Israel Putting on its Pants

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its pants.
Mark Twain

This story has been out—and rebutted—for more than two weeks, but so what? If it slanders, it panders, and the media has to go with it.

The beginning:

Ha’aretz, has upped its anti-Israel advocacy, engaging in a campaign to promote the apartheid canard about Israel.

Gideon Levy wrote an article bearing the sinister headline, “Survey: Most Israeli Jews support apartheid regime in Israel.” The online versions in English and Hebrew were subsequently changed slightly. And the print edition’s English headline was “Survey: Most Israeli Jews advocate discrimination against Arabs.”

Levy’s article claimed that according to a recent survey the majority of Israelis not only support apartheid, but also hold racist views towards Israeli Arabs and believe that apartheid already exists today in Israel. Predictably, the story spread like wildfire and was quoted in major media outlets such as London’s The Guardian and The Independent, Toronto’s Globe and Mail, Agence-France Presse, and dozens of other sites, blogs and forums.

Unsurprisingly, Levy’s article was full of omissions and distortions. He apparently ignored the data that did not suit him and emphasized those that were in accord with his own well-known anti-Israel world view. At times, he completely reversed the survey’s findings. The sensational headline represents, at best, Levy’s interpretation of the survey and does not represent objective, factual reporting.

One example:

Levy’s striking misrepresentations included the following:

A sweeping 74 percent majority is in favor of separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. A quarter – 24 percent – believe separate roads are “a good situation” and 50 percent believe they are “a necessary situation.”

Levy conveniently omitted the original question and answers from the survey. They were:

17. In the territories, there are some roads where travel is permitted only to Israelis and others where travel is permitted only to Palestinians. Which of the following opinions are closest to your own: A. It is a good situation. B. It is not a good situation, but what can you do? C. It is not a good situation and it needs to be stopped.

24% – it is a good situation.

50% – it is not a good situation, but there is nothing that can be done.

17% – it is not a good situation and it needs to be stopped

If the answers are divided according to those who see it as “good” and those who see it as “not good,” then 67% see it as a bad situation. But Levy did not bother to inform reader that the 50% of those who saw separate roads as “necessary” saw it as an undesirable situation.

Ha’aretz is a left-wing Israeli newspaper. I stopped reading it years ago (online, in English) when I realized that it was left-wing before it was Israeli. Politics trumped all other identity, and too often the truth.

But that’s not the end of this story. A “clarification” followed:

Five days after the publication of a distorted headline which was picked up by numerous international media outlets, Ha’aretz today published a clarification. In the last several days, numerous critics, including CAMERA, have weighed in about Ha’aretz’s coverage of the Dialog poll, including the false headlines.

The English print edition does not contain a clarification or correction.

[A]s CAMERA had earlier demonstrated, Levy’s distortions were not limited to the headline (which, after all, he himself did not write), but permeated throughout his entire article, and included claims that were diametrically opposed to the survey’s findings. Levy and Ha’aretz have yet to take responsibility for those distortions.

A small correction buried on page five about a highly visible front-page headline does not do justice to the problem. Levy’s articles about the poll continue to inflict damage on Israel’s international image. The clarification, though important, does not begin to put out the fire. It’s reasonable to assume that most of those who celebrated the initial erroneous reports have no clue that a clarification was printed.

Chastened and harassed, Gideon Levy “apologized”:

The article itself, which I wrote, did not contain any mistakes. It provided a precise and detailed description of the survey results.

Anyone wishing to pursue this point to its absurd conclusion can follow the links above and below. But it’s the rippling effect through the ether that interests me.

A former Ha’aretz editor speaks out:

Ha’aretz is a newspaper whose ideological positions, as articulated in the editorials, are for the most part clear and unwavering. The paper’s minimal, terse and evasive clarification regarding the portrayal of the apartheid poll with the front-page headline (Oct. 23, 2012) was striking. The wording of the page-one headline “did not accurately reflect the findings of the Dialog poll,” the clarification stated, but that wording accurately reflected those who were responsible for the failure. It’s not the wording that is responsible, but rather those who wrote it. The newspaper’s evasion of responsibility for the journalistic calamity has only fanned the flames, rather than extinguish them.

More than a few journalists these days are considering running for the Knesset. It is a pity that Gideon Levy, a man who rejoices in every challenge, is not among them. He could be a fabulous parliamentarian, in terms of his enthusiasm and commitment to his cause. It’s easy to imagine him pontificating on the Knesset podium, lashing out against the plethora of phenomena threatening Israeli society. As someone who is “horrified” by the expected crash of the journalistic establishment, I imagine MK Gideon Levy criss-crossing the country and battling, with polls and without, with the rotten fruits of the occupation — an entirely worthy effort. Unfortunately, though, with his column, Levy has relinquished his journalist credentials.

