Haaretz

Los Angeles Times only cites one side when reporting on the mayor's Jerusalem stance

Los Angeles Times only cites one side when reporting on the mayor's Jerusalem stance

As some of us know, the editors of The Los Angeles Times lack a religion reporter, although it seems like they have other beats covered pretty well.

So when I see a piece on religion, I’m often curious to know what inexperienced staff writer they’ve assigned to the job this time.

This piece — “Garcetti said he backs U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Now religious groups want an apology” — focuses on the mayor’s visit to Jerusalem, along with his support of President Donald Trump’s move of the U.S. embassy to the Israeli capital. The emphasis, obviously, is on all the flak he got.

Oddly, only Jews who disagreed with him where interviewed for this news story. That’s a journalism problem, right there.

A year after the Trump administration moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti waded into the still simmering political controversy, drawing criticism from L.A. religious groups.

“I support the embassy being here,” Garcetti told The Times during his trip to Israel last week with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “Israel shouldn’t be the only country in the world that can’t determine where its capital will be, but there is usually a process to these things rather than what seems like an overnight, one-sided, partisan move.”

The “one-sided partisan move” was a referral to Trump’s June 1, 2017, embassy decision.

In response, local offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network, among others on the political left on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, called on Garcetti to retract his statement of support. The groups also sent the mayor a letter on Sunday.

Political left is correct. The reporter couldn’t have picked a more predictable and partisan crowd. And how much of their respective faith communities do they represent?

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Soros: He's invoked from DC to Malaysia. An anti-Semitic dog whistle? Atheist straw man?

Soros: He's invoked from DC to Malaysia. An anti-Semitic dog whistle? Atheist straw man?

OK, readers, it’s pop quiz time. My question: What do the following political players have in common; Franklin Graham, George Soros and the Koch brothers?

Did I hear you mumble “nothing,” other than gender and the aforementioned political-player designations?

Not a bad guess. But not the answer I’m looking for at the moment.

The commonality I have in mind is that they all serve as public boogeyman — names to be tossed around to convey a suitcase of despised qualities that need not be unpacked for opponents skilled in the art of in-group rhetoric.

Those on the left tend to think of Graham and the Kochs as despicable actors poisoning the political well with hypocritical religious justifications (Graham) or by employing their vast wealth to back libertarian, hyper pro-business, anti-tax, anti-regulatory agendas (the Kochs).

Those on the right tend to view Soros as an atheist billionaire, internationalist busy-body set on destroying what they view as rightful national norms for the sake of unrealistic democratic (note that’s with a small “d”) fantasies. In America, many conservatives see him as a fierce enemy of the religious liberty side of the First Amendment.

If you paid close attention to the soul-numbing Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation fight you may know that, unlike Graham and the Kochs, Soros’ name popped up at the tail end of that scorched-earth display political bloodletting — which is why I bring him up now. (President Donald Trump, as he has before, first mentioned Soros; Sen. Chuck Grassley disparaged Soros when asked about Trump’s comment.)

But first.

My point here is not to convince you of the rightness or wrongness of Soros or the others mentioned above. Frankly, I have strong disagreements with them all. Besides, love them or hate them, I’m guessing your minds are already pretty well made up about what level of heaven or hell they’re headed for come judgement day. So what chance at changing minds do I really have anyway?

Also, they're all entitled, under current American law, to throw their weight around in accordance with their viewpoints — again, whether you or I like it or not.

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ADL report headlines: What about U.S.-Israeli teen who made 'thousands' of threats?

ADL report headlines: What about U.S.-Israeli teen who made 'thousands' of threats?

Every now and then it helps to read headlines in news sources around the world and then attempt to connect some dots.

Take, for example, that headline the other day in Haaretz ("the land" in Hebrew), which is a small, liberal, but very influential publication that reaches a global audience.

The headline in question said: "U.S. Indicts Israeli-American Teen Hacker for Bomb Threats Against Jewish Centers." Here is the overture of this Reuters story:

A teenager has been indicted for hate crimes connected to threats against Jewish community centers, as well as threatening the Israeli embassy and cyberstalking, the U.S. Justice Department said. ... 
The teen is awaiting trial in Israel, where he was arrested last year. U.S. and Israeli authorities have previously charged him with making thousands of threats, including to airports, schools and Jewish centers, in the United States in 2016 and early 2017.

Later in the story, there is this statement about these activities by this young man -- who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship:

The hoax threats to the Jewish community centers forced widespread evacuations and raised fears of a resurgence in anti-Semitism. 
U.S. authorities have said in court documents that the teen advertised his services on AlphaBay, a now-closed online black market, and offered to threaten any school for $30.

Now, here is my journalism question, focusing on a wave of recent headlines about anti-Semitism trends in newspapers across America (and in television coverage): Is the information contained in this ongoing story in Israel relevant to the recent wave of reports about a sharp rise in anti-Semitic activity in America during 2017?

Here is a typical headline, at NPR: "Anti-Defamation League Report Shows Anti-Semitic Incidents Rose From 2016 To 2017."

