Defending the Indefensible: Whitaker making a fool of himself…again

If you thought that  Brian Whitaker, the commissioning editor of “Comment is Free”, could not make more of a fool of himself than he has done so far, then think again. 
Yesterday in the Michelle Goldberg thread on yet another article about J Street, we were graced with Brian’s presence no less than five times! It all started when blankedout complained that Israel was attacked with rockets yesterday and that there was no mention of it in the Guardian. It seems that Brian is a tad sensitive to the very serious and unanswered charges that CiF Watch and others have been levelling against ‘Comment is Free’ and the Guardian. So in jumps Brian with this:

BrianWhit 28 Oct 09, 2:07pm
Staff Staff
Israel was attacked with rockets yesterday from Lebanon
why no mention in the Guardian

 blankedout: Probably it wasn’t considered newsworthy because the rocket didn’t cause any damage or hurt anyone. As far as I can see from Google, no British newspaper reported the incident.

Well not exactly Brian. The BBC reported a follow up to the incident as pointed out on the thread by Sabraguy. And it was newsworthy enough for the New York Times and numerous other news outlets. Moreover, as acklothandsashes adds “no other British newspaper has this obsession with Israel and everything that happens there has it?  So shelling of Israel is ignored because it shines a negative light on our neighbors. That rocket could have killed tens of Israelis Brian. Imagine if Israel had fired a similar rocket into Lebanon.”
To which Brian retorted with this:

BrianWhit 28 Oct 09, 3:16pm
Staff Staff  
Imagine if Israel had fired a similar rocket into Lebanon.  
 acklothandsashes: Exactly. Israel did fire back and that wasn’t reported either. As international news goes, it was a pretty minor story.

Totally disengenous response Brian. Though Israel shelled the Shaba Farms area from where the Kaytusha was launched, it was in response to an indiscriminate attack that barely missed Kiryat Shmona – not that you would care. Israel does not indiscriminately fire rockets directed at civilian targets as does Israel’s enemies. Acklothandashes point was simply that if Israel were to engage in such provocation you can be assured that  ‘Comment is Free’ would be all over it. Not only that but since when has the extent of coverage of a news story been the measuring stick by which ‘Comment is Free’ determines whether or not to publish? Remember for example when you published a story by Seth Freedman about the “mentally disabled teenager” who was supposedly beaten up by border police. I don’t think any other news agency reported that one.
Anyway, MindTheCrap then joins in on the discussion ratcheting up the charges:

Please explain why during the week prior to the start of Cast Lead, when Hamas was firing 70+ rockets daily into Israel, the Guardian did not report these events, even though its full-time reporters in the area were obviously aware of the pending Israeli reaction?
“Probably it wasn’t considered newsworthy” ????

To which Brian responded as follows:

28 Oct 09, 4:14pm
Staff Staff
the Guardian did not report these events,
MindTheCrap: You’re just making this rubbish up and it doesn’t fool anyone.Here’s one of the Guardian’s reports:
<a href=”
and here’s another
Now go and compare that with the coverage in other newspapers. 

Rubbish. Oh really. The sheer arrogance. Well this is what MindTheCrap had to say in response:

MindTheCrap 28 Oct 09, 4:37pm

MindTheCrap: You’re just making this rubbish up and it doesn’t fool anyone.
Now go and compare that with the coverage in other newspapers.

The problem is that the articles that you cite are from Dec 19 & 20; Cast Lead started on Dec 27. During that week there were 70+ rockets fired daily on Sderot and environs from Gaza. A quick check of the Guardian archives shows that there were no reports on these attacks between Dec 21 and 26. 
I check the facts before I make any claims. 
Now go and compare that with the coverage in other newspapers. 

MindTheCrap is spot on here. You see between December 21 and December 27, there were over 120 rockets and mortars fired into Israel and during the preceding week almost 100 rockets and mortars attacks. The impact upon daily life in Israel was devastating and diplomatic activity in the Middle East during this period was frenetic in an attempt to avert an Israeli defensive operation. Even the BBC were reporting what was going on. Here’s an example news report from them on December 25
And a review of the archives section of ‘Comment is Free’ Middle East is even more damning. It shows that in the two weeks prior to the outbreak of Operation Cast Lead there was not one article discussing the rocket attacks and every single one was anti-Israel in its bias. Here’s the list: an article on December 15 by Tony Klug  calling for an Israeli peace initiative; an article on December 15 by Seth Freedman discussing life behind the green line; an article on December 16 by Ben White on the Shministiman article on December 16 by Simon Tisdall discussing the failure of Middle East peace effortsan article on December 17 by Jonathan Freedland discussing a four-state solution; an article on December 17 by Seth Freedman discussing his personal mission against Israelan article on December 19 by Seth Freedman discussing gyms in Ramallah (another highly newsworthy piece); another article on December 19 by Richard Falk complaining about being denied entry into Israel. And wait it gets even better. The last article before Operation Cast Lead was on December 22 from none other than Brian Whitaker who was taking a gratuitous swipe at Bibi Netanyahu.
Meanwhile over at Ha’aretz in their Read & React section, on December 26, they were reporting that “a “limited operation” will begin within days that will combine an air attack with some ground operations against Hamas and other Gaza terror groups”.
Was this perhaps not newsworthy because the lead in to the article was that “Palestinian militants fired 22 mortar shells from the Gaza strip overnight”?
Or how about The Huffington Post which on December 25 had a comment thread entitledIsrael Moving Closer To Invading Gaza“. According to the article “Israel moved closer to invading Gaza, saying Thursday it had wrapped up preparations for a broad offensive after Palestinian militants fired about 100 rockets and mortar shells across the border in two days”.
Talk about dereliction of duty. So caught up in its visceral hatred of the Jewish state “Comment is Free’ completely ignored the biggest news coming out of Israel in years!!
Of course Brian Whitaker never responded to MindTheCrap’s comment. Maybe Bella M, the staff Mod, had a quiet word with Brian to tell him to shut up because he was making an utter fool of himself plus he was derailing the thread undermining poor Bella’s protestations to stay on topic (thanks Bella by the way for the plug (didn’t Brian tell you not to mention us)).
Now Brian if you really want to defend the charge that the Guardian promotes antisemitic discourse both above the line and below the line you are more than welcome to defend the indefensible.
Here’s an offer. Why don’t you write an article for us explaining why you think this is not case? I’ll publish whatever you write. In particular, our readers would be intrigued to know the following: Why do you feature a disproportionate number of writers deeply hostile to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state many of whom are self-hating Jews and have a track record of antisemitism? Why do you tolerate antisemitism in the comment threads? Why for example have the numerous antisemitic commenters that populate CiF not been permanently banned – its not as if you are oblivious to this? Why do you delete comments putting forward a pro-Israel position? Why did you ban AKUS, Cityca and others? And why do you insinuate that pro-Israel posters are paid agents of the Israeli government?
You can email me at with your submission. I’m standing by.

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