Am I glad I cancelled my Economist subscription

Since I cancelled my subscription to the Economist in the light of its deteriorating coverage about all things Israeli, and its continual shift towards the territory inhabited by the haters at the Guardian and the Independent, I have had no regrets. I have read a few issues since then, borrowed from others, or seen in airport lounges. Each time, I would run my eye over their Israeli coverage, and whatever was there simply reaffirmed how right I was to get out of their nasty, poisonous pit.

I was, therefore, not surprised the publication was among those promoting – and certainly not reporting on, or reviewing – Ben Ehrenreich‘s book about Nabi Saleh and the Tamimi family, The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine.  (See here.)

And so, I am also not surprised by their latest contribution to the hate, as reported on at UK Media Watch:

A serious journalist who wished to provide an analysis to news consumers on the recent Olympic scandal involving an Egyptian judoka who refused to shake the hand of his Israeli competitor may have contextualized the incident by noting endemic Egyptian antisemitism. Indeed, though Cairo and Jerusalem signed a peace agreement in 1979, and ties between the two countries (on the governmental level) have never been closer, there is little if any sign that Egyptian animosity towards Jews – not just Israelis, but Jews qua Jews – has waned.

In 2011, a Pew Global poll revealed that only 2% of Egyptians had favorable attitudes towards Jews.

More recently, an ADL commissioned poll reported that 75% of Egyptians held antisemitic views – a sign of an entrenched hatred that persists despite the fact that there are almost no Jews left in the country.

Yet, remarkably, the Economist’s “N.P.” (presumably Nicolas Pelham), in ‘Politics hogs the Olympic spotlight‘, Aug. 15, ignores Egyptian antisemitism in his report on the conduct of the Egyptian athlete, and does his best to turn the story into one of Israeli hypocrisy.

Steel yourself, then read it all here. And if you have a subscription, cancel it now. You will feel so much better!

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Free speech of the week

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On a whim, I bought this week’s print edition of the Economist. As usual, it is full of well written, well edited, informative and interesting material from across the world. In general, its opinion pieces are solid and well argued. Although its Israeli coverage has become too much of a Guardian imitator, it remains the best quality print journalism I have read.

This week’s edition leads on free speech and censorship. The opinion piece Under attack includes this gem:

One strongman who has enjoyed tweaking the West for hypocrisy is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey. At home, he will tolerate no insults to his person, faith or policies. Abroad, he demands the same courtesy – and in Germany he has found it. In March a German comedian recited a satirical poem about him “shagging goats and oppressing minorities” (only the more serious charge is true). Mr Erdogan invoked an old, neglected German law against insulting foreign heads of state. Amazingly, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has let the prosecution proceed. Even more amazingly, nine other European countries still have similar laws, and 13 bar insults against their own head of state.

Think about the highlighted text. It’s a clever swipe at Erdogan; one that will have his political opponents smirking, and the man himself fuming. And, at the same time, it adds to the points being made about freedom of speech. Well done to the Economist.

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Economist goes from bad to worse

In response to this article at the Economist, the Elder of Ziyon posted the following comment:

The right for Jews to pray on the Temple Mount is enshrined in numerous UN resolutions like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. It is a basic civil and human right for Jews to be allowed to peacefully visit and pray on their holiest spot.

It is curious that The Economist is coming out against civil rights for Jews.

Why is that? Because the Muslims there threaten violence – and now they are murdering Jews in the name of Islam!

Civil rights are not dependent on the veto power of extremists to threaten violence. There are numerous videos of Jews visiting the Temple Mount, and not one of them shows any of them doing anything the least bit provocative. On the other hand, their quiet strolls are greeted with screams, threats and occasional violence.

Yet The Economist seems determined to label the Jews who want equal rights as the agitators and the Muslim rioters as the victims of Israeli aggression.

The Economist’s idea of the “status quo” is completely wrong. Before 2000, Jews were able to visit the Mount and no one objected if visitors quietly prayed. Before 1967, of course, Jews were forbidden altogether. Perhaps that is the “status quo” that The Economist prefers to see.

Modern liberals are supposed to defend civil rights, to stand up for those being threatened by bigots. One must wonder why The Economist believes that in this case those making the threats are in the right and civil rights for Jews are not important.

When you pick and choose which human rights you are in favor of, you can no longer call yourself an advocate for human rights.

