National Union of Journalists Rejects Israel Boycott

National Union of JournalistsJust before HonestReporting went on Passover break, Britain’s National Union of Journalists voted against a controversial motion to support the BDS movement and boycott Israeli goods.

Judging from an NUJ statement, the prevailing reason for the rejection is that a boycott would make it more difficult for journalists to cover Israel.

I assume this refers to the fear of UK reporters losing their Israeli press credentials, or the unseemly sight of members having to purge their laptops and smartphones of “blue and white” software, apps and security features.

But the Jewish Chronicle adds:

The proposal, which was put forward by the London Magazine branch, was rejected after NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet told delegates that it would put the lives of journalists working in the Middle East in danger.

That’s a stretch. If the NUJ members really believe a boycott would endanger their lives, they don’t really know Israelis. (This might explain why The Guardian and BBC branches voted against the boycott, according to Fair Play.)

The correct, more honorable reason to oppose this motion is much simpler, as I argued when the motion first hit the NUJ agenda. It’s okay for journalists to have their own views on Israel. But journalists who actively support BDS cross a line. They go from being neutral observers to active participants in the events they cover. That’s journalism with zero credibility. Period.

With most British journalists opting not to be active members of any unions anyway, the NUJ has limited clout. A boycott wouldn’t necessarily have been representative of the UK media industry, but it would’ve been a loud and messy affair for British reporters both in and out of the union. That’s what happened in 2007 when the NUJ voted to boycott Israel and then scrap the boycott three months later.

I’d rather believe that the pro-boycott delegates climbed so far up a tree, Stanistreet’s logic was the only ladder that would allow everyone to climb down.

But who knows? Stranger things have happened.

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April 22, 2014 16:21 By Category : Backspin Tags:, , , ,

Is BDS Actually Helping Israel?

domino-effectThe BDS movement has become so toxic, many of the most desirable targets of BDS campaigns are distancing themselves from the movement, according to Eric Alterman, a columnist for the progressive magazine The Nation.

In an otherwise scathing critique of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s peace efforts, Alterman claimed that right-wing Israelis “take advantage” of the international distaste for the BDS movement to escape pressure to make concessions:

Netanyahu and company actually appreciate the misguided efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign in the United States and Europe. As Molad’s Inbar explains, while “the ideologically driven BDS movement likes to claim credit for any instance of international pressure on Israel, it really forestalls such pressure, as the large actors whose actions count in this regard—governments, international agencies and corporations who oppose the occupation—are justifiably reluctant to be associated with the wholesale anti-Israeli rhetoric of the BDS movement.”

Right-wing Israelis are therefore able to take advantage of the widespread distaste for “BDS-style rhetoric and tactics, because they know that the more attention the BDS movement receives, the more difficult it will become to build serious international pressure on the occupation itself.” (This is undoubtedly why Mahmoud Abbas opposes BDS as well.)

It would be nice to believe that governments and corporations really are recoiling in disgust from the BDS, though threats from Europe and beyond remain. Suggesting that Israeli leaders see the movement as beneficial, however, does not align with actions being taken on the ground to limit its ability to function.

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But the sentiment clearly captures Alterman’s own feelings about the movement – and perhaps that of other outspoken “progressives” who believe in a two-state solution. Others, who identify as Liberal Zionists, such as Peter Beinart and MJ Rosenberg, have also come out against the BDS movement because they understand that the BDS is working to destroy Israel as a Jewish state, not to end the conflict.

While all three are generally critical of Israeli policies, particularly in regard to the West Bank, the radical anti-Israel rhetoric from the BDS goes too far, even for them.

Alterman’s comments serve to reinforce the idea that the people who see the true aims of the BDS movement most clearly – and therefore have the most credibility as critics – are those like Alterman, who must now draw a distinction between his criticism of Israel and the smears of those who seek Israel’s destruction.

So while the BDS movement has become more visible over the past year, it’s not surprising that people are starting to question what they see. The BDS may be enjoying its moment in the sun but, as Louis Brandeis said, sunshine is the best disinfectant.

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April 22, 2014 15:39 By Category : Backspin Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS)

Passover Terror Passed Over

Baruch Mizrahi (photo credit: AFP/HO/Israel Police)

Baruch Mizrahi (photo credit: AFP/HO/Israel Police)

Possibly the worst reporting on the terrorist murder of Baruch Mizrahi, who was killed by a Palestinian terrorist while driving to a family Passover Seder, appeared in The Times of London under the headline: “Israeli policeman is shot dead amid fury over settlers’ return.”

The story begins:

An Israeli policeman was shot dead near Hebron on the eve of the Passover festival as Jewish settlers celebrated their return to a disputed house in a Palestinian area of the West Bank city.

