CiF Watch prompts another UK media correction to ‘fired’ Arab workers claim

As we noted in a post yesterday, CiF Watch recently prompted a correction to a Dec. 1st Times of London article (Israel poised to vote on law for ‘Jewish state’) which alleged that the mayor of the Israeli city of Ashkelon barred Palestinian construction workers from city schools.  We demonstrated that Mayor Shimshoni, per multiple press reports over the last week, at first did announced his intention to prevent Arab workers from working at city kindergartens, but later rescinded his order following criticism from across the Israeli political spectrum.

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British newspaper amplifies extremist message of Israel’s Islamic Movement

Up until now, the most egregious distortion, within the UK media’s coverage of the proposed ‘Jewish nation-state’ legislation, was represented by Times of London headlines suggesting that the law, if passed, would render Arab-Israelis “second-class citizens”.  

Through communication with Times of London editors, they agreed to add quotes around the term “second-class citizens” to reflect the fact that that charge merely represents the hyperbole of a few political figures in expressing their opposition to the law. (See this good backgrounder on the proposed bill, which would not erode the individual rights of non-Jews in Israel, yet alone result in ‘transfer’.)

However, the British newspaper The Telegraph has published an even more inflammatory and misleading article on the possible ramifications of the proposed law (Meet the Arab-Israelis living in fear of expulsion, Dec. 1). The article, written by their Middle East correspondent Robert Tait, amplifies the ludicrous charge by some Arab extremists that the legislation would result in the forced expulsion of Arab-Israelis.

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CiF Watch prompts correction to Times of London claim over ‘fired’ Arab workers

A Dec. 1st Times of London article (Israel poised to vote on law for ‘Jewish state’) makes the claim that the mayor of the Israeli city of Ashkelon barred Palestinian construction workers from city schools.

Times Mayor
This is not accurate.

Mayor Shimshoni, per multiple press reports over the last few days, at first did announce that he was going to prevent Arab workers from working at city kindergartens where new bomb shelters were being installed, but then rescinded his order following criticism from across the Israeli political spectrum.

 

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Israel is the only state favoring one religious tradition…except for all the others

If the Guardian or New York Times published a long essay about some tiny, obscure indigenous tribe in Africa with a language, culture, and religious tradition unique in the region, whose history extends several thousand years and was threatened with extinction, readers would almost certainly lament their plight.  Further, it certainly seems unlikely that many readers would challenge the tribe’s vigilance in protecting its ancient traditions, or its fierce desire to prevent the erosion of their unique religious-ethnic identity. 

Though this blog has been dealing of late with the specific false charge legitimized by Times of London that the new ‘Jewish nation-state bill’ proposed by Israel’s government will render non-Jews “second class citizens”, the broader debate about Israel’s right to identify with a specific religious tradition is the subtext underlying many online debates about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

Whilst it seems beyond debate that Arab-Israelis – whether or not the current bill passes the Knesset – will continue to enjoy the kind of democratic political rights that their ethnic brethren in the region could only dream of, the debate over Israel’s Jewish ethos is often clouded by the implicit suggestion that the rest of the world has moved away from such particularistic notions of statehood.

This is not true.

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Times of London claims (as fact) Israeli bill will ‘make Arabs 2nd-class citizens’

In early August, amidst the fighting in Gaza, we demonstrated that a headline used by Times of London editors in an article by Gregg Carlstrom included a charge – that Israel “admitted” to violating a truce with Hamas – which wasn’t accurate, and (just as importantly) wasn’t even minimally supported by the subsequent text.  

Following our communication with newspaper editors, they eventually revised the headline accordingly.

Today, editors again chose a headline for an article by Carlstrom which leveled a charge not supported by the text, and which mischaracterizes a proposed bill designed to enshrine Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people”.

