Suzanne Goldenberg avoids mentioning her Jenin lies at the Guardian Open Weekend

 A guest post by AKUS

Goldenberg with Guardian's Middle East editor Ian Black at 'Open Weekend' 2012

While looking once again at the disgusting role the Guardian, and, in particular, Suzanne Goldenberg, played in disseminating the lies about the so-called “Jenin massacre” I came across a videoclip of a workshop held by the Guardian for the paying faithful (Weekend pass: £60) called the frontline debate at Guardian Open Weekend. The Guardian lined up Suzanne Goldenberg, Emma Graham-Harrison (just recruited from Reuters), Martin Chulov, and Ian Black, in what they referred to as a “debate” moderated by Lindsay Hilsum (International Editor for Channel 4 News and frequent contributor to the Guardian and Observer – 2002 TV story of the year  runner up for Jenin reporting) for this event.

Actually, it was not a debate – it was a panel discussion and exercise in group-think amongst an incestuous group of mainly Israel-bashing reporters who have known each other for decades, with the exception of Graham-Harrison who seemed a little uncertain about her role in the event. There was no debate, there were no opposing views about anything, and it was attended by,I would estimate from the videocam pictures, as perhaps 20 Guardianista groupies.

If you do not think “groupies” is a fair term to describe the attendees, and have the energy to watch it all the way through, you will see one middle-aged person, worried about the digital age, expressing her undying love for the print version of the Guardian (“I’m an avid consumer of the print version. God, I love the print version. It gives me an enormous amount of pleasure every day”). I was left wondering what strange views of the world this woman must have, since reading every word, every day, in a paper like the Guardian, must surely create an alternative world view that most of us outside the Guardian bubble can hardly begin to comprehend.

Well, feeding straight into the carefully-crafted GWV of people like this we had the Goldenberg view of the ME. She managed to refer to the Middle East (Israel and Iraq were once her beats) without once mentioning her despicable role in creating the Jenin massacre libel (along with, of course, Brian Whitaker and the entire stable of anti-Israeli Guardian journalists, including weekend panelist Ian Black).

Goldenberg, like Judge Goldstein for his Gaza report, should never be forgiven for the damage she did to Israel with her reporting about Jenin. While she and the Guardian were not the only sources of the libels, and the BBC and CNN have much to answer for, her articles set the tone. In 2002, after leaving Israel for the US (see below), she won Journalist of the Year award with the BBC’s John Kampfner for her reporting from Israel  and his from Gaza– awards, surely, in a minor way, as little deserved and cynical as Yasser Arafat’s Nobel Peace prize.

On the Guardian’s website, Goldenberg is shown as the Guardian’s “US Environment Correspondent”. Links to her other reporting activities avoid a link to her reports from Israel.


 She left Israel after then head of the Israeli government press office , Daniel Seaman, denied her access to Israeli briefings  after accusing her (and several other reporters) of acquiescing to control of her reporting by Yasser Arafat in order for her to get access to West Bank and Gazan sources (“fixers”). The manipulation of journalists and media in this way by the PA has been extensively documented by Stephanie Gutmann in her important book, “The Other War”. Although Rusbridger denied this was the reason for Goldenberg’s withdrawal, clearly she was no longer useful in her position in Jerusalem. The Guardian has never retracted her reports and has never apologized in print for its coverage of the battle in Jenin. Rusbridger has only made a verbal retraction in a barely noticed comment on March 3rd, 2008 (six years later!) at the Jewish Book Week’s closing session in London.

There are two clips recording her comments that the Guardian extracted from the panel discussion. The first is:

‘The inability to decide what is safe and what is not safe is the hallmark of conflict today’ – video

In which she recounts how sad she was when, as a result of the first intifada, barriers went up between Jerusalem and Ramallah, due to the mistrust between Israelis and West Bank Arabs. She ignores the horror, deaths, and brutality of the suicide bombings. Her theme for the weekend was “How the contacts (between Israelis and Palestinians) withered and how that fed the conflict” – never mentioning how her virulent reporting contributed to the bitterness.

