Joe Hyams at AIPAC: We Can Defeat the BDS

joeaipac1The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is trying to undermine Israel’s legitimacy, but we can defeat the movement if we work together to subvert its message, HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams told attendees of the AIPAC Policy Conference this week in Washington, DC.

Joe joined CAMERA’s CEO, Andrea Levin, and The Israel Project’s CEO, Josh Block on a panel discussing “Middle East Media: Covering a Region in Turmoil,” on the second day of the conference.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared to the AIPAC audience that the BDS would fail, Joe took up the challenge of showing the audience how.

Unlike traditional forms of media bias from the mainstream press, which stand to lose credibility when they are shown to be violating principles of journalism, BDS thrives on media exposure,” Joe said.

The only way to address it is to subvert its message. SodaStream is the most successful high profile example of this to date,” he continued. “They managed to appear more humanitarian than Oxfam, and created an alternative to the dogma that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is entirely bad for the Palestinians.

joeaipactweetJudging by the audience response, which included live tweets throughout the talk, Joe’s message clearly hit its target. Joe also talked about the elements of fair media coverage and what Israel’s advocates can reasonably expect from the media.

But the annual AIPAC Conference is more than just three days of speeches and panels on the biggest issues facing Israel. It’s also an opportunity to exchange ideas with the brightest stars in the world of Israel advocacy and create opportunities for collaboration that will benefit the Jewish world in numerous unexpected ways.

Joe met with a wide range of policy makers and opinion leaders throughout the conference, including current ministers in the Israeli government, leaders of local communities across the U.S., authors, journalists and activists.

Joe Hyams with Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz

Joe Hyams with Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz

As an invited speaker and not just a delegate attending the conference, Joe was in high demand, even when he attended sessions by other speakers. During a working dinner, Joe was addressed from the podium, with the speaker informing the audience that Joe was “a temporary Bostonian” and recommended him as a keynote speaker for upcoming events.

Joe’s appearance at AIPAC was an important gateway to bringing HonestReporting’s message to a wider audience. And it comes just as the wider Jewish world has come to see the depth of the media threat HonestReporting has been fighting for the past 13 years.

Now, more than ever, we need our supporters to join us as we set our sights on the most insidious media threat we’ve faced in a decade – one which seeks to undermine Israel’s very legitimacy. But together we can turn the tide against the BDS and bring Israel a bright new future.

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March 6, 2014 16:35 By Category : Backspin Tags:, ,

Reuters: How a Typo Can Create a Conspiracy Theory

It’s not unusual to find anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists lurking in the nether regions of the web who will always try to claim that Israel mounts “false flag operations” to discredit its enemies. In the case of the Iranian weapons ship seized by the IDF, this would entail Israel planting the missiles on board in order to serve its own nefarious propaganda.

While this sort of fringe lunacy can be readily dismissed, it isn’t helpful when a reputable media outlet makes an error that might assist in the construction of such a conspiracy theory.

Take Reuters, which initially reported:

Israeli television footage showed what appeared to be marines inspecting a rocket on the floor of a ship hold, with cement bags labeled “Made in Israel” in English next to it.

In fact, this is what Israeli television footage, courtesy of the IDF, actually showed:


The cement bags were clearly marked “Made in R. Iran” and not Israel.

While Reuters has since corrected its original report, the same cannot be said of other international media outlets that relied on the Reuters story for their own coverage, including the Sydney Morning Herald and Canada’s Globe and Mail.

This illustrates the added responsibility that the wire services have to get it right the first time and the dangers behind a simple typo.


Both the Sydney Morning Herald and the Globe and Mail have updated their articles to match the corrected Reuters version.

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March 6, 2014 12:17 By Category : Backspin

The Independent Headline That Sums Up the Bias

If there was ever a headline that sums up the one-sided view that Israel and only Israel can and should make concessions in peace negotiations with the Palestinians, this is it in The Independent:


So, according to The Independent, simply recognizing the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state is “impossible” for Mahmoud Abbas. And what’s more, according to The Independent, Netanyahu is clearly the spoiler in the talks for making the demand.

But what about Palestinian demands to flood Israel with millions of “refugees” under the so-called Right of Return? Why is asking for the effective end of Israel as a Jewish state not considered an “impossible” demand on the part of the Palestinians?

Just another example of how media bias is allowed to present peace talks as a one-way street where Israel is the only driver. Palestinians are portrayed as powerless passengers on the journey with no responsibility for the bumps on the road.

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March 5, 2014 11:35 By Category : Backspin

Telegraph Implies Tel Aviv is Israel’s Capital

How many times does the UK media need to be reminded that Tel Aviv is not the capital of Israel? A story in the Daily Telegraph on U.S. President Obama’s meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu contains the following paragraph:


Israel’s parliament, foreign ministry and most other organs of government are based in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv. Would the Telegraph refer to “New York” or “Manchester” when talking about U.S. administration or UK government activities respectively? Of course not.

While the Telegraph may not want to go as far as to acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s legitimate capital, it may wish to consider that the UK’s Press Complaints Commission has already ruled on this very issue after HonestReporting took action in 2012 against The Guardian for declaring Tel Aviv as the Israeli capital.

