Martin Bright

The Guardian and Tzipi Livni

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Since working at the Jewish Chronicle, I have discovered that many in the Jewish community will have nothing to do with The Guardian. This is based on the pre-conception that the newspaper of choice of the chattering classes is a pro-Palestinian rag which condones terrorism on the one side while never missing an opportunity to bash the Israeli state. 

This is not entirely fair. The Guardian is not a monolith and there is a range of views on the Israel-Palestine conflict at the organisation (and sometimes this even finds its way into the pages of the newspaper). But I was amazed by the coverage yesterday of the Tzipi Livni affair. The reporting was reasonably balanced, although the outrage only seemed to be coming from those who disapproved of David Miliband's attempts to reassure Israeli politicians that they should be allowed to travel freely to Britain. There is plenty of outrage on the other side too.

The editorial made some good points about the dangers of allowing the Attorney General to take control of the arrest process, but seemed to be written by someone who had assumed Livni's guilt. It worked from the assumption that there was nothing problematic about the way Richard Goldstone's report into the Gaza war had been commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council and found its way to the UN General Assembly (Israel's main point is that the credibility of the UNHRC is somewhat undermined by the human rights record of its members). Seumas Milne's position on these matters is well established and his column was a predictable attack on Israel. But his line now seems to have been adopted by the paper itself.

I have outlined my own views on this matter in this week's Jewish Chronicle. Like most people, I suspect, I am torn. War crimes should be punished and Israeli politicians can not be exempt. but is this really the best way of going about this? I worry that we are making a special case of Israeli politicians and that Britain has become associated with a particularly virulent form of anti-Zionism.

Those who support the issuing of arrest warrants for Israeli politicians should ask themselves what this will achieve. Israel has now made it clear that senior government figures will not be allowed to travel to Britain while the law remains as it is. It has also said Britain will no longer be welcome to play a part in the peace process. This will only serve to harden Israel's position on allowing an independent investigation into events in Gaza. Whatever the rights and wrongs of allowing the Attorney General to have the last word on such warrants (and I am not convinced this is the way forward), in this case, the process appears to have been entirely counterproductive. It risks diminishing the credibility of the International Criminal Court and will do little to help the Palestinian cause.