Many people around the world read Ha’aretz, the left-leaning Israeli newspaper, to remain informed about Israel. But often Ha’aretz goes well beyond what is acceptable criticism of Israel, crossing red lines in its coverage of Israel’s actions. Some of the stories in the paper contain an unholy trinity of lies, exaggerations and spinning a narrative, which combine to blacken Israel’s image. A recent article gave a perfect example of this phenomenon, and the end of this article will show that it is not an isolated incident.
On June 4th 2017, Haaretz’s Gideon Levy wrote an article entitled “Die, Suffer, You Kahba (whore)”. The article is about what happened when Israeli soldiers shot a Palestinian girl, who approached their checkpoint with a knife.
Levy opens with an emotive paragraph – “A horrific incident took place in the occupied territories last Thursday…..Watching the video clip that documented the event turns one’s stomach. Its revolting and infuriating, yet no media outlet in Israel paid any attention to it, reflecting the depth of apathy to which we have sunk.”
He then describes what happened: after the girl had been shot, a group of soldiers stood around her, letting her die – “no-one even thought of offering her medical aid,” he wrote. To make things worse, the soldiers “competed with each other to see who could curse with more vile language.” Levy concludes his story with some damning sentences: “These are your soldiers Israel, this is their language, these are their values and standards… fifty years of occupation have brought us to this.”
Here we have your classic anti-Israel article – an emotionally presented story of horrific Israeli brutality, framed at the beginning and end with terms showing how the story is just symbolic of a broader pattern of evil that runs through Israeli society at large.
The one problem is, it’s total nonsense. As CAMERA researchers showed, the actual story is a far cry from what Levy describes. In a video obtained by CAMERA, one clearly sees that the IDF soldiers indeed do call for medical help for the girl – in the opening seconds of the video, one soldier shouts “Call the medical team!” and another responds, “I called, they are on their way.”
So far from watching her die, they are indeed doing exactly what they should do, to call for help to ensure life is not unnecessarily lost. The “competition of insults” is also a complete fiction – there are seven soldiers who are in the video, none of whom shout any insults at her. One person, and one person only, who is not in the shot, can be heard shouting insults at her – and there is no way of knowing if they are a soldier or not.
So what actually happened is the following: A terrorist attempted to stab IDF soldiers, who then shoot her. The soldiers call for medical help, and an individual bystander/soldier shouts insults at the injured terrorist. Yet Gideon Levy, contorts it into something else entirely. He lies, by saying the soldiers don’t call for medical help, exaggerates, by saying a competition of insults took place, and then spins a narrative, by using emotive language (“stomach-churning,” “horrific”) and saying this story was symbolic of a broader picture story of Israeli evil (“These are your soldiers, Israel.”) Levy has demonized Israel, giving readers a picture that these soldiers specifically, and Israel in general, are unspeakably awful, when it is simply baseless and untrue.
This unholy trinity of lies, exaggeration and spinning a narrative is not a one off. Another example – Haaretz’s Rogel Alpher recently wrote a sensationalist article titled “Boycott the Maccabiah”, in which he says that “The Maccabiah Games is a racist event that makes the 1936 Olympic Games look liberal,” because only Jewish athletes are allowed to compete. One wonders whether Alpher would make such a ridiculous statement about the Islamic Solidarity Games; seemingly, its only the Jews who are not allowed to express their national and religious identity, because it makes them Nazis.
But Alpher’s claim isn’t even true – Israeli Arabs take part in the Maccabiah Games as well. When this was pointed out by Presspectiva, CAMERA’s Israeli media department, Haaretz then undertook a most absurd editorial maneuver, adding in a sentence into the article which totally destroyed the article’s thesis, without changing anything else. The absurdity is clear from this actual quote from the article:
Only Jews take part in the Maccabiah. Not the best athletes from around the world, but only Jewish athletes. Some Israeli Arab athletes have taken part in the Maccabiah Games over the years, but that doesn’t change the event’s nature as the “Jewish Olympics.”
Unperturbed by the fact it isn’t true, the corrected article still says that the Jews are like the Nazis of 1936, concluding that “in the Maccabiah the participants come from many states, but all belong to a single, supreme race.” Never let some facts harm a good, unbalanced demonization of Israel.
Once again lies (“Only Jews participate”), exaggeration (“The Maccabiah is a victory for Aryan Race theory”) and spinning a narrative (“The fact that Israel never stopped holding the Maccabiah prove that racism and ultra-nationalism was always part of the state.”) are what has made a cultural event on the Jewish calendar into something that is pure evil.
The sensationalism in their reporting is endless: In reporting about the recent decision by Netanyahu to renege on the Kotel compromise deal, Haaretz ran the headline: “Netanyahu to American Jews; Drop Dead” Imagine every time a head of state made a decision that harmed an interest group it was reported like that. Last July, Gideon Levy wrote that Israel is “Evil. Pure evil. Sadistic evil. Evil for evil’s sake.” And of course, there was the infamous cartoon in 2014, were Haaretz printed this, to show what they thought Netanyahu was doing for Israel’s foreign relations with America.
I will conclude with one final example of Haaretz’s exaggerated sensationalism for the purpose of this article, though there are links to more examples below. A frequent theme that Haaretz spouts is the erosion of Israeli democracy. In January of this year, Presspectiva counted no fewer than 22 times that the newspaper referred to this “erosion” in the month of January. Then, at the end of the January, the British magazine the Economist published their Democracy Index for 2016 – and lo and behold, Israeli democracy strengthened in 2016, and was at basically the same level as France and the USA. Haaretz see worrying evidence of Israeli flaws at every turn, even though the facts say otherwise.
In his book The Prime Ministers, Yehuda Avner writes of his realization that discussions about Israel are often disproportionately emotional, and got people very worked up.
For a paper whose slogan is “For Thinking People,” Haaretz is a very emotive newspaper. It is a paper where latent fury at Israel is always bubbling, just waiting for the incident, or non-incident as it may be, to unleash it. Until Haaretz’s coverage calms down, and treats Israel as any country should be treated – fairly, critically, in a measured and balanced way – Ha’aretz will be part of the problem, not part of any solution.
Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern
CAMERA has documented many cases of inaccuracy in Haaretz’s reporting over the years. Here is a full list of CAMERA reports on Haaretz articles.