Protecting Israel Through the Lense of CAMERA

Andrea Levin who is President and Executive Director of CAMERA, spoke recently and I was eager to hear what she had to say. CAMERA is the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. There are often such distortions in the news against Israel with only partial truths being reported (only the Palestinian version), that I knew it would be an informative speech and aligned with my mission of presenting Israel in a fair light. Peace can never be achieved if both sides aren’t presented honestly. Perhaps naive, but growing up I always thought that was the job of a reporter and I’m not sure what’s happened.

In 2018 CAMERA was able to successfully point to inaccuracies in the media and have the errors acknowledged, identifying 206 corrections. CAMERA has been countering bias since 1982 and has 65,000 members. They track media in multiples languages and countries including English, Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish as well as on campuses and in books and films.

They also maintain a department called CAMERA’S Partnership of Christians & Jews. This department responds to an effort that is spreading to delegitimize Israel in Evangelical churches throughout North America and Europe, and to protect the violent persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

This was such a timely presentation given the horrific headlines of late—with The Chabad Poway shooting, anti-Semitism on the rise and Jews on college campuses being attacked. Then of course, there was the cartoon printed in the New York Times by cartoonist Antonio Antunes portraying Netanyahu as a dog leading a blind President Trump.

You may not be aware that in Islam dogs are not cute cuddly members of our family that we enjoy. Dogs in Islam are considered vile, disgusting creatures. Antunes still denies this is anti-Semitism and that its critics are “part of the Jewish propaganda machine.” Wow, I’d say Antunes needs to have his own eyes checked for blindness.

After the uproar produced by the cartoon, the New York Times apologized and then followed up days later with another cartoon. This one had a blind Netanyahu dressed as Moses holding the Ten Commandments, with President Trump dressed alike and doing the same as he followed behind Netanyahu.

There’s another version with Netanyahu dressed as a blind Moses holding a camera, taking a selfie and the Ten Commandments now have a Jewish star on them as he walks in a desert with a sign reading Golan Heights. Another apology was issued but I think given the immediate publication of another insulting cartoon, the New York Times must also be blind.

Ms. Levin walked us through a bit of media history. She said that when Israel was a struggling new nation the media reporting was positive—apparently the news likes an underdog. In 1967 when Israel was surrounded and under great threat at the time, they still presented Israelis as heroic Jews who survived. Of course, in the years since that hasn’t been the case when the terminology now focuses on “occupied territory.”

In 1973 when Israel was attacked on Yom Kippur there seemed to be an acknowledgement of the “low blow” Israel suffered by being attacked on their most religious of holidays.

However, Ms. Levin said the turning point was in 1977 starting with Menahem Begin winning the election. Continuing through Sharon and now Netanyahu, things have changed dramatically. The often—heralded Washington Post and the New York Times coverage of Israel is biased against Israel far too often.

What CAMERA does is challenge media reporting and seek corrections. They combine activism with academic level analysis. Because Facts Matter is their slogan. They are an apolitical organization, merely seeking the truth. They don’t comment on policy, officials or settlements.

I am grateful that an organization like CAMERA exists. If reporters aren’t held accountable for what they say in their articles by the organizations that employ them despite having a code of ethics to report fairly, at least CAMERA is there to protest when Israel is the victim of bias.

CAMERA believes the New York Times has gone “off the rails” and NYT receives lots of attention from them due to its skewed reporting. They challenged the cartoon mentioned above and that the March of Return violent riots along the border were referred to as “Battle Weary, Hamas Gives Peaceful Protests a Chance.” They challenge the NYT neglecting to mention in their paper Hamas publically threatening, “We will take down the border and tear out their hearts from their bodies.” Sometimes a retraction or clarification is printed, sometimes not. But at least their unfair reporting doesn’t go unnoticed.

Another pot-holed avenue CAMERA treads on is the BDS movement. Often spoken of on college campuses but now the latest adult generations are bringing BDS commentary and bills to the halls of congress through representatives such as Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

Oh and then there’s the New York Times Op-ed where Eric Copage claimed that Jesus was a Palestinian—not a Jew. These are more attempts to put a wedge between the Jewish and Christian community—fake news. Imam Omar Suleiman also tweeted “Don’t they know Jesus was a Palestinian?” Followed by congresswoman Ilhan Omar retweeting the fallacy. Oy.

I have to admit a 3-story billboard, purchased to be displayed months on end, that CAMERA posted across the street from the New York Times did put a smile on my face.

The billboard depicts an image of a Molotov cocktail lit by a flaming New York Times article with the headline: “Israel Bulldozes Democracy.”

Above the incendiary device depiction, which Hamas rioters frequently throw during their protests, it says: “While Hamas firebombs Israel,” and below, “The New York Times inflames with biased coverage.” A not so subtle reminder to the reporters that people who care are reading their articles—why not report both sides and let their readers formulate their own opinion?

