Israeli Journalists have a Huge Responsibility to Get it Right, No?
It does not help when Israeli journalists publishing in Israeli websites do not provide reliable information upon which readers can build an understanding of the context relevant to their articles. I am referring here to the anticipated approval of construction permits for Arabs residing in legal Arab villages within Area C that is now in the news.
Readers can likely not fully appreciate the situation because the division of land and responsibilities between Israel and the PA is not understood by many. I recently published an article (here) making sense of the confusing, seemingly irrational and untenable situation. The main point to understand is how in Area C, Israel has total control of the land, but the daily lives of the Palestinian Arabs living in the few legal villages in Area C are run by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Total control of the LAND means that Israel and not the PA are responsible for issuing building permits in Area C (and only in Area C).
Yesterday, David Israel reported in the Jewish Press that the body that can approve construction in Area C, the Civil Administration Approval Committee, postponed their session to an undetermined future time. This means that neither Jewish nor Arab permits will be considered for approval at this sensitive time (sensitive for the new coalition government, that is). In his report, two points raised my eyebrows: Firstly, he was not careful with language and, in this day of propaganda warfare, language is of utmost importance. He wrote:
The Civil Administration was established in 1981, to carry out practical bureaucratic functions within the captured territories.
The term “captured territories” is exactly what anti-Zionists would write. Need we repeat for Israeli reporters ad nauseum that these are not “captured territories” but at the very least “re-captured land” that had been under Jordanian occupation between 1948 and 1967? Of course, I would prefer for the author to use the term “liberated land” but I would not have objected too much to “re-captured”. Even that is not precise because Israel never “captured” the land. It was always ours, just that it gained international recognition as such at the San Remo conference and League of Nations establishment of the British Mandate of Palestine. But “captured territories” plays into the hands of our enemies.
Can We Trust the Writer’s Research?
Secondly, I would question the research reliability of an author who lifts a statement almost intact from somewhere else without citation. Knowing where the writer got information that is not common knowledge is important for readers to be able to assess the weight they can attach to that information.
I was unfamiliar with the village about which he wrote — Khirbet Beit Zakariyyah — so I Googled it. I noticed how what David Israel wrote about the village was exactly the same as the Wikipedia entry and I do not think Israel was the contributor who wrote the latter. Here is Israel’s statement:
Khirbet Beit Zakariyyah is a small Arab village in Area C, perched on a hill that rises about 995 metres above sea level. It is located in between the larger Israeli settlements of Alon Shevut and Rosh Tzurim in the Gush Etzion region.
And here is the Wikipedia entry:
Khirbet Beit Zakariyyah (variants: Beit Iskâria, Khirbet Zakariah, Beit Skâria) is a small Palestinian village in the West Bank, perched on a hill that rises about 995 metres (3,264 ft) above sea level. It is located in between the larger Israeli settlements of Alon Shevut and Rosh Tzurim in the Gush Etzion region.
Israel follows up that statement with:
So this could explain why the permits for Arab settlements in Area C have been postponed.
Had he read the Wikipedia article to the end, he may have actually found the explanation for “this” because the mere fact that the village lies between two Jewish towns in Gush Etzion does not explain anything. Here is what Wikipedia wrote:
On January 14, 1948, Arab forces led by Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni attempted to capture the strategic hill of Beit Zakariah, and thus to split Gush Etzion into two in preparation for its total conquest. However, Jewish forces defeated them in the Battle of 3 Shevat. The defeat had strategic implications for all of Palestine – as a result, Husseini cancelled his plans to attack Jewish communities, and focused on attacks on the roads.
This clarifies the strategic value of this Arab village and why Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked asked the Approval Committee to re-examine their plans to grant permits there as Israel noted earlier in his article. In fact, the strategic value of all Jewish towns and communities in Area C is clear from this statement (in addition to the fact that they are built on ancient Jewish land and there were Jewish communities there pre-1948).
Paying attention, we notice that, according to the quote from Wikipedia, the Arab forces “attempted to capture the strategic hill of Beit Zakariah”. There is no mention of an Arab town and the name “Beit Zakariah” is a Hebrew name. In fact, Beit Zakariah was populated by Jews in ancient times. You can find it on the map of ancient Jewish settlements, describing it as a place where Judah HaMaccabi was defeated (when searching the map in English, use the spelling Bet Zekharya. By the way, the Arab name, Khirbat Bet Zakariah means “On the ruins of” Beit Zakariyyah).
Since Wikipedia is not a source of information that is respected by those who understand how the articles are put together, I can imagine that Israel was not happy to cite that as his source. In this case, he could have better disguised the fact by actually re-wording the sentence so it was unrecognizable rather than obvious cut-and-paste.