As you can see here, after getting 50+ approvals, the moderators removed it. Like the Elder, I could not and cannot see any good reason for this action. (I did read their terms of use.) So, I posted his comment on my own account. I also added this from the Elder:

“Apparently, The Economist’s interest in freedom of expression is exactly as strong as its support for human rights.”

Now my posts have been removed, too. I have been censored. The Elder has been censored.

I will gladly stand corrected if anyone at the Economist would point out what is – allegedly – wrong with the material. It appears, in the absence of any explanation, that somebody has made a bad mistake – with the article in the first place – and is trying to cover their tracks in a cack handed fashion. Or there’s a genuine – albeit misguided – belief that the censorship is appropriate. But until there is an explanation, my hunch is that, to quote a certain fictional soldier: they don’t like it up em

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Economist owns up

By way of follow up to this post (slating the Economist for its inaccurate and demonization reportage about Israel) CIF Watch has managed to get them to own up and make corrections. You can read the details here.

But since we all know corrections after the event have far less impact than the original publication, put me down as less than impressed. For me, the Economist remains in the sin bin.

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Why should an economist bother with facts?

By way of follow up to this blog post (about me ditching my Economist subscription) I commend you to this CIF Watch story:

Despite Economist claim, the ‘fanatical settlement’ of Kochav Ya’ir is neither ‘fanatical’ nor a ‘settlement’

While the UK media (much like its US counterpart) often employ euphemisms – and often wild rhetorical somersaults – to avoid passing ‘value judgments’ on Palestinian terror groups, there are typically no such restraints in news stories and commentaries about Israeli ‘settlers’.

Though only a tiny fraction of Israelis who live in cities across the green line (in Jerusalem and the West Bank) have engaged in violence or advocate its use, words like ‘radical’, ‘extremist’ and ‘fanatical’ are often used by journalists to place this Jewish population on the ‘wrong side’ of their moral divide.

A good illustration of this knee-jerk impulse to demonize ‘settlers’ – by journalist who often seem to possess little real knowledge about such communities – can be found in a May 3rd article in The Economist titled ‘Making of a martyr‘ – a review of a book about the killing, by British officers, of Avraham (Ya’ir) Stern, leader of the pre-state underground Zionist group known as Lehi (Lohamei Herut Yisrael – Fighters for the Freedom of Israel).

After a few paragraphs which focus on the book itself, the article then pivots to a broader critique of what the anonymous Economist writer believes to be Stern’s legacy:

Stern still commands a striking hold over many of Israel’s ruling right-wingers, including the successors of the mandate-era Jewish underground who continue to perpetrate attacks on Palestinian civilians. Many still choose his nom de guerre, Yair, for their sons, including Israel’s current prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

The author’s rhetorical slight of hand is almost comical. Though Ya’ir is a common Hebrew name, are we supposed to intuit from the sentence that the current Israeli Prime Minister chose his son’s name based on the life and politics of Ya’ir Stern?

However, the author’s polemical inventions become even more pronounced in the following sentence:

One of the most fanatical settlements, Kochav Yair, is named after him.

Though the community was indeed named after Ya’ir Stern, a quick check on Google Maps would have demonstrated to the Economist journalist that Kochav Ya’ir is NOT a settlement…

Additionally, the claim that Kochav Ya’ir is “fanatical” does not hold up to scrutiny.

First, contrary to the stereotype of such fanatical ‘settlers’ [sic] as religious fundamentalists, Kochav Ya’ir is an overwhelmingly secular community.

Moreover, in the last national elections in 2013 a majority of Kochav Ya’ir residents (according to official results) voted for centre and left-wing political parties. In fact, while Likud-Israel Beiteinu was the party which attracted the greatest percentage of votes overall in the country, the top vote-getters in Kochav Ya’ir were centrist Yesh Atid and the left-wing Labor Party (at 24 and 21 percent respectively).

So, Kochav Ya’ir is clearly not a “settlement”, nor does it appear to be at all “fanatical”.

The Economist got it wrong.

I cannot say I am surprised. It looks like the Economist is now a fully fledged member of the fact free demonization of Israel faction.

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Goodbye to the Economist

I have been an Economist subscriber for years, probably decades. I started subscribing because of the quality of the writing and the journalism; the articles were well written, their points well made, and their perspectives shaped from knowledge. Even when I disagreed, I could respect the honesty of their endeavor, and their scrupulous attempts to be fair and objective. That was at the start.

