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Media Analyses





Time Strikes (Israel) Again


Time Magazine and its Jerusalem Bureau Chief, Karl Vick, are making a habit of defaming Israel. The latest piece (January 11 on the Time Web site) is entitled "Israel’s Lurch to the Right Scares Some Conservatives." It offers a jaundiced and factually-challenged take on recent issues and events involving Israeli citizenship questions, loyalty oaths, investigation of foreign-funded NGO’s, the death of a Palestinian woman and other matters. Vick parrots far-left attacks on Israel, ignores warranted security concerns, disregards the normalcy of fractious debate in a democracy, reduces complex issues to caricature and indicts the entire public, alleging:

Self-righteous indignation is a staple position for an Israeli public whose default assumption is that Israel is always the injured party.

Vick’s disparagement of the "Israeli public" is indicative of his coverage – heavy on snide editorializing, light on fact. (Contrary to the reporter, of course, Israelis are sharply self-critical and often sympathetic to the plight of their civilian adversaries.) This is the same reporter who depicted Israelis generally as materialistic hedonists indifferent to peace in Time’s notorious September 13 edition, considered anti-Semitic by many with its Star of David emblazoned with the headline: "Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace." In December, the reporter blamed Israelis for the hostility directed against them.

Knesset action on NGO’s
The latest piece takes aim at the complex issue of NGO's. Israel faces singularly difficult external and internal challenges, contending with enemies who vow the nation's destruction and refuse any agreement that allows for peaceful coexistence with the Jewish state. Biased NGO’s, such as Breaking the Silence, Gisha and B’Tselem overwhelmingly disregard this reality, demanding of Israel a level of conduct no other nation does or could meet. The NGO's fuel the campaign of delegitimization against the nation through false charges amplified in the media and spread internationally. Many such groups contributed erroneous, distorted testimony to the Goldstone Report which charged Israel with deliberately targeting civilians. As Israelis have increasingly come to grasp the negative effects of the NGO’s, calls to investigate the groups’ funding and operations have increased, prompting a recent vote in the Knesset to investigate the groups.

Whether the newly proposed investigations by the Knesset are optimally designed to get to the root of the funding question is a fair question. But like all the difficult questions facing Israel in the realm of self-preservation, Karl Vick distorts and ridicules Israel’s actions. He writes:

Just last week, the coalition prompted cries of McCarthyism when it moved to crack down on Israeli human-rights organizations deemed suspicious by a government that increasingly equates dissent with disloyalty.

Taking a page from neighboring authoritarian states, Netanyahu encouraged support for the law, appointing a panel to investigate independent organizations that are critical of government actions. These include Breaking the Silence, a group of former Israeli soldiers that has published a book of testimonies detailing human-rights abuses, which the former soldiers say they witnessed while serving in the West Bank; the rights group B'Tselem, which documents abuses by settlers and security forces in the West Bank; Gisha, which monitors the plight of Palestinians caught between Hamas and Israeli collective punishment in the Gaza Strip; and Physicians for Human Rights Israel, which recently reported in gruesome detail the plight of African economic immigrants, who are commonly referred to "infiltrators." [sic]

As in much of his reporting, Vick injects sweeping indictment of Israel instead of presenting all relevant facts. Yes, there have been "cries of McCarthyism" from critics of the Knesset proposal and there have also been defenders of the hearings. But Vick offers no sense of the contending arguments.

He blandly calls far-left NGO’s whose methods have been exposed as blatantly partisan and flawed "independent organizations that are critical of government actions." Such language is journalistically unethical, disguising the aims and extreme political hue of the groups listed. For instance, Breaking the Silence assails the IDF with anonymous accusations. As CAMERA has written :

While their Web Site proclaims that they "demand accountability regarding Israel's military actions in the Occupied territories perpetrated by us and in our name," they steadfastly refuse to report the alleged incidents to the proper authorities, and hide behind a cloak of anonymity, withholding their own identities, the identities of other individuals involved, and the specifics that would enable authorities to corroborate their testimonies — this, despite the army's injunction to report any violation of regulations that results in harm to noncombatants.

Likewise B’Tselem’s partisanship and shoddy methods have been exposed by CAMERA, among others. The group’s bias is demonstrated in its listing, for example, Abdul Salaam Sadek Hassouneh who murdered six Israelis at a Bat Mitzvah in 2002 and maimed 35 under the category of "Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli security forces." The same applies to the other groups cited. Gisha, a supposedly objective group, has signed ads labeling Israel apartheid. Israel’s Physicians for Human Rights was criticized by Dr. Yoram Blachar, president of the World Medical Association, as "a radical political group disguised as a medical organization."
 
