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August 20, 2012 5:50 pm

Guardian’s Handling of Josh Trevino Story Exposes its Fault Lines

avatar by Hadar Sela

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The Guardian newspaper's London offices. Photo: Derek Harper.

According to an article by Helen Lewis in the New Statesman, the Guardian’s handling of the disproportionately vocal protestations from a small group of well-known anti-Israel activists (with Ali Abunimah at the helm) to the appointment of Joshua Trevino as part of its US team, is becoming downright bizarre.

Lewis recounts Abunimah’s version of the story (as previously discussed here), including the amended press release which apparently went from describing Trevino as a member of the editorial team to a member of the commentary team.

“As this screen capture shows, the Guardian edited its original press release. This is the new one:

Today the Guardian announced the addition of Josh Treviño to its commentary team in the United States. Formerly of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Treviño will be the newest commentator for the Guardian‘s growing US politics team through his column On Politics & Persuasion which launches on Monday 20 August.

And this is the old one:

Today the Guardian announced the addition of Josh Treviño to their editorial team. Formerly of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Treviño will be the newest Correspondent for the Guardian‘s growing US politics team through his column “On Politics & Persuasion” which launches on Monday, August 20.”

Lewis then approached the Guardian herself:

“I contacted the Guardian, and a spokesperson told me “this really was just a straightforward error, albeit an unfortunate one”, adding:

I can confirm that there has been no change in Josh Trevino’s terms of employment – the contract has not been altered and he has most certainly not been “demoted” as some articles have suggested. In fact, a simple mistake was made in the press release and this was later corrected. It was clumsy but there is no change to Josh’s position.”

Ah! So it’s all down to an administrative mistake. Well, I suppose the Guardian would very much like everyone to believe that, but such a claim does nothing to explain Trevino’s clarification article on the subject of his flotilla Tweet which appeared on August 16th – the day after Ali Abunimah began  his campaign against Trevino with his first post on the subject at ‘electronic Intifada’.

Had the Guardian itself considered Trevino’s Tweet problematic, surely either Trevino would not have been hired in the first place or an article of clarification would have appeared before or in conjunction with the press release of August 15th announcing his new position.

But neither of those scenarios took place, which appears to indicate that the Guardian did not view Trevino’s appointment as a ‘hot potato’ until Abunimah began his crusade, with others soon tagging along. Only then did the damage control begin, in the form of the revised press release, the clarification article, the publishing of a letter protesting its own hiring policy and now, per Lewis, the “error” story.

It is all too apparent that not only does the Guardian (or at least parts of its editorial team) not have the courage of its own convictions, but that it has allowed itself to be influenced and dictated to by an anti-Israel lobby determined to scupper the appointment of a writer it considers to be too ‘pro-Israel’, even though he was hired to write about a subject completely unrelated to the Middle East.

Put in simple terms, the Guardian has reduced itself to the level of a phone-in reality show in which audience participation dictates who stays and who goes.

Of course the Guardian’s track record shows no comparable sensitivity to public opinion when protests are voiced concerning anti-Israel contributors – even when they are members of a proscribed terror organization.

But at least one thing is now crystal clear: for some reason the Guardian ascribes importance to the opinions of a bunch of fringe campaigners who aspire to bring about the dismantling of a UN member state and thereby deny one nation alone the right to self-determination.

Be that because of an organizational culture of sympathy for that ideology or out of fear of losing its niche as the anti-Israel campaigner’s paper of choice, the fact remains that the Josh Trevino story has placed a useful spotlight on the Guardian’s fault lines.

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  • Samuel Jacoby

    The issue here, in my view, is not Treviño’s “pro-Israel” stance. If that was all the issue would be a non-starter. While the newspaper’s overall coverage is a little more critical of Israel than much of the anglophone media, the UK Guardian has many fairly articulate pro-Israeli commentators (e.g. Jonathan Freedland), and in the Comment Is Free section freelancers also give depth to the “liberal” slant of the paper.

    The issue with Treviño is that he apparently explicitly approves of the killing of peaceful US citizens by a foreign army; he also has made some other fairly repugnant claims (about Muslims, about non-Western cultures, etc. So the embarrassment that the GUS is now feeling about having taken him on is not surprising — they seem to have failed entirely in checking out his Twitter feed, which seems to be (as it so often is) the voice of his unrestrained subconscious desires. So let’s not confuse things — Abunima and other pro-Palestinian activists would have found it impossible to get traction on complaints about a pro-Israeli commentator if his stated opinions were not so repugnant.

    • Asher Garber

      “The issue with Treviño is that he apparently explicitly approves of the killing of peaceful US citizens by a foreign army”

      Oh, please. This is like saying, “The issue with Israel is that they practice a genocidal, racist form of government Apartheid.”

      In other words, lets cherry pick, grasp at some straws, and redefine some terminology to make us all sound real sane, when THE REAL ISSUE IS that Ali Abunimah brings nothing but a narrow perspective and his overt hatred of others to any discussion about or not about Middle East.

  • Hiring Trevino is a transparent attempt to cover up the foundational antisemitism of THE GUARDIAN. There is not a dimes worth of difference between DER STURMER and The Guardian. Trevino’s hiring does not change a thing.