in a nearby cave just hours earlier, and tension was high. My car had Israeli, not Palestinian, license plates, and over the previous weeks several motorists had been shot dead for just such an offence.

The boys murdered in the cave were Yosef Ish Ran and Koby Mandell.

Two Israeli soldiers, aged about 18, were standing guard on the Israeli side of the border. When we showed our journalist identity cards and asked if we could cross, one of them said in English “But of course if you are journalists you must come in.” Then he added, with a wry smile, “You are the bodyguard of democracy, after all.” Rusbridger jotted down the soldier’s observation in his notebook.

“Is it safe to go in this morning?” I asked the soldier. “Yes, the Palestinians don’t start shooting until lunchtime these days,” he replied. Katz was worried: “You mean they have shooting here!”

We were pressed for time, so our foray into Bethlehem was a short one. But it was long enough for Rusbridger and Katz – a contemporary of mine at Oxford who told me that he hadn’t been to Israel “since his bar mitzvah” – to see with their own eyes that the Israeli soldiers were courteous and polite to Palestinians. They saw that Palestinians were allowed to cross the checkpoint by both car and foot in a matter of seconds. And they saw by contrast how the same soldiers were refusing religious Jews, who wished to go and pray at the nearby holy site of Rachel’s Tomb, entry to Bethlehem.

On our drive down one of Bethlehem’s main streets, we passed Palestinian-owned cars of a similar standard to those we had just seen being driven by Israelis in Jerusalem. Rusbridger and Katz also had a chance to observe that the local Arab shops were well stocked. And when we drove back out from Bethlehem into Israel, they could see that Palestinians were allowed to pass quickly – in about the same time it takes an average Israeli to enter a Tel Aviv shopping mall or movie theatre, as his bags are searched for explosive devices. At the same time the religious Jews we had seen before were still on the other side of the road, still pleading with the soldiers to be allowed entry to Bethlehem.


Two weeks later, Rusbridger wrote about his trip in a cover story for the Spectator magazine in London. The Spectator was an unexpected choice. It is owned by Conrad Black, one of the few prominent non-Jews in the West to have openly denounced media coverage of Israel. “The BBC, Independent, Guardian, Evening Standard and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are rabidly anti-Israel,” Black had written in The Spectator a few weeks earlier, “and wittingly or not, are stoking the inferno of anti-Semitism.”

Pay close attention to Rusbridger’s words:

Rusbridger began his Spectator article as follows: “In the last, dying days of apartheid I visited South Africa… A couple of weeks ago I made my first trip to another much-written about country, Israel. As with my earlier journey I found a lot that was shocking, but this time I was genuinely surprised. Nothing had prepared me for finding quite so many echoes of the worst days of South Africa in modern Israel.”

The Apartheid lie would later be advanced by Guardian reporters and commentators, including their former Jerusalem correspondents Chris McGreal and Harriet Sherwood.

He went on to give some examples – taken out of context – of shooting incidents, and of Palestinian poverty he had witnessed in what he called the “large prison” of Gaza. He wrote of the “endless humiliating queues waiting to pass through Israeli army checkpoints.” There was no mention of our very different experience crossing into the “occupied West Bank.”

Not content with drawing analogies with South Africa, Rusbridger also made a comparison with Northern Ireland, implying that the situation is worse in Israel because Israelis don’t know what’s going on. He wrote – mistakenly – that “The difference in Israel is that almost no Jewish-Israeli journalists ever report firsthand on life and death on the West Bank or Gaza today… The exceptions – I think there are three – are brave and, by and large, despised by Jewish Israelis.”

He seemed to have forgotten our conversation about the workings of Israeli democracy, in which I had pointed out that every Israeli newspaper – without exception – has regular and comprehensive reporting about life in Gaza, some of it highly critical of Israel; that both national Israeli TV channels have correspondents in Gaza; that senior advisors to Yasser Arafat, and even spokespersons for Hamas, are regularly interviewed on Israeli television and radio; and that Israeli Arabs play a significant role in the Israeli media. Indeed, as I had told Rusbridger, probably the single most influential journalist in Israel, Rafik Halaby, the Director of News at Israel’s state-run Channel One TV, is an Arab.

In his article Rusbridger also made no reference to the many progressive elements of Israeli Jewish society which we had discussed in some detail. I had asked him why, if Israel is “an affront to civilization” – the headline given to a comment piece written by a former British Defense Secretary in The Guardian’s sister paper, the Observer, a few days before Rusbridger’s visit – the Jewish state should, for example, have some of the most liberal laws in the world for homosexuals, far more liberal than those in the US and Britain.