Loyalty oaths for Israeli citizens
Vick offers snide, incomplete information on a proposed loyalty oath for Israeli citizens aimed at addressing increased radicalism in the Israeli Arab community where leaders such as Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamist Northern Branch incite fellow Arabs against Israel. Salah and another Israeli Arab leader, for example, participated in the Turkish-led Gaza flotilla campaign against Israel in May 2010.
 
When America faced what it viewed as existential threats in WWII, it incarcerated innocent Japanese-Americans as well as figures such as German-American Bund leader Fritz Kuhn who was held in an internment camp in Texas during the war, then deported afterwards. Yet Vick derides Israel, the size of New Jersey and facing continuous threat from surrounding states, for seeking to counter potential threats inside its borders. 
 
Efraim Inbar recently wrote about the public's concern:

Lieberman’s promotion of a loyalty oath is in sync with majority opinion. Israeli Arab leaders have become increasingly vocal in their support for Palestinian irredentism – and Jews want to see them checked.

Protester death in Bilin
The death of 36-year-old Jawaher Abu Rahma on December 31, 2010 under uncertain circumstances was also occasion for Vick to mock Israel and, in particular, the IDF. He wrote:

Last week, after a Palestinian woman died after inhaling tear gas that was fired by Israeli troops, army spokesmen mounted a whisper campaign suggesting that she had died of natural causes. The unlikely, anonymous explanation was played prominently by Israeli newspapers. Those who said otherwise stood accused of trying to delegitimize the Israel Defense Forces.

The absurd reference to a "whisper campaign" is more of Vick’s tabloid style editorializing. In reality, facts of the episode were confusing as a number of press reports underscored. CAMERA noted:
While there is not enough information to draw any definitive conclusions about how Abu Rahma died, the following oddities stand out. First, there is not one single wire story or article from Palestinian sources dated Dec. 31, the day of the protest, about any injured in Bilin. Moreover, there is not a single photograph of Abu Rahma at the demonstration, either before she was injured or after, when she was being loaded into a Red Crescent ambulance. (Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak told the Jerusalem Post that he saw her taken by ambulance to the hospital.) This, despite the presence of numerous professional photographers at the Bilin protest on Dec. 31, as evidenced by the many photographs of soldiers and protesters available from the AP and Reuters photo services. Given that photographers always aim for the most dramatic shots, and are not known to shy away from photographing Palestinians injured by Israelis, it’s hard to understand how they missed Abu Rahma being overcome by tear gas or being loaded into an ambulance.

Vick ignores the history of bogus Palestinian claims alleging harsh IDF action, chief among them the Muhammad al Durah blood libel spawned by France 2 Television in September 2000. Though the alleged killing was later proven to be a physical impossibility as the line of fire was blocked between Israeli positions and the location of the victim, the false story spread around the globe. Among the indications of fraud was undeniable visual evidence that Palestinians were staging violent protests, false injuries and fake evacuations during the same afternoon at the same place.

Leaning to the far-Left
Vick echoes in his litany of denunciation the views of far-Left Israelis, many enraged at the election of Prime Minister Netanyahu and, particularly, at the appointment of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The Time reporter quotes Oslo architect Ron Pundak:
Ron Pundak, a historian who runs the Peres Center for Peace, sees the current atmosphere of Israeli politics as the ugliest in the nation's history. "It's totally abnormal," he says. "From my point of view, this is reminiscent of the dark ages of different places in the world in the 1930s. Maybe not Germany, but Italy, maybe Argentina later. I fear we are reaching a slippery slope, if we are not already there."
The Time reporter does not, of course, note that most Israelis reject the extreme views of Pundak. They see a different "slippery slope" — one of negligent government oversight of biased NGO's and indulgence of virulent anti-Israel rhetoric spewed by some in the Israeli Arab community, among other urgent issues — and they expect closer official monitoring and action.
 
Vick’s commentary is the fare of fringe publications where facts are immaterial and ideology paramount and is unfit for a responsible mainstream magazine — even one long past its prime. Readers should let Managing Editor Richard Stengel know that pushing the limits of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish journalism will cost him in readers and reputation.
 
 

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