In the last couple of years their standards, so far as I am concerned, have gone downhill. Particularly in covering Israel and the Middle East, their journalism has become sloppy and populist. They made repeated factual errors, and their once independent editorials were slowly – and sometimes not so slowly – aligning with the BBC and the Guardian. They are mesmerized by “settlers”, the settlers meme, and hate for Bibi. (It’s interesting to compare their outright dislike for Bibi with their attitude towards, for example, Iran’s leaders. In short, the Economist has joined the ranks of the Israel bashers.

However, it’s not only in their Israel coverage, that I have seen standards falling. I wish I had kept notes, but that wasn’t my mission. Where had the original Economist gone? I just wanted to read and be informed – not read, and be misinformed.

The last issue of my subscription arrives next week. After that, no more Economist. I don’t believe in boycotts, but I also don’t believe that I should keep paying to be fed crap. And right now, despite a once great reputation, a glossy cover, a sleek website, and a host of admirers, that’s what the Economist has become. Crap.

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Tearing off a strip

It seems the Economist is – so far as the topic of Israel is concerned – treading the same path as the Guardian and the BBC. The latest not so subtle clue is in the current edition, which features a review of Louisa Waugh’s Meet Me in Gaza: Uncommon Stories of the Life Inside the Strip. (Available here, though behind a paywall.)

The author is no friend of Israel, and the book doesn’t appear to veer from that perspective in presenting the people living inside the Gaza Strip. Fair enough.

However, that’s no excuse for the Economist’s article; it’s not so much a review by the Economist, more a puff piece. It’s like an advert for intellectuals, albeit intellectuals who are lazy enough to read without stopping to challenge the veracity of the world view being presented. In a nutshell, it’s all Israel’s fault. Words like “siege”, “shell”, and “devastating three-week assault” are followed by the inevitable mention of the casualties. But accuracy no longer seems to be important, because Egypt gets a free pass, and there’s sod all by way of context. Rockets? What rockets? See those people in the bomb shelter over there, economist person? Did you forget them? It seems that only the residents of the Gaza Strip are entitled to peace and quiet.

Hamas does get a mention, but only at the end as a kind of afterthought:

“…though increasingly under the sombre shadow of Hamas, the Islamist party that governs the strip.”

That’s a lot like doing a piece about the people of Syria and talking about “the sombre shadow of Bashar Assad, whose Baathist party governs the country.”

Part of my university education firmed up the importance of being a critical reader. Material like this gives me plenty of practice.

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Is there an Economist in the house?

I enjoy the Economist. I like the high standard of writing, the generally high standard of its editorial and arguments, its breadth of coverage, and its occasional quirkiness. The latter comes to the fore, once a year, in its twin festive – Special Christmas Double Issue – edition. It’s newly arrived here:

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As well as the usual coverage of world politics, business, science, and the arts, the festive edition is overflowing with off beat articles to allow its serious readers (ahem) to let loose a little, and enjoy themselves. (You can see some of the titles on the front cover.) I can confidently say, I have some good reading ahead.

Aside: can you see the cartoon hang glider pilots of Bibi and Hamas? What do you think? Legitimate acidic comment, or obscene moral equivalence? There are also unpleasant suggestions about other world figures, but none so obviously matched. Is that fair? I wonder if the first issue of 2013, or the online community will discuss or ignore it. I’m betting on the latter.

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Headline of the weak

In the current issue (February 25 – March 2 2012) of the Economist, headlining an article about the removal of the official Argentinian Office of Statistics numbers from the magazine’s weekly, authoritative, list:

“Don’t lie to me, Argentina”

It’s also worth quoting part of the article:

“Statistical offices vary in their technical sophistication and ability to resist political pressure. China’s numbers, for example, can be dodgy. Greece underreported its deficit, with disastrous consequences. But on the whole government statisticians arrive at their figures in good faith.”

I put this in the “Bloody hell, I was right” department: when discussing the possibility of Britain entering the euro system, I confessed that I wasn’t sure of the economic consequences, but I was sure I did not trust the alleged economic performances of some of the euro countries. I was right. And I cannot help worrying that, at some point in the future, an important economic decision will be made about the Chinese economy, based on statistics that are dodgy. It’s enough to make you a skeptic, or a pessimist. Or both.

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