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Update – 25 October 2012

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Posted by Emily Gian on 25 October at 3:35pm:

On Tuesday, an article appeared in Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper entitled ‘Survey: Most Israeli Jews would support apartheid regime in Israel’ by Gideon Levy, a regular writer for Ha’aretz and a staunch critic of many of Israel’s policies.

The first sentence of Levy’s article is sufficient to gain an insight into his views. It reads:

“Most of the Jewish public in Israel supports the establishment of an apartheid regime in Israel if it formally annexes the West Bank.”

The article goes on to report the findings of a survey, conducted by Dialog and commissioned by the Yisraela Goldblum Fund, which surveyed 503 people. Israel’s diverse Jewish population is almost six million. 

In Levy’s skewed reporting of the survey, he mentions that among other things, “the survey indicates that a third to half of Jewish Israelis want to live in a state that practices formal, open discrimination against its Arab citizens. An even larger majority wants to live in an apartheid state if Israel annexes the territories”.

Within hours, Honest Reporting published a very detailed and critical analysis of Levy’s twisted reporting. If you look at the actual findings of the survey, particularly in relation to the annexation of the West Bank, Levy’s bias is obvious. As HR puts it, “Gideon Levy’s entire premise is based on a hypothetical situation where Israel annexes the West Bank. However, perhaps the real story here is that a plurality of the Israeli public does not favour annexing West Bank settlements let alone the West Bank in its entirety. This makes the question of voting rights for Palestinians in an annexed West Bank entirely moot”.

But it is not just Honest Reporting that finds Levy’s reporting of the poll problematic. Noam Shelef, who at the outset of his piece in the Daily Beast openly admits that he admires Levy for his courage over the years, berates Levy’s “spin” on the issue of apartheid as a “misrepresentation of the data”. He agrees with Honest Reporting that “only in a hypothetical situation – whereby their preference that Israel not annex the West Bank is ruled out by the pollster – do most Israeli Jews show a willingness to rule over non-voting Palestinians and thus tolerate apartheid” (see more).

In the meantime, while the organisation that commissioned the survey, the Yisraela Goldblum Fund is said to be a New Israel Fund organisation, even the NIF have distanced themselves from the survey, releasing a statement in Hebrew, declaring that they do no stand behind the poll in any way.

Locally, Ruth Pollard of the Age’s has picked up on the story. It first appeared online yesterday, and in the print edition today under the headline “Jewish Israelis favour discrimination: poll”. Pollard simply rehashes the claims in respect of which Levy had already been discredited for two days earlier, but such trivialities have never stopped Pollard in the past so why should this be any different? 

Five hundred people were surveyed in this poll. Given that organisations usually associated with those commissioning the poll have already distanced themselves from Levy’s analysis, the question that needs to be asked is, who were these 500 people polled, and can Pollard really claim that “most Jewish citizens of Israel support discrimination of Palestinians” based on a very skewed misinterpretation of the survey’s results?

In the meantime, on the same page in the print edition, we have a smaller article on the “warm welcome” Hamas has given to the Emir of Qatar and the four-day ceasefire that Syria has agreed to is given even less space. Articles on Israel seem to be consistently given huge amounts of space, and Ruth Pollard’s fascination with publishing negative articles about Israel has seriously reached fever pitch, from an article over the weekend about Australian-funded projects in the Gaza Strip to an article early last week about assassinations in Gaza (or rocket attacks on Israel, if you look at it from the other perspective).

In that article, entitled ‘Five killed in Gaza assassinations’, Pollard refers to a “deadly cycle of targeted assassinations and retaliatory rocket fire” that took place over the weekend before. She dedicates much of the article to reporting on Palestinian “militants” that were targeted by the Israeli Air Force. She mentions that Hamas (not Israel) declared that one of the Palestinians that were killed headed the Tawhid and Jihad, “a group with an Islamist ideology shared by al Qaeda”. Pollard normally would never highlight this connection to her readers; I am less surprised she mentioned it now that Hamas (rather than Israel) is making that connection.