Perhaps. But what does he care? The story is out:

That didn’t stop a number of mainstream journalists from sharing the article’s headline and other fabricated findings with many thousands of Twitter users.

To his nearly 78,000 followers on the social network, Andy Carvin, a “senior strategist at NPR,” sent a link to the Gideon Levy piece along with a version of the inaccurate headline:

@acarvin
Survey: Most Israeli Jews would support apartheid regime in Israel haaretz.com/news/national/…
23 Oct 12 ReplyRetweetFavorite

CNN’s Ben Wedeman, who has nearly 83,000 Twitter followers, did the same:

@bencnn
Haaretz: “Survey: Most Israeli Jews would support apartheid regime in #Israel” bit.ly/X6t5YY
23 Oct 12 ReplyRetweetFavorite

Another CNN reporter on Twitter went even further. Ivan Watson, who describes himself as a CNN correspondent based in Istanbul, told his 28,000 followers:

Ivan Watson@IvanCNN
Majority of Israelis surveyed support apartheid haaretz.com/news/national/… 74% like separate roads for Israelis/Palestinians in occupied West Bank
25 Oct 12 ReplyRetweetFavorite

In less than 140 characters, the CNN reporter in Turkey shared not one, but two flagrant lies. Regarding West Bank roads, the survey found the exact opposite of what Watson claimed.

And again, as Noam Shelef of the liberal New Israel Fund pointed out, “claiming the poll demonstrates support for ‘apartheid’ is spin at its worst.” But with the help of Twitter, those lies traveled halfway around the world.

The next day, a Twitter user — the author of this article — brought to Carvin and Wedeman’s attention a detailed rebuttal of the Haaretz article, which left no doubt that the statement they helped spread was patently false. The same Twitter user also suggested they had an ethical obligation to inform their readers of the rebuttal:

@bencnn Ben, I hope you agree you have an ethical obligation to share this piece that disproves your tweet: storify.com/avimayer/haare… @avimayer

@acarvin I hope you’ll agree you have an ethical obligation to share this rebuttal that disproves tweet. storify.com/avimayer/haare… @avimayer

Nearly a week after they were first contacted, CAMERA sent a follow-up email to Carvin and Wedeman, asking for on-the-record comment.

Carvin quickly responded that he was in the middle of a hurricane and would look into the issue later. But when he was first notified of the inaccuracy, the storm was still far off in the Caribbean.

Wedeman responded that “retweets do not amount to an endorsement.”

Ivan Watson seemed to have even fewer qualms about misinforming his readers. He was told via Twitter on November 1 that both of his statements were patently false. As of this writing, he has not informed his Twitter followers that he was wrong, has not linked to a critique of the article, and has not indicated in any way that Haaretz and Levy corrected their article.

A long post, to be sure, but one instructive of the slander Israel faces daily in the left-wing and mainstream media (is there a difference?).

The multicultural nature of Israel is fair game, vital even to the understanding of the country and the region. As we frequently point out (in our Apartheid State Updates and elsewhere), Israel is patchwork quilt of nationalities, skin colors, religions—and is often first to lend a hand to other nations when disaster strikes (see Haiti and, most recently, Mali).

The friction between the Jewish majority and Arab minority is also relevant. If it is reported fairly. Even the 24% of Israelis who believe that separate roads are a good thing have valid reasons for believing so, if you take into account the frequent stonings and other ambushes that it seems only we report.

What is inexcusable, appalling, are the libels and slanders—usually perpetrated by the left—and the unquestioning dissemination of them by the mainstream and so-called new media.

Lying was never this easy.

2 Comments »

  1. Jeanette said,

    November 10, 2012 @ 1:04 pm

    “—and is often first to lend a hand to other nations when disaster strikes (see Haiti and, most recently, Mali).”

    … and now Ghana! Following the disastrous collapse of a four-story shopping mall in Accra on Wednesday morning (November 7), on Wednesday afternoon Israel dispatched an emergency team consisting of disaster management experts, medical personnel with trauma expertise, engineers with rescue experience and communication experts. With them they took emergency medical supplies, as well as rescue and monitoring equipment.
    A Magen David Adom contingent flew to Ghana on Thursday to set up a field hospital.

  2. Bloodthirsty Liberal said,

    November 10, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

    Holey Moley, Jeanette, I think I meant Ghana! I posted a piece about their rescue squad the other day. So why was I thinking about Mali? (Unless all Africans are alike to me?)

    BTL

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment