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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

PETER BEINART

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About Maurice Ostroff

Earlier correspondence published on Times of Israel web site

Open letter from Maurice Ostroff of April 9 2012 http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/an-open-letter-to-peter-beinart/

Beinart's response and Ostroff's reply April 15, 2012http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/beinart-responds-to-my-open-letter/

Re Misleading reports
 
The following email was sent to Peter Beinart regarding a page on his "Open Zion' blog that contains the following information that is considered misleading as explained in the body of the letter below.
 

"STOP."

—The word shouted in the warroom seconds before another missile was shot at a building with members of the Samouni family, wrote Maariv, revealing for the first time the orders that lead to the killing of 21 members of the same family in Operation Cast Lead.

 

and

 

Kfar Sava hospital bans teaching staff from speaking in Arabic - Arab teachers and students working in Kfar Sava's Meir Medical Center have been forbidden to speak to each other in Arabic, despite the fact that Arabic is one of Israel's official languages. (Haaretz)


From: Maurice Ostroff
Date: Mon, 21 May 2012 16:25:48 +0200
To: Peter Beinart<Beinart@newamerica.net>
Subject: Your Open Zion blog
 
 May 21, 2012

Resolution  (74) 26 of the council of Europe Committee of Ministers states that any natural and legal person regarding whom facts have been made accessible to the public which he claims to be inaccurate, may exercise the right of reply in order to correct the facts and the medium in question shall be obliged to make public the reply which the person concerned has sent in.

Although this is a European resolution, it nevertheless is relevant to the content of this email which I ask you to please publish on your Open Zion blog in terms of an equitable right of reply.

While my readers and I are very disappointed that your responses to my previous letters dealt only with generalities and failed to address any of the issues I raised, I do hope you will deal more adequately with the following examples of failure to observe journalistic ethics on your aforementioned blog.

 I don't believe you can be unconcerned about the repeated violations of the Code of Ethics of the society of Professional Journalists which requires that journalists 

  • test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent errors.
  • diligently seek out subjects of news stories which give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
  • identify sources wherever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources.
I quote the following examples:

1. The Samouni Family.

Completely out of context and without any explanation, y our blog reports the following

" The word shouted in the warroom seconds before another missile was shot at a building with members of the Samouni family, wrote Maariv, revealing for the first time the orders that lead to the killing of 21 members of the same family in Operation Cast Lead".

The above statement is a very distorted interpretation of the unfortunate incident that Judge Goldstone described in his famous Report as the single most serious incident in the Gaz war.  However, during a  panel discussion  on "Civilians in War Zones" at Stanford University on January 20, 2011, Judge Goldstone dealt at length with the aforementioned Samouni case. He said that as several male members of the al-Samouni family returned to the house carrying firewood, projectiles fired from gunships killed or injured them. Subsequent reports showed that this was not a deliberate unprovoked attack as originally understood. What happened was that photographs from a drone of firewood carried by a a group of men, was incorrectly interpreted to be  rocket launchers. This precipitated the order to bomb the men and the building.

This explanation was repeated in Goldstone's much publicized April 2011 article in the Washington Post. It was consistent with the transcript of evidence given to the Goldstone Mission in Gaza on June 28, 2009 by Mr. Wail El-Samouni who told the Mission that he and a number of cousins were targeted by an Apache missile when they went out to find firewood.

The above facts convey an entirely different picture than the quote on your site. Unlike some of his colleagues who stubbornly adhere to preconceived opinions irrespective of contradictory information, Judge Goldstone demonstrated courage and an open mind when he revised his opinion on learning the new facts.  Can we expect that you too will show similar courage in revising some of your opinions in the light of several incisive criticisms published about your book and articles?

2. The same blog page makes the following completely false allegation:
 
"Kfar Sava hospital bans teaching staff from speaking in Arabic - Arab teachers and students working in Kfar Sava's Meir Medical Center have been forbidden to speak to each other in Arabic, despite the fact that Arabic is one of Israel's official languages. (Haaretz)".
 
The facts are very different. The Arabic language is encouraged and is spoken widely and freely throughout Meir Hospital. The allegation that the use of Arabic is restricted is irresponsible and provokes uncalled for racial tensions.
 
Evidently an isolated complaint that was promptly and satisfactorily dealt with by the hospital was completely distorted by the reporter who invented an irresponsible, inflammatory allegation that the hospital banned teaching staff from speaking Arabic and that Arab teachers and students were forbidden to speak to each other in Arabic. 
 
To compound the sin, your article omits the highly important contradictory information contained in the small print of the Haaretz article from which it was extracted - namely that the Education Ministry which operates the education department in the Meir Hospital insists there was no such instruction and that the allegations were untrue. "Every Arabic-speaking child receives treatment and lessons from Arab teachers, according to his needs", ministry officials said.
 
The Ministry's statement is borne out by the experience of my colleague David Frankfurter whose son was recently hospitalized at the Meir hospital. David took his son to the education room to review his mathematics homework.  David is obviously Jewish; his skullcap makes this obvious.  David tells that a charming young Muslim teacher wearing a hijab, explained the facility in perfect Hebrew. She also offered to assist his son with his homework.  When she turned her attention to a young Arab child she spoke in Arabic. She conversed with the patients and other staff, including her supervisor, in whichever language was appropriate to the situation. There was no language self-consciousness on the part of any person in the room.
 
David says this real co-existence was an oasis of calm for all the parents who were stressed by the fact that their children were ill. Unlike your unjustified criticism, he says the facility is a credit to the Department of Education, the hospital and its dedicated staff

Professor Beinart, do you consider it unreasonable that I ask you, as an academic and teacher of journalism, to check the facts that you publish and to refrain from adding fuel to the fire of extremism on both sides?

As with my earlier emails this open letter will be publicized as will the considered reply I dare hope to receive from you

Sincerely
Maurice

Peter Beinart's reply

At 5/21/2012,07:18 PM,Monday, peter.beinart@journalism.cuny.edu wrote:

Per general blog style, we have a comments section-you are welcome to note your objections to any articleUnusually for blogs, we also accept submissions challenging the arguments made in previous posts. If you'd like to submit one, email goldberg@newamerica.netif you'd like to avail yourself of these opportunities, please do. They are the forum in which we arbitrate such arguments not in email exchanges such as this. With this I will consider our correspondence to be over.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


Ostroff's response to the above reply

May 21, 2012

Professor Beinart,

I am really sad to learn that as editor, by refusing to correct blatantly untrue inflammatory reports about Israel on your 'Open Zion" blog, you appear to condone them. I refer for example to the absurd and inflammatory story that at Meir hospital Arab teachers and students have been forbidden to speak to each other in Arabic. Does it not concern you that this false story exacerbates racial tensions? Do you have no interest in dousing rather than fanning the flames?

This attitude does not inspire confidence in the accuracy of information provided in your much publicized books and articles.

Maurice Ostroff

 

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