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June 30, 2008

Globe Correspondent Apologizes for Doing Her Job


A reporter for the Boston Globe gasp ... apologizes!

In a stunning display of humility, Globe reporter Victoria Cheng apologized to Cambridge "peace" activists who visited Bethlehem as part of a "people-to-people" delegation last fall. The delegation met with members of the Bethlehem City Council (who, by the way, were elected with the political support of groups like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Al-Askas Matyr's Brigade) to -- get this -- highlight the impact of Israel's security barrier on the people of Bethlehem.

The average reader might want to know that the delegates think politicians elected with the support of terror groups are credible sources of information about a security barrier built to stop suicide attacks.

Cheng did not apologize to her readers for leaving this information out of an article she wrote about the Cambridge delegation's trip to Bethlehem which appeared on Dec. 23, 2007. Instead, she apologized to the delegation for "not doing justice to [their] trip."

Hillel Stavis broke the story at Solomonia.

Judging from the emails Stavis has uncovered, (they were posted on a publically-viewable yahoo group), it appears that Cambridge's peace activists were outraged that Cheng did what her editor (and basic tenets of journalism) required of her -- get a response from someone with a different perspective. For this she went to Nancy Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Boston, who had the temerity to remind readers that the barrier was built to save lives. (In reporting the Kaufman's remarks, Cheng incorrectly stated that construction on the barrier began in 1997, when in fact it began in 2002.)

In a letter to the editor complaining about article, published on Jan. 6, 2008, Nancy Murray, a member of the Cambridge Peace Commission, says that Kaufman's presence in the article was a "discordant note." This is a telling phrase. For Cambridge peace activists, its all about orchestrating the coverage. In the song and dance about innocent Palestinian suffering offered by Cambridge peace activists, there is no room for acknowledging that Bethlehem's Mayor, Victor Batarseh, himself a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (a group responsible for the murder of Leon Klinghoffer), was elected with the support of Hamas, a group dedicated to Israel's destruction. (Another useful bit of information that did not appear in Cheng's article.)

Cheng's apology is amazing, but what is more amazing is the sense of entitlement on the part of the peace activists involved with the trip. In the email chatter posted on the delegation's public yahoo group, one poster said that in the future he will insist on seeing pre-publication copies of any article he is involved with. (Good luck with that!)

Despite Cheng's having writen an overtly sympathetic piece on the delegation's trip to Bethlehem, the delegates and their supporters were still angry that the Globe would do its job and offer someone with a different perspective a chance to speak.

The whole episode should serve as a cautionary tale for journalists. Cambridge peace activists are not all that interested in protecting the reporters who do their bidding. Posting the text of Cheng's apology on a publically viewable yahoo group is a pretty bone-headed play. Even if exposing Cheng's apology to the general public was an inadvertant mistake on the part of Cambridge peace activists, it indicates an indifference to the professional reputation of a reporter who gave them more sympathetic coverage than they deserved.

They did get pretty much what they wanted -- a portrayal of the security barrier as an unreasonable hardship on Palestinians, very little acknowledgement of why the barrier was built, and a complete whitewash of the people with whom the delegation met. And Eva Moseley, a delegate who offered to "do [her] I escaped from Nazi Vienna and am unhappy with what Israel does' schtick, if you think that would help" after the delegation returned to Cambridge, was able to use her "schtick" in the Globe article. Cheng wrote about Moseley as follows:

As a Jewish member of the delegation and as someone who had escaped from the Nazis in Vienna, Eva Moseley, 76, said the trip left her with "complicated feelings about the Holocaust," because "on top of the usual outrage and horror at what it was, I feel another layer of outrage at the way it is used to punish the Palestinians, who had nothing to do with it."

As to the assertion the Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem sided with the Nazis and successfully derailed deals to divert Jewish children away from death camps in the 1940s.

In short, the Globe gave the delegation a pass on the true nature of their trip to Bethlehem (since when does meeting with politicians supported by terror groups qualify as a "people-to-people" trip?) and the delegation was allowed to pass off misinformation as fact. And yet they still weren't satisfied.

