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Media Analyses





Noga Tarnopolsky's Awkward Journalism on Balfour Centennial


A Nov. 2 analysis that The Los Angeles Times defended as "explanatory journalism" explained that the British government's response to the centennial of the Balfour Declaration was one of awkwardness, all the while completely ignoring the repeated expressions of pride from the government's top figure, Prime Minister Theresa May ("A century later, the Balfour Declaration still haunts the Middle East").
 
The Nov. 4 print edition version of the column by Noga Tarnopolsky was labeled "back story,"a designation that apparently granted the special correspondent a great deal of leeway to opine on the news pages. "Back story" implies an exploration of events behind the main headlines. In this case, though, The Los Angeles Times seemed intent on concealing the main headline about the centennial celebrations: The British Prime Minister's openly expressed pride in the Balfour Declaration amid Palestinian calls on the British government to apologize for the document.
 
Already one week before the Nov. 2 Netanyahu-May meet up, Times of Israel reported ("Theresa May vows to mark Balfour centennial 'with pride'):

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday that her country would celebrate “with pride” its role in the creation of the State of Israel and upcoming 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which pledged London’s support for a Jewish homeland. . . .

“We are proud of the role that we played in the creation of the State of Israel, and we will certainly mark the centenary with pride,” May told the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Indeed, as JTA reported on the morning of Nov. 2,  many hours before Tarnopolsky's piece appeared on The Los Angeles Times site the same day ("Britain proud of role in creating Israel, Prime Minister Theresa May will say at Balfour celebration"):

Britain is “proud of our pioneering role in the creation of the State of Israel,” British Prime Minister Theresa May will say at a dinner to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.

A copy of May’s speech for the dinner on Thursday night was provided to and widely reported by the British media. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in London on Wednesday evening and will be May’s guest at the dinner.

“We are proud of our pioneering role in the creation of the State of Israel. We are proud to stand here today together with Prime Minister Netanyahu and declare our support for Israel. And we are proud of the relationship we have built with Israel,” May’s speech says. (Emphasis added.)

At no point, neither in Tarnopolsky's interpretative narrative, nor in any other item, did The Los Angeles Times report Prime Minister May's repeated remarks about pride for the Balfour Declaration. Instead, Tarnopolsky implied that the British leadership wanting to "hide" its support for the Balfour Declaration.
 
Netanyahu and May commemorate Balfour
A headline in the Guardian notes the British government's expressed pride in the Balfour Declaration. The article was posted six minutes after a Los Angeles Times piece that concealed May's comments.
 
Tarnopolsky's failure to quote May is particularly glaring in light of the fact that she quotes many others: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and British Shadow FM Emily Thornberry. (The latter three take a very critical view of the Balfour Declaration, versus May's positive outlook.) Why did Tarnopolsky quote a member of the British opposition but ignore the comments by Prime Minister Theresa May — the one person whose comments are the most relevant to the British government's attitude towards the Balfour Declaration? 
 
Editorializing from the Start
 
Beyond the selective and skewed reporting, Tarnopolsky's piece was marred by editorializing from beginning to end. For example, the article opened: "How do you celebrate the centennial of the most consequential 67 words written in the history of diplomatic messages?"
 
How does the reporter know that the Balfour Declaration constitutes the most 67 important words in diplomatic history? Has she really considered all of the relevant documents throughout the world, through all times? Of course, "consequential" is also a matter of perspective. What is consequential to some might be meaningless to others. She failed to qualify by writing, for example, "among the most consequential," or "possibly the most consequential," or even "what some consider to be the most consequential." (Unattributed, anonymous sources — "some say" —  are far from ideal, but nevertheless are a step better than what appears in Tarnopolsky's story.)

Tarnopolsky further injects her own (unfounded narrative) when she editorializes:

The Balfour Declaration represented a monumental political victory for the Zionist movement, which advocated the establishment of a modern state for the Jewish people in the ancestral land from which it had been exiled. But it was a double-edged triumph, containing within it the acknowledgment that Jews had been unable, alone, to gain recognition for their cause and required the assistance of one of the world’s great powers.

This was the source of Netanyahu’s resentful remarks.

On what basis does Tarnopolsky conclude that alleged Jewish "dependence" is the source of what she calls "Netanyahu's resentful remarks"? The remarks in question were, as Tarnopolsky reported:

“I don't forget for a second that the British backtracked from their decision,” he said, “but I am doubtful that without it we would have received international recognition of our right on the land [of Israel]. But it is clear to me that without [Jewish] defense and settlements we wouldn't have received a nation."

Netanyahu observed that there were “two sides” within the British government at the time: those who supported the Zionist cause to establish a Jewish homeland, including Winston Churchill, and anti-Zionists who grew stronger over time.

It was, in short, a testy thanks for almost nothing, Brits. [More editorializing]

Might not the source of Netanyahu's "less than graceful" comments (as Tarnopolsky deems them) regarding British backtracking have more to do with the obstacles that the British subsequently put in place towards the realization of the Jewish state, such as the White Paper severely restricting Jewish immigration and condemning untold numbers of Jews to death? 
 
Finally, Tarnopolsky's repeated editorializing about the nature of Netanyahu's comments ("resentful remarks," "testy thanks for nothing," "less than graceful comments") stands in stark contrast to her matter of fact reporting of Rami Hamdallah's comments (she casts no pejorative description or judgment on his declaration about "disgust" and allegation of "apartheid.") The remarks of Erekat and Thornberry likewise escape Tarnopolsky's negative judgment.
 
When challenged about the editorializing and omissions, the newspaper insisted the piece did not cross the line into opinion, arguing that if the creation of Israel was an important event, then it is not a stretch to call Balfour's document the "most important" diplomatic message ever. The Los Angeles Times acknowledged that it might have been appropriate to note Theresa May's support for the Balfour Declaration, but nonetheless declined to redress the egregious omission.
 
Nov. 12 Update: Tarnopolsky Lashes Out on Twitter
 
Tarnopolsky responds on Twitter, but instead of dealing with the substance, she unprofessionally launches an ad hominem attack and attempts to change the subject: "All you need to know re:trash NGO CAMERA. Constant, untruthful attacks on reporters but nary a mention of @BBCNews publishing neo Nazi conspiracies."
 

This is not the first time that Tarnopolsky responded to substantive criticism with ad hominem attacks. This past August, she tweeted (and subsequently deleted without an apology) inferring that the "sad women who run CAMERA" are somehow involved with pimping and murder.
 

 
Previously, in June 2016, in a series of tweets, Tarnopolsky slurred a CAMERA researcher on Twitter as "poor dumbo," a "sad obsessive clown," and a "cheap hack." The CAMERA staffer earned Tarnopolsky's rage after he exposed that she misquoted Israeli MK Michael Oren, falsely suggesting on Twitter that he had advised President Trump to "emphasize the Muslim name, Omar Saddiqui Mateen," who murdered 49 people in an Orlando nightclub. Meanwhile, The New York Times, the Huffington Post and The Daily Caller, all of which had relied on Tarnopolsky's misquote, subsequently corrected thanks to the efforts of the same researcher.

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