Examining an alleged quote by Golda Meir about the Holocaust cited by Gideon Levy

(CAMERA senior research analyst Gidon Shaviv assisted in this post)

We recently posted about an Irish Times article by Lara Marlow which highlighted Haaretz’s Gideon Levy (“Holocaust makes Israelis think international law doesn’t apply,” Sept. 11th) in which Levy recycled a previously discredited quote by former prime minister Golda Meir.

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Gideon Levy recycles a likely fabricated Golda Meir quote for the Irish Times

As CAMERA has previously documented, in 2004 Gideon Levy claimed in a Ha’aretz column that “Golda Meir said that after what the Nazis did to us, we can do whatever we want,” but was later forced to admit that he had no source for the quote. In an email to CAMERA, he acknowledged: “Therefore we dropped the quotation in the original version in Hebrew and by mistake it was printed in the English version.”

He’s at it again.

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Giles Fraser finds one righteous Jew – and his name is Gideon Levy

One of the most edifying political experiences I had before making Aliyah occurred in 2007 when I observed an anti-Israel event outside Philadelphia, in which an anti-Zionist Jew named Marc Ellis was asked by an anti-Zionist non-Jew, at the Q&A after the event, how many ‘righteous Jews’, like him, there actually were in the world.  

Ellis’s answer: “Sadly, not very many“.

Indeed, many within the Guardian Left often insist upon the virtue of ‘left-wing’, ‘peace activist’, ‘human rights-advocating’ Israelis, in contrast to the living, breathing obstacles-to-peace represented by the ‘right-wing’, ‘settler’, ‘ultra-Zionist‘, ‘war-hungry’, ‘anti-Arab’ variety Israeli – a paradigm that’s been compromised of late by the near universal Israeli support for their country’s war against an extremist movement which calls for the mass murder of Jews known as Hamas.

Israeli writer Amos Oz, a founder of “Peace Now,” explained recently why he supports the war, by stating quite simply: “The only way to repel aggression is unfortunately by force”.

This clearly presented a dilemma for the Guardian’s Giles Fraser, in his Aug. 7 op-ed, “Against the war: the movement that dare not speak its name in Israel“. 

The Guardian’s Giles Fraser

So, what to do?  

Find a ‘brave’ Israeli peace activist.

Gideon Levy

Gideon Levy

Fraser’s protagonist is Ha’aretz’s prolific anti-Zionist, Gideon Levy, whose infamous record of baseless claims includes falsifying a poll to suggest Israeli support for apartheid (for which he was forced to apologize) and parroting the ‘Zionism = Racism’ canard in declaring that “a Jewish state means a racist, nationalistic state, meant for Jews only.”

Much like an interview with Levy in 2010 at the Independent (by the radical anti-Israel journalist Johann Hari)Fraser presents the Ha’aretz columnist as a courageous voice who strives to expose Israel’s immutable sin.

Fraser writes:

In his column in Haaretz, [Levy] has long since banged the drum for greater Israeli empathy towards the suffering of the Palestinians. He is a well-known commentator on the left, and one of the few prepared to stick his head above the parapet

Levy’s unpardonable crime is vocal opposition to the war and to the bombing of Gaza. According to recent polls, support for the military operation in Gaza among the Jewish Israeli public stands somewhere between 87% (Channel 10 News) and 95% (Israel Democracy Institute). Even those who are secretly against the war are cautious about voicing their opinion openly.

Of course, the suggestion that Israelis who oppose the war are “cautious about voicing their opinion openly” would be news to the thousands who have turned out for anti-war protests in Tel Aviv over the past several weeks.

 Fraser then seeks an alternative explanation for the overwhelming Israeli support for their country’s war with Hamas.

Most newspapers and TV channels are simply cheerleaders for the government line, offering a constant diet of fear and fallen heroes, with little evidence of any of the atrocities going on in Gaza. The problem is, ordinary Israelis have little idea what has been going on. I know so much more about what is happening in Gaza when I’m sitting in London than I do in Tel Aviv. Under this level of information manipulation, how can ordinary Israelis be expected to be critical?

Fraser’s hubris is extraordinary. Not only does he fail to empathize with the citizens of a nation sharing a border with an Islamist extremist group which seeks their annihilation, but actually seems to think that Israelis don’t share his views because they don’t live in London, and therefore evidently aren’t privy to what’s ‘really’ happening in Gaza.

Fraser continues: 

Later I go for a drink at a friend’s flat in Tel Aviv with a group of broadly leftwing activists in their late 20s and early 30s, NGO types that I was expecting would share my exasperation. And I make a mistake, assuming too much common ground. I ask whether their fear of rockets is properly calibrated to reality, given that people are so much more likely to die in a car accident in Israel than at the hands of Hamas. And there is an awkward reaction. The question was insensitive. 

‘Insensitive’, indeed.  In addition to the psychological terror which countless Israelis – including young children – suffer from the thousands of rocket attacks since Hamas’s rise to power in 2006, over the past fifteen years alone more than 1,200 Israelis have been killed by Palestinian terror attacks. An additional 8,500 or so were maimed and wounded.

Finally, after expressing his dismay at the failure of even peace activists to condemn their country, Fraser’s protagonist again speaks:

Levy had warned me earlier. “The young people are the worst. More ignorant. More brainwashed. They have never met a Palestinian in their lives.”

However, the suggestion that young Israelis are uninformed because they have never met Palestinians is absurd. There are (to cite just one example) more than 370,000 Palestinian residents of Israel in east Jerusalem alone – permanent residents of the state who Jewish Israelis meet in cafes, shops, places of work, hospitals and every conceivable public and private venue. 

Indeed, if you want to throw around words like “brainwashed” and “ignorant”, we could certainly point to fact that the Guardian’s resident Anglican Priest came to the Jewish state in search of righteous Israeli Jews and, save Gideon Levy, found ‘sadly not very many‘.  

Guardian fails to take home top prize at 2012 Dishonest Reporting Awards

It just wasn’t their year.