Observer headline, May 13, 2001

As for his claim that “nothing had prepared me for finding quite so many echoes of the worst days of South Africa in modern Israel”, it made me wonder, for a moment, how carefully he reads his own paper, given that comparisons between present day Israel and South Africa in the apartheid era have become part of the Guardian’s stock in trade.

Take, for example, Goldenberg’s report of Saturday June 3, 2000. It was headlined, “Palestinians feel the heat as police enforce beach apartheid: With peace looming, Israel is keen to establish areas for Jews only”, and the article itself began: “In these early days of a sweltering summer, the long palm-dotted beaches of Tel Aviv are a natural escape. But if you are a Palestinian, a family day out can mean a night in jail. As Israeli Jews lolled on the sand yesterday, the Tel Aviv police were out in force in a zealous enforcement of beach apartheid… [an] operation to create Jewish-only beaches. Palestinians were arrested near the dolphinarium before they could even set foot on the sand…”

Guardian, June 3, 2000

Guardian, June 3, 2000

As someone who lives in Tel Aviv, and goes to the beach most days, I have never seen anything of the kind. Jews and Arabs mix freely on the beach, and did so when the article was written in June 2000, as any resident of Tel Aviv will confirm. This includes the area around the dolphinarium, site of a deadly Palestinian suicide bomb at a beachfront teenage disco exactly a year after Goldenberg wrote her piece.

About the same time that Rusbridger published his Spectator article, he wrote a massive editorial in The Guardian, running to well over 2,000 words, entitled “Between Heaven and Hell.”

Guardian, May 21, 2000

Guardian, May 21, 2000

A pull quote was reproduced in large type in a box on The Guardian’s front page. It read:

We are forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about how the dream of a sanctuary for the Jewish people in the very land in which their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped has come to be poisoned. The establishment of this sanctuary has been bought at a very high cost in human rights and human lives. It must be apparent that the international community cannot support this cost indefinitely.”

You can read the rest of Gross’s post, here.  

You can continue to read about the Guardian’s hostility towards the Jewish state on these pages.

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56 replies »

  1. Of all the vicious reporting about Israel that has appeared in the Guardian, there is no doubt that Goldenberg’s, an as-a-Jew par excellence, was the worst.

      • Pretz, though I was not in Tel aviv at the time, it is very probable that occasional threats were being pointed at by the various intelligence divisions.
        The report is very near the Israeli exit from Lebanon on May 2000 and the times after that hasty exit were very tense leading to the abduction in October 2000 of 3 IDF soldiers.

        To say that peace was looming is sloppy journalism at best.
        To state that arrests in that area are enforcement of Apartheid arrests is beyond contempt as she has no idea the reasons behind these arrests.

        Every single security body in the world rely on profiling when it has intel of a threat and the need to arrest, may it be a terrorist, a suspect or a serial killer.

        Israeli police do not harass random Arab people in Tel Aviv unless they are looking for someone matching an Arab description on a specific day.

        I very much doubt Suzanne would be in the know about those things which makes me believe she speculated about the whole thing.

  2. the Tel Aviv police were out in force in a zealous enforcement of beach apartheid… [an] operation to create Jewish-only beaches?

    HOw can that be when there are so many Israeli arabs who go to the beach. Palestinian are not Israel citizents they come from an area that is hostile to Israel . Not forgetting all the suicde bombings and terror attacks of the first intifada.

    • Alexa, you forgot that most of old Yaffo are Arabs.

      Mr think that she saw one or two arrests of some Arabs for one reason or another and she connected the dots like they way our in house recent troll “wannabe Abu Nidal” connects his…

  3. ‘Rusbridger was born in Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), the son of B.E. (née Wickham) and G.H. Rusbridger, the Director of Education of Northern Rhodesia.’ (Wikipedia).

    That is, his father was a colonialist settler living in a near as dammit “apartheid state” The family returned to the UK in 1958 with sufficient wherewithal to send young Alan to public school.

    Oh, the guilt, the guilt that young Alan felt as he absorbed the the intoxicating eau de parfum ‘soixante huit’ when he went to Cambridge! What to do, what to do?

    Cultivate a veneer, avoid too much self-analysis and so on, be a consummate hypocrite – the usual. When he finally got to the top of the greasy Guardian right-on pole (presumably at the Guardian he either needed to pretend he found his parents disgusting colonialists or keep his thin lips clamped), he acted out his psychodrama, as so many of the Guardian hacks do, by finding a really really evil country on which he could project his own highly Christian guilt and absolve himself of the original sin he was born in.

