Monday, May 28, 2018

Quantification Biased The New York Times Coverage of Gaza Riots

[After hearing complaints about biased coverage by The New York Times (no surprise) about the Hamas-orchestrated riots on the Gaza border, I decided to check it out myself and see whether I could quantify some of the bias. I looked for all the articles about Gaza over a 30-day period and checked references to certain words, related to the words protest, riot, violence and terror. It turned out to be worse than even I would have expected. On Saturday, May 26, I wrote the following to several editors at The New York Times. I await a reply. - Alan Stein]

I have long been distressed at what I felt was a deterioration in the objectivity of The New York Times, the paper I grew up reading and looked at as the standard to which other newspapers should strive. Long ago, I realized The Times had seemed to abandon objectivity in its news articles; in fact, as far back as 2004 the Hartford Courant published an op-ed I wrote describing the bias inserted into news articles even on the front page of The New York Times.

Being particularly interested in reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict, I was also particularly concerned with what seemed to be a clear anti-Israel bias, but for years I still defended it, telling others that even though the articles were biased, one could usually read between the lines and figure out the truth. Unfortunately, even that no longer seems to be the case.

With all the biased reporting, not just in The New York Times, about the series of riots organized by Gaza on its border with Israel, and the apparent reluctance of various media to accurately describe them as such, I decided to check for myself.

I looked for all recent articles in The New York Times referring to the Gaza riots and within those articles looked for the use of terms relating to protests, riots and violence along with their context and blame either clearly attributed or implied. Although my research was done quickly and was somewhat ad hoc, so a more careful study might come up with slightly different counts, the statistics are overwhelming in showing a clear bias and blatant misleading of the readership regarding the nature of the events in Gaza.

This is what I found.

Over the last 30 days, I found 37 articles relating to the Gaza riots. In those 37 articles, variations of the word "protest" (protest, protests, protesters, ... ) appeared 154 times, while variations of the word "riot" were used only 4 times, and each of those times they came from quotes or paraphrases of Israeli sources or - once - in a letter from a supporter of Israel.

Although the "protests" were far from peaceful, the words "violent" or "violence" were used in relation to the riots only 32 times, 6 of which came from Israeli sources.

Most damning, of those 26 remaining occurrences, blame was either explicitly or implicitly attributed to either Israel or America 14 times, with the term being used fairly neutrally 4 times, leaving only 8 times that blame was either explicitly or implicitly attributed to the Palestinian Arabs, despite the fact that all the violence was initiated by the Palestinian Arabs!

I also find it amazing that variations of the word "terror" (terror, terrorism, terrorist) were used only 15 times, despite the fact that Hamas, the main party orchestrating the riots, is a terrorist group so recognized by the United States, Israel and just about every other country that's not afraid it will be targeted if it dares to accurately describe Hamas.

I can find no reasonable rationalization for such biased and misleading news coverage, especially from "the newspaper of record" in the United States. Your newspaper is doing a gross disservice to its readers, to the country and, indeed, to the entire world.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Letter sent to the Greenwich Time: Misunderstanding Gaza

To the editor:

In her May 20 op-ed, "A painful week," Alma Rutgers once again demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the Palestinian Arab crusade against Israel.

This time, she railed against Israel for celebrating the belated, by 69 years, relocation of the American embassy to Israel's capital while split screens on televisions were contrasting the ceremony in Jerusalem to the events in Gaza, where Hamas was doing its best to get as many Arabs as possible killed. She has apparently never noticed that Palestinians ramp up their violent attacks during every Jewish holiday and every time Israelis have something to celebrate.

Speaking as an Israeli, if we stopped celebrating every time the Palestinians were making sure blood was spilled, we would never celebrate anything. We've learned that we have no alternative if we are to have any chance to enjoy life; we have to accept the reality of our brutal neighbors and cope with them. Thus, for example, when they murder families at a cafe, within hours, the bodies are removed, the blood is wiped away, the cafe is reopened and filled with other families.

