In the Wake of Latest Gaza War, Rolling Stone Piles on with Anti-Israel Spin

Rolling Stone, the partially Saudi-owned music magazine that has just announced a new business venture in China, has published no less than six articles and features that were factually inaccurate and/or one-sided and biased against Israel since the start of Operation Guardian of the Walls.

CAMERA previously wrote about the magazine’s highly misleading news article, “A Group of Senate Democrats Calls for Immediate Ceasefire in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” (May 17, 2021), which was followed up with an even more slanted photo slide feature titled, “Life and Death in Gaza, In Photos” (May 19, 2021). After CAMERA’s contact with an editor there, no revisions were made to either piece. Instead, the publication doubled down with two more news articles, an opinion piece, and a bizarre article about Israeli social media influencers. 

On May 27, Rolling Stone reporter Daniel Kreps published “Rage Against the Machine, Serj Tankian, Roger Waters Sign Letter Asking Artists to Boycott Israel.” Despite Rolling Stone’s claim that it, “has actually been in the hard news/investigative reporting business since its inception,” this article is not journalism at all – it’s just regurgitated propaganda.

The article quotes extensively from the titular letter, including repeating the false charges of apartheid and war crimes, and names some of the more prominent signers. It then goes on to quote an Instagram post from the band Rage Against the Machine, which repeated false claims about Sheikh Jarrah and the Temple Mount (also known as Al Aqsa mosque) without fact-checking them.

Kreps does not seem to have reached out to any number of people or organizations in the music and entertainment industry who could have provided a balancing perspective, such as Creative Community for Peace, Liberate Art Inc., or the Black-Jewish Entertainment Alliance.

Nor did the article mention Roger Waters’s virulent antisemitism. The ADL has documented many of Waters’s statements, including, the group wrote in 2020, “in a recent interview with Palestinian news agency Shehab, Waters employed a range of antisemitic tropes, claiming that the U.S. is being controlled by Jewish Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, whom he describes as a ‘puppet master’ who is ‘filling the coffers and pulling all the strings’ on U.S. policy regarding Israel/Palestine.”

Including a countervailing point of view, and information about Waters’s well-documented antisemitism, would have been the bare minimum for Kreps to have done. A truly thorough report would also have included the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by 30 countries as well as the vast majority of the organized American Jewish community. The definition includes “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination,” which encompasses the movement to boycott Israel.

The IHRA definition also includes holding Israel to a double standard – something the musicians’ letter does when it accuses Israel of war crimes even though its record of safeguarding civilians in wartime is as good as or better than any other country. In the past, the UN has estimated that worldwide, in conflicts, three civilians are killed for each combatant. According to a UN agency, at least half (the true number is likely higher) of Gaza casualties were combatants.

ABC news recently reported that over two decades of war in Afghanistan, reports of civilian casualties ranged from 35,000 to 43,000. Yet, none of these musicians advocates boycotting the U.S.   

But Kreps doesn’t seem interested in any of that. All he’s done is summarize a tendentious and uninformed letter about a complicated geopolitical situation written by people whose expertise is in music. Is that what Rolling Stone thinks is “hard news” or “investigative reporting”?

On the same day, Rolling Stone devoted 1300 words to disparaging the social media pages of both individual Israeli women and the IDF. (“Why Are Israeli Defense Forces Soldiers Posting Thirst Traps on TikTok?” May 27, 2021.) Writer EJ Dickson tells us that “[Natalia] Fadeev has a long history of using her platform to spread what is essentially nationalist propaganda.” Dickson compares Fadeev’s appearance to that of Gigi Hadid. As Israeli journalist Lahav Harkov has pointed out, Hadid has more followers on social media than there are people in all of Israel. But Dickson seems to have no problem with Hadid’s promoting anti-Israel propaganda on her social media accounts. It’s only Israeli women, apparently, that post bikini selfies for nefarious purposes.

Towards the end of her article, Dickson quotes Duke professor Rebecca Stein, noting that anti-Israel social media activity dwarfs pro-Israel social media activity. But neither the professor nor the Rolling Stone writer seem able to connect this with the 1.09 billion people in the world who, according to the ADL, harbor antisemitic attitudes. (Duke university, of course, has had its own issues with antisemitism.)

Nor does Dickson seem genuinely interested in the question of why individual Israelis might use their personal accounts to support their country. Might they feel that media outlets such as Rolling Stone are not portraying them fairly?

A May 21 piece by Marisa Kabas falsely portrayed Israel as the aggressor (in fact, the fighting began when Hamas launched rockets at Jerusalem on May 10), falsely claimed that “Israeli police invaded Al-Aqsa Mosque,” and falsely described that site only as “a Muslim holy site in East Jerusalem,” (in fact the mosque sits atop the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount, and police were responding to a riot emanating from inside the mosque), falsely claimed “at least 60 children killed by airstrikes in Gaza this week,” (many were killed by misfired Hamas rockets, and the description omits the fact that Hamas uses civilians as human shields). Most despicably, Kabas employs the technique of Holocaust inversion – implying that Israel is now perpetrating a new Holocaust on the Palestinians. The IHRA definition of antisemitism includes, “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” This is exactly what Kabas does when she claims that “growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust and the intergenerational trauma of descending from survivors of genocide, I can’t help but see my family in their faces….”

Kabas writes, “sharing even the most benign opinions online is terrifying.” She should tell that to Israelis who spent half of the month of May running to bomb shelters. (Or, for that matter, to the IDF reservists whose Tik Tok accounts were lambasted by her fellow Rolling Stone author.)

Her piece is titled, “Young American Jews Have Reached a Tipping Point With Israel.” Of course, as CAMERA’s campus group can attest, most young Jews still support Israel. But to the extent that many are turning away from the Jewish state, it’s in large part due to misinformation that is being purveyed in so much of the media, now including Rolling Stone.  

On May 20, the magazine published an article by Peter Wade on the far-left members of the House of Representatives who, along with Senator Bernie Sanders, have proposed legislation limiting arms sales to Israel. (“Bernie Sanders, AOC Introduce Resolutions to Halt U.S. Arms Sale to Israel,” May 20, 2021.) The article quotes Senator Sanders, along with Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib, but does not appear to have even sought comment from any members of Congress, Democrat or Republican, who oppose the bill.

Moreover, Wade wrote, “According to Reuters, since hostilities began on May 10, 232 Palestinians – including 65 children and 39 women – have been killed and more than 1,900 have been wounded. The Israeli military says 12 people have been killed by rocket attacks from Gaza.” In fact, on the first two days of fighting, according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, eight of the children that died were killed by Hamas’s own rocketfire. Even DCI-Palestine, an anti-Israel NGO with ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, confirmed that two of these deaths were caused by Palestinian rockets and not Israeli fire. There were adult civilian casualties among those killed by Hamas’s own rockets as well.

Rolling Stone is the publication that was once widely criticized for glorifying Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. More recently, the Guardian reported that the publication is offering ‘thought leaders’ the chance to write for its website if they are willing to pay $2,000 to ‘shape the future of culture.’” In light of the publication’s insistence on promoting factually inaccurate accounts of events and one-sided spin, it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that it is now promoting talking points in support of Hamas, a genocidal terror group that uses Palestinian civilian deaths to further its propaganda war against Israel.