Opinion |

CAMERA Response to Haaretz: We're Not a Right-Wing Media Watchdog

Haaretz is out of touch with the non-profit world realities if it expects organizations like CAMERA are obliged ethically or professionally to disclose their roster of donors. This is an absurd expectation.

Andrea Levin
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Illustration: Newspapers
Illustration: NewspapersCredit: Dreamstime
Andrea Levin

Haaretz’s September 5 front-page story ("Times of Israel Cofounder Gave $1.5 Million to Right-wing Media Watchdog That Routinely Goes After News Outlets") attacking CAMERA offers not a single fact to buttress its claims the organization is politically “right-wing” or motivated by financial incentives to criticize certain media outlets.

The assertions are false. First, CAMERA’s non-partisan stance is evident in the literally thousands of media critiques and other material on the CAMERA website by staff writers. Nothing there advocates politics or policy – not regarding preferred solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict, settlements, political candidates and so on. We advocate only for the media’s accurate rendering of events. Naturally, this applies to Haaretz coverage as well.

Likewise, the claim that CAMERA’s criticism of Haaretz coverage is guided by its having received support from one of the founders of The Times of Israel (launched February 2012) or the publisher of Israel Hayom (launched July 2007) is belied by, among other things, the fact that long before either of them existed we were actively criticizing Haaretz. The first item on the CAMERA website about Haaretz is dated 2001, six years before Israel Hayom was founded, eleven years before Times of Israel appeared on the scene.

And CAMERA’s “Lost in Translation” articles – about Haaretz stories that are straightforward in the Hebrew original and become skewed against Israel in the English version – were first published in 2005, again years before the debut of the two new Israeli media outlets. Yet a key allegation of the article is that proof of CAMERA’s compliance with donor agendas is that the advent of these “right wing” media outlets supported by some of the same donors who give to CAMERA — essentially prompted CAMERA’s criticism of Haaretz.

The article deceptively states that “for the past four years” CAMERA has targeted Haaretz for its Lost in Translation distortions. What about the previous seven years?

Moreover, while Haaretz’s story mentioned the “Lost in Translation” phenomenon, it notably ignored the public uproar and widespread criticism of Haaretz it generated. No doubt, it’s uncomfortable to be challenged on the air by fellow journalists in Israel indignant that the nation is being smeared internationally by false assertions in Haaretz. Responding to CAMERA’s work, an interviewer on Army radio declared on May 2 that “Haaretz in English is the fuel of BDS and anti-Semitism.”

The tortured nature of Haaretz’s attempt to tie an objective monitoring process to alleged donor preference can be seen in a further observation. It’s been reported that Times of Israel co-founder Seth Klarman has endorsed and contributed substantial financial resources to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. If he has also supported CAMERA does that mean the organization must, therefore, have a left-ward pro-Democratic Party bias?

Haaretz seems equally out of touch with the realities of the non-profit world in its notion that organizations such as CAMERA are obliged ethically or professionally to disclose their roster of donors, which number in the many thousands of individuals. This is an absurd expectation.

Two final points about the Haaretz story on CAMERA. It relied on multiple anonymous sources to malign the organization. One nameless foreign journalist charged that CAMERA staff “browbeat,” “intimidate” and “harass” journalists. This cartoonish picture bears no resemblance to the normal, courteous relationships CAMERA has with many journalists.

At most media institutions, the use of anonymous critics is disallowed. The New York Times’ policy is that “a denigrating, anonymous quote” would be excised. Haaretz allowed anonymous voices to denigrate CAMERA extensively.

It’s also routine to include balance. Did the story’s author seek comment from anyone admiring of CAMERA’s work and its right to speak out and hold journalists to their own codes of ethics? There are many such individuals. Reporter Uri Blau’s quote from a lengthy 2003 Boston Globe feature on CAMERA by media critic Mark Jurkowitz suggested the story shared Haaretz’s derogatory view of CAMERA. In reality, it was clearly respectful of the organization’s professionalism and impact. We’ve reproduced thousands of the Globe story to distribute to the public.

The hollowness of the Haaretz story, its hyperbole and timing point to the true motivation of the piece. The intent is evidently to smear CAMERA because the organization has alerted Israelis to the damaging impact globally of defamatory falsehoods in Haaretz.

Andrea Levin is the Executive Director and President of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).



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