We are proud of the young men and women who not only protect us but do an amazing job in minimizing harm to the very people trying to slaughter us. Even though 53 of the 62 Palestinian Arab rioters allegedly killed that day have been claimed by the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups as their own members, we get no joy from their deaths.

We refuse to let the terrorists win. We refuse to allow them to destroy our humanity, our hopes, our dreams, our joy or our lives.

Speaking as an American, it's about time our government ended the perverse situation in which there was just one place in the world, in the world's only Jewish state, where our embassy was not located in the host country's capital. Finally, this year, it's in Jerusalem!


Alan Stein
Netanya, Israel and Natick, Massachusetts
The writer, a former resident of Stamford and a longtime resident of Waterbury, is President Emeritus of PRIMER-Connecticut, Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting. He now splits his time between the United States and Israel. The evening before Hamas tried to spoil the celebration of the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem, he joined with hundreds of others in Kikar Ha'Atzmaut, Independence Square, in Netanya, to conclude Yom Yerushalayim, commemorating the 51st anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, by singing Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, Jerusalem of Gold.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Lauder uses wrong venue for mostly misguided remarks

The following was submitted as a letter to the Jerusalem Post but was not published because I had another letter published shortly before. Let me emphasize that, though I disagree with most of Lauder's criticisms, I believe he has an obligation to express them, but in the proper forum, directly to Israeli Jews and Israeli government officials. The New York Times is not a proper forum; it both discredits him in the eyes of most Israelis, thus actually diminishing our willingness to listen to him, and provides the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people with ammunition to use against us. 

To the editor:

Of everything about Ronald S. Lauder's op-ed "Grave threats to Israel as a Jewish democratic state" with which I disagree, I disagree most with the attribution "This article first appeared in the New York Times."

If someone has advice for a friend or relative, the appropriate way to give that advice is to speak with or write to that person. One doesn't send an op-ed with that advice to the New York Times and hope it's read.

By publishing a critical op-ed in the New York Times, Lauder behaved, a la J Street, like an adversary rather than like a loving member of the Jewish people and thus forfeited any ability to be taken seriously by Israelis.

In terms of his critique, Lauder wrote as if the only alternative to the so-called "two-state solution," one the Palestinian Arabs have repeatedly rejected and which Mahmoud Abbas has emphatically said he would never accept, is a "one-state solution." However, there's absolutely no chance of a "one-state solution." We long ago turned over governance of almost all the Arabs in the disputed territory to their own government and we're not going to take that over. We'll just persevere until the Palestinian Arabs are willing to live in peace, at which point we'll come up with some arrangement.

It's instructive that the bias against Israel that permeates the media and the demonization Israel that permeates college campuses has had far more effect on the American Jewish community than on the non-Jews, whose support for Israel is at record highs. This indicates a potentially disastrous failure of the leadership of the American Jewish community.

The one kernel of a real problem Lauder mentioned was the stranglehold of the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate on government actions relating to Judaism here. However, despite Lauder's blaming that for alienation of American Jews, it's basically a domestic issue, one that we will resolve, and it has virtually no practical effect on Jews in the United States. I can give that assurance from personal knowledge, as someone who was born, raised and spent his entire working life in the United States and still spends nearly half of each year there.

American Jewish leaders, like Ron Lauder, need to figure out what they need to do to reverse the decline of their community, of which I am still a part, part-time. And if they believe Israel should be doing some things differently, they need to convey their opinions appropriately, not broadcast them in the New York Times.


Alan Stein

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Purim pondering: Persia, then and now

Purim ponderings: Persia, then and now

By Alan Stein
Alan Stein, the founder of PRIMER–Israel and PRIMER– Massachusetts, splits his time between Natick and Netanya, Israel.

Published in the Jewish Advocate, March 9, 2018

Iwrite this from Netanya, Israel, the day before Purim. Tomorrow evening, I’ll go to my Masorti synagogue, Bet Israel, for the reading of the Megillah, followed by a party including a Purim shpiel in which I’ll be playing Mordechai. (I seem to have been typecast.)