I have not had reason to doubt David Israel’s reliability in the past and I do not think it will prevent me from reading his articles in future, but it does show that more care must be taken when writing articles: care about use of language and care not to take short-cuts. The Israeli press has an almost insurmountable challenge in fighting the propaganda against our nation and needs to be sure it is not adding more fuel to the fires of hate.
Israel is a politicized society: when it comes to voicing your opinion rather than the facts the Left allows itself infractions that it would hound the right with. Be it in the courts and the justice apparatus, police, army and the media there is a political litmus test to everything. Part of this failure lies with the Likud under Netanyahu which never effectively used it’s majority in the Knesset to introduce balance, still the blame really is that of the journalists, jurists, and bureaucrats who failed to act ethically.
Problem is that often the context is complex and by the time you have laid it out, you have used up half of your allotted space.
I think that is an excuse. When space is limited, they can use links to articles that do make context clear. Then it is the responsibility of the reader to open the links but at least the writer provided them.
David Israel Responds:
1. The use of the term “captured territories” was done in the context of the 1981 decision to establish Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. Using a more “patriotic” term would have diminished the message I was trying to deliver regarding the bureaucratic, soulless origins of the cabal that decides the fate of hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives in Judea and Samaria.
2. In my reporting for the Jewish Press I have used the term “liberated territories” countless times, especially regarding the sovereignty movement – because it belongs there.
3. Over the years I have covered “ad nauseum” the misinterpretation of the Geneva Convention article 49 in its application to the 1967 war and the passage of ownership from one internationally unrecognized occupier (Jordan) to another internationally unrecognized occupier (Israel), said territories having been effectively turned a no man’s land following the British retreat of May, 1948. Our job would have been much easier had a succession of left and right Israeli governments had the guts to annex these territories, but they haven’t. Nevertheless, Israel did not capture the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from a legitimate sovereign but rather captured unclaimed territories. Therefore, Israel did not commit any war crimes, because none of the stipulations of Geneva 49 apply in this case.
4. I was 12 when Israel captured the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (I was 2 when we captured the Sinai peninsula in 1956). I was 19 when I and my generation defended these territories and the rest of our country in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. I was with the Arik Sharon paratroopers when they captured Faid on the African side of the Suez Canal. I can assure you authoritatively, we didn’t liberate those reeds, we captured them.
5. Joshua Bin-Nun captured the land of Canaan. He didn’t liberate it. He was the greatest conqueror in Jewish history, he occupied lands on the east and the west banks of the Jordan River. Do you want to start up with Joshua?
6. Lifting passages from Wiki is something all of us do, especially those of us who need to generate 40 to 50 articles a week to nourish our loyal readers. This reporter verifies and usually keeps those lifts to two or three lines. Incidentally, those lines have initially been lifted from newspaper articles, and this reporter checks the source. But the lift in this case was a simple geographical notation. Dumping on a writer for this minor a violation is needlessly persnickety and unpropitious. One gets the impression the author wanted to score one on me. I can empathize. This woman in the parking lot outside the Ra’anana supermarket screamed at me this afternoon and said I scratched her door, so I showed her that my door couldn’t physically reach the location of her scratch, so she said I was retarded. I know, it’s so hot outside, and I’m such a clear target. Mostly because I don’t lie. and I refuse to give up whole parts of my vocabulary to appease some nouveau Zionists. I will use “captured” when it’s appropriate, “West Bank” when the context calls for it, and “liberated” when that makes sense.
7. Finally, the phrase I found most unacceptable in this attack was the final, patronizing, pishen-shemen-zeyis conclusion: “The Israeli press has an almost insurmountable challenge in fighting the propaganda against our nation and needs to be sure it is not adding more fuel to the fires of hate.” No, we don’t. We have the responsibility to report the truth. Most goyim will continue to hate us regardless of what words we’re using, because, as as the late great R’ Shimon Bar Yochai put it: “It is known that Esau hates Jacob.” Jew-hatred is part of nature, like the sun and the rain and the fragrance of the jasmine flowers in the summer nights. I don’t write for goyim and I don’t care about what goyim write about me. If anything, our media, our government, and everyone in between would do well to just stop thinking about goyim. They don’t matter.
8. Shabbat shalom, and I’d love to chat, I loved your depiction of yourself as a “Retired trauma therapist, now critiquing academic articles that lie about Israel under cover of seemingly scholarly writings.” Like anyone else in this region, I could use a trauma therapist.
Thank-you so much for your detailed response to my criticism. I agree I am sometimes very nitpicky. It is a combination of my being a Virgo and having a scientific background. For me, details is important, language is important. I agree with you about not caring what the goyim write or think about us.
I am sure my readers will find your comments helpful in sorting out what they, themselves, think and I have no problem with them disagreeing with me and seeing me as being overly nitpicky as well.
I do appreciate your respectful response as you are a writer I have frequently read and I appreciate.