Adonis Diaries

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Axing a blog? Nafeez Ahmed’s and The Guardian

Nafeez Ahmed’s account of the sudden termination of his short-lived contract to write an environment blog for the Guardian is depressingly instructive – and accords with my own experiences as a journalist at the paper.

Ahmed is that rare breed of journalist who finds stories everyone else either misses or chooses to overlook.

He regularly joins up the dots in a global system of corporate pillage. If the news business were really driven by news rather than a corporate-friendly business agenda, publications would be beating a path to his door.

Jonathan Cook from Nazareth, December 4, 2014

Nafeez has been mostly ploughing a lonely furrow as a freelance journalist, bypassing the media gatekeepers by promoting himself on social media, and placing his articles wherever a window briefly opens. His 43,000 followers on Twitter are testament to his skills as a journalist – skills, it seems, that are in short demand even at the bastions of liberal journalism.

That neglect looked like it might finally be remedied last year when the Guardian gave him a blog.

Let’s be clear: the Guardian is now a raucous market-place of opinion – its model for monetising the mostly voluntary labour of desperate journalists, writers, academics and lobby groups. The paper calls it “Comment is Free” – free for the Guardian, that is.

But it is certainly not “free” in the sense of “free expression”, as I know only too well from my many run-ins with its editors, both from my time on staff there and from my later experiences as a freelance journalist (more below).

The Guardian’s website covers a spectrum of “moderate”, meaning  conventional, opinion from right to left, with a couple of genuinely progressive staff writers – currently Seumas Milne and Owen Jones – there to offer the illusion of real pluralism.

Recruiting Ahmed was therefore a risky move.

He is a voice from the genuine left, and one too independent to control. The Guardian did not offer him a column, or the more interesting – and suitable – position of investigative journalist, a platform that would have given him the opportunity and resources to explore the biggest and most under-reported story of our era: the connection between corporate greed and the destruction of the life-support systems necessary for our continued existence on the planet.

Instead he got a minor leg-up: a raise out of the morass of CiF contributors to his own Guardian blog.

Rather than waste inordinate time and energy on arm-twisting the Guardian’s ever-cautious editors, he was able to publish his own posts with minimal interference. And that was the beginning of his downfall.

Ignoring the real story

In July, as Israel began its massive assault on Gaza, Ahmed published a post revealing a plausible motivation – Gaza’s natural gas reserves – for Israel’s endless belligerence towards the enclave’s Hamas government.

(The story had until then been confined to minor and academic publications, including my own contribution here.) Israel wanted to keep control over large gas reserves in Gaza’s waters so that it could deny Hamas a resource that would have bought it influence with other major players in the region, not least Egypt.

This story should be at the centre of the coverage of Gaza, and of criticism of the west’s interference, including by the UK’s own war criminal Tony Blair, who has conspired in the west’s plot to deny the people of Gaza their rightful bounty. But the Guardian, like other media, have ignored the story.

Interestingly, Ahmed’s article went viral, becoming the most shared of any of the paper’s stories on Operation Protective Shield.

But readers appear to have had better news judgment than the Guardian’s editors. Rather than congratulate him, the Guardian effectively fired Ahmed, as he details in the link below. No one has suggested that there were errors in the story, and no correction has been appended to the article.

In axing him, the Guardian appears to have broken the terms of his contract and has failed to offer grounds for their action, apart from claiming that this story and others had strayed too far from his environment beat.

There is an obvious problem with this justification.

No responsible employer sacks someone for repeated failures without first warning them at an earlier stage that they are not fulfilling the terms of their employment.

So either the Guardian has been wildly irresponsible, or – far more likely – the professed justification is nothing more than a smokescreen. After all, the idea that an environment blogger for the liberal media should not be examining the connection between control over mineral resources, which are deeply implicated in climate change, and wars, which lead to human deaths and ecological degradation, is preposterous beyond belief.

It is not that Ahmed strayed too far from his environment remit, it is that he strayed too much on to territory – that of the Israel-Palestine conflict – that the Guardian rigorously reserves for a few trusted reporters and commentators. Without knowing it, he went where only the carefully vetted are allowed to tread.

