Britain’s West Bank torturers; & The Guardian runs an extraordinary attack on Melanie Phillips

November 01, 2009

* “The British government is sending police and intelligence officers to the West Bank to try to stop a wave of brutal torture by Palestinian security forces funded by UK taxpayers” – yet there is hardly any outcry in Britain (or anywhere else) about such torture and deaths in PA custody

* “Might we now see moves by ‘human rights’ activists to arraign British officials and politicians for having funded the torture of Palestinians by Palestinians? And if not, why not?”

* “Obama’s decision to placing Chuck Hagel in a sensitive role in the intelligence community, where he will advise the president on the effectiveness of intelligence community assessments of global issues, is very troubling”

* Robert Bernstein: “Human Rights Watch think they are God”



1. British admit to funding Palestinian torturers on the West Bank
2. “If not, why not?”
3. The Guardian sinks a little lower
4. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon faces call for arrest in Britain
5. Pro-Israel groups alarmed by Hagel’s appointment to U.S. intelligence board
6. In a historic low, 12 percent of Americans now hold anti-Semitic views
7. Two injured in Los Angeles synagogue shooting
8. Human Rights Watch founder Robert Bernstein’s interview in Ma’ariv
9. Another nasty post-Goldstone cartoon from The International Herald Tribune
10. Short video: Meet the Foreign Press – Are they objective?

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


[The item below originally appeared last week on the websites of The National Review (America) and of The National Post (Canada).]

British police to tackle UK-funded torturers on the West Bank
By Tom Gross
National Review / National Post
October 28, 2009

The Mail on Sunday (which is the Sunday sister paper of Britain’s Daily Mail) reports that:

“The British government is sending police and intelligence officers to the West Bank to try to stop a wave of brutal torture by Palestinian security forces funded by UK taxpayers. Their mission is to set up and train a new ‘internal affairs’ department with sweeping powers to investigate abuse and bring torturers to justice.

“On Saturday a senior official from the Palestinian Authority, which runs the West Bank and its security agencies, admitted that torture, beatings and extra-judicial killings have been rife for the past two years, with hundreds of torture allegations and at least four murders in custody, the most recent in August. British detectives will also train the Palestinian police and Preventive Security forces in how to question suspects without torturing them. Britain spends £20 million a year funding the forces responsible for the abuse.

“In the West Bank city of Nablus, Nasser al-Shaer, a former academic from Manchester University who was deputy prime minister in the short-lived Hamas Palestinian Authority government elected in 2006, said many of those released from detention in recent months were telling the same story – of torture, including beatings, being suspended from the ceiling, and electric shocks.”

Tom Gross continues: Now none of this is new. In spite of what the paper says, such practices have been taking place not just for the past two years, but since Yasser Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and took over most of the West Bank in 1993. What is new is that a major newspaper (The Mail On Sunday is one of Britain’s highest circulation respected newspapers) is reporting on it.

Of course, the abuse of human rights and use of torture is even worse in other “moderate” Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan, and far worse in non-moderate countries like Syria (which yesterday the European Union eagerly signed an Association Agreement with).

Many Palestinians I know yearn for the days when Israel ruled the West Bank before Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah took over most of the Palestinian-populated territories.

Meanwhile, as Palestinian detainees are being tortured to death in Palestinian Authority jails, Palestinian prisoners (including convicted terrorists) in custody in Israel are studying for Israeli university degrees (at Israeli taxpayers’ expense) and also given cable TV, IPods and dental treatment – but international human rights groups, instead of praising such humane measures, constantly criticize the treatment of prisoners in Israel, whose deputy foreign minister and former ambassador to Washington Danny Ayalon narrowly escaped being arrested in Britain for “war crimes” yesterday. (See below.)

And the world community that routinely and harshly condemns Israel even when Israel hasn’t done anything wrong, has failed to condemn the Katyusha rocket fired from Lebanon which narrowly missed an Israeli town last night.

It is a strange world.



You can leave comments concerning the above post on The National Post or at one of the other places where my item was picked up, such as at the website of The Spectator, where columnist Melanie Phillips asked “Might we now see moves by ‘human rights’ activists to arraign British officials and politicians for having funded the torture of Palestinians by Palestinians? And if not, why not?”



Incidentally, there was the most extraordinarily personalized and nasty attack on Melanie Phillips (author of Londonistan) in The Guardian this weekend. It was written by Ed Husain, who also attacked Douglas Murray. (Ed Husain, Melanie Phillips and Douglas Murray are all subscribers to this email list.) Making it all the more unpalatable, Phillips was employed by The Guardian as one of their leading journalists for many years.

