An Interview with Honest Reporting
We speak with Yarden Frankl, senior editor at Honest Reporting in Israel.
Saturday, September 13, 2014
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Shalom Yarden! I would like to thank-you for taking out the time to join us on The Bible in the News. Yarden Frankl is with Honest Reporting. Their website is www.honestreporting.com. Yarden, could you explain to our listeners what Honest Reporting does - what it is all about?
Yarden: Sure, we monitor the media, all the mainstream media and as much of the internet as we can. For stories about the Middle East and in particular stories about Israel. And what we try to do is go through and see if these stories are accurate and if the reporting is objective and professional. Or if there is some sort of bias against Israel in that reporting, because what we have found and what a lot of people looking at the news have found is many people in the main-stream media have a bias against Israel and when something happens out here the first reaction and the way it is reported is that Israel is to blame, Israel is the aggressor and the Palestinians are the victims. And that is how they report the news so our job really is to see what's going on and report on the internet and to our 180,000 followers what the media is doing and when we find a case of clear bias we ask people to write to the media and say: Why aren't you being more objective, how can you be reporting things that are biased against Israel?
Dave: Okay, So how did Honest Reporting begin? Was there a particular event that gave the impetus to start the organization?
Well about seven or eight years ago during the intifada, there was a picture that ran in the New York Times and the picture was of a young man with blood all over his face and behind him there was an Israeli in uniform wielding a club. The caption on that picture said that this was a picture of a Palestinian man being beaten by Israeli police. Now it turned out that picture was - that's very far from the truth - the picture was of a young Jewish student who was caught by a Palestinian mob, beaten within inches of his life and rescued by an Israeli policeman. And the policeman wielding the club was shielding that man from being killed by a mob. Now this was certainly not the first case of anti-Israel bias or something making it the news that was anti-Israel, but it really was a catalyst for people all around the world who were fed-up and said we can't keep having this. That picture by the way went around the world and even today you will find it on anti-Israel websites as evidence about the Israel tactics against Palestinian civilians.
So all the time a hurt Israeli boy/teenager was portrayed as a hurt Palestinian.
As a hurt Palestinian, right. In fact, it was the boy's father who wrote to the New York Times saying: "That's my son, that's not a Palestinian man". And beyond that if there was anybody there who was awake and looking at photos as they came in with captions, you can see a picture of a gas station behind the policeman and the person being beaten and the photo said this was on the Temple Mount. There are no gas stations on the Temple Mount, so obviously this is a case of very sloppy journalism. It wasn't the first time and it certainly wasn't the last.
Now if I were to tell someone that an established news outlet, which has enjoyed a good reputation for many years - such as the BBC - was biased in their reporting, they would no doubt be skeptical. How would you prove to them that for instance, the BBC, is biased in their reporting against Israel?
Well, if they are someone who follows the BBC regularly, I don't think they'd be that surprised. This question has come up, not just by us. Right now there is a lawsuit. The BBC took it upon themselves to do an internal investigation to determine whether their reporting in the Middle East was biased. The report was finalized, given to the BBC and the BBC said we are not going to let this report become public and now there are several lawsuits against the BBC saying, you have to make this report public, it is a freedom of information request under British law and so far the courts are siding with those that say, "make this report public". So we are not the first to challenge the BBC. We have written - right now we have written three long-term analysis of the BBC - trying to describe their reporting on Israel. With the last one that is going to come out in a couple of days, where we look at things like the Gaza conflict. In the Gaza conflict, the BBC, on more than one occasion, on many, many occasions, wrote articles that broke all laws of journalism. There were articles based on accusations with no other evidence. There was one headline article with Israeli soldiers machine-gunning Palestinian civilians, women coming out of their house with their hands up and being shot in the head and there is no evidence about this. This is simply some Palestinian called the BBC and said this is what happened. There's no names, there's no bodies, there's absolutely nothing to this and there are so many of these articles that happened just in the Gaza conflict. You have to scratch your head and say, well, why are they always depending on these Palastinians with no other avenues? Why would they print something with no evidence?
Could you explain what happened in Jerusalem recently with the Digger attack, and how the reporting was biased?