Oh, how they tried to repeat the performance which earned them the 2011 HonestReporting Dishonest Reporting Award‘, but it simply wasn’t to be.

Though the Guardian failed to take home the top prize this year, they did receive less high-profile awards for their denial of reality itself (Biggest Train Wreck Over Principle: The Guardian, and UK Press Complaints Commission) by telling readers that Tel Aviv was Israel’s capital, as well one for most antisemitic cartoon (Most Anti-Semitic-Themed Cartoon: Steve Bell, The Guardian) for a depiction of feckless, slavish British leaders being controlled like a puppet by Israel’s Prime Minister.

While this year’s winner, Haaretz’s Gideon Levy, indeed deserves credit for a very compelling polemical performance in attempting to convince readers that Israelis support apartheid, the Guardian’s body of deceit for the year was, at least in the eyes of this blogger,  impressive nonetheless.

The Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, interviewed after being informed by HonestReporting’s judges that their media group lost the coveted award, said the following:

“Though it’s rare for a media institution to take home two Dishonest Reporting prizes in a row, we really thought our overall anti-Israel bias was the most effective in a very crowded anti-Zionist field, and should have won.  In addition to elevating Tel Aviv to the status of Israel’s capital, and publishing a cartoon indistinguishable from what’s found in the most Judeophobic Arab media, I’m also quite proud of the work done by Chris McGreal, whose characterization of the US relationship with Israel as ‘slave-like’ earned him a coveted spot in CST’s 2011 Report on Antisemitic Discourse. 

And, naturally, we thought that the buzz over Deborah Orr’s pejorative reference to Jews as ‘The Chosen People’ would also get the judges attention. 

Overall we had a great year of obsessively dishonest reporting about Jews and Israel and, while we congratulate Gideon Levy for his simply sublime smear of the Jewish state, we respectfully believe that the award academy overlooked our overall body of work. After all, we literally wrote the book on how to avoid reporting fairly about Israel and making antisemitism respectable among the liberal elite.”

academy

Rusbridger and Levy react to Dishonest Reporting Award announcement

Indy report on ‘apartheid’ poll illustrated with photo showing Palestinian kids seemingly behind bars

On June 27, Honest Reporting revealed The Independents use of the following photo to illustrate a particularly critical story on the Israeli treatment of Palestinian child detainees.

HR noted that the photo above represented an example that featured in their Shattered Lens study on photo bias, in this case “the use of bars to portray Palestinians as “prisoners” of Israeli occupation and brutality.”

HR wrote:

“[The photo from 2010 was] one example of how wire agency photographers resort to using camera angles and staging techniques to present a distorted picture of a given situation. In the example above, it is clear that the photographer used this technique to project an image of Gazan children imprisoned. However, the sequence of photos taken from the same scene at the time illustrates how the effect was achieved.”


“What we see above is a tiny group of Palestinian children arriving at what appears to be a pre-planned photo-op outside the Gaza industrial area presumably organized by Hamas. The photographer either willingly colludes with Hamas or is used.Next, the children have been positioned behind a gate to give the effect of a prison.”

“However, using a great deal of skill to get the right position with the right lens from the right angle, the photographer manages to create an impression of many more than the several children in the actual shot.”

This photo fraud came to mind when reading a more recent Indy report, ‘The new Israeli apartheid: poll reveals widespread Jewish support for policy of discrimination against Arab minority‘, by Catrina Stewart regarding the poll about alleged Israeli ‘apartheid’ written by Gideon Levy at Haaretz.  

Stewart’s story on the widely discredited story by Levy – which elicited a retraction from Haaretz – was not the most egregious example of misleading coverage of the poll, though it did, nonetheless, convey the false impression that Israelis support ‘apartheid-like’ policies against Arabs.  The Indy report also severely downplayed results which demonstrated that a large majority of Israelis don’t, in fact, support denying the vote to Palestinians.

However, the photo they used to illustrate the story indicates that the Indy learned nothing from their previous use of misleading imagery.

 

(The photo has no caption.)

Palestinian children are seemingly behind bars yet again, superbly illustrating the Indy’s desired narrative of oppressed Arabs.

However, upon doing a bit of research, it turns out that the photo was taken in Gaza, and the children are looking at the body of a Palestinian terrorist (killed after IDF forces retaliated against rocket attacks near Beit Lahiya) through the window of a hospital morgue on Oct. 22.

Here’s the photo and caption at Yahoo.

While the image selected by Indy editors has little, if anything, to do with the story it purports to illustrate, the broader truth is that the Palestinian children appearing in the photo are indeed prisoners – held captive to a life of backwardness, religious extremism, violence and racism by the very Palestinians they’re seen peering at.

Now, there’s a narrative you’d likely never see advanced in the Indy or Guardian. 

‘CiF’ reader comment of the day: An alternative “refugee camp”

H/T Margie

On Oct. 31, ‘Comment is Free’ published an interesting open thread titled Which leftwing (or rightwing) articles of faith bother you?

There were some interesting ideas among the more than 500 reader comments, but one in particular caught our attention.

In response to an accusation by one evidently avid Harriet Sherwood or Gideon Levy reader that Israel behaves like an apartheid state, there was this:

A bit over-the-top you say?

No, I don’t think so.

In the years after the Holocaust, 1945-1952, between 240-250,000 Jewish displaced persons (DPs) were living in camps and urban centers in Germany, Austria and Italy.  Yet, by 1952 almost all of the DP camps had closed, with over 80,000 settling in the United States, another 20,000 in other nations, and about 136,000 settling in Israel (a huge percentage of Israel’s population at the time).

The Jewish refugee problem came to an end due, in large measure, to the birth of Israel.

Additionally, consider that the overwhelming majority of Jews who were cruelly and systematically expelled from Arab lands between 1947 and 1967 were absorbed by Israel – roughly 600,000 out of 850,000.

Israel’s mission, its raison d’être – as enunciated by Zionist leaders since Herzl, and as practiced by leaders of the Zionist state since its birth – is to be the Guardian of the Jews, a tiny national refuge where Jewish culture will thrive and entry will never be denied.

