Publishing Peter Beinart’s Press Release Is Not Journalism

A few days ago a story appeared in the Times of Israel about a group of ne’er-do-wells visiting the ancient Jewish city of Hebron. They were trying to “provoke Israeli authorities in Hebron” . A report about this was written by Andrew Tobin for JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) and published in the Times of Israel’s news section. This was not a blog post.

When former AP reporter and now successful author, Matti Friedman, shared the Times of Israel puff piece he wrote:

“This isn’t going to help Israelis or Palestinians, obviously, but it does seem like a good solution for American Jewish adults who miss summer camp and can’t find Baton Rouge on a map.”

My snap comment on it was “Don’t you just love JTA and Times of Israel pretending to be journalists while publishing activist press releases? So cute.”

To give you a flavour:

HEBRON, West Bank (JTA) – Dozens of American Jews spent Friday in the West Bank practicing nonviolent resistance against Israel’s presence here.

On hand to help were some bold-faced names in the American Jewish community’s Israel debate, including Peter Beinart, a leading liberal US Jewish thinker, and Amna Farooqi, the Muslim president of J Street U.

I left in a link to Amna Farooqi on “intersectionality” but if you value your sanity, don’t follow it. And this

“Palestinian media is always at our protests, but there is much more international media here for this group,” Hashlamoun told JTA, gesturing toward the many journalist documenting the activists. “For Palestinians, too, who only see the settlers and the soldiers and think Jews are just against them in everything, having Jews chanting against the occupation helps change their mindset.”

After sneaking onto the property, the activists got to work clearing scrap metal, weeds and debris and — once it was clear they had been spotted — singing Jewish and protest songs. Amid the work, bags of popcorn labeled “Cinema Hebron” were passed around, and a handmade sign that read “Cinema Hebron: Coming Soon” was triumphantly erected.

Interestingly, considering how “much more international media” was there for this group, the only significant report to come out came from JTA’s activist journalist. I’m sure the unlucky coincidental timing of an attempted coup in Turkey, a monstrous Islamic mass murder in Nice and a number of murders of policemen in the USA by people sympathetic to the “Palestinian cause” dented the reach of their dynamic activism.

And seriously does the phrase “triumphantly erected” have a place in a serious story about putting up a handmade sign about a cinema that will never, ever be built?

To give some veneer of journalism to this puff story Andrew Tobin threw in a deliberately short quote from a token “settler”.

One of the settlers, a longtime Hebron resident named Tzipi Schlissel, told JTA the Palestinians were using the activists as a weapon against the Jews. She said the property they were cleaning up had been used by terrorists in the past.

“[The activists] think they’re doing a good thing, but they’re really helping the terrorists,” said Schlissel, whose father, a prominent settler rabbi named Shlomo Ben Raanan, was killed by a Palestinian terrorist in 1998. “I’ll tell you, in the Holocaust, Jewish people helped Hitler, too.”

Aside from the fact her father was murdered – not killed – there’s an enormous linguistic gulf between those two words, that is a pretty pathetic attempt to balance up this press release.

The story, according to the pretend journalists at JTA and Times of Israel, ends when the American dilettantes deserted their Israeli brethren, who’d been arrested, and retired to the pavilion for lunch (it’s a cricket thing):

Around 2 p.m., the activists left the Israelis in the hands of legal counsel and, declaring a victory of sorts, headed to a late lunch. The Israelis were released just ahead of Shabbat and banned from Hebron for two weeks. The Center for Jewish Nonviolence activists are set to fly home Wednesday. Sumka, the CEO, said there were no immediate plans to finish the movie theater.

So they came, they cleared some weeds (no, not the smoking sort), put up a silly sign, some got arrested, and the rest got lunch. There will be no lasting memory of their trip except in a few digital bits on a pretend newspaper.

So enough of this, what’s really fun is that someone actually did find out what happened and the real story is so much better!

But Tzipi Shlisel contacted not because Tobin’s report treated her father’s murder with less empathy than it did the activists’ lunch, or Because Tobin used her as a necessary color stain on his canvas describing brave Jewish activists defying Israeli occupation with action and song. Tzipi Shlisel insists Tobin’s report is partial, and that he missed out on a wealth of historic and cultural information, including the fact that the area the Jewish activists weeded so energetically was prized for its weed by a local Arab shepherd.

The lands in question are in Tel Rumeida (biblical Hebron according to some authorities) which were purchased by the Hebron Jewish community 200 years ago, the first one in 1811, the second in 1816. During the 1949-67 Jordanian occupation, the Abu Aisha clan took over some of those lands. The neighborhood of Admot Yishai was built on a small part of this land, which is otherwise known as the Tel Remeida settlement, over which the Arabs are fighting the Jewish community. “But we have aerial photographs of the entire area, including the ancient olive trees which were purchased along with the land, as is noted in the purchase documents, and these lands all belong to the Jewish community,” Shlisel insists.

She continues:

“Now, when the activists arrived with their tremendous singing, they cleaned up the area thoroughly, it was truly amazing, but the local Arab, a member of the Abu Aisha clan, who’s been claiming that these are his lands, and even says they are registered as his with the city of Hebron, was not consulted.

“I heard the same Arab complaining that they pulled out his grazing weed from the ground, that he owns a herd which he keeps in Dura village, and the old factory is one of the area where his goats graze. Those peace activists did a cleanup job on his source of livelihood. They raked and tore up the weeds, and from a Western culture point of view they did a fantastic job, but from this Arab’s point of view they destroyed his grazing field,” Shlisel said.

In fact there’s even video of the Arab remonstrating with the crowd of hapless heroes over the destruction of his land!

But as can be heard on the video, Abu Aisha is clearly asking police to remove the activists, and says that he often grazes his animals there (watch the last half of the tape, shot by Shlisel for TPS, starting sec. 23).

For more, including Beinart’s hilariously defensive response via a PR company, read the whole story.

To sum it all up, Peter Beinart and Amna Farooqi, the Muslim president of J Street U, show up in Hebron to deliberately provoke trouble and all the succeeded in doing was occupying an Arab’s land (which that Arab had stolen from Jews decades earlier) and wrecking his goats’ grazing!

It’s exactly the kind of deep corruption of news that Tuvia Tenenbom talks about in his book “Catch The Jew“. This, my friends, is pro-Palestinian activism in a paragraph and when JTA and The Times of Israel runs this kind of nonsense without blinking, you understand just how worthless they are to you for news.


Brian of London

Brian of London is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. Since making aliyah in 2009, Brian has blogged at Israellycool. Brian is an indigenous rights activist fighting for indigenous people who’ve returned to their ancestral homelands and built great things.

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