Fiction Alert: Palestinian “political prisoners” and a Guardian “Business” section

“Facts are tricky things too. One person’s fact is another person’s opinion and a third person’s grossly biased and unconscionable world-view.” – Guardian Readers’ Editor, Chris Elliott, August 2nd, 2010.

My Guardian Google Alert sometimes goes off automatically (like an audio alarm) in my head as, after nearly two years on the job, I’ve developed a kind of sixth-sense for when the Guardian publishes something about my country.  

And so my Guardian left ideological GPS navigated me last night to an obscure (though far from better) place – a section I had never heard of: one called the “Observer business agenda.

Admittedly, the first thing which comes to mind when I think of the Adam Smith-inspired invisible hand, rampant capitalism and that competitive business edge is not Seumas Milne’s tin pot Pravda.

The June 3rd edition of the Observer business agenda, by Simon Goodley, included three snippets of information: business news the discerning ideological anti-capitalist can nonetheless use to exploit the system during late stage capitalism – before its inevitable collapse into the long-awaited socialist utopia. One of those pieces of information was this:

“Call security? We are security

For your average controversial corporation, security at annual general meetings is handled by a crack team of professionals. But when you’re a security company yourself – and prone to the odd gaffe such as tagging the prosthetic leg of a prisoner who then hops off – calling in the professionals might not always be an option.

It is against that backdrop that campaigners will make their way to the AGM of security specialists G4S this week, where they will voice concerns on issues as varied as: the death of asylum seeker Jimmy Mubenga while under G4S guard (a decision on whether or not to prosecute will be made soon); charges for security to the Olympic Games (the same margin as usual, says G4S); and the group’s service contract with an Israeli jail that holds political prisoners. Four years ago, the company said it would withdraw from the West Bank contracts by 2015. No hurry, then? “We couldn’t get out of them,” said a spokesman, without a hint of irony.”

Political prisoners in Israeli jails? What precisely is Goodley talking about?

Have Guardian editors completely given up on using sources in their stories? (For a brief answer to my rhetorical question, see our post about Harriet Sherwood’s wild claim about the number Palestinians disabled by IDF military ops, as well as our report on Conal Urquhart’s convenient decision not to cite the UN Palmer Report, which would have completely contradicted his mythical unarmed Mavi Marmara terrorists).

Back to the “political prisoners” in the Observer story: perhaps Goodley was referring to Palestinians being held under administrative detention due to evidence tying them to terror groups such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad. But unfortunately there is no link, so I can’t even check his – Chris Elliott style – “facts”.

Well, after so many months on the job, worn down by the ubiquitous emails from the CiF Watch coven, pressured into making more than a few embarrassing corrections (once even forced to acknowledge – after weeks of grueling geographical research – that one of their expert Palestine contributors was unaware of Gaza’s southern border), perhaps Elliott has simply given up on the arduous task of fact checking.

After all, that whole charade about being a serious newspaper was pretty thin to begin with. Let the Guardian’s complete transformation into a theoretical journal of Marxist thought begin! 

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