Novak’s Follow Up Column on Palestinian Christians as Flawed as the Original

Apparently syndicated columnist Robert Novak was stung by CAMERA’s point-by-point rebuttal of his February 16 column “Christian Victims of Israel’s Wall,” (Washington Post). But instead of correcting his mistakes, Novak added more bluster and blunders when he returned to the subject, this time offering an eye-witness rehash, in “Caught by Israel’s Wall” (Washington Post, April 17). Citing primarily sources who support his false premise—that Israeli policy is to drive Christian Arabs out of the Holy Land and steal their water in the process—Novak might just as well have stayed home. He added little to his February 16 effort except new errors.

Novak acknowledged but did not rebut CAMERA’s earlier criticism, writing that “defenders of Israeli policy claimed my facts were wrong Feb. 16 when I wrote that the wall threatens Israel’s tiny Christian minority and particularly Aboud’s Christian roots, which go back two millennia.”

CAMERA is not “defending Israeli policy.” It is holding Novak to basic journalistic standards of accuracy, fairness, comprehensiveness, and truthfulness as advocated by the Society for Professional Journalists Code of Ethics—standards which Novak fell far short of meeting.

Errors in April 17 Column Include:

1) Repeating his February 16 allegation that “the wall threatens Israel’s tiny Christian minority and particularly Aboud’s Christian roots, which go back two millennia.” Aboud is in the West Bank, not Israel; its Christians are Palestinian Arabs, not Israeli Arabs. Israel’s Christian Arab population has grown from 34,000 at the country’s founding in 1948 to nearly 130,000 (two percent of Israel’s population) today. That’s a 282% increase in Israel’s Christian population. Meanwhile, the Christian population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, about 20 percent of the total population after World War II, is now less than 1.7 percent (under 50,000). The decline has accelerated sharply since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1993. (See “Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society.”)

2) Lamenting that he could find only one “Catholic layman or prelate who complained of anti-Christian bias of Muslims.” Novak doesn’t seem to consider the possibility that Christians are afraid to complain about the Muslim intimidation and abuse. London’s Daily Telegraph (Sept. 9, 2005) reported, under the headline ” ‘Islamic mafia’ accused of persecuting Holy Land Christians,” that “Christians in the Holy Land have handed a dossier detailing [hundreds] of incidents of violence and intimidation by Muslim extremists to Church leaders in Jerusalem.” A leader of Greek Orthodox Christians told this writer last August that “Bethlehem was 80 percent Christian” before the PA took over in 1993, but now “it’s 20 percent Christian. The Christians are leaving, and the Muslims are moving in. But then, Christians have been leaving the area since about 1900” (“Friday in Jerusalem, Hospitality and Denial,” by Eric Rozenman, AMIT Magazine, Winter, 2006).

3) Claiming that the Gaza Strip is “one of the world’s most densely populated places.” At roughly 9,000 people per square mile, population density in the Gaza Strip is comparable to that of Washington, D.C., a jurisdiction rarely if ever cited as “one of the world’s most densely populated.” San Francisco, New York City, London and Monaco, not to mention Cairo and Manilla, are all much more densely populated;

4) Alleging that the security barrier is “cutting to pieces the promised Palestinian state.” The barrier as planned and being constructed encompasses no more than eight percent of the West Bank. Remaining territorial contiguity is as great or greater than that of pre-1967 Israel, which Novak has not described as “cut to pieces.” And a state was not promised; although Palestinian Arabs have repeatedly been offered an opportunity to build one, their leaders have consistantly rejected these offers;

5) Referring to “deadly daily artillery barrages” by Israel in response to rockets “ineffectively fired” by “undisciplined Palestinian militants.”

There have been no “deadly daily artillery barrages” by Israel. In response to nearly daily Palestinian rocket fire, Israeli strikes—mostly targeted helicopter or aircraft missiles, not artillery fire—have killed more than a dozen terrorists. Israeli artillery barrages have been aimed at open launch areas used by terrorists to suppress further rocket firings. There have been fewer than a handful of Palestinian non-combatant deaths. Meanwhile, one terrorist rocket narrowly missed the crowded dining hall at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai just two days before Novak’s column appeared. Since 2000, such rockets have killed a number of Israeli civilians and wounded many more;

6) Referring repeatedly and exclusively to Israel’s West Bank security barrier as a “wall” when 95 percent of the counter-terrorist line is made up of fences, ditches, electronic sensors or combinations of them, and numerous gates allow peaceful cross-barrier transit.

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