When the mainstream media get their story wrong, they are obligated as journalists to correct it. But the Los Angeles Times refuses to correct an egregious error in its own reporting.
On August 21 Los Angeles Times reporter Teresa Watanabe wrote an article accusing the Maccabee Task Force of funding a poster campaign by David Horowitz’s Freedom Center. This poster campaign targeted students in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. It publicly named activists and accused them of anti-Semitism.
“The posters were one element of ‘Stop the Jew Hatred on Campus,’ a task force-funded campaign launched in February by the David Horowitz Freedom Center in Los Angeles,” wrote Watanabe. “Horowitz declined to disclose the size of the grant he received but said it helped him wage what he called a ‘guerrilla’ campaign this spring, with posters of ‘Jew haters’ on five California campuses.”
“The poster was part of a multimillion-dollar effort to combat the BDS movement, led by Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam,” continues Watanabe. “While this kind of attack campaign is one tactic, a key aim is to win back hearts and minds for Israel via social media pushes, cultural fairs, and subsidized trips to the Jewish state.”
There is just one problem with the L.A. Times’ reporting: Adelson and the Maccabee Task Force didn’t fund these posters. Another unnamed funder put up the money for the #StopTheJewHatred posters. In fact, the Maccabee Task Force reached out to a number of news outlets to correct the facts. But the LA Times refused to correct its story, claiming that Horowitz supported its conclusions.
After the task force reached out, the UK Guardian corrected the body of its story with the new information—but it curiously kept the headline, “GOP mega-donor funds group calling pro-Palestine US students ‘Jew haters.’” The title is technically correct, but it leaves a false impression. In reality, the Maccabee Task Force funded Horowitz’s “speaking engagements and the production of a research report,” according to an MTF spokesman speaking with Al Jazeera. The Guardian reports that the Horowitz center told MTF “it did not use any funding from the Adelson group for its poster campaign.”
But when the media report on the Israeli-Palestinian debate, there must always be a powerful villain.
It is convenient for reporters such as Watanabe to evoke a rich, conservative billionaire bogeyman to stoke a fearful reaction from the Times’ readership. Not only does this sell papers to the L.A. Times’ largely left-wing audience, but it also allows the paper to continue the narrative that the Israelis are brutish and powerful, and wage campaigns against poor, downtrodden Palestinians.
Leaders of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SPJ) told the Guardian that “the posters identifying specific students were particularly aggressive and had led some of them to face online harassment and death threats.” According to the AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization that investigates and reports on anti-Semitism at American universities, there was “an alarming spike” in acts of anti-Semitism on America’s college campuses during the first half of 2016, and that spike was especially high at schools where there were groups like the SPJ.
The BDS movement is a radical, left-wing movement spouting inflammatory rhetoric, asserting that the Israelis are little more than modern Nazis or take after the South African apartheid movement. Because there is a big bad donor and a conservative activist group in Watanabe’s story, the L.A. Times can cast the BDS activists as afraid of the media spotlight. Yet it is these activists who call for, and receive, media attention on behalf of their cause.
A common theme of Watanabe’s report, as well as the Guardian and Al Jazeera reports, was to propagate BDS claims about the horrific acts of Israelis.
UCLA student Robert Gardner told Watanabe that he “concluded that both Palestinians and African Americans suffered from ‘racialized state violence’ and ‘mass incarceration.’ Segregated housing in Israel…reminded him of Jim Crow laws.”
But Watanabe missed a much bigger story going on at the University of California, at both UCLA, where the administration is backing the loathsome BDS movement, and Berkeley, where a new course is “publicly announcing that its goal is to explore how Israel might be destroyed.”
California legislators are pushing back. The California state legislature has sent an anti-BDS bill to Governor Jerry Brown to sign which would require “companies” working with the state “to certify that they do not violate California civil rights laws in boycotting a foreign country,” particularly Israel.
One must also ask another question of the Guardian, LA Times and Al Jazeera. Where are the descriptions of how the Palestinians continue to attack Israelis, using deadly tunnels or rockets aimed at Israeli citizens? In the zeal to cover the BDS movement sympathetically, these journalists have forgotten that the Israelis have repeatedly tried to ensure the Palestinians have a homeland—but that Hamas refuses to acknowledge Israel’s existence as a state and continues to attack. And the so-called moderate Palestinian Authority appears to be losing its grip on the West Bank to the openly genocidal Hamas.
Yet members of the BDS movement characterize themselves as “anti-oppression and anti-racism,” according to The Guardian. This is backward: it is Israel, not the terror group Hamas, who seeks peace. Reporting on the BDS movement should acknowledge the other side, the plight of Israelis, instead of focusing on tarring pro-Israel donors.