Haaretz has just published an interview with Matt Seaton, editor of “Comment is Free” (CiF)—the opinion website of the Guardian, with 3 million unique users and 10 million page-views a month.
It has not gone unnoticed by critics that CiF—and the British media in general—has a bit of an obsession when it comes to Israel. Seaton reacts to this accusation:
We spend a great deal of time thinking how to cover the subject in a balanced and fair way and not in excessive quantity. It’s difficult to do that when the Middle East is setting the news agenda.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is also a fault-line in the geopolitics of the region. That’s just a reality…..It’s a region of the world that generates so much news; we’re part of that, but it’s not of our making.
Actually, dude, it is of your making. The fault of the Guardian—and other media outlets and pundits—is constantly reinforcing the idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most important, central issue driving events in the Middle East. (The ongoing Sunni-Shiite dispute is arguably a larger, more influential geopolitical fault-line.)
The obsessive focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict crowds out the myriad other significant events and political developments throughout the region—and plays into the hands of Middle Eastern regimes that use Israel as a scapegoat for their problems, or to divert attention from their own internal issues.
By way of example for the sheer number of topics not being addressed, check out the website of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which closely monitors events across the Arab-Muslim world, through projects such as its Arab Reform Bulletin.
Here’s just a recent sampling of subjects:
“Political Crises but Few Alternatives in Algeria”
“Iraq’s Quest for Democracy amid Massive Corruption”
“Patriotic Union of Kurdistan: Revival or Mere Survival?”
“Egypt’s New Brotherhood Leadership: Implications and Limits of Change”
“Sunnis and Iraq’s Elections: An Evolving Balance of Power”
“Obama and Human Rights in the Middle East: Suggestions for Act Two”
“Implications of the Jordanian Parliament’s Dissolution”
Seaton is right that “the Middle East is setting the news agenda”—but it’s the Guardian that’s ignoring the wider news.
Also from the Haaretz interview, Seaton assures us that CiF is vigilant against anti-semitism:
You have been harshly criticized for posting articles by Hamas members. What are your red lines?
For example, if I was offered a piece that spoke of a Jewish lobby, as opposed to a pro-Israel lobby, that would mean automatic disqualification.
So, memo to would-be CiF columnists: Feel free to write as much as you want about how the “Israel Lobby” controls the media, the government and the economy.