Is the Media fair to Yesha Residents?

It is a sad reflection of the disunity in Israel today that - despite the fortitude and tenacity of Yesha residents in the face of years of terrorist attacks and shootings - many Israeli newspapers and other news media are quick to blame Yesha residents for all sorts of trumped-up charges and false accusations. Sometimes, it is true, these accusations are based on Arab sources, for whom lies are simply another tool in their arsenal to fight Israel.

But often the defamation (and even demonization) of Jews living in Yesha is a result of Israeli opinion writers and reporters who espouse far left views. "Factual accuracy is often sacrificed to their political predilections", writes Andrea Levin, Executive Director of CAMERA, in an article about Haaretz. It has reached the tragic state in which the words settler and mitnachel have become pejoratives!

Here are a few examples:
  •     "Hebron Jews abuse corpse of dead Arab" (Ha'aretz, 2001)
  •     "Settlers kill 2 Arabs near Ramallah" (June 2001)
  •     "Settlers kill 3 Arabs (including infant) near Hebron" (Israel Radio, July 2001)
  •     "Settlers inconsiderate to soldiers sent to guard them" (Ma'ariv, July 2001)
  •     "Settlers stone Arab car, causing fatal accident" (Jerusalem Post, July 2001)
  •     "Palestinians better off concentrating terror on settlers" (Kol Hazman, July 2001)
  •     "Settlers hacked 500 olive trees belonging to Palestinians" (Jerusalem Post, Nov 2003)
  •     "Hebron Jews forged building purchase papers" (Yediot Acharonot and Ha'aretz, May 2006)
  •     Concealing the contribution of Yesha residents to war effort in Lebanon (Ma'ariv, Aug 2006)
  •     "Can settlers get a fair hearing?" (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 6, 2008)
  •     Police lied against settlers (Jerusalem Post, Mar. 15, 2010)


"Hebron Jews abuse corpse of dead Arab"


Haaretz reporter Amira Hass reported that Jewish residents of Hebron had abused the corpse of a dead Arab shot by Israeli Border police in a violent incident.

The allegations were disproved by multiple televised accounts of the event. In June, 2001, Hass was ordered by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court to pay $60,000 in damages to the Jewish community of Hebron for her false and incendiary report. (Source: Wikipedia)


"Settlers kill 2 Arabs near Ramallah"


PA officials on June 3, 2001 reported the death of two Arabs in the Ramallah area as the result of a shooting attack against the three occupants of the truck by settlers.

Police investigators stated beyond the shadow of a doubt that the deaths were the result of an accident, explaining the two were killed when the truck they were traveling in flipped over. Shai District police report that the PA account of the deaths is totally fictitious.
(Source: Arutz Sheva)


"Settlers kill 3 Arabs (including infant) near Hebron"

Israel Radio on July 19 2001, insisted on reporting that settlers are responsible for drive-by murder of three Palestinians in the Hebron area.

David Bedein of the Israel Resource News Agency contacted Arieh Shorr, Israel Radio night editor, to suggest that he not report that settlers were responsible for the drive by murder until the police have in fact made this determination.

Shorr's response: "You are not going to tell me how to report the news." (But by 1:00 AM, Israel Radio was reporting that three Palestinians were killed in a drive by shooting by a car with Israeli license plates.)
(Source: IMRA - Independent Media Review & Analysis)

          The police have still not determined what group is responsible for the murder. Arutz 7 notes that:
  •  No Israeli officials have seen the bodies, and in fact the only evidence that the Palestinians have allowed them to see was the car in which the victims were killed.
  • The only eyewitnesses to the crime were Arabs.
  • The Tamizi family was known to have had connections with Israeli security sources; Arab terrorists killed one of the family in Hebron, and another Tamizi also had run-ins with terrorists.
  • Itim News Agency reports that although bullet casings were not found on the scene when the police first arrived, two or three hours later local Palestinians "found" some casings and gave them to the police.


