CAMERA’s evidently gotten under Haaretz’s skin in a big way.
A September 5 front-page story by the Israeli newspaper blasted CAMERA, saying, in effect, the organization’s criticism is driven by financial motives and political bias (“Times of Israel Cofounder Gave $1.5 million to Right-wing Media Watchdog That Routinely Goes After News Outlets”). CAMERA’s rebuttal appeared on September 20 (with a headline the paper chose): “CAMERA Response to Haaretz: We’re Not a Right-Wing Media Watchdog.”
In the original piece, reporter Uri Blau offered a conspiratorial picture suggesting ill-treatment of Haaretz. He reported that: 1) CAMERA has received support from allegedly right-leaning philanthropists who also support publications that compete with Haaretz, specifically Times of Israel and Israel Hayom; 2) CAMERA has heavily criticized Haaretz and hasn’t faulted the other publications nearly as much; 3) according to unnamed foreign journalists “who spoke on condition of anonymity”, CAMERA has no interest in accuracy and simply promotes a “right-wing agenda”; 4) CAMERA staff members have written for the TOI blog; 5) Haaretz is one of “the few critical voices of right-wing policy inside Israel.”
Needless to say, what had to be omitted from such a story line pointing to unfair, unwarranted criticism of Haaretz were certain essentials. First and foremost are the facts of CAMERA’s criticism. None of the false reports cited in the scores of articles on the CAMERA Web site could be cited because nothing would undermine Haaretz’s claims of ill-treatment more than a list of the incendiary factual errors printed and spread globally by the paper. Instead, the political labeling and name-calling that dominates so much Haaretz coverage and editorial stance was the theme. (Indicative of the illogical premise of its claims – one of the supposedly right-leaning supporters of CAMERA is a significant supporter of Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. That would suggest, according to the thrust of the Haaretz argument about the underpinnings of CAMERA’s work, that the organization must have a left-leaning, pro-Democrat Party bias.)
A little background to the paper’s fury at the organization is in order.
As far back as fifteen years ago long before the appearance of Times of Israel and Israel Hayom, CAMERA began posting criticism of Haaretz on its website, noting the relish with which Israel’s critics in the American and European media as well as in cultural, academic and governmental circles cited various of its reporters and their sometimes outrageous, erroneous claims.
Thus, CAMERA objected to Amira Hass’s false assertion that Israel maintains racist roads “for Jews only” and proof of this is Route 443, “the Modi’in-Givat Ze’ev road.” CAMERA rebutted the charge and included photos of some of the many Arabs who travel routinely on the road. The claim of “apartheid roads” has become part of the assault on Israel and Haaretz has fueled this.
CAMERA objected to columnist Gideon Levy’s similarly inflammatory false story alleging Palestinian children in the West Bank had but one pitiful swimming pool in which to find relief from the heat of summer. CAMERA rebutted the charges and posted photos of some of the many pools that exist in every major West Bank town. Levy continuously promotes this kind of false charge and animus in speaking tours around the world during which he urges, among other things, boycotts of Israel. At every turn, he reiterates his message that Israel should be forced to comply with international edicts because it will not on its own do what he and many of its critics demand.
Haaretz, it should be remembered, is the same publication whose former editor, the late David Landau, urged Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to “rape Israel” to force a settlement on the Jewish state.
With the founding of CAMERA’s Presspectiva – a Hebrew-language, Israel-based department of the organization – monitoring of the Hebrew media became increasingly systematic and focused. In turn, the frequency of commentary posted about Haaretz coverage increased. Again, concern about the unique impact of errors and distortions originating in Israel spreading globally with the supposed imprimatur of a valid source spurred attention to alerting the Israeli public to the importance of holding local media accountable to journalistic codes of ethics.
Haaretz’s English language website – where translations from the Hebrew stories appear and are read internationally – also increasingly caught CAMERA’s eye because of the frequent discrepancy between an original Hebrew report that was straightforward and an altered English version that overwhelmingly tilted against Israel. “Lost in translation” became a project chronicling these distortions.
It could be the July 14, full-page spread in Israel’s influential Globes newspaper (The Wall Street Journal of Israel) that finally prompted the Haaretz broadside against CAMERA. Globes took the controversy to yet another influential Israeli audience, recounting the issues and citing comment from leading journalist Ben-Dror Yemini. Yemini especially deplored the impact of Haaretz distortions on American college campuses where he’d encountered anti-Israel students who cite the newspaper as the source for their propaganda.
Haaretz’s response to the tide of frustration among Israelis about reckless, false reports has so far been to lash out at CAMERA, the messenger and critic. Eventually, it is to be hoped, professionalism will prevail and focus will turn simply to telling the facts straight – in Hebrew and English!