Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Two hearts, but just one mind?

Doing some google blasting on Hamas, I happened upon this article by John Pilger, dated the 28th of May, 2007, called "Children of the Dust." Considering the western media's coverage of the Lisrael-Palestinian conflict, he wrote:

A censorship by omission runs deep in western journalism on Israel, especially in the US. Hamas is dismissed as a "terrorist group sworn to Israel's destruction" and one that "refuses to recognise Israel and wants to fight not talk". This theme suppresses the truth: that Israel is bent on Palestine's destruction. Moreover, Hamas's long-standing proposals for a ten-year ceasefire are ignored, along with a recent, hopeful ideological shift within Hamas itself that amounts to a historic acceptance of the sovereignty of Israel. "The [Hamas] charter is not the Quran," said a senior Hamas official, Mohammed Ghazal. "Historically, we believe all Palestine belongs to Palestinians, but we're talking now about reality, about political solutions . . . If Israel reached a stage where it was able to talk to Hamas, I don't think there would be a problem of negotiating with the Israelis [for a solution]." (1)
My googling also uncovered an article penned by Yvonne Ridley, and published in The Tehran Times (2). A very similar article, with a few changes and a new title, was also published (here and here (3)). It was also put up on a blog she contributes to (4).

What caught my attention was that a key passage from the Ridley article matched the earlier Pilger article, almost word for word. This is what Ridley wrote - or claimed to have written - in late 2007:
As a journalist, I am deeply saddened by the censorship by omission which runs deep in Western media coverage of Israel, especially in the U.S.

Hamas is dismissed as a “terrorist group sworn to Israel’s destruction” and one that “refuses to recognize Israel and wants to fight not talk”.

The truth is that Israel is bent on Palestine’s destruction. Moreover, Hamas’s longstanding proposals for a ten-year ceasefire are loudly ignored, along with a recent, ideological shift within Hamas itself.

“The (Hamas) charter is not the Quran,” said a senior Hamas official, Mohammed Ghazal. “Historically, we believe all Palestine belongs to Palestinians, but we’re talking now about reality, about political solutions… If Israel reached a stage where it was able to talk to Hamas, I don’t think there would be a problem of negotiating with the Israelis (for a solution).”
The resemblance, as they say, is striking.

So who is Yvonne Ridley? The name was familiar to me, and Google soon told me why - she was very much in the news in 2001. Reporting for the Sunday Express, she entered Afghanistan illegally and was captured by the Taliban and held for eleven days. I remember the fuss at the time. Since her release, she has converted to Islam, worked briefly for Al Jazeera and other Islamic TV channels, and stood for election in Britain for George Galloway's Respect party (5).

Like him or loathe him, Pilger is a honorable journalist with an reputation for scrupulousness. He is also, on the evidence available to me, the most most likely original author of the words that subsequently reappeared, unattributed, in Ridley's work.

1 - "Children of the Dust," by John Pilger, published in The New Statesman, 28th of May, 2007. (http://www.newstatesman.com/middle-east/2007/05/pilger-israel-children)
2 - "Real Talks or Real Trouble," by Yvonne Ridley, published in the Tehran Times, 16th of December, 2007. (http://tehrantimes.com/Index_view.asp?code=159267)
3 - "Why Israel should start negotiating with Hamas," by Yvonne Ridley, published in Future Islam, January/March 2008 edition (http://www.futureislam.com/200801/leaders/louay_safi/End_Guantanamo_Disgrace.asp) and also in The Islamic Times, dated 12th of November 2007 [pdf] (http://www.islamictimes.co.uk/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=774)
4 - "Talking to Hamas," posted by Yvonne Ridley on Open Minds blog, 6th of December, 2008.(http://www.openmindsblogspot.com/ContributorPageList/YvonneRidley/tabid/60/EntryID/82/language/en-US/Default.aspx)
5 - As per her biography on Wikipedia, viewed 12th of January, 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yvonne_Ridley#Subsequent_career)

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