Amira Hass and the “truth”: How Advocacy Journalism Inverts Reality

Often when talking with uninformed but well-read people who think Israel is a neo-colonial aggressor, one finds a decided admiration for Amira Hass’ courageous work criticizing her country Israel for its mistreatment of the poor Palestinians. Here’s a rather amazing analysis of one of her articles which illustrates her modus operandi, and sheds light on how the reader of her work, as with many similar articles, gets not a distorted, but an inverted image of empirical reality.

Haaretz: Amira Hass’ Ideological Agenda Trumps Journalistic Integrity

Ha’aretz regularly reports on demolitions of Palestinian homes by the Israeli administration and presents its readers with a grim picture of destruction and misery among the Palestinians. In fact, a reader who believes Ha’aretz’s news accounts, trusting that the newspaper actually adheres to journalistic norms of objectivity and accuracy, would be appalled by the situation described.

But Ha’aretz does not follow such journalistic norms. Take for example, Amira Hass’ July 21, 2010 report, entitled “IDF destroys West Bank village after declaring it military zone.” It provides a clear demonstration of how facts can be manipulated through distortions and omissions to present a false picture of events.

Here is a summary of Haas’ article: Israel’s civil administration demolished the homes of 120 men, women and children, who lived and worked – some for decades – in the Jordan Valley village of Farasiya. Before destroying the village, the civil administration cut off the inhabitants’ water supply and forbade the residents to use other water wells in the area belonging to the Mekorot Water Company. But this is not an accurate account of events.

First, there is no registered village in the West Bank called Farasiya. It does not appear in either the census data of the Palestinian Authority or that of the Israelis. What Hass neglected to inform readers was that this was an illegal encampment which, like dozens of illegal settlements and hundreds of illegal buildings throughout Israel, was slated for demolition.

Read the rest of the forensic demolition of this drive-by shooting that parades as “journalism.”

farasiyz

Picture of what Hass claims is a 10-year-old village with 55 structures including a packaging plant.

Note the 800+ Facebook recommendations to Hass’ article. This is classic red meat for the “pacifists” who demonstrate “We are Hamas.”

UPDATE: For another example of hit-and-run journalism, read this analysis of a Huffington Post article and its comments.

10 Responses to Amira Hass and the “truth”: How Advocacy Journalism Inverts Reality

  1. Joanne says:

    It might be a good idea for some someone in Israel with a lot of money to publish a “Corrections to Haaretz” newsletter. I’m not talking about a web site like CAMERA, which preaches to the converted and has no credibility with anyone else, or that isn’t even known by anyone else.

    I’m talking about a hard-copy newsletter that re-reports and corrects recent Haaretz articles, with versions in Hebrew and English. It should be available on newsstands in Israel for free or for a nominal cost, wherever Haaretz is sold.

    If Haaretz complains, the obvious answer would be the cliche that the proper response to objectionable speech is more speech. Haaretz would have no moral right to complain.

    Again, I’m not talking about a web site, but about a paper that would be out there, hopefully displayed right next to Haaretz papers on newsstands throughout Israel.

  2. Cynic says:

    Joanne,

    There is a free newspaper “ישראל היום/Israel Today” out on the streets in Israel which is making heavy inroads into the established media market.
    The established media want it banned on the grounds that the owner is not Israeli.
    Now if he could be convinced to have someone fisk Haaretz articles it would be great for the general population to be informed.
    As it is there are a growing number of people who used to be subscribers of Haaretz and who have canceled.
    As for the English version it would need to be by way of blogging for the targeted market of the English Haaretz to see it.
    Haaretz English version sells together with the IH&T.
    On the street in Israel it would have very little penetration as there are relatively few English speakers to make it anything more than a charity case.
    Something along the lines of BBC Watch, CIFWatch for example and bloggers to give it notoriety.
    Anyway those converted to the IH&T won’t buy it. :-)

  3. Joanne says:

    If Israel Today is already out there, that may be a help, but I would still think that a newsletter devoted solely to correcting Haaretz and other papers would be best, so as to target Haaretz readers among others. Point taken about English media, though.

    By IH&T do you mean the International Herald Tribune? I haven’t been a regular reader for a long time, but in the early 90s I found the paper to be extremely fair, also eclectic in its viewpoints. Oh well.

  4. incognito says:

    I’m not talking about a web site like CAMERA, which preaches to the converted and has no credibility with anyone else, or that isn’t even known by anyone else.

    What exactly makes you think that ANYTHING coming from Israel will be more credible? Isn’t there enough evidence that NO Israeli source is believed?

    but I would still think that a newsletter devoted solely to correcting Haaretz and other papers would be best

    Why would such a newsletter be more credible/read than CAMERA and the like? What makes you think that Haaretz readers are interested in such corrections?

  5. [...] Augean Stables » Amira Hass and the “truth”: How Advocacy … [...]

  6. [...] Augean Stables » Amira Hass and the “truth”: How Advocacy … [...]

  7. Joanne says:

    I think some Haaretz readers would be, though by no means all.

    Also, the credibility of such a newsletter would be sustainable if it were not run by rightists, but by moderate-to-left-wing Israelis who are annoyed by the paper’s biases.

  8. incognito says:

    Uhuh: leftists trusted to tell the truth, particularly if in defense of Israel. If that were possible, we would not need corrections, would we? Last time I looked, Haaretz was left and it is it who needs tons of correction.

    I would suggest that you are oblivious to overwhelming evidence that contradicts your hypotheses.

  9. Cynic says:

    Joanne,

    The IH&T is just the overseas version of the NYT and that would up the number of corrections needed, going by what I’ve seen printed on its pages this year.

    This link might interest you
    The Malice of Haaretz .

    His blog is in English but he reads the Hebrew version of Haaretz.

    Haaretz Invents False News

    I would gladly cancel my subscription to Haaretz, but we already have, back when the Anat Kamm-Uri Blau story happened. (Blau is still in London, by the way).

  10. incognito says:

    Blau is still in London, by the way

    Well, because he is such a huge patriot, you know?

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