"Settlers inconsiderate to soldiers sent to guard them"

Ma'ariv on July 24 2001, reported that reserve soldiers who were sent to guard the Gilad outpost near Kedumim "were just thrown on the hill without water, without provisions." According to the report, the local residents refused to allow the soldiers use their generator.

However, according to an Arutz 7 interview with one of the soldiers, the picture was quite different. The soldier, Micha Cohen, said that the local residents happily responded to every request of the soldiers. Cohen stated that relations between the soldiers and the residents were great. Another soldier wrote a letter to Moshe Zar expressing his amazement at the energy and good will of the young people settling the outpost. (Source: Arutz Sheva, July 25, 2001)


"Settlers stone Arab car, causing fatal accident"

The Jerusalem Post, in an article entitled "Police: Jewish death result of settler stoning," reported on July 25, 2001, that "Israel Police suspect that the death of a female Kedumim resident yesterday was indirectly caused by a stoning perpetrated by settlers. ... A police investigation into the incident suggests that the Palestinian driver lost control of his car after he was stoned by local Israeli residents. "

Arutz 7 (July 27 2001) reported that "the head of the Shomron-Yehuda Police District Traffic Wing now wishes to correct previous announcements, leaks, and other misinformation reported on the media, and says that the accident in which 27-year-old Nirit Sakuri of Kedumim was killed earlier this week was not caused by a rock thrown by Jews. The rock found inside the Arab taxi that crashed into the victim's car was, according to all signs, used by Arabs to break the taxi's windshield and extricate the injured driver - and was not thrown by Jews, as implied in many media reports."

Has the Jerusalem Post issued a correction to the initial article?


"Palestinians better off concentrating terror on settlers"

Gideon Spiro in the local Jerusalem paper Kol Hazman wrote that the armed struggle of the Palestinians is intrinsically just, and would be better served by concentrating on settlers. "If there is no way other than suicidal missions," wrote Spiro, "it would be better for the Palestinians to use the Kamakaze method of planes exploding on settlements and army camps" rather than blowing up shopping centers and buses within the Green Line.  (Source: Arutz Sheva, July 25, 2001)


"Settlers hacked 500 olive trees belonging to Palestinians"

On Nov. 3, 2003, the branches of hundreds of Arab-owned olive trees were found to have been cut down near the small Jewish community of Mitzpeh Yitzhar in the Shomron. Suspicions were immediately focused on the Jewish residents living nearby, and media reports and public officials took it for granted that they were responsible.

The Jerusalem Post Internet site reported on Nov. 7, "Last week, settlers from settlements in northern Samaria hacked approximately 500 olive trees belonging to Palestinians," and on the same day, a Voice of America report by Irris Makler went even further by opening, "Israeli settlers in the West Bank have destroyed olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers in several areas in recent weeks..."

Israeli officials were quick to respond. President Katzav issued a sharp condemnation, saying that the "struggle with the Palestinians ... must be conducted with good sense and integrity." Prime Minister Sharon said he views the matter with "great gravity" and added that he had ordered the security establishment to "take all possible measures" to catch those responsible for uprooting the trees. Even the Yesha Council of Rabbis fell into the trap, stating that that acts of vengeance carried out by individuals are forbidden and condemnable, and had "defamed the entire sector of Jews living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza." A headline in Ynet quoted Labor MK Ephraim Sneh as saying, "The Palestinians whose olive trees were cut down by settlers must be compensated."

The story has taken a dramatic turn, however, though the media have largely ignored it. Police now feel that left-wing Israelis and the Arab tree-owners may have manufactured the entire incident as a provocation and a way to besmirch the Jewish population. The police have requested that Rabbi Arik Asherman of the Reform Movement and an Arab who filed charges against Jewish Yesha residents submit to lie-detector tests - but the two have, thus far, refused to do so.

The investigation began its about-face when a Jewish National Fund expert brought in by the police concluded that no lasting damage was done to the trees, as the tree-cutters did not "cut down" the trees, but rather "pruned" them. The branches were severed such that they will begin growing back within 2-3 months. The police, who had previously received accusations from the Arabs and the left-wing activists against the Yesha Jews, thereupon requested that those who filed the accusations take lie-detector tests.

