Guardian refers to Israelis kidnapped by terrorists as “teenage settlers”

At what age, in the eyes of the media, can Israelis who live with their parents in communities across the green line be characterized as “settlers”?  Evidently, for the Guardian at least, such a pejorative can be imputed to a 16 year-old victim of Palestinian terror.

Here’s the headline of the Guardian’s first report (on Friday, June 13, by Peter Beaumont and Paul Lewis) about the three teenage yeshiva students kidnapped by terrorists on Thursday night in the Gush Etzion area of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

headline

Here’s the opening passage:

Israeli security forces have launched a mass search of the Hebron hills after three teenage settlers, one believed to be a US citizen, were reported missing amid fears they may have been kidnapped by a Palestinian group.

First, the Guardian got it wrong, as two of the three teens do no in fact live in Israeli ‘settlements‘.

Per Times of Israel:

The three — Shaar (16) from the settlement of Talmon, Frenkel (16) a dual Israeli-American citizen from Nof Ayalon near Modi’in, and Yifrach (19) from Elad near Petah Tikva — were reportedly last spotted at a hitchhiking post in the vicinity of Hebron on Thursday night. No one has seen or heard from them since

Here’s a map of the three communities.  As you can clearly see, only Talmon, where Naftali Frenkel lives, is situated across the green line:

mapIn addition to the factual error, however, what possible moral significance does Beaumont and Lewis assign to the fact that the parents of one of the innocent Jewish teens decided at some point to move to an Israeli community across the green line?

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The three kidnapped teens, from left to right: Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel

Additionally, we’d like to know where precisely the Guardian is prepared to draw the line in their use of such a loaded term.  Would they refer to even young children (including infants) killed by Palestinian terrorists – such as the family members murdered by terrorists during the 2011 massacre in Itamar, including 11-year-old Yoav, 4-year-old Elad, and three-month-old Hadas – as “settlers”?

Let’s be clear: The Guardian’s use of the term “settler” – as an adjective to modify an otherwise factual description of an Israeli who’s been kidnapped, injured or killed by a Palestinian terrorist – represents a political decision which dehumanizes the victim, and serves as a potent reminder of the media group’s egregious bias even when publishing putatively straight news stories about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. 

Guardian images highlight freed terrorist; ignores Holocaust survivor he murdered

After the first round of 26 Palestinian pre-Oslo prisoners were released by Israel in August, as a concession to renew peace talks, the Guardian published three celebratory photosin their Picture Desk Live series, all showing the prisoners being reunited with their families. The captions used for the photos all failed to even mention the Israeli victims of the crimes committed by the freed Palestinians.

Now, as Israel begins the painful process of releasing the second group of 26 pre-Oslo prisoners, the Guardian’s coverage continues to highlight the released terrorists while all but ignoring their victims.

Today’s edition of the Guardian’s Picture Desk Live includes the following:

released

The Guardian also added a video of Palestinians celebrating the prisoner release (to accompany an AP story they published today) that included an image of what appears to be the same man in the photo above.

video

Though both the caption and video failed to identify the freed Palestinian, other sites indicate that he is Shabbir Hazam (aka, Shabir Kassam Taher Hazam). Shabbir Hazam, born in 1974, was a member of Fatah and a resident of Gaza who was arrested in 1994 and sentenced to life imprisonment for (along with an accomplice) murdering a work colleague – Isaac Rotenberg from Holon – with an axe.

Here is a photo of Rotenberg:

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Isaac Rotenberg

As we’ve noted previously Isaac Rotenberg, born in Poland, was a Holocaust survivor.  Most of his family was murdered in the Sobibor death camp, but Isaac managed to escape and joined the partisans. After the war he tried to make his way to mandate Palestine, but was interred by the British and sent to a detention camp in Cyprus until 1947. After his release Isaac arrived in pre-state Israel and fought in the War of Independence. He continued his work as a plasterer even after pension age and in March 1994 was at his place of work in Petah Tikva when he was attacked by Shabbir Hazam (and another Palestinian worker) with an axe.

He died, aged 67, two days later.

Whilst the Guardian’s coverage of the prisoner release continues to highlight the joy of the freed terrorist and their families, the Jews (and Palestinian ‘collaborators’) they murdered continue to largely remain nameless and faceless.

What does the mother of a ‘pre-Oslo’ monster look like?

The following is a photo published at The Independent on July 29th to illustrate a story about Israel’s recent decision to release 104 Palestinians prisoners – a group of Palestinians (convicted prior to the Oslo Accords) largely consisting of terrorists who murdered or attempted to murder Israeli citizens, soldiers and foreign tourists.

part 1

Here’s the Indy caption for the shot taken by Reuters photographer Ibraheem Abu Mustaf:

The mother of Palestinian Ateya Abu Moussa, who has been held prisoner by Israel for 20 years, hugs her grandson upon hearing the news that her son may soon be released.

