When in Guardianspeak is a massacre a “massacre”?

A Guest Post by AKUS

Having a friend who grew up in Sarajevo I was drawn to a Guardian article about the Kosovo elections, not normally something of great interest to me –Former US diplomat backs Albanian nationalist in Kosovo elections – in the hope of learning a bit more about a conflict that has always left me completely confused about who was doing what to whom.

Leaving the politics aside, I noticed that, curiously, the Guardian inserted quotation marks around the misspelled word “massacre” in the sub-header:

Perhaps this ‘massacre’ was not a massacre but something else?

The article included a picture of William Walker, with a caption that once again placed quotation marks around the word:

Now there was a bit more detail – at least 39 villagers were killed in a ‘massacre’. Unless killing 39 villagers is not a massacre.

However, the first paragraph in the story continued in the same way:

The reason I found this curious was because the Guardian, led by the Theobald Jew Suzanne Goldenberg, was at the forefront of reporting the imaginary “Jenin massacre” in the English-language press. The lie they promulgated continues to circulate on the Internet.

A search for the word “Jenin” on the Guardian’s World News section comes up with the almost unbelievable result of 56 pages (not articles – pages!) of snapshots of articles about Jenin. In an eerie run-up to the Mavi Marmara “massacre” (my quotation marks!) there is hardly a name from the Guardian anti-Israel stable missing among those writing articles – Brian Whitaker, Ian Black, Chris McGreal, Suzanne Goldenberg, Uri Avinery, Julian Borger, Ewen MacAskill, Peter Beaumont, Jonathan Cook and more. It was if a message went out – “If you want to keep your job, write something attacking Israel over Jenin”.

When the Guardian’s contributors reported on Jenin they blindly accepted Saeb Erekat’s lies that hundreds of innocent civilians had been killed when Israel decided to clean out that terrorist nest after a string of horrific suicide bombings in 2001-2002. There were almost no examples of the word “massacre” being placed in quotation marks in their reports. Moreover, despite the evidence that emerged that the number of Arabs killed was in the tens, and most were terrorists who used their neighbors as human shields, the Guardian has never printed a retraction for this libel.

After searching dozens of articles about this archived on the Guardian’s web site, I came across this article by Jonathan Steele. This is the closest the Guardian has ever come to retracting its blood-libel, which, to this day, is a rallying call for anti-Israeli hatred (my emphasis added):

The tragedy of Jenin

The long-awaited UN report into Israel’s reoccupation of the main cities of the West Bank criticised both Palestinian militants and Israeli army tactics yesterday, but found no evidence to support claims that Israeli forces were responsible for a massacre in the Jenin refugee camp.

The report criticised Israel for the “widespread destruction of Palestinian property” in Jenin during the operation earlier this year but said Palestinian claims at the time that some 500 Palestinians had been wantonly killed “have not been substantiated”.

The Israeli foreign ministry praised the report, saying it cleared up a “misconception” there had been a massacre…..

Palestinian officials as well as many foreign journalists said there had been a “massacre”. The only reference to the word in the report itself is in eyewitness accounts “by survivors of the massacre at Jenin refugee camp” submitted by Jordan’s UN mission….

… The UN report said 52 Palestinian deaths had been confirmed by April 18, the same death toll reported by Israel. The UN findings mirrored those of Human Rights Watch. Up to half the Palestinian casualties may have been civilians rather than armed fighters, it said, but it was impossible to determine a precise figure.

Clearly, Steele, while not apologizing for the Guardian, has some doubts about the veracity of the foreign journalists’ reports, and puts the word “massacre” in quotation marks when referring to their reports. 23 Israelis were killed, a number almost always ignored in the Guardian’s reports.

Whitaker, who was writing from Jerusalem, gave a good example of the sort of reporting that was provided:

Battle for truth in Jenin

Most people would know a massacre if they saw one. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “massacre” is a noun meaning “general slaughter, carnage; utter defeat and destruction” or a verb meaning to “murder cruelly or violently a number of persons”.

The Israeli government objects to the word “massacre” being used to describe what happened in Jenin refugee camp earlier this month.

“Only” 40 or so Palestinians were killed, it says, and they were all terrorists. There are good reasons for believing both these Israeli claims to be false but, even if they were true, the nature of the act is no less important than its scale.

The Guardian’s bias is revealed once more. When “at least 39 villagers” were killed in Kosovo, this may have been, according to the Guardian, a “massacre”. Or, perhaps not. The OED and is silent on the matter. But when 40 – 50 Arab terrorists  were killed in fierce urban combat in Jenin, a hotbed of suicide bombers wreaking death and destruction in Israel during the Second Intifada, there is no doubt, based on the unimpeachable authority of the OED, that a massacre (no quotation marks) took place.

The sneering “Only” lead in to the third paragraph makes it clear that in his opinion “There are good reasons for believing both these Israeli claims to be false”.  Whitaker has no doubt that the more accurate count was nothing but an Israeli lie, and the use of quotation marks around the word “massacre” in the second paragraph makes it clear that he believes an OED-qualified massacre took place and the Israeli government was lying about the number of Arabs killed (as mentioned above, the final count was around 50, the majority terrorists. The UN report blamed the Palestinians equally with the Israelis for the deaths).

The use of slanted language to defame Israel has become a specialty of the Western media. According to Stephanie Gutmann, who researched this issue in great detail, in addition to projecting their own bias, it is often done in order to protect journalists’ ability to report from places like the West Bank and Gaza, from which they would be evicted by the Palestinian Authority or Hamas if they did not put the proper spin on their reports. Supine acquiescence to this bullying and willingness to believe any lie the Palestinians put out is a hallmark of the Guardian’s reporting from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza especially. The false reports are often accompanied by demands for Israel to provide proof and submit to international (“impartial”) committees of inquiry chaired by known enemies of Israel to prove that it did not do something it is accused of (the famous “prove a negative” fallacy).

So it appears that when “at least 39” villagers are killed in Kosovo, and a report in Wiki puts the number at 45, the Guardian is not sure if a massacre took place. But when Israel kills terrorists, on a far smaller and more targeted scale than, for example, the drone attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no doubt that a massacre, as defined by the OED, took place. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

(You can read a full account of the duplicity of the reportage from Jenin and other matters in Stephanie Gutmann’s excellent book about how the media cover Israel and present the Palestinian view, “The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy”.)

See also Tom Gross: Jeningrad- What the British Media Said, and his Mideast Dispatch Archive:

“In particular, the first line of the article was cited: “Israel’s actions in Jenin were ‘every bit as repellent’ as Osama bin Laden’s attack on New York on September 11, wrote Britain’s Guardian in its lead editorial of April 17.”

Almost six years later, the editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, has finally apologized for using that line.

But Rusbridger has never apologized for the lies his paper spread about the number and nature of the people killed, nor printed any form of retraction, nor ever said that there was, in fact, no massacre at Jenin).

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