Stepping Out of the Ring

Dear Honest Reporting Member,

It is difficult to find a more democratic country in the world than Israel. Arab members of the Knesset declare treasonous positions or serve as advisors to the Palestinian Authority without penalty. Israeli journalists attack Israeli policies or write in support of Yasser Arafat’s war on Israel without chastisement.

Until now, HonestReporting has avoided criticizing Israeli journalists, preferring to leave that to internal Israeli debate. On September 2, however, one Israel reporter stepped out of the ring and took her biases to the editorial pages of The New York Times.

Amira Hass, the Ha’aretz correspondent in the Palestinian territories, identifies so closely with the Palestinians that for the past 5 years she has actually lived in Palestinian-controlled Ramallah (site of the infamous lynching), and before that for 3 years in Gaza.

To put this into perspective: In March, Marwan Barghouti, leader of the PA’s Tanzim militia, warned outright that any Israeli journalist who entered PA areas would be killed. Since then, most Israeli journalists either stay home or make sure to be accompanied by well-connected Palestinians.

However, Hass travels freely throughout the PA. It is no wonder that the pro-Palestinian Guardian (UK) recently praised her as “an extraordinary woman… determined to tell them the truth about the treatment of Palestinians… a traitor to some, and a kind of obsessed saint to others…”

In order to further her pro-Palestinian position, Haas has violated basic journalistic standards. In June 2001, the Jerusalem District Court ordered Ha’aretz and Hass to pay 250,000 shekels (about $80,000) for slandering the Jewish community of Hebron. In January, Haas had reported on an incident in which Israeli Border Police killed a wanted Palestinian terrorist, Shabber Hassouna al-Husseini. Hass reported that Jews from Hebron kicked, spit on and danced around the dead body.

Following an investigation, the Israeli Army determined that the accusations were false. Hebron’s Jewish community demanded a written apology from Ha’aretz, but when the request was denied, the community turned to the courts. Judge Rachel Shalev-Gartel concluded in favor of the Hebron residents, ruling that Haas’ report — disproven by several televised accounts of the incident — damaged the community’s reputation.

In her New York Times column, “Separate and Unequal on the West Bank,” Hass excoriates Israeli policy and charges that Israeli control of Palestinian land, water and movement was the catalyst of the year-long Palestinian war. In previously published items, Hass referred to Israel’s “apartheid regime.”

Amira Hass’ column can be read at:
http://nytimes.com/2001/09/02/opinion/02HASS.html

If you find Hass’ column biased, respond to:
letters@nytimes.com
FAX: (212) 556-3622

Or send a letter to:
Letters to the Editor
The New York Times,
229 West 43rd Street,
New York, NY 10036

The most effective method is to write a letter in your own words. Otherwise, cut-and-paste the sample letter below.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.

HonestReporting.com

========== SAMPLE LETTER OF COMPLAINT ============

To the Editor of The New York Times:

Amira Hass’ attack on Israeli policies (“Separate and Unequal on the West Bank” September 2) is replete with unfair and inaccurate charges.

Hass claims that Israeli “settlements” and “outposts” are built on Palestinian “family land.” In fact, the Israeli Supreme Court has repeatedly outlawed any attempt to confiscate private land for settlement use. Jewish communities have been built on public lands that were previously controlled by the Jordanian government, the British mandate authorities, and the Ottoman administration before that.

For example, the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo has come under constant Palestinian attack, yet in the 1948 war, Jewish lands in Gilo were captured and confiscated by the Jordanian government. From 1948-67, Jewish landowners did not relinquish ownership to their land in Gilo, and when Israel recaptured the land in 1967, Gilo was built — not because of war victories, but because of legal land purchases. It is an “open secret” that Jabra Hamis, former mayor of Beit Jala, sold Israelis land on which parts of Gilo are built.

Hass bemoans the travel restrictions placed on Palestinians, when “no Israeli settler in Gaza would face this problem.” Taken out of context, it is technically correct that Israeli travelers aren’t subject to roadblocks; rather they are ambushed, shot at and bombed by Palestinians. The roads built by Israel — including the “bypass” roads — were also open for Palestinian travel, until Palestinian gunmen started using Israeli civilians for target practice.

Hass claims that 390,000 “settlers” now live in the territories. By including in this count all of eastern Jerusalem (there is no geographic or municipal entity called “East Jerusalem”), Hass apparently challenges any Jewish rights to even the Western Wall.

Hass ignores the fact that 40 percent of the land and 98 percent of the Palestinians are under Palestinian Authority control. Arafat could have had much more — including his coveted state — but he rejected Israel’s offer of 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as a capitol in Jerusalem. Hass ignores the testimony of senior American officials in praise of Ehud Barak’s brave offer, and she hides the fact that Arafat refused to make any negotiating counter-offer.

Hass bemoans the plight of Palestinians living in squalid refugee camps. Yet billions of dollars of international aid has poured into the Palestinian Authority, ostensibly for the purpose of alleviating these conditions. If poverty continues to plague Palestinian society, the fault lies with the corruption and nepotism of Arafat and his cronies — who reportedly have billions of dollars in private holding worldwide.

Shouldn’t The New York Times have checked these basic facts before publishing anti-Israel slander?

======================================

HONEST REPORTING SUCCESSES!

- Claire T. Brown, an HonestReporting member from Fort Worth, Texas, got published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

- Uriel Gerber, a 17-year-old Israeli, spent the summer visiting his grandparents in Richmond, Virginia. He wrote a poignant piece about his perspective from the other side of the ocean, which was published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. This is a good example of how we can use an interesting, local angle to generate positive press for Israel. Get creative and try submitting to your own paper!

======================================

WORLD’S LARGEST ROSH HASHANA CARD

Join New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Jewish leaders in sending off the world’s largest Rosh Hashana Card (40,000 cards and 250 feet long) to families of the victims of terror attacks in Israel. The ceremony is on Wednesday, September 5 at 10
a.m., at City Hall (Broadway and Murray Streets).

More info: 212-318-6111, or info@prescon.org.
Sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Jewish Literacy Foundation, and Israel Emergency Solidarity Fund.

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