News Media Need to Protect Us From Fake News

Screen shot of the Constitution Center’s panel with Susan Glasser (left), Glenn Kessler (center), Brian Stelter (right).

A vigorous free press is central to our Republic. If any part of the government fails in its duty or oversteps legal bounds, we expect the news media to alert all of us to the facts, and bring judges, legislators, police, private citizens and organizations into action to remedy the problem. Without the news media, minorities and the less fortunate in our society would be the first to suffer inequality and ultimately loss of freedom.

But how does this work in an age when facts and “alternate facts” appear together, seemingly indistinguishable, in the new media that people are tuned to? The National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Philadelphia took up the question under the heading, “Defining Truth in Modern Politics.”

With this very hot topic, the Constitution Center presented a very tepid discussion. Three journalists, including Susan Glasser, Politico columnist and weekly podcast host, Glenn Kessler, fact checker for the Washington Post, and Brian Stelter, host of the CNN program Reliable Sources, responded to questions from Tom Donnelly, senior fellow at the Center, in a program on May Day.

The panelists agreed that the media are under attack, notably from President Trump with his charges that they publish “fake news.” Kessler contrasted the situation today and 30 years ago and said that at the time, the New York Times, Washington Post and other respected newspapers, Newsweek and Time magazine, and a few respected broadcasters (think Walter Cronkite), laid down the facts. Battles centered on the opinions that could be drawn from those facts, but not the underlying truths.

But that is no longer the model in our internet age. Today, millions of Americans draw their news from the Internet, talk radio and similar sources. Some sources still practice traditional investigative journalism to produce real facts. But others freely run with rumors, false claims and propaganda — untested assertions, if they are surprising and eye-catching, get retweeted and repeated until they appear to be established facts.

Kessler, the fact checker, noted that the scope of his activity does not include opinions, just facts. Within that delimited area, he can handle only those claims that can be readily checked from available sources. That leaves out a great deal.

Stelter traced the current battle over “fake news.” It began with allegations by newsmen that then presidential candidate Donald Trump was spewing false information. The example given was Trump’s campaign claim that he would cut prescription medicine costs and save Medicare $300 billion per year, when in fact the total bill that Medicare pays for prescription medicines is closer to $70 billion. Stelter considered that perhaps Trump tried to recover from the blunder by accusing the news media of publishing “fake news.”Adding to the problem, the panelists noted the tendency for people to read and listen to only those news outlets that agree with their political preferences. The media play to this element by segregating themselves on the political spectrum. The panelists had no suggestion as to how to move people out of their “bubbles,” except to recommend it.

The panel’s prognosis is not optimistic: they recognize that the traditional media face a breakdown in their business plan built around people paying for information. Stelter suggested that in 10 years there might be more daily newspapers, such as a Sunday edition sold at a substantially higher price than today.

The panelists urged us to recognize the difference in quality of different information sources. But Kessler pointed out the limited independent fact checking that can happen in our system, constrained by time and the difficult economic issues facing traditional newspapers. So, although acknowledging the problem, this panel had few specifics to offer to correct it. Neither did they express any thought that it will right itself.

We can do better.

Generating fake news, including disinformation so extreme as to be unbelievable, is a technique for getting attention and coverage in the respectable press. A transparent falsehood may attract disproportionate press attention, bringing coverage and publicity to the faker.  The professional media ought to be very cautious not to give such prominent attention to fakery as to make it a successful strategy for those seeking publicity.

The most immediate remedy against fake news should be found among journalists. Responsible journalists must speak out against fake news, not just to each other but in loud unmistakable voices to the world. Even this panel on truth in publishing showed no interest in specifying which journalists and media need reformation.

From a mistaken sense of obligation to be even-handed, the media treat those who propound fake news as if they are respectable sources. In this complicated age, the journalists and news media need to step up to the task. If they are going to report faulty or unvalidated material, a disclaimer is needed. The prominence given the material must be reconsidered in light of the tendency for listeners to choose to believe too much.

