Proposed Guidelines for Balanced Reporting on Israel

— Lee Bender and Jerome Verlin

For many years, the pro-Israel community has been deeply troubled by the inaccurate, unbalanced and misleading portrayal of Israel in the mainstream media, These negative views unjustly prejudice the public and do great harm to Israel.  The organizations and individuals joining in this document believe that adopting the guidelines and terminology below will lead to more fair and balanced reporting on Israel. We also cite specific instances from news sources that use inaccurate and misleading terminology and portrayals.


Misleading: “Two-state solution.” Accurate: “Two states,” meaning one Jewish, one Arab.
Since 1922 when the League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate recognized “the historical connections of the Jewish people with Palestine” and called for reconstituting the Jewish “National Home” in Palestine, international agreement has recognized Israel as the Jewish people’s state.  The Road Map’s “vision of two states” is meaningful only in the sense of an Arab state and a Jewish state.  There already exists an Arab state created out of the original Palestine Mandate – Jordan, which is on 78% of the land and has a population that is 70% Palestinian Arabs.  The Jewish State of Israel exists on the remaining 22% of the land- the very part of which this second Arab state would be created. A new “Jewish-free” Arab state alongside a “secular Israel” inundated with millions of Arabs descended from those who left in 1948, added to Israel’s 1.2 million Arab citizens, is a sham “two-state solution.”  There are 22 Muslim Arab states on a land mass over 600 times that of Israel, with an approximate population of 350,000,000, compared to 5,500,000 Jews in Israel, which is the size of New Jersey.


Misleading: “Arab East Jerusalem.” Accurate: “Jerusalem” or refer to the neighborhood by name.
For only 19 of Jerusalem’s 3,000 years existence was there an “eastern” and western “division,” and that was during the time Jordan illegally occupied it from 1948 until 1967 when it was ousted by Israel and the city was reunited. Jerusalem has been the capital of three Jewish states, but has never been the capital of any Arab entity. Jerusalem has had an ever-increasing Jewish majority since 19th century Ottoman rule.  Prior to the post-World War I Palestine Mandate, Palestine, including Jerusalem, was ruled for 400 years by non-Arab Ottoman Turks; before that for over 200 years by non-Arab Mamlukes; before that by European Christian Crusaders; before that from 636 to 1099 by foreign Arabs increasingly taken over by Turks; before that for over 600 years by European Romans, who in 63 BCE and 70 and 135 CE defeated the twice-independent native Jews, whose two Temples had successively stood in Jerusalem for a millennium, and the Romans’ European Christian Byzantine heirs. At best, Jerusalem is the 3rd holiest city in Islam, although it is not mentioned once in the Koran.  Reference to “Arab East Jerusalem” is misleading as it implies a genuine historical relationship. From 1948-67 when it was illegally occupied by Jordan, no capital or state was established, Jews were not permitted inside the Old City, ancient Jewish synagogues and institutions were destroyed and desecrated. Contrary to this Arab rule of Jerusalem, Israel respects and allows free access for all religions, and permits the Temple Mount to be administered by Muslim authorities (the Waqf).


Misleading: ” “Israel was created in 1948 because of the Holocaust.” Accurate: “Israel regained independence in 1948.”
Israel was not created because of the Holocaust, but is the natural fruition of continuous organized Jewish presence in the Biblical Land of Israel for 3000 years, pre-dating Islam by more than 1000 years. Labeling Israel as “founded in 1948,” whether or not expressly “because of the Holocaust,” inaccurately ignores both 20th century and pre-Zionist post-biblical Jewish homeland history, and echoes Israel’s enemies’ canard that “Israel was created because of a Holocaust that may have happened in Europe, so why should ‘The Palestinians’ suffer?”  Herzl published the Der Judenstaat in 1896 calling for a Jewish state, and the British Balfour Declaration of 1917, incorporated into the 1922 League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate, recognized a Jewish National Home in Palestine. The Yishuv, the Jewish people’s continuous organized presence in the land of Israel, holds one of the longest continuous homeland connections of a people to a place in world history.  Israel is the natural result of that presence.