The mother is rejoicing over the possible release of her son, a Palestinian (presumably seen in the photo she’s holding) alternately known as Abu Moussa Salam Ali Atiya who murdered an Israeli named Isaac Rotenberg in 1994.  Whilst the Indy caption doesn’t include a word about the crimes of Ateya Abu Moussa or background on his victim, fortunately Almagor Murder Victims Association provides further details:

Isaac was born to Natan and Miriam Rotenberg on 15 March 1927 in Poland. A selection was held in his city following the outbreak of the Second World War, and his family was sent to the Sobibór extermination camp. With the exception of him, his younger brother, and his sister, his entire family perished. He was taken with his brother to a labor camp. When a revolt broke out, the two succeeded in escaping the camp, but they lost track of each other in the ensuing commotion. Isaac then made his way to the forest and joined the partisans.

In April 1947, Isaac reached the Land of Israel. He joined the IDF the next year, and fought in the War of Liberation in the north, near Kibbutz Manara.

Isaac was married to Riva, and the two had two children, Tzipora and Pinhas. He worked as a plasterer, and was a founder of the city of Holon. Upon reaching retirement age, he decided to continue working a few hours per day to keep himself busy.

On 29 March 1994, during the Passover holiday, as Isaac was hunched on his knees, fixing a floor in his workplace in Petah Tikva, two of the Arab laborers [including Ateya Abu Moussa], on site attacked him and struck the back of his neck with axes. He was critically wounded, and entered a coma. Two days later, on 31 March, he died.

The murderers were caught staying in Lod with their Israeli Arab accomplices, and were sentenced to life in prison.

Isaac was 67 at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife, son, brother, and sister.

Ateya Abu Moussa murdered Rotenberg as a condition of being accepted into a terrorist organization.

Isaac Rotenberg survived a Nazi extermination camp but was murdered by a (soon to be free) loathsome terrorist spawned by the woman ‘sensitively’ depicted in a photo carefully selected by Indy editors. 

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Isaac (Azik) Rotenberg: Date unknown

Updates to post on ‘Women of the Wall’ & alleged gender segregation in Petah Tikva

This story has been updated below

On Feb. 19, we posted about Harriet Sherwood’s Feb. 17 Guardian report, ‘Sarah Silverman tweet puts women’s Western Wall protest in global spotlight, which focused on a protest by an Israeli group (‘Women of the Wall’) against restrictions imposed on women who pray at the Kotel in Jerusalem.

Kotel2big

Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem

We noted that such protests resonate with a lot of Israelis who object to Haredi hegemony over religious practices in the state, but examined the following quote in the Guardian story for accuracy.

Despite some notable legal victories, “this is still a huge issue”, said [Anat] Hoffman, who is also director of [IRAC] the Israel Religious Action Centre [and chairperson of 'Women of the Wall'], which campaigns against segregation and the exclusion of women. “Every day we get calls reporting things to us. Just yesterday, we heard that the water-drinking fountains at Petah Tikva cemetery have been segregated.”

IRAC is the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform Judaism movement in Israel.

Due to the fact that Hoffman evidently didn’t provide the source of her claim to Sherwood, we did our own investigation, and contacted an Israeli blogger named Anne, a resident of Petah Tikva [a city in central Israel, 10.6 km east of Tel Aviv], who investigated the matter personally.

Anne wrote the following:

I got [to the cemetery in Petah Tikvah] during a funeral (so I visited my grandmother’s grave while I was there) and then wandered around and took photos of the taps. First of all, there are no “drinking fountains” at the cemetery. I don’t think any cemetery has these.  What they do have are taps to ritually wash your hands when leaving the cemetery (Netilat Yadayim). As you can see (in the photos), there were men and women washing hands together. The second set of taps are located outside the men’s toilets but are certainly used by both men and women. As you can see, there is no sign at all about separation, and I have washed my hands there many times. The “wall” dividing the two sides is simply to allow more taps in one small area.

So, contrary to the claim made by Hoffman there are no gender segregated “drinking fountains” in the Petah Tikva cemetery, and likely no “drinking fountains” at all.  Further, the ritual hand washing taps, as Anne noted, are not segregated by gender.

However, this morning, we were contacted by a CiF Watch reader who supports the mission of the Israeli Religious Action Centre, and had emailed the group to seek comment on the claim made by their director.  Here’s their reply:

 It seemed Anat did confuse the cities when she said it was Petah Tikva. The city where we found the gender segregated washing station was in Kiryat Gat [a city in southern Israel, 56 km south of Tel Aviv]. I have attached a picture below. This will be corrected and in past and for all future statements on the issue.