"Whoever cut these trees" the JNF representative said, "did so expertly in the specific manner which does not cause any serious damage whatsoever to the tree, whose branches will begin to grow back within 2 to 3 months."

"If it is determined that we are speaking about a provocation in which someone cut these branches and then filed a false accusation with the police, then we are dealing with false testimony, which is a serious infraction," police superintendent Doron Ben-Ami told IsraelNationalNews.

Residents of the village of Yitzhar in Northern Shomron and environs have published a statement denying any connection to the cutting of the olive trees. In response to MK Efraim Sneh and others, the residents wrote, "There is not one bit of truth in these accusations, which are simply baseless slander." (Source: Arutz Sheva, Nov 10, 2003)


"Hebron Jews forged building purchase papers"

Four weeks after three Jewish families moved into a building named Beit Shapira in Hebron, the Arab sellers suddenly claimed that the papers had been forged and demanded that the police remove the new occupants. The matter was taken to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the families must be removed pending an investigation into the matter.

Yediot Acharonot and Haaretz, however, reported that the Supreme Court had ruled that the purchase papers were in fact forged. Hevron spokesperson Orit Strook said that the false reports by two of Israel's largest newspapers "denied what the Supreme Court ruled, and violated journalistic ethical guidelines as well as the laws of slander, causing harm to those who purchased the building and populated it."

Strook noted that it was specifically not the reporters' fault, but rather that of the editors: "The reporters for both papers submitted accurate reports, but the editors are the ones who publicized the false information: In Yediot in the form of a headline, and in Haaretz in the form of an editorial."

Haaretz will pay 15,000 shekels and Yediot will pay 13,000, and will publicize clarifications expressing regret over the mistaken reports. The papers will also explain that the Supreme Court did not take a stance on the legality of the purchase.

The Hevron Jewish Community issued this statement: "We have achieved the main thing, and that is to set a precedent according to which the media cannot publish harmful lies against the Yesha population." (source: Arutz Sheva, May 31, 2006)


Concealing the contribution of Yesha residents to the war effort

After the cease-fire in August 2006, Maariv publicized a listing of cities and towns in which the soldiers killed in Lebanon had lived. However, though the chart listed the names of dozens of towns and cities, it concealed the disproportionately large role played by the towns of Judea, Samaria and Gaza by hiding them in the "others" column.

Ronen Tzafrir, of the Israel Nahalal Forum, had strong criticism of Maariv. "When there is something positive to say about this fantastic public," he said, "which educates towards heroism, sacrifice and love of land, suddenly Maariv forgets the word 'settlements.'"

In fact, nearly 10% of the 117 soldiers who were killed in the five weeks of fighting in Lebanon were from towns in Yesha (Judea and Samaria) - almost twice as much as their proportionate numbers in the population. (Source: Arutz Sheva, Aug. 17, 2006)



Can Settlers Get a Fair Hearing?


JOHAN RHODIUS , Jerusalem Post ( Aug. 6, 2008)

Danny and Yitzhak Halamish live in Ma'aleh Rehavam, a settlement near Bethlehem. The IDF trained and armed the brothers as volunteer security guards. On February 21, 2004, Baruch Feldbaum, the IDF security guard from the neighboring settlement Sde Bar, called for the assistance of the brothers as Beduin threatened Sde Bar. About 20 rock and club-wielding Beduin surrounded the brothers upon their arrival. To enable their escape, Feldbaum fired a warning shot in the ground and Yitzhak fired a warning shot in the air. The brothers did not fire their rifles.

The Beduin filed a complaint with the police: All three guards had shot at them with rifles, beat them with their fists and shot a three-year-old child.

Danny and Yitzhak were convicted of aggravated assault and negligence with a firearm, and sentenced to seven and eight months in prison. As a byproduct, the brothers are no longer allowed to carry weapons in an area known to be dangerous for Jews - the very reason the IDF trained the two as guards. Nor can they serve in the IDF, thus weakening the army.