  4. You’ve explained the Guardianumpty mentality fairly well and it is not restricted to those of such privileged background as Rusbridger; it is common to all those involved in the publication of that ‘liberal newspaper’ which is neither. It is a deep-down self-loathing towards having been brought up on the offshore island of their favouriite continent. To put it bluntly, they are ashamed of being British and have an inferiority complex towards continental Europe, particularly France. In the Guardianumpty mentality, ‘Europe’ is always correct and Britain is always wrong.

    • Hiding over here are you Boo Boo?

      No matter which stone you crawl back under Hamas’s Fascist thugs are looking for you after your earlier posts.

    • Which Israeli blew up so many people in buses and resturants not 60 and more years ago but since the Oslo agreement.

  5. Gerald it was not you was it – No need getting upset – Are you David HaNahlawi

    • Boo Boo your attempts to divert are getting worse, but I understand it can’t be easy for you when you are as deep in the sh*t as you are with your posts on a different thread.

      Upset me? No I can hardly stop laughing at the thought of what will happen to you when Hamas’s Fascist thugs read how you have rejected the mythical ‘right of return’ and consented to Hamas being described as Fascist thugs.

    • Abu nidal was it you cutting tires and causing damage in Arab villages throughout the galilee last month?
      You should work on your Hebrew its not right. ..

  6. I see you have not answered my question. I suppose with Zionists we will never know – shifting sands I suppose.

    • Boo Boo I know it is hard for you to understand or write in the English language.
      But I will give you one free lesson, so pay attention. This is a question mark ‘?’ it is used at the end of a question to signify it as such.
      Try to remember it in future, that is if you have any future which is very doubtful.

    • If not answering questions is being a zionist then you must be chaim weitzman abu hiddad.

  7. Itsik are you also David HaNahlawi? Now here is the question mark so are you? Today every Zionist is David HaNahlawi wanting to shoot at Palestinian teenagers.

    • You know what’s funny? For as long as I can remember, the term Abu Hiddad has meant the biggest piece of poop I can shove out my ass. All the while I’ve been thinking, Man, that’s some crazy dorm room humor, and yet here it is, decades later, proven nothing but true.

      Ah…. history. I can re-write it, too.

    • Those teengares were provoking Israeli soldiers waiting with cameras to capture them for their Pallywood . I dare them to do the same with PA and Hamas security forces.

    • Abu Hiddad (Nidalwanabe), since I’m not called David and I was never in the Noar Haloutzi Lohem I believe the answer will be no.

      So EVERY Zionist is David Hanahlawi and wants to shoot Palestinian teenagers?
      I am a Zionist yet do not qualify to either of this suggestions.

      Could you retract the last comment or forever be deemed a liar?
      Why did you stop posting under your true name, Nat?

  8. Kouf you do but not very well – one day they did not exist. than they did but were terrorists now they are they sign of your own demise. You keep re-writing history. Of course they were provoking him by being there. But why would any sane officer send a 19 year old with a gun in a population that is already hostile to its soldier and the soldier in question just a few hours earlier had behaved violently towards his own officers and has shown signs of being unblanced. What has happened to the only moral army in the world. alexa are you also David HaNahlawi?

    • Why would a sane person send young children to provoke Israeli soldiers seems Palesintian are not sane becasue that what they do. sending 10 years old to push at soldiers knowing full well that nothing will happan to them. i wish they will send those children to push and shout at PA and Hamas security forces .However they know that in that case those children will probaby get injured or killed The only moral army in the world don;t kill children who push soldiers and provoke them . We leave that to your friends in the PA and Hamas and all over the arab world. Yes Most of us Israelis are sick of you people using your children in order to get good pictrure who show Israelis in a bad light.

    • “ day they did not exist. than they did but were terrorists now they are they sign of your own demise..”

      Boo Boo what are you waffling on about?

      Your inability to answer questions or write coherently is it an inherited condition that you got from your Mother or Father along with syphilis?

  9. Abu Antisemite, just another terrorist who claims to be an innocent victim. We know this stereotype of terrorists who bear no responsibility for anything, like every ordinary thug.

  10. alaexa your writing exceeds anything one could have expected from Goebbels another deluded member of another so-called superior race. David Hanahlawi was no ordinary soldier. He was unbalanced and had already been in a fight with his own superior officers. Were they also provoking him? Besides, there are hundreds of thousands of David Hanahlawi now in the IDF. The IDF has got a serious problem on their hand with so many unblanced soldiers.

      • You seem to have some sort of complex. The only person here talking about – or merely suggesting – the very notion of “superior race” is you.

        Similarly: neither alexa nor anyone else here – except you – is bringing up Goebbels.