You don’t hear about “Jewish Refugee Camps” because Israel is the world’s national Jewish refuge – a state which is not only fulfilling its basic mission but, by any measure, succeeding phenomenally at the art of statecraft.  

As the CiF commenter above noted, it’s indeed perplexing why the simple Zionist idea is so hard for some people to understand.

The Guardian ‘would’ be commended if its revision of Sherwood’s apartheid smear were substantive

On Oct. 23, we posted about a characteristic smear of Israel by Harriet Sherwood, based on distorted poll results – suggesting Israeli support for apartheid – egregiously misinterpreted by the original reporter covering the story, Gideon Levy of Haaretz.

Sherwood’s story contained this title  ’Israeli poll finds majority in favor of ‘apartheid’ policies‘, conveying to readers the idea that Israelis indeed support apartheid.  

The text in Sherwood’s story echoed this title, beginning thus:

“More than two-thirds of Israeli Jews say that 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank should be denied the right to vote if the area was annexed by Israel, in effect endorsing an apartheid state…” [emphasis added]

However, Sherwood failed to acknowledge the vital other poll results demonstrating that only 38 percent of the Israelis surveyed want Israel to annex some of the territories in the first place.

The suggestion that most Israelis support denying Palestinians the right to vote in Israel is necessarily undermined by this additional information which Harriet Sherwood did not report.

It would be more accurate to report that only a minority of Israelis would deny the vote to Palestinians, and then only in a hypothetical scenario which most Israelis don’t wish to see happen.

As Yehuda Ben-Meir wrote in Haaretz, Most of us don’t want apartheid, Oct. 28, after having compared the article’s conclusions with the survey’s findings:

“[Israelis] oppose the annexation of territories. That’s the survey’s most important finding, and its conclusion is exactly the opposite of what’s written in the [Haaretz] headline.”

the…majority [of Israelis are] also unwilling to live in a country with an “apartheid regime,” so it opposes the annexation of territories. That’s the survey’s most important finding…”

Further, Haaretz issued a retraction. Here it is, translated from Hebrew by CAMERA.

“The wording of the front-page headline, “The majority of Israelis support apartheid in Israel” (Ha’aretz, Oct. 23), did not accurately reflect the findings of the Dialog poll. The question to which most respondents answered in the negative did not relate to the current situation, but to a hypothetical situation in the future: “If Israel annexes territories in Judea and Samaria, in your opinion, should 2.5 million Palestinians be given the right to vote for the Knesset?” 

Additionally, even the Haaretz journalist who published the story, Gideon Levy, offered this retraction:

“Most Israelis do support apartheid, but only if the occupied territories are annexed; and most Israelis oppose such annexation. Haaretz explained this in a clarification published in the Hebrew edition on Sunday.” [emphasis added] 

Nowhere does the Guardian cite the extremely vital qualification that most Israelis, in fact, DO NOT SUPPORT annexation. Evidently in response to criticism of Sherwood’s incredibly misleading story, and the accompanying headline, the Guardian, on Oct. 30, issued this correction:
So, the title was changed from the original…
…to this:

Nothing in the the story’s text was changed, and there’s still nothing to inform readers that a majority of Israelis don’t support annexation and, thus, by logical inference, a majority DO NOT support denying Palestinians the right to vote.

If the Guardian had made such a substance change – providing the public with information necessary to properly understand and contextualize the poll – they would resemble a serious newspaper rather than an anti-Zionist propaganda sheet.

Defamation: Combating the assault on the Jewish state’s legitimacy at the Guardian

H/T Chas

“Sometimes the left distinguishes between vulnerable European Jews who have been persecuted and latter-day “Prussians” in Israel. Yet it is often forgotten that a majority of Israelis just happen to be Jews, who fear therefore that what begins with the delegitimization of the state will end with the delegitimization of the people.” – Colin Shindler

Benjamin Pogrund, a former South African journalist, and anti-Apartheid activist, who made Aliyah in 1997 and founded Yakar’s Centre for Social Concern, published a piece at ‘Comment is Free’ on Oct. 25 titled ‘Israel has moved to the right, but is not an apartheid state‘.  

Pogrund refuted the recent poll on Israeli views of Arabs, and the profound distortion of the poll results, which smeared Israel with the charge of apartheid, by Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz.

Interestingly, Pogrund was forced to contend not merely with one misrepresentation, but two, as CiF editors noted the following below the essay:

“The original headline of this article, “Israel is hostile towards Arabs, but it is not an apartheid state”, was changed at 17:46 on 26 October 2012 at the request of the author.”

Anyone reading Pogrund’s piece would understand that he not only responded to the apartheid charge but, in fact, refuted those claiming that the poll demonstrated Israel’s hostility towards its Arab citizens.

One of the more thoughtful reader comments about the broader issue of the danger posed by slander against the Jewish state, below the line of Pogrund’s CiF piece, was posted by someone using the moniker MitaKhondria, who wrote the following:

“Pejorative terms used freely against Jews in the last century led to people thinking that the Jews were a ripe target which could be injured with impunity, and attempted to wipe them out in an industrial murder operation the very scope of which was breath-taking.

Similar loose talk about a Jewish state in this century and blind insistence on its uniquely evil nature despite the obvious dangers (and the absurdity of applying these terms to this one state when there are plenty with far worse records) is irresponsible in the extreme.  So when people ask what you can say about Israel without being antisemitic I would ask them, whatever they say, to name at least one other current state about which they can say the same thing. Comparisons with Apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany are of course ruled out as indications of a desire to do damage.

For instance, there were gasps of disbelief from Westerners recently that Israel had no civil marriage laws.  They were not aware that this is the rule not the exception in the Middle East.  It was therefore not antisemitic when put into the correct perspective.”

The Hebrew term for speaking badly of others (Slander, spreading malicious, false information, etc.) is called lashon hara, literally “evil language.”

Such evil speech, when it involves criticism of Israel at the Guardian, often involves not outright lies – though they are not uncommon – but the dynamic of selectively reporting information void of historical or political context, or any sense of moral proportion.