I know from my own long years of clashing with Guardian editors on this issue. Here is just one of my many experiences.

Comment is elusive

I moved to Nazareth in 2001 as a freelance journalist, after a decade of working for the Guardian and its sister publication, the Observer. I knew many people at the paper, and I had some kind of track record with them as a former staff member.

I arrived in Nazareth at an interesting time. It was the height of the second intifada, and I was the only foreign reporter in Nazareth, the capital of Israel’s large Palestinian minority.

In those days, before Israel built its concrete and steel barrier, Jenin – one of the most newsworthy spots in the West Bank – was a 20-minute drive away. I have previously written about the way the paper so heavily edited an investigation I conducted into the clear-cut execution of a British citizen, Iain Hook, in Jenin’s refugee camp that it was effectively censored (see here and here).

But I also spent my early years in Nazareth desperately trying to raise any interest first at the comment section and later at Comment is Free in my contributing (free) articles on my experiences of the second intifada. Remember CiF, then as now, was a cacophony of competing opinions, many of them belonging to dubious lobbyists and interest groups.

I was a former Guardian staff member, now located not only in one of the world’s hot spots but offering a story no other foreign journalist was in a position to tell.

At that time, CiF had several journalists in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem detailing the experiences and traumas of Israeli Jews. But Israeli Palestinians – a fifth of Israel’s population – were entirely unrepresented in its coverage.

It exasperated me that no one at CiF, including the paper’s late deputy editor Georgina Henry, seemed to think this of any consequence.

I finally broke briefly into CiF after the Lebanon war erupted in summer 2006. Pointing out that I was the only foreign journalist actually living daily under threat of Hizbullah rockets finally seemed to get the editors’ attention.

I survived at CiF for just a year, managing at great effort to publish 7 stories, almost all of them after difficult battles with editors and including in one case sections censored without my permission.

My time with CiF came to an end after yet another baffling exchange with Henry, after she refused to publish an article, that I have previously documented here.

Escaping scrutiny

Why is writing about Israel so difficult at the Guardian? There are several reas

1.  as I have regularly observed in my blog, is related to the general structure of the corporate media system, including the Guardian. It is designed to exclude almost all deeply critical voices, those that might encourage readers to question the ideological basis of the western societies in which they live and alert them to the true role of the corporations that run those societies and their media.

Israel, as an intimate ally of the US, is therefore protected from profoundly critical scrutiny, much as the US and its western allies are.

It is okay to criticise individual western policies as flawed, especially if done so respectfully, but not to suggest that the whole direction of western foreign policy is flawed, that it is intended to maintain a system of control over, and exploitation of, weaker nations. Policies can be dubious, but not our leaders’ moral character.

The problem with Israel is that its place in the global order – alongside the US – depends on it being a very sophisticated gun for hire. It keeps order and disorder in the Middle East at Washington’s behest and in return it gets to plunder the Palestinian territories and ethnically cleanse the native population.

It’s a simple story but not one you can state anywhere in the mainstream because it questions not just a policy (the occupation) but Israel’s very nature and role as a colonial settler state.

Beyond this, however, special factors pertain in the Guardian’s case.

2. As Ahmed notes, in part this is related to the Guardian’s pivotal role in bringing to fruition the ultimate colonial document, the Balfour Declaration. For this reason, the Guardian has always had a strong following among liberal Jews, and that is reflected in its selection of staff at senior ranks.

In this sense, the editorial “mood” at the Guardian resembles that of an indulgent parent towards a wayward grown-up child. Yes, Israel does some very bad things (the occupation) but, for all its faults, its heart is in the right place (as a Jewish, colonial settler state practising apartheid).

3. And then there is the Jonathan Freedland factor, as Ahmed also notes (including by citing some of my previous criticisms of him). One should not personalise this too much. Freedland, an extremely influential figure at the paper, is a symptom of a much wider problem with the Guardian’s coverage of Israel.

Freedland is a partisan on Israel, as am I.

But I get to write a blog and occasional reports tucked away in specialist and Arab media in English. Freedland and other partisans for Israel at the paper get to reinforce and police an already highly indulgent attitude towards Israel’s character (though not the occupation) across the coverage of one of the most widely read papers in the world.

