Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Jonathan Cook: Publish It Not

by: Jonathan Cook, AMEU.org,

November – December  2010
The Link - Volume 43, Issue 5

In the mid-1990s, I arrived in Jerusalem for the first time–then as a tourist–with the potent Western myth at the front of my consciousness: that of Israel as “a light unto the nations,” the plucky underdog facing a menacing Arab world. A series of later professional shocks as a freelance journalist reporting on Israel would shatter those assumptions.

These disillusioning experiences came in the early stages of the second intifada, the Palestinian uprising that began in late 2000. At the time I was often writing for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, first as a staff member based in the foreign department at its head office in London, then later as a freelance journalist in Nazareth. The Guardian has earned an international reputation—including in Israel—as the Western newspaper most critical of Israel’s actions. That may be true, but I quickly found that there were still very clear, and highly unusual, limitations on what could be written about Israel.

Particularly problematic for the Guardian—as with other news media —was anything that questioned Israel’s claim to being a democracy or highlighted the contradictions between that claim and Israel’s Jewish self-definition. The Guardian’s most famous editor, C P Scott, was a high-profile lobbyist for Jewish rights in what was then Palestine. He was also instrumental in bringing about the Balfour Declaration—the British government’s commitment to the Zionist movement in 1917 to create a “national home” in Palestine for Jews.

Thus, I was not entirely surprised that an account I submitted based on my investigations of an apparent shoot-to-kill policy by the Israeli police against its own Palestinian citizens at the start of the second intifada was sat on for months by the paper. After I made repeated queries, the features editor informed me that he could not run it because it was no longer “fresh.”

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