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Indy buries the lead on Arab Jerusalemite support for synagogue massacre

The mayor of Ashkelon is already backtracking, after rightfully coming under fire from politicians across the political spectrum, from his pledge to fire Arab workers installing bomb shelters in city kindergartens.  Mayor Itamar Shimoni, who issued the threat after Tuesday’s deadly terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, admitted his decision was “disproportionate”, and that he has agreed to allow Arab laborers to continue working at the sites.

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Cover of Israel newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth the day following the synagogue massacre

 

Though Ben Lynfield’s report on the row in The Independent, titled, ‘Synagogue attack: Israeli mayor accused of racism after suspending 30 Arab workers for ‘security’ reasons‘, was straight forward enough, there was an extraordinary sentence buried without comment in the second paragraph:

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The Guardian misrepresents Netanyahu’s comments on rioters

A Nov. 9th article by the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, Peter Beaumont, on recent Arab protests in response to the deadly police shooting of a man in the Galilee town of Kufr Kana (Violence spreads across Israel after shooting in Galilee, Nov. 11) included a clear distortion of recent comments by Israel’s prime minister.

Here are the relevant passages from Beaumont’s report:

Amid calls for protests in Israeli Arab towns and a general strike, Israeli police raised their alert to the second highest level of preparedness. The police’s internal investigations department is looking into the shooting to determine whether proper protocol was followed.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, in comments before the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, said he has ordered officials to examine whether citizenship could be removed from those participating in demonstrations.

However, as official transcripts from Netanyahu’s cabinet meeting clearly indicate, he was asking to examine whether citizenship could be removed from those specifically calling for the destruction of Israel.

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Beaumont’s text, regarding who precisely Netanyahu was referring to when he spoke of ‘revoking citizenship’, would lead readers to believe that the prime minister of Israel is seeking a draconian response to those merely participating in benign “demonstrations”  –  a significant mischaracterization of his cabinet meeting remarks. 

CiF Watch prompts Indy correction – acknowledges that Arab towns were built since ’48

On May 7th we posted about Ben Lynfield’s column (Netanyahu’s ‘Jewish state’ law angers Arab Israelis, May 2) at the Independent, which included the following claim:

For example, while hundreds of new cities, towns and localities for Jews have been established since 1948, not a single new Arab town has been created

Whilst the suggestion that hundreds of “Jewish towns” have been established is itself very misleading (as we noted in our original post), the claim that “not a single Arab town has been created” is flat-out untrue. There have been 7 new towns built for the Arab Bedouin. (Bedouins are a sub-group with Israel’s Arab minority)

Since 1948, there have…been seven towns that the government planned and constructed for Bedouin residents of the Negev

Between 1965 and 1990, Israel indeed built seven new towns, which were able to absorb half of the Negev Bedouin…

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):

State-planned [Arab-Bedouin] towns…were set up in the 1960s and 1970s: Hura, Kseifa, Laqia, Arara, Rahat, Segev Shalom and Tel-Sheva.

We contacted Indy editors to point out the error, and they ultimately agreed that the claim was inaccurate – and revised the passage in question. 

It now reads:

For example, while hundreds of new cities, towns and localities for Jews have been established since 1948, not a single new Arab town has been created (aside from the seven settlements built specifically for the Negev’s Bedouin residents, which have been the source of considerable controversy). 

We commend Indy editors for responding positively to our complaint.

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The Independent fails to fact-check claim in story about ‘Jewish State’ proposal

As our posts noting CiF Watch-prompted corrections often demonstrate, beyond the UK media’s biased coverage of the region there lies another somewhat related problem – the failure to fact-check claims used to buttress their anti-Israel narrative.

A case in point is an article at The Independent by Ben Lynfield on May 2nd titled ‘Netanyahu’s Jewish state law angers Arabs‘, reporting on the prime minister’s proposal ‘to advance a constitutional Basic Law identifying Israel as a Jewish nation-state’.  While the article itself was predictably hostile to the proposal, and quoted critics who charged that defining Israel as ‘a Jewish nation-state’ would erode the rights of non-Jews, the following passage particularly caught our eye.

