“Fake news” has suddenly emerged as a major issue. But no one has drawn attention to the fact that large scale dissemination of fake news by the mainstream media had its birth in Israel’s 1982 war in Lebanon. The situation was so bad that AFSI published a study by Edward Alexander “NBC’s War in Lebanon: the Distorting Mirror.” NBC was only chosen, Alexander wrote, “because the malpractices common to the three major networks were drawn out into extreme or radical form by NBC.”
To take only a few examples: On August 2 a photograph seen round the world showed what was described as a severely burned baby girl with her arms amputated, allegedly wounded in an Israeli bombardment. NBC’s Fred Francis reported Secretary of State George Schultz’s endorsement of Ronald Reagan’s view that “the symbol of this war” was that “picture of a baby with its arms shot off.” It turned out the baby was a healthy boy (NBC even had the sex wrong) with a broken left arm in a cast. NBC never corrected the misrepresentation. NBC disseminated ludicrous numbers (invented by the PLO) of “600,000 homeless civilians” and 10,000 civilian deaths at the hands of Israel. It eluded NBC that “600,000” was more than the total population of southern Lebanon under Israeli control. It turned out the number who died was closer to 100 than 10,000. The bogus figures were cited by NBC time and time again and never retracted. NBC also repeatedly described Beirut as a city “slowly reduced to rubble” from which almost all civilians had fled when photographs showed the city essentially intact with people crowding into supermarkets.
Alas, the current uproar is likely to make matters worse as gatekeepers (especially in Europe) primarily go after critics of government action on politically sensitive issues (like Muslim immigration) in the name of stopping “fake news.”
Fake News from JTA?
The JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) is the mainstream news service for Jewish media around the globe. Daniel Greenfield has reported on the deceptive way in which JTA has provided” news” on supposed Jewish support for Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), at this writing a frontrunner for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. For many years Ellison, a convert to Islam, was affiliated with Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic Nation of Islam (at times acting as its spokesman). Moreover, writes Greenfield, Ellison “has lied about it and distorted his past.”
You wouldn’t know this from the JTA’s recent story. It is about 300 Jewish community leaders, including 100 rabbis, who have signed a letter in support of Ellison. The letter states that it is not an endorsement of Ellison for DNC chair but is “a call to reject the unfair and baseless accusations some have leveled at him.” Greenfield notes that the JTA story is essentially “a press release repeating most of the letter’s contents while making it seem like this was an independent initiative.” In fact, says Greenfield, minimal investigation would have shown that the source of the letter is “Keith for DNC”, a website prepared and paid for by the campaign to make Ellison the DNC’s next head. What’s more, the JTA provides no names of the “leaders” and 100 rabbis who signed on. (Subsequent to publication of the article, the JTA provided several names, most of them anti-Israel activists.) Greenfield sums up: “The story is blatantly dishonest and it’s another example of the extremists in the media promoting an extremist candidate using deceptive and dishonest tactics.”
Modern Language Association Shoots Down BDS
The boycott-Israel movement received a welcome setback as the 25,000 member Modern Language Association (MLA), at its annual convention in Philadelphia in January, rejected a motion to boycott Israeli universities.
It’s a welcome reminder that when opponents mobilize these outrageous resolutions can be defeated. Russell Berman, a former president of the MLA, reports that following the 2014 MLA convention in Chicago, which featured a pro-boycott session, opponents organized an MLA Members for Scholars Rights to counter the boycott movement. This led to the recent showdown in Philadelphia between rival resolutions, for and against BDS. The call to boycott was turned down and the resolution to refrain from boycotting endorsed (although by a narrower margin). The votes are the more welcome given that the MLA, under then president Louis Kampf, pioneered passing political resolutions that had nothing to do with the mission of academic associations.
You Can’t Say Temple Mount on the Temple Mount
Jerold Auerbach, professor emeritus of history at Wellesley College, who now lives in Israel, describes a multi-faith group of students from UCLA on a guided tour of the Temple Mount, site of the ancient Jewish Temples as well as the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque. Their guide was well known archaeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkay. As he explained the history of the site, he referred several times to the Temple Mount. A Waqf guard interrupted, telling Barkay not to use the term Temple Mount. When he did so again, two Waqf guards dragged him to Israeli officers nearby and demanded Barkay be evicted from the Mount. The police declined but suggested he refrain from further identifying the Temple Mount as the Temple Mount. Barkay then said “TM”, in place of Temple Mount. To Auerbach this was a teachable moment for the students, underlining the folly of censorship, given that, as he puts it, “To say Temple Mount on the Temple Mount is equivalent to saying It’s raining” when it’s raining.