Such context is vital in providing the nuance and complexity necessary to avoid misleading, lazy characterizations which render Israeli Jews as mere stereotypes, caricatures, or crude political abstractions.      

Interestingly, according to Jewish tradition, while the person engaging in such slander is of course morally culpable, those who listen and fail to refute false, misleading and defamatory words are considered more culpable, because the person had the power to stop the lie and didn’t, thus completing the transgression.

All that is required of a philo-Semites – indeed of anti-racists more broadly – is the determination to not allow defamations of the Jewish people to go unchallenged.

‘What begins with the delegitimization of the state will end with the delegitimization of the people.’

Our mission at CiF Watch – leveraging nothing more than the weight of our arguments and the power of our speech – is to refute false and misleading information about Israel and the Jewish people.

We also hope to inspire others to do the same.

Ha’aretz’s Apartheid Campaign Against Israel

Cross posted by Yishai Goldflam at CAMERA  (This is a translated version of the original which appeared at CAMERA’s Hebrew site, Presspectiva.)

Amidst its financial hardships and declining Israeli readership, the Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, has upped its anti-Israel advocacy, engaging in a campaign to promote the apartheid canard about Israel. First, Akiva Eldar falsely alleged that the Israeli government had acknowledged Jews as the minority population residing between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, a claim he was forced to correct. Then Gideon Levy wrote an article bearing the sinister headline, “Survey: Most Israeli Jews support apartheid regime in Israel.”

The online versions in English and Hebrew were subsequently changed slightly. And the print edition’s English headline was “Survey: Most Israeli Jews advocate discrimination against Arabs.”  This story was followed the next day by an article that attempted to solidify as fact supposed Jewish support for an apartheid regime, with the headline, “Arab MKs: Israeli Jews’ support of apartheid is not surprising.”

Levy’s article claimed that according to a recent survey the majority of Israelis not only support apartheid, but also hold racist views towards Israeli Arabs and believe that apartheid already exists today in Israel. Predictably, the story spread like wildfire and was quoted in major media outlets such as London’s The Guardian and The Independent, Toronto’s Globe and Mail, Agence-France Presse, and dozens of other sites, blogs and forums.

Pro- and anti-Israel activists have spent the past two days debating the reliability of the survey, its wording and meaning, as well as the accuracy of Gideon Levy’s article publicizing the poll. But most of those involved in the debate did not see the complete, original survey because it was not published anywhere, including in Levy’s article. One notable exception was this in-depth analysis by Avi Mayer which relied upon the original poll. CAMERA/Presspectiva obtained a copy of the original survey, and compared it to Levy’s article and Ha’aretz’s headline to see whether or not they accurately reflected the survey.

Unsurprisingly, Levy’s article was full of omissions and distortions. He apparently ignored the data that did not suit him and emphasized those that were in accord with his own well-known anti-Israel world view. At times, he completely reversed the survey’s findings. The sensational headline represents, at best, Levy’s interpretation of the survey and does not represent objective, factual reporting.

It also appears that the survey itself has its own share of problems – including the lack of clarity and hypothetical nature of the questions, no definition of terms that were used, limited answer choices, no correction for confounding factors, and general lack of explanation about what exactly was meant by the questions.

Yet even on the assumption that the survey was a valid one that was appropriately conducted, the results neither justify Ha’aretz’s bombastic headlines, which seem to be part of a campaign to damage and delegitimize the Jewish state, nor the article itself that cherry-picks or otherwise misrepresents the results in order to reach the predetermined conclusion of the headline.

Levy Distorts

Levy’s striking misrepresentations included the following:

A sweeping 74 percent majority is in favor of separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. A quarter – 24 percent – believe separate roads are “a good situation” and 50 percent believe they are “a necessary situation.”

Levy conveniently omitted the original question and answers from the survey. They were:

17. In the territories, there are some roads where travel is permitted only to Israelis and others where travel is permitted only to Palestinians. Which of the following opinions are closest to your own: A. It is a good situation. B. It is not a good situation, but what can you do? C. It is not a good situation and it needs to be stopped.

24% – it is a good situation.

50% – it is not a good situation, but there is nothing that can be done.

17% – it is not a good situation and it needs to be stopped

If the answers are divided according to those who see it as “good” and those who see it as “not good,” then 67% see it as a bad situation. But Levy did not bother to inform reader that the 50% of those who saw separate roads as “necessary” saw it as an undesirable situation.

When a “minority” becomes a “majority”

Levy devoted much of his fiery wrath to the alleged racism of Israeli Jews toward Israeli Arabs, but here too he distorted the results in order to make his case. Already in the third sentence of the article, he wrote:

A majority of Israeli Jews also explicitly favors discrimination against the state’s Arab citizens…

Levy misled his readers. There are five questions in the survey relating to discrimination against Arabs. Below are the questions and results:

4. In your opinion, is it desirable or undesirable for Jews to receive priority over Arabs in government hiring? a
59% – desirable; 34% undesirable
 
5. In your opinion, is it desirable to enact a law that prevents Israeli Arabs from voting in the Knesset?
33% – desirable; 59% undesirable
 
7. Do you agree or disagree with the argument that the state needs to care more for its Jewish citizens than its Arab citizens?
49% – agree; 49% – disagree
 
8. Would it bother you if in your place of abode, for example in your apartment building, an Arab family also lived there?
42% – it would bother me; 53% – it would not bother me
 
9. Would it bother you if in one of your children’s classrooms at school, there were also Arab children?
42% – it would bother me; 49% – it would not bother me

Does the overall picture obtained from these results support Levy’s characterization of most Israeli Jews favoring discrimination against Israeli-Arabs? On the contrary. Most people reading these results would perceive just the opposite, that a majority of Israelis do not support discrimination against Arabs.

Moreover, there are confounding factors here that skew the numbers, making the majority a smaller one than might be expected.  For example, the highest percentages of negative answers to the questions about Arab children sharing a class room with their children and Arab families living in the same apartment building came from the group that self-identified as ultra-Orthodox Jews. This community tends to insulate their families from the outside world and would be expected to just as readily answer that they would not want their children sharing a classroom with secular Jews, or that they would want all their neighbors to share their same values and strictures. This artificially confounds the data. Israeli society is certainly not perfect, but it is a far cry from Levy’s misrepresentation that most Israeli Jews openly and explicitly favor discrimination against Arabs.