The Arab citizens of Israel, who number a fifth of the population, comprise Palestinians who remained behind when their compatriots were expelled or fled when Israel was established in 1948. They have the right to vote but regularly face discrimination from authorities. For example, while hundreds of new cities, towns and localities for Jews have been established since 1948, not a single new Arab town has been created.

First, Lynfield’s claim that hundreds of towns and cities have been built “for Jews” is, at best, highly misleading, as new Israeli cities, towns and localities generally do not distinguish between Jews, Muslims, Druze, Christians or members of other faiths.

Additionally, his claim that “not a single new Arab town has been created” since 1948 is false. In fact, there have been 7 new towns built specifically for Israeli Bedouins. (Bedouins are a sub-group within Israel’s Arab minority.)

Human Rights Watch:

in 60 years [there] have been seven towns that the government planned and constructed for Bedouin residents of the Negev

Ha’aretz:

Between 1965 and 1990, Israel indeed built seven new towns, which were able to absorb half of the Negev Bedouin…

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):

State-planned [Arab-Bedouin] towns…were set up in the 1960s and 1970s: Hura, Kseifa, Laqia, Arara, Rahat, Segev Shalom and Tel-Sheva.

We don’t know what led Ben Lynfield to believe that there were no Arab towns built since 1948, and why Indy editors didn’t fact-check the passage in question, but the claim is clearly inaccurate. 

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CiF Watch prompts correction to Robert Fisk’s gross under count of Arab Israelis

Among the myriad of errors in Robert Fisk’s April 25th report in The Independent we noted in a recent post was the following extraordinary under count of Arab Israelis:

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Leaving his bizarre use of the word “deleting” aside, Fisk was so far off in is count of Arab Israelis one wonders if he was working without the use of an internet search engine while ‘fact checking’ his work.  

As we pointed out in an email to Indy editors, there are over 1.6 million Arab Israelis (not “tens of thousands“), based on statistics published by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics.  Shortly after our correspondence, the passage was corrected.

Here’s the updated text:

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Though you have to scratch your head in wonder when contemplating how an “award winning” reporter with decades of experience covering the region could get such a frequently reported element of Israeli demography so wildly wrong, we nonetheless commend Indy editors on their decision to revise Fisk’s erroneous figure.

 

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Antony Loewenstein’s latest dishonest anti-Israel smear at ‘Comment is Free’

Antony Loewenstein doesn’t believe the Jewish state should exist under any circumstances, and in his latest ‘Comment Free’ commentary he wears this badge proudly by characterizing his identity as a melange of Judaism, atheism, Germanic traditions, Anglo-Saxon-Australian beliefs and anti-Zionism.

When last we posted about the marginal Aussie commentator, we revealed that he flat-out lied when he recounted a conversation in which he evidently told Tony Abbott (before he became Prime Minister) that there were “Jews only roads” in the West Bank.  As CAMERA proved definitively quite a few years ago, such roads do not exist.

In his current CiF contribution, the misinformation he advances to Guardian readers is a bit more subtle, but easy nonetheless to refute for anyone who understands Israeli-Jewish demography, or is at least willing to open the link he provides to “prove” his argument.

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Here’s the passage in question:

According to new Israeli government released figures, Jews are now outnumbered by Arabs under Israeli sovereignty by over 50,000 people. That’s segregation by definition. Israel learns nothing from history except how to brutalise the marginalised.

This bizarre claim that the current demography proves  Israel is practicing “segregation” is clarified by opening the link he provides, an article at The Forward by J.J. Goldberg, which provides these population figures.

Palestinian Arabs, West Bank: 2,676,740

Palestinian Arabs, Gaza Strip: 1,763,387

(Total Palestinians, Israeli military-administered territories: 4,440,127)

Israeli Arabs (citizens): 1,666,800

Total Arabs under Israeli sovereign administration: 6,106,927

Israeli Jews: 6,056,100

In case it didn’t already jump out at you, Loewenstein, per Goldberg, is including in his Arab-Jewish demographic snapshot, not only Palestinians in the West Bank, but Gaza (where Israel completed a withdrawal in 2005) as well.  However, even for those believing the specious claim that Gaza is still “occupied”, there’s another group of Arabs Loewenstein includes: Arab Israelis!

