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Media Analyses





New Jersey’s Leading Newspaper Smears Israel


Star.Ledger.logo.png

 
The Newark-based Star-Ledger is New Jersey's largest circulation newspaper and, according to at least one source, ranks 21 in the United States in paid print circulation. A lengthy (two full pages) July 17, 2016 Op-Ed by Tom Moran (the editorial page editor), mainly concerning the West Bank, dominated the Sunday July 17 Perspective section. At the top of page one was a huge, inflammatory photo of a Palestinian Arab mourner who is weeping (according to the caption) at a funeral of a man killed by Israeli troops. This is just the beginning of this tendentious Op-Ed that places the onus on Israel for the conflict with the Palestinians. Moran's "In West Bank, Repression, Terror ... and Courage" is a highly-politicized travel journal in which the author misleadingly depicts the conflict as if the two sides are equally engaged in hostile acts directed against the other.
 
Moran's views here are informed by his guide/tutor during a March 2016 trip to the West Bank. Moran and his daughter, a college sophomore, were guests of Breaking the Silence (BtS), a group made up mainly of some former disgruntled Israeli soldiers. BtS's Nadav Bigelman, a former soldier (2008 - 2009), served as guide and tutor.
 
How reliable is Bigelman? How reliable is BtS? Bigelman has advertised his antagonism for West Bank Israelis in a prominent Israeli newspaper and vilified his country's defense policies in an online blog. BtS, often cited as a source by international media outlets criticizing Israel, publishes testimonies that tend to be controversial. But are they also unreliable? Gidon Shaviv, an Israel-based research analyst for CAMERA, has noted on an investigation by Israel's Channel 10's flagship news magazine that shows that BtS's claims are unreliable: “BtS's claim of nearly infallible standards took a big hit this week [in July 2016] with Channel 10's broadcast... Channel 10 reporters Anat Goren and Itay Rom found their investigative standards to be lacking... a large percentage of the group's accounts which Channel 10 reviewed proved to be either false or exaggerated.”

Furthermore, an examination of the online version of Moran's Op-Ed (screed) reveals that nearly all his background information (eight out of a total of ten Web links) comes from Wikipedia which is a notoriously unreliable source.

Sampling the screed

• Concerning Hebron, Moran writes, “Hebron … right-wing Jewish settlers … exasperated Palestinians want to throw them out… pure military domination, the powerful ruling the weak… Baruch Goldstein, the U.S.-born settler who massacred 29 Muslim worshipers in Hebron [1994] … There is plenty here on both sides to turn your stomach…Bigelman pointed to a spot nearby where an Israeli infant in her stroller was shot in the head in 2001 by a Palestinian sniper using a telescopic sight…It is sacred land to Muslims and Jews …”

Relevant historical information is lacking in the travel diary. Hebron, like all of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) was part of ancient Israel and of Mandatory Palestine (created by the League of Nations) intended to be the Jewish homeland. Moran fails to mention the 1929 Hebron massacre in which an Arab mob slaughtered 67 Jews, some of whom were tortured and mutilated before being murdered. The ethnic cleansing of the entire Jewish community followed. Today's West Bank Arabs are continuously incited to violence against Jews in Palestinian media, mosques and schools – hence the need for Israeli security measures. Moran fails to point out that while the Goldstein act was widely condemned by Israeli officials and society, Palestinian Arab officials and society generally fail to condemn murders committed by Arabs against Israelis. In fact, the perpetrators are often treated as heroes, with financial rewards going to their families and streets and town squares named after them.

The author's misleading assertion, “It [Hebron] is sacred land to Muslims and Jews, and each community has deep historic and religious roots,” is a false equivalence. In fact, while Hebron is mentioned 87 times in the Bible, it is not mentioned even once in Islam's holy book, the Koran (or Quran). Hebron is the burial place (Cave of the Patriarchs) of the Jewish patriarchs: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Leah. Judaism's four holy cities are Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberias. Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs is considered second only to Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Does Hebron rank high among Islam's holy cities? The holiest places in the Muslim world are Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. After Mecca and Medina, Najaf, Karbala and Qom are the most revered by the Shia wing of Islam (all of these are located in Islamic countries). Moran's characterization is a nod to Palestinian (and Islamist) minimization of the Jewish connection to the land of Israel.