Sure, what happened in Jerusalem is that we saw, once again, a terrorist attack with a construction vehicle. This is the third time in a year that a Palestinian on a construction vehicle has attempted to kill and injure Israeli civilians. This is by any definition, a terror attack and the BBC, for each one of these attacks, their headline, their initial headline and sometimes they have kept this up for hours and hours, are things like "Bulldozer Driver Shot Dead". In other words, whatever happens in the Middle East, Israel must be to blame for something. There must be a Palestinian victim instead of, most people reported, "Palestinian Terror Attack in Jerusalem", "Bulldozer Driver on Terror Rampage". Those are correct headlines that tell the reader, or the viewer, what the news is. That's the job of the media, not to put their own opinion in there, and this is not my opinion. I ask anyone out there, whatever their feelings on Israel, what best describes a Palestinian driver on a bulldozer trying to kill people who was finally shot by an Israeli policeman, what headline best describes that? "Bulldozer Driver Shot Dead"?! or "Palestinian Terror Rampage"?
So what they're doing is they're making it sound like Israel is going around shooting people.
Right! A Palestinian driver. On some of our reports, we have gone and looked at headlines and what we have found is that the percentages are huge. Any time there is an Israeli attack on Palestinians, the headline is "Israeli Army shoots" or "Israelis Kill Five", "Israeli Helicopter Fires Rockets", but when there is a Palestinian attack we see the headlines under things like "Israelis Injured by Rockets", "Rocket attack on Sderot", "Sderot hit by Rockets" and they keep leaving out who is firing the rockets. Now we are not there to give them a style sheet and tell them how they should be reporting, but we do say you should be consistent. Why is there a difference in how you report, depending upon who did the attacking?
Right, that actually brings me to my next question which was the rocket attacks from Gaza. How would you describe those? How has the reporting been on those attacks?
Well, it was almost non-existent when the rockets started. If you recall, several years ago Israel withdrew settlers from Gaza, Israeli soldiers from Gaza, we withdrew all our presence from Gaza. In answer to this and this was what the world and the Palestinians had been asking for, for years and years - please, give us land, give us land. We withdrew and the next day we started having rockets fired at Sderot. Not at some Israeli settlement out there, not that they should be able to do that - I say that as somebody who lives on a Israeli settlement, I'll be very clear and direct about that. But they start firing these rockets at Sderot in response to us leaving the Gaza Strip and at first the reporting was almost not there. They said well not enough people are dying and that is kinda' odd because it is a news story. I can tell you, I've been to Sderot many times and you have children who are growing up all their years, they can't play outside. It's very depressing. I just read an article today that they just finished and inaugurated a playground, an indoor playground, for the children of Sderot, that has concrete overhead that is rocket proof, which is a wonderful thing for the children there, but it is a very sad news item that children have to play inside bomb shelters. Though we see reporting about the rockets, a lot of times we have words like "homemade", "crude", belittling these rockets. I tell you if you live in Sderot and every night you and your family drag the mattresses into the basement, into the bomb shelter there is something happening there that you can't just dismiss the way the BBC and others in the media do and because they under-reported it for so many years that's why the story of the Gaza conflict is disproportionate. Why did Israel attack? Why are they killing so many people? Why are they using helicopters and artillery and everything? Because we, Israel, have been the subject of attack for years and years and years.
So the media can be biased just by not reporting it or by...
Absolutely. What they choose to report and how they report it, that can be very opinionated and that can indicate bias.
And calling these rockets homemade, they are very deadly.
Yes. Could you make a Kassam rocket in your house? I can't make one in my house. I mean "homemade" - you have a bake sale with things that are homemade, right? You put together a Pinewood Derby Car and that's homemade. You don't - you can't make a rocket in a house. These are supplied by Iran. These are, some are more sophisticated. We shouldn't be blamed that their targeting systems aren't the best, but then again these are weapons of terror! They are not interested in trying to target a military base. They just want to hit Sderot. They wanted to hit any Israeli town down there on the border.
Because they are just trying to hit civilians, accuracy isn't a big deal for them.
They're weapons of terror! You can believe me, you can be terrified if a rocket hits you, hits the house next to you or hits the house down the block.