What more do they expect?

Posted by dvz at 11:09 AM |  Comments (0)

IHT's 'Obama Bin Laden' Slip-Up

osama-bin-laden correction2.jpe

The International Herald Tribune had to print a very embarrassing correction this weekend:

An article Wednesday about accusations that an advisor to Senator John McCain was injecting fears of terrorism into the presidential campaign misspelled the first name of the leader of Al Qaeda. He is Osama bin Laden, not Obama. (June 27)

And last week, the paper ran a correction concerning another prominent figure: Jesus. The June 21-22 correction was:

An article on April 23 about efforts in the village of Malula, Syria, and two neighboring villages to preserve Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus, referred incorrectly to the name of the region where Jesus spent most of his time. It was Galilee -- not Palestine, which derives from the word Palestina, the name that Roman conquerors gave to the region more than 100 years after Jesus's death.

Snapshot earlier wrote about this error, which also appeared in the New York Times, here.

Posted by TS at 08:25 AM |  Comments (0)

June 23, 2008

Will Religious "Journalists" Get the Backstory of Kirkpatrick's Invite to Jewish Leaders?

In an apparent effort to mend fences with the Jewish community in the United States, Clifton Kirkpatrick, the stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A, is asking to dialogue with the very leaders his church jabbed in the eye when it issued a revised version of a document condemning anti-Jewish bias in the denomination's witness about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The question for the religious news outlets that did such a miserable job of covering the document when it first came out -- most notably, Christianity Today, Christian Century, Presbyterian News Service, Presbyterian Outlook, Religion News Service, and Ecumenical News International is how to cover Kirkpatrick's invitation.

Will they realize that original version of the document regarding anti-Jewish bias was the result of three year's worth of dialogue between Jewish leaders and the PC(USA) and that by revising the document -- without discussion -- they threw the fruits of this work into the trash?

While Christianity Today and RNS could possibly cover the controversy the way it deserves to be reported, it is very unlikely that Christian Century (whose star columnist, James Wall, serves as a member of the Steering Committee of Friends of Sabeel North America -- a group that has defended the anti-Jewish polemic that is at the heart of this controversy -- will step up to the plate.

And Ecumenical News Service, dependent as it is for support from mainline Protestant churches in the U.S. (including the PC(USA), will likely take a pass on robust coverage of the controversy, especially since Clifton Kirkpatrick serves as president of the World Assembly of Reformed Churches, one of the main sources of support for ENI.

Consequently, those interested in the background will have to go elsewhere for information about Kirkpatrick's "invitation." Until a miracle happens, here is some background:

The letter containing the invitation, dated June 18, 2008, was sent to Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Dr. Carl Sheingold, executive vice president of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, and Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

In the letter, signed by Kirkpatrick and Linda Valentine, executive director of the PC(USA)'s General Assembly Council, states up front that making changes to the document regarding anti-Jewish bias has "strained relationships" between the PC(USA) and the Jewish community. These changes have "awakened mistrust between us, and we regret this," the letter reads.

Kirkpatrick and Valentine state that the new version "has provoked a great deal of reaction, and many questions. We want to give more careful consideration to the issues, and to continue the process of developing a more useful resource or resources on this topic." (In other words, the document in question is likely to go through yet another round of revisions.) The document then includes a call for "further conversation" between Jewish and PC(USA) leaders.

We hope that you will agree to join us for this conversation, and also to talk about other matters that may warrant our attention coming out of the Assembly itself. We look forward to making arrangements with you for such a get together, to talk together about who should be part of the conversation from both of our communities, and to develop a useful framework for the time we will have with each other.

What is remarkable about this invitation for "dialogue" is that it comes after more than three years of dialogue that began in after the denomination approved a resolution titled "Confronting Christian Zionism" at its General Assembly in 2004. This overture (12-03) included positive references to a number of works that had echoes of ancient anti-Jewish teachings. This dialogue, which began on a local level in October 2004 between Rabbi Yeheil Poupko, the Judaic Scholar for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and leaders of the PC(USA) in the Chicago Presbytery ultimately involved Jay Rock, interfaith coordinator for the PC(USA) and stated clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick.