A Yom Haatzma’ut banner hanging outside an elementary
          school PHOTO: ALAN STEIN
A Yom Haatzma’ut banner hanging outside an elementary school PHOTO: ALAN STEIN
I The following morning, following my weekly Hebrew class – I’ve improved my Hebrew to the point where I occasionally have some idea about what people are saying if they speak very slowly – my wife and I will walk to Kikar Haatzma’ut, Independence Square, just under a kilometer from our apartment, where the Netanya municipality has scheduled a daylong program of festivities.
Purim is a joyous holiday here. For days, people have been walking in the streets wearing costumes. But for all the fun, the Purim story, whether based on actual events or not, is a serious one which has had echoes throughout our collective history as a people and, given its setting in Persia, which is now called Iran, has particular relevance today.
Unfortunately, most of the world is ignoring the relevance as the clock ticks down and the situation gets more explosive.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of today’s Persia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, has not only pledged to do what Haman, his predecessor, tried and failed, but has been adept at putting his pieces into play.
Alan Stein, the founder of PRIMER–Israel and PRIMER–
          Massachusetts, splits his time between Natick and Netanya,
          Israel.Iran has long had control over Lebanon (through its Hezbollah proxy) and Gaza (through its Hamas and Islamic Jihad proxies). It is now probably the strongest power in Iraq and has a strong and growing presence in Syria. It was from Syria that it recently sent a drone into Israeli airspace, precipitating a confrontation in which an Israeli plane was shot down for the first time since Ron Arad’s plane during the 1982 Lebanese war.
In Israel, most people feel another war with Iran’s proxies in the north, or with Iran itself, is inevitable; the winding down of the Syrian civil war brings that war closer. Unless a miracle happens, that war will come and it will be far more damaging, to all sides, than any war since the War of Independence.
The last war with Hezbollah, in 2006, was traumatic for those in northern Israel, with many coming south for safety. That won’t be an option the next time. Whereas in 2006, Hezbollah only had a few thousand missiles, mostly inaccurate and with a short-range, it now has an estimated 150,000 missiles, able to reach everywhere in Israel, with more accuracy and with heavier and more lethal payloads. As sophisticated as Israel’s missile defenses are, including Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow, it’s impossible to defend against 150,000 missiles, with thousands being launched daily.
When Khamenei decides to strike, people will be killed. Critical infrastructure will be hit. We will have no option but to play offense rather than defense, as we have since the War of Attrition in the years after 1967. We will have to destroy Hezbollah and its missiles in days, not weeks or months. Ayn breira – there will be no alternative. This will make the consequences for Lebanon devastating; especially since almost all those missiles are in civilian areas: in homes, schools, mosques, hospitals.
Is there any hope?
Maybe the United Nations will start doing its job. Maybe the Iranian people will finally overthrow their fanatical rulers. Maybe the people in Lebanon will retake their country.
Objectively, none of those possibilities seems reasonable, but as long as the war hasn’t started, we can’t give up all hope. Maybe, just maybe, there will be a miracle. Didn’t Ben Gurion say “in Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles?”
In the meantime, in Israel we still celebrate Purim joyfully and are looking forward to April 19, the 4th of Iyar, when Yom Haatzma’ut, Independence Day, will mark 70 years since the formation of our third Jewish commonwealth. The elementary school a block from our apartment already sports a banner proclaiming those 70 years. (Of course, in a sign of the alertness Israelis must practice, when I stopped in front of the school yesterday to take a picture of the banner, the school’s armed guard looked at me very suspiciously, even though he must have recognized me since I pass by him almost every day on the way to morning minyan.)