Longer term, putting civics back into elementary and high school curricula could be very useful. Education to prepare students for life on a planet of the electronic media should include training in finding the indicia of authenticity and the opposite. The evils of crowdspeak also need to be emphasized and taught from actual cases.

We might also need rating agencies. In a society that ranks innumerable services, including entertainment programs, books, movies, appliances, repair services, and so many others, applying our penchant for quality of the media is a logical next step.

The government should not rate the news media, because of considerations of freedom of speech and the press under the First Amendment. Any effort in that direction would be a serious threat to the independence of the news media.

But ratings do not need to be done by government. Taking a page from the financial markets, bonds are sold in the billions of dollars to buyers who do not initiate independent evaluations of the quality of each instrument. Bond rating agencies are private entities that evaluate the quality of the issuer and the confidence that the commitment in the bond will be fulfilled.

News media could be evaluated on their careful, thorough practices applied to a story before it is published. The media have accepted standards of care to apply before releasing an article. There are also accepted forms of language, when a decision is made to publish, that disclose uncertainties or limitations that may remain in an article.

The National Constitution Center presents an ongoing program of talks on topics related to the Bill of Rights, listed at constitutioncenter.org/debate.

Watch Brian Stelter admit to accidentally spreading “fake news:”

“Occupied” Territories? Anti-Israel Media Bias Starts With Language

Former Israeli deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, explains the historical facts relating to the Israeli-Arab conflict. The video explains where the terms “West Bank,” “occupied territories” and “67 Borders” originated from, and how they are incorrectly used and applied.

— by Lee Bender and Jerry Verlin

Israel’s supporters concerned about anti-Israel media bias need to understand why decades of “letters to the editor” protesting inaccuracies in particular news articles have not made a dent.  

Anti-Israel media bias is not a succession of random misstatements. It resides in the very language: the consistently imbalanced terminology in which Arab-Israeli conflict news stories are told.

Unfortunately, we Israel supporters ourselves acquiesce, by using and accepting these terms unchallenged.  

Those terms for the land’s peoples, places, and historical and current events poison public perceptions of Jewish and Palestinian-Arab equities, and must be countered if we have any fair chance to stand up for our rights.  

Top 10 terms which mislead the public about Israel, and what the media fails to report, follow the jump.
Here are ten frequently used but highly misleading terms. All of them are individually inaccurate, and in combination paint a grossly prejudicial and unfair portrait of Israel.

  1. “West Bank”

    “Judea and Samaria” is not “the biblical name of the West Bank.” When the United Nations drafted its Palestine partition resolution in 1947, it did not use the term “West Bank.” It called it “the hill country of Samaria and Judea.”  

    As the former Israeli ambassador to the U.N., Yoram Ettinger, wrote:  

    In April 1950, the Jordanian occupation renamed Judea/Samaria as “the West Bank” to assert Jordanian rule and to expunge Jewish connection to the cradle of Jewish history. Until 1950, all official Ottoman, British and prior records referred to “Judea and Samaria” and not to the “West Bank.”

    They did it for the same reason that in 135 C.E. the conquering Romans renamed Jerusalem “Aelia Capitolina” and Judæa “Palestina.”

    Judæa’s Jews (who, by the way, were not “exiled” by Rome) refused to use the conqueror’s names for the land and its places. And, especially given that the Jordanian conquest lasted 19 years, not 1,900, we should not either.

  2. “Jewish and Palestinian States”

    The U.N. did not seek to partition Palestine into “Palestinian and Jewish states,” as the Western media has put it. The U.N. used “the Arab State” and “the Jewish State” terms over and over again. Nor did the U.N. call Palestine’s Arabs “the Palestinians,” but referred to Palestine’s Jews and Arabs as “the two Palestinian peoples.”

    The under-populated Palestine of 1948 had a population of perhaps a little more than a million Arabs, and well more than a half-million Jews. To speak of partitioning a place between a people bearing the name of that place and anyone else portrays one side as natives and the other as outsiders.