At one point, Pollard mentions that as retaliation, “militants in Gaza fired rockets into the Eshkol area which exploded in open fields, causing no injuries or damage”. The following line seems to have been added as an afterthought. It reads, “On Friday a rocket landed in the courtyard of a residential building in the Israeli town of Netivot, the BBC reported. There were no injuries”. Incredibly, Pollard’s idea of open Israeli fields now includes the courtyard of residential buildings.  Then, as if to mock her previous words, comes the customary Pollard footnote to the effect that “at least 55 Kassam rockets were fired into more than 12 towns in southern Israel in retaliation, affecting thousands of residents who were forced to flee to bomb shelters”.

Open fields indeed!

This picture is of a child’s bedroom that was damaged by shrapnel on that Friday when a rocket exploded in the backyard of the child’s house. Thankfully, the child was not in the room at the time. Nor was the child playing in the garden. It seems that Pollard might have been more comfortable if those 55 rockets were all just a little bit more accurate? Perhaps she should, at some point during her posting in Jerusalem, make her way down to southern Israel, sit herself down in a town or a Kibbutz in the area, and wait for the rockets to start raining down. Then she might be able to lecture to her readers about the number of rockets she might tolerate if they were being fired on your suburb or community in Australia.

More recently, the IDF is reporting that just overnight, 73 more rockets have hit Southern Israel. Ruth Pollard reports on the issue online in an article entitled ‘Tensions rise over Gaza rocket attacks’. I wonder whether this article will appear in print tomorrow?  The Age article mentions that nearly 550 rockets and missiles have been fired into Israel, placing one million Israelis under threat. She knows that to be true, she has seen the photos, at yet she consistently ignores this very real problem.  What she also would not tell you is that Israel facilitated the transfer of three injured Palestinians from Gaza into Israel for medical treatment. This is one of many facts that do not fit in with the “cycle of violence” mantra so don’t hold your breath reading about it in the Age.

An article appeared online on Monday about the most recent flotilla, which was intercepted on International waters by the Israeli Navy on Saturday.  The Agency article which appeared online, provided no context to the blockade, unlike the Daily Telegraph article, which only as a footnote reveals to the readers that “last year, a UN report on the flotilla raid accused the Jewish state of action with ‘excessive force’ but found that its naval blockade of the coastal territory was legal”. Nobody ever seems to want to mention the attempts to smuggle in weapons into Gaza by the sea but here are at least fourteen examples. 

On the day of the interception, Israel’s IDF Spokesperson Avital Leibovich posted some updates on her twitter. While the article that appeared in the Age claimed that the boat was “carrying a shipment of humanitarian aid and 30 doves”, Leibovich reported that the boat was said to be carrying cement. Meanwhile, over 250 building projects are currently taking place in Gaza, and approximately the same number of full trailers enter Gaza from Israel carrying supplies such as hygiene and electrical products, as well to cars and 400,000 litres of gas. Any ship carrying supposed aide is, as usual, just a provocation.

Of course, these flotillas would never be interested in travelling to an area that is very seriously in need of their aide and sympathy, such as Syria. Why is this the case? Please read this article by Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian entitled ‘We condemn Israel. So why the silence on Syria?

Around March 2010, a fascinating new drama began in Israel called “Hatufim (Prisoners of War)”, which opened with the return of three Israeli Prisoners of War from 17 years earlier (one in a coffin), and focussed on their return to “normal” life, with flashbacks to their time in captivity. At the time, the program faced some controversy given that Gilad Shalit was still in Hamas captivity, but the show was hugely successful and was eventually sold to 20th Century Fox Television, and has been redone for an American audience, called “Homeland”. The first series was so successful that it earned the two leads Emmy Awards, as well as the program as a whole and the writers (including the original Israeli director, writer etc, Gideon Raff) as well. The second series of the American version has just begun screening in Australia, and the second series of the Israeli version has now also begun in Israel.

This is not the first successful Israeli program to find success in among American audiences, and to that end, the ZCV is proud to be co-hosting an event with Israeli author and commentator David Hazony, who will be running an interactive and unique presentation under the title “From Homeland to ‘Homeland: How Israel is exporting its popular culture around the world”. This event will take place on Sunday 11 November at 8pm at Beth Weizmann. Click here for more information.

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