No sooner had HonestReporting launched our petition against the demonization of Israel in the media, when the issue of demonization appeared in a prominent UK media outlet. The Independent responded with righteous indignation to accusations from a Jewish community leader and rival newspaper’s journalist that The Independent frequently demonizes Israel.
In a throwaway remark on Radio 4’s Today yesterday, Alex Brummer, City Editor of the Daily Mail, said: “In comparison with The Guardian and The Independent, which frequently demonises Israel, and in so doing demonises the broader Jewish community, [the Daily Mail] is right behind them.” The Guardian can speak for itself. In relation to The Independent, Mr Brummer’s claim is false, myopic, wilfully ignorant, an offence against the integrity of our staff, and an insult to you, our readers.
It is true that, since its founding in 1986, The Independent has championed Enlightenment values; and there have been times when the actions of the Israeli government have not been driven by enlightened thinking.
Our coverage of Israel is led by our multiple award-winning Middle East Correspondent, Robert Fisk. Mr Fisk, in three decades reporting on that region, understands it better than most of those who slander him, and has been at pains to distinguish between opposition to Israeli policy and anti-Semitism.
This would be the same Robert Fisk who, in October 2006, was given the front page of the The Independent to spread the libel that Israel had used uranium-based weapons in southern Lebanon during that summer’s war. This was challenged at the time by HonestReporting, following a UN investigation clearing Israel of the allegations only a short time later, which was also confirmed by Lebanese officials. HR castigated The Independent for its shoddy journalism and its failure to issue a retraction.
To this day, Fisk and his newspaper have failed to retract the accusation.
Could this sort of libel contribute to the demonization of Israel? Surely not, according to The Independent.
Indeed, Fisk has a long history of anti-Israel invective, blaming Israel for all of the Palestinians’ ills and the West for Muslim disgruntlement. The day after September 11, 2001, Fisk defied the civilized world and blamed Israel, America, and even the defeat of the Ottoman Empire for the WTC terrorist attack. Fisk proclaimed:
“…This is not the war of democracy versus terror that the world will be asked to believe in the coming days. It is also about American missiles smashing into Palestinian homes and US helicopters firing missiles into a Lebanese ambulance in 1996 and American shells crashing into a village called Qana and about a Lebanese militia paid and uniformed by America’s Israeli ally hacking and raping and murdering their way through refugee camps.”
How can The Independent, in all good conscience, possibly hold up Robert Fisk in an attempt to deflect accusations that the newspaper demonizes Israel?