The second refers to her shameless attitude to misreporting and creating the news:

‘Your job is to make people connect to the story’ – video

“I can’t predict accurately what will make a big impact and what will not”. 

Fair enough, if what she reported is really what happened. But in fact the hallmark of her reporting from Israel, culminating in her lies about what happened in Jenin as a result of the second intifada, was the creation of a story with “big impact” by grabbing onto and reporting every rumor and lie spread by the likes of Saeeb Erekat and other Palestinians such as Nabil Shaath without any serious attempt at corroboration from the IDF.

Israel’s Defensive Shield operation in Jenin ran from April 1 – April 11, 2002. In an article from April 9, Toll of the bloody battle of Jenin, she recounted the fierce opposition met by Israeli forces. The article carries the almost certainly incorrect sub-header

“Suzanne Goldenberg in the West Bank town that has seen a ‘victory’ for militiamen bought at the terrible price of 13 Israelis and 100 Palestinians dead”

 Since reporters were not allowed in by Israel, she herself wrote

What little independent information has trickled out of the camp has arrived through the accounts of Palestinian men, who were detained and released by the invading Israeli forces, or through sporadic telephone phone calls with residents of Jenin camp and town.

But as time went by, to get the “impact” she needed and make “make people connect to the story”, the description of events became more and more reliant on the wild exaggerations of the PA spokesmen.

For example, in the article Disaster zone hides final death toll, even when it was apparent that the death toll in Jenin was dozens and not hundreds, and even she referred to only 16 confirmed Arab deaths (later to rise to 52) she continued beating the drum of anti-Israeli lies.

She continued the attempt to give the impression of hundreds of innocents had been massacred. To help “people connect to the story” and give it “impact”, she added unsubstantiated “accounts” of “scores of bodies beneath the ruins”:

There are also accounts of scores of bodies beneath the ruins – especially at the centre of the camp where some 200 homes were crushed by Israeli army bulldozers – reputedly with people inside – in a frenzied demolition campaign on the last two days of fighting.

As her stories developed, references to Israeli casualties disappeared, and from the start there was no context provided by mentioning the reason for the Defensive Shield action, of which Jenin was one battle, (increasing terrorist attacks culminating in the real massacre of innocents at the Park Hotel Seder). In fact, Goldenberg is credited with only one article about the Park Hotel massacre, Suicide bomb kills 16 Israelis in hotel, co-written with Graham Usher while she was in Beirut. She was reporting there on a now long-forgotten meeting where the Saudis laid out their peace plan while preventing Arafat from participating by satellite link. She reported, ironically in light of the events we are witnessing in Syria a decade later, contemporaneously (March 27, 2002) with the Park Hotel massacre:

“Syria’s Bashar Assad called on Arab leaders to support the Palestinian uprising, and condemned the Jewish state as a “living example” of terrorism.”

The Guardian reader was left with the utterly false impression that what happened in Jenin was an event at least on the scale of a Bosnia visited for no reason at all on defenseless, peaceful people. In fact, the claim was immediately uncritically repeated by the Guardian’s own Jonathan Freedland, writing from London – Parallel universeswho compared the Jenin battle to the Christian massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila:

The streets are strewn with corpses, and there are more underneath the wreckage. Palestinians say bodies were piled up and taken away in trucks; that men were lined up, thinking they were under arrest, and shot; that homes were hit by helicopter gunships even as civilians cowered inside. Among the dead are the elderly and the very young, left to die, it is said, because no ambulance was allowed to get near. For Palestinians, Jenin 2002 is a tragedy on a par with Beirut 1982, when Christian Phalangists massacred hundreds in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, unhindered by the Israeli army which then ruled the city.

