A recent Guardian article reported on anti-Netanyahu protests outside the UN in New York City last week, which was described as “the largest anti-government action held outside Israel” since protests began early this year. The piece was written by their US editor Noa Yachot, who was previously the managing editor of the fringe +972 Magazine, a publication known primarily for demonising and delegitimising Israel.
By the fourth paragraph of the article (“Thousands in New York City protest Israel’s judicial overhaul as Netanyahu addresses UN”, Sept. 22), Yachot pivoted the narrative to centre the story around Palestinians:
As in Israel itself, conspicuously missing from Friday’s crowd was a Palestinian presence, even though Palestinians make up roughly half the population under the state’s control and are uniquely vulnerable to the ultra-nationalist agenda of a government dominated by extremist settlers.
Many Palestinians view the protests as a campaign for democracy for Jews alone, seeking a return to a status quo that took hold long before the current government.
Let’s unpack the sentence we highlighted – beginning with error number one:
Yachot grossly misleads when she writes that “As in Israel itself, conspicuously missing from Friday’s crowd was a Palestinian presence“. Assuming that by “Palestinians” she’s referring to Arab citizens of Israel, polls published by the Israel Democracy Institute actually show that 11% of all Arab citizens have attended at least one anti-overhaul protest.
While that’s less than than the percentage of Jewish citizens who’ve attended, that’s still, by any measure, an impressive number. Putting it in perspective, if 11% of all Americans engaged in anti-government protests, that would mean (given the US population) that over 37 million people participated.
The second error is in the part of the sentence highlighted claiming that “Palestinians make up roughly half the population under the state’s control”.
First, to get to this erroneous breakdown, Yachot lumps together Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza (who number, at most, roughly 5 million) with Arab citizens of Israel (who number around 2 million). As Arabs in Israel are full citizens, they’re naturally under “the control” of Israel, as are Jews and others in the state.
The third error in the “half of the population under the state’s control” claim is that it suggests that Gazans are under the control of Israel when, of course, they are under the control of Hamas. The only Palestinian population which can arguably be claimed is under Israeli control are West Bank Palestinians. (Though, most of that population are governed by the Palestinian Authority.)
After her three factual errors, Yachot devotes several paragraphs to the views of one Israeli-American protester – who’s part of the “anti-occupation bloc of the protests” – named Ben Weinberg, who, he makes clear in a quote in the last paragraph, rejects the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state within any borders.
However, missing is any acknowledgement from Yachot that perhaps the reason why the “anti-occupation bloc” isn’t encouraged to attend anti-overhaul protests is because, unlike the serious question regarding the separation of powers within Israel, the Jewish state’s continued existence is not open for debate – at least beyond the fringe anti-Zionist zealot community which the Guardian routinely provides a platform.