A complaint has been sent to the Telegraph reminding it of the PCC ruling. Watch this space.


The Daily Telegraph has updated its article, which now reads:


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March 4, 2014 16:31 By Category : Backspin UK News

South African News Puff Piece Promotes Israel Apartheid Week

South Africa’s SABC Newsroom is the main morning TV weekday news program on South Africa’s public broadcaster. On the morning of March 4, SABC gave a platform to two activists promoting Israel Apartheid Week.

A professional and balanced presenter would have qualified his statements by acknowledging that Israeli “apartheid” is a perception rather than a fact. But not SABC Newsroom’s Eben Jansen who opens by referring to Israel Apartheid Week as “a series of events that raise awareness of Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians.

Jansen then interviews the two anti-Israel activists giving them several minutes of carte blanche to promote Israel Apartheid Week and their anti-Israel agenda. When one interviewee explains that Israel fits the definition of an “apartheid state,” there is no followup or counter-argument. Instead it is treated as an accepted fact in the same way that the earth is considered to be round.

While the activists are given a free ride in what is effectively a powder-puff interview, their language betrays their real agenda:

  • Referring to the “Israeli regime and the indigenous Palestinian people” as if Israelis are illegitimate and colonialist.
  • One of the activists lauds the involvement of “progressive” Jews in their campaign and claims that they make it clear that “Israel does not speak in the name of all Jews and that it’s only a group of Jewish people that recognize Israel as a state for them and them only.” While he may wish to hold up Jewish support to give his anti-Israel campaign the fig leaf of credibility, South African Jewry is renowned for its Zionism and, with statistics that some 80% of the community regard themselves as “orthodox,” it’s highly unlikely that Jewish involvement in Israel Apartheid Week is anything other than marginal.
  • sabcnewsWhen asked for their solution to the conflict, the activists present what appears to be a reasonable and peaceful answer: “a country for all people whether you are Jewish, Muslim, Palestinian or any other can be created in the Middle East for all that reside in that area.” This is a thinly veiled reference to a one-state solution whereby Israel is no longer a Jewish sovereign state – a proposition promoted by extremists who wish to see the effective destruction of Israel.

Eben Jansen signs off by wishing the activists all the best for Apartheid Week. With that sort of soft interview, offering only one side of the story, SABC Newsroom has clearly done its best to assist Israel Apartheid Week.

In the interests of balance why did SABC Newsroom not invite someone with a pro-Israel counterpoint on the show? Or is the SABC acknowledging that professional journalism is secondary to promoting a biased and anti-Israel political agenda?

See HonestReporting’s Israel Apartheid State Libel page for more resources.

You can make your feelings known to SABC through its feedback form asking how such a one-sided and biased interview was allowed to be screened and demand that a guest be invited on air to state Israel’s case.

H/T: Uri Gobey aka Israel Muse

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March 4, 2014 12:36 By Category : Backspin South Africa Tags:, , ,

Monday at AIPAC: HR’s Joe Hyams Discusses The Media

HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams is due to appear at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference today in Washington  D.C. He’ll be participating in a 12:30 p.m. panel discussion on “Middle East Media: Covering a Region in Turmoil.”

Also on the panel are CAMERA’s CEO, Andrea Levin, and The Israel Project’s CEO, Josh Block.

Here’s Joe backstage with Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz.

Joe Hyams and Yuval Steinitz

HR CEO Joe Hyams backstage at AIPAC with Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz.

March 3, 2014 14:46 By Category : Backspin Tags:, , ,

The Guardian Changes “Jewish Lobby” Headline

An opinion piece by Alan Elsner appeared on The Guardian’s website in advance of the upcoming AIPAC conference:


But a look at the article’s URL gives a clue as to the original headline:

Indeed, a bit of online digging and a look at some retweets on Twitter such as this below reveal that the original headline referenced “The American Jewish lobby“:


While The Guardian updated the headline a few hours later to its current version, it says much about that media outlet’s thinking that it would initially refer to the “American Jewish lobby,” a term that is more usually associated with anti-Semitic tropes.

Perhaps not so surprising coming from The Guardian.

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February 27, 2014 10:36 By Category : Backspin UK News

German Paper Apologizes for Yet Another Anti-Semitic Cartoon

Süddeutsche Zeitung (the same paper which apologized for a cartoon demonizing Israel last year) apologized on Twitter for another anti-Semitic-themed cartoon. 

Süddeutsche Zeitung

This time around, cartoonist Burkhard Mohr, caricatured Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg as a long-nosed octopus controlling the world. Not smart. If you don’t get why, see the Daily Mail, which compared Mohr’s caricature to similar Nazi imagery.

What’s with these German cartoonists?

Forced to explain himself, Mohr told the Jerusalem Post the cartoon was his take on Facebook acquiring WhatsApp. The caricature, he said, wasn’t intended to be viewed as an expression of anti-Semitism or as a personal attack on Zuckerberg, adding,

I am sorry that it led to this misunderstanding and hurt the feelings of some readers.