To this reader what was most shocking about the episode was that Israeli police would in effect endorse the Waqf’s efforts to impose its insistence that “the Jewish people don’t have a connection to the land,” which, as Auerbach says, is the real meaning of its censorship.
Obama’s Last Shot
With only three hours to go before Trump’s inauguration, Obama took his last shot at Israel (and the Republicans) releasing $221 million in U.S. funds to the Palestinian Authority. Funding had been blocked by two Congressional “holds”, normally respected by the executive branch. Congress wanted to end glaring abuses, such as the PA’s awarding families of terrorists up to $3100 a month (there’s a sliding scale, the more Israelis killed, the more money awarded). To appreciate the size of the awards, the average salary in the PA is $276 a month. It’s estimated that in total $137.8 million will go to subsidize terror in this way. So Obama will have more than fully funded the program. (Of course the administration claims the money will only go for “humanitarian” purposes when in fact, as The National Review notes, the PA simply transfers the money to the PLO which handles the terror subsidies.) In an extraordinary move, the Trump State Department has blocked sending the funds.
On the Southern Policy Law Center
Flemming Rose, who was editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten when it ran the Mohammed cartoons that caused an international firestorm, has written a thoughtful book about his experiences and their broader significance: The Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on the Future of Free Speech. In it, he contrasts the importance attached to free speech in Europe and the U.S. where, Flemming writes, freedom of speech is far more valued and legally upheld.
But for how much longer? In the U.S. the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is in the forefront of those seeking to make criticism of ideas with which it disagrees illegitimate. It does this, to quote columnist Don Feder, by “taking legitimate conservatives and jumbling them with genuine hate groups (the Klan, Aryan Nation, skinheads, etc.) to make it appear that there’s a logical relationship between, say, opposing affirmative action and lynching, or demands for an end to government services for illegal aliens and attacks on dark-skinned immigrants.” Even the staid American Enterprise Institute is denounced by the SPLC as an organization that “seeks to make bigoted and discredited ideas respectable.”
Currently the Southern Poverty Center has its sights aimed at those who dare to criticize Islam. The SPLC specializes in compiling lists of extremists supposedly beyond the pale, who can then be dismissed by mainstream media on the basis of showing up on these lists. In October 2016 the SPLC published A Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists, supposedly responsible for “fueling” acts of public “hatred” against “American Muslims.” Included are such well-informed, sober and courageous critics of radical Islam as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Daniel Pipes (editor of The Middle East Forum), Robert Spencer (founder of Jihad Watch), David Horowitz (whose bravery in confronting anti-Semitism on U.S. campuses makes him an unsung hero), Frank Gaffney (former Undersecretary of Defense and founder of the Center for Security Policy) and Brigitte Gabriel (author of Because They Hate and founder of ACT for America).
In his excellent report on the SPLC in Frontpage, John Perazzo notes that SPLC’s “hate group counts” have been shown to be devoid of legitimacy. For example, he quotes Laird Wilcox, a specialist in fringe political movements, whose analysis of one SPLC list of 346 “white supremacist groups” revealed that in fact there were only “about 50” such functioning groups. A subsequent review of 800 plus ‘hate groups’ published by the SPLC revealed that over half “were either non-existent, existed in name only, or were inactive.”
Why does the SPLC inflate its lists? The better to raise money. Some of the organization’s most trenchant critics have been its political fellows on the far left. For example Perazzo quotes the late Alexander Cockburn (a vicious critic of Israel who lost his post at The Village Voice in 1984 for taking $10,000 from a pro-Arab group) calling SPLC head Morris Dees the “arch-salesman of hate-mongering.” Ever since 1971, wrote Cockburn in 2009, “U.S. Postal Service mailbags have bulged with [Dees’s] fundraising letters, scaring dollars out of the pockets of trembling liberals aghast at his lurid depictions of hate-sodden America.”
Dees’s scare tactics have been extremely successful, presumably especially with Jews, easy to frighten with visions of Nazis and skinheads everywhere. According to an article in The Weekly Standard SPLC has assets of a quarter of a billion dollars. It spends so little of this on actual programs that Charity Watch, a monitor of nonprofits, has consistently given SPLC its lowest grade of “F’ for stockpiling assets far beyond a reasonable reserve.