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Media Analyses





CAMERA Letter in Detroit Free Press Exposes Unsubstantiated Accusations by "Jewish Voice for Peace"


On June 23, 2008 the Detroit Free Press published the following letter from CAMERA:
 
History does not support claims of massacres by Israelis
 
 On May 22, the Free Press published an op-ed column, "No time to celebrate as Palestinians still suffer," by Barbara Harvey and David Finkel of the Jewish Voice for Peace. The essay falsely accused Israeli-armed forces of committing massacres.
 
By publishing the spurious column, the Free Press provided a platform to a group that spreads misinformation and publicly defames the soldiers who served in the falsely accused units.
 
The authors cited an alleged Israeli massacre of 200 Arabs on May 22, 1948, in the village of Tantura by the 33rd Battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade. This allegation came from a graduate thesis by Theodore Katz, a student at the University of Haifa. After his allegations were publicized, surviving members of the battalion sued Katz for libel. His own notes and recorded interviews were used as evidence to refute his claims. He apologized and published advertisements disavowing the massacre claim.
 
The authors cited another alleged massacre in the village of Dawayameh. Their account seems to be directly copied from a book by revisionist historian Ilan Pappe, who bases his account on a "UN report from 14 June 1949." He gives no citation and, having found the report, it is evident why. It's not a "UN report" at all, but a report submitted to the United Nations by something called the Arab Refugee Congress of Ramallah, and based entirely on the account of an Arab official from the town. Israeli historian Benny Morris discusses the allegation and denials that any massacre took place in "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem" and notes that a UN investigation found "no evidence of a massacre."
 
The authors also cite the "infamous massacre at Deir Yassin," while keeping from readers the fact that what occurred in Deir Yassin is disputed. Some Arab residents of the village have claimed there was no massacre.
 
The authors also accuse Israel of deliberately starving Gazans. Numerous UN and NGO reports keep tallies of supplies sent into Gaza to sustain the population. Gazans suffer hardship, but starvation is not occurring.
 
CAMERA recognizes that newspapers present a range of opinions and that the editorial page is a venue for provocative opinions. But there should be no place for publishing unsubstantiated accusations. While the Free Press did publish several letters rebutting the broader issue of Israeli responsibility for the Palestinian refugee problem, the false allegations in the original editorial have not been addressed and the factual errors remain uncorrected.
 
Steven Stotsky, Senior research analyst CAMERA -- the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America

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