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March 29, 2016

Getting to the Bottom of Lapido Media’s Hit Piece on Israel

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Last October, a British website, Lapido Media, published a dishonest little hit piece accusing Israel of “shunning” a Peace Studies Program at Bethlehem Bible College (BBC).

The main evidence used to prove that Israel was “shunning” this masters degree “peace studies” program at BBC was that a foreign student who was attending classes at the program could not get a visa to attend school in the West Bank. Here is what the article stated:

The Arab world’s first Master’s degree in Peace Studies – developed by a Bethlehem college – is getting the brush-off from a government whose commitment to peace is already being questioned from within the Jewish world.

Bethlehem Bible College (BBC) aims to train Muslim, Christian, and Jewish peacemakers to build bridges instead of walls.

But 24-year-old ‘William’, a Canadian, and one of five international students in the inaugural class, cannot obtain a student visa.

Instead he must come and go every three months as a tourist. Afraid of deportation, he shields his identity online and makes no mention of his studies to the authorities.

‘My fear is maybe they would become aware of what I'm doing and reject any subsequent tourist visas,’ William, using a pseudonym, told Lapido.

‘It has been a step of faith, but I figured I would just take the risk and do it.’

[NOTE: CAMERA is not revealing the identity of the student in question despite the fact that “William” is no longer shielding his identity online.]

The article makes clear that it is Israel’s fault that the student cannot get a visa. But a close reading of the article reveals, however, that the student in question never applied for the student. The article states: “William was advised by the BBC not even to try.”

In sum, Israel was condemned for not issuing a visa to someone who did not even apply for one and this condemnation was used to portray Israel as giving the peace program the “brush-off.”

The problems with the article were highlighted in a Times of Israel article published here. Aside from a few defensive Tweets, Lapido Media did not respond to the substantively to the issues raised in the Times of Israel article.

New Information

This writer (Dexter Van Zile) met the student who was profiled in the article at the recent Christ at the Checkpoint Conference which was held in Beit Jala earlier this month.

He challenged the student to explain why Israel should be condemned for denying him a visa for which he did not apply. He also challenged the student to think about whether or not he is truly promoting peace by helping to generate anti-Israel propaganda.

In the ensuing conversation, the student in question stated that he has since applied for (and been given) a one-year work visa by the Palestinian Authority and that the paper work associated with this visa has been forwarded to the Israeli government for final approval.

When asked whether or not the Israelis are likely to approve the work visa, the student in responded that it is likely that the Israelis will approve the visa because it does not want to make the Palestinian Authority angry.

This undercuts a significant premise of the original Lapido Media article – that Israel was giving the peace studies program the brush-off by denying one of its students a visa to participate. Israel will likely grant the visa because it wants to maintain good relations with the Palestinian Authority even as its leaders incite Palestinians to attack Israeli citizens.

This revelation prompted another challenge from the CAMERA researcher: Will the student tell the public that he has applied for a visa and that Israel will very likely allow him to stay, contrary to what the Lapido Media article stated?

To his credit, the student said he would speak to Lapido Media’s correspondent, Jayson Kasper (who was in attendance at the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference) and encourage him to write an update to the story.

On the last night of the conference, Thursday March 10, 2016, Kasper approached this writer and stated that “William” had approached him about doing an update. Kasper stated that after the conference he would contact Lapido Media about doing an update to the story. It has been over two weeks and Lapido Media has yet to update or retract the original story.

Resolution?

On Friday, March 25, 2016 and again on Monday, March 28, 2016 CAMERA made repeated inquiries to Lapido Media via email and Twitter. In emails, CAMERA asked that the article be retracted and that Lapido Media publish an update including accurate information about William's visa application.

In a now deleted Tweet posted yesterday, Lapido Media confirmed that Kasper had spoken to the publication about doing an update. This same Tweet also declared that an update had been posted on Lapido Media’s website, but this assertion seems to be an error because no update can be found on the website.

An email from the PR person for Lapido Media received this morning (March 29, 2016), indicates that the publication is “reviewing it and working on it.”

Going Forward

However the story turns out, CAMERA is glad to have helped uncover the truth about William’s so-called visa problem, which in light of the new information, appears to be an exaggeration.

CAMERA hopes that Lapido Media will adhere to stricter standards of proof in its future articles about Israel and the Palestinians.

Posted by dvz at March 29, 2016 05:40 PM

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