Walking the Walk

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Josh_RunyanHours after terrorists shot up the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem two weeks ago and massacred four of its tefillin-clad worshippers, pictures and video of the American media’s initial coverage of the attack went viral. Passed along by thousands of indignant users of social networks, one clip in particular offered a window into what could arguably be termed the sorry state of journalism today.

In that clip, now removed from the website of CBS News, “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Nora O’Donnell tells viewers in a lead-in to a report from Jerusalem that “two Palestinian attackers died in a shootout with police. It happened at a contested religious site in Jerusalem.”


That O’Donnell was wrong to call a synagogue in a majority-Jewish neighborhood in West Jerusalem, far from the internationally disputed “Green Line” demarcating Israel’s 1967 borders, a “contested religious site” is an understatement. But was it revealing a larger anti-Israel bias?

Certainly, there are some who think so. Like the O’Donnell broadcast that drew attention to the death of two Palestinians and not the slaughter of four Jewish men, a screenshot of a CNN report that circulated through Facebook shortly after the Har Nof attack mentioned only the death of Palestinians. The problem beneath such grotesque misrepresenting of facts on the ground, observes former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman, is an entire subculture of Israel-based Western journalists that hews to a storyline of Israel being the aggressor against a Palestinian population that just wants peace.


Writing in The Atlantic, Friedman — who revealed questionable editorial practices in the AP’s Jerusalem bureau in an article he wrote for Tablet magazine shortly after the conclusion of this summer’s Israeli offensive against Hamas in Gaza — argues that the revolving door between U.N. offices, NGOs and Jerusalem news bureaus has only magnified the lack of understanding that journalists have of the region’s history and its struggles. No one questions the efficacy of Oxfam or its accounting practices, he points out, let alone dives into the likely dangerous pool of uncovering Palestinian Authority corruption or the tactics of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists.

Better to feed off of the ready supply of NGO reports critical of Israel, concludes Friedman, an enterprise that because of Israel’s democratic character won’t result in your execution.

The picture Friedman paints is one more of laziness and ineptitude on the part of journalists than of any deep-seated anti-Israel animus. It’s just that the ignorant are being taking advantage of by those with an ax to grind against the Jewish state.

Back on these shores, gaffes such as O’Donnell’s should be seen for what they are: ignorance. And the only cure for such a systemic failure to try to tease out the truth is education.

As you’ll read in this week’s JT, groups of Baltimoreans are regularly putting their money where their mouths are and traveling to the Jewish state on volunteer missions to help ease the demands placed on Israel’s reservist military personnel.

But they’re not just going to help; many are traveling to learn something about what a war means to those who fight it.

What they learned is that, surrounded by a hostile environment, Israel needs all the help it can get.

jrunyan@jewishtimes.com

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