Katharine Viner nails her colors to the mast (head)

This is a guest post by AKUS (Update below)

In April, Israeli Nurse wrote of the impending changes at the Guardian, following the departure of Georgina Henry to the “Culture” section of the Guardian, which apparently was in need of extra clicks that can only be ensured by posting the anti-Israeli, pro-Palestinian articles that are so successful in bringing out the Israel-bashers on CiF’s Middle East section.

Although Georgina Henry was a hard act to follow for sheer malice and double-talk, the Guardian appears to have scored a home-run with the idea of bringing in  a feminist Jewish editor to replace Georgina – Katharina Viner (see also ‘She never hated men’ – “But the death at the age of 58 of ‘the most maligned feminist on the planet’ has deprived feminism of its last truly challenging voice, says Katharine Viner”).

We now have a female as-a-Jew leading the charge for endless articles intended to delegitimize and denigrate Israel. Viner sees herself as the torchbearer for Rachel Corrie, the American inadvertently killed  as she tried to protect an arms-smuggling tunnel with her body in Gaza.

Viner has quickly equipped herself with a stable of equally biased, fringe female Jewish contributors. There is the deplorably uninformed Mizrachi Shabi. Viner introduced us to new face on the block (see the parrot on Viner’s shoulder), Florida native Guarnieri,(“a Tel Aviv  based journalist”), an ultra-leftist new arrival in Israel thoroughly disgraced in her CiF debut by chortling CiFers when she revealed a total lack of understanding of the issue of global foreign worker regulations – and Israel’s adherence to widely accepted policies. A  US native, and now, apparently, Israeli immigrant taking advantage of the right-of-return to condemn her new country, as-a-Jew  Guernieri performed the remarkable feat of avoiding any mention of what is happening to Mexicans back home in Arizona in her eagerness to condemn Israel for proposing to implement the same rules applied across the Western world.

Viner added in  a little mélange of “Arabic doesn’t translate well into English” by Marie Dhumières (“a freelance journalist based in Damascus, Syria”) to excuse the excesses of Arab invective against Israel, the whole ably backed up by the main pages’ Harriet Sherwood providing a relentlessly anti-Israeli drumbeat. None of these people can, apparently, speak Hebrew, and all operate on the extreme fringes of Israeli society – presented to the reader as if their politics represent a significant voice within the Israeli political spectrum.

To provide some male coverage, even disgraced “gone-native” Seth Freedman has been allowed back into the fold, provided he writes suitably negative articles, and, of course, there is  the endless (and much derided) rubbish provided by Tony Lerman in a vain attempt to provide some “local” (i.e., Britain-based) Jewish talent. Viner even dragged David Cronin out of the woodshed to protest about a punk rocker daring to perform in Israel. Put it all together and you have pretty good idea of the sort of unbalanced view of Israel this editor intends to have published on CiF.

You may think this is a bit extreme. Not at all. Viner came to the notice of some  (not this writer) when she co-authored a play titled “My Name is Rachel Corrie” – a story  about the unfortunate Oregonian who  sacrificed her life in an attempt to defend a Hamas arms-smuggling tunnel, apparently under the mistaken impression that war in the Middle East is like protesting against logging companies in the American Northwest. In an interview Viner revealed the reason that she was asked to co-author the play:

It goes back to Viner’s twenties when, because of her fascination with the Middle East, she spent most of her holidays in places like Lebanon, Syria, Israel and the West Bank, to the point where her brother jokingly dubbed her a “trauma tourist”.

A fascination with Arab trauma that is so typical of the young Jew who turns against her own people who “should know better”, completely ignoring the trauma of life for many in Israel living for decades in an almost permanent state of war and siege.  I have not read nor seen the play, but in a review at All About Jewish Theatre we also get revealing insights into Viner’s evasion of the truth, so typical of the Guardian’s Israel-bashing staff:

[Yet] Viner and Rickman have produced a manipulative play that attempts to delegitimize Israel under the pretense of exposure to “accessible writing.” And the audience at the Royal Court Theatre is bombarded with descriptions of alleged IDF actions devoid of context.

That paragraph could be applied to the articles we have seen recently by Shabi, Guarnieri,  Freedman (and Sherwood, though the latter is the Guardian’s “woman in Jerusalem”, not a CiF contributor per se) and reflect the tone and content of CiF remarkably closely.

Another review shows careful editing of Corrie’s actual writings by Viner and Rickman designed to create an imaginary Rachel Corrie – just as we see in article after article by anti-Israeli CiF contributors who create a country called Israel that is so remote from the reality as to be largely unrecognizable to anyone who actually has lived here:

For in cobbling together a script drawn from Corrie’s extensive writings, actor Alan Rickman and British journalist Katharine Viner haven’t so much presented Corrie onstage; rather, they have cut-and-pasted together a character who is named Rachel Corrie….

… The two editors also sanitized Corrie’s writing. They excised potentially incendiary words, like genocide. When Corrie reports on Israeli soldiers detonating a nearby explosive, the editors dropped the back half of her sentence, “one that appears to have been planted by Palestinian resistance.” It’s as if Rickman and Viner felt a need to protect Corrie rather than expose her unvarnished.