Given that Israel’s character, as a colonial settler state, is the story, the Guardian effectively never presents more than a fraction of the truth about the conflict. Because it never helps us understand what drives Israeli policy, it – along with the rest of the media – never offers us any idea how the conflict might be resolved.

And this is where Ahmed tripped up. Because his piece, as the Guardian’s editors doubtless quickly realised, implicated Israel’s character rather than just its policies. It violated a Guardian taboo.

Ahmed is hoping to continue his fiercely independent reporting by creating a new model of crowd-sourced journalism. I wish him every luck with his venture.

Such initiatives are possibly the only hope that we can start to loosen the grip of the corporate media and awaken ourselves to many of the truths hidden in plain sight. If you wish to help Ahmed, you can find out about his new funding model here.


The Guardian has issued a short official statement that manages to avoid addressing any of Nafeez Ahmed’s complaints about his treatment or throwing any further light on the reasons for the termination of his contract. It’s a case study in evasiveness and can be read here.


I have amended the section of my post concerning my early struggles to get published in Comment is Free. I inadvertently suggested that these related to my whole time in Nazareth. In fact, CiF was set up in March 2006, and my earliest travails concerned efforts to get published in the main comment section, battling with many of the same editors who would later join CiF.

Immediately CiF was launched, I contacted those editors asking to be included among the many contributors who were being taken on. As I explain above, my repeated approaches were either ignored or rebuffed, while many journalists and writers in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were recruited to write from an Israeli Jewish perspective.

That finally changed in July 2006 when I persuaded the CiF editors that my unique perspective on the Lebanon war needed to be included. Interestingly, it seemed their interest was finally piqued not by the perspective I could share of how Palestinians were treated in a Jewish state but by the fact that Palestinians in Israel were under threat from fellow Arabs, in this case Hizbullah.

– See more at:

Story of how Qadhafi was liquidated

An US drone, accompanied by a French jet fighter, targeted and bombed the convoy of Qadhafi. Details are vented out: A few hours before the drone bombed the convey, an US colonel in the Pentagon called his counterpart, a French intelligence  service agent who was designated to track Qadhafi whereabouts.  The US officer said: “The trap is set and Qadhafi should not get out alive: He might turn to be a “nuclear bomb” if tried by International Court…”  French soldiers are on the ground and leading the Libyan “revolutionary” militias.

The wounded Qadhafi hurried to hide in a water conduit and was taken out like a rat. The French turned Qadhafi over to a special unit named “The Jackal” that shot him in the head.

Qadhafi was not killed as Benito Mussolini, Italy fascist dictator. Mussolini fled, hiding in the back of a truck, in a German convoy headed to the Tyrol region in northern Italy.  The Italian resistance militia discovered Mussolini and his current girl friend. They were summarily put to trial and shot.

Qadhafi was assassinated by NATO.  What the US and the western European States wanted from the death of Qadhafi was to retain the trillion of dollars stashed in their economies.  No witness to proving the availability of the whisked trillion, but restitution…

Anyway, most of Qadhafi saved money were already spent and disposed of before the Libyan “civil war”.  A few billion will be released back to the Libyan government to prove good-will…

Abdel Jalil of the temporary Libyan government is downgrading the casualties.  He is claiming that the civil was consumed 20,000 dead, and 30,000 injured.  These numbers are already huge compared to a population barely of 5 million.  How long would we have to wait to know the approximate numbers of civilians dead by air attacks and collateral damages?

Somaz Miln wrote in The Guardian: “It is obvious that the way Qadhafi was eliminated is a war crime.  Eye-witness accounts proved that 53 dead bodies were found in the location where Qadhafi was assaulted, brutalized, and assassinated.   Over 500 civilians casualties were considered collateral damages by the NATO air bombing in the city of Sert in the last ten days…”

Note: A high graded freshly retired French intelligence agent wrote that France and England, with support of the US Administration, had plans to overthrow Qadhafi before the Tunisian revolt broke out. Why? Qadhafi thought that he could get away this time by purchasing military hardware, exclusively from Russia!  “No fly zone” plans were already drawn, along with the air defense bases to be targeted in Libya.  The Tunisia mass uprising, followed in Egypt soon after, delayed the execution plan…

