German State Broadcaster Uses Jerusalem News to Slam Israel

Deutsche Welle, German public news organization responsible for overseas broadcasting, exists in order to convey a positive image of Germany. The federal law governing the broadcaster insists that “programs must enable the public to form independent opinions, and must not one-sidedly support a party or other political association, a religious community, a profession or community of interest.”

It’s unclear what in the legal mandate justifies the publication of error-ridden, slanted hit pieces targeting the Jewish state. But that is precisely what Deutsche Welle took the opportunity to do in its overview entitled “Jerusalem: Three things to know.” The Dec. 7 piece begins with a small but inexplicable misstatement of fact, that “Israel captured all of Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war,” and never looks back, quoting only critics of Israel and overtly tilting toward their preferred talking points.

• As noted, the first sentence of the article incorrectly states that “Israel captured all of Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war, then annexed Arab East Jerusalem.”

In fact, Israel captured the western sector of Jerusalem in 1948, when Jordan’s Arab Legion captured the eastern sector. When Israel forced Jordanian troops back to their territory in 1967, then, it didn’t capture “all of Jerusalem,” but only the eastern portion that was occupied and annexed by Jordan. Deutsche Welle has refused to correct the misstatement.

• Under the heading “Demography and injustice” — note the partisan and subjective language already in the heading, which accepts that the various anti-Israel allegations relayed in the article should be considered injustice — the article had asserted that “Since 1967, Israel has promoted the transfer of more than 200,000 Israelis to Jewish-only settlements, or what the Israeli government calls neighborhoods, on the outskirts of East Jerusalem. The settlements are illegal under international law.”

It is flatly incorrect to claim that these areas are “Jewish-only.” Arab residents of Jerusalem and non-Jews from across Israel can and in fact do live in those neighborhoods. (To give one example, Reuters in 2014 reported that “official figures from 2013 show 7.4 percent of French Hill residents are Arabs,” and noted that the percentage may be even higher.)

The article’s use of the word “transfer” to describe the decision by Jews and Arabs to purchase or rent in those neighborhoods, moreover, is brazenly partisan, and does not belong in an objective news story. It is a term preferred by anti-Israel activists who seek to wrongly implying that those moving there do not do so of their own volition.

Finally, the assertion that Israel’s Jerusalem “settlements” violate international law not only takes sides in what the article acknowledged just a sentence earlier was a dispute over whether the Jerusalem neighborhoods should be characterized as settlements, but also amounts to a prejudicial legal judgement instead of journalism. Although many insist settlements are illegal, there are prestigious legal experts, including Julius Stone and Eugene Rostow, who have argued otherwise.

Following CAMERA’s communication with Deutsche Welle, the reference to “Jewish-only” settlements and the language about “transfer” were removed from the story. (Though, contrary to standard journalistic practice, the errors and changes were not acknowledged anywhere on the web page.)

• The article states that “more than 2,000 Jewish settlers live in the heart of Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, in some cases forcing residents from their homes.”

It neglects, however, to note that some of those “Arab neighborhoods” historically had Jewish areas, which were ethnically cleansed during the 1948 war. Indeed, the properties to which Jews have moved were either purchased recently or were owned by Jews prior to the Jordanian invasion. And in most cases Arab residents are classified as protected tenants and cannot be forced from their homes as long as they pay rent. Those who don’t pay rent to the legal owners can, of course, be evicted. The language, which suggests Jews can freely remove Arab homeowners ir renters, misleads readers.

Deutsche Welle refused to clarify.

• The story claims that “Israeli authorities have restricted zoning and building permits for Palestinians.”

In fact, building permits are “restricted” only in the sense that, for the Jewish and Arab sector alike, some are applications are accepted and some are denied. Such is the case in all municipalities. In fact, Jerusalem’s Arab community has received building permits for more square meters of residential construction than the demographically similar (in terms of population and family size) Jewish ultra-Orthodox community, and overall the proportion of requested permits granted in the Jewish and Arab sectors are similar. In 2009, for example, the percentage of fulfilled requests in east Jerusalem in 2009 was 55 percent in east Jerusalem vs. 63 percent in west Jerusalem. More permits are granted in the western part of the city, but that is because many more permits are requested in that sector.

Deutsche Welle refused to add any needed context.

• The article had claimed that Israeli authorities issue residency permits that give Palestinian Jerusalemites the right to work, live there and receive benefits, but not vote.”

This is false. Palestinian Jerusalem residents do have the right to vote in municipal elections, including for the mayor of Jerusalem.

As a result of CAMERA’s contact with editors, the passage now correctly notes that “they can vote in municipal elections but not in national elections.”

• The story states that “Israeli authorities have revoked nearly 15,000 residency permits since 1967, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, something Human Rights Watch has deemed illegal forcible transfer.'”

As is the case throughout the article, allegations by groups critical of Israel are relayed with no opportunity for counterpoint, leading to an article that is heavily skewed with one-sided allegations, and in which the voice of the accused is silenced.

In this case specifically, the lack of Israeli response means readers are left to believe residency permits are arbitrarily revoked, which is untrue. Jerusalem residents retain their status according to the law as long as their center of life remains in Jerusalem. If a resident of Jerusalem moves, for example to Ramallah in the Palestinian Authority, they can lose their residency status. Evenhanded journalism would ensure that Israel’s position is made no less clear than that of Human Rights Watch. But Deutsche Welle refused to clarify the passage.

• The piece states that “Although Palestinian Jerusalemites pay taxes, service provision is unequal compared to their Jewish counterparts.”

The flat assertion that Palestinian Jerusalemites “pay taxes” conceals the fact that the population has historically paid its taxes at a much lower rate than in the western sector of the city. Even professor Scott A. Bollens, a critic of Israel, admitted,

Israeli administrators claim that
one of the reasons behind service inadequacies is that Arabs do not pay their local taxes (called arnona). The 1994 city report states that arnona payment rates are 49.2 percent for dwellings and 43.8 percent for businesses in Arab eastern Jerusalem, compared to 78 and 74 percent, respectively, from west Jerusalem. As such, “Payments received from the east of the city cover only a small percentage of expenditures in different services to this sector.”

The professor acknowledges these non-payment numbers are correct. He nonetheless insists Israel should be faulted, which is his prerogative as a non-journalist. But a news story, one that makes a point of bringing up taxes, should do so in a way that doesn’t mislead, and should alert readers to the fact that non-payment of taxes could contribute to any unequal provision of service.

• Finally, the article states that “Nearly three-quarters of East Jerusalem’s residents live under the poverty line, compared to a poverty rate of 21 percent in Israel, according to the National Insurance Institute.”

The percentage of east Jerusalem Arabs living under the poverty line is indeed high. But so is the percentage of west Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox Jews. In both cases, cultural mores mean families have large numbers of children, and there is limited participation in the workforce. (Women in the Arab sector and seminary students in the Jewish sector often choose not to work.)

Especially in an article packed with allegations about Israeli discrimination, this is needed context for readers hoping understand the statistic about poverty. The omission of such context in order to make the case of Israeli misconduct, as with the omission of Israeli voices from an article stacked with critics, yet again gives the impression that the Deutsche Welle journalists are keen on steering readers to a particular conclusion by way of selective omissions.

In this case, it is not only bad journalism, but apparently also a breach of German law that calls on Deutsche Welle to “enable the public to form independent opinions” and not to “one-sidedly support” partisan, political, or religious groups.

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