The same lack of context and bias that we see daily in CiF is apparent in the play to those who have the discernment to see it for what it truly is: Clive Davis gave a short assessment of the play for The Times in April 2005:

As for the scenes set in Israel — brilliantly evoked by Hildegard Bechtler’s bullet-pocked concrete set — an element of unvarnished propaganda comes to the fore. With no attempt made to set the violence in context, we are left with the impression of unarmed civilians being crushed by faceless militarists. Early on, Corrie makes a point of informing us that more Israelis have been killed in road accidents than in all the country’s wars put together. As she jots down thoughts in her notebook and fires off e-mails to her parents, she declares that “the vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance”. Even the late Yassir Arafat might have blushed at that one.

But this is not all. Israeli Nurse pointed out that Viner interviewed the terrorist Leila Khaled, opening her article with words which can only be categorized as glorifying terrorism.

“In a way, the whole story is in the ring. The iconic photograph of Leila Khaled, the picture which made her the symbol of Palestinian resistance and female power, is extraordinary in many ways: the gun held in fragile hands, the shiny hair wrapped in a keffiah , the delicate Audrey Hepburn face refusing to meet your eye. But it’s the ring, resting delicately on her third finger. To fuse an object of feminine adornment, of frivolity, with a bullet: that is Khaled’s story, the reason behind her image’s enduring power. Beauty mixed with violence.

And the ring? “I made it from the pin of a hand grenade – from the first grenade I ever used in training,” she says. “I just wrapped it around a bullet.”

We may well ponder this adulatory paragraph and what this interview reveals about Viner’s admiration for this evil “ring-bearer” the articles she will commission and permit to be published on CiF.

Viner’s fascination and admiration for Palestinian terrorists was also revealed when she – who else?  – interviewed Hamas member Ghazi Hamad at the Guardian’s  Hay Literary Festival. But there is also Viner’s naiveté and ignorance or refusal to face up to the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which more than anything make her identify with Corrie, well captured in this review by Cynthia Ozick :

… The longer the play was absent from local scrutiny, the more romantically its faraway halo might glow: a visionary young woman on the barricades, part heroic Joan of Arc, part victimized Anne Frank, mercilessly cut down in the very act of defying brute injustice.

To have the play actually in hand — the naked script itself — is a down-to-earth corrective.

…[Corrie’s] training — she accepts the term willingly — takes place in Jerusalem. Escorted by Palestinians while waiting “to get to Rafah to join the other internationals trying to prevent the demolition of civilian homes,” she observes “blue stars of David spray-painted on doors in the Arab section of the old city.” She concludes, “I am used to seeing the cross used in a colonialist way.” Once in Rafah, she is under military orders. “The neighborhoods that have asked us for some form of presence are Yibna, Tel El Sultan, Hi Salaam, Brazil, Block J, Zorob, and Block O.” The new recruits are called on to stand as human shields before arms caches or shooter hideouts. If through some mishap a young foreigner should be hit, all the better: fuel for international outrage. She imagines “the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen.

… She has come as a determined tabula rasa. Absent are the Arab annihilationist wars of 1948, 1967, 1973. Absent are the repeated Palestinian refusals of statehood, beginning in 1948, when the United Nations proposed a partition of the land, and emerging again in 2000, when yet another Israeli (and American) appeal for Palestinians to accept statehood was answered by Yasir Arafat’s murderous second intifada. “A largely unarmed people”? The English-speaking pharmacist in whose house Rachel Corrie is billeted admits to the culpable Palestinian origins of the current fighting: “Before intifada — no tanks, no bulldozers, no noise. After intifada, daily.” But even this close-at-hand testimony of cause-and-effect cannot sway her. The believer is cognizant only of her belief.

In the initial months of her efforts at CiF Viner, who has closely identified with the mystique of Corrie, the human shield, and Khalid, the female “freedom fighter”,  has clearly made a determined effort to use CiF as a platform for carrying on their missions.

The selection of CiF articles we have seen make it clear that Viner has nailed her anti-Israeli colors to the mast. Bringing to the fore equally shrill, and quite marginal, female contributors (“determined tabulae rosa”), it appears she is trying to do what she can to resurrect an imaginary Rachel Corrie for her readers – a female freedom fighter determined to reveal the evils of Israeli society .

We can expect a continuing steam of context-less, negative, demonizing articles about Israel, where Palestinians fire harmless rocket in “self defense” (against what?) or act as a suicide bombers justifiably killing Israelis for “the cause”, where against all evidence to the contrary millions are claimed to be starving in Gaza, and where we are told that Israeli Arabs, who have equal rights inside Israel, are treated even worse than we are expected to believe is the situation of Mizrachi Israelis – whose marginalized status now exists almost entirely in the minds of Rachel Shabi and Mya Guarnieri.

How clever of the Guardian. Who can complain about this when the editor and almost all her principal contributors leading this jihad are Jewish?

Editors’ Update:

On Dec. 9, 2012, we received information questioning whether Katharine Viner is in fact Jewish – as our post claims.  Here are recent Tweets from Guardian colleagues suggesting that she is not Jewish.

[tweet https://twitter.com/lindasgrant/status/277774798690586624]

[tweet https://twitter.com/lindasgrant/status/277813615657103361]

We’ve contacted Ms. Viner in an attempt to confirm the new information, but she hasn’t responded to our query. 

A.L.

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