  3. “The Palestinians”  

    In renaming Judæa as “Palestine” in 135 C.E., the Romans were not referencing Yasser Arafat’s ancestors (Editor’s note: Unless the rumors about his Jewish ancestry are true.), but the by-then long-gone Aegean “Sea People” Philistines, who in Israelite times had invaded the eastern Mediterranean coast from the west, fought with the Israelites of Saul and David, and had been ultimately destroyed by the same Babylonians who had ended the kingdom of Judæa.

    Jews were the original “Palestinians”; today’s “Palestinians” should more accurately be referred to as “Palestinian Arabs.”

  4. Israel’s “1967 Borders”

    Formally recognized international borders have the permanence and gravitas that military ceasefire lines do not.

    The 1949 Israel-Jordan armistice agreement expressly delineated its “green line” as “dictated exclusively by military considerations” without prejudice to either side’s political claims.  

    The media habitually calls it “the 1967 line,” and even “Israel’s 1967 border,” to discredit any Israeli claims beyond what Abba Eban called the “Auschwitz lines,” that are 9-miles-wide at critical points.

    The historically correct term remains “the 1949 ceasefire line.” Even as such, it lost such significance when fighting resumed between Jordan and Israel in 1967.

    Israel captured (not “seized,” as the Western media often puts it) all of Palestine west of the Jordan River in 1967, and the post-war U.N.S.C. resolution #242 intentionally did not call for full Israeli return to the 1949 lines.  

  5. Israel’s “Creation” and “Founding”

    Israel was not “created” or “founded” in 1948, artificially and out of the blue. It was in fact re-established.

    The Jewish homeland is the one with the deepest of roots in the Milled East. The Jewish connection to the land of Israel, including continuous physical presence, remained unbroken from Rome’s destruction of Jewish Judæa in 135 through Jewish Israel’s independence in 1948, as the land’s next native state.  

    Every rulers in between: Romans-Byzantines, Persians, Muslim dynasties, Christian Crusaders, non-Arab Mamluks and finally non-Arab Turks, had been foreign invaders.  

    British historian James Parkes rightly wrote (Whose land? p. 266) that “those who had maintained a Jewish presence in The Land all through the centuries” wrote the Zionists’ “real title deeds.”

  6. “East Jerusalem, Traditionally Arab East Jerusalem”

    Over the course of the past 3,000 years, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of three native states — Judah, Judæa and Israel — all Jewish. A majority of Jerusalem’s residents have again been Jewish since the pre-Zionist 19th century Ottoman-rule times.

    Palestinian Arabs have not ruled Jerusalem for one day in history. Foreign Arab dynasties ruled it, much of the time under the thumb of the Turks, between 638 and 1099, and invading Trans-Jordan ruled part of the city between 1948 and 1967.  

    The media and much of the world seeks to restore and perpetuate that fleeting 19-year illegal Jordanian seizure, which ended almost half a century ago, as a separate “East Jerusalem,” as though it existed today.  

    The term “East Jerusalem” disregards over 3000 years of Jewish history and the unbroken Jewish connections to all of Jerusalem, especially where the Western Wall and Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest sites reside, along with the historic Jewish, Christian and Armenian, as well as Muslim, Quarters.

  7. “Jewish Settlements” versus “Palestinian Villages”

    The Western media misleadingly contrasts “Jewish settlements” in the “Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank” with nearby Palestinian “neighborhoods,” “villages,” and “towns.”  

    As documented in the recent Levy Commission report, Jewish communities beyond the 1949 ceasefire line are not “occupation” or “illegal.” Jews and Arabs have contesting claims to Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Moreover, Jordan has since renounced any claim to the “West Bank.”  

    The media actually says that the Arab presence in those areas is more valid than the Jewish one, despite that under international law, the Jewish claim is stronger.  

  8. “The Palestinian Refugee Issue”

    The media’s “Palestinian refugee issue” is a one-sided statement of a two-sided issue.

    In 1948 and years that followed, more indigenous Middle Eastern Jews were expelled from vast Muslim lands, where they had lived for thousands of years, and were forced to abandon their homes and businesses — mostly to Israel — than Arabs fled tiny Israel.  

