Ha’aretz’s Gideon Levy Exports Misinformation, Bad Journalism

CAMERA does not usually respond to inaccurate reports in the Israeli press. However, a July 18 report by Ha’aretz opinion writer Gideon Levy (“If it were the reverse”), reprinted July 30 in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles (“If the Situation Were Reversed”), merited a response due to its multiple errors, in addition to its reprint in an American newspaper.

There were numerous errors in the column, both substantive and incidental. The following is a list of the former.

1) Levy claims that Golda Meir “said that after what the Nazis did to us, we can do whatever we want.” No such quote was found on Lexis-Nexis or the Internet. When CAMERA requested a source from Levy, he acknowledged in an Aug. 12 email that he had none. He said, “therefore we dropped the quotation in the original version in Hebrew and by mistake it was printed in the English version.”

2) Arguing that Israelis are utterly indifferent to Palestinian suffering, he cites the killing of Ibrahim Halfalla, an elderly Palestinian in Gaza, and claims that Yediot Achronot “didn’t bother to run the story at all.” In fact, Yediot deplored the killing in a hard-hitting editorial July 14, which stated:

The army acted according to regulations and in line with these regulations an elderly paralyzed Palestinian lost his life in his house. This is not the first time that civilians have died under the ruins of their homes. . . .We will defeat terrorism. Perhaps so, but we will lose something much bigger than this. Something inside us has been extinguished. We are losing the battle for our face. . .

This sort of searching self-criticism, which is common in Israeli society and virtually absent in Palestinian culture, completely undermines Levy’s greater point.

3) Levy claims that “our Education Ministry announces that it will not permit Arabs to attend Jewish schools in Haifa. . .” In private communication with CAMERA, Bracha Brill, spokeswomen for the Ministry of Education for the Haifa District, said that this is nonsense. First of all, the decision of whether particular students can attend particular schools is the responsibility of the Municipality, not the Education Ministry. In addition, Brill provided the following background information: Haifa’s Arab population is 60 percent Christian. The majority of Arab students in Haifa go to private schools run by churches, which are high-level competitive schools. Only 30 percent of Haifa’s Arab students attend the state schools. There are four state-run Arabic schools in Haifa, ranging from elementary to high school. In contrast, the Hebrew public schools are much more numerous, so enrollment in those schools is based on location.

In the six months preceding August, parents of students at the Arabic public schools have lobbied for many improvements in their children’s program. During the course of their campaign, some parents said they wanted to send their children to the local (Hebrew) schools. Six parents came to the Municipality and submitted requests for improvements at the Arabic public schools, which included things like English classes at a younger age, a longer school day for elementary age kids, etc. After a process of negotiations, the Municipality agreed to the improvements and everyone concerned was satisfied. Apparently, once the improvements were agreed upon, the parents who previously wanted to send their kids to the Hebrew public schools preferred to keep their kids in the Arabic public schools.

Finally, as aforementioned, it is the Municipality which determines who attends what school. However, decisions may be appealed to the Education Ministry. Brill, the Education Ministry spokeswoman, said the head of the Ministry had said that if the Municipality wanted to allow scores of Arabs to attend the Hebrew public schools, the Ministry would uphold the decision. The Ministry would overturn the decision ONLY IF the ENTIRE population of Arab students chose to join the Hebrew public schools because such a mass change would require new infrastructure. But, the point was moot, since the Arab parents achieved the improvements they sought and did not pursue transferring their kids to the Hebrew public schools.

Despite numerous emails and phone calls to Peter Hirshberg, editor of Ha’aretz‘s English Web site, Ha’aretz has not corrected Levy’s outright errors and distortions. As for Rob Eshman, editor of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, he had repeatedly promised to address the errors but failed to do so.