Yvonne Ridley, peanut allergies and the truth

by Arieh Kovler

I’ve been having a Twitter argument with Yvonne Ridley. I know I shouldn’t.

This is the second argument I’ve had with Yvonne. The last one was in 2003 or 4, when I was at university. She came to speak at Bristol University as part of an official ‘response’ to a pro-Israel article in the student newspaper (another part of the same ‘response’ was a seven-page screed by Tim Llewellyn attacking the student journalist who wrote the article). I was a student in the mood for a good argument, so I challenged her from the audience with some of the more outrageous comments, like saying suicide bombers were martyrs. At the time I felt like I got the better of her, but perhaps that was just my student bravado.

Afterwards, one of her minders followed me out of the room. He addressed me by name, even though I hadn’t given it and he wasn’t a student. He made a couple of comments, smiling and friendly, but the thrust of them was that he knew exactly who I was. He never introduced himself.

Anyway, back to the present. Yesterday Yvonne suggested on Twitter that Israel was opening the Erez Crossing to plan a ““self-defense” pogrom, with as few outside witnesses as poss“. She also tweeted ”more Israelis die from peanut allergies than are killed or injured by rockets from Gaza“. Although she didn’t make her billed appearance at the pro-Iranian Quds Day rally in London, she’s been arguing with Jeremy NewmarkJoe MillisCIF Watch and me about it.

The pogrom comment is clearly nonsense, and the peanut remark is disgusting and distasteful. It’s like responding to to domestic violence against women in by saying “more women die from breast cancer every year than are killed by their husbands“. It may be true, but it’s not to the point at all. Murder is different from accidental death.

It may be true. But is it true? Where has this claim come from in the first place?

When I challenged Yvonne on Twitter for her source, she responded that  ”the answer lies within Lowkey’s lyrics“.

Lowkey is a rapper and a fan of 9/11 troofer conspiracy theories. He’s popular among Stop-the-War and anti-Israel groups and is often performs at their rallies. The lyrics which Ridley directed to me are in Lowkey’s “Terrorist“. As well including references to popular troofer tropes (“Building 7″ and “nanothermite“) it has the following lyrics:

I know you were terrified when you saw the towers fall
It’s all terror but some forms are more powerful
It seems nuts, how could there be such agony
When more Israelis die from peanut allergies

Well, that doesn’t mean anything at all. More Israelis die than what? The song doesn’t say. Anyway, it’s just a song, not evidence or a statistic. I challenged Yvonne on this and she responded that she was quoting the “official stats” and had only mentioned the song in passing.

Where did these ‘statistics’ come from? My preliminary research didn’t turn up any official statistics on the number of peanut-allergy deaths in Israel, but it should be possible to make an educated guess based on other statistics.

Food allergies have become much more common in the last 30 years. Nobody knows why, though there are all sorts of theories. People with serious food allergies can go into anaphylaxis, which untreated can be fatal. Because of this, many allergic people carry epi-pens to inject chemicals that can stop the anaphylaxis.

According to a 2006 Department of Health study (pdf), anaphylaxis from allergens kills approximately 10-20 people a year in the UK, though it is not always recorded on the death certificate. Of these 10-20, not all will be the victims of food allergies; some might be allergic to chemicals, dust or other exotic allergens. Some certainly will be food allergy victims.

People can be allergic to all sorts of foods. In young children, milk and eggs are the most common allergies, though most children grow out of them. Other common trigger foods are celery, soya, shellfish, fish and citrus fruit, but one of the best-known allergies is the nut allergy (and the peanut allergy).

Peanuts aren’t nuts. They’re peas.

Peanuts are a legume, a bean that grows under the ground. True nuts grow on trees. Some people with nut allergies can eat peanuts, and vice versa, though many people who have one allergy have both.

Peanut allergies are common in much of the world, but in Israel they’re rarer. A 2008 study compared the incidence of peanut allergy between Jewish children in the UK and Jewish children in Israel. It found:

Jewish children in the UK have a prevalence of P[eanut] A[llergy] that is 10-fold higherthan that of Jewish children in Israel.

Though nobody knows for sure, scientists note that in Israel, babies eat peanuts from a very young age in the form of Bamba, and that this might be one reason for the lower allergy rates. It’a not all good news though; Israel’s ‘version’ of the peanut allergy is sesame allergy, which is much more common than it is in Europe or America.

Reviewing what we know:

  • In the UK, 10-20 people die a year of all allergies
  • Some of these 10-20 are food allergies, and some of these are peanut allergies.
  • Israel has abut 10% of the population of the UK
  • Israel has 10% of the incidence of peanut allergy compared to the UK

Based on these statistics – even allowing for possible better acute care in the UK – you’d expect about one or two allergy deaths a year in Israel, of which only a few, say one every few years, was a peanut allergy death. A recent case in Israel involving a hazelnut allergy fatality (not peanuts) was a major national story.

