The Guardian was this week forced to do something it desperately seeks to avoid: it took down content from its website.
Osama bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America‘, his antisemitism-filled justification for terrorism, had for more than 20 years been given its own page on its website. But this week that page was being shared so widely, and becoming so influential – viral in the worst sense of that word – that on Wednesday the Guardian had to remove it.
A spokesman for the media group said: “The transcript published on our website in 2002 has been widely shared on social media without the full context. Therefore we have decided to take it down and direct readers to the news article that originally contextualised it instead.”
It is doubtless still available in other corners on the internet. But, being for the most part Islamist, those sites tend to be in Arabic. The Guardian does, however, have more for the TikTok Bin Laden fan club to enjoy.
From 2001, the year before the late al-Qaeda chief’s memo, we find a headline all antisemites adore: ‘Israel simply has no right to exist.’
This Guardian comment piece opens with the idea that the author, Faisal Bodi, says first came to him when he was a student: that “the sympathy evoked by the Holocaust was a very handy cover for Israeli atrocities”.
A Guardian reader, settling into their armchair, might now look forward to an argument being developed. Except they will find only dismissive statements and more of the now stale student mantra: “Israel has no right to exist,” and “Certainly there is no moral case for the existence of Israel.”
Bodi also upset many of his co-religionists when he wrote in the Guardian, in 2002, that Muslims such as himself felt they “have no social contract” with Britain.
Until May this year he was press officer for (and a director of) the Islamic Human Rights Commission. While I have no specific details about Bodi’s role in the IHRC, that organisation appears to have worked hard to defend the Rev Stephen Sizer, the same reverend the Church of England barred from ministry for 12 years because of what it called his “virulently antisemitic posts”. A page on the IHRC website still urges people to tweet their support for him.
The Guardian inserted a series of hyperlinks. The final link took the reader to the website of an organisation not mentioned in the article but one the newspaper thought useful: Hamas
At the bottom of Bodi’s piece about Israel, the Guardian inserted a series of hyperlinks. The final link took the reader to the website of an organisation not mentioned in the article but one the newspaper thought useful: Hamas.
That link now takes the reader to a Malay casino website. Had Hamas maintained its web address from 2001, then it is possible that, on 7 October this year, a Guardian reader might have been able, through the paper’s website, to watch a livestream of its day’s work.
Last month, more than 20 years after they first published Bodi’s thoughts, the Guardian’s comment editors again sought out an extreme voice, this time that of an Israeli academic historian. Raz Segal wrote a piece with a headline the Guardian had had on its paste key for two decades: ‘Israel must stop weaponising the Holocaust.’
Let us return to Hamas, though, and the respectability the Guardian handed it nine years ago so that it could smear Israel. The newspaper published, and still has on its website, a plea by Ahmed Yousef, a close adviser to the organisation’s leadership: ‘Judge Hamas on the measures it takes for its people.’
Civilised countries now see Hamas, and the government of Iran, for what they are. In 2014, however, Yousef was telling Guardian readers that too easily the world has “succumbed to the Israeli establishment’s propaganda that the group is akin to al-Qaida and/or a front for Iran and/or a combination thereof”.
When he was not trying to convince the west of Hamas’ intrinsic benevolence, he was writing books; the title of one of these has been translated as The End of the Jewish State: Just a Matter of Time.
The questions for the Guardian are many. Chief among them are: considering that Hamas has butchered, raped, tortured and burnt 1,200 innocent people in Israel, and taken 240 hostages into Gaza so that it can conduct ongoing, hourly, psychological torture, how sound does the Guardian think its editorial decisions have been?
In light of the ‘Letter to America’, does the Guardian still think it should have these pieces on its website?
Asked for its response, a spokesman for the Guardian said: “We have nothing further to add.”
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