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February 04, 2014

Tantura, a Fictional Play and a Real News Report


When fictional massacres take place in fictionalized films or theater productions about real life conflicts, news reporters have an obligation to make clear that the said "massacre" wasn't real.

The Los Angeles Times ran into trouble here last year when a movie review of the fictional film "The Attack" referred to "Jenin in the West Bank (a site where Palestinians say the Israeli Defense Forces massacred hundreds of civilians)."

As we earlier noted, Palestinian officials long ago admitted that dozens (among them many fighters) -- not hundreds -- were killed in Jenin, bringing their figures into line with those of the United Nations and human rights groups.

Perhaps fictional Palestinians in the fictional film "The Attack" say that the Israeli army massacred hundreds, but The Times made no attempt to distinguish fiction from fact.

Ha'aretz reporter Tamar Rotem similarly trips up in failing to separate fact from fiction, in her article today about objections to the upcoming Washington DC Theater J production of Motti Lerner's controversial "The Admission," a fictionalized account of Palestinian casualties in 1948.

She writes:

Lerner says "The Admission," written in 2005, deals mainly with the discrepancy in the reports of how many people were killed in an army operation in 1948 in the village of Tantura: The Israel Defense Forces puts that number at 70, while historians Ilan Pappe and Teddy Katz of the University of Haifa insist that a massacre took place there in which more than 200 were killed.

Contrary to Rotem's suggestion, the Tantura story is not an unresolvable "he said/she said" argument between two equally credible sides. Rotem fails to inform readers that Teddy Katz, a then PhD candidate at the University of Haifa, lost a libel suit against the brigade that he had accused of the 1948 Tantura massacre, and was forced to apologize.

The apology had stated:

After checking and re-checking the evidence, I am now certain beyond any doubt that there is no basis at all for the allegation that after Tantura surrendered, there was any killing of residents by the Alexandroni Brigade, or any other fighting unit of the IDF. I would like to clarify that what I wrote was misunderstood, and that I did not mean to suggest that there had been a massacre in Tantura, nor do I believe that there ever was a massacre at Tantura.

He recanted a day later, but the judge rejected his retraction, and a higher court rejected his appeal. And, as CAMERA reported:

Meanwhile, University of Haifa appointed a committee to re-examine Katz’s thesis. The committee discovered fabrications and distortions of quotes in Katz’s work and disqualified the thesis, removing it from the university’s bookshelves. Katz accepted the offer to revise his thesis, and resubmitted it in 2002 to five new university-appointed examiners, but the new, lengthier thesis did not receive passing grades; Katz was awarded a "non-research" degree.

As for "historian" Ilan Pappe, Katz's mentor, he has eschewed the basics of historical research, boasting that "the struggle is about ideology, not about facts."

Regarding the Tantura "massacre," which he has adamantly promoted even after it was debunked in court, he admitted that Katz was "well aware of the ‘murkiness’ of the picture derived from the memories of participants and survivors so long after traumatic events," that the student "was not interested in fine details," or "certainties about exact chronology and names and precise numbers."

While artists have the leeway to fictionalize real-life events for either artistic or propagandistic purposes, journalists (not to mention historians) are supposed to stick to the facts. Even if the facts contradict claims of Israeli massacres.

Posted by TS at February 4, 2014 04:50 AM


Haaretz has no reporters.
They are all anti Israel Propagandists.

Posted by: yp at February 4, 2014 02:29 PM

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