CAMERA’s letters in the February 2008 issue of Playboy address falsehoods and distortions in Jonathan Tasini’s one-sided, anti-Israel October 2007 Forum column. In an editor’s note appended to the letters, Playboy noted that CAMERA readers critiqued Tasini’s article with a “deluge” of complaints. The letters follow:
ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL
Tasini’s article attacking Israel is obviously one-sided. But perhaps less obvious are the inaccuracies and distortions on which his arguments rely. First, the author exaggerates the number of Palestinians held in administrative detention by 20 percent as compared with the most recent statistics published by the Israeli organization B’Tselem. He then leads readers to believe that B’Tselem claims all of these detainees are tortured by Israeli authorities, but B’Tselem makes no such assertion. And of course he gives no indication that administrative detention is legal under international law or that Israel relies on this procedure to protect its citizens from terrorism. Most outrageous, he slurs Israel—a vibrant democracy and the only country in the region in which Arabs and Jews not only vote but hold political office—as behaving like South Africa. In response to such a comparison, Benjamin Pogrund, a South African journalist who played a key role in the antiapartheid movement, has emphatically stated that applying the apartheid label to Israel “is at best ignorant and naive and at worst cynical and manipulative.”
Although I was one of Tasini’s most ardent defenders and supporters while he served as president of the National Writers Union, I must take issue with his assertion that criticism of Israeli policies is stifled in the U.S. I agree with him when he writes that “the Holocaust should not be used as a moral shield to suppress honest criticism of Israel.” But Israel is routinely criticized in American media, and sadly, much of this criticism is not fair, accurate or honest. For example, in his piece Tasini asserts that during its war with Hezbollah, Israel turned Lebanon into “rubble,” while in fact, most of the country—and most of Beirut—was left untouched by Israeli bombers. Is Tasini an anti-Semite for exaggerating like this? No. He’s just wrong.
Dexter van Zile
Ini and Van Zile work for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. That organization’s website, camera.org, denounced Tasini, leading to a deluge of complaints sent to our offices.