Guardian fails to correct false claim – their ‘journalist’ calls our complaint “nonsense”

COGAT, the Israeli authority tasked with processing such travel requests, flatly denied the Guardian claim that a young Palestinian suicide victim had been denied a travel permit to study at Hebrew University. In fact, they said he had never applied for permission in the first place. 

The Guardian’s nearly 6,000 word ‘Long Read‘ on May 18th, written by Sarah Helm, focused on a 22-year-old Palestinian man, Mohanned Younnis, who committed suicide in Gaza.  Helms contextualised the incident as just one example of a disturbing “rise in suicides” in Gaza caused, in large measure, by the horrible living conditions caused by the Israeli “siege”.

The following passage towards the end of the piece illustrates the narrative :

One of Mohanned’s last pieces of writing was a play called Escape. Shortly before he died, he had made a final effort to escape. His mother said he had applied to Israel’s prestigious Hebrew University in Jerusalem to study literature, and had been accepted. But he was unable to take up the offer, because Israeli security refused him permission to leave Gaza.

However, we checked with COGAT, the Israeli authority tasked with processing such travel permits, and they flatly denied that the young Palestinian man had ever applied for permission to travel in the first place.  COGAT “has not received a request from Mohanned Younis”, the spokesperson told us. 

We then forwarded the email to Guardian editors and tweeted the journalist with a snapshot of the email:

Though we sent a follow-up to the Readers’ Editor office noting that our complaint was based on the refutation of a specific claim by a primary source, the Guardian hasn’t even responded to our complaint. 

We also later received this snarky reply from Helms after we emphasized the importance of fact-checking such Palestinian claims.

Of course, Ms. Helm didn’t explain how our complaint was “nonsense”.  As we asked in a subsequent tweet to the journalist: Is COGAT wrong? 

Though Helm has a history of making highly misleading claims about Israel and the Palestinians, and we’re not surprised in the least by her dismissive reaction, the Guardian’s Readers’ Editor is tasked with upholding the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code, and can’t simply ignore such substantive complaints.

Stay tuned.  We don’t intend to let this factual error go without a fight.

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