By the spring of 2007, Poupko and Kirkpatrick were corresponding with one another about the presence of anti-Judaic passages and phrases in documents lifted up by the denomination. Kirkpatrick knew about the dialogue, he even participated in it.

The document released in May 2008 (which acknowledged the presence of anti-Jewish themes and ideas in PC(USA) resolutions regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict) was the fruit of this dialogue -- which was brusquely discarded a few weeks after it was put on display on the denomination's website, and replaced with another document that downplayed the previous admission of wrongdoing. In response, numerous Jewish leaders, (including Poupko) sent a letter (not online) to Kirkpatrick that provides some background. The meeting describes two meetings between Jewish leaders, members of the Chicago Presbytery and Jay Rock, the denomination's interfaith coordinator. (The meetings were held on Setp. 4, 2007 and April 16, 208.)

The letter to Kirkpatrick reads:

At both of these meetings, and in the time between and after them, there was open, good, honest, faithful, and trusting communication. While we recognized and respected the fact that this was to be a Presbyterian document, we appreciated the sensitivity that our interlocutors demonstrated in response to the observations we made about the draft that we discussed at our April 16, meeting. The orignial version was posted on the website on May 6th, 2008 represented the fine result of that meeting and of that process. As you know, from a letter that we sent do you and from other letters that you recieved from national Jewish leadershipo, we saw the first document, Vigilance Against Anti-Jewish Ideas and Bias, as historic in nature. We were pleased to express our gratitude, appreciation, and respect both personally and professionally.

And then on June 6th, 2008 we learned that a revised, 'expanded version' of Vigilance Against Anti-Jewish Ideas and Bias, would be forthcoming, which we saw for the first time this past Wednesday, June 11, 2008. In our view this 'expanded version' is a highly problematic document produced in a manner that negated the good will engendered by the process that we entered into last September with you and your colleagues. We feel betrayed. We simply do not understand how an 'expanded version' such as this woudl be put forward without your even talking to us.

This excerpt puts Kirkpatrick's June 18, 2008 invitation for dialogue in context.

1. Kirkpatrick and the church he leads engages in dialogue with Jewish leaders.

2. The PC(USA) issues a document in response to this dialogue.

3. Then, apparently, without discussion, the PC(USA), issues a new version of the document in question.

4. In response to complaints, Kirkpatrick asks to have another discussion with Jewish leaders.

Will the journalists responsible for covering religion in America cover this story or ignore it? And if they cover it, will they give Kirkpatrick a pass?

(For more background, please see CAMERA's analysis "Presbyterian Officials Prepare for General Assembly With Bait and Switch Tactics.")

Posted by dvz at 04:37 PM |  Comments (0)

Post Scants Big Israel Anniversary Bash

The Washington Post foreign desk’s practice of covering Israel largely as an extension of Arab complaints seems to have affected the city desk as well.

On June 1, tens of thousands of people attended an “Israel @ 60" celebration on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, this was the largest Jewish community event in the nation’s capital in years. It received virtually no Post coverage. Why?

Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell tried to answer that question in her June 15 column, "Commemorations Without Ink."

A reporter was sent, but told by editors to cover the gathering only if there was conflict, only if anti-Israel demonstrators appeared.

Israel — one of the world’s high tech innovators, the Middle East’s only Western-style democracy, and perhaps the most successful of all the scores of post-colonial, post-Cold War countries — is well worth coverage on its own. So are big diaspora celebrations of the Jewish state. Imagine The Post reporting on Black History Month with one small Metro section photograph (what it gave to “Israel @ 60") because no white racists objected.

It is, of course, valid to run stories on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and about Palestinian Arab grievances, including the many self-inflicted wounds. Yet coverage of this 60th anniversary celebration of Israel’s independence should have stood above that, as reporting on this year’s Fourth of July celebrations will include much more than news about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Conflict is not the only thing that is newsworthy,? Ombudsman Howell concluded.