Here’s the photo they sent.

Seperate washing stations

So, there appears to indeed be separate men’s and women’s ritual hand washing stations at the cemetery in Kiryat Gat. 

Though the connection between this particular gender separation practice at one Israeli cemetery and the restrictions imposed on women who pray at the Kotel is debatable, there’s a larger point to be made about Hoffman’s gaffe.

Though she was born in Jerusalem, Anat Hoffman spent time in the US (she earned her undergraduate degree from UCLA) and speaks flawless English.

Whilst conflating Petah Tikva with Kiryat Gat does not represent a major substantive error, Hoffman would likely be familiar with the ritual washing practice at Jewish cemeteries (symbolizing the dissociation from the impurity of death), and it therefore seems reasonable to ask why – unless Sherwood quoted her incorrectly – she would mistake a drinking fountain with a ritual hand-washing station.

The idea of separate drinking fountains (broadly speaking) evokes, for many, a very particular historical association  – particularly to Americans.

If the Reform Movement wishes to effectively advocate for an end to Orthodox control of religious life in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the state, and also be taken seriously as a proudly Zionist movement, it seems fair to expect their spokespeople to exercise care in avoiding imprecise, inflammatory language which could aggravate the already volatile secular-religious divide in the Jewish state.

women of the wall

Homepage of ‘Women of the Wall’

UPDATE: A reader in the comment section of our original post on this issue found a recent Ynet article from Feb. 11 (in Hebrew) reporting that, following complaints by some of the clientele at the cemetery about the segregated washing stations, the sign was removed (by orders of the Ministry of Religious Affairs) and the policy ended.  

UPDATE 2:  Thanks to a reader for pointing out that I incorrectly wrote that Anat Hoffman was a rabbi. She is not. The post has been corrected.  

Examining a rumor about Israel started by ‘Women of the Wall’ and repeated by the Guardian

Harriet Sherwood’s Feb. 17 report in the Guardian, ‘Sarah Silverman tweet puts women’s Western Wall protest in global spotlight‘, focused on a protest by an organization called ‘Women of the Wall’ against restrictions imposed on women who pray at the Kotel in Jerusalem – an act of civil disobedience last Monday undertaken by a group which included Rabbi Susan Silverman (comedian Sarah Silverman’s sister).

While such protests aren’t uncommon, interest in the story (as the Guardian title suggested) intensified after Sarah Silverman tweeted support for her sister, who was one of ten women briefly detained by police for violating prayer customs.

While issues regarding such gender-based restrictions naturally resonate with many Israelis who seek to loosen Haredi (Orthodox) control over religious matters in the state, the following quote by Hoffman, in Sherwood’s story, purporting to highlight the religious-secular divide in one Israeli community, strained credulity.

Despite some notable legal victories, “this is still a huge issue”, said [Anat] Hoffman, who is also director of the Israel Religious Action Centre, which campaigns against segregation and the exclusion of women. “Every day we get calls reporting things to us. Just yesterday, we heard that the water-drinking fountains at Petah Tikva cemetery have been segregated.”

Since Hoffman evidently didn’t reveal the identity of her source to Sherwood, we decided to contact our friend Anne (A resident of Petah Tikvah who blogs at Anne’s Opinions) for comment.

Here’s  her reply:

I decided to go to the cemetery to see for myself.  Whilst I first checked with my husband and sister to see if they remembered any such water fountains (and they both said it’s rubbish), I wanted to confirm for myself that nothing had changed recently, as suggested in the article.

As it happened I got there during a funeral (so I visited my grandmother’s grave while I was there) and then wandered around and took photos of the taps. First of all, there are no “drinking fountains” at the cemetery. I don’t think any cemetery has these.  What they do have are taps to ritually wash your hands when leaving the cemetery (Netilat Yadayim). As you can see (in the photos below), there were men and women washing hands together. The second set of taps are located outside the men’s toilets but are certainly used by both men and women. As you can see, there is no sign at all about separation, and I have washed my hands there many times. The “wall” dividing the two sides is simply to allow more taps in one small area.

I’ve been (sadly) to many funerals, most of them for religious people, and I’ve never washed hands separately or felt the need to do so voluntarily.

Here are the photos Anne took at the Petah Tikvah cemetery only yesterday.

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photo 4
photo 5

Those of us who blog for Israel know all too well that such seemingly little smears (no matter how flimsy the evidence) can often take on a life of their own.

Thanks to Anne, we now know that Hoffman’s rumor, carelessly repeated by the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, appears to be completely without merit.