Violent conflict inside Israel between Arabs and Jews has shaken that nation as the Israel Defense Forces simultaneously confront renewed Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza. Complex as the whole story may be for reporters needing to relay fast-breaking news on many fronts, shoddy news coverage by The Wall Street Journal on May 15, 2021 couldn’t be chalked up to time pressures alone.
Felicia Schwartz, Dov Lieber and Yaroslav Trofimov teamed up for a story on the internal Arab-Jewish tensions and managed to misrepresent key elements. Most dishonest was misleadingly quoting radical Israeli-Arab speakers – who have themselves fueled internal division and hatred with incendiary falsehoods and propaganda – while concealing from readers their interviewees’ extremist activity and slanders against Israel. Thus, Hanin Zoabi is described as “an Arab citizen and champion of the Palestinian cause.” One kind of “champion” might seek peace and coexistence with the state of Israel. But Zoabi deems Israel an illegitimate state and calls for its dissolution. She claims Hamas is not a terrorist group, welcomes Iranian development of nuclear weapons, terms Israeli leaders “fascists” , and has written a supportive Forward to a book by rabid anti-Zionist Ben White. A former Knesset member, Zoabi was censured for participating in a 2010 Gaza flotilla attempting to break the IDF blockade aimed at preventing Hamas arms acquisition.
She has also charged that Israel has 86 racist laws, that Israel expelled 84% of Palestinians in 1948, that Arabs are prevented from studying their history in Israeli schools, and more. All are false. Her many libels against Israel are the kind that would obviously feed Arab anger and resentment against Jews as well as rage on the part of Jews at being maligned.
Why did Journal reporters omit essential information about Zoabi, a harsh voice of division and rejectionism who has played a significant role in exacerbating relations between Jews and Arabs? Wasn’t that the relevant point to be made about her: that extremist, propagandistic voices such as hers opposed to normalization of human relationships between Arabs and Jews have fed intolerance and strife? Evidently not.
The reporters similarly twisted the facts in citing Hassan Jabareen, “whose Adalah legal center for Arab rights in Haifa”, they write, “was attacked by a group of Jewish rioters Wednesday night.” Jabareen is quoted saying Arabs don’t trust the police because, like settlers, they “refer to the Arabs as an enemy.”
Without doubt, there is inflammatory rhetoric from both sides. Yet nowhere in the Journal story is there mention of the chilling incitement by extremist Islamic clerics and even some Arab Knesset members against Israel and Jews.
And the Journal’s Schwartz, Lieber and Trofimov conceal that Adalah also traffics in incitement via Jabareen’s so-called “legal center”. Indeed, various of the falsehoods peddled by Zoabi are taken from Adalah. Jabareen’s supposed legal claims against Israel are a baseless list of allegations without merit, including that Israel’s flag is discriminatory, that likewise discriminatory is Israel’s requirement of citizen ID’s, and much more in the same vein. Adalah is another extremist voice and, again, the Journal concealed essential facts about an individual who himself has fed prejudice and hatred in Israel via his foreign–supported NGO.
Two other far-left activists hostile to the Jewish state are quoted in the story – Fadi Quran and Maha al-Naquib, although neither are identified as such. West Bank Palestinian Quran is termed a “community organizer” and al-Naquib is simply “a former Lod city councilor.”
Prominent moderates in the Israeli Arab community are ignored. There was no reference to Khaled Abu Toameh, perhaps the most eminent Israeli Arab journalist in Israel, nor to Yoseph Haddad, who is one of a growing number of Israeli Arabs who have enlisted in the IDF. A member of the elite Golani Brigade, he speaks extensively on issues related to Israel. Many others not aligned with radical anti-Israel views would have been relevant and added insight.
There were other deceptions as well in the story that tilted the message toward blaming Israel. A passage referencing Haifa’s past read:
In northern Israel’s main city of Haifa, long touted as a model of coexistence, self-defense groups started to form in mostly Arab neighborhoods Thursday as community leaders warned that they faced the worst danger since most of Haifa’s Palestinian residents became refugees in 1948.
As has been exhaustively documented by Professor Efraim Karsh, Haifa’s Arab population fled in 1948 despite the exhortations of the Jewish leadership to remain. Karsh relays that:
Disoriented by the desertion of their leaders and petrified by wildly exaggerated accounts of a Zionist atrocity at the village of Deir Yasin near Jerusalem (9 April), the Haifa Arabs took to the road. In the early morning hours of 22 April, as Hagana forces battled their way to the downtown market area, thousands of panic-stricken Arabs streamed into the port, still held by the British army. Within hours, many of these had fled by trains and buses…
The British district Superintendent of Police reported that ‘every effort is being made by the Jews to persuade the Arab populace to stay and carry on with their normal lives, to get their shops and businesses open and to be assured that their lives and interests will be safe’. On 28 April he reported that ‘the Jews are still making every effort to persuade the Arab populace to remain and settle back into their normal lives in the town’.
Danger then, as now, came overwhelmingly from Arab leaders who stoked fears in the Arab public with inflammatory false claims and pitted them against the Jews. Without doubt there have been Jews who attacked Arabs in the recent turmoil, as the Journal recounts, but the virtually universal condemnation by Israeli leaders of these abhorrent actions underscores the stern official repudiation of such events that has been a theme of Israeli conduct and policy since the nation’s founding.
The Wall Street Journal misses the journalistic mark in concealing essential information about Arab spokesmen who are not repudiating hatred but fomenting it.
This article was corrected on June 27 to reflect the fact that Fadi Quran is a West Bank Palestinian, not Israeli Arab.