But when The Post’s foreign desk refracted Israel’s 60th anniversary through Arab filters ("Born at the Dawn of a New State; Two Men's Lives Reflect Divergent Fortunes of Jewish, Palestinian Peoples," May 8, subject of the “Washington Post-Watch: Seeing Israel Through Arab Eyes? at our Web site, can the city desk be expected to do better? — Adam Grodman, D.C. research intern

Posted by ER at 04:20 PM |  Comments (0)

June 11, 2008

Presbyterians Expand -- and Eviscerate -- Statement on Anti-Jewish Bias

In an obvious effort to stuff the cat back into the bag, The Interfaith Relations Office of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has issued an "expanded" version of a statement it issued during the first week of May, 2008.

While the expanded version, released today, is approximately twice as long as the original version, the meat of the document -- a profound admission that anti-Jewish bias had been present in the denomination's public speech about the Arab-Israeli conflict -- has been deleted and replaced with a diffuse admonition that the church needs to be careful about that sort of thing.

CAMERA blogged about the statement on May 5, 2008.

One crucial section of the original document that did not survive the "expansion" is posted below.

... [W]e are aware and do confess that anti-Jewish attitudes can be found among us.


Examples of such an anti-Jewish theology can unfortunately be found in connection with PC(USA) General Assembly overtures, such as the overture on Confronting Christian Zionism, adopted by the 216th General Assembly in 2004. Some of the authors cited in the rationale of that overture make use in their writings of arguments suggesting or declaring that the Jewish people are no longer in covenant with God, or make statements that echo the medieval Christian claim that the Jews are to blame for the crucifixion of Christ. The rationale and background sources cited in any overture are not General Assembly policy, but Presbyterians need to read such materials with awareness of these themes of classic anti-Jewish teaching.

This passage may no longer be part of the current "expanded" version of the document, but it is part of the historical record. It demonstrated that for one brief shining moment (just over a month), somebody inside the PC(USA) had the nerve to speak the truth about the anti-Jewish bias in the denomination's public speech about the Arab-Israeli conflict. The wrangling that took place within the PC(USA) to expand -- and eviscerate -- the original document does not change this fact.

Posted by dvz at 01:55 PM |  Comments (0)

June 10, 2008

Presbyterians Bury Document on Anti-Jewish Bias

In early May, the Presbyterian Church (USA) issued a document about its public speech regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. The document, titled "Vigilance against anti-Jewish ideas and bias," was given a prominent links on the interfaith section of the PC(USA)'s website. But as of this writing, (the afternoon of June 10, 2008), the links are gone. The document, which CAMERA has blogged about previously, is still present on the denomination's servers as an html document and as a pdf document, but unless surfers have the direct links to these documents, they will have a tough time finding them.

What's up with that?

Researchers would be well advised to save copies of this document should it dissappear altogether, or be put into storage in Qumran.

Posted by dvz at 04:44 PM |  Comments (0)

James Carroll Overstates the Case

James M. Caroll's Constantine's Sword is a detailed and compelling study of Christian anti-Semitism and its impact on the both Jews and Christians. Carroll details in page after painful page how Christian anti-Judaism -- hostility toward Judaism as a religion -- mutated into hostility toward the Jews as a people, with lethal consequences. Carroll, who addresses the problem in the context of the Roman Catholic Church (his own faith community), makes it perfectly clear that all Christians have an obligation to look at their own scriptures in the light of history, which includes centuries of theologically and scripturally inspired hate toward Jews.

Sadly, James M. Caroll has a tougher time dealing with the enmity expressed toward Jews in the Koran. During a recent appearence on Here and Now, on WBUR in Boston, Carroll stated suggested the hostility toward Jews in the Middle East is entirely imported from the Christian church.