BUT THE brothers committed no crime. First, they acted within the guidelines of the IDF. Second, the police - who entered the homes of the brothers illegally - acted with malevolence. Instead of testing to see if their rifles had been fired, they themselves fired the weapons, ostensibly to see if they were in working order. By doing so the police destroyed evidence that would have exonerated the brothers.

Third, the evidence is based only on witness testimony, the weakest legal proof. This is the more so when the witnesses are the complainants, and even more so if the complainants are suspected of having threatened the persons against whom they have complained.

The judge favored the testimonies of the Beduin, unsubstantiated by any other proof. There were no visible wounds or pictures of wounds, not even of the child allegedly shot to death.

Fourth, the prejudice of the public prosecutor was revealed when he demanded an extra-stiff penalty because "the behavior of the accused during their interrogation indicated incriminating behavior on their part" and "the accused have a lifestyle with a clear-cut ideological character that finds expression in their behavior, their place of residence and their social and political outlook."

THE VERDICT is clearly in breach of the international principle of non-discrimination because of "race, religion, sex or political conviction," and should sound an alarm bell for appeal by any supreme court. Not so for the Supreme Court in Israel, which whitewashes blatant injustice performed by lower-court judges.

Moreover the Supreme Court made an incomprehensible ruling on May 3: The brothers were not allowed to remain free while awaiting a decision on a pardon they had requested from the president. Feldbaum - sentenced to nine months imprisonment - had awaited such a decision in freedom. The ruling of May 3 was all the more unjust as president Katsav had reduced Feldbaum's sentence to six months of community service.

This case is inherently offensive. It was prosecuted because of the political views of the brothers, and the fact that they are settlers; this was clearly stated by the prosecution.

There is reason to think that this case is just the tip of an iceberg whereby judges condemn settlers without legal grounds other than the complaint of opponents of the settlement movement.

I have never seen such a combination of incompetence and injustice. This case is a strong indication that settlers are persecuted: by the police, public prosecutors and judges, including the Supreme Court. And by the president: On March 24 the brothers requested a pardon from Shimon Peres. On May 20 their prison sentence began and on May 22 the Ministry of Justice gave the president a positive recommendation. Despite repeated and urgent requests from inside and outside Israel, President Peres has not responded, thus perpetuating this injustice for more than two and a half months.

Enough!

The writer worked for almost 28 years as an attorney in private practice in the Netherlands, and for two years as a lawyer with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.


Police Lied Against Settlers


The Jerusalem Magistrate Court ruled that the police will have to compensate residents of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar after officers misled courts and issued reports accusing several Yitzhar residents of felonies they were not guilty of, the defendants’ lawyers said Monday.

The story begins in 2004, when an Arab shepherd claimed his goats were taken from him and held in a farm in Yitzhar. Police officers from the Samaria District let the shepherd into Yitzhar and allowed him, without confirming his complaint, to take the goats.

They then ambushed Yitzhar’s residents, who chased the shepherd and returned the goats to the settlement. They arrested not the shepherd but Yitzhar’s civilian security team, who were alerted to the scene following reports of the shepherd’s infiltration and not the stolen goats.

Police officers Gil Deshe and Yaakov Golan then presented the settlers in court as outlaws who assaulted the shepherd. An indictment was never served and the case has since been closed.

The residents, however, decided to hire a lawyer and pressed charges against police. They said the police, anxious to cast them in the role of lawbreakers, presented false reports to the court and to the media.

In the ruling against police, the judge wrote that “from the reports one can understand that the residents came to the shepherd, beat him, stole his goats and returned them to Yitzhar… but in the cross examination Golan admitted that he had not seen any of this happen.”

The judge also accepted the residents’ claim that “Deshe presented false statements as facts” during discussions against the residents six years ago.

The residents were found to be victims of libel and will be rewarded NIS 10,000 each by the police. Overall, police would have to pay NIS 50,000 to cover the fine, lawyer fees and court costs.  (Source: Jerusalem Post, Mar, 15, 2010)


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