Backsliding and Backbiting at the Guardian

This is a guest post by AKUS

Some people just cannot get a break.

Consider, for example, the Guardian’s one time golden boy, Seth Freedman.

For a couple or three years he reliably churned out one anti-Israeli article after another. There wasn’t a taxi-driver, pizza vendor or orthodox Jew, real or imaginary, he couldn’t or wouldn’t cite as examples of Israeli intransigence. Not a celebration could be held in Israel without him pointing out that the glass, apparently half-full to the Jewish Israelis, was really three quarters empty when viewed from the Guardian’s website. Not a charitable effort could be carried out (except by a Freedman-approved NGO) without demonstrating that this was, in fact, yet another example of Israel’s futile attempt to cover up its transgressions against its Arab minority or Arab neighbors.

For example, when Israel sent the best field hospital to Haiti, we got a charming piece from Freedman headlined Israel’s double standards over Haiti . The subeditors reliably added the necessary extra drop of poison: “The Israeli relief effort in Haiti is laudable, but it underlines the state’s indifference to those suffering on its own doorstep”.

In one paragraph in the article Freedman ignores almost 100 years of attacks by Arabs against their Jewish neighbors and the Jewish State including, recently, 8,000 rockets from Gaza, to make sure we understand that this and other humanitarian efforts do not let Israel off the hook:

However, for all that Israel’s sterling work overseas deserves to be praised, it highlights the lack of compassion shown by the country’s leaders to those suffering on its own doorstep. Israel’s insistence on doing next to nothing to alleviate the suffering in Gaza while rushing to Haiti’s aid exposes just how far they are prepared to stray from the religious teachings to which they claim to adhere. Likewise, when Zionist movements such as Bnei Akiva trumpet the achievements of Israel’s relief teams as representative of the entire Jewish people, they inadvertently tar all Jews with the same brush when Israel’s frequent violations of international law are brought to light.

This is the sort of red meat the Guardian is looking for, and why those supporting Israel find the Guardian (and Freedman) so biased and basically disgusting. This is the contract that Freedman is supposed to deliver against.

But sometimes something funny happens – Freedman seems to let slip that he actually sees a glimmer of goodness in the evil country he has, for reasons I cannot comprehend, decided to call his own. You have to also understand that although Freedman has, apparently, no background in economics, his “training” as a stockbroker in London in the Internet bubble has in his own mind qualified him to comment on economic matters. So, on April 12, 2010, we got: Israel’s peace dividend.

This was a real shock to the system – the CiFers’ system. Far from celebrating the success of the much vaunted BDS movement, which may or may not have got some Israeli avocados removed from some supermarkets, or demanding that the US stop propping up Israel’s economy with its $3B annual aid, about 80% of which actually subsidizes the US arms industry and which in total represents about 1% of GDP, we were treated to Freedman celebrating Israel’s extraordinary economic accomplishments:

The TA-25 has now more than doubled since November 2008, when the global credit crisis was at its height. While the rebound on the Israeli exchange is in line with a general trend of recovery on bourses around the world, what sets Israel apart from its peers is the minimal effect the credit crunch had on the state’s economy.

Thanks to a culture of low risk-taking among Israel bankers and investors, both individuals and institutions were far less exposed to asset bubbles and speculative purchases than their counterparts in other developed countries. Consequently, no bailouts were required of Israeli banks, nor did the economy implode in anything like as spectacular a fashion as occurred in the US, the UK and mainland Europe. …

Foreign investors continue to pour money into Israel, buoyed by the stellar performance of its stock market as well as unwavering confidence in the stewardship of those at the helm of the finance ministry.

This is not the sort of thing the “punters”, as they are known in Britain, are paying Internet access fees for, nor is it what the Guardian has put Freedman on contract to deliver. The response was quick to come. Posted at 9:00 am, within 13 minutes the first comment arrived:

“Shallow analysis” indeed … but not quite as shallow as the next comment – G-d forbid the Palestinians should agree to peace just for the benefit of their own economic well being …

Another commentator is shocked by Freedman’s crassness in proposing the use of “venal” economic incentives to reach a peace agreement:

This later drew a sharp retort from Freedman (see a few comments later, below).

While we are about it, why not compare Israel to Iraq under Saddam Hussein?

But it was this comment that got the blood flowing in the streets ….

and which drew a snarky response from Freedman, drawn to defend what seems to be becoming his country, obviously dismayed at the partisan response to his “good idea”:

Did I read this correctly? “An incredible amount of good in Israel”?? This is not in the contract, Seth old chap. You are going native, old sport.

Punter “iamid”, for example will have none of it, and despite being informed by Freedman that Israel’s economy is one of the best-performing in the world due to its high-tech industry, he clings hopelessly to the idea that Israelis’ high standard of living is somehow all due to Israelis taking over barren hilltops on the WB while living off the Palestinians’ $10/day typical “livelihood”, and to his BDS life raft:

Then, we have the pro-Iranian faction chiming in, wagging a disapproving finger at a hint that Iran may have nuclear weapons programs under way and attempting to kick the stool out from under Freedman’s thesis. This commenter thinks that since things are going so well for Israel (how unfortunate is that!) the idea of peace dividend would be meaningless to Israeli policy-makers.

“zatar” seems to be unfamiliar with the concept of “more is better”. Well, this is getting too much for Freedman. He fires back –this time accusing the commenter called “kurdi” (a moniker, by the way, that would have the average Israeli rolling on the floor laughing for reasons that are too complicated to explain here) – wait for it – of making a “racist slur” against Israel. Shocking!!

Clearly Freedman has lost the GWV*-approved plot – the point of these articles is precisely to allow slurs like these – Israel must daily be called a racist, fascist, militarist, apartheid state that carries out ethnic cleansing. Nasty, back-biting, snarky comments like “i can see you’re another excitable bds baton twirler from your previous comment” directed at a commenter so deeply embedded in the GWV is surely not what Georgina had in mind when she signed Freedman up.

For example, this deleted (“disappeared”) comment expresses the punters’ real feelings – note the approvals before the moderators “vanished” it:

Shockingly, Freedman doesn’t approve:

I’m wondering if CiF Watch is having an effect – not only are comments like “thegreatfatsby”’s deleted – in fact, “disappeared in the approved Stalinist fashion, without a trace” – but perhaps Freedman has been lurking here or getting reports from Alex Stein and starting to rethink his positions.

These sorts of backsliding, backbiting (might I say – “bitchy”?) responses apparently led to this observation I noticed on another thread:

So – it may be a case of “King Freedman is Dead – Long Live the More Reliable Queen Shabi” for CiFers. We’ll have to wait and see. Until Shabi also falls under the spell of the beautiful, vibrant, democratic, joyous country called Israel, surrounded by enemies and hatred, and still living life to the full.

L’Chaim. Happy 62nd Independence Day

(*) GWV – Guardian World View.