June 28, 2008—Apparently unaccustomed to the public’s right to challenge powerful media outlets and their coverage of events, Spanish commentator Maruja Torres leveled a frontal assault on CAMERA in an article called “Damned Palestinians” (Malditos Palestinos) in a May 1st column in Madrid’s El País newspaper. She blasted CAMERA
whose lists of vigilance regarding the media and journalists, hanging from its web pages, make your hair stand on end (they even have Oprah and Marie Claire on their black list) and intoxicate you with glory
Clearly Ms. Torres considers the readers of Oprah and Marie Claire unworthy of accurate journalism just as she does the readers of El Pais to whom she serves big doses of inaccurate reporting on the Middle East in the same article. Referring, for instance, to the deaths by explosives of a mother and her four children in the Gaza strip on April 28th, Ms. Torres accuses Israel of the calamity, without informing her readers that Gazan terrorists carrying explosives were the targets of an Israeli pre-emptive attack, and that their subsequent explosion and proximity to the civilians caused the unfortunate event.
Why give full context for the tragic scenarios of civilian casualties in a time of war when you can easily point a finger at Israel and look righteous? Using sarcasm throughout the article, Ms. Torres illuminates no truth, gives no accurate information, and produces no thoughtful analysis. Including a reference to “Jehova” (the God of the Jews?) at the beginning and end of the piece appears to her and El Pais to be a colorful literary element, when in fact it makes the piece accusatory not only of Israel but of the Jews in general. This is simply bad taste and, more generally, inappropriate.
CAMERA sent a letter in Spanish to the Director of El Pais noting that a response from CAMERA would be important, since the organization had been attacked by name in their pages. Additional phone calls and a re-sending of the letter produced no results: El Pais did not respond to CAMERA and did not publish the letter in its Readers’ Letters section.
Following is a full translation of the article that appeared in El Pais, followed by a translation of the letter from CAMERA to the Director of El Pais as well as the letter from CAMERA sent to El Pais for publication in the Readers’ Letters section.
El Pais Article:
El Pais-Ultima 5-1-08
Every day we receive signs that Jehovah protects the State of Israel, which, happily on its 60th Birthday, can organize all the pyrotechnic games that its corkscrews would allow. We already had many indications of the blessings that nation attracts. And I am not alluding only to the dumb soup that drops on them from the United States in the form of donations and military aid and blind following; nor to the attempts to erase from Google the Palestinian catastrophe — Nakhba — of which on these days also the 60th anniversary is commemorated, given that on it the State of Israel was built. I am not talking either about the Committee for Accuracy on Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), whose lists of vigilance of the media and the journalists, hanging from its web pages, make your hair stand on end (they even have Oprah and Marie Claire in their black list) and intoxicate you with glory.
I am referring to how Israel has survived, untouched, the last Palestinian villainy. Two short days ago, some botched up children, together with their mother, conceived of the sin of having breakfast in their refuge in the north of Gaza, precisely when some of the projectiles of the Jewish State went by there, fumigating terrorists. Four of the tiny ones and the mom flew to paradise a bit earlier than planned: there is something good in every bad thing. Tiny eyes for an eye, we could say. Tiny mouths in mid-teething for a tooth.
We know well the media’s game. It looked as if the press was going to start unleashing it on Israel again and on its super-dimensional Gaza fence. But an event of higher transcendence erased the Palestinian family from the news, that is, from memory: the story of the father (our: Western) that raped and locked his daughter for more than two decades. That has a lot more to contribute, information-wise.
Jehovah, how great you are.
To the Director of El Pais:
The organization CAMERA was mentioned in an article by Maruja Torres on May 1st.
Given that our organization was cited in a prominent article, with insinuations of an unfounded defamatory nature, we are writing to request that a response from CAMERA to this article be published. We consider that your readers deserve to hear CAMERA’ s answer to the characterizations in this article and form an unbiased opinion with respect to the value of our organization in the world of journalism. It is really a pity that the prestigious El Pais keeps a journalist who offers only confusion and prejudice to her readers and in so doing harms the profession and its ethical mission. We would appreciate your publishing our response to the article “Damned Palestinians” by Maruja Torres. At the same time, we would appreciate your response to this letter.
CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America)
To the Director of El Pais and to the chief of the section “Readers ’ Letters”:
In the article entitled “Damned Palestin ians” of May 1st, Maruja Torres attacks the organization CAMERA of the United States for creating “lists of vigilance of the media and of journalists” on subjects of Israel and the Middle East. CAMERA, in reality, scrutinizes journalism with the goal that the information that reaches readers be accurate. Given that in our times, political decisions are affected deeply by the media, inaccurate or ambiguous information contributes to creating prejudice and to promoting political actions that often have grave repercussions. You need only to visit CAMERA’s website to realize that CAMERA’s work is based on analysis and argument based on documented information.
Typical of CAMERA’s work is to respond to articles just like this one of Maruja Torres, and not because she mentions us using a variety of unintelligible pejoratives. The author cites the incident of April 28th in the Gaza Strip in which, unfortunately, a mother and her four children were killed and she blames Israel. In reality, the investigation by the Israeli army, published with videos on the Internet, shows that the deaths in this family occurred as a result of the secondary explosion of the explosives carried by the terrorists targeted by the Israeli army. Shouldn’t the journalist reveal this information while at the same time adjudicate some part of the blame for the death of innocent civilians to Hamas’ policy of acting in their midst with the intention of dragging them to the fire front? Maruja Torres shows total disdain for offering documented information or for illuminating the complexity of the situation. Despite the impression Torres tries to create that Israel survives thanks to a random list of factors (is it American help, CAMERA, the media, or pure divine miracle?), for 60 years and more, the people of Israel have displayed an inexhaustible energy to survive in a national home, given that the alternative is well known. And the suffering in this battle for survival continues for the Israeli population as well as for the Palestinians. So, damned Israelis too!
UPDATED: August 27, 2008
El Pais has finally in its August 4th issue published a shortened version of CAMERA’s letter previously sent to the paper refuting Maruja Torres’s attack on the organization. The letter was extracted from CAMERA’s Web site and sent by Professor Joel Farber.
El Pais’s wide readership will benefit from reading a more balanced account of the situation in the Middle East — even though much time has passed since the publication of Torres’s article.