Three families moved into the building on Sunday evening, protected by Israeli soldiers, hours after Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli defence minister, granted permission for their return — six years after their initial eviction.

The first apparent retaliation for the return of the settlers came on Monday night when a man opened fire on a car outside Hebron.

A number of observations:

1. While Baruch Mizrahi may have been a policeman, he was off-duty and traveling with his family when the attack occurred. He was not driving a marked police vehicle. There was no way for the Palestinian terrorist to know that he was firing on an Israeli policeman.

Is this emphasis on Mizrahi’s profession and the portrayal of him as something other than a civilian, Times journalist Catherine Philp’s thinly veiled attempt to suggest that he may have been a “legitimate” target for a Palestinian gunman?

2. Since when have Palestinian terrorists needed an excuse to attack Israelis? A direct linkage between a disputed house in Hebron and the terrorist attack is tenuous and speculative at best. Worse, it implies an air of legitimacy for the attack. Despite the headline, the attack itself is relegated to a single paragraph out of the fourteen in the article.

For Catherine Philp, the indiscriminate murder of an Israeli in a terror attack is far outweighed by the return of an Israeli family to a house in Hebron and the settlement issue.




The Guardian, at least, devoted more column inches to the terrorist attack itself. The report, however, included the following error:

The family in the car that was hit was understood to be en route from their home in Modi’in - an Israeli town split across occupied Palestinian and Israeli territory – to visit the mother’s family for the traditional meal that commences the Passover religious festival.

Modi’in, a major Israeli city is not, in fact, “split across occupied Palestinian and Israeli territory.” The city is considered to be within the Green Line and even the Palestinians have not raised any claims concerning the location of the small satellite town of Maccabim within the “no-man’s land” that existed until 1967.

Once again, the home of the victim is inserted into an article as a means of legitimizing or understanding Palestinian violence. After all, for the media, it’s far easier to excuse terrorism when Israeli “settlers” are the target.

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April 22, 2014 13:43 By Category : Backspin UK News

HR CEO Joe Hyams Gives Media Clinic at Northeastern University

Joe at Northeastern


College campuses have always been battlegrounds over Israel’s legitimacy, so it’s no surprise that the latest wave of delegitimization – the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement – has made major inroads with college students across the U.S. One of the most volatile campuses in recent years has been Northeastern University in Boston, where a pro-Palestinian group was recently banned for its extremist activity.

So with HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyam currently based in Boston while participating in the Hornstein Jewish Professionals Leadership Program at Brandeis University, the time was right for an HonestReporting visit to the Northeasten University campus.

Joe and the students thrashed out the important issues involved in responding to the boycott movement, especially in the context of campus activism. “The BDS uses the media and especially social media to promote its attacks on Israel, but reacting to the BDS is different than responding to traditional media bias,” he said.

“In the mainstream media, there is a desire for credibility,” he explained. “News outlets can be pressured to correct mistakes. With BDS, accuracy is not a high value, so we have to be smart about how much free press we give them.

“So, when and how do we respond? How do we avoid giving oxygen to a story that would not reach many people without our response? Are there times when ignoring things is not an option? What is our role, as tech-savvy 20s and 30s supporters of Israel?”

HonestReporting’s latest slideshow (see below) offers some answers to those questions and presents a strategy to turn the tables on the BDS movement. Fighting BDS starts with recognizing and promoting the true aim of the BDS movement, which is to destroy Israel’s Jewish character. After that, it’s vital to challenge the lies that form the basis of BDS claims against Israel, such as the smear that Israel is an apartheid state. Then, turn boycott and divestment campaigns around to promote Israel. For example, if there is a boycott campaign against a particular product or company, organize a counter-campaign to drum up business for that company. That way the boycotters end up helping the company, not hurting it.

At Northeastern, Joe noted the BDS movement was just the latest incarnation of the drive to delegitimize Israel, which has been active for decades. It is rooted not only in the racist 2001 Durban Conference but also the propoganda behind the 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism.

Following the talk, students said they would welcome a workshop dealing with the anti-Israel atmosphere at Northeastern University and the growing anti-Semitism that goes along with it. “You can’t believe everything you see in the media, especially photos,” one student said after the discussion.

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April 22, 2014 12:49 By Category : Backspin

The Economist Gets its “Settlers” Wrong

economistA recent article in The Economist reports on the breakdown of peace talks and refers to the murder of Baruch Mizrahi, who was killed by a Palestinian terrorist while driving to a family Passover Seder:

The next day a Palestinian gunman fired on cars on a nearby road restricted to settlers, killing one of them.

The Economist needs to check its facts.

1. Highway 35, on which this terrorist attack took place, is not “restricted to settlers.” Palestinian vehicles are allowed to use this highway within the West Bank.

2. Baruch Mizrahi was a resident of Modi’in, an Israeli city within the Green Line and not a “settler” as The Economist maintains.

