Israellycool has addressed the perceived left-wing slant of the Times of Israel news website in the past, such as with its reporting of the little 9 year-old girl who got shot, right outside her home in Psagot. It’s gotten to the point where many of my friends don’t want to read my blogs there. They ask querulously, “Can’t you just copy and paste the text for us? We don’t want to go THERE.”
For us media hounds on the right, TOI has become just another variation on HaAretz, albeit served with a side order of Huffington Post Blog to go.
It’s a pity, because the interface is really attractive.
In spite of evidence to the contrary, I try to keep an open mind, hoping that the TOI newsroom staff will prove me wrong. Yesterday, alas, a news piece was presented in such a way as to cement the impression in my mind that TOI is a left-wing mouthpiece or at the very least, center-left.
The news piece, Turkish FM: Jerusalemites ‘suffer’ under occupation, by Gavriel Fiske, should have been and could have been a straight news piece, a matter of reporting the comments of the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, who was quoted as saying among other things:
Jerusalem is an occupied territory according to the international law. People living in Jerusalem suffer all the consequences of this occupation. We have all been witnessing the sufferings since 1949.
In a truly balanced report, context would have been added to both support the viewpoint of Davutoğlu and present the opposite viewpoint. That is, after all, the meaning of “balanced.” You can’t weigh the evidence and engage in critical thinking if you don’t look at all sides of a story.
More to the point, if all you are shown is a single viewpoint, all the time, unless you are a rare sort of human being that viewpoint is the viewpoint you will come to adopt.
So let’s look at the piece by Fiske. What does he say to support the viewpoint of Davutoğlu, that Jerusalemites (meaning Jerusalem Muslims), are living under Israeli occupation?
Let’s start with the summary, beneath the title of the piece.
Davutoğlu decries Israeli restrictions on Palestinians at the Temple Mount, says the city should be open to all.
The summary speaks of Israeli restrictions as fact, leaving the impression that such restrictions are imposed only on the Arab sector of Jerusalem. There is a further implication that the city is not “open” to Arabs, but only to Jews.
If this story were balanced, the summary would have offered the other side of the equation: that Jews also have restrictions placed on them regarding visits to the Temple Mount and that there are parts of the city that are not open to Jews. A more balanced summary might have read: “Davutoğlu claims Israeli Temple Mount restrictions unfairly target Jerusalem Arabs, asserts the city is not ‘open to all.’”
This wording would allow the reader to decide whether or not the Turkish FM’s statements are true. Such a summary would prepare the reader to keep an open mind while reading the upcoming text.
The article goes on to quote Davutoğlu in depth, interspersing these quotes with some added commentary by Fiske. Fiske’s first such comment is:
Israel, which controls access to the Temple Mount, on which the Al-Aqsa Mosque sits, sometimes bars male Muslims aged 18-40 from accessing the site during times of political unrest.
This is a true statement. However, in order for the piece to be balanced, Fiske would also need to mention that Jews are also prevented from accessing the site during times of political unrest.
Now, I don’t ask Fiske or TOI to add the bigger picture and add the following statement, which would also be factual: “Jews are forbidden to pray on the Temple Mount, while Arabs are permitted to do so. Even the appearance of Jewish prayer, such as moving the lips, is not permitted.”
I don’t ask that Fiske flesh out the factual picture of restrictions regarding access to a Jerusalem holy place. I only ask that he state there are restrictions on Jews as well, regarding this holy site. I ask for the bare minimum. I ask for balance.
Moving right along, Fiske quotes more Davutoğlu adding details as to the occasion and location of the Turkish FM’s speech. Fiske then writes:
The area now known as west Jerusalem was captured by the nascent state of Israel during the 1948-1949 War of Independence. In the 1967 Six Day War, Israel captured east Jerusalem (and the West Bank) from Jordan. In 1980 Israel officially annexed a greatly enlarged east Jerusalem, a move not recognized by the international community.
If this had been a balanced article, rather than a left-slanted piece, Fiske would have added that the War of Independence was, for Israel, a defensive war, started by five Arab countries with the addition of contingents from 3 other countries, against “the nascent state,” after the Arab League rejected the UN Partition Plan.
