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Journalists





On Annexation and Jerusalem Building, Shady News in The Los Angeles Times


"We believe shady news has no place in the limelight," reads The Los Angeles Times' promotional New Year's pledge to readers. "Turn to us for trusted journalism."
 
 
Despite the sunny promise, Joshua Mitnick's article yesterday about Israel obscures key information, and gives incomplete data, leading to some pretty shady results. "Israel moves aggressively to build on disputed land; Emboldened by Trump's vows, officials talk of annexing a West Bank settlement" trumpet the headline and subheadline of an article which ignores the previous day's big development that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed vote on a bill to annex the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim. 
 
The article, like the sub-headline, places some lawmakers' annexation "talk" in the limelight, all the while leaving readers completely in the dark about the action that the Prime Minister took to put a hold on such measures.
 
Mitnick notes, "Members of Netanyahu's coalition are pushing for a parliamentary bill to annex Maale Adumim. . . " and also quotes annexation supporter Ofir Akunis: "There is a giant change in the policy of the U.S., and we have to take that change into account – for our own benefit."
Yet, the day before Mitnick's story appeared, the important development that Netanyahu shelved the vote on the bill broke well in time to have been included in The Los Angeles Times story which discussed the bill in question. For instance, the Associated Press published the following at 9:06 p.m. GMT:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office says his Security Cabinet has unanimously agreed to postpone a vote on a proposal to annex a major West Bank settlement.

The pro-settler Jewish Home Party has been pushing the government to annex the Maaleh Adumim settlement, near Jerusalem. The party's leader, Naftali Bennett, believes the Trump administration will be friendly to the settlement movement, and that Israel should therefore drop the idea of creating a Palestinian state and instead annex West Bank settlements.

Netanyahu's office said his Security Cabinet, which includes Bennett, had agreed to postpone a vote on the annexation proposal until after an expected meeting between Netanyahu and Trump next month. Bennett's party had claimed that Netanyahu sought the delay, citing pressure from Trump.

The political pressure has left Netanyahu in the awkward position of the party pooper. As if to tamp down calls for immediate moves on the settlements hours before his phone conversation with Trump on Sunday, Netanyahu told Cabinet minister that discussing a joint policy with the U.S. on Iran is currently his top priority.
The Times article goes on for several more paragraphs about the Prime Minister's statement issued after a call with President Donald Trump, in which the two leaders discussed the Iran deal, the peace process, and other issues, but the article failed to mention even one word about Netanyahu's decision to postpone any vote on the annexation bill, the most significant development regarding the bill.
 
Indeed, Netanyahu's decision to hold off any vote certainly undercuts the significance of the article's grossly selective subheadline: "Emboldened by Trump's vows, officials talk of annexing a West Bank settlement." Yes, officials talk. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, supported by his entire Security Cabinet, shelves, but why trouble readers with details?
 
Misleading Coverage of Jerusalem Permits
 
The second main topic that the article addresses  – also selectively – is Jerusalem building permits issued Sunday in neighborhoods over the Green Line, or the pre-1967 armistice line. The article beings: "The city of Jerusalem, emboldened by anticipated support from the Trump administration, on Sunday authorized the construction of about 560 homes in areas of the city claimed by the Palestinians as a capital of their future state."
 
In fact, the Jerusalem municipality approved 671 homes across the Green Line (not about 560), including 566 in Jewish neighborhoods and another 105 in Arab neighborhoods. The municipality's announcement Sunday (Jan. 22) stated:
Today (Sunday), the Local Building and Planning Committee in Jerusalem approved  the construction of 671 housing units in various neighborhoods whose approval had been delayed for several weeks: 324 units in Ramot, 174 units in Ramat Shlomo, 68 units in Pisgat Ze'ev, 49 units in Beit Hanina, 14 units in Wadi Joz, 24 units in Umm Lison and Umm Tuba, 7 units Jabel Mukaber, 4 units in Beit Safafa, 3 units in Sur Baher and 4 units in A-Tur.
 
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said: "The past eight years have been difficult with pressure from the Obama administration to freeze construction. While the Jerusalem Municipality did not freeze construction, pressure from the American government meant that national approval was often not granted, and sometimes the publication of new plans was delayed. I believe that we are entering a new era, in which we will be able to continue to build and develop the city for the benefit of all residents, Jews and Arabs alike, This will enable us to the right thing - to strengthen our sovereignty, to provide housing solutions for young people, and to develop Jerusalem - Israel's indivisible capital."
Further down in the article, Mitnick again misleads, selectively mentioning just the three Jewish  neighborhoods. He writes: "The Jerusalem planning board decision dealt with building approvals for houses in the neighborhoods of Ramat Shlomo, Ramot and Pisgat Zeev, all of which are located in northern areas of the city captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War." Nowhere does the article mention any of the Arab neighborhoods which received approval for building units: Beit Hanina, Wadi Joz, Umm Lison, Umm Tuba, Jabel Mukaber, Beit Safafa, Sur Baher and A-Tur.
 
In addition, Mitnick's assertion that Ramat Shlomo, Ramot and Pisgat Zeev are "areas of the city claimed by the Palestinians as a capital of their future state" is incorrect and also ought to be corrected. As reported by The Times' own Edmund Sanders, the Palestine Papers revealed that the Palestinian leadership ceded claim to Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem over the Green Line including Ramat Shlomo, Ramot and Pisgat Zeev.
 
In response to communication to CAMERA about these concerns, editors stood by the story as "factual and fair." While Times officials talk of factual and fair coverage and "trusted journalism," the facts withheld from readers produce a far shadier picture.

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