A request for a correction has been sent to The Economist.

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April 22, 2014 10:30 By Category : Backspin UK News

Racism a “Troubling Trend” in BDS


Graphic courtesy of

At the end of February, while others were preparing for the imminent hate-fest known as Israel Apartheid Week, Richard Silverstein, a particularly vehement anti-Zionist, got the ball rolling with a fierce attack on Chloe Simone Valdary, an undergraduate student and a supporter of Israel.

Valdary had written a piece for The Times of Israel about the debacle at the Jewish Museum in New York, when arch-BDS supporter Judith Butler was invited to speak, then declined the invitation after a blacklash against her.

Silverstein took to Twitter to respond to Valdary’s article, using shocking, racist language that seemed extreme even for him:

They finally did it: found a Negro Zionist: Uncle Tom is dancin’ for joy!

— Tikun Olam (@richards1052) February 22, 2014

Silverstein was pilloried as a racist on Twitter from dozens of critics outraged not only by his language but also by his stunning insistence that the comments were correct. But the reaction against him appeared to be limited to Twitter, and a few blogs.

Until now. The New York Post published an article by Anthony Hardy Williams, Democratic whip in the Pennsylvania state Senate.

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It turns out, Silverstein was not the only anti-Israel activist to fall into crude racism in response to Valdary. Notable BDS figures, such as Zaid Jilani, were also tweeting vile attacks in reference to Valdary’s race.

Williams noted that BDS is seen as a progressive movement, “so it’s astounding to see its supporters turn to racism.” He added:

Why should such hate speech go unchallenged, just because it’s cloaked as criticism of Israel?

As a civil-rights activist and leader in the African-American community, I’m exceptionally disturbed to discover that the response to this attack on Valdary has been subdued, almost nonexistent.

Just as Jews stood with African-Americans during the fight for civil rights in the 1960s, so too must we as leaders of the Black community stand together today with Chloé Simone Valdary, on the one hand, and the Jewish community, on the other hand.

Williams also called the response to Valdary, a “deeply troubling trend in an anti-Israel movement that goes way beyond honest criticism of Israeli policy to dehumanize and vilify Israel, Israelis and anyone who supports the Jewish state.”

As we’ve said before, you can’t fight for justice with hypocrisy, and whether its anti-Semitism or classic racism, BDS is so loaded with hypocrisy, it’s hard to see anything else.

And here is a video of Chloe Valdary speaking out against the BDS movement:

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April 13, 2014 14:25 By Category : Backspin Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS)

BDS Pro Behind Divestment at Loyola

spies-doorway-02The BDS movement presents itself as the voice of the people. Its founding myth, which it repeats again and again, is about how it was launched in response to a call from Palestinian NGOs in 2005. Actually, it’s a product of the noxious 2001 Durban Conference, where Israel was branded a racist state that deserved to be isolated from the rest of the world.

In the effort to present itself as a grassroots movement, BDS puts a lot of stock in student government measures to divest from Israel. These symbolic measures – which have yet to push any university to actually divest from Israel – appear to come from the students themselves and seemingly capture the will of the student body.

That seemed to be the case at a recent vote at Loyola University in Chicago, where the student government passed a divestment resolution, which was subsequently overturned by the Student Government President.

Join the Fighting BDS Facebook page and take a stand against Israel’s delegitimization.

But recent developments have shown that Loyola students are not getting what they think they are getting. According to Max Samarov, a researcher at StandWithUS, the legislation was not written by a student but rather by a veteran activist with the BDS movement:

On Tuesday, April 1st, Students for Justice in Palestine presented the Loyola student government with an anti-Israel divestment resolution. But what they neglected to mention was that they didn’t write the legislation themselves. It turned out that the real author was Dalit Baum, a major leader in the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Baum is not a student or faculty member of Loyola or any North American university. She is a paid operative working to co-opt student governments into following the BDS Movement’s malicious, anti-Israel agenda. And if she is writing resolutions for one school, it is likely that she is writing them for others as well.

The revelation that students were not necessarily the real sponsors of the resolution is another example of the duplicity of the BDS movement, which is eager to claim a victory at any cost.

As delegitimization expert Tal Becker recently said, “Part of the approach of the delegitimizers is to have many little lies and then it builds up into a big lie and a narrative.”

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April 9, 2014 15:41 By Category : Backspin Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS)

Palestinian Marathon: Media Runs the Errors

righttomovementA number of media outlets have covered the Israeli refusal to allow a Gaza marathon runner to cross into the West Bank in order to take part in a Bethlehem marathon. Cue another opportunity for the media to present Israel as the neighborhood bully whose only interest is to deliberately make the lives of Palestinians miserable.

