Telegraph runs silly and gratuitous anti-Israel propaganda piece

The Telegraph's attempt to smear Israel with the apartheid label over Palestinian buses is silly, but it is also dangerous

by Yorker on 4 March 2013 07:31

Moves in the UK's mainstream, centre-Right media to "out Guardian" the Guardian when it comes to the campaign against Israel seem well underway. It's going to be a tough battle of course. Yesterday afternoon the Guardian put up a piece in its Comment is Free section from a Palestinian hunger striker in which he proudly related his own criminal convictions and those of members of his family. Gruesome.

But at least the Guardian knows how to do anti-Israeli propaganda properly, which (for all the right reasons) is more than can be said for the Daily Telegraph. One can never know the extent to which editors have interfered with a reporter's copy so let's leave aside the question of whether the piece in question is primarily the work of its bylined author -- Jerusalem-based Middle East Correspondent Robert Tait -- or someone else. What matters is that the Telegraph chose to run the piece at all.

The substance is drearily familiar, though it is particularly gratuitous. It is (yawn) an "Israel-Apartheid" story, and it pegs off moves by the Israeli authorities to take the completely reasonable step of introducing extra Palestinian buses to ferry Palestinian workers into Israel from the West Bank.

There are two reasons for the move. First, there's the obvious security issue: there is a dreadful history of Palestinian suicide bombing on Israeli buses. Israelis are understandably afraid, especially in the context of mass incitement by the Palestinian Authority, and would rather Palestinians took their trips to Israel on their own buses. (Are you absolutely sure you wouldn't feel the same way?)

The second reason, which explains why Israel has made its move now, is that due to more generous arrangements for the Palestinians, Israel is now granting more work permits. More workers, more buses. More Palestinian workers, more buses for Palestinians. Not one of life's great mysteries... unless you smell a conspiracy.

Here's how the Telegraph summarises its story below the headline:

"Israel has been accused of encouraging racial segregation after a new Palestinian-only bus service was launched following objections by Jewish settlers who claimed Arab passengers were "a security risk".

Come off it. The "Israel has been accused of..." canard is the cheapest and laziest shot in the book. There's a global hate campaign going on against the Jewish state which is routinely accused of everything from engineering the global financial crisis through to being the new Nazi Germany.

There's practically nothing that Israel isn't accused of. Finding some rent-a-quote with an accusatory agenda against Israel is hardly challenging for a journalist anywhere. To stoop to doing it in the Middle East where Israel-hatred is ubiquitous is journalism of the shoddiest sort.

The rent-a-quote in question is Ofra Yeshua-Lyth, "an activist," The Telegraph tells us, "with Women For Civil Disobedience, an Israeli-Palestinian campaign group." Even from the name of the organisation it's not rocket science to work out what she's going to think. Here's what she is quoted as saying:

“Many people don’t class the Israeli situation as apartheid because for a long time, Israel refrained from the characteristics of petty apartheid, like separate roads, cafés and buses. This bus situation is a step in the direction of petty apartheid because people are being segregated in their daily activities.”

Pure garbage. And for the Telegraph, the fact that the report does point out and quote the Israeli position is no defence. This sort of article has no business running in the first place. (To get a sense of what a non-story for a British audience this is, see how The Times of Israel reports it here. No-one in Britain would read the story if it was written like that.)

It only resonates because there's a global hate campaign against Israel to hook into. Reporting the apartheid charge solely serves to sex the article up by covering it with invective.

The arguments themselves do not stand up to a moment's scrutiny. In terms of educating and informing readers its value is less than zero: anybody coming to this issue for the first time will inevitably take the message away that there is a reasonable view out there that Israel is a racist, segregationist state.

But there is no such reasonable view out there. The accusation is only ever made either (and rarely) by Israeli politicians seeking to insult their opponents just as it was common in the 1980s for Leftists to label Margaret Thatcher a "fascist", or by outright bigots.

Even to run an article along such lines is, therefore, to parade bigotry as an acceptable and reasonable form of discourse, which it is not.

Of course, it is perfectly possible, indeed likely, that the Telegraph had no such intention in running this article. The anti-Israel agenda is all around us, and can all too easily be absorbed by osmosis. It is also necessary to state clearly that the Telegraph has traditionally been one of the more honourable and reasonable of UK media outlets when it comes to Israel.

And that is the real message about what would otherwise be just a silly little article of no consequence.

The defamation of the Jewish state gets broader, deeper and more casual with every passing year. It is a worrying sign of the times that it is no longer just the Guardian that now needs to be held to account.

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