Guest Post On Save the Children.
A guest post by Evelyn.
“The Guardian and Comment is Free are known for their predilection for Israel-bashing and anti-Israel bias. This is usually most blatant on Comment is Free, but on 29th January 2010 the Guardian itself published an article as part of its “Child’s Eye ” series about the ongoing fears of two young Palestinian girls, as a result of their experiences during Cast Lead. My attention was first drawn to this article by CiF Watch. I was particularly interested in the short film within it.
The Child’s Eye series is an interesting and heart rending one which at first sight appears to examine the suffering of children all over the world. A closer examination reveals that among the series are four articles about children in Gaza, but (not surprisingly given that this is the Guardian), none at all about the experiences of the children of Sderot or elsewhere in southern Israel as a result of eight years of shelling.
Medusa, the CiF Watch article’s author, made this point and highlighted the lack of context for the children’s suffering in that particular Guardian article and that there was no mention of the role of Hamas in exacerbating it. This lack of context is not unusual of course, but Medusa also noted how the film’s subtitles translate the seated woman near the beginning of the video as saying “Israelis” when she is really saying “yahud,” which means “Jew” in Arabic.
I decided to investigate further and found out that the film was made by Save the Children, published online by the Guardian without acknowledgement. You are invited to visit Save the Children’s web page for an overview of where its sympathies lie. The suffering of children in Gaza extensively is indeed heart rending, but from my reading of its page, I could find scarcely a mention of the suffering of the children of Sderot.
Save the Children used the film I have referred to above for its fundraising. I believed when I first saw it that it was misleading but did not realise exactly how insidiously dishonest was the deliberate mistranslation of “Jew” into “Israeli”, or how lacking in sensitivity was Save the Children to the offence it was causing until I had had the following exchange of emails with their Customer Service Adviser in their Supporter Innovation and Development Department.
Mine to Save the Children on 1st February at 10.15am:
“However, we know that there may be times when we do not meet our own high standards. When this does happen we want to hear about it, deal with the situation as quickly as possible and put measures in place to stop it happening again. “ (From Save the Children’s complaints section on its web page)
Well, I am taking you very much at your word. I feel distinctly uncomfortable that, as well as involving yourselves in politics in the Middle East – when any charity should be impartial – you actually seem to be promoting antisemitism in the video at the following link:
At around 1.14 the mother says “Yahood” and at 2.23 seconds in the video, the young girl says, “Yahood” too. I know Arabic, and “Yahood” in Arabic, means “Jew.” Did you translate it as “Israeli” because you didn’t want to appear antisemitic? This was rather dishonest, since what the mother and daughter say bears out what many Israelis believe, that Palestinian Gazans do not differentiate between Israel and her Jewish people.
And incidentally, the closure of the borders is not a blockade and it is dishonest of you to refer to it as such in your promotional video. It is an embargo on commodities which Hamas confiscates in order to construct rockets with which it bombs southern Israel.
Your film makes it seem that Israel woke up suddenly one morning and decided to attack Gaza. You compound your bad faith when you fail to put the Gaza War into any context.
The Guardian has used your video, without acknowledging its source, to further its own anti-Israel crusade. I am glad that I have found you out. I am a pensioner with little money to spare and I need to allocate my charity funds wisely. Suffice it to say, I shall not be supporting the efforts of Save the Children, which asks for money whilst telling lies, but to another charity which I know will provide aid to ALL children affected by Cast Lead.
The reply from Save the Children:
From: Sharon Allarakhia [mailto:S.Allarakhia@savethechildren.org.uk] On Behalf Of Supporter Care
Sent: 17 February 2010 16:09
Subject: RE: Complaint about video
Thank you for your email.
I’m really pleased that you have taken the time to contact us as we welcome all comments from our supporters. I’m sorry that you felt that the translation in the video gave a biased view. I can assure you that Save the Children is apolitical and our aim is to improve the lives of children all over the world.
Interestingly, we had much discussion on exactly this point, on how to translate the word “Yahood” for the subtitles. You are correct, Ms. XXXXX, in that we wanted to be careful not to be, or appear, anti-Semitic. After much consultation with colleagues, including those in the programme office in Jerusalem, we decided that it would be best to translate this as “Israelis” because this is obviously who the mother and daughter in the film are referring to, as opposed to all Jewish people in the wider diaspora around the world.
To be honest, most of the time in our experience, when Palestinians refer to the “Yahood”, they usually mean the Israeli military or government more specifically, since they are more or less the only Israelis or Jews that they ever come into contact with, especially in Gaza.
I am afraid to say that the blockade does actually prevent everyday items such as basic food and medical supplies from entering Gaza, for which there has been an increased and dire need since Operation Cast Lead.
I hope this answers your concerns.
I really hope that you will reconsider your decision for not supporting Save the Children and if you would like to make a donation please go to the following page on our website http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/8837.htm. We are grateful for all donations given and even a small amount can change the lives and the future for the children we help.
Customer Service Adviser
Supporter Innovation and Development
Save the Children, 1 St John’s Lane, London EC1M 4AR
Direct line +44 (0)20 7012 6400
For more information please visit http://www.savethechildren.org.uk
PS. We love hearing what our supporters think – what we’re doing well and where there’s room for improvement. Please share any feedback you may have by emailing me at email@example.com by doing so you’ll help us to improve the service we offer you.
Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.
The cheery tone of Save the Children’s second reply to me almost beggars belief. It seems that what I have said has gone right over this person’s head! Note in particular:
” You are correct, Ms. XXXXX, in that we wanted to be careful not to be, or appear, anti-Semitic. After much consultation with colleagues, including those in the programme office in Jerusalem, we decided that it would be best to translate this as “Israelis” because this is obviously who the mother and daughter in the film are referring to, as opposed to all Jewish people in the wider diaspora around the world.”
This woman is perfectly aware that the Palestinian woman’s reference to “Yahud” will appear antisemitic, but in her excuse is so lame that it results in her adding another classic antisemitic trope to the one from the mother in the film. She tells me that the mother was referring to Israeli Jews only. The mother doesn’t mean us in the diaspora. We are, in effect, different and OK!
If I had doubts at all about my perceptions of any of this, these were soon despatched by the next blooper. It seems that no-one has told my correspondent that when she is a hole she should stop digging:
“… To be honest, most of the time in our experience, when Palestinians refer to the “Yahood”, they usually mean the Israeli military or government more specifically, since they are more or less the only Israelis or Jews that they ever come into contact with, especially in Gaza…”
Oh, so that’s OK then. The “ignorance is bliss” excuse covers a multitude of sins. But wait…. there are still a couple more insults. Again, how can this woman be so utterly insensitive to the fact that Save the Children has caused offence to me as a Jewish person and that she has compounded it?
“…. I really hope that you will reconsider your decision for not supporting Save the Children and if you would like to make a donation please go to the following page on our website http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/8837.htm. We are grateful for all donations given and even a small amount can change the lives and the future for the children we help..”
And finally a return to the nauseatingly jolly cheerfulness as if nothing was amiss:
“… PS. We love hearing what our supporters think – what we’re doing well and where there’s room for improvement. Please share any feedback you may have by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org by doing so you’ll help us to improve the service we offer you…”
Well, she asked me, so I told her:
My reply to that email on 17/2/10 at 18.51
Sorry, Ms Allarakhia, but that really will not wash.
There is much discussion nowadays, and I am surprised that you did not take that into account in your discussions at Save The Children, about the difference, if indeed there is one for organisations such as yours, between anti-Israel sentiments and anti-Jewish.
By your rationale your organisation is neither intelligent nor sensitive enough to make the distinction, and I have to thank you for proving that for your fundraising purposes (although you may say you are taking on board the Palestinian stance rather than thinking for yourselves) “Israel” or “Israeli” and “Jew” are conflated.
There is no “blockade” of Gaza either, although I accept that you may well find the word useful for fundraising purposes – there is an embargo of certain goods which Hamas uses to make weapons to shell Israeli civilians. Regular supplies of food, medical aid and equipment go through the crossings unless Hamas or its fellow travellers shell them, in which case they are closed temporarily. If there is an increasing and dire need, as you describe it, it is probably felt most by those Palestinians who cannot find the money to pay Hamas for what they need.
Once the food and other aid goes in, of course, it goes to Hamas, who sells it on (and remember that it is supplied on the proviso that it is distributed free to those who need it by world aid agencies and by Israel). The following is part of a transcript from a report by Edward Stourton for the BBC Today programme, a year after Cast Lead. Note particularly the admission from the interviewee that Palestinian people are charged for the aid which comes through the crossings:
BBC Today programme, transmitted on 18/1/10 at 7.39 am
“…. Edward Stourton continues: I’m in the heart of Gaza City in the shopping area in front of a shop that’s absolutely stuffed with goods. Inside there are clocks and kettles and crockery and pretty much anything else you could want; out here on the pavement piles of fridges and washing machines and microwave ovens on my right and in front of me a bunch of gas canisters which have still got the mud of the tunnels on them. In fact all these, we are told, have come through the tunnels. The man who runs the shop is sitting over on the pavement here looking very regal in his chair, talking to Egypt, doing a deal as we speak. He is in fact, we are told, a tunnel owner, although he is very reluctant to admit the fact.
(Translation from what the tunnel owner says)
Everything, all type of goods you know it comes from the tunnels you know, things that the people they need, all goods like milk, food you know, all the house stuff. Everything comes from the tunnels.
Edward Stourton: Is it expensive to bring things through the tunnel?
It’s double the price from the normally (sic) crossings.
(This is an interesting statement, both from the point of view that certain Palestinians are profiting from the closure of Gaza, and that commodities are indeed coming through the crossings. However, everything which comes through the crossings is supposed to be free of charge. Why are the Palestinian people having to pay for it?) “
Is Hamas responsible for the distribution of Save The Children’s aid in Gaza? Do those who give you money know this?
I am afraid that in the light of your lame explanation for the substitution of “Israeli” for “Jew” on your video, I wonder what else you are inclined to substitute, ostensibly on the grounds of political correctness, but which takes us away from the truth of what you are trying to portray. I really don’t care what you might think Palestinians call Israelis (although I do know that they are often referred to as apes or monkeys by Palestinians) – my point is that you tried to gloss over the negative inferences in the references to “Jew” instead of telling us the truth, no doubt because to do that might have cost your charity income.
And no, I shan’t contribute to Save the Children again and I shall encourage my family and friends to contribute to joint Israeli-Palestinian charitable ventures which are apolitical and work for the welfare of both peoples.