An account of the battle on Wikipedia, adds information which provides context for the limited number of civilian casualties. This background was not mentioned by Goldenberg, who, like other journalists, was not allowed access until after the fighting had ended:

According to Efraim Karsh, before the fighting started, the IDF used loudspeakers broadcasting in Arabic to urge the locals to evacuate the camp, and he estimates that some 11,000 left. Stephanie Gutmann also noted that the IDF used bullhorns and announcements in Arabic to inform the residents of the invasion, and that the troops massed outside the camp for a day because of rain. She estimated that 1,200 remained in the camp, but that it was impossible to tell how many of them were fighters. After the battle, Israeli intelligence estimated that half the population of noncombatants had left before the invasion, and 90% had done so by the third day, leaving around 1,300 people. Others estimated that 4,000 people had remained in the camp. Some camp residents reported hearing the Israeli calls to evacuate, while others said they did not. Many thousands did leave the camp, with women and children usually permitted to move into the villages in the surrounding hills or the neighbouring city. However, the men who left were almost all temporarily detained. Instructed by Israeli soldiers to strip before they were taken away, journalists who entered Jenin following the invasion remarked that heaps of discarded clothing in the ruined streets showed where they were taken into custody.

Not a word of this was ever reported by Goldenberg, nor, as far as I have been able to discover, by the Guardian.

Ian Black, also on the panel, co-authored which indicates how quickly the media disinformation had infected the political ranks in Europe, and repeated the exaggerations of the Palestinian Authority:

A senior Palestinian, Nabil Shaath, accused Israel of carrying out summary executions and removing corpses in refrigerated trucks. He said close to 500 people had been killed. Israel says 70 Palestinian fighters died in the fighting. “The Israeli army took six days to complete its massacre in Jenin and six days to clean it up,” Mr Shaath said.

In a speech published by then editor of Ha’aretz, Hanoch Marmori about a Jenin-inspired libel, the Abu Ali affair, Digging beneath the surface in the Middle East conflict , Marmori said:

While preparing this address, I made some inquiries about Abu Ali’s case. First, final numbers indicate that three children and four women were killed during the fighting in the Jenin refugee camp. Second, Abu Ali’s children were not among them. And third, the [influential European] magazine did not bother to tell its readers of this relatively happy end to its story. Perhaps because they are tired of writing editor’s notes on Middle East stories.

The past 20 months of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have created a real crisis of values for journalism. I believe I can compress the enormous volume of coverage and comment into four fundamental sins: obsessiveness, prejudice, condescension and ignorance. The story of Abu Ali conveniently exemplifies all four.

One day, historians examining this period of crisis will have to consider the circular process by which the media were transformed from observers to participants. From covering the story to playing a major part in it, to stimulating and sometimes agitating the environment for their own media purposes. The media in this cruel Israeli-Palestinian conflict are like a very rich junkie, who parks his Mercedes on the high street of a slum. You can be sure that in no time at all, everyone will be out there, pushing a whole variety of merchandise.

 Change “Mercedes” to “Rolls Royce” and you have an excellent summary of the way Goldenberg covered, and the Guardian with Harriet Sherwood and Phoebe Greenwood continues to cover, the Israel beat. There are no apologies, no retractions, just an on-going effort to shovel the suspect merchandise to their loving groupies.

Apropos the panel discussion, Robin Shepherd’s  Commentator” had this interesting article:


The Kraken isn’t going away without a fight.

Having made losses before tax of £33million last year, Guardian News and Media had already announced plans for a possible Hotel Guardianista ventureNow, it seems, education is their next port of call with the group looking at plans to start a digital journalism course.

Seeing as its current crop of hacks is incapable of presenting well-reasoned journalism, one has to wonder what’ll be on the syllabus – presumably tips on how to obfuscate a lost back-and-forth in order to evade embarrassment in a manner that would leave even Harry Houdini scratching his head.

And what’ll the damage be? £9000 per year.

Perhaps now its readers will be weaned off their current force-fed diet of attacks on rising tuition fees…

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