Another very disturbing issue that Ms. Levin spoke about was the misinformation that has filtered into school curriculums. Anti-Israel indoctrination has been found throughout our country. If Jewish kids are taught the New York Times narrative and not the facts—how would that make them feel about Israel, Judaism and themselves?

It’s very difficult to find out what is being taught but you can request it from the school or school district. If you hear something derogatory about Israel or Judaism in your kids’ schools, she requested that you contact CAMERA. They are trying to get the public to know that this important issue exists.

During the presentation an audience member asked if there were any films about what was happening in the schools. She said that some organizations such as Americans for Peace and Tolerance have some films, so I listened to the film, “BOSTON UNIVERSITY’S AXIS OF BIAS AT WESTON HIGH SCHOOL.” The curriculum in this Boston high school is co-sponsored by Axis of Hope and Boston University. But the axis of this film was anything but hopeful. During the film I was so upset I was shaking as I listened to what the students were being taught—clearly the goal was to promote the Palestinian perspective and denigrate the Israeli side of the issues. Without a fair representation of both sides this isn’t education— it’s propaganda.

When a student from the 8th-12th grade is proudly Jewish and wants to represent Likud in their scenario, Hobard, the teacher smugly states—they make them instead be a member that has to represent Hamas in their role play. Why would they be allowed to teach an indoctrination of Hamas’ (a terrorist organization committed to killing Jews and the destruction of Israel) rhetoric in U.S. schools?

What is Axis of Hope hoping for? The film states: Axis of Hope is one of many initiatives that seek to promote anti-Israel or anti-Jewish propaganda in the classroom as part of teaching “Global Understanding, Critical Thinking Skills and Dialogue for Peace.” Huh? It’s crazy-making that in today’s world folks put any label they want on something, yet if you look closely at what they are teaching, it is the opposite. Axis of Hope has been taught in many schools throughout Boston, the U.S. and internationally.

Legally you are entitled to find out what is being taught in your school. However, it has been very difficult regardless of the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the material so it can be analyzed for its content. Through the efforts of very determined people, CAMERA was able to secure emails that showed shocking portrayals about organizations like The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

What’s in the textbooks our kids study is of concern but what teachers pull off of the internet, Ms. Levin said, is even more problematic. There is no oversight. CAMERA is fighting for transparency and rigorous vetting. She said “There has to be a national awareness that a problem exists. There have to be standards, the internet is not reliable. There has to be exposure and citizen involvement.” Ask your kids’ teachers about the materials they are using and if you see random content yanked off the internet such as from PLO websites, then that has to be addressed.

Ms. Levin says the big omission in coverage on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the media is the fact that the Palestinians repeatedly have turned down their own state. They have been offered it many times but they refuse. What is reported is that the Palestinians are suffering and in dire straits but their leaders don’t accept the state that’s been offered to them.

CAMERA on college campuses creates independent, autonomous groups to counter the disinformation distributed by groups such as the BDS Movement and the Students for Justice in Palestine. They also have CAMERA fellows who are student leaders on campus and they are vetted, write well and become the watchdogs of the campus environment.

The recent Apartheid Week on college campuses was also a topic of discussion and this year it was particularly egregious. This is the strategically planned week when Pro-Palestinian activists slander Israel and attack Jews often not only with the permission of the University—but the University sponsors them financially. It’s a week of anti-Israel, which often debases into anti-Semitism in college campus demonstrations throughout the U.S. and the world. Isn’t anti-Semitism a large enough problem already?

There are no discussions permitted from both sides and debate about how to achieve Peace. Their claim and goal is that Israel should not exist. This is allowed under a skewed interpretation of freedom of speech—but why is only one side allowed to speak?

How is a minority group (Jews) allowed to be intentionally attacked and humiliated from their dorms to the quads in the center of campus in 2019? I’ve been reading story after story about the fear and intimidation felt by Jewish students and faculty on campus after campus and it sickened me.

Campuses are filled with anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic speakers and an apartheid wall was constructed at Harvard comparing Israel to South Africa. Fake eviction notices with language such as ethnic cleansing and Judaization were posted on Jewish students’ dorm rooms at Emory.Jewish students complained of feeling violated and unsafe in their homes.

Screams of “From the River to the Sea Palestine will be free” (meaning Israel will be destroyed and Palestine will take its place), “Zionist state, tear it down!” and, “We support the intifada!” Mock checkpoints with blindfolded students with their hands tied behind their backs kneeling with fake machine guns pointing at their heads, posters calling Israel Apartheid, Hitler should have finished the job, Zionism is Nazism—the acts of intimidation promoting fear and one-sided discourse go on and on.

When it was time for questions and answers Ms. Levin was asked, “with all of this that goes on don’t you get depressed? She humorously answered, “No, my husband’s a psychiatrist.” After the room stopped laughing, her husband interjected the reason they don’t get depressed is because they are doing something about it. He tells her, “Aggravate them.”

As always, I invite you to Join Me On My Journey. . .