Levy’s misrepresentation was even worse in the commentary accompanying the main article, where he wrote: 

Most Israelis do not want Arab voters for the Knesset, nor Arab neighbors at home, nor Arab students near the bookcases of Jewish texts in Jewish schools that teach Jewish heritage. And our camp will be pure, as pure of Arabs as possible and perhaps even more.

What is amazing about the above paragraph is that Levy chose precisely the three examples that demonstrate the opposite of the scenario he describes. Unfortunately, readers horrified at the “findings” described by Levy do not possess the tools to see that the author was deceiving them, because the results of the survey were not included.

The issue of Levy’s selective reporting is evident throughout the article, in which he introduced the “negative” data without mentioning the “positive” data.

For example, when he wrote that “a third of the respondents support a law that would prevent Israeli Arabs from voting for the Knesset, ” he did not bother to mention that 59% oppose such a law.

Similarly, when Levy wrote that “36 percent support transferring some of the Arab towns from Israel to the PA, in exchange for keeping some of the West Bank settlements,” he did not bother to note that even more– 48% – oppose it. And when he wrote that “42 percent don’t want to live in the same building with Arabs and 42 percent don’t want their children in the same class with Arab children,” he did not bother to note that even more – 53% and 49% respectively – would not mind.

The headline in Ha’aretz’s print edition trumpeted that “Most Israeli Jews advocate discrimination against Arabs” – a conclusion clearly not borne out by the results of the survey. But this was evidently of no concern to editors who opted for a sensational headline that presented Israel in the worst possible light, no matter how false it was.

Support for Apartheid?

The subject of apartheid – the focus of Ha’aretz’s headline and on which Levy places his primary emphasis, as well as the charge that was disseminated around the world – takes up just 3 out of the 17 questions in the survey and is divided into two separate allegations by Levy:

a) the majority of Israelis support an apartheid regime; and

b) most Israelis think that Israel is already an apartheid state

Levy shares an honest point acknowledged by the pollsters that provides a key to understanding the problematic nature of the above allegations:

The survey conductors say perhaps the term “apartheid” was not clear enough to some interviewees.

Indeed, in the three questions dealing with the concept of apartheid, there is no definition or explanation of what is meant by the term “apartheid.” This raises the question of how the pollsters concluded, on the one hand, that the respondents “support apartheid” even while admitting that the term may not have been clear to the respondents. This logical failure would have raised a red flag to responsible journalists. That it did not give Levy reason to pause is testament to his lack of journalistic ethics.

Levy began the article by stating:

Most of the Jewish public in Israel supports the establishment of an apartheid regime in Israel if it formally annexes the West Bank.

It is an emphatic conclusion, but not what was asked in the survey. The only question addressing annexation of the territories was Question 16:

16. If Israel annexes the territories of Judea and Samaria, in your opinion, is it necessary to give 2.5 million Palestinians the right to vote in the Knesset?

While 69% of respondents answered no, the survey’s question addressed a hypothetical scenario that had no bearing on the current situation. Moreover, there were more interviewees who responded that they oppose annexation than those who responded that they support it (48% oppose, 38% support). In other words, almost half the respondents were forced to choose an answer about a hypothetical scenario that they explicitly oppose. Yet Ha’aretz’s online edition turned this finding into a headline without noting that it only described a hypothetical scenario that was already widely rejected by respondents. The online headline was subsequently changed to include the word “would” presumably to account for the hypothetical nature of the result: “Survey: Most Israeli Jews would support apartheid regime in Israel” but the damage wrought by the original headline had already been done, demonstrating the success of Ha’aretz’s apparent campaign to portray Israeli Jews as racists who support apartheid.

What about the claim that the majority of Israelis believe that an apartheid regime already exists in the country? Levy wrote:

Although the territories have not been annexed, most of the Jewish public (58 percent ) already believes Israel practices apartheid against Arabs.

This is what the survey says:

11. Which of the following opinions is closest to yours? A. There is no apartheid at all in Israel. B. There is apartheid in some areas. C. There is apartheid in many areas.

31% – There is no apartheid at all in Israel.

39% – There is apartheid in some areas.

19% – There is apartheid in many areas.

Beyond Levy’s ignoring of the survey’s nuance, with his blanket assertion that Israel “practices apartheid against Arabs,” are the problems inherent in the survey question itself – which Levy similarly ignores. What is “apartheid in some areas” or “apartheid in many areas”? The term “apartheid,” contrary to its superficial use in the survey, and contrary to the concept of “discrimination” has a very clear and precise meaning: According to the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, it refers to “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” (See more at “Israeli Apartheid Week“)

There is no such thing as “some” apartheid. There is either apartheid or no apartheid. Apartheid is not simply discrimination – the sort that exists in almost every country around the world including Israel, which is precisely why the term was created specifically to describe South Africa’s regime.

Anyone who understands the meaning of the word “apartheid” cannot reliably answer such an illogical question that seeks to reveal whether Israel practices apartheid “in some areas” or “in many areas.” Of even greater concern is the impact of Levy’s assertion “that 58% of Israeli citizens support apartheid” on those readers in London, New York, or Berlin who actually know what real apartheid is.

Despite the fact, that by any parameter, there is no connection between any Israeli policy and the South African apartheid regime, international activists are currently attempting to brand Israel with this smear in order to convince good and caring people that Israel is a second South Africa and should be treated as such – with boycott, divestment and sanctions. The Ha’aretz articles of the last few days indicate that the Israeli paper, too, seeks to demonize Israel as apartheid.