Misleading: “The war that followed Israel’s creation.” Accurate: “The 1948 Arab invasion of Israel.”
Five Arab states’ armies – Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq – invaded Palestine to destroy Israel on the day Israel declared its independence as the British Mandate ended.  Mislabeling that multi-nation Arab invasion as “the war that followed Israel’s creation” without even naming the Arab invaders is a blatant a mischaracterization of what historically happened: the UN Partition-rejecting multi-nation Arab invasion. Egypt illegally seized and retained Gaza, and Jordan illegally seized and retained portions of Judea and Samaria (which became Jordan’s “West Bank”) and part of Jerusalem, for the next 19 years. The Arab rejection of Israel’s existence as the Jewish people’s reborn homeland continues to this day and is the root cause of the continued conflict. Had the Arabs not invaded and accepted the UN Partition Plan, they would have had their state alongside Israel this entire time.


Misleading: “Palestinian refugees from the war that followed Israel’s creation.” Accurate: “Refugees caused by the 1948 Arab rejection of partition,” or  “Descendants of Arabs who left during the Arab invasion.”
Multiple factors, including inducement and orders by invading Arabs, led to Arabs leaving the part of western Palestine that became Israel in 1948.  The number who left is contested, with Arabs claiming some 700,000, and Israelis (see, e.g., Katz, “Battleground,” p.23) some 400,000.  Long forgotten are that same era’s approximately 800,000 Jews who were forced to vacate their homes and businesses in vast Arab lands (many from Jewish communities dating back to pre-Islam antiquity.)  Tiny Israel absorbed the bulk of these Middle Eastern Jews, while the descendants of the Arabs who left tiny Israel remain today as “refugees.” These Arabs are unique among all the world’s refugees: their Arab brethren refuse to integrate and accept them into their vast lands; in addition, they have their own UN organization (UNRWA), and unlike every other refugee group, refugee status is not just limited to those who left but is also extended to their descendants and their descendants’ descendants.


Misleading: “Gaza is occupied and blockaded by Israel.” Accurate: “Hamas rules Gaza, bordered by Israel and Egypt.”
Gaza is not “occupied” by Israel, which unilaterally uprooted entire Jewish population of 9000 residents, in 2005. Gazans elected Hamas to be their government. Despite thousands of unceasing rocket and missile fire aimed at civilians in Israel from Gaza, Israel still supplies electricity to Gaza, allows in supplies, and even provides medical care to Gazans inside Israel.  What is largely ignored is that Gaza also has a border with the Arab country of Egypt, and thus is not “blockaded by Israel.”


Misleading: “The Israeli-occupied West Bank.” Accurate: “The West Bank,” or “Judea and Samaria.”
Under international law, portions of western Palestine beyond the 1949 ceasefire lines between Israel and the invading Arab armies are disputed, not the indisputable territory of a western Palestine Arab state that has never existed in history. Israel has the right to be in these portions of the former Palestine Mandate, captured in a defensive war, until such time as there is a resolution by the parties.  The Mandate had called for “close settlement by Jews on the land,” not excluding what became “the West Bank” of the kingdom of Jordan only in 1948 when Jordan invaded and seized it.  The historical names of these areas are Judea and Samaria.   Today, 95% of the Arab population of “the West Bank” lives in Palestinian Authority-administered areas.