Where does this wrong statistic come from? I can’t be sure, but the best candidate is the earliest reference I can find: in late 2008, on a Youtube video made by Steve Johnson for the US-focused website stopfundingIsrael.com. This website calls YouTube “Jew-tube”,  and warns of the:

“zionist infiltraitors (sic) in Australia, Canada, UK and USA. They have infiltrated the Govt. They have infiltrated the media even popular culture…”

Steve Johnson co-wrote a ‘book’ called The Truth: Mossad did September 11th 2001. His speciality piece seems to be calling up those who he considers supporters of Israel, hassling them, and making them into
YouTube videos for the Stop Funding Israel youtube channel.

This channel is fascinating. Most of the videos are by Steve Johnson. The first one claims that the Norway massacres were a false flag operation done by Israel. The next is an interview with a climate-change-sceptic scientist who also seems to deny plate tectonics: earthquakes are caused because the Earth is getting bigger. Really. There’s also a video saying the Bali bombings were really the work of the Australians.

It is Steve Johnson who called up the International Fellowship of Christians & Jews to complain about their advertising campaign, which highlighted the threat of rockets from Gaza. He said:

“From 2000 to 2008, 458 have died from peanut allergies. That’s 24 times the amount that have died from Hamas rockets”

Note that unlike Yvonne Ridley, Steve Johnson doesn’t say more Israelis die from peanut allergies than are killedor injured by rockets from Gaza; only more than are killed. But even Steve Johnson can’t even back up this weaker claim. After being challenged on his peanut statistics, he added the following in the comments to that YouTube video:

Researching the Peanut Allergy I found surprisingly that because Israel feeds their young peanuts and peanut allergies have in fact the worlds LOWEST casulty rate.

The research statistics I was quoting were actually from SESAME ALLERGY REACTIONS within Israel..Which runs from 150-200 per year.

So, he wasn’t talking about peanut allergies, and he wasn’t talking about deaths. He was comparing Israeliskilled by Hamas rockets with Israelis who had allergic reactions to sesame. If the original comparison was disgusting, this one is obscene.

Still, lies are persistent and lies about Israel – even accidental lies – find themselves being repeated year after year.

Rocket fire on civillian populations is a weapon of terror. The rockets don’t have to kill very often for people to be frightened of them crashing into their homes, their schools and their places of work and worship. Since this Thursday, an Israeli has been killed by a rocket and tens have been injured. A synagogue was hit, hurting worshppers. A school has been hit too, injuring children.

All this means that Yvonne Ridley is not only being offensive and insensitive when she says “more Israelis die from peanut allergies than are killed or injured by rockets from Gaza“.

She’s also wrong.


update: Yvonne Ridley has responded in the comments, below. Between insults, she writes:

 I suppose I should be flattered all the same, you follow my words closely. problem is you have no idea when someone is pulling your leg, exhibiting a bit of satire or being serious.

Anyone have any idea what that means? Is she saying she was only joking?


  1. [...] Cross-posted from the Fair Play Campaign Group. [...]

  2. Your article is littered with fantasies and inaccuracies – for instance I wasn’t even in London today, sigh and so therefore could not have been at the al Quds rally. Something as basic as that shows the depth of your research capabilities. No wonder I blocked you and your mates.
    As I said, I can hardly have a battle of wits with someone who is clearly not armed.
    I don’t know who followed you out of the university event in Bristol, you don’t even register on my scanner and never will. it sounds as though you’re full of your own self importance, deluded, paranoid, attention-seeking or all four.
    But I suppose I should be flattered all the same, you follow my words closely. problem is you have no idea when someone is pulling your leg, exhibiting a bit of satire or being serious.
    Please don’t bother me again.
    Kind regards
    Yvonne Ridley

  3. Arieh Kovler says:

    Article amended to remove the reference to the Quds day rally.

    problem is you have no idea when someone is pulling your leg, exhibiting a bit of satire or being serious

    So you mean the peanut allergy thing was only a joke about dead Israelis? We weren’t supposed to take it literally?

    What do you mean? Do you now accept that the claim isn’t true, either in Lowkey’s song or in your own insistent tweets?

  4. Job says:

    Why does ‘the Riddler’ say “don’t bother me again”? Is blogging about someone bothering them. She must have come looking for this blog to comment on it. Surely she is doing the bothering! The Riddler has become the Joker, it seems.

  5. Natalie says:

    This may be a slightly simplistic question but if you don’t register on Yvonne’s scanner then why is she commenting on your blog? Odd. I guess she’s full of contradictions, being a human rights supporter yet an apologist for terrorism, and an employee of a holocaust denying, homosexual hanging, democracy oppressing government. How is Press TV going Ridders?

    Moving on, great blog Arieh!

  6. HOF says:

    The woman has an ego the size of China, I really don’t think its worth trying to engage in fair and balanced debate. She is foul mouthed and insults people when they dare to disagree with her. I would suggest that it is she who is delusional. I wonder if she realises what a laughing stock she has become, once a respected journalist now just a ranting mouthpiece. No one should take her seriously.