Ed Husain’s article can be read here. Melanie Phillips’s response can be read here.

Before I am too mean about The Guardian, they did print a letter by myself and others last week, here.

However, in response to our letter, The Guardian chose to publish two letters the following day with fabricated information. Correcting those letters: NGO Monitor is an independent organization with no ties to the Israeli government; and Avigdor Lieberman did not threaten to use nuclear weapons against Gaza. I have double-checked with his chief of staff, who confirms that this is a complete lie.



Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, became the latest Israeli to have to stave off an attempt to arrest him on trumped-up war crimes charges during an official visit to Britain.

The U.K.’s International Criminal Court Act of 2001 and the Criminal Justice Act of 1988 allow for private individual complaints of war crimes to be lodged against military personnel, even if they are not British citizens and the alleged crimes were committed elsewhere.

Ayalon, who is a subscriber to this email list, was Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2002 to 2006. He was not involved in the Gaza war in any way and was not in the government or military at the time.

Last month, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon declined an invitation to travel to the UK to speak at a Jewish charity event, fearing that he might face arrest on charges of war crimes.

This followed attempts by leading British lawyers – paid for by well-funded Palestinian NGOs financed by Scandinavian and other European governments, and by the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Institute – to arrest Ehud Barak, the leader of Israel’s Labor party, when he attended the British Labour party conference recently. The British government had to intervene on Barak’s behalf, submitting legal briefs to the court, and thus avoiding what would have been the most serious clash between Britain and Israel since 1948.

(For more on this, please see items 5 and 6 here.)



President Obama has named retired U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican with staunchly anti-Israel views, to co-chair the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.

During his two terms in the Senate, which ended earlier this year, Hagel directed sweeping criticisms against Jewish supporters of Israel, while at the same time making comments defending Yasser Arafat. He also opposed economic sanctions on Iran in a bill sponsored by then-Senator Barack Obama.

In a statement, the White House said the Intelligence Board’s role is to “provide the president with an independent source of advice on intelligence matters,” including the “quality, quantity and adequacy of intelligence activities,” the “effectiveness of organization structure, management and personnel” and the performance of all federal agencies involved in intelligence collection or policy.

The Republican Jewish Coalition criticized the appointment as “a matter for serious concern.” RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks (who is a subscriber to this email list) said: “A review of Hagel’s record over the years on these issues reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the Middle East and of the nature of the threats to U.S. interests in the region. Placing him in a sensitive role in the intelligence community, where he will advise the president on the effectiveness of intelligence community assessments of global issues, is very troubling.”

(Among previous dispatches concerning Hagel’s Middle East record, please see here.)



Anti-Semitic attitudes in the United States are at a historic low, with 12 percent of Americans now saying they are prejudiced toward Jews, a survey by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has found. This is the lowest level in the 45-year history of the annual poll. ADL director Abraham Foxman, who is a subscriber to this email list, said the poll results could simply be attributed to the U.S. becoming “a more accepting society.”

But he warned that “at the same time, there continues to be violence targeting Jews and an increasing use of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. And 12 percent of the American people means there are still over 30 million Americans that hold anti-Semitic views.” When the poll was first conducted in 1964, it found 29 percent of Americans held anti-Semitic views.

The relatively low level of anti-Semitic views in America contrasts greatly with Europe, where openly anti-Semitic opinions are once again on the rise, fueled in my opinion, at least in part, by deliberately false and inflammatory reporting about supposed Israeli wrongs. (Please see the video in the last item in this dispatch for more.)



Two men were injured in a shooting at a Los Angeles synagogue last Thursday. The deputy chief of Los Angeles police, Michel Moore, said the incident was being investigated as a possible hate crime. The two men were shot in the legs as they arrived for worship at the Adat Yeshurun Sephardic Congregation in North Hollywood.

Moore said a black male wearing a hooded sweatshirt opened fire on the two men before fleeing the scene. The victims are in a stable condition. Jewish organizations in the Los Angeles area have been put on high alert, and police placed extra patrols at Jewish schools and synagogues.

In 2006, a gunman stormed into the offices of the Seattle Jewish Federation, and shot dead a woman and wounded five others.



This is a follow-up to the dispatch containing Human Rights Watch founder Robert Bernstein’s attacks on HRW: HRW senior staff compare Israeli conduct to the 3.5 million dead and raped in Congo.


Bernstein has given an interview to the Israeli paper Ma’ariv, due to be published in Hebrew shortly. Below are Bernstein’s original answers in English to Ma’ariv’s questions, which Bernstein has supplied to me through an intermediary.