Misleading: “Moderate” Abbas; “Hardline” Netanyahu.” Accurate: “:”Palestinian Authority President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu”.”
News reports labeling Israeli leaders as “hard-line” and PA leaders as “moderate” are not only subjective judgments not belonging in news articles, but are factually inaccurate. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas heads Fatah, the largest organization in the P.A.  Fatah’s charter includes the following: “Section 19: Armed struggle is a strategy, not a tactic. The armed revolution of the Arab Palestinian people is a crucial element in the battle for liberation and for the elimination of the Zionist presence. This struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity is eliminated and Palestine is liberated.” Fatah’s August 2009, General Assembly confirmed these positions. Abbas also financed the Palestinian terrorist assassination of Israeli Olympic Team members in Munich in 1972, and in his doctoral dissertation, later published as a book, he denied the Holocaust.  


Misleading: “Illegal Jewish settlements.” Accurate: “Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.”
Jews living on land contested between Palestine’s Jews and Arabs, on which the Palestine Mandate called for close Jewish settlement, is not illegal according to many legal authorities.  At best, the status of the land in question is disputed. The Road Map distinguishes between “settlements” and “settlement outposts,” small sites unauthorized by the Israeli government.  Calling settlements “illegal under international law” is a partisan position on an issue in legal dispute.


Misleading: “The Road Map calls on the Palestinian Authority to rein in militants.” Accurate: “The Road Map calls on the Palestinian Authority to dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.”
Among the Palestinian Authority’s Phase I obligations in the Road Map is “confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.”  Another:  “Palestinians declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere.”  Another “at the outset of Phase I” PA obligations:  “All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel.”  Media references to the Road Map frequently cite only Israeli obligations, and when Palestinian obligations are cited they are often couched as “to rein in militants.”  Forms of the word “terror” appear 10 times in the road map, but “militants” are not mentioned once.


Misleading: “Israeli retaliation for rockets/missiles from Gaza.” Accurate: “Israeli defensive measures to prevent the rocketing of civilians.”
For years, Israelis in southern Israel have been subjected to a relentless rain of rockets, missiles and mortars from Gaza, in which they have 15 – 20 seconds warning.  Israel’s large Mediterranean coastal city of Ashkelon has also been hit repeatedly.  Israel’s responses have been surgical and targeted specifically against the attackers and the regime that allows them, not “retaliation” by indiscriminate tit-for-tat rocketing and mortaring Gaza civilian cities and villages.


Misleading: “Militants,” “Extremists,” “Gunmen” attacking civilians. Accurate: “Terrorists”; “Jihadi Terrorists”; “Islamic Terrorists.”
Dispatchers of mass-murder bombers of civilians in buses, restaurants, shopping malls, religious assemblies and the like aren’t “militants” anytime anywhere, but terrorists every time everywhere.  The U.S. government’s long held position is that Hamas, Hizballah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Islamic Jihad Group, amongst many others, are terrorist organizations and that acts of violence against civilians perpetrated by the these groups are acts of terrorism.  


Misleading: “The Palestinians.” Accurate: “Palestinian Arabs,” “Arab Palestinians.”
At this late date, no one expects the media or anyone else to cease referring to Arabs living in Palestine as “the Palestinians.”  Yet it is critical that Western publics understand that the region was not named “Palestine” with reference to today’s Arab “Palestinians.”  Eighteen hundred years ago, the Roman emperor Hadrian bestowed the name “Palestine” on former Judaea, to disassociate the land from the native Jews whom Rome had just defeated in two ferocious revolts.  The “Palestinians” whom Hadrian had in mind had been the Aegean “Sea-People” Philistines, who’d occupied the southern Palestinian coast during the era of the Jews’ first kingdom of Judah.  The Jerusalem Post, one of Israel’s leading newspapers was once the Palestine Post, and Palestinian Jews who fought alongside the Allies in World War II were known as Palestinians.  The late David Bar-Illan, editor of the Jerusalem Post and its “Eye on the Media” column, repeatedly cited Mandate era Jewish institutions that included “Palestine” in their title and actual aversions by Arabs to the term “Palestine.” The vast majority of Palestinian Arabs cannot trace their family heritage to the land back more than several generations; most came from elsewhere when the Jews made the land blossom and built cities and institutions.


Leave a Reply