  7. HOF says:

    Well said Natalie

  8. you miss the point entirely. The reference to peanuts was to highlight the paranoia around home made fireworks fired into israel. The amount of publicity used to imbed fear and hence galvanize a solution is entirely dispraportionate. More lives would be saved in israel if they had a war on drugs and prostitution.
    After to all to a greiving mother it doesn’t matter if her son died from a home made firework or a crack overdose.

    The comparison is a bit like the disproportionate response to the uk press on the threat of al qaida, given that the vast majority of terrorist acts within europe and even the us have nothing to do with muslims.

    The comparison is meant to highlight the propoganda the israeli press use to reinforce the victim mentality of zionists. Kind of like a booster to the years of indoctrination they get at school where they are sent on school trips (www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5jsiLWXGYQ)

    But I guess you guys missed the point huh. its a bit like another rabid zionist who was busy tweeting to me that israel has a right to exist, completely not understanding that its a peoples right to self determination not a states right to exist.

  9. Stephanie says:

    I am not a huge fan of Yvonne Ridley but on this occasion i agree with her. You don’t have a strong argument. Yes, Ridley is a very strong woman and knows how to debate, I doubt you even got any close to winning. Furthermore, you seemed to have wrote a whole article about ‘peanut allergies’ and even then you have still failed to convince me that the tweet Yvonne Ridley tweeted was wrong on a whole, now it just seems it was right and that the type of peanut is to question

    Finally, seems all the other comments on here are made by your friends (very bias), I will be boycotting this site as it’s all fantasies!

  10. peanut butter + jam says:

    Do y’all prefer your peanut butter crunchy or smooth?

  11. Arieh Kovler says:

    Muslimanarchist: Grad missiles are 122mm Soviet-designed rockets, that can be mounted on multi-launch trucks or launched individually. The Grads fired by Hamas are made in Iran, China or are old Eastern Bloc hardware. They carry explosive heads.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BM-21_Grad#Gaza_Strip

    Normal Grad missiles can travel 20-30 km. Hamas Grads have been specially modified to fly 40km to reach Ashdod and Beer Sheva, making them more advanced than the traditional Grad used by armies all around the world.

    But you can call them home-made fireworks if it makes you feel better about yourself.

  12. Khalid says:

    LOL at her fans coming here and defending her after her nonsense got exposed. If you have long frequented the internet, you’d know Yvonne’s “I suppose I should be flattered all the same, you follow my words closely. problem is you have no idea when someone is pulling your leg, exhibiting a bit of satire or being serious.” response is the same that trolls use as an out when they have lost an argument. Don’t pretend that you were joking, this whole “more Israelis are killed by [insert food] each year than terrorism” argument, is one that has been long used in order to whitewash the deaths of innocent Israelis [as is the rockets = fireworks nonsense, see above] – recycled garbage. You got called out and your idiocy exposed, it’d be better for you to just accept that instead of trying to save face with your trollish outs.

  13. arieh who said anything about grad missiles
    at best the israeli defence propoganda wing report that they are used, but in reality it is mainly home made fireworks.
    But rockets sound much more menacing no?

  14. Arieh Kovler says:


    The rockets wound and kill people 40km (25 miles) away. Hamas’ own photos show that are three metres long and take two people to carry.

  15. yeah my garden fireworks are also 3 meters long, you get them for about 10 quid each.
    But what a weird conversation we are having when the occupier is busy droping 10 ton bombs from fighter jet aeroplanes , kind of shows have disconected yu guys are from reality no?

  16. Freepalestine says:

    Any loss of life whether it be a christian jew or muslim or any race or religion is devastating and i pray for that one person in israel that lost his/her life however as many other pro israel bloggers/writers you have wriiten a whole article about peanuts and cleverly inserted your propaganda at the last minute. if you’re going to mention the one death in israel then you really should mention the at least 20 people that have been killed in palestine, that is if you consider all lives to be equal and worth the same.

  17. Freepalestine says:

    And i was at the demo and no yvonne was not there you may call it a pro iran demo but really if you had any idea you wouldve seen all religions and races uniting including rabbis under one banner of justice and freedom

  18. Freepalestine says:

    Pro iran*

  19. Sam Auti says:

    This is the typical way our Jewish think tank takes one away from the main agenda. Are you really so dumb that you think Yvonne was talking about peanut related deaths? It was matter of speaking- a metaphor. You have really pushed us to know your level of intellect.. Pea Brain maybe or a Nut!!

    Just for dummies, the reference Yvonne has made is that far less Israeli citizens die of Palestinian crackers and fire, compared to the even lesser people who may be dying of Peanut butter illnesses. Bravo. Bravoda.

    Sam Auti.

  20. HOF says:

    Seems to be a pattern, once she has posted her vitriolic nonsense she retreats and her friends take over the attack whilst she moves onto more important issues!!!

    I am not a friend of Arieh, he does not know me, I have only just discovered this site. Now who is paranoid.

Leave a Reply