One Small Step for Media Accuracy on Israel

March 15, 2013 2:06 am 6 comments

The Israeli Haaretz newspaper.

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.

The author is the editor of The Algemeiner and director of the GJCF and can be e-mailed at defune@gjcf.com.

6 Comments

  • Lawrence Kulak

    I want to return to yesterdays story about the little baby girl who had to have operations on her head when Arab me threw stones at her parents’ car as they drove to the West Bank. Why doesn’t this make for a UN investigation. I say that until the UN cares about incidents like this, Israel should not bother trifiling itself with who killed any future terrorist. In fact, by creating the controversy in the first place, it is highly possible that Hadodesh Baruch Hu is giving us the chance to claim credit and hence reap schar.

  • Would you please remove my full name and merely write “Roz”?

    Many thanks for your work.

  • Thanks to CAMERA and to other reports, I wrote to the British Medical Journal last week in order to address the inaccurate reporting of the story.

    To the BMJ’s credit, the person responsible contacted me asking for a reference to Ha’aretz partial retraction which I gave, plus the link for CAMERA’s assessment.

    Both the British Medical Journal and The Lancet publish negative, hostile and distorted reports regarding Israel. For example, the BMJ published three times an article, written by a Palesrinian, claiming that Israel had shelled a school in the UN compound killing 40 and injuring many more during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. Despite the report by Patrick Martin (Toronto Globe & Mail) that no only was this untrue, the two UNRWA officials, Chris Gunness and John Ging, knew this was untrue. However, this did not stop Gunness from appearing on the BBC and other English TV interviews, in which he excoriated Israel. Similarly, a British doctor regularly writes letters to attack Israel and Israeli doctors, accusing them of being complicit in torture or other shocking allegations. These are blood libels which will be believed because they appear in academic journals.

    There is a malicious aspect to what gets published in the UK. Professions such as teaching, medicine and psychotherapy publish anti-Israel or anti-Zionist articles which are frequently ahistorical, set within a pseudo-moralistic framework and lack any nuance.

    This is therefore a plea to respectfully complain whenever there is an anti-Israel story.

  • E Pluribus Beagle

    Unless there are sanctions against the press for this it won’t matter. It never matters. Sorry but unless and until the press is made to be responsible, legally, materially, any other way, they are just laughing at us.

  • The second story was always suspected. Just too convenient journalese fronting what is media-wise an Israeli Goliath stomping a Palestinian David. Simple, iconic and repeated ad infinitum until the perspective is the reality.

    The first example, published by Haaretz, is more difficult to understand from a non-Jewish, non-Israeli , geographicly distant point of view. I understand the phenom of “Jew hating Jews”, or more commonly anti-Zionist Jews. This gets attention from TV, academics, mainstream media but from quality international press being being judged on the credibility of their arguments, . Usually falling short of believe able or convincing in my eyes.

    The basic incompetence of not checking facts, before publishing especially contentious material, from an Israeli newspaper, I don’t understand. Not mensch stuff, mushugana tabloid stuff but with a bitter twist because it is Israeli!

    • Israel should STOP WHINING.
      Instead, those papers who publish the slanders should have their asses sued by the Israeli government. Each time, Israel should ask for large sums of money for compensation, for having its image tarnished.
      Should do this now.!!!!
      There are enough Jewish lawyers to take to the task.

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