The Christian tradition of anti-Semitism has spread like a virus and it has been picked up—caught by segments of Arab, Islamic culture but one of the things to be quite aware of is that there is nothing endemic to the religion of Islam or to certainly the text of the Koran that leads to anti-Semitism.

This provoked a detailed response from Andrew Bostom, author of The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism (Prometheus, 2008) who writes:

Indeed the Koran’s overall discussion of the Jews is marked by a litany of their sins and punishments, as if part of a divine indictment, conviction, and punishment process.

Bostom then provides numerous citations to buttress his thesis that indeed hostility toward Jews is present in the Koran.

While Christians are right to be concerned about the presence of anti-Jewish polemic in their own churches, they cannot ignore the issue of theologically and scripturally based contempt for Jews in Islam.

While Rosemary Radford Ruether, author of Faith and Fratricide does not go into great detail about Muslim teachings regarding Jews, she does address the issue in the Wrath of Jonah (which she co-wrote with her husband Herman).

On page 29, the Ruethers report:

From the time of Muhammed ... Islam was confronted with the religions by those religions it claimed to compete [Judaism and Christianity]. ... [C]onflicts with the Jews are the source of negative statements against them in the Qur'an. Borrowing anti-Judaic themse from Christianity, the Qur'an depicts the Jews as having received the covenant from God but as having lost it through their many backslidings. Their Scriptures are corrupted and do not represent the original revelations of Moses and the prophets, which have been restored by Muhammed.

On the following page, the Ruethers write that Muslims had "a detached contempt" toward Jews, as opposed to the paranoia and hostility exhibited by Christians. "To the Muslims, the Jews were one people of the Book among others; their status was paralleled by that of Christians and other religious minorities. In Christendom, however, Jews were the only non-Christian group allowed to exist at all. Islam lacked the same intense focuse on the Jews as a 'problem.'"

To be sure, Benard Lewis, in Semites and Anti-Semites does argue that the virulent anti-Semitism that has become increasingly prevalent in the Middle East was a consequence of Christian, or European attitudes toward Jews.

European anti-Semitism, in both its theological and racist versions, was essentially alien to Islamic traditions, culture and modes of thought. But to an astonishing degree the ideas, the literature, even the crudest inventions of the Nazis and their predecessors have, so to speak, been internalized and Islamized. The major themes--the Protocols, the invented Talmud quotations, ritual murder, the hatred of mankind, the masonic and the rest of the conspiracy theories, poisoning the wells and taking over the world--remain; but they are given an Islamic, even a Qur'anic twist. Thus, the classical Islamic accusation, that the Old and New Testaments are superseded because the Jews and Christians had falsifield the revelations which had been vouchsafed to them, is given a new slant--that the Bible in its extant form is not authentic but is a version distorted and corrupted by the Jews in order to show that they are God's chosen people and that Palestine belongs to them.

While Lewis argues the pre-existing contempt for Jews in the Middle East was given a new virulence by Christian teachings, Carroll suggests that it was entirely an import from the Church. Bostom's research shows however, that the Koran, like the New Testament, exhibits an anti-Judaic strain all its own. Whatever differences there are between them, Islam and Christianity both share a sad legacy of contempt for Jews and that this contempt is rooted in part in scripture and teachings of both religions.

On one hand, Christian reluctance to address the issue of Muslim hostility toward the Jewish people and their homeland (a reluctance which is clearly evident in mainline commentary about the Arab-Israeli conflict) can be explained by a desire to keep remove the mote from one's own eye before pointing out the speck in someone else's. On the other hand, this silence does not promote the cause of peace.

Posted by dvz at 02:41 PM |  Comments (1)

June 04, 2008

Fulbrights Not the Only Casualty of U.S. Foul Up

fulbrights leaving.jpe
Palestinians leave Gaza through Erez Crossing/AFP

It is now absolutely clear that a U.S. State Department foul up was responsible for the situation in which Fulbright recipients were stuck in Gaza.

The stranded students are going abroad, but it's questionable whether Israel's image will rebound so easily from skewed reports like this and this.

