The miracle of Guardian writer Phoebe Greenwood (Updated)

From the Hannuka miracle of the oil to the virgin birth (to mention but those currently being celebrated), Israel has a reputation for marvels of mystical intervention stretching back thousands of years.

But miracles are not a thing of the past in the Holy Land; even in contemporary times we frequently witness the wonder of a journalist becoming an expert authority on the Middle East faster than you can say “half a portion of falafel with amba and don’t forget the chips”.

The Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood is a classic case in point.

Having graduated in 2003 with a degree in English Literature, Greenwood began her career in journalism with an Australian celebrity gossip magazine before moving on to Grazia fashion magazine where, according to her own description, she  was engaged in “writing and commissioning news and showbiz features, editing party pages”. A brief stint at the Daily Mail was followed by a post at the in-house journalist for Christian Aid.  Eleven months later, Greenwood moved to another post within the NGO sector as she took on the role of media manager in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East on behalf of Save the Children UK. She has also worked with Amnesty International.

During her time with Save the Children (March 2009 – December 2010) Greenwood’s concurrent activity as a freelance writer saw a shift to world politics (with a heavy accent on the Arab-Israeli conflict) which have appeared in numerous outlets including Al-Jazeera, the Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph and the UN OCHA online magazine IRIN.

Since July 2011 she has been employed as a stringer – based in Jerusalem  – for the Guardian/Observer and the Daily Telegraph newspapers.

As anyone who has ever worked in the charity sector is aware, one does not attract the donations necessary for financing either the organization’s activities or its employees’ salaries by telling the public that the situation in that particular field of operation is not too bad. A freelance journalist doubling up as a charity worker therefore clearly has a conflict of interests when reporting – supposedly objectively – about the situation in a foreign country in which he or she is also employed by a charity working in the field.

Several of Greenwood’s articles have relied heavily upon information and quotes from Save the Children UK’s country director in what it terms the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories) – Ms. Salam Kanaan – who clearly has a very politicized agenda easily discernible in her quoted statements, reports and interviews.

Greenwood’s rapidly acquired ‘understanding’ of the Middle East (a subject which she herself now defines as one of her ‘specialties’) is obviously influenced considerably by the organizational culture she absorbed whilst working for Save the Children UK. According to her self-composed LinkedIn profile, she continues to act as a consultant to that organization, as well as for Amnesty International and ACT Alliance.

Greenwood is a clear example of what we at CiF Watch have termed in the past a ‘journavist’: someone promoting a political agenda by means of what the public assumes to be objective reporting.

Her increasingly frequent articles on the pages of the Guardian’s Middle East section (cost-cutting in progress?) may initially appear to be little different from the often ideologically-motivated reports filed by Harriet Sherwood until one remembers that Greenwood’s lightning apprenticeship for her new trade as ‘Middle East Specialist’ was learned not at a foreign editor’s news desk, but at the knees of several of the more offensive anti-Israel charities at work in the region. That she claims to still work as a consultant with some of them indicates a continuing conflict of interests.  

The fact that the Guardian is publishing supposedly serious reporting on the Middle East from a recently re-vamped former writer of celebrity gossip (with apparently no formal training in Middle East history, and whose ‘expertise’ on the subject was gained in a total of 22 months spent working on two far apart continents for a fairly notoriously biased charity) is hardly likely to cause regular CiF Watch readers to set aside their Christmas pudding or Hannuka donut in shock.

The ‘miracle’ of Phoebe Greenwood’s meteoric transformation into a regular Guardian contributor with a self-described ‘specialty’ in the Middle East clearly has more to do with the fact that her ‘progressive’ one-sided approach dovetails very conveniently with the Guardian World View of the region rather than any boring, earthly factor such as knowledge, expertise or understanding.

Actually, it might well be a miracle if she wasn’t writing for the Guardian.

UPDATE, May 13, 2012: We removed text which mistakenly including the professional background of another journalist named Phoebe Greenwood, who is a music editor for The Times.

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