Chag sameach.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Peace in the Middle East is Not on the Horizon

Published in the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, March 2, 2018

Peace in the Middle East is Not on the Horizon

Reading the “Point/Counterpoint: Two State | One State | No State; Which solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict works best … or works at all?” commentaries (Ledger, Feb. 9, 2018), a few thoughts come to mind.
It should be obvious to all that every attempt to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs (a conflict which is a part of and a result of the broader Arab-Israeli conflict) has made things worse. Whereas there seemed to be some likelihood of peace at the start of the failed Oslo process, there is no reasonable chance of peace in the foreseeable future, certainly not until there’s a profound change in Palestinian society and its leadership.
The best thing anyone can do to bring peace closer, and save lives, is to give it a break.
When people talk about a “two-state solution,” they’re really talking about a four-state solution: Israel, Jordan (which comprises more than 3/4 of the territory of the Palestine Mandate), the West Bank (the name given to Judea and Samaria by Transjordan after capturing that territory during the 1948 war) and Gaza.
When we talk about a “two-state solution,” we mean two states for two peoples (or three, four or more), but that’s something Mahmoud Abbas has insisted he will never accept.
It’s not up to us to decide what the Palestinian Arabs do with whatever territory we give them in any hypothetical peace agreement; that’s up to them, as long as they finally let us live in peace. Many people have proposed alternatives to the so-called “two-state solution.” They’re usually disparaged, certainly by those who close-mindedly insist there’s no alternative to a two-state solution. Yet, given how harmful the fanatical pursuit of a two-state solution has been, it’s hard to see how they could be less feasible. Still, that’s not up to any of us.
Ultimately, the goal is peace. The creation of additional Arab states is a possible outcome, but treating the so-called “two-state solution” as a goal is misguided, counterproductive and downright harmful.
Alan Stein
Netanya, Israel
Natick, Massachusetts

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Yale Zussman's Recommendations for the New Year

Hi Folks,

Here are my first recommendations for the new year.  I hope you have all had a joyous holiday season, and are again in the mood to deal with the reality on the ground in much of the Middle East:

Saudi Academic: Arabs Should Accept Israel’s Historic Right to Jerusalem

Oh. the times they are a changing...
One sin I won't be striking my chest for this Yom Kippur
Gerald A. Honigman
December 28, 2017
Appears to be a sermon from the High Holidays but is nevertheless timeless.
This Time It's Serious
Menashe Amir
Jan 2, 2018
Israel Hayom
The current protests in Iran may be the beginning of the end of the Iranian Revolution.
Diplomacy or Driving a Hard Bargain? Lessons from the Negotiation that Led to the Iran Nuclear Deal
Emily B. Landau, Gilead Sher
INSS Insight No. 1004
January 2, 2018
The real problem with the Iran deal has always been the motivations of the two sides. For Iran, the deal's objective was to end the sanctions regime while enabling Iran to become a nuclear power. For Obama, the deal's objective was to demonstrate that he was smarter than his two predecessors because while they tried to deal with this matter, they couldn't reach an agreement, and he could. It's too bad no-one ever pointed out that had he been willing to capitulate to Iranian demands, even George Bush could have had a deal like the one Obama got.
Palestinians: Always on the Wrong Side
by Bassam Tawil
January 3, 2018
The real significance of this depends on what India does now. If India also recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital, other Third World countries may follow. Actually moving its embassy to Jerusalem would take some time, and by then, it might set off a land-rush for places to put embassies.
What the Iran Protests Have Already Achieved
Sohrab Ahmari
Jan. 8, 2018
The faded Palestinian issue
Victor Davis Hanson
January 12, 2018
Another sign that the Palestinian jig is up.
The Quran Says Jerusalem Belongs to the Jews
by Saied Shoaaib
January 15, 2018
There's a religious catch to this, but the politics are clear: Trump's acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel's capital doesn't contradict any Islamic beliefs.
The Trump Peace Plan
Maj. Gen. (ret.) Gershon Hacohen
Jan. 15, 2018
Read between the lines and Gen. Hacohen is advocating that the current state of affairs is the best conceivable for the indefinite future.
Does the First Amendment Protect Warrior Religions?
William Kilpatrick
January 15, 2018
Addresses the conceptual question of whether the Constitution can be used to undermine it.