Honest reporting is affiliated with www.teachkidspeace.org. Is that correct?
(Note: www.teachkidspeace.org seems to be no longer active as a website.)
Well, teachkidspeace.org was a project that we started a few years ago to try to get a different - it's not exactly media bias - we wanted to get a different message out and that message is that we want the world to see what is the education system of the Palestinians. It's incredible. On their television, in their schools, they are not educated towards peace, they are educated towards war. They have schools named after suicide bombers. Just think about that! The school is named after a terrorist! Those are their role models. How can we ever have peace when you have a generation of Palestinians raised to hate Israelis? I, the other day, a few months ago, was at a parent-teacher conference at one of my kids schools and I was waiting to speak to his teacher and I went into the library. I saw an English book there and I decided to leaf through the book and i found this section on Islam, it was about comparative religion. In this section on Islam I just read this note about Ramadan is this month where you fast and think about others, and all this very nice and sweet things over there. If you went, as we have, and you look at Palestinian textbooks and how they describe Judaism and some of them Christianity also, I have to tell you that it is only in the most hateful terms. And basically if you kill a non-Muslim, that is a great thing and that's the education that their schools provide. Much of their education is paid for by United Nations dollars, actually.
Now, okay, so recently there has been a lot of appeals going around for money for Gaza and in particular relating to what you've just been saying, organizations donating money to the "Children of Gaza", how do you think that money could end up being used?
Well, I also write a column here on the internet, "Crossing the Yarden.com", and my last article, I started with saying about how many people around the world want to rebuild IDF targets in Gaza. Which is a tongue in cheek way of saying all this money that's being poured in, believe me, we are going to have to go to war again because the rockets have not stopped for a day. And so all these people who want to feel good and throw their money at Gaza, you're throwing it away, because Gaza is controlled by Hamas which is a terrorist organization. And if you think anyone is going to say, "O no, Hamas won't get their hands on this", you're absolutely wrong. Hamas controls everything that occurs in Gaza.
Okay, so if I send some money to the children of Gaza it's probably still going to end up being controlled by Hamas?
You're going to send it to the terrorists of Gaza.
In the Psalm 122, it says: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee." Today most of the world doesn't love the things of Zion and the Jewish people. Do you think antisemitism could be at the root cause of some of this, in the media-bias?
Well, there is different types of media-bias and certainly one big factor is antisemitism. There is this notion that Israel is this great Goliath and the Palestinians are this worthy noble victim out there and it is not in touch with reality at all. Other bias is simply because news happens very fast and in todays age we have the internet and every news organization out there has to get a story up within seconds and the Palestinians have an amazing propaganda machine. Something explodes and they're there to tell the media what happened even if they're lying through their teeth. We had within minutes of an explosion near a United Nations school in Gaza, we had these headlines all over the world: "Israel shells UN school kills 40, 41, 42 people". And it was only a couple of days later after all the investigations, that we find out that no Israel didn't shell a school. There were Hamas terrorists firing rockets from right outside the school, Israel responded and killed 12 people, 9 of them were Hamas terrorists. That's the story there. But already Israel lost because the story was out, no one remembers what I just told you, what they remember is: "O yeah, didn't Israel blow up a school". And that is what Hamas wants, that's what they want for propaganda. While we build schools with reinforced concrete roofs, they fire rockets from their schools hoping that we will return fire and there will be dead Palestinian children that they can run to the media with. And it's a tragedy for Israeli children and Palestinian children.
And the fact that Israel has to build schools with concrete reinforced roofs, to protect against rockets maybe doesn't even get reported in the media.
Let me ask you, what if on the southern border of the United States, from Mexico, the Mexicans were shooting rockets at Texas Schools everyday. So much so that the people of Texas had to start putting concrete roofs over all the playgrounds for the children. That's an absurd situation, I don't think any American would stand for that.
No, certainly not. Okay Yarden, I would like to thank you again for joining us on The Bible in the News.
Your listeners can keep up with things by going to www.honestreporting.com.
Okay thank-you. Thanks again.
Thanks a lot.
Join us again next week God willing at www.bibleinthenews.com for a refreshing perspective on world events. This has been David Billington with you.