The Guardian & BBC, and a tall tale regarding a Palestinian ‘switched at birth’ in Gaza

Guardian journalists reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict at times seem to casually accept Palestinian claims at face value and often fail to perform even rudimentary research on the argument being advanced.  

For example Harriet Sherwood, in a May 30th 2011 report about the abandoned Arab village of Lifta – located at the western entrance to Jerusalem – uncritically accepted the claims of a former Lifta resident named Yacoub Odeh that the Israeli Knesset, Supreme Court, and Hebrew University were built on Lifta’s former farmlands.  

However, as CAMERA noted, in response to an LA Times story which parroted the same claims about Lifta:

“According to the Jerusalem municipality, none of those institutions are built on land formerly belonging to Lifta. Elie Isaacson, the spokesman for the municipality, noted that the Knesset’s land is leased from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. As for the Hebrew University and the Supreme Court, they sit on land that once was part of the Arab village of Sheikh Badr, not Lifta.”

“…a phone call to Israel Kimhi of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, and a foremost expert on the city of Jerusalem, confirmed that Lifta’s boundaries did not extend that far south. He consulted a British Mandate era map and found that Lifta’s boundaries only went as far south as Jaffa Street…”

The Guardian never corrected the story.

Sherwood’s failure to corroborate Odeh’s tale came to mind when I read Elder of Ziyon’s recent post about a CBC radio program concerning Ahmed Masoud; a British writer and playwright who was born in Gaza.  During the program, according to the EoZ reader who drew attention to it , Masoud told a story that he had previously written for The Guardian last year:

Masoud wrote the following:

“I had a very happy childhood in a very large family, with five sisters and six brothers. I’m right in the middle, which is a good place to be. But we lived in one of the worst places on Earth – the Gaza Strip in Palestine – and when I was six, in 1987, the first intifada started. 

…Despite everything going on outside I had a happy childhood. But all this changed when I was 17.

One day I came home from school and turned on the TV. There was a programme about Palestinian refugees and how their families were fragmented because of the troubles, and it talked about how children and babies were mixed up in hospitals.

I looked at my mother and she was electrified – her mouth was open, her eyes were staring and she looked like a ghost. I knew there was something she wasn’t telling me. My dad, too, was staring at the screen. I could see that behind his glasses there was a tear coming down. I hadn’t seen my dad cry before, and to see his tears falling down his cheek was terrifying to me.

Then he wiped his eyes and held my hand, and my mum’s hand, and he started telling the story about what happened when I was born.

At the time, the hospital was being raided and I was evacuated to a special care unit before my mum had even seen me. My dad heard news that the hospital was being bombed and went straight there. When he arrived he was told the room and cot number where he could find me. He ran as fast as he could, but when he got there, he found not one but two babies in the cot. He didn’t know which one was his – the one on the left or the one on the right. There was no time to make a decision. He had to take one. He wondered whether the number they had given him was a mistake, but when he looked around all the other cots were crammed with babies too. And he had to make that decision. So he picked me up. Even now, if you ask him, he can’t answer why he picked me and not the other baby.

He went back to my mum and she wrapped me up, and they ran with me through the streets back home. He didn’t say anything to her until they got home. My mum just put me to her breast and began to feed me. That bond, that love, that motherly feeling was there. The more she looked at me and fed me, the more she was sure I was her son.”

An incredible tale, isn’t it?

Well, Elder thought so too, and you can click here to see him expertly fisk the story, representing a good example of journalistic fact-checking which Guardian editors evidently deemed unimportant.  

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