CAMERA Israel: Ha'aretz Indifferent to Journalistic Norms
For more than two decades, CAMERA has followed media coverage of Israel and the Middle East closely, contacting countless outlets with questions about factual accuracy and in many instances eliciting corrections. Virtually every major media outlet in America and some beyond U.S. shores have corrected errors in response to CAMERA, in accordance with professional journalistic standards asserting the paramount importance of accuracy — and accountability. Among those issuing corrections, often multiple times, have been the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, International Herald Tribune, National Public Radio, ABC News, and CNN.
Until recently CAMERA's efforts have focused primarily on North America with few foreign media outlets monitored intensively for accurate coverage or challenged for corrections on erroneous reporting. Little attention was directed, for example, toward Ha'aretz, an Israeli daily newspaper printed in Hebrew and English and relied on by the Western press corps as well as Israel's cultural and political elite. (Ha'aretz is sometimes described by its admirers as the New York Times of Israel.) With the opening of CAMERA's Israel office last year, however, it was possible for the first time to monitor Ha'aretz in the same sustained way as U.S. newspapers are followed.
In the last year, CAMERA has contacted the paper's editors concerning multiple factual errors, taking the identical approach used with U.S. publications — emailing editors behind the scenes, providing data substantiating why a report is incorrect, requesting a correction, following up with phone calls, and finally, posting an item on our Web site and/or sending out an alert. (In a particularly egregious case, we published an Op-Ed in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles about a serious and uncorrected error.)
However, unlike prominent American and international outlets, Ha'aretz apparently considers itself above criticism. Ha'aretz editors seem unaccustomed to responding to readers in a straightforward process and appear to believe readers have no right to fault them for shoddy, inaccurate coverage. Rather than considering the substance of CAMERA's queries, Ha'aretz has stonewalled completely, refusing to correct errors. Indeed, the English edition of the newspaper, in contrast to almost every major American newspaper, has no regular corrections section; a lone correction appears once every few months.
Amira Hass Falsehood
CAMERA contacted Ha'aretz editors about an error that appeared Nov. 2 in an Op-Ed entitled "How the PA Failed" by columnist Amira Hass. She writes that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "cannot prevent the expropriation of land for Jewish-only roads in the West Bank." In fact, while there are roads prohibited to Palestinians in the West Bank, there are no "Jewish-only roads." Israel' s Arab citizens and, indeed, Israeli citizens of any religion or ethnicity, have just as much right to travel on those restricted roads as do Israeli Jews. Israeli Arabs frequently use the bypass roads for business and to visit relatives. Moreover, at least one Israeli Arab was fatally shot by Palestinian terrorists on one of these roads. As the Los Angeles Times reported on Aug. 8, 2001:
Wael Ghanem, an Israeli Arab, was shot and killed as he drove toward the Jewish settlement of Tzofim in the West Bank, not far from where an Israeli woman was killed on Sunday. . . . However, he was driving a car with yellow license plates on a West Bank road where a similar shooting attack had taken place, raising the possibility that Palestinian gunmen thought they were targeting an Israeli settler.
Georgios Tsibouktzakis, a Greek Orthodox monk, shot on June 12, 2001, was another non-Jew killed by Palestinian terrorists while on these roads.
Even B'Tselem, an organization frequently critical of Israel, acknowledges that restricted roads are reserved for those with Israeli plates, (Jews and Arabs), as opposed to Jews only. Thus, an Aug. 9, 2004 hard-hitting report stated: "B'Tselem has divided the Forbidden Roads Regime into three categories of roads: 'sterile roads' where Palestinian traffic is completely prohibited, roads where Palestinians require special permits, and roads with restricted access. The regime applies only to Palestinians. Israeli vehicles are allowed to travel freely along these roadways." This false charge implying a racist policy on the part of Israel – allowing special privilege to Jews over other religious and ethnic groups – is particularly pernicious. When such a claim is made in a prominent Israeli newspaper it is often echoed in the media worldwide.
In response to CAMERA's request for a correction on this issue, Ha'aretz assistant editor Ruth Meisels inadvertently sent CAMERA's Israel Director Tamar Sternthal what was clearly meant to be an internal Ha'aretz email. Addressed to a Ha'aretz employee who apparently handles phone calls, the email warned (in Hebrew):
In the event that this [CAMERA complaint] gets to you: We have a quasi 'policy,' on the orders of [editor-in-chief] David [Landau], to ignore this organization and all of its complaints, including not responding to telephone messages and screening calls from Tamar Sternhal [sic], director of CAMERA. Otherwise, we will never finish with them.
Thus, Ha'aretz editors appear to have little interest in the accuracy of their coverage or the accepted standards of journalism – unlike their American counterparts – and seem to believe (wrongly) that not returning a phone call or responding to an email will deflect CAMERA's efforts to redress false and inflammatory assertions.
Beyond the most recent Amira Hass error, numerous others remain uncorrected, including:
* In a July 18, 2004 column, Gideon Levy made a number of false claims, among them the allegation that Golda Meir once said: “After what the Nazis did to us, we can do whatever we want.” CAMERA was not able to track down any source for such a quote. Moreover, Levy himself sent an email to CAMERA admitting that he had no source. Nevertheless, Ha'aretz editors refused to correct.