Until next time,


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

'Drain the swamp' not the State Department

'Drain the swamp' not the State Department

By Arnold Pinsley

The State Department definitely needs to be drained.  It has a history of 85 years of one costly mistake after another.  Our noble chaps felt that a little character with a moustache was a joke - in the name of isolationism, folks like Watson (IBM) and Joseph Kennedy (steel) continued to sell him materials necessary to his war machine; no attention was paid to the terms of the treaty that ended the 'War to end all wars' which forbade his nation the development of a military.  From 1938 until Treasury Secretary Morgenthau intercepted a cable in 1943, State Department stonewalled any mention of what was happening to the Jews, Gypsies, and physically and developmentally challenged in the way of Hitler because it might hinder the war effort - no bombing of railroad tracks or trains taking people to extermination or slave labor camps (where slaves died in three to four months due to starvation or beatings); the numbers slaughtered exceed 25 million.

In 1945, General Stillwell, Commander of the China, Burma, and India theater was charged with Communist sympathy and brought back to home in disgrace for, horror of horrors, suggesting that we achieve a rapprochement with the Communist Chinese because Chiang Kai-Shek wasn't fighting the Japanese and the Communists were.  In 1950, following the policy set re General Stillwell, State and Defense stumbled into the US into a Korean Conflict, also including the Chinese which carried us into 1953 when an agreement to cease hostilities was hammered out - why are there 35,000 US troops still stationed on the border?

1948 saw the establishment of Israel which State advised President Truman not to recognize.    In 1953, State and the British Foreign Office conspired to assassinate Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, because he wanted to nationalize the country's oil resources and together these two organizations made Reza Pahlavi Shah of Iran.  Luckily he died of cancer before the British and Americans could kill him for the same crime as his predecessor - not to worry, these two organizations saw to it that the country became a theocracy.  The Iranian theocrats nationalized the country's oil reserves as soon as they took power with nary a peep from the State Department or the international captains of industry.  Every attempt to remove the theocrats from power by the citizens of Iran has been ignored by the State Department.  We are told that the Iranian people love us; one wonders why.

President Eisenhower was besieged by State and Defense to bail out the French in their attempt to maintain control of Vietnam (then called 'French Indochina').  Immediately after WW II, the State Department purged anyone with any real knowledge of China and Southeast Asia.  President Eisenhower had sufficient gravitas and intelligence to withstand the pressure from State, Defense, and CIA - unfortunately his successor did not have his gravitas and we entered a military engagement in Vietnam which cost more than 50,000 lives with many more seriously wounded not to mention the even greater number of Vietnamese maimed or killed.  Wonderful way to negotiate a favored nation trading alliance, don't you think?

Now let us move on to Israel where State Department activities have for more than 50 years resembled Einstein's definition of insanity, 'performing the same failed experiment over and over again in the hope of a successful outcome'.  Isn't that brilliant?  Obviously State believes that the 22% of the original British Palestine Protectorate left as a homeland for the Jews and made part of the League of Nations Charter and, in its turn, the United Nations Charter was way too much land - State has been pressuring Israel to cede more and more land to the 'Palestinians' who are virtually all of Saudi or Syrian descent.  They arrived in Judea and Samaria in 1948 after King Abdullah I of Transjordan had ethnically cleansed all Jews from that area and destroyed countless Arab villages so that massed Arab armies would be able to sweep the Jews of Israel into the sea.  Said Arabs were then lodged in 'Refugee' camps like Sabra and Shatilla where they are kept in squalor as stateless refugees to this day - no pressure from State Department to change this at all - a disgraceful policy.

