UK Media Watch

Economist continues to mislead over Israeli historian’s alleged “concentration camp” analogy

We recently posted about an article in The Economist, by their Middle East correspondent Nicolas Pelham, which quoted Israeli Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer characterising Israel’s detention center for African migrant’s as a “modern concentration camp”.

In our post, we noted that, in an email exchange with Mr. Bauer, he flatly denied using that term in his interview with Pelham. However, after further emails between Mr. Bauer, UK Media Watch and The Economist, the 91-year-old historian thought again about the interview and then said he “may have” used the term “in a fit of anger”, but that he certainly does not believe the detention centers in any way resemble concentration camps.  

Following this new information, we revised our post (and our original tweet) to reflect these new facts – making it clear that though the quote was not fabricated, it nonetheless clearly did not represent Bauer’s views.

We then contacted Economist editors, asking that they either remove the misleading quote or, at the very least, add an editor’s note clarifying to readers that Mr. Bauer does not actually believe that there’s an analogy between Israel’s detention center and “concentration camps”. 

Here are Bauer’s exact words in an email to UKMW:

“The [detention] camp in the Negev desert is pretty awful, but it is not a concentration camp German style (or Guantanamo American style).”

Thus far, editors have refused to make this correction, and the article continues to substantively mislead readers.

As UK Media Watch and CAMERA has demonstrated, this represents a pattern by Pelham of distorting the facts to support an anti-Israel conclusion.

However, what makes the misleading quote so pernicious is that it has the effect of legitmising comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.  Such comparisons are codified as antisemitic by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliances’s Working Definition of Antisemitism (which was adopted by the British government).

Tellingly, Pelham began his Economist article by casually dismissing concerns over such toxic comparisons:

COMPARISONS with dark chapters in Jewish history tend to elicit the knee-jerk Israeli response of asur le’hashvot, the Hebrew for “you can’t compare”. But a government plan to deport more than 34,000 African migrants to Rwanda is provoking more hand-wringing than usual, not least because Israel itself was created by refugees and survivors of the Holocaust.

Whatever objections there may be towards Israeli policy regarding African migrants, suggesting that their detention and planned deportation evokes the Nazis’ treatment of Jews is ahistorical and intellectually unserious.

The decision by The Economist to leave the false impression that a leading Holocaust historian evoked such a comparison does not reflect well on the seriousness of editors in upholding their own editorial standards, which includes a pledge to “consider whether the context and presentation of the facts are fair”.

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