Posted by TS at 05:38 AM |  Comments (0)

June 02, 2008

Shhh! Egypt Stymies Fulbright Students

Fulbright trapped by Israel blockade.jpe
Palestinian student Hadeel Abu Kawik is trapped in Gaza by an Israeli -- but not an Egyptian -- blockade, according to the LA Times/AP Photo by Hatem Moussa

One problem in the coverage of the Gaza Fulbright students was summed up in this opening paragraph in the Los Angeles Times:

Confined by Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, two Palestinian sisters who dreamed of postgraduate studies abroad got their chance in January when Gaza militants destroyed part of a wall along the Egyptian border.

If Gaza has a border with Egypt, why is it solely Israel's blockade that is preventing Gazan students from going abroad?

The Times reporter, Richard Boudreaux, dances around the issue seven paragraphs into the story headlined "Israel Stymies Gaza Students":

Since Hamas seized control of Gaza from the more secular Fatah party last June, Israel has all but closed its Gaza border crossings in an attempt to weaken the group and end frequent rocket barrages aimed at Israeli towns. Egypt, Gaza's other neighbor, has cooperated with Israel to keep 1.5 million Palestinians enclosed in the tiny, impoverished strip.

If Egypt is preventing Fulbright students from reaching the U.S., isn't that at least as newsworthy as Israel doing the same? After all, Egypt isn't even the target of Gaza's "frequent rocket barrages," unlike Israel.

Don't hold your breath. LA Times coverage of the Gaza-Egypt border has long been challenged.

Posted by TS at 04:46 AM |  Comments (3)

June 01, 2008

How to Battle the 'Strategic Arab Weapon'


In the wake of the Karsenty victory, Danny Seaman, director of Israel's Government Press Office, observes in Ynet:

Media manipulation has in fact turned into a strategic Arab weapon used against the State of Israel. It is used as an equalizer vis-à-vis Israel’s military advantages while boosting the Arabs’ global status vis-à-vis Israel.

His suggestions to push back this weapon?

Therefore, exposing the truth behind the Muhammad al-Dura events is vital for the elimination of the phenomenon of staged media reports and for undermining the natural manner with which this phenomenon is accepted by global media outlets and the leniency they show to it. . . .

The establishment of a public relations office in the Prime Minister’s Office could be an important factor in this struggle. In order to truly succeed in the media war, a structural bureaucratic change and additional funds are not enough. It is vital to internalize the essence of the struggle which the state contends with in the media. Members of the office must be willing to dedicate the required effort, while displaying public courage at times, in order to disprove and thwart the blood libels formulated by the Palestinians and to force global media outlets to adhere to professional standards.

In addition, as proven by Karsenty, Shahaf, Landes, journalists Gérard Huber and Stéphane Juffa, and others, the state can and should enlist the assistance of private professionals who are willing to fight for the State of Israel’s good name and for the truth.

Posted by TS at 06:04 AM |  Comments (2)

NY Times Story Full But Not Bright

In a May 30th story inexplicably featured on the front page of the New York Times, with an above the fold large photo, reporter Ethan Bronner tells the story of promising Palestinian students who had their Fulbright scholarships to study in America revoked because Israel had allegedly denied them permission to leave Gaza.
The hardcopy version is entitled "Confined, Gaza Students Lose Grants to Study in U.S.," with the sub headline "No Israeli Permission."

But when you turn to page A8, and see yet another large photo of an appealing Palestinian scholar, you learn that

when a query about the canceled Fulbrights was made to the prime minister's office on Thursday, senior officials expressed surprise. They said they did, in fact, consider study abroad to be a humanitarian necessity and that when cases were appealed to them, they would facilitate them. They suggested that American officials never brought the Fulbright cases to their attention.

So a minor story, about a few already well educated students, that perhaps should have been about the incompetence of American officials at the consulate in Jerusalem, somehow became a story focused on supposed Israeli culpability. On the front page of the New York Times.

Letters to the NY Times can be sent to: [email protected]

Posted by LG at 12:27 AM |  Comments (1)