The fact that the survey question did not define “apartheid” or explain to respondents the difference between “apartheid” and “discrimination,” and the fact that the pollsters admitted that the term was not clear to all respondents suggests that respondents took the term “apartheid” to mean “discrimination” and understood it as simply a synonym for the latter. Moreover, the absurd response options of apartheid in “some” areas or in “many” areas also would suggest that the poll writers, intentionally or not, misled respondents into thinking that “apartheid” is interchangeable with “discrimination.” This is a plausible interpretation of the data that Levy chose to ignore.

It is difficult to overestimate the damage done to Israel by Ha’aretz’s sensational headlines and reporting. Instead of engaging in serious and balanced social criticism based on the findings of the survey, Ha’aretz chose instead to export Gideon Levy’s hysteria and obsession in the form of distorted headlines and an inaccurate story.

Ha’aretz’s campaign is transparent. Last week the paper falsely reported that the Israeli government admits to apartheid, this week it wrongly reported that the Israelis themselves admit to apartheid. Foreign journalists, ambassadors, diplomats, and policymakers around the world should take note. While Ha’aretz might have been perceived as a serious and reliable inside source of news about Israel, it is becoming increasingly clear that it nothing more than a tool for anti-Israel activists.

Harriet Sherwood cherry picks results of poll to smear Israel with ‘apartheid’ label

H/T Simon Plosker

Harriet Sherwood’s latest report, Oct. 23, contains a dramatic headline, ‘Israeli poll finds majority in favor of ‘apartheid’ policies.

The highlights of the poll reported by Sherwood, and based on a Ha’aretz article by Gideon Levy which cited the results of polling conducted by a group called Dialog, are as follows: (Graph from Ha’aretz)

Critical omission by Sherwood on the findings:

Here’s the opening passage of Sherwood’s story:

“More than two-thirds of Israeli Jews say that 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank should be denied the right to vote if the area was annexed by Israel, in effect endorsing an apartheid state…” [emphasis added]

However, Sherwood failed to acknowledge that only 38 percent of the Jewish public wants Israel to annex the territories with settlements on them in the first place, which is arguably the most important stat, as many of the subsequent questions, such as the one highlighted by Sherwood, pertain to a scenario where such annexation occurs. The fact that a majority of Israelis do not express support for annexation renders the subsequent questions extremely less meaningful, and her conclusion about Israeli support for ‘apartheid’ dishonest.

A few additional observations.

  • The sample size of the Dialog poll is 503 (out of a Jewish population of over 6 million), which is problematic. Further, since there is no link to the full poll it’s not possible to judge the methodology.
  • Levy admits that “the survey conductors said that the term ‘apartheid’ “was not clear enough to some interviewees”, which may explain the following additional quote by Levy about the results: “39 percent believe apartheid is practiced “in a few fields”; 19 percent believe “there’s apartheid in many fields” and 11 percent do not know.”  Further, it’s unclear how ‘apartheid’ – widely understood as a systemic policy of separation based on race – could be characterized as a dynamic localized in certain fields. It seems possible that Israelis were expressing their belief that “discrimination” occurs in certain fields, which is a far different phenomenon than ‘apartheid’.
  • Sherwood writes that “58% believe Israel already practices apartheid against Palestinians”, a number, it seems, based on Levy’s report, cited above.  As I noted in the previous bullet, this is extremely problematic conclusion, based on what may be an unclear understanding of what the word ‘apartheid’ meant in the context it was being used.

Palestinian Context

The most glaring omission by Sherwood is her broader failure, in this or other reports alleging Israeli racism, to provide similar data indicating the political views of Palestinians.  This is part of a larger problem within the Guardian’s coverage of the region, which consistently fails to rigorously examine Palestinian society and mores.

As such, the following Palestinian poll results should at least serve to provide a bit of context to contrast the recent polling on Israelis.

  • 54% support armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel? (Harry Truman Research Institute/PCPSR, March 1-7, 2009
  •  64% support launching rockets from the Gaza Strip against Israeli towns and cities such as Sderot and Ashkelon? (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, March 13-15, 2008)
  • 60% of Palestinians eventually hope that one state − Palestine − will replace the Jewish state. Only 23 percent of Palestinians said they believed in Israel’s right to exist as the national homeland of the Jews.  (Based on a poll in 2010)
  • 47.5% of Palestinians still support terrorist attacks inside pre-1967 Israel. (2012 PSR Survey)
  • 73% of Palestinians “believe” the Islamic Hadith that preaches it is Islamic destiny to kill Jews. (2011 poll)

Of course, there is as good of a chance Sherwood would report these disturbing findings about Palestinian racism, support for violence, and intransigence as the chance she would avoid skewing the results of an Israeli poll in a misleading manner which shows Israelis in the worst possible light. 

Enemies: A (made up) story about endemic Israeli racism by Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy

This essay was written by Hasan Afzal and recently posted at Harry’s Place

I’ve always thought that Haaretz opinion editorials are proof, if you required more than the empirical studies done, that Israel is a democracy. The vile contempt that most of the left-of-centre columnists and writers show for Israel is truly a tribute to the cornerstone attribute of any civilised society: freedom of speech.

The news that eight Palestinian children had died in a bus crash is a tragedy to any decent-minded person. A sad loss of life believed to be because of adverse driving conditions.

For Gideon Levy, rather than sharing in the tragedy of the day’s events, it was a golden opportunity to stare into his crystal ball. Levy’s entire article is a crass condemnation of Israeli society’s supposed reaction to the bus crash.

In what must be the investigative skills of a teenager, Levy rages against crazies on Facebook and Twitter using the crash to spew their own bigotry. He writes:

“Relax, these are Palestinian children,” Benny Dazanashvili wrote on Twitter. To which Tal Biton responded, “It seems these are Palestinians … God willing”.

He has a point. But bigoted people will, not surprisingly, be bigoted on open platforms such as social networks. But that’s just the starter. Levy’s greater condemnation is for wider Israeli society:

No longer can all this be waved away with the argument that these were the responses of a handful of crazies that do not reflect the whole. Perhaps we should also give thanks for the democracy that allows these responses to be published, and to flood public awareness. But it must be recognized that the sentiment they express is common and that it runs deep in Israeli society.