Mohr subsequently revised the cartoon.

revised cartoon

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February 25, 2014 12:12 By Category : Backspin Tags:, , , , ,

The Apartheid Smear Debunked

apartheidsmearbicomAs ‘Israel Apartheid Week‘ returns to university campuses, BICOM has released a comprehensive rebuttal to the Apartheid Smear. According to BICOM:

The idea that Israel is an ‘apartheid state’ is the intellectual foundation of the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (BDS). This pamphlet shows it is a smear: a malicious lie that does huge damage to the peace process.

The pamphlet shows Israel is not an ‘apartheid state’

  • Israel is a multi-ethnic democracy. Every citizen is guaranteed equal rights under the law.
  • Universities and hospitals are integrated and the judiciary counters discrimination.
  • Israel’s Arab citizens hold collective rights as a national minority. Arabic is an official language and there is a thriving Arabic mass media, literature and theater scene.
  • The Israeli government combats discrimination and is pursuing policies to close the economic gaps between majority and minority, open up the civil service, equalize welfare, introduce Arabic into Jewish schools, and improve access to higher education.

The pamphlet shows that the Apartheid Smear works against peace      

  • The smear stops us from understanding the conflict as it is – not apartheid but a complicated and long-running national conflict between two peoples, about their equally legitimate national claims over a piece of land, requiring mutual recognition and a negotiated solution: two states for two peoples.
  • The smear damages hopes for peace by encouraging extremists, demoralizing moderates, and fostering a destructive ‘boycott activism’ in the West. The smear causes political polarization, damaging the chance of compromise, mutual recognition and reconciliation.
  • The smear consumes energies that should be invested in a different kind of activism; pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli: pro-peace.

The pamphlet refutes the supporting arguments of those who push the Apartheid Smear

  • It shows that Zionism is not a form of racism.
  • It shows that in 1948 the Jews accepted the UN partition plan but a pan-Arab invasion of the infant Jewish state caused a war. The Palestinian refugee problem was born of this war, not by design, and certainly not by ‘ethnic cleansing.’
  • It shows that being a ‘Jewish state’ does not make Israel an apartheid state. Israel is not a theocracy (rule by clerics) or a state exclusively for Jews, but a democracy, governed by the rule of law as drafted by an elected parliament, the Knesset. All faiths vote and all enjoy freedom of worship. The Declaration of Independence explicitly provides for the protection of minorities.
  • It challenges a series of myths about the Territories: the Palestinian Authority is not a ‘Bantustan’, the security barrier is not an ’Apartheid Wall’, and settlements have not killed the two state solution.

The pamphlet reveals the true history of the Apartheid Smear

  • The smear originated in the well-funded, and often antisemitic ‘anti-Zionist’ campaigns waged by the Communist states for their Cold War purposes from the 1940s to the 1980s.
  • The smear was boosted when a coalition between the Soviet Bloc, the authoritarian Arab states, and the Non-Aligned Movement’ used its built-in majority at the UN General Assembly to pass Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism in 1975.
  • The smear went global when anti-Israel activists hijacked the UN’s World Conference against Racism, Racial Intolerance and Xenophobia in Durban, South Africa in 2001 to launch a global campaign to label Israel as an ‘apartheid state.’ South Africa’s then Deputy Foreign Minister, Aziz Pahad, responded: ‘I wish to make it unequivocally clear that the South African government recognises that … [the Durban Conference] was hijacked and used by some with an anti-Israel agenda to turn into an antisemitic event.’
  • The pattern is clear: whatever the good intentions of some supporters of the Apartheid Smear, in the minds of its hard-core promoters there is a darker purpose: the demonisation of Israel as a pariah state in order to prepare the ground for its eventual destruction. Enough is enough.

The pamphlet shows there is an alternative

  • It is possible to be pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli: pro-peace.
  • Nelson Mandela challenged us to support those on both sides of the conflict who seek mutual recognition and peace: two states for two peoples.
  • Many organizations do just that, including One Voice, Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF), MEET, Merchavim, Peres Centre for Peace.
  • This is the real alternative to the dead-end and destructive politics of ‘BDS’ and the Apartheid Smear.

Download The Apartheid Smear (PDF) here.

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February 24, 2014 12:39 By Category : Backspin Tags:, ,

HR at Houston Yom Limmud

HonestReporting’s USA Executive Director Gary Kenzer spoke about media bias for the third year running at Yom Limmud in Houston, Texas on February 16.

Yom Limmud provides a unique opportunity for Jews from all denominations and walks of life to come together in one place at one time to learn, exchange ideas, and share experiences. Scores of seminars, featuring presentations by rabbis, cantors, Jewish educators, college professors, cultural arts specialists, and other experts were facilitated throughout the day.

Gary Kenzer

HonestReporting’s USA director, Gary Kenzer

On March 2 Gary will be the keynote speaker at the Limmud Winnipeg, Manitoba event. In addition he will give a number of speeches at local congregations during Shabbat that same weekend. If  you are in the Winnipeg area next weekend, please stop by to hear Gary speak at one of these venues.


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February 24, 2014 12:08 By Category : Backspin Tags:, , , , ,