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NRA dog whistles? Israeli paper's charges have impacted American Jewish debate on guns

NRA dog whistles? Israeli paper's charges have impacted American Jewish debate on guns

The recent Florida school shooting has propelled the gun issue to the forefront of the American political drama. It's also grabbed considerable attention in Israel -- providing a lesson in how news outlets with international followings can quickly influence distant debates in our online age.

It also casts light on how a diaspora population -- in this case American Jews -- can be moved by media opinion originating in a nation, despite its distance, with which they have an historical religious or ethnic bond.

So just how did Israeli media become part of the American gun control debate?

Electrifying charges have been appearing in Israeli news media claiming that the National Rifle Association, and its Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre in particular, has subtlety employed anti-Semitic code language to rally pro-gun partisans.

Israel’s leading liberal newspaper Haaretz has led the way.

Two of its columnists, as of this writing, have bluntly asserted that LaPierre used subtle anti-Semitic language -- “dog whistles” is the common term -- in his speech at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference gathering.

Let me stress: No such charges of NRA anti-Semitism has shown up in mainstream American media reports on LaPierre’s speech.

That's understandable. Mainstream American media are loath to cast such dispersions unless it's blatantly obvious, which in this case cannot be stated unequivocally. Here, for example, is how The New York Times played the story.

American Jewish media are another matter. They display the same sensitivity toward hints of anti-Semitism as their Israeli counterparts. Within a news cycle or two after the Haaretz columns appeared, similar pieces started to appear in liberal American Jewish media.

Some needed background.

It's easy for Jews to detect even subtle anti-Semitism after centuries of overt Jew-blaming and killing. Plus, American Jews, are general liberal on domestic issues, vote Democratic, and overwhelmingly favor tougher gun controls.

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Concerning Jerusalem, Donald Trump, Arab Christian anger and, yes, American evangelicals

Concerning Jerusalem, Donald Trump, Arab Christian anger and, yes, American evangelicals

Trust me when I say that I understand why so many Christians in the ancient churches of the Middle East are frustrated with America, and American evangelicals in particular, when it comes to the complex and painful status of Jerusalem.

As I have mentioned several times here at GetReligion, when I converted to Eastern Orthodoxy two decades ago my family became part of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese -- which is closely tied to the ancient Orthodox flock based in Damascus. Then, from 2001-2005 (including 9/11), we were active in a West Palm Beach, Fla., parish that was primarily made up of families with ties to Syria, Lebanon and, yes, Israel and the West Bank.

I will not try to sum up their lives and viewpoints in a few lines. Suffice it to say, they struggled to understand why so many American Christians have little or no interest in the daily lives and realities of Christians whose Holy Land roots go back to Pentecost.

Thus, I am thankful that the Washington Post international desk has updated a familiar, yet still urgent, news topic as we get closer to the Christmas season. The hook, of course, is the announcement by President Donald Trump about the status of the U.S. embassy in Israel. The headline: "Trump plan to move U.S. embassy to Jerusalem angers Middle East Christians."

The overture is familiar, yet sadly newsy:

JERUSALEM -- Some of the festive cheer was missing this weekend at a public Christmas tree lighting near the site where Christians believe an angel proclaimed Christ’s birth to local shepherds. 
“Our oppressors have decided to deprive us from the joy of Christmas,” Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the former archbishop and Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, told the crowd in the town of Beit Sahour in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “Mr. Trump told us clearly Jerusalem is not yours.”
The Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there has provoked widespread opposition among Christians across the Middle East. When Vice President Pence arrives next week on a trip touted as a chance to check on the region’s persecuted Christians, he will be facing an awkward backlash.

Right there, you see, is the story that has loomed in the background for decades.

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Why quote Haaretz big time when the left-leaning Israeli newspaper reflects a small minority's views?

Why quote Haaretz big time when the left-leaning Israeli newspaper reflects a small minority's views?

In the mid-1970s, I spent a brief period working for an English-language magazine in Lima, Peru. The Peruvian Times was,  at that time, a schizophrenic blend of business news and first-person adventure travel yarns. Guess which part subsidized the other.

The magazine's office -- just blocks from Lima's nearly 500-year-old central square -- was a hangout for English-speaking journalists passing through or stationed in the Peruvian capital. Many looked to the Times'  expat staff for story ideas, context and sources.

The Times was an example of a foreign reporting truism -- which is the reliance correspondents have on local journalists for ideas and contacts. This is particularly true for those new to a nation and those who cannot fully function in the local language.

In Israel, one preferred local journalism hub has long been Haaretz, which has been called that nation's equivalent of The New York Times.

Its a false comparison because Haaretz ("The Land" in Hebrew) has limited circulation, is unabashedly and consistently left wing in its news columns as well as its editorial positions, is hostile toward religious orthodoxy -- no small thing in a nation where religion plays an enormous role in public life -- and has no where near the domestic influence or corporate wealth of the Times.

What it does have is influence in international liberal circles, which I'd say includes the majority of the Western correspondents working in Israel.

Haaretz strongly opposes the right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, in particular its policies toward Palestinians in the West Bank. On this issue, its editorials and columnists are often quoted by those in the international media who trend liberal-left.