• Moran negatively portrays West Bank Jews (“The settlers are more militant than most Israelis, many driven by religious zeal that brooks no political compromise”) and Prime Minister Netanyahu (“His determination to steadily expand the Jewish population in the West Bank snuffs out any chance for a peaceful solution to this crisis”). But he fails to mention the obstacles to peace presented by Palestinian incitement (examples here and here) to violence against Jews orchestrated by the Palestinian leadership. Meanwhile, the only Palestinians negatively portrayed are unamed individuals (e.g. "A Palestinian man … stabbed a 13-year-old Jewish girl as she slept in her bed," "Palestinian terrorist …," Palestinian gunman …"). Moran omits the fact that the Palestinian people are brainwashed by a steady stream of antisemitic, anti-Israel incitement from their media, mosques and schools in violation of Article 26 (2) of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in violation of Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Does this indoctrination affect peace efforts? According to the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) (of Ramallah, Palestinian territories), “Findings of the first quarter of 2016 … A majority in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip continues to support an armed intifada [terrorism against Israel] …”

• Moran disparages Israel by portraying the Jewish state as an occupier while omitting essential context. Indeed, variations of the word "occupation" are mentioned no less than eight times. However, the West Bank is not sovereign territory of any country. Jordan had occupied it between 1948 and 1967, in a move not recognized by the international community, and both Israel and the Palestinian Authority currently lay claim to the territory. In 1967 Israel took control as a result of its successful self-defense in the Six-Day War. In 1995, Israeli troops withdrew from the majority of Palestinian population centers in the West Bank after Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed an interim agreement on Sept. 28, 1995. So the military presence lasted 28 years. This period included the first intifada's (1987 to 1992) attacks on Israelis. But with the resumption of Palestinian violence against Israelis during the second intifada (2000 to 2005), Israeli troops in 2005 re-established a major presence in the West Bank. Israel remains the legal, obligatory military occupational authority pending conclusion of a negotiated agreement on the territories' final status. In any case, the Palestinian Authority has jurisdiction over the daily lives of almost all West Bank Arabs. Thus, it's erroneous to characterize the situation as "pure military dominion, the powerful ruling the weak."

Meanwhile, the Arab world continues to refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state (evidently 22 Arab Muslim states is fine but one Jewish state is one too many) and continues to insist on the right of return of Palestinian Arabs and their descendants to Israel which would result in engulfing the state. The result would be the replacement of Israel by a 23rd Arab Muslim state. The basic narrative underlying the Arab “right of return” to Israel is the so-called “nakba” (Arabic for "catastrophe") myth, which falsely claims that Palestinian Arabs in the wake of Israel's War of Independence in 1948 suffered a forced exodus at the hands of Israeli Jews comparable to the Holocaust suffered by European Jews at the hands of the Nazis and their sympathizers. According to authoritative sources, the overwhelming majority of Arab refugees from what became the Jewish state were not expelled by Israelis. But, ironically, at that time a much larger number of refugees, Jews who had resided in Arab countries for many generations, were forced to flee their native lands.

• Moran maligns Israel for its security barrier, claiming “The next day, we got on a bus for our trip to Hebron, passing through the famous security wall that cordons off the occupied territories. The wall is enormous, more than twice the height of the Berlin Wall, and topped with barbed wire. Its route was drawn with the arrogance of a superior military power, in many places dipping into Palestinian territory and separating Arabs from their crops and relatives.” The author grudgingly admits, “But it has dramatically reduced the number of attacks. And after our close calls, I felt unexpected sympathy for those who built it.”

There are separation barriers all over the world, yet only Israel's security barrier is cited by Israel's critics. Some examples: U.S. barriers at Mexican border, Spain's fence at Morocco, India's barrier in Kashmir, Saudi Arabia's barrier to Yemen, Turkey's barrier to Syria at Alexandretta, Cyprus' barrier separating Greeks from Turks, British-built barriers separate Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods in Belfast, among others. The purpose of Israel's barrier is to prevent Palestinian terrorists from murdering Israelis.
 
Moran misleadingly referred to the barrier as a "wall," however less than 5 percent of it can be considered as such. Originally planned to encompass approximately 12 percent of the disputed West Bank, it has been re-routed by the Israeli military in response to Israeli Supreme Court decisions in cases brought by Palestinian Arabs. It now includes less than eight percent of the West Bank on the Israeli side of the barrier. It was constructed in response to the “al-Aqsa intifada,” the 2000-2005 Palestinian terror war in which more than 1,000 Israelis – Jewish and Arabs, more than three-fourths of them non-combatants – and foreign visitors were murdered, many by Palestinian terrorists crossing unimpeded from the West Bank. The barrier's completion has contributed significantly to the roughly 95 percent decrease in lethal attacks from the area.
 
Unreliability and disservice
 
What can be said about the reliability of a newspaper's commentary regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if the writer, Tom Moran, uses both an unreliable information source and an unreliable tour group for his fact-finding trip? The writer's balancing act falls flat by condemning a group of Israelis (as well as individual Israelis) and Israeli leadership while failing to mention the Palestinian leadership's culpability for incitement and negatively portraying only certain individual (terrorist) Palestinians rather than any Palestinian group.
 
Star-Ledger readers have been ill served by the newspaper's journalistic malpractice involving both Moran's 2300-word unbalanced screed and the newspaper's subsequent failure to print any criticism of it (CAMERA submitted a guest Op-Ed on August 25 but the newspaper failed to even acknowledge receipt of it – and likewise, subsequent follow-up messages sent to the newspaper's general manager and vice-president of operations failed to elicit any response).
 

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