    Israel absorbed the bulk of these Jews, while to this day “host” Arab countries, and the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in Palestine itself, isolate Arab refugees’ descendants in “refugee camps.” (This is what “apartheid” really is.)

    And these Jews do more than that.  Together with the land of Israel’s ever-present homeland Jewish Yishuv, these Middle Eastern Jews, with roots going back to pre-Islamic biblical times, establish the bona fides of Israel as an indigenous Middle Eastern state, not the “European colonial Zionist entity” that Arabs and the “Islamic Middle East,” referencing Western media, would have Westerners believe.

    That does not remove these Israel-absorbed Middle Eastern Jews from the Arab-Israeli conflict’s refugee issue.  

  9. “Millions of Palestinian Refugees and Their Descendants” from “The War that Followed Israel’s Creation”

    A few years ago, the Western media repeatedly told the Western public about “millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants” from “the war that followed Israel’s creation,” or simply from “Israel’s creation.” This “millions” misstatement has resurfaced again this year.

    Given that:

    • Palestine’s entire partition-time population was well less than two million;
    • a good third of it were Jews;  
    • not all of Palestine’s Arabs lived in the part that became Israel; and
    • not all of them left,  

    this is a monstrously inaccurate claim mathematically.

    Those who did leave, exceeded in number by the Jews who left Arab lands, did so not in the context of Israel’s “creation” and “founding,” but of a partition-rejecting multi-nation Arab invasion for Israel’s destruction.    

  10. Recognition of Jewish State as a “New Stumbling Block”

    The media has characterized Israel’s insistence on being recognized as the Jewish state as a newly imposed peace process stumbling block, to divert attention from its building of “settlements.”  

    Demand for recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland is not a new Jewish position: The U.S., as well as Israel, defines “the two state solution” as “two states for two peoples,” including a Jewish state. In 1947, British Foreign Secretary Bevin told the British parliament that for the Jews, “the essential point principle” was the establishment of a sovereign Jewish state.  

    The land of Israel as the Jewish homeland has been at the core of the Jewish people’s aspirations and Judaism, going back to Moses’ time.

What the Media Fails To Report

Unfortunately, the distorted media coverage is not confined to ignoring and mischaracterizing these historical facts.  

The media consistently fails to report, and deliberately suppresses, Israel’s many positive traits: things it has been doing for decades to help, assist and contribute to the betterment of the entire world (tikkun olam, “repairing the world,” including engaging in tzedakah, charity) with its high technological skills, agricultural knowledge, and humanitarianism.  

Under this envy of Israel’s success and miraculous survival in a sea of hostile Arab anti-democratic states, there is a deeper psychosis:

For now to expiate their guilt for the treatment and murder of one-third of world Jewry during the Holocaust, Israel can be viewed as the vicious ethnic-cleansing Nazis while the poor, “innocent” Palestinian Arabs, are the new Jews, who must be saved and defended.  

The besieged tiny Israel is a cultural oasis in its region: An open democracy that respects human rights, minority rights, women rights, gay rights, freedom of religion, press, education, and opportunity.  

Ignored by the media is its contrast to the culture of hatred and incitement inculcated by Palestinian-Arab society and officialdom, in children’s textbooks, schools, mosques and media, including “Temple denial” and denigration of the historic Jewish connection to Israel.  

The very charters of Palestinian Arabs’ structural institutions — the PLO and Hamas — are laced with Jewish homeland denial and bloody calls for Israel’s destruction.  

The Palestinian Arabs have always been “rejectionists”: They could have been given their own state, side-by-side next to Israel, in 1937, between 1948-1967, in 2000 or in 2008. Instead, they kept pursuing their real goal: Israel’s extermination.

The real debate about the Middle East is between anyone who recognizes that Jews have a right to a state, and those who wish to see this state destroyed. For 20 years, since the Oslo Accords, Israel has been trying to trade land for peace, only to have each offer of statehood for the Palestinian Arabs spurned.

