After Whistleblowing on DW’s Anti-Israel Bias, Vice Must Clean House

While Vice has done an exemplary job shining light on anti-Israel content at Deutsche Welle Arabic, the independent media outlet ironically has been less successful addressing hateful content at its own Arabic platform.

As German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle was licking its wounds and taking appropriate steps in light of an antisemitism scandal embroiling its Arabic news department, Vice’s German platform revealed last December that DW’s antisemitism problem was even bigger than previously understood.

Two exposés by Felix Dachsel and Jan Karon, both of Vice’s German subsidiary, described how DW’s partnerships Jordan’s Roya TV and Lebanon’s al-Jadeed endured even as the Arab partners repeatedly railed against Israel. DW’s prompt action following the first investigative item on the Jordanian station indicates Vice successfully held DW accountable to its own standards of conduct.

When it comes to addressing anti-Israel content of its own, however, Vice has serious work to do. Vice Arabia’s contributors engage in campaigns demonizing Israel and Israelis, using Vice’s Arabic website to promote an extremely partisan presentation of historic and present events. At times, problematic content originating from the Arabic site also appears on Vice’s English platform, like this report which erases terrorism targeting Israeli civilians.

Just like their counterparts at Roya TV and al-Jadeed, Vice Arabia reporters regularly refer to Israel in general, not just to the military authorities controlling the occupied territories, as “the Israeli occupation” or “the occupation state,” and delegitimize the country by placing scare quotes around “Israel.” In addition, interviewees consistently espouse a very narrow set of anti-Israel opinions and refer to the country as “the Israeli enemy,” “the Israeli imperialism,” “the occupied Palestinian interior” (here here), as well as the all-time favorite: “the Zionist entity.” Anti-Israel pundits enjoy a pass from Vice hosts who fail to challenge them. Op-eds by Vice Arabia journalists regularly espouse the same hostile anti-Israel worldview.

Vice Arabia’s clear bias is also evident in its references to Israel’s internationally-recognized territory inside the 1949 ceasefire lines as “the occupied interior,” “the 1948 occupied territories” (here and here) or “the 48 territories.” Its reporters regularly claim that internationally-recognized Israeli territory is currently under “more than seventy years of occupation.” They also vilify Jewish communities inside  internationally-recognized Israeli territory as “settlements” and their residents as settlers.” 

Moreover, Vice Arabia mislabels Israeli localities (of Jewish, Arab or mixed heritage) inside Israel’s internationally-recognized boundaries, including the Galilee, the Negev, Haifa, Caesarea, Lod, Beit She’an and others, as “Palestinian” and falsely places them in “Palestine” (here and here) or “the Palestinian interior” (here, here, here and here). Vice Arabia also uncritically featured maps which erase Israel from existence, whitewashing Palestinian self-determination efforts which seek to replace Israel as opposed to coexist alongside it. 

In a particularly striking case, a June 7. 2021 Vice Arabia Op-Ed by Adam Haj Yahya began (“Jerusalem, Gaza, the [West] Bank and the Interior – How did all Palestinians unite to combat imperialism and displacement”):

The 1948 catastrophe [Nakba] and the making of Israel saw 750,000 Palestinian men and women displaced from their places of residence and land. With half of the Palestinians seeking refuge outside their original homeland, the other half remained in Palestine. Everybody who remained in Palestine’s 1948 boundaries [i.e. Israel inside the 1949 ceasefire lines] became Palestinians who carry Israeli citizenships; they are colloquially called “Palestinians of 48,” and are relegated by imperialism under [the term] “Arabs of Israel.” 

Until December 2021, the opening of the original version was even worse, with the first sentence reading:

The 1948 catastrophe [Nakba] saw Zionist militias expelling 750,00 Palestinian men and women from their homes, occupying historical Palestine and establishing Israel, a settlers’ imperialist colony. 

Another notable Op-Ed was Salem Elrayyes’ Nov. 29, 2020 column, “On the international day for solidarity with the Palestinians – ten moves to support the Palestinians – do not submit to the Israeli narrative,” in which he alleged Israel’s “attempts to obliterate, forge and steal the heritage and identity of the Palestinian people” and cited the purported “occupation of approximately 85 of Palestine’s land.” He continued:

In recent years, Israel has stolen Palestinian foods, calling them by its name, like Israeli Hummus or Israeli Falafel. … There is no Israeli hummus, falafel or shakshuka, since Israel did not change any of the dish’s ingredients, just added its name to it. Help informing your friends about this, inform restaurants in various world cities which attribute Hummus, Falafel etc. to Israel about their Palestinian authenticity. …Israel still holds the bodies of hundreds of Palestinian and Arab martyrs, among them detainees killed under torture and buried in secret graveyards.Palestinians were subject to an act of ethnic cleansing unparalleled in history.

Between November 2020 and November 2021, Vice Arabia journalist Elrayyes also served as editor in chief of Gazan website Masdar News, where Israel has been referred as “the Zionist enemy/entity/project/occupation” dozens of times throughout his tenure. His website also glorified Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas  al-Qassam militants, broadly designated by Western countries and the EU to be terrorists, as “martyrs.” The website likewise lionized the killers of innocent Jewish civilians during the 1920s in Mandatory Palestine as “martyred heroes.”

Notably, Elrayyes deleted the details of his Masdar News work experience from his Facebook account. A Google screenshot (at left) contains the details of his Masdar employment deleted from Facebook.

Not only does Vice Arabia’s anti-Israel animus rival that of Roya TV and al-Jadeed which Vice so rightly exposed, it also violates own Vice’s guidelines. According to Vice’s Code of Ethics, content should not contain “a lie, slander” or “prejudice and hatred towards certain ethnicity, religion, race, and community,” nor should it “encourage acts of violence.”

After so admirably calling out Deutsche Welle Arabic for its egregious anti-Israel tilt, it’s time for Vice’s own house cleaning.