Report on Palestinian Incitement? Ha’aretz Has More Pressing Concerns

Rather than reporting on the contents of a new paper documenting Palestinian incitement, Ha’aretz‘s Barak Ravid engages in journalistic acrobatics. He attacks the report’s authors for their ostensible political views, and is critical of Israel’s Foreign Ministry for daring to adopt the report.

Last week’s menacing headline read: “Foreign Ministry working with rightists against Palestinian incitement” (May 7, 2010). Barak Ravid dedicated several paragraphs to the fact that a Israeli Foreign Ministry briefing was “turned over to a politically right-wing nongovernmental organization” to conduct “an aggressive campaign against the Palestinian Authority over alleged incitement against Israel.”

And what exactly is this “politically right-wing nongovernmental organization”? Palestinian Media Watch, headed by Itamar Marcus. According to PMW’s Web site, the organization monitors and analyzes the Palestinian media focusing on the messages delivered by the Palestinian leadership — the Palestinian Authority and Hamas — to the Palestinian population “through the broad range of institutions and infrastructures they control.” In other words, PMW reads Palestinian newspapers and watches Palestinian television, identifies incitement, and translates the material into English and Hebrew. How, exactly, can it be identified as “right-wing”?

Marcus’ findings are indeed eye-opening and raise serious questions about the willingness or lack of willingness on the part of the Palestinian Authority to minimize hatred and create an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation with Israel. Even Ravid acknowledges:

PMW’s activities are entirely legitimate, and some of its findings could clearly be categorized as disturbing evidence of anti-Israel incitement.

What then, is the relevance of the following sentence?

Yet many of the journalists in attendance, who included many representatives of foreign media outlets, were not aware that PMW is led by a right-wing activist, and that many other activists, from Israel and abroad, are involved in it.

Now let’s assume for a minute that we are indeed talking about right-wing activists. The press conference was intended to publicize PMW’s latest report dealing with Palestinian Authority incitement, especially the glorification of terrorists who murdered or were responsible for the murders of hundreds of people. The report examines a hundred incidents in which the Palestinian Authority named places or events after 46 different terrorists. These namings involved schools, a kindergarten, a computer center, summer camps, a soccer tournament, an activity center, a sports team, a square, a street, a university club, a dance troupe, a youth movement dorm, a military unit, a television series, a team on a television gameshow, and a graduation ceremony.

The glorification of these murderers, according to the report, constitutes institutional incitement on the part of the Palestinian Authority. The report demonstrates how, in this context, the highest levels of leadership, including Salam Fayyad and Mahmoud Abbas are directly responsible for or give their blessing to this sort of activity.

The government of Israel has defined the end of Palestinian incitement as part of its basic requirements under the proximity talks with the Palestinians. The PMW report, which consists mostly of quotes from the Palestinian media, deals precisely with this topic. Even if Itamar Marcus is a “rightest,” does this have any impact whatsoever on the substance of the report or its findings? Barak Ravid could have reported on the contents of the report instead of dealing with the irrelevant subject of the political leanings of the organization’s director.

A Fund Comparison

But the story does not end there. Why does Ravid define Marcus as a “rightest”? Because his organization receives funds from the New York-based Central Fund for Israel, which also donates funds to settlements, among other things. It appears that in pointing out this information Ravid seeks to provide a counterpoint to the recent attacks on self-defined human rights organizations and their donations from dubious funds and European countries. Ha’aretz is apparently attempting to hit back specifically at the criticism of the New Israel Fund, which gives grants to leftist organizations, by drawing a comparison to the Central Fund for Israel.

But there is really no room for comparison. While the New Israel Fund decides how to divvy up the donations that it receives, the Central Fund for Israel is simply a vehicle for making donations from the United States to Israel. Whoever donates to the Central Fund for Israel does not donate to the fund itself, but is required to earmark which organization or institution he wishes to contribute to. In other words, the money flows directly from the donor to the institution or organization of his/her choice. In contrast, in the case of the New Israel Fund, the donor never really knows where his/her donation will end up.

The difference is signifant. While one fund has full discretion to decide where the donations will go, the other is not at all involved determining the money’s final destination. In this case, whoever requests to give to Palestinian Media Watch is not also potentially donating to settlements unless he specifically chooses to do so. Thus, the conclusion that this organization is right-wing due to its ties to the Central Fund for Israel is mispresentative and erroneous. Moreover, nowhere on PMW’s site is there any suggestion of a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, nothing which would indicate a political leaning. The organization focuses solely on its mission: monitoring Palestinian media and exposing incitement. Does Ha’aretz consider this monitoring a rightest activity? No one from the left is concerned about this topic?

In addition, Ravid complains about the relationship between the Foreign Ministry and the NGO. On May 6, the same report was presented to members of the American Congress in a hearing sponsored by two senior Congressmen. What’s acceptable for the Americans is not allowed for the Israeli Foreign Ministry? One would assume that the members of Congress spent more time focusing on the contents of the report than on the political leanings of Itamar Marcus.

Towards the end of the article, Ravid goes even further, ridiculing the Foreign Ministry for going after Palestinian incitement. Referring to the Foreign Ministry’s “incitement index,” he writes: “So far, the campaign against the PA has yielded only modest results.” Maybe if Mr. Ravid and Ha’aretz had actually covered the content of the report, instead of engaging in journalistic acrobatics to promote their agenda, their readers would gain an understanding of how Palestinian incitement works and to what degree it exists.Ha’aretz could have helped place the subject on the agenda instead of burying it in a pile of ridicule and cynicism.

To see this article on Presspectiva, CAMERA new Hebrew’s site, click here.

Comments are closed.