The Palestinian-Arab culture of hatred for Israel and the Jews has made it impossible for even their most “moderate” leaders to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be drawn.  

The onus for true peace should be on the Palestinian Arabs.

Lee S. Bender and Jerome R. Verlin are the authors of Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A To Z

Special Coverage: A Palestinian Died (Okay, and 6,000 Syrians Too)

(CAMERA) An Associated Press report published on April 1 noted that at least 6000 Syrians were reported killed in the civil conflict in March, the highest single month toll yet. During this same period, the main news item of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the death of a single Palestinian hunger striker, a convicted terrorist, in an Israeli prison.

According to a tally from a Lexis-Nexis media search, the New York Times published a total of 39 articles (news articles, editorials, and on its blog) in March that were mainly focused on Israel and the Palestinian conflict, plus an additional 24 on U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel. The Nexis search turned up 59 pieces — a substantial proportion were brief blog items — focused on the conflict in Syria.

More after the jump.
While acknowledging that The Times is not ignoring the Syrian conflict, considering the disproportionate toll in the two conflicts, 6,000 to 1, it is striking that the number of articles is of a similar magnitude. However, even more significant than the number of articles is the disparity in the depth of coverage. Here The Times continues to provide much greater amplification of the Palestinians plight in comparison to that of the Syrians.

In a month marked by accelerating slaughter in Syria, The Times chose to publish an 8,000-word cover story for its Sunday magazine (“Is This Where The Third Intifada Will Start?“), by Ben Ehrenreich, who has called for an end to the Jewish state and waxes poetically about the Palestinian “resisters” from a West Bank town engaged in sometimes violent protests. That story followed another extreme anti-Israel piece, a March 9 column by Joseph Levine arguing that “one really ought to question Israel’s right to exist.”

The Times might have noted — but of course, did not — that the tally of fatalities in the past month alone in Syria exceeds the total number of Israeli and Palestinian lives lost during the four most active years of the second Intifada (September 2000-September 2004).  

Official PA Daily Praises Hitler, Says 9/11 was an American Action

— by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

Just before US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel and the PA, the official PA daily chose to print anti-American hate speech along with pro-Hitler comments in an op-ed:

Our history is replete with lies… [including] the lie about Al-Qaeda and the September 11 events, which asserted that Muslim terrorists committed it, and that it was not an internal American action by the Freemasons.

The op-ed further implies that Hitler was greater than both Churchill and Roosevelt, who were “alcoholics”:

Churchill and Roosevelt were alcoholics, and in their youth were questioned more than once about brawls they started in bars, while Hitler hated alcohol and was not addicted to it. He used to go to sleep early and wake up early, and was very organized. These facts have been turned upside down as well, and Satan has been dressed with angels’ wings.

More nonsense after the jump.
The PA daily op-ed further asserts that negative attitudes toward Nazism are not objective but the result of the West’s victory:

Had Hitler won, Nazism would be an honor that people would be competing to belong to, and not a disgrace punishable by law.

Palestinian Media Watch has documented anti-US messages promoted by the PA. PMW has also documented the PA’s praise for the September 11 terror attacks.  

Here is more from the op-ed by Hassan Ouda Abu Zaher printed in the official PA daily:

‘History is a great lie written by the victors’ — said Napoleon Bonaparte, the source of dubious historical writing and father of Freemasonry in France. If so, is the history planted in us through TV and the standard educational curriculum indeed true? The source of this history is the West — the victor ever since the fall of Andalusia (Muslim Spain)! […] Our history is replete with lies, from lies about the corrupt [Caliph] Harun Al-Rashid, which ignore the sources indicating that he dedicated one year to pilgrimage [to Mecca] and one year to Jihad (i.e., he was a good Muslim), to the lie about Al-Qaeda and the Sept. 11 events, which asserted that Muslim terrorists committed it, and that it was not an internal American action by the Freemasons, which was mentioned in the Illuminati game cards ten years before it took place, and in over 15 Zionist and Freemason Hollywood-produced films in the 1990s. The method of repeating [the lies] over and over has authenticated false facts. Had Hitler won, Nazism would be an honor that people would be competing to belong to, and not a disgrace punishable by law.

