The Palestine Papers: When evidence is subservient to a political agenda

Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) has provided an extremely valuable contribution in systematically documenting the clear pattern of bias, misrepresentation, and errors which pervades the Guardian’s “Palestine Papers.”

BICOM’s analysis, titled “Palestine Papers: Analysis or Agenda“, of the highly tendentious Guardian “expose” – curiously released by the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera – includes the following critiques:

  • Mistakenly claiming that the Palestinians conceded on recognising Israel as a Jewish state, when the documents and historical record show a hardening of the Palestinian position on the on the issue;
  • Characterising the Palestinian territorial offer, including on Jerusalem, as a far reaching concession, and Israel’s response as dismissal ‘out of hand’, when in fact the Palestinian offer was not as far reaching as presented and the Israeli side showed willingness to engage;
  • Apparently misreading sources to argue that the Palestinians accepted an Israeli offer for the return of 10,000 refugees, when the available evidence seems to indicate the Palestinians were demanding an initial number of 150,000 subject to renewal, and pursuing other refugee claims relating to compensation and Israeli responsibility.
  • Linking apparently unrelated quotes from Tzipi Livni to inaccurately characterise the Israeli position as favouring ‘transfer’, on an occasion when the issue was humanitarian and territorial issues relating to villages bisected by the Green Line.

While all four points are important, the Guardian’s misrepresentation of former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s comments to imply she was favoring “transfer” is the most important as it shows the Guardian selectively using quotes – completely out of context – to advance what’s become a canard frequently parroted by Guardian columnists.

Tropes containing the theme that Israel engages, and has engaged, in “ethnic cleansing”, and currently seeks the forcible transfer of Arabs out of the country, can be found throughout Guardian commentary, above and beneath the line. (See CW posts on various forms of this charge, here and here; Guardian readers’ leveling such charges here and here; and some background on actual “transfers” of populations, here.)

The BICOM report notes:

Referring to a minute of a negotiation session of  21 June 2008, the  Guardian reports that, ‘Israeli leaders pressed for the highly controversial  transfer of some of their own Arab citizens into a future Palestinian state as part of a land-swap deal.They link the discussion of 21 June 2008 to a separate discussion six months earlier, in which Livni reportedly told the Palestinians, ‘The basis for the creation of the state of Israel is that it was created for the Jewish people. Your state will be the answer to all Palestinians, including refugees.’ The Guardian then states, ‘Livni’s implication was that the Palestinian state should be the ‘answer’ for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as millions of refugees and their families who fled or were forced out in 1948.’

They then note:

The Guardian has completely distorted  Israel’s position in the talks. No one on the Israeli side suggests that borders should be drawn to exclude Israeli Arabs from Israel. In fact,  the document in question  explicitly records the fact that Livni spoke up for the equal rights of Israeli-Arabs in Israel during the meeting.  In the discussion in question,  the Israeli side raises the problem of four specific Arab villages which are bisected by  the 1949 armistice line (the Green Line). Redrawing the border on the 1967 line – according to the Palestinian demands – would have the effect of dividing the villages in two and placing family members on separate sides of the border. The Israeli team is raising a humanitarian and territorial dilemma as to how to deal with this specific problem in the context of border negotiations.

The report makes clear:

The Israeli side are setting out options relating only to the specific problem of certain villages which are divided by the Green Line.

It concludes:

This has absolutely nothing to do with Livni’s position that the Palestinian state should be the answer for Palestinian national rights and for refugees, nor with her principled position regarding the equal rights to which all Israelis are entitled. The attempt to portray  the Israeli negotiators as advancing anything resembling the notion of [forcible] ‘transfer’ is either the result of ignorance or a deliberate agenda to misrepresent the Israeli position. If anything, the document demonstrates the degree to  which the negotiators were engaged in the details and seeking solutions to all aspects of the conflict.

As we’ve documented throughout this saga, the “Palestine Papers” represent, more than anything else, an agenda in search of evidence.  The ugly charge, implicit and explicit, of “transfer” or “ethnic cleansing” again reveals that, for the Guardian, data, facts, and analysis are always (slavishly) subservient to the Guardian’s relentless – and increasingly vicious – anti-Israel agenda.

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