October 13, 2007

Enough already! Linda Grant does not work for or with the Israeli government

A bit of clarity at the outset. Linda Grant does not work for the Israeli government. She doesn't work with the Israeli government. She doesn't work on behalf of the Israeli government. The Israeli government does not facilitate her work, nor does it tell her what to say. There is nothing that can be said about Linda Grant that would link her to the Israeli government in any way. Indeed her work amounts to "legitimate journalism." Got that? I hope so.

Now what's all this about? I haven't a clue myself but I'm sufficiently anxious to be running a whole post on something that appeared in the comments box to a post a couple of days ago headed "Israel deliberately targets children." I am copying and pasting everything here so apologies for the typos. They're not mine this time. I will, however, include links where appropriate.

Here's the comment:
Grant's article featuring the bereaved Israeli father* was an exercise in emotional manipulation for hasbara; the father was quoted as endorsing the policy of demolishing houses of suicide bombers and complaining - without any proof - that the IDF had not done so in his son's case. The and the entire series of which the article formed one part, was later revealed to have been organised and written by Grant in co-operation with the Israeli government.
That was by a James O. Not wanting to leave any hostages to fortune I asked "revealed where, how and by whom?" Well back comes James O, and here's where the trouble starts, with this:
Mark - the article she refers to was not false,and the father's grief was entirely genuine but the series of articles in the Guardain, including one featuring an IDF soldier, were organised in conjunction with the Israeli government to present a favourable, westernised image of Israel in the press. Daphne Baram's 'Disenchatment:the Guardian and Israel' gives the full story
And there it might have ended but for this email I received from Daphna Baram:
Dear Mark,

I was referred to a comment on your website which implies that my book Disenchantment: The Guardian and Israel describes an unethically, or acted on behalf of the Israeli government when writing from Israel and the West Bank for the Guardian. I have never written or implied such a thing. I specifically wrote that her feature was "legitimate journalism", though I have indeed professed political criticism regarding her point of view which, in my opinion, serves the Israeli ethos of "Shoot and weep". The fact that Grant got permission from the Israeli army to be present at the spot in Nablus in neither here nor there. It is common journalistic practice and had she not obtained that permission she would not have been able to gain access. in that, her position was as that of any other embedded journalist. I may not want to be embedded in that particular bed myself, but I do not think it is an illegitimate type of journalism in any shape of form. Furthermore, I wouldn't have dared try to spend tie with, say, Fatah fighters in Jennin, without getting some permission which would guarantee my access and safety. I disagree with many of Linda Grant's opinions on Israel and have criticised some of her writing in my book from a political point of view, but I do not for a minute doubt her ethics. I regret that my book has been used to knee-jerk her in that way.

Here is the relevant quotation from my book:

Grant obtained permission from the IDF to spend five days with soldiers who took over the roof and top floor of a Palestinian family house in occupied Nablus. Grant's heart went out to the humanity of the soldiers - one of them even goes to Peace Now demonstrations on his free weekends - and she undertook to represent their closest hopes and predicaments in a long feature story. She reported that those soldiers who expressed racist or hostile views to Arabs belonged to "the military police and border guards who accepted those who fail the IQ tests - the illiterate, the damaged, the angry". They come from the ranks of "working class immigrants from Muslim countries...among their numbers are found some of the most rightwing and racist of all Israelis".

Grant was concerned that the soldiers on the roof might be misunderstood in Europe, where some of them intended to travel after their service. At the end of the five days she left. "We shook hands on the windy street. He looked so young, years younger than I'd seen him in uniform, and I wished I could make myself a huan shield against all the hate and demonisation he would encounter from those for whom life is a collection of symbols and slogans which stamp themselves on the faces of others, obscuring their features, like a helmet".
All this is perfectly legitimate journalism; an yet if reflects knowingly or not a controversial category in the Israeli ethos, known in Hebrew as "shoot and weep"...

On her return to London Grand admitted that Israeli officials "urged me to publicise the Geneva accords, the reservist's protest, to keep the Israeli left alive in the eyes of the Europeans". She saw it as subversiveness on their part, but a heartbroken soldier who completes his mission despite an anguished conscience is likely to be regarded by officialdom as of far more value to Israel's international image than Sharon's professional spokesmen.
King regards,
Daphna Baram
Ok, the first line is a bit garbled but she is saying that she had not intended that her words be construed as saying that Linda Grant is somehow unethical as a journalist or that she was simply writing under the direction of the Israeli government. At least I think that's what she's saying. I should point out here that she copied Linda Grant into the email.

I duly copied and pasted the section of the book that Baram quoted. If you clicked the link to the James O comment then scroll down. If not, go here. So James O has posted his interpretation of what Baram actually wrote, Baram has said that it's a misinterpretation and I have posted what she actually wrote in her book. Surely that could have been an end to it. I wrote back to her, and only her (I left Linda Grant out of the loop), to say that I had posted the section of the book that James O was most likely referring to in his comment. This is my email:
Hi Daphna

Thanks very much for this. I can't speak for the chap who left the comment but I am sure he didn't intend to misrepresent your writing. I have posted the passage from the book that you provided under the comment that you have complained of.

I found your reference to the Geneva business quite fascinating. Linda Grant actually wrote an article on Comment is free where she seems to suggest that even a Likudnik (a mayor perhaps) she spoke to suggested a Geneva type settlement.

Anyway, thanks again for your email.

Mark Elf:
Well, back she comes in another email, again copied into Linda Grant. She also published my email to Baram to Linda Grant without my permission, which I thought was a bit of a rum-do:
Mark, thank you for that, but as this James chap obviously read the paragraph and interpreted it the way he did, some readers may feel that the paragraph is now there to reinforce what he says. I will be grateful if it could be explained that I say that what is said in the book is in no way casting doubt on Grant's ethics or on the legitimacy of what she wrote in the IDF feature or any other feature in that series, though I do have political problems with the image of the Israeli army which comes across from her writing. Never have I argued that she was acting on behalf of the Israeli government. Her feelings and her way of seeing the Israeli society are shared by many liberal-Zionists, a group of people whom I spend a good part of my life arguing with. That said, I should stress again that there's nothing wrong in my opinion in her professional conduct as a journalist. I would put all that as a comment on my name, but due to being a bit of a techno-retard I am not managing to do so. I think it might be a good idea if you could put the bolded part of this email in as a comment by me.
Many thanks,
Ok, so I posted the bits in bold under her name. Again scroll down the comments if you have them open or click here. Now that too could and should have been an end to it. This time, if you haven't already done so please see those comments because Daphna is still unhappy so she wrote to me again and again she copied in Linda Grant:
Mark, you are forcing me to go into bloody semantics. What I said in my email to you was (cut&paste): "Mark, thank you for that, but as this James chap obviously read the paragraph and interpreted it the way he did, some readers may feel that the paragraph is now there to reinforce what he says". This does not mean that James0's reading it was legitimate, but that readers might think that it has been put there to reinforce what he said, which was not the case, as is clear from my email and my comment. Now could I have some peace and quiet already? Please post all this email on my behalf.
Goodness gracious, she's exhausted from reading my blog? I'm forcing her to go into semantics? I didn't do anything to her. Anyway, somebody, anybody, tell me what this is all about. I have to go to bed.

* The same article appeared the day before but an error led to it being run again.


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