Musings on how the Guardian defines “Disproportionate” and “Fair and Balanced”

After a week of watching the Guardian gorging itself on the ‘Palestine papers’ like an out of control bulimic, a few thoughts and observations came to mind.

It was interesting to see how the Guardian transferred its long-held policies regarding ‘fair and balanced’ coverage of Israeli affairs to the Palestinian stage.  As veteran CiF readers know, the column space given to (‘good’) anti-Zionist or Israel-chastising Jews such as Seth Freedman, Antony Lerman, Rachel Shabi, Avi Shlaim, Abe Haim or Mya Guarnieri was always consistently ‘disproportionate’ (to use a word much-loved by the Guardian) when compared to the amount of space allocated to pro-Israel Zionist Jews or Israelis.

The ‘Palestine papers’ week saw a similar tactic being employed with regard to Palestinians. A deluge of fairly uniformly outraged commentary came from ‘good’ Palestinians such as Ghada Karmi, Karma Nablusi, Osama Hamdan and Laila el Haddad – their common denominator being that they either belong to Hamas or are sympathetic to its ideology and political views.  None of these people, incidentally, actually live in areas ruled by either the PA or Israel.

The only attempt to inject ‘balance’ into the commentary by allowing a Palestinian voice which opposes Hamas to be heard was an article by Saeb Erekat four days into the outrage fest. The voice of ordinary Palestinians in the streets who are opposed to Hamas and may actually support the kind of compromises reflected in the leaked papers as a way forward to securing a much-needed peace agreement was nowhere to be heard on the pages of CiF. And therefore any reader of the Guardian over the past few days who is unfamiliar with the Middle East might well assume that political opinion on the Palestinian street is remarkably monotone and that those supporting a Hamas-style continuation of the conflict with Israel are the overwhelming majority.

That would of course be because the Guardian has yet again ditched its commitment to being ‘fair and balanced’.

Another interesting observation was the way in which Guardian coverage of a story it instigated itself was allowed (some might even say ‘designed’) to partially eclipse the real stories coming out of Lebanon during the same week. Since the political crisis in Lebanon began on January 12th CiF has published a mere 14 articles on the subject (at the time of writing) – five of which appeared on the first day. Could that be considered ‘disproportionate’?

All the Guardian’s resident Middle East ‘expert’ Brian Whitaker could muster on the subject in his ‘This week in the Middle East’ round up was a terse one-liner.

“There have been disturbances, too, in Lebanon but they are a continuation of old sectarian/political rivalries rather than anything strikingly new.”

On January 29th we were treated to an article by ‘Al Hayat’ correspondent  Mohanad Hage Ali which informed us that “[m]edia reports are wrong: Syria, not Hezbollah, is in control” in Lebanon.

Ah; so it’s not the Iranian-backed theocratic Islamist terrorist group, but the Iranian-backed autocratic secular dictatorship which has taken over a sovereign country. What a relief.

How fortunate that we have the Guardian to inform us that there’s nothing to see here and we really should move along.

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