It is obvious that State has never forgiven some Jews for having survived WW II, because treatment accorded Israel is abominable. The State Department wants to keep providing money to PA/PLO/Fatah which has been in administrative control of 98% of the land in Judea and Samaria for more than two decades and continue paying millions of dollars per year to the PA.  A large portion of this largesse has paid salaries to terrorists convicted of murdering Israeli citizens and handsome pensions to families of deceased martyrs to the PA cause.  Every PA social media organ is used to incite violence against Israelis without a word of condemnation from our State Department.  No condemnation from these 'professionals' regarding the firebombing of more than 200 churches in Iraq and violence perpetrated against Christian Arabs in the past two decades either.  In 1986, the population of Bethlehem was 75% Christian, today it is barely 10%.  Now our State Department accedes to a Russian proposal that an Iranian camp be located in Syria within three miles of the Israeli border (see BBC aerial photos of the site).  That is really going to create a stable environment in the area, isn't it?

Let us now look at other incomprehensible policy messes; Iraq, Afghanistan, and Arab Spring.  President Bush, Sr. had sense enough to stage a pretend conflict with Saddam Hussein where Saddam was allowed to remain as a bulwark against the Iranian theocrats - his son decided that he had to do better than daddy and remove the bulwark.  Not the best idea Bush Jr. ever had and here Colin Powell, Secretary of State, was never able to meet with Bush Jr. alone to explain to him the danger inherent in removing Saddam.  I don't know whose idea it was to enter Afghanistan - I do know that when Representative Wilson wanted a few million dollars for schools and hospitals for Afghanistan after we had armed the Mujahidin to help them defeat Russian incursion, the cornucopia was suddenly dry.

In 2001, the Bush Jr Presidency was encouraged by two of the worst characters ever to advise a President in this nation's history, Cheney and Rumsfeld, to enter Afghanistan.  It is now the longest conflict in American military history and our State Department has done little if anything to negotiate a cessation of hostilities.  The Arab Spring is still paying dividends in slaughter and mayhem.  President Clinton had sense enough to realize that a dictator in Libya could be counted on to keep the nasties at bay; Secretary of State Clinton couldn't see this and she had to remove him.  Libya is a massive training ground for many lovely terrorist groups and a tribal battle ground today.  Egyptian military had enough sense to remove a Muslim Brotherhood Caliphate before it could become a fully functional destabilizing force in the Middle East.  US State Department denied weaponry to the Egyptian military and almost drove it into the arms of the Russians.

State and Defense treat the Turks with kid gloves even though, as Orhan Pamuk writes in his autobiography, 'Istanbul', 'the music of Armenian, Greek, and Ladino is no longer heard in the streets of Istanbul', and the Turks have been engaged in engaged in almost a century of denial of Armenian Genocide and uninterrupted slaughter of Kurds.  Although Iraqi  and Syrian Kurdish tribes did a great deal of the heavy fighting against ISIL, State Department in conjunction with Russia, accords them no seat at a bargaining table.

Doesn't make for a great resume, does it?

Friday, November 3, 2017

The international versus the local character of the Arab/Israeli conflict

By Barry Werner

It is a mistake to view the Palestinian/Israeli conflict as a dispute just between the Palestinian Arabs and the Israelis. It started long before there was such as thing as Palestinian identity and it has never been just a local conflict. Until the PLO was given the role of the sole representative of the Palestinian People, there was no such thing as a Palestinian People. The Arab world as a whole started the conflict to prevent a sovereign Jewish community from being established in the lands that the followers of Mohammed conquered in the 7’Th Century. The Arab war aim was to merge Palestine with “Greater Syria”, not to create an independent state for the Arabs of Palestine. Most of the Muslim world joined in and it became a wider Arab/Muslim conflict against Israel.

The conflict became internationalized even further. The Middle East was a locus of competition between the West and the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The Soviet Union armed the Arabs against Israel and the Kremlin demonized Zionism (the political left in the Western world still repeats that propaganda today). The Non-Aligned group of countries used opposition to Israel as a way to express their anger over past Western colonialism and sided with the Arabs. The West’s geopolitical and economic interests were seriously affected and so resolving the conflict became an obsession for them and for the UN.