Lies, Statistics and News Reports: Hagel and “Friends of Hamas”


Leon Panetta (right) and Barack Obama (center) announcing the  nomination of Chuck Hagel (left).

— by Rabbi Avi Shafran

It’s rare for light to be cast on the origins of a rumor. But a recent revelation about a charge made against Chuck Hagel before his confirmation as Secretary of Defense does that — and might provide us all some illumination too.

Contrary to what some have surmised, I didn’t and don’t feel there is enough hard information about the now confirmed Defense Secretary on which to make a judgment of his attitude toward Israel. As attacks mounted on nominee Hagel, though, I suggested that Jews should think twice and thrice before attacking a public figure for animus to the Jewish state on the basis of pickings as slim as those gathered to criticize him.

More after the jump.
Several people, including some pseudonymic letter-writers to a magazine that published my article, took my suggestion that bandwagons are best inspected before being leaped onto as support of Mr. Hagel. I explicitly wrote, however, that he might well not make a good Defense Secretary, and that I can’t claim to know one way or the other. All that I pointed out was that, despite a maladroit phrase Mr. Hagel once used — for which he apologized — and unsubstantiated claims of a similar sin, there was no actual evidence for the charge made by some that the man is “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic.” I pointed out, too, that a Secretary of Defense does not make U.S. foreign policy, and that it behooves us American Jews, in a world containing all too many all too real enemies of Jews, to not imagine, or inadvertently create, new ones.

An edifying postscript to the Hagel hubbub emerged this week. In the midst of all the sturm und drang over the nomination, a conservative website (a “news source,” as it happens, that the angry letters to the editor suggested I consult for my education) reported suspicions that Mr. Hagel had received foreign funding from a group called “Friends of Hamas.” The story, of course, spread across the blogosphere with the speed of a brazen lie, which is precisely what it was. There is no such group.

And this week, the tale of how the charge came about was told — by the fellow who originated it, albeit unwittingly.

New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman explained how, digging for a story, he had asked a Republican aide on Capitol Hill if Mr. Hagel’s Senate critics knew of any controversial groups that he may have addressed. Had the nominee perhaps “given a speech to, say, the ‘Junior League of Hezbollah’ […] or the ‘Friends of Hamas’?” the journalist jocularly queried.

Not realizing that politicians and their aides can be humor-impaired, Mr. Friedman compounded his little pre-Purim joke with a follow-up e-mail to the aide, asking if anything had turned up about that “$25K speaking fee from Friends of Hamas?”

Before Mr. Friedman could say mishenichnas Adar, the website had its scoop. The report, by one Ben Shapiro, informed its readers:

Senate sources told Breitbart News exclusively that they have been informed one of the reasons that President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has not turned over requested documents on his sources of foreign funding is that one of the names listed is a group purportedly called ‘Friends of Hamas.’

And so, other websites immediately ran with the fiction. For good measure, Mr. Shapiro tweeted the link to his nearly 40,000 Twitter followers. Countless inboxes welcomed the “news”; countless heads nodded knowingly.

Whether or not Mr. Hagel turns out to be a happy surprise or great disappointment, one thing is undeniable: Anyone who values truth — the “signature” of the Divine, in the Talmud’s description — must make painstaking efforts to be objective, and eschew the siren-call (to mangle a metaphor) of the bandwagon.

Lies, overt and subtle, large and small, are, unfortunately, the fertilizer (in both senses of the word) of politics today. They are regularly foisted upon us all from every political corner and by both major parties’ “activists.” We are being gently misled and manipulated whether our source of information is right-wing talk radio or NPR, Rush Limbaugh or Diane Rehm. True objectivity and fair-minded discussion are as rare as Yangtze River dolphins.

And so, if we really insist on having opinions about political matters, we do well to absorb different perspectives, to weigh them fairly and to realize, constantly and deeply, that not everything portrayed as obvious or fact is necessarily either.

