Open Letter to Sunday Herald

10 October 2011
Sunday Herald
200 Renfield Street
Glasgow G2 3QB

Dear Sir,

Sunday Herald  “informed – incisive – in depth” ??
an Open Letter to the Sunday Herald

The executive of Scottish Friends of Palestine took the opportunity, at a recent meeting, to critically review Trevor Royle’s article “An independent Palestine recognised by the UN . . . “ (Sunday Herald 18.09.11). I have been asked to communicate our concerns.

We believe it significant that in the whole of the two page spread the words “occupation/ occupied/occupier” and “refugee” are never mentioned. Given that these words can be used to sum up the existence of the vast majority of the Palestinian community, their absence in this article either deserve an explanation or give a clear indication of the perspective of your Diplomatic Editor, Trevor Royle.

With the first sentence stating “Long anticipated and greatly feared, the end game between Israel and the fledgling Palestinian state could be decided this week . . .”  readers expecting an informed analysis, never mind the rationale and focus of such a strange statement, were doomed to disappointment.

The “end game” for whom or for what is one obvious question still awaiting an answer.

Is it referring to the possibility of the demise of a two state solution thus leading to the one state solution as the remaining viable option? Apparently not, since this thought never appears to have crossed Mr Royle’s mind.

Is it referring to the hopes and aspirations of a significant, if not majority, proportion of the Palestinian community, whether under occupation or in exile, who are against the statehood bid? We rather think not, since there is not one iota of evidence in the article to suggest that Mr Royle is even aware of, never mind having any insight into, the Palestinian position which argues that Mahmoud Abbas could be making a grave error in applying for statehood.

Is it referring to an end to Israel’s expansion and settlement plans in Palestinian occupied territory? Or to the possibility of occupied Palestine being in the position to challenge Israel’s actions in many of the UN’s committees, not forgetting the all important  International Criminal Court – which Mr Royle appears to have either forgotten or regards as irrelevant to the possible unfolding events.

In his rush to repeat the position of Israel’s principal backer, the USA, Mr Royle seems to have abandoned all pretence at being an informed and critical journalist. So we are informed that the Palestinians “will not and cannot achieve statehood through a declaration at the United Nations” So just where did Israel gets its birth certificate, if not the General Assembly of the UN? Does this not deserve a comment? Seemingly not.

With Hillary Rodham Clinton and the White Houses stating that direct negotiation between Israel, the military occupier, and the Palestinians, the disembowelled occupied, is the only way forward – surely it is not asking too much  for any journalist to question the probable nature of the outcome of negotiations between a wolf and a sheep?

Then, towards the end of the article, we read that “Israel was gradually being isolated by its southern neighbour and long term ally.” Here we have it, Israel the eternal victim. No  hint that Israel’s failure to even apologise to Turkey for killing its nationals on the aid flotilla, the earlier slaying by Israel of Egyptian personnel could be the mechanisms by which Israel is responsible for isolating itself.

And then we have the factual errors.

It is bad enough that a seasoned political observer refers to a land under belligerent military occupation, in true Israeli-speak, as “disputed”, but when the same observer makes a clear, crucial, factual error and the paper, itself, refuses to acknowledge this (a letter was sent from SFoP pointing out the error, but not printed), then there are real problems.

We refer to the statement “Abbas and his colleagues refuse to recognise Israel’s existence.”

As Mr Royle correctly points out at the beginning of his article, Mahmoud Abbas, when the statehood bid is presented to the UN, will be acting in his capacity as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). And yet the PLO recognised Israel’s right to exist within secure borders years ago.

Could it be that Mr Royle was referring to the relatively recent shift of the goal posts with Israel’s current government now insisting the Palestinian people effectively deny their own history, experience and birthright by demanding they recognise Israel as a Jewish state? A demand they know will never be accepted? Or is it that Mr Royle does not know the difference or couldn’t care less? Whatever the reason, in the absence of accompanying explanation or analysis, it is quite a shocking error to make. It is misleading and contributes nothing to the understanding of current events.

As for the Sunday Herald failing to acknowledge this misleading piece of information and thus contributing to the propaganda effort of the Israeli state and her allies, shame on you.

And finally we have Mr Royle, the master of understatement.

Towards the end of the article we learn that Benjamin Netanyahu, and presumably the government he leads, is “conservative”.  Even in relation to Israel’s succession of land grabbing, Palestinian-phobic governments, Netanyahu’s government with its racist, and many would say, fascist, foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, at the helm, the current government of Israel stands out as extreme right wing.

The major question to be answered is why this piece of questionable, some might even say, shoddy, journalism? Not, we have to say, for the first time from the pen of Mr Royle. Why the sloppy editorial control on an issue of paramount importance to peace in the world? Is it that Trevor Royle, in his role as Diplomatic Editor, has decided to adopt, for whatever reason, an apparent Zionist agenda? Is it ineptitude or sheer ignorance of the subject matter? And the same questions apply to editorial control.

It is one matter for the Sunday Herald to claim, as it does, to be the “news magazine for Scotland” and to be informed – incisive – in depth. It is an entirely different matter to justify this claim. Trevor Royle’s article comes nowhere near living up to this claim. It did not inform, but was guilty of imparting disinformation. It certainly was not incisive and anyone trying to test its depth would be confined to the shallow end.

Yours sincerely,

Hugh Humphries


Scottish Friends of Palestine

cc Trevor Royle, Diplomatic Editor
David Pratt, Foreign Editor

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