Enemies, a hate story. In the past few years, anti-Arab hatred and racism have reached monstrous proportions and are no longer restricted to a negligible minority. Many people dare to express it, and many more agree with them. All the discriminatory, separatist laws of the past few years are an authentic expression of that hatred.

Perhaps Gideon didn’t see this:

Some Israelis from the nearby settlement hung this sign over the site of a bus crash that killed 8 Palestinian children. It reads (in Hebrew and then Arabic): “The residents of the (nearby) Adam settlement share in the sorrow of the families, in their deep grief over the death of their loved ones and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.”

In a heartwarming show of solidarity, settlers have erected a sign over the crash site expressing their sadness and grief. This isn’t the product of some cosmopolitian Tel Aviv human rights group but of one group of settlers sharing their grief with the Palestinian people.

If you ever needed evidence that the settler community aren’t a bunch of rabid, blood-lust devils then here it is.

Post Script to ‘Palestine Papers’: Guardian grossly misrepresented so-called Palestinian “concessions”

The renowned Israeli journalist Ben-Dror Yemini of Ma’ariv has an interesting post on his blog which can be filed under the category ‘post script to the ‘Palestine Papers’. It speaks for itself, so allow me merely to translate (from the original Hebrew) the relevant portions.

“The terror attack in Jerusalem, like the firing of the rockets from the (Gaza) Strip, returns us to the firm ground of reality. This is a reality in which there are growing signs of a compromise between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. The events of the past two weeks clarify that the Palestinian front is returning to its old defining characteristics.”

“For a moment we lived with the illusion that something was happening, and maybe in the other direction. As recently as this last January, Al Jazeera and The Guardian came out with loud pronouncements concerning the most meaningful step in Palestinian history: the relinquishment of the right of return. The change, I then wrote, was most welcome. Except that this was a short-lived illusion. This is not merely due to the reality of rockets upon Ashkelon and Ashdod, the massacre in Itamar and the terror attack in Jerusalem. The story runs deeper.”

“New research by an American Christian organisation (not evangelist) examined all the 1,700 leaked papers; something which your faithful servant, despite his will, did not manage to do. The conclusion of the research is the exact opposite; that not only did the Palestinians not agree to any compromise on this subject [right of return], but they fooled everyone. False declarations of a moderateness, which I wish were true, are still far away. And so all those who found the Palestinian compromise troubling, from the Guardian to Gideon Levy (who claimed that the papers proved that the Palestinians had ‘sold their soul to the devil’), from Hamas to Al Jazeera – can all calm down. The Palestinians did not really give up.”

“But maybe yes? Surely it cannot be that the Guardian would publish a giant headline declaring that “Palestinians agreed that only 10,000 refugees could return to Israel”. This is, after all, a serious newspaper. In the same article, on the newspaper’s website, there appears a link to the Palestinian document which supposedly indicates the compromise. Just like the links on this blog. Except that following the link does not lead to any document which indicates Palestinian compromise. Nothing. I thought this must be a mistake. Mistakes are, after all, human. On this blog too there were broken links, readers complained, and the mistakes were mended. Except that it has been months since the publication. One could assume that someone pointed out to the Guardian that something was wrong. Surely I cannot be the first.”

“Caution prompted me to approach Ian Black, the Guardian’s Middle East editor. Not only does his name appear upon the specific article, but also on many reprimands of Israel in wake of the leaked papers. Even if he is not pro-Israel, Black is considered a serious journalist. He is far removed from the venomous hostility of Robert Fisk of the Independent or Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz. I asked Black: where does your amazing headline about only 10,000 refugees come from? I sent him the research which claims otherwise. I hoped that he would provide me with some proof. After all, if the information published is correct, we are talking about a historic turn-around. Black chose not to respond. I went to the trouble of looking myself and well, there is a document in which Erekat claims that the Palestinians agreed to 15,000 refugees per year, over a period of ten years, to return to Israel. There are two problems with this document. Firstly, the document is directed at the Europeans, when Netanyahu was already in power, in order to present the Palestinians as moderates.  And secondly, the document contains a land mine which deals with a renewable right. And thirdly, in all the documents, at the relevant time during the negotiations, it is made clear in no uncertain terms that the right of return is a personal right ‘which is not subject to any negotiation whatsoever’, and in other documents the Palestinians even try to define the ‘absorption ability’ of Israel in a scientific manner, reaching a number of 1,016,511 refugees. Some display of moderateness.”

“The central character in the story is Erekat. He tricks everyone and becomes, wondrously, the moderate man. And so the Guardian, in another headline, which supposedly proves the previous one, announces another dramatic about-turn. Once more I approached the source and once more it turned out not to have been. ‘Palestinian negotiators accept  Jewish state, papers reveal’. So where does the headline come from? Well, Erekat told Livni exactly what Abu Mazen claimed when he wanted to explain why he would not accept the demand: ‘define yourselves as you wish’. Between this play on words and the recognition of Israel as the Jewish State – the road is very long. But we can rely on the Guardian. It is obliged to present the Palestinians as moderates in order to be able to present the Israelis as intransigent.”

….

“So how and why was it possible to invent for us one of the biggest scams of the diplomatic [peace] process? Well, Al Jazeera’s aim was to embarrass the Palestinian Authority. At the Guardian the aim was to embarrass Israel. All in order to claim that the papers reveal the depth of Palestinian  concessions which were rejected by Israel’. The scam worked, and not only Ha’aretz joined in; I too was persuaded that we were talking about signs of change.”

“A Palestinian about-face, if it really did happen, would be worthy of all praise. There is no about-face and it is a pity that there isn’t. There is a scam and that is worthy of exposure.”

Ben Dror Yemini is an experienced political journalist and by no means a naive man, but like a considerable number of Israelis he is perhaps guilty of doing what many of us, particularly on the Left of the political map, have been doing to some extent for several years – projecting our own hopes and aspirations onto others and grasping at every straw which seems to hint that a new dawn is just around the corner. That is perhaps natural after so many years of conflict, so much bloodshed and despair, but it does not absolve us from the responsibility of proper examination of the catalysts of our raised hopes, or their source.

