What does it take for an extremist organisation to be benignly portrayed in the professedly progressive Guardian newspaper? Possibly not very much. It certainly won't hinder you to be Islamist in orientation and antisemitic in content.
On Monday, the Guardian published a piece by leader writer Tom Clark on the findings of a recent poll on European attitudes towards Israel and Palestine. Carried out by ICM, and canvassing the views of some 7,000 Europeans from Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands, it showed that respondents appeared to question Israel's status as a democracy, think poorly of the settlements, and consider illegal under international law everything from the incursion into Gaza in 2009 to the raid of the Mavi Marmara last May. Fifty per cent also think that criticising Israel is not in itself antisemitic, which is impressively lower than what I'd wager the percentage of European Jews would be who thought the same.
The survey was commissioned by Middle East Monitor (MEMO), which Clark described as a "think tank with Palestinian sympathies".
This is rather like giving press attention to a poll commissioned by the BNP and describing it as "a grassroots organisation dedicated to the preservation of English cultural heritage."
In reality, MEMO is a pro-Hamas propaganda machine based in the UK and run by Dr Daud Abdullah, a signatory of the notorious Istanbul Declaration, which considers the only resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be the obliteration of the Jewish state and the retaking of its land by Muslims through violent jihad. The "Islamic Nation", according to this macabre manifesto, is to regard any supporter of Israel as inimical as the "Zionist entity" itself. The declaration also implores Muslims everywhere to attack "foreign warships" that might interrupt the smuggling of arms into Gaza - an arguably treasonous provocation (since British naval vessels do exactly that) which led Hazel Blears in 2009 to cut government funding to the Muslim Council of Britain, on which Dr Abdullah serves as deputy secretary general.
The Guardian gives Islamist extremists anodyne treatment
One need only glance at the MEMO website to see what is on offer from Dr Abdullah and his cohort. Last week, MEMO published a hysterical screed, Netanyahu's lebensraum, by one Khalid Amayreh. He described Israelis as "pathological liars from Eastern Europe", claimed that Jerusalem has been "violated and raped by Zionist Jews for many years" and described Zionism as "genocidal, racist, rapacious, covetous, and of course utterly mendacious… a malignant cancer". Israel, wrote Amayreh, wishes to erect a "Hebrew empire" on all of "Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, northern Saudi Arabia, northern Egypt and the islands of Crete and Cyprus."
Kathleen Christison, a former CIA analyst, has also written for MEMO about "Zionist lobbyists" and their control of, well, just about everything. It seems "Jewish dispersion across the Western world - and Jewish influence in the economies, film industries, media and academia in key Western countries - is what enabled the Zionist movement to thrive in the dark years of the early 20th century."
Christison spoke at last month's MEMO conference on the Palestine Papers; her slated co-panellist was Guardian associate editor Seamus Milne, who co-presented the leaked documents chronicling 10 years of fraught peace negotiations for his newspaper and presented the alleged acceptance by Palestinian negotiators of Israel as a Jewish state as nothing short of treacherous. He pulled out of the conference at the last second because of illness, though did turn up in the audience.
The Guardian thought highly enough of Dr Abdullah and his organisation to also grant him a comment space in Monday's print edition, where he lectured readers on "international law" and promoted only the most self-serving findings of his survey while neglecting such other revealing tidbits as the indication that a majority of Europeans believe that rocket attacks, suicide bombings and IDF soldier kidnappings are illegal under international law.
By now, it is common practice at the Guardian to give anodyne treatment to Islamist extremists, whose liberal-friendly public relations are evidently more convincing than a Google search of their name. How many readers this week were given to believe that another serious-minded, humanitarian think-tanker was going about his professional business and merely acting as messenger of an impartial survey?
Michael Weiss is executive director of the independent research organisation, Just Journalism