He might have further added that the 1967 Six-Day War was also a defensive war for Israel and that Jordan had captured the Disputed Territories (as opposed to the propagandistic term “West Bank” which refers to the West Bank of the Jordan River from the perspective of Jordan) during 1948, though these territories were slated for the development of a Jewish National Home by the terms of Partition. Fiske might also have added that all of the UN member states, excluding Great Britain and Pakistan, had called Jordan’s presence in the Disputed Territories from 1948-1967, illegal.
Fiske then tells an outright lie and claims that Israel “annexed a greatly enlarged east Jerusalem,” in 1980. Except that this never happened.
Israel made a declaration that all of Jerusalem is one city, the capital of Israel. A declaration is not the same thing as “annexation.” Furthermore, Israel made a statement at that time disavowing the idea that the declaration constituted annexation. There was, in fact, no “move” to be recognized by the international community or not. There was only a declarative statement.
Next, Fiske writes:
Israel and Turkey once enjoyed close cooperation, but relations have been at a nadir since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, which saw eight Turkish nationals killed by the IDF during an altercation aboard a flotilla attempting to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza.
This is a true statement, but is false by dint of omission of important true details that offer a wider context.
Here is the wider context: IDF naval forces intercepted six ships sent by a Turkish humanitarian NGO to break the legal maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip. The ships ignored repeated warnings to change direction and move to the port of Ashdod where the ships’ cargo could be examined and transferred to Gaza.
Elite naval commandos then boarded the ships, armed with paint balls. Demonstrators on the lead boat, the Mavi Marmara, attacked these IDF commandos “with live fire, light weaponry, knives, and clubs.” In this confrontation, seven IDF soldiers were wounded and nine Turkish citizens were killed.
When the flotilla cargo was examined, it was found to consist of crates of weapons and mostly expired medicines. The Turkish humanitarian organization that sent the flotilla is called the IHH. This organization has publicly supported al-Qaeda and has ties to the terrorist organization Hamas.
Fiske ends his piece with this:
Following a direct intervention by US President Obama in 2013 relations have improved, and there have been persistent reports recently of an imminent deal regarding Israeli compensation to the families of those killed aboard the Mavi Marmara, paving the way for reconciliation.
This “direct intervention” by President Obama was, in actuality, arm-twisting of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu. President Obama strong-armed Netanyahu into phoning the Turkish President and apologizing to him for the Gaza Flotilla Incident. Israelis were incensed by this move because the IDF sustained grave injuries in trying to stop the flotilla from broaching its legal maritime blockade of Gaza.
The blockade is in place precisely to prevent outsiders from supplying Gaza, ruled by the terrorist organization Hamas, with weaponry with which to target civilian Israelis. The Mavi Marmara, as stated above, held crates of weaponry, intended just for this purpose: to arm terrorists against Israeli civilians. Turkey, it was felt by Israelis, should have been apologizing to Israel, and not the other way around. And relations have not improved whatsoever between Israel and Turkey.
The Times of Israel reporter, Raphael Ahren, has in fact, reported on the détente between Turkey and Israel as recently as February, when he wrote:
A genuine détente between the formerly close allies has remained elusive, partially because of Erdogan’s relentless accusations against Israel, anti-Semitic statements and alleged breaches of confidence. The Turkish prime minister has, for instance, accused Israel of engineering the military coup in Egypt, which saw his ally Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammad Morsi removed from power. He also blamed an “interest rate lobby” for the spread of the Gezi riots that rocked Turkey this summer, and described Zionism as a “crime against humanity” on par with anti-Semitism and fascism.
In October of last year, the negative attitude toward Israel by Turkey was said to be responsible for a mass exodus of the remaining Turkish Jews from Turkey to Israel.
Now I won’t say that every Times of Israel article is slanted left. I also won’t say that every Times of Israel article is slanted as far left as this one by Gavriel Fiske. But I will say that this article makes no attempt WHATSOEVER at presenting a balanced view of what should have been a straight news piece.
TOI, having its bright, clean interface allows Gavriel Fiske to give us a prettier version of an old classic: the far left HaAretz.