© 2013 Rabbi Avi Shafran

It’s All in the Angle” (Torah Temimah Publications), a collection of selected essays by Rabbi Shafran, is now available from Judaica Press.

Ben Dror Yemini Points out Anti-Israel Bias in Textbook Study

(CAMERA) Ben Dror Yemini delves into the controversial study of Israeli and Palestinian textbooks, and makes some interesting points:

Let’s leave aside the professor’s political opinions for the moment and examine the research itself. I obtained memos written by two members of the study’s Scientific Advisory Panel, Professors Amnon Groiss and Elihu Richter. While the research was still ongoing, these two scholars highlighted substantial methodological flaws and the “omission of more than forty significant texts” that appear in Palestinian school books. To be clear, the omitted texts are precisely those that contain the highest degrees of incitement (“invading snakes”; “the enemies that split open women’s bellies” etc. etc.) The demand that these texts be included was turned down with the excuse that it was not clear that the words referred to Israelis or Jews.

More after the jump.

And it only gets worse. When discussing negative portrayals of the “Other,” the study includes the mere mention in Israeli textbooks of the Farhud — the 1941 pogrom against Iraqi Jews — and the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics as examples of negative portrayals of the Arab side. What exactly are the study’s authors trying to say? That it is forbidden to mention these events? Or perhaps the books should be rewritten to state that “Muslim freedom fighters succeeded in striking Jewish criminals in Baghdad and Munich”? According to this logic, perhaps it should be forbidden to learn about the Nazis, since this creates a negative image of the Germans.

The Israeli textbooks, as the study notes, do mention the 1948 massacre by the Irgun militia at the Arab village of Deir Yassin (but not the majority of the pogroms that were carried out against Jews in Arab lands). In contrast, there is not a single instance of self-criticism on the Palestinian side. Not even of the Mufti Amin al-Husseini’s support for the Nazis. There is also no mention of the fact that when the Palestinian texts refer to bringing an end to the occupation, they mean, almost without exception, the occupation of ‘Greater Palestine’ from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Or to put it even more clearly: bringing an end to the State of Israel.

In the Israeli texts one finds humanizing descriptions of Islam and of Muslims, and a yearning for peace. The Palestinian texts are free of any such sentiments. Yet the report covers up and glosses over the complete contrast between the two educational systems.

Yemini also quotes the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education at Hebrew University explaining that they have “serious questions about the Council’s report methodological choices and about some of the texts and quotes omitted from its analysis. Likewise, we find it difficult to reconcile the wide gap observed between the quotes mentioned in the report and the conclusions derived from them.”

Be sure to read the rest of the illuminating piece at Times of Israel here.

Sticks & Stones: Review of “Pressing Israel”


Lee Bender and Jerome R. Verlin

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” Nowhere is this saying more false than in the conflict over Israel. Is Israel the “light to the nations?” Or is Israel the cause of so many global problems? Why, in world public opinion polls, is Israel consistently voted one of the most negatively rated nations of the world?

Local Philadelphia area authors, Lee Bender and Jerome Verlin, have recently published a timely book titled: Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed from A to Z. They extensively document their case that the Main Stream Media frames the Israeli Jewish-Muslim conflict in terms that favor the Muslims. They explain why it matters. And they give an example of our own Philadelphia Inquirer publishing a more balanced report, as a result of a letter writing campaign. Their book also provides an extensive background of the history and politics of Israel.

More after the jump.
One of the authors, Jerome Verlin, has written a weekly column. This style of standalone articles is carried over in the book. The chapters are each complete in themselves. It is possible to go directly to a section of interest, without reading the entire book. On the other hand, this results in some information being repeated in multiple locations.

The beginning of the book consists of a series of short articles, one for each letter of the alphabet: A Apartheid, B Borders, C Creation-of-Israel, etc. Each article includes extensive documentation from the Philadelphia Inquirer. The second half of the book has more in-depth coverage of the history and politics of the region, including quotes from key individuals.

