Thursday, July 29, 2010

Katharine Viner nails her colors to the mast (head)

This is a guest post by AKUS

In April, Israeli Nurse wrote of the impending changes at the Guardian, following the departure of Georgina Henry – who moved to the “Culture” section of the newspaper. Although Georgina Henry was a hard act to follow for her sheer malice towards the Jewish state, the Guardian appears to have landed quite a coup by replacing Henry with a feminist Jewish editor – Katharina Viner (see also ‘She never hated men‘). We now have a female as-a-Jew leading the charge to delegitimize and demonize Israel. Viner has quickly equipped herself with a stable of equally biased fringe female Jewish contributors. First, there is Rachel Shabi – who penned a recent post casually suggesting that Israel takes particular delight in victimizing children.

Viner also introduced us to new face on the block (see the parrot on Viner’s shoulder), Florida native Mya Guarnieri. Guarnieri is “a Tel Aviv based journalist” who framed Israel’s immigration policy – laws similar to that of most European countries – as proof of the nation’s unique and apparently immutable “inhumanity.”

Viner added Marie Dhumières (“a freelance journalist based in Damascus, Syria”), whose recent essay at CiF would suggest that Arab invectives against Jews merely represent the West’s misunderstandings of Arabic.

Seth Freedman has also been allowed back into the fold. Freedman once framed the 2001 Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa as a “stormy conference which was dominated by several…motions being passed heavily condemning Israel for its policies.”

However, far from merely condemning Israeli policy, the NGO resolution passed at Durban I – an event notorious for the well-documented, and quite explicit, anti-Semitic behavior displayed by many of its participants – called for:

a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state… the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid…) between all states and Israel…[and] a condemnation of those states that are supporting…the Israeli apartheid state and its perpetration of racist crimes against humanity including ethnic cleansing, acts of genocide.

And, of course, there’s Antony Lerman, who has warned darkly, in one past CiF essay, of the injurious effects on British society of Jewish money – in a vain attempt, apparently, to provide some “local” (i.e., Britain-based) Jewish talent.

Viner even dragged David Cronin out of the woodshed to protest a punk rocker who dared to perform in Israel.

Put it all together and you have pretty good idea of the sort of view of Israel this editor intends to have published on CiF.

Viner, it should be noted, came to the forefront when she co-authored a play titled “My Name is Rachel Corrie.” (Corrie was the American who was accidentally killed as she tried to protect an arms-smuggling tunnel in Gaza.) I have not read nor seen the play, but in a review at All About Jewish Theatre we get revealing insights into Viner’s ideology:

Viner and Rickman have produced a manipulative play that attempts to delegitimize Israel under the pretense of exposure to “accessible writing.” And the audience at the Royal Court Theatre is bombarded with descriptions of alleged IDF actions devoid of context.

That paragraph could be applied to the articles we have seen recently by Shabi, Guarnieri, Freedman and Sherwood – and reflect the tone and content of CiF remarkably closely.

Another review shows careful editing of Corrie’s actual writings by Viner and Rickman designed to create an imaginary Rachel Corrie – just as we see in article after article by anti-Israeli CiF contributors who create a country called Israel that is completely unrecognizable to anyone who actually lives there.

In cobbling together a script drawn from Corrie’s extensive writings, actor Alan Rickman and British journalist Katharine Viner haven’t so much presented Corrie onstage; rather, they have cut-and-pasted together a character who is named Rachel Corrie…. … The two editors also sanitized Corrie’s writing. They excised potentially incendiary words, like genocide. When Corrie reports on Israeli soldiers detonating a nearby explosive, the editors dropped the back half of her sentence, “one that appears to have been planted by Palestinian resistance.” It’s as if Rickman and Viner felt a need to protect Corrie rather than expose her unvarnished.

Clive Davis gave a short assessment of the play for The Times in April 2005:

As for the scenes set in Israel…an element of unvarnished propaganda comes to the fore. With no attempt made to set the violence in context, we are left with the impression of unarmed civilians being crushed by faceless militarists. As she jots down thoughts in her notebook and fires off e-mails to her parents, she declares that “the vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance”. Even the late Yassir Arafat might have blushed at that one.

Viner’s refusal to display even the most rudimentary objectivity when framing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict was captured in this review of her play, by Cynthia Ozick:

The longer the play was absent from local scrutiny, the more romantically its faraway halo might glow: a visionary young woman on the barricades, part heroic Joan of Arc, part victimized Anne Frank, mercilessly cut down in the very act of defying brute injustice. To have the play actually in hand — the naked script itself — is a down-to-earth corrective. … [Corrie’s] training — she accepts the term willingly — takes place in Jerusalem. Escorted by Palestinians while waiting “to get to Rafah to join the other internationals trying to prevent the demolition of civilian homes,” she observes “blue stars of David spray-painted on doors in the Arab section of the old city.” She concludes, “I am used to seeing the cross used in a colonialist way.” Once in Rafah, she is under military orders. “The neighborhoods that have asked us for some form of presence are Yibna, Tel El Sultan, Hi Salaam, Brazil, Block J, Zorob, and Block O.” The new recruits are called on to stand as human shields before arms caches or shooter hideouts. If through some mishap a young foreigner should be hit, all the better: fuel for international outrage.” Absent are the Arab annihilationist wars of 1948, 1967, 1973. Absent are the repeated Palestinian refusals of statehood, beginning in 1948, when the United Nations proposed a partition of the land, and emerging again in 2000, when yet another Israeli (and American) appeal for Palestinians to accept statehood was answered by Yassir Arafat’s murderous second intifada. ”A largely unarmed people”? The English-speaking pharmacist in whose house Rachel Corrie is billeted admits to the culpable Palestinian origins of the current fighting: “Before intifada — no tanks, no bulldozers, no noise. After intifada, daily.” But even this close-at-hand testimony of cause-and-effect cannot sway her. The believer is cognizant only of her belief.

Viner’s fascination with Palestinian terrorists was also revealed when she interviewed Hamas member Ghazi Hamad at the Guardian’s Hay Literary Festival.

But this is not all. Israeli Nurse pointed out that Viner interviewed the terrorist Leila Khaled, opening her article with words which can only be described as a glorification of violence.

In a way, the whole story is in the ring. The iconic photograph of Leila Khaled, the picture which made her the symbol of Palestinian resistance and female power, is extraordinary in many ways: the gun held in fragile hands, the shiny hair wrapped in a keffiah , the delicate Audrey Hepburn face refusing to meet your eye. But it’s the ring, resting delicately on her third finger. To fuse an object of feminine adornment, of frivolity, with a bullet: that is Khaled’s story, the reason behind her image’s enduring power. Beauty mixed with violence. And the ring? “I made it from the pin of a hand grenade – from the first grenade I ever used in training,” she says. “I just wrapped it around a bullet.

We may well ponder this adulatory paragraph and what this interview reveals about Viner’s admiration for this “ring-bearer,” and the articles she will commission and permit to be published on CiF.

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