Loewenstein fails to acknowledge that a segment of the Arab figure he cites as under Israeli sovereignty are in fact under the state’s sovereignty because of course they are full citizens.  

Even those who advance the hyperbolic claim that the territorial dispute between Israel and Palestinians represents racial ‘segregation’ don’t include Arab citizens of Israel in this smear because the segregation charge (dishonest under any circumstances) could only conceivably be leveled if the subjected group is denied voting rights and other civil rights.  As this is clearly not the case with Arab Israelis, Lowenstein’s argument completely falls apart.

Loewenstein’s polemical slight of hand isn’t as egregious as his outright lie about “Jews-only roads”, but it does again demonstrate that anti-Zionist ideologues will continue to find a platform to spread their smears at ‘Comment is Free’.   

Guardian rock ‘n roll fantasy: Paper blurs identity of Palestinians and Arab Israelis

What’s the first thing you think of when you see this headline?

headline

A great human interest story on rock ‘n roll artists modelling “peace and understanding” between two peoples who have historically been in conflict, right?

Indeed, here are the opening passages from the story:

They are united by facial hair, frayed jeans and a love of heavy metal – plus a belief that music is above politics, religion and conflict. Now the Israeli band Orphaned Land is joining forces with the Palestinian group Khalas to take a message of coexistence through rock’n’roll across Europe.

An 18-gig tour will see the bands perform in six countries, including Britain, this autumn. The musicians will share both a stage and a tour bus for three weeks, proving in practice that their “metal brotherhood” overrides differences of religion and national identity.

At a concert to launch their European tour in Tel Aviv last week, Orphaned Land’s lead singer, Kobi Farhi, and Khalas’s lead guitarist, Abed Hathut, explained their mission.

“We can’t change the world, but we can give an example of how coexistence is possible,” said Farhi. “Sharing a stage and sharing a bus is stronger than a thousand words. We’ll show how two people from different backgrounds who live in a conflict zone can perform together.”

“We are metal brothers before everything,” said Hathut. But, he added, “there is no bigger message for peace than through this tour”.

Coexistence ventures may be new in the world of heavy metal, but precedent was set in the high-brow realm of classical music more than two decades ago, when Jewish conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian intellectual Edward Said co-founded an orchestra of young Israeli, Palestinian and Arab musicians.

So, it indeed still seems that Israeli and Palestinian bands are touring together to champion peace and reconciliation, doesn’t it? 

Except that, by the seventh passage, we learn something which changes the context a bit. Pay especially attention to the text I’ve place in bold.

The members of Khalas, which is the supporting act on the tour, and Orphaned Land have “become soulmates” since meeting at a radio station and realising they have more in common than divided them, said Farhi. Last week’s gig was their second performance together. But joint ventures between Jewish and Arab artists in Israel have in the past met with boycott calls from Palestinian activists, who argue that coexistence projects sanitise discrimination against Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens…

Further passages in the story finally confirm what the above text implies – that the band, Khalas, is made up of Arab citizens of Israel (from Acre) not, as the title and most of the text suggests, Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories who don’t have Israeli citizenship. Whilst some activists do use the term “Palestinian citizens of Israel’ instead of ‘Arab Israelis’ to refer to Israelis who are ethnically and linguistically Arab (but full citizens of the state), the average reader looking at the headline and accompanying text wouldn’t likely understand this distinction.

Moreover, as anyone who lives in Israel, or has spent any serious time here, would surely know, Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel mix, mingle and interact in nearly every area of daily public and private life, and whilst the notion of Arab and Jewish (Israeli) bands going on tour together certainly is a nice symbol, it’s hardly groundbreaking.

Surely, Harriet Sherwood has been in the country long enough to realize this.

h/t Matt