Media Bias Against Israel

The Main Stream Media frames their reporting by what they include and by what they leave out. Words have implications and shades of meaning. Although the book was published before Operation Pillar of Defense, their comments about Gazan rocket attacks and the Iron Dome defense system could have been written today

According to Bender and Verlin, one of the major examples of media bias is writing that IDF defensive actions and Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians are morally equivalent. The media report that Palestinian “militants” or “factions” launch rockets at Israel and Israel “retaliates” with air strikes, as if the two groups were on the same level. The authors write that it would be more accurate to report that Gazan terrorists shoot rockets at Israeli population centers, hoping to kill civilian men, women and children. In defense, the IDF strikes those terrorists, their rocket launchers and weapons caches. As Alan Dershowitz says, it is as if the arsonist and the firefighter were moral equals. Hamas is happy to deliberately kill Israeli Jewish civilians and happy for the media publicity if Israel accidentally kills Gazan civilians when the IDF shoots back at missile launchers in self-defense.

Two-State Solution or a One-and-a-Half-State Solution?

Both Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have stated that they accept the “Two State Solution.” Netanyahu has referred to the Arab position as “two states for a people-and-a-half.”

Netanyahu explains that his plan is a Jewish State of Israel that gives full citizenship to its current Arab residents, living in peace alongside a Palestinian Arab State. However, Abbas is quoted as saying that he will never accept a Jewish State. All Jews must be removed from the future Palestinian Arab State, including from the Old City section of Jerusalem. In addition, the descendants of Muslim Arab “refugees” currently living in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere, must be resettled in Israel, which will not be a Jewish state. The Arabs get a Muslim, Palestinian State. And Israel is shared between the current one million Israeli Arab Muslim citizens, the four million descendents of Arab Muslim “refugees” under the “right of return” and the 6 million Jews. So the Arab Muslims get one and a half states and the Jews get what is left over in a shared, non-Jewish State.

(The authors supply numerous documented quotes that spokesmen for Hamas have publicly stated their plans to eliminate the Jews from Israel, as their long term goal.)

Conclusion

Pressing Israel is a good introduction to the Israel-Muslim conflict as well as a valuable reference for those who are already knowledgeable about the Middle East situation. It can be referred to in discussions and is useful for preparing letters to the editor. It would be helpful to college students who are facing anti-Zionist protests on campus.

If a second edition is published, the printed, paper version of the book would be even more valuable as a reference if an index was added. A fully searchable version of the book is already available as a Kindle e-book from Amazon.com, making an index for the electronic version unnecessary.

Slanted Media?

One phrase I have kept hearing from conservatives is about the “left-liberal-slanted news media.” It’s a convenient scapegoat for them to bring up, for when facts don’t go their way, like in how the Viet Nam war fared for our government, or how unpopular the war had become, or of the rightness of the Civil Rights movement or the other freedom movements that came from it, such as for women, LGBT people, Native Americans, Hispanics, etc.

The phrase “working the ref,” from baseball, describes the conservatives attempt to bully and dominate the news media-the coach of a team accuses the referee of bias in favor of the other team, hoping the referee will in future be biased his way. But if the referee knows he’s being “worked,” and if he has a modicum of backbone, he could see through this act and resist it.

The truth is the “mainstream news” media errs to the right, not offending corporations (such as the media are), hinting at us how we should think about issues. Even NPR I notice biases towards the Republicans when it discusses the election and how Congress (mis)handles such issues as the federal budget deficit (rung up under George W. Bush) and not mentioning how the Congressional Republican (mis)leadership just acts out of denying Obama a second term.

For my part, I noticed the “mainstream news” media follow the Occupy movement a couple of weeks after it started at Wall Street; alternative media sites, like Buzzflash and AlterNet, followed it first, and the corporate media picked up on it later. It’s corporate owners who dictate to their editors what the news should be; Fox News is the most horrific example, but it’s the same way with other news outlets. I believe that you read the “mainstream” news first, to get a baseline for what’s going on, but also read alternative media to get deeper into the issue; and try to get hold of foreign media, they would have a far different, maybe better, perspective of events than American media does.