Friday, 5 December 2014

Firing of Nafeez Ahmed incriminates Jonathan Freedland and further exposes the Guardian

A dark storm is gathering around allegations of censorship and Zionist-favoured gatekeeping at the Guardian.

Nafeez Ahmed was fired by the Guardian's environment editor after he published a Guardian blog piece entitled: IDF's Gaza assault is to control Palestinian gas, avert Israeli energy crisis.

The article laid out an insightful assembly of facts and analysis on the environmental and geopolitical issues surrounding Gaza's offshore gas reserves. It discussed the complex questions of energy politics in the region, set around the collaborative efforts of Israel and the West to appropriate and manipulate this crucial wealth base.

Evidently touching raw nerves, Nafeez was duly sacked, his editor claiming in feeble mitigation that Nafeez had 'strayed' from his agreed 'remit' of producing environmental stories.

In response, Nafeez wrote 'Palestine is not an environment story', a detailed account of the sacking, and damning indictment of the deep process of censorship at the Guardian. He also provided corroborating accounts of how Jonathan Freedland, in particular, carries out a vital gatekeeping role in determining stories and reportage pertaining to Israel-Palestine.

Prompted to explain his position, Freedland issued a TwitLonger statement to Nafeez and others stating that he had no part in his firing, nor any knowledge of his writings:
@NafeezAhmed Your piece for Medium implies I was involved in the end of your arrangement with the Guardian. I don't wish to be rude, but I had literally not heard of you or your work till seeing that Medium piece, via Twitter, a few hours ago. (The Guardian environment website, where you wrote, is edited separately from the Guardian's Comment is Free site, which I now oversee.) I had no idea you wrote for the Guardian, no idea that arrangement had been terminated and not the slightest knowledge of your piece on Gaza's gas until a few hours ago. What's more, I was abroad - on vacation - on the days in July you describe. To put it starkly, my involvement in your case was precisely zero. I hope that as a matter of your own journalistic integrity, you'll want to alter the Medium piece to reflect these facts. Perhaps you'll also share this on Twitter as widely as you shared the Medium piece yesterday.
This was rejected in a TwitLonger response from Nafeez:
Your reading of my Medium piece is incorrect. I am not implying that you were involved in the end of my Guardian tenure. I have no clue about that, and to be sure, I did not make any such claim. My Medium piece has been amended to ensure that your response is mentioned in full, and to clarify that I am not implying your specific involvement in the termination of my contract - a matter about which I have no knowledge thanks to the abrupt, unethical and unlawful way in which I was dropped.

What I did do is speak to several journalists about my experience who told me that it was not unprecedented, and mentioned you by name. According to these journalists, including a former Guardian ed who has spoken on the record, my experience of egregious Guardian censorship over the Gaza gas story  - which I'm sad to see doesn't seem to bother you very much given your concerns about 'journalistic integrity' - has a long and little-known context, suggesting that rather than my experience being a mere bizarre and accidental aberration, it is part of an entrenched, wider culture across the paper. These journalists who spoke to me on condition of anonymity claim that you have played a key role in fostering this culture, and that you have quashed legitimate stories critical of Israel without meaningful journalistic justification. I have merely relayed their allegations.
It was also, as can be plainly seen, a brazen evasion of the main charges laid out by Nafeez about censorship and Freedland's central control over output.

All of which draws closer attention to the power and influence of Freedland.

Alongside, and complementary to, his position as "Executive Editor of the Guardian", Freedland carries out an important tempering role at the Jewish Chronicle, using his regular postings and status as a 'moderating' voice and warning platform for anything that seriously threatens to undermine the character and legitimacy of Israel.

In a recent piece, Israel's crumbling pillars, he warns, for example, of how the proposed Knesset legislation to formally declare Israel a Jewish state could seriously undermine its principal status as a 'democracy'.

Of course, nothing Freedland says here remotely touches upon Israel's institutional suppression of democracy as an ethnocratic, occupying and apartheid state.

Peruse other pieces here, like War is not always the answer, on Israel's 'difficult standing' after bombing Gaza, and you'll see more of this 'identity counselling', as Freedland tries to guide and protect Israel:
Blame Hamas if you like for firing from populated areas, but when Israel pulls the trigger it shares in the moral responsibility.
Not principal responsibility for decades of murderous occupation and oppression, just that Israel should "share" in that "moral responsibility". As with much framing at the Guardian, so runs the vital power-supporting narrative of 'two sides' and 'misguided Israel'.

One might think it remarkable that Freedland, carrying such influence at the Guardian, also occupies such a presitgious platform at the JC.

This is the all-important context within which to understand the key allegations raised by Nafeez Ahmed about Freedland as principal Guardian gatekeeper on sensitive issues relating to Israel.

Jonathan Cook, another ex-Guardian writer, has offered similar valuable insights and backing of Nafeez Ahmed's claims.

What critical response might we now see from key Guardian columnists George Monbiot, Seumas Milne and Owen Jones?

Will they help illuminate the culture of censorship and control laid out by Nafeez Ahmed and Jonathan Cook - a culture of rooted conservatism also recently exposed by ex-Guardian staffer Guilio Sica?

Will they help specify the particular influence exerted by Freedland in these affairs, and pursue their own extensive investigations of such interventions at the Guardian?

Might they even come to support Nafeez Ahmed's new project for a truly independent citizen journalism completely free from corporate control and establishment interests?

From Rusbridger to Freedland, the Guardian plays a crucial function in filtering stories, pitching moderate narratives and ensuring the 'right type' of writers.  A few 'alternative' voices are permitted, providing just enough 'dissenting' thought to maintain that niche position of 'sensibe-left reformer'.   

Just imagine if those same people were writing much the same content from outside those contrived confines. Just think what else they'd be able to say about the kind of stultifying, posturing organisation which employs them.   

Instead, their presence lends the whole enterprise a crucial legitimacy in rationalising power, stemming dissent, castigating radical 'upstarts' and patrolling the permissible limits of debate.

How rightly, yet easily, we castigate the Sun, Mail, Daily Record and other populist 'rags', without ever casting a truly critical eye over what pretentiously and disingenuously styles itself as an upmarket, labelled 'garment'.

From supporting Western aggressions to shielding Israel, from hosting war criminals like Blair and Brown to hypocritical greenwashing, isn't it high time that so many of those who comprise an effective left and liberal establishment really thought about their supportive roles, and about calling-out this authority-upholding pretender for what it is?

Update: Guardian reply. 
Statement in response to a blog post by Nafeez Ahmed
A Guardian News & Media spokesperson said: “Nafeez Ahmed is a freelance journalist who self-published blog posts on our environment blogging network for just over a year as a regular contributor. He has never been on the staff of the Guardian. His Guardian blog - Earth Insight - was about the link between the environment and geopolitics, but we took the decision to end the blog when a number of his posts on a range of subjects strayed too far from this brief. For the record, Jonathan Freedland played absolutely no part in this decision, as he has already confirmed.
“Any suggestion of censorship is unfounded: all of Nafeez Ahmed’s blog posts remain on our website to this day. He is welcome to continue to pitch story ideas to us in the normal way.”

Nafeez Ahmed's tweeted response:
This is .@guardian's seriously hilarious official response that just confirms wot I already said #priceless

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