MA’ARIV: Why did you write your op-ed for The New York Times? What was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” from your point of view?

BERNSTEIN: Actually it has been brewing for a long time. I had been trying to do a long piece because many of my views about human rights in the Middle East are different from those now being expressed by Human Rights Watch. The Goldstone Report made me feel I should get something out, so I wrote The New York Times op-ed piece.

MA’ARIV: What was your vision when you founded Human Rights Watch and has the organization followed your vision in the recent years?

BERNSTEIN: My vision, I should say our vision because it was supported by a wonderful board, was to go into closed societies and try and help people in those societies who wanted free speech.

I was a book publisher so that was an especially important principle to me and it’s a key part of the Declaration of Human Rights. But, of course, other basic human rights are also vitally important: freedom of religion and equal rights for women, to name just two.

When governments of closed societies asked us what we were doing about our own country we would explain that the United States had many faults but because we were an open society we had many organizations and other ways to try and bring change. But after a while we decided we would do some work in the United States but try to not replicate what was being done by others.

I also believe there can be times to do some work in open societies but, now focus is on the Middle East. I think Israel is a country where most people believe in human rights. But at this time many Israelis, and I share their view, do not believe that HRW in the issues it chooses, its tone, and even its interpretations of law are helping to bring Arabs and Israelis together.

I had a lot to learn when I began feeling uncomfortable with HRW positions on Israel-Palestine issues in 2005 and certainly still do have a lot to learn, but almost from the beginning HRW has cast me as pro-Israel. I think that is the easiest thing to do – say someone is pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. I like to think I am pro-human rights. Now that I have stated publicly, very sadly incidentally, that I am in disagreement with HRW, this will play out and others can decide if my views make sense.


MA’ARIV: You said that you are amazed by the reaction, from general people and mostly from people inside the HRW. Can you explain? You said, “They think they are God” – off the record.

BERNSTEIN: I was amazed and encouraged by the reaction to my op-ed. Because so many of the positive comments have come, not from those considered to be hard liners but from people who think a lot about human rights, I have been particularly encouraged.

MA’ARIV: What do you think about the Goldstone report? Is it part of the big problem you were talking about? And if so, why do Goldstone, and other human rights organizations, focus mostly on Israel?

BERNSTEIN: I think the Goldstone Report is deeply flawed. I was surprised Judge Goldstone, who I know and admired, took the job. He had to head a commission created by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which I think any fair-minded person would say had to clean up itself before it dared to criticize anything.

When I read Judge Goldstone’s op-ed in the September 17 issue of The New York Times and he said “While Israel has begun investigating into alleged violations they are unlikely to be serious and objective” I felt he was just “judging” too much.

MA’ARIV: What do you think should be Israel’s response to the Goldstone report as well as to some of the HRW reports?

BERNSTEIN: I can’t tell Israel what to do. I do not think any country would want to put up with a war of attrition, which can explode into real war any time. However I certainly don’t know the best way to stop it. I fault HRW for not taking a position on the war. The fact that Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran have declared it is their intention to try and wipe out Israel and all Jews seems to me, to be incitement to genocide, especially when it is backed by rocket attacks.



The New York Times-owned International Herald Tribune (which now bills itself on its masthead as “The Global Edition of The New York Times”) has run yet another anti-Israel cartoon arising out of the Goldstone report, this one by Swiss cartoonist Patrick Chappatte.



I have attended three conferences in recent days. One of them, organized in Tel Aviv by Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), with the assistance of the Public Affairs Office of the U.S. Embassy in Israel, specifically concerned the media.

Titled “Giving the Middle East context: Reporters view the world they cover,” it featured leading Middle East correspondents from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio and several European papers and TV networks, who spoke on the question of media objectivity and how they covered the Middle East.

Ethan Bronner, The New York Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief, gave an impressive talk, marred only by a couple of wisecracks he told about orthodox Jews at the start – which his fellow journalists laughed at heartily. (I doubt he would dare make similar jokes about Muslims, especially given the fact that only last week there were more arrests on terrorism charges of persons threatening to murder Danish cartoonists.) Bronner is, however, in general by far the most objective Middle East correspondent The New York Times has had for many years.

The same cannot be said of other journalists at The New York Times who spoke at the conference.

But perhaps the most shocking comments came from senior Dutch journalist Connie Mus, correspondent for the Dutch stations RTL 4 and RTL 5, and for Belgium’s VTM TV, about how wonderful the Saudi authorities are.

My views on his talk are contained in the short video below for an Israeli TV and Web channel, which also contains an interview with the conference’s organizer, the highly respected Jerusalem-based journalist Hirsh Goodman.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.