Imbalanced Reporting Endangers Israel
Philadelphia ZOA Vice Presidents Lee Bender and Jerome Verlin had their article on "imbalanced reporting" in the media published by The Bulletin. The article calls attention to fallacies about Israel, the "peace" process, the Middle East and related topics the media carry on a regular basis, which leads to a distorted view of the world around us.
Ending Imbalanced Reporting On Israel Is In Everyone's Interest
By LEE S. BENDER & JEROME R. VERLIN
Sunday, February 28, 2010
According to the Talmud, "It is forbidden to even harbor in one's possession an unbalanced weight or measuring implement-even if there's no intention to use it."
While the sages wrote specifically about weights and measures, in many ways newspapers and the media are modern-day measuring tools we use to get a sense of the world around us. We judge whom we admire and with whom we side, versus whom we dislike or regard as an enemy often based on media reports. The unfortunate reality is that hardly a day goes by without an unfair, distorted report on Israel from reporters who seem to have their thumb on the scale. Here are but a few areas of misportrayal.
The Refugee Issue: The media insist on attributing "Palestinian" refugees to "the war that followed Israel's creation." There is a triple inaccuracy here: First, the historical event that preceded the 1948 war against Israel and the Jewish people was not the "founding" or "creation" of Israel, as though out of the blue, but U.N. partition of the remaining Palestine Mandate between Palestine's c. 1 to 1.2 million Arabs and its 600,000 Jews; second, the 1948 war was a partition-rejecting invasion by five Arab states' armies bent on Israel's destruction; third, Palestinian refugees (who weren't yet called "Palestinian") who fled Israel were exceeded in number by indigenous Middle Eastern Jews forced to flee Muslim lands where Jews have lived since biblical times, the bulk of whom Israel absorbed - rarely media-mentioned. Few Palestinian Arab refugees have been absorbed by their fellow Arab counties.
Jerusalem: The media's "traditionally Arab East Jerusalem" is no ethnic satellite of a main city named just "Jerusalem" whose location to its west defines the satellite's designation as "East." Only when Jordan illegally occupied part of the city from 1948 until 1967 was there an "eastern" and "western" division amid Jerusalem's 3,000+ years. The so-called "traditionally Arab East Jerusalem" is the heart of Jerusalem, a city that's had a Jewish majority since mid-19th century Ottoman times, and includes the Old City with its Christian, Armenian, Jewish and Muslim Quarters; Temple Mount; churches and synagogues; the City of David; Mount Zion; Mount Scopus; etc. It denigrates the heritage of both Christians and Jews for the media to call the heart of Jerusalem "traditionally Arab."
"Moderate" Abbas vs. "Hard-Line" Netanyahu: Such labels don't belong in news articles, and to add injury to insult, both tags are wrong. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has implemented the "West Bank settlements" freeze and called for direct peace talks with the Palestinians which Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has refused, while demanding the "right of return," Israeli retreat from the 1967 to 1949 ceasefire lines, and so on. Mr. Abbas heads Fatah, the largest Palestinian Authority component party. The Fatah charter still states: "Armed struggle is a strategy and not a tactic, and the Palestinian Arab People's armed revolution is a decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence, and this struggle will not cease until the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated." (Art. 19)
Palestinian Road Map Requirements: While the media regularly reference Israel's Road Map obligations regarding settlements, rarely if ever does it cite the P.A.'s obligations, including such major duties including: "to dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure" (not merely "to rein in militants" as the media constantly state): "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 everywhere; and "All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel."
Israeli "Retaliation:" When the media labels as "retaliation" Israeli actions to prevent rockets and mortars from being launched at Israeli civilians, the media perverts a nation's self-defense responsibilities (e.g. firemen), morally equating them with acts of terror (e.g. arsonist). Israel's response in the Gaza War was targeted specifically against the attackers and supporting regime, not mere tit-for-tat fire at Gazan civilians, who were even forewarned by Israel in many circumstances to leave the area.
"Terrorists" are not "Militants:" Dispatchers of bombers targeting civilian buses, restaurants, malls, or religious assemblies, or those who indiscriminately fire rockets at civilians, are not "militants" anytime, anywhere; they are terrorists, everytime, everywhere. The U.S. government's long held position is that Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and others are terrorist organizations and the violence they commit against civilians is, indeed, terrorism. It's not taking sides to call terrorists "terrorists." Taking sides is the media calling terrorists something less.
The above are just a few examples from our report. If you agree that words matter, let us know and we will email you the full report: "Guidelines for Balanced Reporting on Israel."
Lee S. Bender and Jerome R. Verlin are co-VPs and chairs of the media committee of the Greater Philadelphia District of the Zionist Organization of America. Mr. Bender is also Chairman of Israel Advocacy Committee of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El. Mr. Verlin is also the editor of Brith Sholom Media Watch, and author of Israel 3000 Years: The Jewish People's 3000 Year Presence in Israel. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.