As for his realisation of the extent of the role played by the Guardian in the ‘Palestine Papers’ affair, and the motivations behind that – well, better late than never.

To paraphrase the British television advert for a well-known chain of opticians: ‘should have gone to CiF Watch’.

Ethnic Cleansing, real and imagined

“Historically, there was an exchange of populations in the Middle East and the number of displaced Jews exceeds the number of Palestinian Arab refugees. Most of the Jews were expelled as a result of an open policy of anti-Semitic incitement and even ethnic cleansing. However, unlike the Arab refugees, the Jews who fled are a forgotten case because of a combination of international cynicism and domestic Israeli suppression of the subject. The Palestinians are the only group of refugees out of the more than one hundred million who were displaced after World War II who have a special UN agency that, according to its mandate, cannot but perpetuate their tragedy. An open debate about the exodus of the Jews is critical for countering the Palestinian demand for the “right of return” and will require a more objective scrutiny of the myths about the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict.” – Avi Becker

The Israelis are the worst ethnic cleansers on the planet.  They have consistently, throughout their 62 year history – despite its dastardly desire (according to its critics) to cleanse the state of its non-Jewish citizens - allowed the Arab/Muslim community to grow exponentially throughout the years.

However, the insidious charge of ethnic cleansing against Israel at the Guardian is so frequent its become a banality. Ben White, Gideon Levy, Seth FreedmanNeve Gordon, Daphna BaramKen Livingstone and others casually employ such vitriol.

Most recently, a letter was published in CiF by serial Israel haters, again leveling the charge of ethnic cleansing, imploring Labor’s new leader, Ed Miliband, to break from tradition and withdraw his support for the Jewish National Fund.  The open letter was signed by (among others) Tony GreensteinProfessor Moshe Machover, and Professor Mona Baker.

Ethnic Cleansing” is typically described as the planned deliberate removal from a specific territory, persons of a particular ethnic group, by force or intimidation.

Indeed, such a definition perfectly describes the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries between 1948 and 1967.

In April 2008 a bipartisan resolution (H. Con. Res. 185) passed the U.S. Congress that recognized the forgotten exodus of nine hundred thousand Jews from Arab countries who “were forced to flee and in some cases brutally expelled amid coordinated violence and anti-Semitic incitement that amounted to ethnic cleansing.”

Between the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the Six Day War in 1967, there was a mass Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim lands, Jews  that either fled from persecution and anti-Semitism or were forcibly expelled.  They were ethnically cleansed from their homeland. Most migrated to Israel, where today, they and their descendants constitute about 40% of Israel’s population.

In all, (approximately) there were 856,000 Jews living in Arab countries in 1948, while today the population is about 5100.  That means that over 99% of Arab Jews have been cleansed from Arab lands.


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Gideon Levy’s reductionist vision of Israel

This was published at Just Journalism


Today’interview with Gideon Levy by Johann Hari in The Independent is a perfect example of how criticism of Israel can be distorted abroad to fit the preconceptions of the foreign media. Levy’s narrow focus on the ills of his country matches perfectly with Hari’s blinkered perspective, and is therefore presented as the only valid viewpoint – the ‘truth’ about Israel.

Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?asks the headline of the interview. Over the course of the five and a half thousand word article, Hari argues that he is the former, stands a good chance of being the latter and, of course, that Levy’s supposed pariah status is the result of his staunch bravery in the face of adversity.

Gideon Levy is an editor and columnist at Ha’aretz, a liberal Israeli daily newspaper. According to Hari, Levy has done ‘something very simple, and something that almost no other Israeli has done. Nearly every week for three decades, he has travelled to the Occupied Territories and described what he sees, plainly and without propaganda.’ Taken literally, this is probably true – after all, only a very small percentage of Israelis at any one time are columnists at a national newspaper, and the amount of them that have been reporting for thirty years on the trot would be smaller still.

This, however, is not what Hari means. He seeks to suggest that Levy’s concern for Palestinians, and his objections to the occupation of their land, marks him out from his fellow Israelis, who are characterised as violent and racist. According to Hari, Levy ‘patiently [documents] his country’s crimes, and [tries] to call his people back to a righteous path.’ While Levy offers Palestinians empathy, ‘so many others offer only bullets and bombs.’

But it’s not just that Israeli’s don’t care about these issues – they are, in the myopic portrayal of Israel that is conjured up in the interview, actively trying to prevent Levy from speaking out as well. Many people, according to Hari, want Levy ‘silenced’, and if the ‘attempt to deride, suppress or deny his words’ is successful, then ‘Israel itself is lost.’

Read rest of the essay, here

Gideon Levy and Uncomfortable Truths

This was published by Benjamin Kerstein in The New Ledger

The political left in many countries has a long history of defending despicable acts of violence when they are committed by the right people. From Norman Mailer’s campaign to free murderer Jack Abbott, who upon release promptly went and murdered someone else, to Bernadine Dohrn’s effusive praise of Charles Manson, right up to today’s disgusting international campaign on behalf of cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, there are few crimes too vile and horrendous for the left not to defend should the perpetrator belong to the correct movement or a fetishized oppressed minority.

Israel recently saw a particularly egregious example of this in the case of Sabbar Kashur, a Palestinian convicted of raping a young woman under false pretenses. According to initial media reports, Kashur was accused because he had claimed to be Jewish and the woman would not have slept with him had she known he was an Arab.

The Israeli left immediately rushed to Kashur’s side, accusing the entirety of Israeli society of racism and denouncing its justice system as akin to Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa. Much of the foreign press quickly followed suit. But without question the most fervent defender of the convicted rapist was Haaretzcolumnist Gideon Levy.

Levy is the rough Israeli equivalent of Noam Chomsky or Gore Vidal in America. His specialty is rhetorically unhinged denunciations of everything and anything to do with Israeli society. In this case, however, he outdid himself, in more ways than one. In his column on the case, unsubtly titled in English,“He Impersonated a Human,” Levy painted a picture of Kashur as something akin to a Palestinian cross between Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ.

See the rest of the story, here.