NY Times Distorts Land Bill

HonestReporting member Eleana G. followed The New York Times’ coverage of a bill proposed by the Israeli cabinet making it “possible to allot lands for Jewish settlers only if the Defense Minister determined that those settlement areas were high security risks, or if there was a government decision to preserve an area’s unified cultural, ideological, and communal way of life.”

We are not arguing the efficacy of the bill. (Indeed, the cabinet voted to shelve the bill as a result of intense opposition from across the Israeli political spectrum.) We are opposed, however, to two articles in The New York Times that greatly distorted the issue:

– “Plan to Keep Arabs Off Some Land is Backed”

– “Israel Backs Off Bill to Curb Arab Home Buying”

The Times falsely claims that the bill would bar Arabs from living in any Jewish communities on state land: “The bill, which would amend an existing law, says that state land allocated to build communities in Israel will be for Jewish settlement only.”

In fact, the bill would have permitted Jewish-only settlements under certain special circumstances. That is very different than a bill that mandates them and forbids Arabs from buying any state land.

Further, The Times’ coverage did not mention the degree of opposition the bill immediately faced across the political spectrum:

The first article only mentioned two individual Israeli politicians who opposed the bill — the Attorney General, and Yossi Sarid, who was quoted with the inflammatory statement that the government was “turning Israel into a racist state… perhaps the most racist in the family of democratic nations.”

In a classic case of selective omission, The Times did not mention that prominent politicians on the right and center were vocal in their opposition to the bill, including Dan Meridor and Benjamin Begin (Menachem Begin’s son) who ended three years of public silence since resigning from politics to call the bill “undemocratic” and “unworthy.”

The Times did not mention how they all referred to Israel’s declaration of independence, which guaranteed equal rights for its Arab citizens, and clearly expressed their view that Zionism must be inclusive. The one mention of Israel’s commitment to equal rights in the article quoted an Arab:

“Mr. Kaadan, on the other hand, said that sponsors of the bill sought to ‘create a new apartheid,’ and that ministers supporting the legislation had forgotten Israel’s declaration of independence, which promises equal rights to all citizens.”

Finally, The Times did not mention important related information that would place the bill in a different light:

(1) The bill drew on a previous High Court ruling that allowed the creation of Bedouin-only communities to preserve their unique traditions.

(2) The Palestinian Authority, in contrast, considers it a capital offense o sell land to Jews. See shocking statements by Palestinian officials forbidding the sale of land to Jews:

If you feel The Times was biased in its presentation, write to:

Be sure to include: full name, full address, day and evening phone numbers.

===== ON TOP OF SKYNEWS =====

HonestReporting member Norma C. spotted the following disturbing paragraph on SkyNews:

“With the Israelis proving ineffective in stopping the bombers getting into Jerusalem, the tactic of suicide bombing is highly successful, and is perhaps the only tool the Palestinians have to fight the heavily-equipped Israelis.”

Norma quickly complained, and received the following email from the SkyNews Editor (NewsOnline@bskyb.com):

“We agree the comments saying ‘suicide bombing is highly successful’ were badly phrased and ill-judged. We have amended the story to make it clear that is the view of Palestinian extremists and not Sky News. We have also taken out the phrase ‘heavily equipped Israelis’ as the bombers are attacking civilians, not the army.”

===== NEWARK SERIES =====

The Newark Star-Ledger sent reporters Farnaz Fassihi and John Hassels to Israel on special assignment. They’ve been cranking out stories on peace village Neve Shalom; a comedian trying to bridge gaps in the diverse Jewish demographics; Palestinian merchants moaning the hard times in Bethlehem; a feature on Kfar Etzion, the first settlement built across the Green Line after the Six Day War; and Gaza women discussing female suicide bombers.

Here is a link for all the articles in the series: