One Small Step for Media Accuracy on Israel
by Dovid Efune
This week, two vicious, accusatory and vastly damaging media reports about Israel were publicly exposed to be false. As is often the case, one correction drew little attention. The other however made international headlines which I believe should be cause for measured optimism.
The first story was published by Israel’s Haaretz, a newspaper that has distinguished itself in its eagerness to paint the government of the Jewish state as practitioners of racism and apartheid. Haaretz has displayed blatant disregard for accuracy in its frenzied pursuit of this agenda as evidenced in this particular case.
“A government official has for the first time acknowledged the practice of injecting women of Ethiopian origin with the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera,” opens the Haaretz report, which first appeared in the paper’s English edition on January 28th.
Citing a letter which was sent from Health Ministry Director General Prof. Ron Gamzu to four health maintenance organizations, Haaretz claims that he asked them “not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment.”
In actuality the letter stated that he asked them “not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian – or any other – origin.” In Haaretz’s fabricated version, Israel is implementing racist policies. In the accurate version it is not.
Haaretz’s libelous and damaging report was carried by many international publications including Forbes, The Guardian, The Independent, TIME, AP, Russia Today, Salon, Los Angeles Times, Yahoo and many others.
Following diligent and persistent objections to the Haaretz version of the story from the ever vigilant media watchdog group CAMERA, The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, a correction which was published by the paper five weeks later said, “The original version failed to state that this instruction […] referred to all women and not just women of Ethiopian origin.” To my knowledge only The Algemeiner and Tablet Magazine reported on the correction. The damage, which surely was deliberate and calculated, was done. The correction was relatively irrelevant.
The second major story charted quite a different path.
During Israel’s recent operation Pillar of Defense the death of the 11 month old son of BBC stringer Jihad Masharawi made front page news. To the extent perhaps that the heart-wrenching image of Jihad grasping the body of his son became one of the most iconic images of Israel’s war with Hamas.
The world’s most read publications carried bold captions and headlines blaming the death on Israel. Among the many were the BBC, The Huffington Post and the Washington Post. The latter prominently presented the picture on its front page, above the fold.
This week the UN issued a report on the conflict which squarely laid the blame for the tragic death with Hamas, the terrorist government of Gaza. “On 14 November, a woman, her 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult in Al-Zaitoun were killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel,” wrote the report.
It was the eagle eyed anonymous super-blogger Elder of Ziyon that first picked up on the report. The Algemeiner ran the story hours later. Two days following, The Times of Israel and Israel National News joined them. When the Associated Press then jumped on the bandwagon, the story made international headlines, forcing the BBC and the Washington Post to publish desperate pretzelesque defenses and prompting the Huffington Post to add the following update to its earlier story: “A UN report said that Misharawi’s son was likely killed by Hamas rocket fire, not Israeli shells.”
Sadly an instance where the correction garners national attention is rare, but it wasn’t so long ago that it would have been virtually impossible.
The democratization of information has reduced the exclusivity of the power that lies in the hands of dictatorial editors and handed it in part to a collective cacophony of smaller specialist publications, bloggers, social media activists and yes, you. Today every person can contribute to the effort to circulate accurate and honest information about the matters that are most important to them.
For Israel’s media voice, this week was one of hope. A glimpse of what technological advances can bring if those committed to truth and justice, have the courage and dedication to harness them.