    • You forgot Abu Achbal that these unbalanced soldiers kicked the shit out of any Arab army and terror organizations using only one of their collective legs. You shouldn’t revile the Arab military honor…

  11. Peter many brutal armies with WMD have done even worse so what is your poimt. Are you David Hanahlawi

    • Abu Achbal you should point out the concrete occasion of crushing their opponents when Israel used WMD. Not like Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Iran etc. Israel needs WMD exactly because its enemies don’t hesitate using it against their own brothers. The difference that Israel never ever used them or even threatened to use them.
      Thank you for the latest own-goal in your endless efforts to discredit the Palestinian cause. You must keep it up Abu, you are an invaluable gift to the Zionist cause.

  12. Of course, Peter, Israel does not use WMD’s except against people it thinks are genetically programmed for Israel’s destruction. As you know Israel knows best because of its superiority in matters scientific due to its racial base. But hey the world view by the remaining inferiror races is very different.
    During the 2006 Israel–Lebanon conflict, Israel admitted that it had used phosphorus shells “against military targets in open ground” in south Lebanon. Israel clarified that its use of the white phosphorus bombs was permitted under international conventions.[17][18] President of Lebanon Émile Lahoud claimed that phosphorus shells were used against civilians in Lebanon.[19] The first Lebanese official complaint about the use of phosphorus came from Information Minister Ghazi Aridi.[20]

    An Israeli white phosphorous round explodes over a Gaza residential area. 11 January 2009 In its early statements the Israeli military repeatedly denied using white phosphorus, saying “We categorically deny the use of white phosphorus”, and “The IDF acts only in accordance with what is permitted by international law and does not use white phosphorus.” It eventually admitted its use and stopped using the shells, however, saying that a “media buzz” led to its decision to do so.[29]
    Do Zionists still need gifts? Was it not enough that they received a land from an Empire that did not own it in the last century. Still begging I see.

    • Abu some basic info saving you the time of further Wikipedia research:
      1. Phosphorous shells are not WMD at all.
      2. Their use is legal.
      3. Using the assertions of Emile Lahoud, – Assad top man in Lebanon and the corrupt Ghazi Aridi is not exactly helps your cause.

      Anyway I perfectly understand your pain – after realizing your total impotence and inability to push the Jews into the sea all what you can do is dreaming delusional dreams about our demise and ranting about racial superiority. I understand your inferiority complex too but please notice – that an average amoeba is much more intelligent than you doesn’t mean that amoebas are a superior race – it only means that you – an individual and not a race – are en extremely stupid asshole.

    • As you know Israel knows best because of its superiority in matters scientific due to its racial base.

      You seem rather obsessed with this racial superiority issue.

  13. So, why did the IDF admitted guilt and said it has now stopped using it. DO the IDF know what you know. Or even the last bastion of Zionism is giving ground. Things are looking desperate for Zionism do you not think? Or do you think?

  14. So, why did the IDF admitted guilt and said it has now stopped using it.
    The only problem that the IDF didn’t admit any guilt but declared that they don’t want to use it because of the incessand lies, slanders and libels. Anyway they can beat the shit out of you without wasting this expensive material.
    Things are looking desperate for Zionism do you not think?
    I’m just wondering that this kind of delusional dreams gets you any sexual satisfaction too?
    Don’t worry about our desperation Abu, if you represent the average IQ of our enemies we can be relaxed, our only problems are some mild cramps after laughing out loud.

  15. its about time this site got shut down you lot of paid Israel apologists are giving propaganda a bad name…..where do you all go on your christmas holidays i bet you all get together and congratulate yourselves on a job well done ,only problem is you are only talking to yourselves ha ha

  16. Peter that is why the rest of the world do not like Zionists they keep beating the shit out of kids they take away from their homes in the middle of the night. Are you David Hanahwali?

    • What do you mean the rest of the world Abu? The World Alliance of Losers? The islamic Conference?
      Anyway you are confusing us with som others who gives a shit about your love.
      …Zionists they keep beating the shit out of kids they take away from their homes in the middle of the night.
      Are you saying that you send children against the soldiers? Be careful Abu it already became a bad habit in your camp. I understand your hate and wish to kill us and you are just whining coward but hiding behind children?!

  17. Whatever pleases you peter but tell us are you David Hanahwali or are you just not proud enough to admit that you go round bullying children. Mind you it is not your fault your commanding officers should not have sent a disturbed person with a gun among the civilians on his own. Damn right irresponsible. YOu would have a good case against your commanding officers if you want to take it any further. I better tell you I am out of here.

  18. The strange history of these so called “Palestinians”
    First they stole the term “Palestinan” from the old Jewish inhabitants, then they stole the old geographical denomination”.Palestine”. That mindset hasn`t changed since.