Guardian hits back at 'anti-Israel' claims

"Is the paper in favour of those who would delegitimise Israel? No. We still support the two -state solution"

By Charlie English - The Guardian, February 3, 2011
Hamas activists burn a poster of President Abbas over concessions

Hamas activists burn a poster of President Abbas over concessions

A week after publication, the Guardian's revelations about the Palestine papers – published in partnership with Al Jazeera – have been followed up by leading Israeli and Arab news outlets as well as global media organisations such as the BBC and the New York Times.

Nowhere, however, has the story been treated as harshly as it was by the Jewish Chronicle, which ran five hostile pages and a leader headlined "the Guardian's shame". The JC denounced the Guardian's behaviour as "simply shocking" because of "the distortions, the bias, the agenda, the spin and the breathtaking arrogance". An analysis piece claimed evidence of a Guardian-Al Jazeera "nexus" which the author said was widely regarded as "the heart of the delegitimisation [of Israel] movement".

Examining the haul of 1600 documents, there were a number of passages that the Guardian's team of reporters agreed are highly significant.

These included the offer by Palestinian negotiators – in the context of an overall peace agreement – that Israel would annex all but one of the settlements in East Jerusalem. PLO negotiators also agreed to a remarkably low number of returning refugees.

These are two of the stories we ran, and almost a week after the rest of the world's media gained access to the documents – all of which are now publicly available – no one has found a major story that we missed. We were led, in other words, by the source material. It is no surprise that the majority of the stories concern the PLO, as most of the documents come from the PLO's negotiations unit.

The Guardian made clear that the documents did not represent the entirety of paperwork related to the peace process. But few, surely, would argue that unless one receives every document about the peace process you should publish none at all.

The JC also expressed outrage that we ran an article by Osama Hamdan of Hamas in the comment pages. But to publish a wide range of opinion pieces, as the Guardian does, does not endorse each of those opinions.

That's as true now as it was back at the height of the Northern Ireland Troubles when the Guardian published articles by leading members of the Irish republican movement.

In fact Hamdan was only one of a number of people with widely differing views that we commissioned on the Palestine Papers. Yes, we had Karma Nabulsi of Fatah and the Guardian's Seumas Milne criticising the PA, but we also had Ha'aretz editor-at-large Aluf Benn, former CIA officer Robert Grenier, the PLO's Saeb Erekat and Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland (who appeared twice), all defending the concessions offered by the PA.

Finally, is the Guardian at the heart of a "nexus" that is attempting to delegitimise Israel? No. As many JC readers will know, the Guardian supported the idea of Israel long before the state was even founded and for decades has consistently argued for the two-state solution that would allow Israel to live in peace and security. To quote last week's Guardian leader: "A two-state solution remains the only show in town. It is still achievable despite the agony of these revelations."

As that same editorial explained: "To say how and where this [peace] deal fell short is not to undermine the goal. It is the only way left of rescuing it." I hope readers of the JC will agree.

Last updated: 2:54pm, February 3 2011