Chris McGreal Tweets away any possible claim to “liberalism” or journalistic integrity

No, the blurring of news and opinion is not exclusively a Guardian phenomenon.

However, the recent report, on March 5, by Chris McGreal (the Guardian’s Washington correspondent, and former Jerusalem correspondent) contained a headline which is a perfect example of the capacity to contort any news in a way consistent with a journalist’s political sympathies. His headline was:

“Barack Obama tells Israel conference: too much loose talk of war”.

Of course, if you read Obama’s nearly 3500 word speech, a meager 86 words were employed to counsel against such unnecessary “bluster”, while the overwhelming majority of his address focused on his unequivocal resolve in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, including, if necessary, the use of US military force against the Islamist state.

McGreal could have led with this Obama quote:

Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. 

Or, he could have used a version of this Obama quote:

 No Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction.

Or this:

A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests. But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States.

Or, McGreal could have highlighted this passage from Obama’s speech:

…the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the nonproliferation regime that we’ve done so much to build. There are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organisation. It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the world’s most volatile regions. It would embolden a regime that has brutalised its own people, and it would embolden Iran’s proxies, who have carried out terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia.

Or, this:

I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power…a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.

But, McGreal is generally not burdened by such quaint notions as fairness, balance, proportion and context. He was clearly determined to frame Obama’s speech in a way suggesting that the US President gave the pro-Israel Jewish community a tongue-lashing on their “war talk”.

However, while McGreal’s reports for the Guardian at least typically contain the veneer of journalism – rather than ‘Comment is Free’ style hyperbole – his recent Tweets on the AIPAC convention are free of even the pretense of journalistic integrity.  And, indeed, as you’ll see, McGreal’s use of 140 characters to let loose his political id make (the new NYT Israel correspondent) Jodi Rudoren’s recent Tweeting frenzy seem quite tame and sober in comparison.   

First, there was this ReTweet by McGreal, on the Jewish state’s “psychosis”, from anti-Zionist blogger Tony Karon.

McGreal also had  a series of exchanges with The Commentator:

So McGreal is mocking those who read the Jerusalem Post, which he derides for its Semitic sympathies, lacking objectivity – in contrast, are we to suppose, to the Guardian’s fair and balanced non-ideological reporting?

McGreal also Tweeted this:

This is just comical. Oh yes, those Jews and their slick videos! I imagine that other national lobby groups produce amateurish, unprofessional films (shot with cheap hand-held cameras) at their conventions.

Then this:

Again, try to remember that McGreal, who we’re to believe is a serious reporter for a major broadsheet, referred to the Israeli PM as “the President of doom”. 

McGreal also Re-Tweeted Tony Karon again.

Pro-Israel Jews (and many non-Jews) as dim-witted teenagers pumped up with testosterone – an ugly caricature of Zionists which McGreal evidently believes.  

And, there was this

As if we need to know what he’s getting at!

But, just for the fun of it, I Tweeted McGreal to request that he complete his thought, go beyond the dog whistle, and explain what precisely this is telling of, but (while we had a very raucous debate) he never came close to answering my question.

Of course, narratives regarding the injurious influence of the Israel/Jewish lobby on US foreign policy is something approaching conventional wisdom at the Guardian.  Reporters like McGreal believe, as a matter of faith, that the power of the Israel lobby explains why the US Congress is pro-Israel, despite overwhelming empirical evidence that support for Israel among Americans is overwhelming and has represented something of a political consensus over the last 45 years.

A good understanding of McGreal’s views can be gleaned from a September report he wrote for the Guardian which included the following passage:

Obama [told] American Jewish leaders that he would put some “daylight” between the US and Israel after eight years of George Bush slavishly refusing to pressure the Jewish state to move toward ending the occupation. [emphasis mine]

As the CST wrote to the Guardian, in relation to another CiF contributor’s use of the term “subservience” to characterize America’s relationship with Israel:

“Can you please explain to me how this notion that the USA is subservient / slavishly subservient to Israel is any different in its rationale to the old antisemitic myth about Jews running the world through domination of politicians, finance and media?

Shortly after McGreal’s report on the “subservient” American government, we contacted the Guardian, who upheld our complaint of antisemitic bias in McGreal’s report and they later removed the offending passage from the essay as “inconsistent with their standards”.

So, while its clear that McGreal buys into classic (historically right-wing tropes) about the dangers of Jewish power and influence on the body politic, it’s always difficult to determine what’s in someone’s heart – whether folks who engage in such classically antisemitic narratives possess a genuine antipathy towards Jews as such.

However, evidence on McGreal’s views towards Jews can reasonably be found in a series of reports on the alleged cooperation between Israel and S. Africa – a two-day special report in the Guardian Feb. 6th and 7th 2006 which attempted to delegitimize Israel by portraying the Jewish state as an apartheid and colonial state. But, it went much further than merely defaming Israel, and lashed out at Jews more broadly.  Wrote McGreal, in the context of comparing Jewish behavior to that of the Afrikaner S. African regime:

[Israel’s Jewish] backers question how anyone can accuse them, as Jews at the end of a long line of persecuted generations, of racism, or in any way of resembling the old Afrikaner regime. But for years, much of South Africa’s Jewish population and successive Israeli governments made their own pact with apartheid – a deal that exchanged near silence by most South African Jews on a great moral issue for acceptance, and clandestine cooperation between Israel and the Afrikaner government that drew the two countries into a hidden embrace.

Of course, I likely shouldn’t have to dignify McGreal’s smear against Jews, but it needs to be noted that most S. African Jews, in fact, had actually voted against the apartheid National Party, instead casting their votes for either the Progressive Party or the United Party, and that Nelson Mandela, wrote about Jews in South Africa: “I have found Jews to be more broad-minded than most whites on issues of race and politics, perhaps because they themselves have historically been victims of prejudice.” 

Finally, being a Jew has historically meant constantly being on the defensive, and I am loath to give McGreal’s vitriol against Israel and her Jewish supporters any legitimacy, nor treat him as a respectful interlocutor.

My hope is that genuine liberals (those who are passionately anti-racist) will recognize McGreal’s ugly smears against the Jewish community, and condemn such decidedly illiberal views.

While McGreal’s Tweets have eroded any trust that he can separate his toxic political views with his responsibilities as a journalist, his past commentary should motivate others to justly name and shame the Guardian’s Washington correspondent as the bigot he is.  

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