It’s only Tuesday, and already three major British media outlets have published significant corrections about Israel this week. Two of the corrections, those in the Guardian and in the Independent, were prompted by CiF Watch, an independent affiliate of CAMERA.
On Sunday (Sept. 8), the Observer
corrected an Aug. 31 Op-Ed
by Nabila Ramdani, which had falsely charged that Israel had used chemical weapons in Gaza. The French-Arab journalist had written:
Others point to the hypocrisy of the West, which continues to provide some of the most lethal weapons known to mankind to its political and trade allies. US-sourced white phosphorus shells – a chemical weapon that causes severe burning right down to the bone – were used by Israeli forces against Palestinians in Gaza in 2008 in breach of all international conventions, for example.
In response to urging from the Israeli embassy in London, editors published the following correction on Sunday’s “For the record” page:
As CiF Watch points out, however, the original article still appears online uncorrected. Meanwhile, in the Aug. 30 broadcast of NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show,” substitute host Steve Roberts thanks caller “Frank,” who makes the identical bogus charge about Israeli use of chemical weapons in Gaza (and he also confuses Egyptian Anwar Sadat and Syrian Bashar al-Assad). Neither Roberts nor guest journalists Abderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic; Elise Labott, CNN foreign affairs reporter; and Howard LaFranchi, foreign affairs correspondent at The Christian Science Monitor, made any attempt to refute Frank’s false charge.
In a Jerusalem Post article about The Observer correction, Yiftah Curiel, the Israeli embassy spokesman who had urged the paper to correct, was quoted:
“This is an example of zero tolerance for disinformation,” the official said. “If this goes unchallenged, then it becomes the conventional and accepted wisdom. It needs to be corrected.”
Also this week, The Independent corrected another current canard which anti-Israel elements have been attempting to transform into accepted wisdom. The Sept. 11 correction deals with a July 23, 2013 article by Jerusalem correspondent Alistair Dawber which referred to pre-Oslo Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners, imprisoned for murder and attempted murder, as “political prisoners.” (CAMERA collated, translated and exclusively published data on the mens’ crimes in June.) CiF Watch flagged the article and its headline (below) when it first appeared:
Details of the latest Middle East peace plan began to emerge today, hours after John Kerry announced that he had brokered an agreement that is likely to lead to fresh talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The most significant concession appears to be a promise by Israel to release a number of high-ranking Palestinian political prisoners, many of whom have been behind bars for decades. Prisoner releases have been a longstanding demand of the Palestinian leadership. (Emphasis added.)
Following protracted communications from CiF Watch, editors finally amended the headline, placing the erroneous term in “quotation marks,” and changed the language of the article. The new formulation makes clear that it is Palestinians who view the men as “political prisoners.”
In a separate error corrected this week thanks to CiF Watch, The Guardian promptly corrected a Sept. 8 Op-Ed by feature staff writer Homa Khaleeli in which she had falsely claimed that Jewish communities carry out female genital mutilation (FGM). She wrote:
Although Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities carry out FGM, mainstream spiritual leaders from all three religions have denied that the practice stems from religion. (Emphasis added.)
The claim that Muslims, Christians, and Jews practicing FGM seems like nothing but a throw-away line, and indeed Jewish scholars have observed the near complete absence of the practice within ancient and modern Jewish communities. Harvard Professor Shaye J.D. Cohen in “Why Aren’t Jewish Women Circumcised?: Gender and Covenant in Judaism”, wrote the following:
Aside from the Beta Israel of Ethiopia (the so-called Falashas) … no Jewish community, in either ancient, medieval or modern times, is known to have practiced female circumcision. … The practice of the Beta Israel is simply part of general Ethiopian culture, in which female circumcision is widely practiced, and is not a relic of some long-lost Jewish tradition.
And, while it may have been once practiced by an extremely small number of Ethiopians from this community, it died out when they moved to Israel.
The Guardian is to be commended for promptly removing the offending passage. The following was appended to the article:
This article was amended on 9 September 2013. The original included a phrase which could be read to mean that FGM was practised within the Jewish community. That is not the case although there is some evidence that FGM was practised within a minor Ethiopian Jewish sect.