* On Jan. 26, 2005, Ha'aretz ran a five-column color Reuters photograph above the fold on the front page, with the incorrect caption: “A Palestinian man inspecting buildings after they were demolished by Palestinian police in Gaza yesterday, the first time the PA has acted against illegal construction.” In actuality, the PA has repeatedly acted against illegal construction, and CAMERA provided Ha'aretz with news reports from Times of London, the Washington Post, and Israel's Channel 2 substantiating earlier such action taken by the PA in 1994, 1995, and 1998, respectively.
* In a Feb. 10, 2005 Op-Ed about the current status of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ha'aretz writer Sefi Rachlevsky alleged that there had been “four years in which the Palestinians preserved nearly absolute quiet.” The exact time of the four years is not entirely clear from Rachlevsky's writing, but at no point during the 1990s was there a period in which “the Palestinians preserved nearly absolute quiet.” CAMERA provided Ha’aretz with a detailed list of the attacks which occurred throughout the decade. Ha'aretz again stonewalled.
* In a June 5, 2005 Op-Ed, Yossi Beilin claimed that in Israel from 1957 to 1967 “only 20 people were killed from hostile operations.” In fact, at least 40 Israelis were killed in hostile acts during this period.
* In a Jan. 21, 2004 exposé in Ha'aretz Magazine, Meron Rapaport erred about the Absentee Property Law, stating: “The law stipulates that the property of such an absentee would be transferred to the Custodian of Absentee Property, with no possibility of appeal or compensation” (emphasis added). This is false, as both appeal and compensation are possible, and landowners have exercised these rights and been compensated. Though Ha'aretz ran a letter from CAMERA on this issue, a letter is no substitution for an acknowledgment from the newspaper that it had erred.
In July, the Israeli weekly Makor Rishon ran an article about CAMERA's Israel office, focusing on its efforts with respect to Ha'aretz, quoting the editor:
David Landau, editor of Ha'aretz, says that his relationship to CAMERA's complaints are different than his relationship to the complaints of others. "I confirm that we relate to CAMERA as if they have a personal vendetta against us. I have experience of many years with them. We encourage readers to write to us, and we publicize every day or two days corrections of errors according to need, but everything depends on the clean hands of the writer."
Yet, it is totally untrue to suggest that in the English edition, which is the version Western journalists read, corrections run every day or two. Moreover, CAMERA is the only organization to press Ha'aretz for factual accountability in a systematic way. Thus, it is CAMERA's unique agenda to promote accountability which makes Ha'aretz's relationship with us "different."
Israeli Code of Ethics
Landau's directive to disregard complaints from CAMERA not only stands in contrast to the attitudes and procedures of the U.S. arena but also, in fact, violates the Rules of Professional Ethics of Journalism as authorized by the Israel Press Council. These state:
Substantive mistakes, omissions or inaccuracies in the publication of facts must be corrected speedily, fairly and with the appropriate emphasis relative to the original publication. In addition, in suitable cases, an apology shall also be published. In suitable cases a person injured shall be given a fair opportunity to respond to a substantive mistake, omission or inaccuracy speedily and with the appropriate emphasis relative to the original publication.
Ha'aretz seems to believe it is above any such guidelines requiring accountability.
Please let Ha'aretz know that CAMERA and the
concerned public is "not finished with them" and that readers around the
world will press the paper to adhere to journalistic standards requiring
accuracy and accountability. Urge that Ha'aretz correct the false
statement that Israel has established Jewish-only roads in the West
Bank. The prior errors should also be corrected. Be sure to keep all
comments polite and factual.Email Ha'aretz publisher Amos Schocken at
email@example.comCall David Landau at 011-972-3-5121204;
972-3-5121205. (Keep in mind that Eastern Standard Time is seven hours
behind Israel.) You may fax 011-972-3-6810012 or email
firstname.lastname@example.org Contact the Israel Press Council:
(Chairman: Mordechai Kremnitzer; secretary general: Betzalel Eyal)
Beith Sokolov, 4 Kaplan Street, Tel Aviv
Tel: (972) 3 695 1437
Fax: 972 3 69 51 145
Contact the Israel Democracy Institute to let them know about
Ha'aretz's undemocratic response for public calls for accountability.
See http://www.idi.org.il/english/contactus.asp Submit letters or
Op-Eds to your local Jewish newspaper about Ha'aretz's total disregard
for professional journalistic standards. See the directory of the
American Jewish Press Association to find the newspaper near you:
http://ajpa.org/2/direct.html . Some Jewish newspapers use Ha'aretz
material and should be made aware of their lack of regard for
accountability.Please send CAMERA a blind copy (bcc) of your letter(s):
email@example.com This alert is dedicated to the memory of David
Bar-Illan, an Israeli champion of media accuracy and accountability.
Please note that CAMERA is preparing a Hebrew version of this alert as
well and will be sending it to our Israeli members.With thanks,
Director, Israel Office
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