As such, Haaretz wields more influence internationally than it does within its home nation, giving it outsized importance in the international debate over Israel -- which is why Haaretz should be a subject of interest to American consumers of Middle East news.

Let me be clear. My intent here is not to attack Haaretz or its views, some of which I agree with (Israel's ongoing settlements policy, in particular). Rather it is to underscore the influence local media, even one with limited appeal at home, can have in shaping the international media agenda when its views are in line with the prevailing foreign media mindset.

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Donald Trump and the telltale tallit: Jewish media storm offers lots of heat but little light

Donald Trump and the telltale tallit: Jewish media storm offers lots of heat but little light

Picture it: Even though your grasp of the basics of Christianity isn’t the greatest, you’re visiting a church. A black church, at that.

Then the pastor throws a tallit over your shoulders.

Now, what’s a Jewish prayer shawl doing at a black church? And what’s the candidate to do? The only thing he could do: Graciously accept it. What happened next? Go to Twitter and put “Donald Trump tallit” in the search field. You’ll find lots to read.

One is the hot-button phrase “cultural appropriation.” But what was Trump supposed to do? Reject the gift and give it back? Here’s how Jewish Telegraph Agency wrote it up

(JTA) --  Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was gifted a traditional Jewish prayer shawl by a pastor during a visit to a black church in Detroit.
Bishop Wayne Jackson of the Great Faith Ministries in Detroit draped the tallit around Trump’s shoulders after the candidate finished addressing the congregation.
“Let me just put this on you,” Jackson said as the congregation burst into applause.
The pastor said he fasted and prayed over the prayer shawl.
“This is a prayer shawl straight from Israel. Whenever you’re flying from coast to coast -- I know you just came back from Mexico and you’ll be flying from city to city -- there is an anointing. And anointing is the power of God,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be sometimes in your life that you’re going to feel forsaken, you’re going to feel down, but the anointing is going to lift you up. I prayed over this personally and I fasted over it, and I wanted to just put this on you.”

Wait, there's more. Clearly there is a theme going on here, in the mind of this pastor.

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Women-only pools: New York Times still says they are OK for Muslims, but not Jews?

Women-only pools: New York Times still says they are OK for Muslims, but not Jews?

When is a pool not a pool?

When it’s a war zone. Which is what a certain pool in Brooklyn, N.Y., has become in recent months.

First, here's some background. You might recall a bucolic New York Times piece some months ago about a Toronto neighborhood pool that was the essence of Canadian openness. The Times called it a “model of inclusion” in the headline over the story of a pool that has separate women-only swim times for Muslims, then transgender people. The writer was positively rapturous over the gender-neutral locker rooms (it didn’t say what folks do in terms of showers), the yoga classes from women veiled up to their eyeballs with a niqab and disabled-friendly architecture.

Switch the venue east to Brooklyn, however, and a June 29 Times story about a similar pool with separate swimming hours for Orthodox Jewish women is about religious/gender intolerance. Yes, this is new coverage of the dispute that our own tmatt dug into recently in another post ("Swimmin' Orthodox Women").

Let's read further:

Under slate-colored light slanting from the skylights, the women entered the city pool on Wednesday morning, its oxidized copper ceiling lending a mint-green cast to the water’s surface. Their swimming outfits would have been considered prudish even by the standards of 1922, when the pool was built. They swam in dresses, some with long sleeves. One paddled in thick black tights. Inside the locker room, wigs sat upside down on window ledges and benches while their owners swam with heads under ruffled swimming caps or knotted silk scarves.
The swimmers were Hasidic women, who abide by strict codes of modesty and who go to the Metropolitan Recreation Center in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for an unusual feature: It is one of two city swimming pools with gender-segregated hours. The other is the St. John’s Recreation Center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

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Flawed Pew survey question produces flawed answer on how many Israeli Jews want Arabs kicked out

Flawed Pew survey question produces flawed answer on how many Israeli Jews want Arabs kicked out

A Pew survey released last week had all the ingredients for another damning story about Israel and its Jewish citizens. Nearly half of Israeli Jews surveyed, Pew reported, said they favored the expulsion or transfer of Arabs out of Israel.

Given the superficial manner in which most news media, American and otherwise, cover the extraordinarily complicated, and sadly dehumanizing and deadly, Middle East -- and its long-running Israel-Palestinian subplot in particular -- the Pew story seemed a natural headline-grabber.

It turned out to be otherwise. Nonetheless, it did underscore the importance of raising journalistic red flags when reporting on dumbed-down, highly generalized and potentially inflammatory survey questions that purport to accurately measure real-world complexities.

Let's start with these telling New York Times stories about the survey. Click here to read the first one. Then click here to read the second.

Why are they telling?

Because The Times'  initial Web offering was a standard wire service report that led -- predictably -- with the international red-meat angle, the more easily written expulsion aspect that, given the hostility to Israel in much of the world, was virtually assured of gaining wide play.

But also because the second piece, written by a Times' Jerusalem bureau staffer that ran in the dead wood edition the following day, buried the expulsion angle and led instead with the more complicated to report survey results dealing with the deep religious and political rifts within Israeli Jewish society.

The expulsion angle wasn't mentioned until the eighth paragraph.

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