Fleet Street, News of the World, Sean Hoare, Rupert Murdock, and Andy Coulson

“Get cash for your story” advertises the Sun on July 21, even as the close scrutiny and investigation that tabloids are under for illegal wire tapping and salacious stories.  In 1969, Rupert Murdock landed in London with the purpose of purchasing News of the World.  Andrew Whittam Smith (a young financial journalist at the time) welcomed Murdoch at Heathrow airport and drove him to Savoy Hotel.  Murdoch demanded to have his room changed: “I am afraid my reserved room could be bugged or phone line tapped” . Listening on private lines will be the most lucrative wealth generation, for timely and juicy private pieces of intelligence on the stars and bereaved families.

“I was paid to go out with rock stars, get drunk, and sniff cocaine with the rich and glamorous stars” confided Sean Hoare, the old star reporter of the tabloids of the Murdock media empire, who managed to present firm proofs that News of the World was engaged in endemic wire tapping on stars and private citizens. Hoare continues: “This is a hyper-competitive job and you have got to forget your professional duties and do what a sane person never contemplate to do. We are trained to become a machine of producing scoops, whatever is the cost.”  Hoare was the correspondent of “show-business” section, related to music, movie, TV, and the rock stars.

Fleet Street was the main avenue in London that hosted most of the large dailies, until Rupert Murdock of News of the World dislodged them to Wapping, by the Docklands.  News of the World was in direct competition with  Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail, and sold 5 million copies.

Fleet Street was a state of mind: reporters and investigators breath for the daily; they camped three nights at a time in front of the targeted apartment and paid handsomely for important pieces of intelligence. Fleet Street reporters were of the hard core type, acquired great intuition, and learned doubtful, and illegal practices.  They had to: If they failed to bring in juicy scoops, they were liable to be fired on the spot. The tabloid reporters were constantly pressured to produce more sensational, and more intimate scoops.

For example, when the “men of Fleet Street” landed in France to cover the death of Lady D, they managed to gather in a few hours more information than the most famous correspondents.

The 47 year-old Sean Hoare, primary witness to the British scandal of systematic wire tapping practices by News of the World and paying off police force for information, was found dead on Monday, July 18, in his house in Watford.  The police declared: “This death cannot be explained, but it is not suspect apparaently.”

Sean Hoare was hired by The Sun in 1998 from the Sunday People and was taken in charge by Andy Coulson who wrote the column “Bizarre” till 2003. Andy Coulson was the current spokesman of England Cameron PM, before he was fired after the scandal broke out.

Sean Hoare followed Andy Coulson as he headed News of the World till 2003.  In 2001, Hoare received the Shafta Prize of the tabloids.  In 2005, Sean Hoare is fired from the News of the World and decided in 2009 to “tell it all”.  News of the World denied the revelations of this drug addict and useless “whistle blower”.

For two years, Hoare is abandoned by his friends, left as a refuse, and he sank even deeper into addiction and booze.

The legal proceedings to go after the top powerful directors of News of the World are based on the “The Regulation Of Investigatory Powers Act” of 2000. The clause under “Penal Responsibilities of the administrators…” stipulates “A moral entity who connives or consents on an illegal action…or attributed to an act of negligence…of an administrator, a cadre, or a secretary… will be deemed participating in the crime…”

Consequently, Rabekah Brooks, Andy Coulson… and ultimately Rupert Murdock will be tried in justice.

Note 1: A few chronological events: November 2005: News of the World publishes an article on Prince Charles and Buckingham palace demand an investigation.  January 2007, Clive Goodman (specialized in covering the royal family) is put in prison for 4 months on account of illegally tapping the royal phone lines. Goodman’s private detective Glenn Mulcaire serves six months of prison. July 2009, The daily The Guardian reveals that at least 3,000 personalities were tapped. January 2011, Andy Coulson resigns.  July 7, 2011, News of the World publishes it last issue.

Note 2: This article was inspired from a piece in the French weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur and written by Jean-Gabriel Fredet.




February 2023

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