Somewhat ironically, the Bethlehem marathon is presented under the banner of “Right to Movement,” which lends some credence to the IDF’s statement that the marathon has “political overtones.” Indeed, it is clear that the marathon’s message is to highlight restrictions on Palestinian movement – restrictions that exist in order to maintain security for Israelis in the face of the terror threat.

Arguably, Israel might very well have neutered the marathon’s political message by granting the Palestinian runner the necessary permission to exit Gaza and not giving the Palestinians a propaganda gift.

Putting this aside however, at least two of the media reports include serious errors.

Israel’s treatment of Palestinian athletes and footballers has led for Israel to be kicked out of Fifa.

The calls for Israel’s removal grew louder after two Palestinian footballers were reportedly shot in the feet at an Israeli checkpoint, preventing them from ever playing football again.

Israel has most definitely not been kicked out of world soccer’s governing body although there are currently calls for Israel’s expulsion from international competitions. Most likely this error is simply one that occurred during the editing process.

The claim that two Palestinian footballers were reportedly shot in the feet at an Israeli checkpoint, is, however, utterly false. The lies have been comprehensively debunked on the Elder of Ziyon blog and should no longer be deemed credible by the mainstream media.

Virtually all exports from Gaza are currently banned and most of the territory’s 1.7 million people are not allowed to travel abroad.

This is patently untrue. Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) states:

The export of all products has been approved for sale abroad. Since the beginning of 2012 through July 2013, over 842 tons of fruits, vegetables and spices were exported abroad from Gaza through Israel. Additionally, more than 12.2 million flowers have been exported from Gaza abroad during this period.

This certainly doesn’t sound like most exports are banned.

As for the claim that most of Gaza’s population are not allowed to travel abroad, it is true that Israel, for understandable security reasons, does not permit Gazans to fly out of Ben-Gurion Airport. However, Israel is not responsible for the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Here, the Egyptian government has implemented restrictions on Palestinian movement through the crossing that previously allowed Palestinians to travel abroad via Egypt.

Sometimes, producing news stories is treated like a sprint rather than a marathon. It’s time that some media outlets took the time to exercise due care and attention to the facts when it comes to reporting on Israel.

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April 9, 2014 14:17 By Category : Backspin UK News

AFP’s Settlement Error

afpTake a look at the opening paragraph of an AFP story on the breakdown of peace talks:

US Secretary of State John Kerry has blamed approval of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem for derailing peace talks with Palestinians, a charge that pricked Israeli officials and sent aides into damage control.

Even if we were to accept the inaccurate terminology used to describe what are actually Jewish neighborhoods or suburbs of Jerusalem – which we don’t – AFP is evidently confused. The approval that the sentence refers to is for building units in existing neighborhoods, not the creation of new settlements as the sentence mistakenly implies.

When the media cannot distinguish between cities, neighborhoods, individual buildings or isolated hilltops, is it any wonder that there is no nuance in reporting on the settlement issue?

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April 9, 2014 13:14 By Category : Backspin

Recommended Reading: The IDF’s Combat Cameramen

doverIsrael’s business newspaper Globes has published a feature article focusing on the IDF’s combat cameramen:

[IDF First Sergeant Naor] Blanco is one of 24 fighters who are classified as “combat cameramen” who were trained in a special unit established by the IDF Spokesperson’s unit two years ago, and which operates as a combat platoon in every respect. They have undergone arduous training in the Golani brigade, like any other combat soldier. They know when to place the enemy in the crosshairs of their rifles, and when to point their cameras at them.

One picture is worth a thousand spins

Years later than it should have, the IDF has come to understand that stealth fighters and smart bombs are not enough to win the battle for public opinion, and that one good picture can save commissions of enquiry and a few other international headaches. En route to this victory, the IDF decided to forego one or two guns on the battlefield, and to replace them with still or video cameras that will make it possible to tell the same story to the world, in an entirely different way.

The men documenting operations are combat soldiers in every respect. They operate in the hottest conflict zones, they are up against civilian populations in the field, they see the whites of the terrorists’ eyes, and when bullets are whistle over their heads, their story only gets more interesting. When the forces advance towards their target with their fingers on their triggers, the combat cameraman points a loaded, battle-adapted camera, so the IDF can guarantee itself victory in the next battle – the one that will follow the moment the soldiers have left the heat of the battlefield: the battle of how the operation is perceived.

At the conclusion of the story, an IDF spokesperson says:

Today, we can only imagine how the Muhammad al-Durrah incident (during the Second Intifada) would have unfolded had we had a combat documenter at the scene.

Indeed, the use of trained soldiers to document the IDF’s operations through the camera lens is an important development and may yet prove crucial in defending Israel against Goldstone Report-style accusations in the future.

Read the full article here.

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April 8, 2014 15:00 By Category : Backspin Tags:,