After the combined Arab countries (and Cuba) failed to destroy Israel the Arab world created the PLO to continue the fighting. Reframing the conflict as a struggle for Palestinian nationalism rather than as a war by the Arab World against the Jewish People so soon after the Holocaust was intended to make the Arab cause more palatable to the West, but only as long as the ultimate goal of destroying the Jewish state was accomplished.

The international character of the conflict can be seen clearly in the 1970’s worldwide Arab rampage of terrorism and plane hijackings and in the attack on the world’s economy by use of an oil embargo. It was a global Arab attack on the Western world. The Arab world learned that terrorizing the west was a winning strategy that turned the West against Israel. (In recent years the Islamist jihadi rampage in the West is more about demonstrating the dominance of Islam than it is about the Arab conflict with Israel. Israel is now a secondary target; jihadis attack Jews everywhere without regard to their relationship to Israel. The Islamist jihadi movement is about world domination.)

As a consequence of the Western world trying to appease the Arab/Muslim world, the conflict over the land of Palestine was not allowed to be resolved normally. The background to the conflict over the land of Palestine is as follows. In 1948 Jordan and Egypt illegally occupied the West Bank and Gaza. In 1967 Israel liberated the occupied land. But even though the Arab world had seized the land illegally they wanted the land back. The Western world wanted to appease the Arabs and tried to give the West Bank and Gaza back to the Arabs in various “peace initiatives” of its own and in UNSC Resolution 2334.

It is very important to see how the international character of the Arab/Israeli conflict changed with time.

The Arab world’s goals changed drastically with the Six Day War. A new Arab goal emerged, namely erasing the Arab world’s dishonorable defeat in that war. Russia massively resupplied the Arab armies and the Arab world started yet another war in 1973, the Yom Kippur War, but lost again. In 2002, the Arab League proposed the “Arab Peace Initiative”, offering Israel normalization in the region if, but only if, Israel agreed to erase every centimeter of territorial gain it made in the Six Day War. Since the intention was to erase the Arab world’s dishonorable defeat, Israel was either to give back every centimeter of territory conquered in the Six Day War or there would be no deal. (In recent years, the Arab League softened the terms and allowed for an equal exchange of land, and Israel agreed to accept the offer but only as the start of negotiations.) 

In recent years the situation changed drastically again. Now the major Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries, and Morocco) see Israel as a potential ally against the religious fanaticism that threatens to destabilize them, the threat of expansionist Iran, and the many severe economic and ecological threats the Arab countries face.

However, the PLO, and its “rejectionist” offshoots, such as Hamas, etc, keeps on fighting and expecting the Arab world and the West to back them up as before (Hamas also looks to Iran for support).

The Western world is still trying to appease the rejectionists as if there has been no change in the goals of the moderate Arab governments.

Two conclusions can be drawn.

First, the West should respond to the new international reality and shift its emphasis from supporting the rejectionist war against Israel to encouraging and supporting cooperation between the moderate Arab world and Israel. The West should encourage the Arab world to normalize relations with Israel and partner with Israel and the moderate Arab governments in addressing the many serious problems that confront the Middle East.

Second, to finally bring an end to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict it should be disentangled from the web of international intrigue and resolved on its own merits. The Arabs waged an “all-or-nothing” war to destroy Israel and lost. An objective peace initiative would emphasize these points:

  •  Israel has by far the strongest claim to the land liberated in the Six Day War of 1967 (the West Bank and Gaza);
  •  It is reasonable for Israel not to allow the hostile, antisemitic, Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza to return to Israel or to become citizens of Israel because they have been taught antisemitism and hatred for Israel for as long as the Palestinian Authority, the PA, has been given the authority to do so by the Oslo Accords. (Not preparing its people for peace was an essential violation of the Oslo Accords by the PA, it’s reasonable that they should have to pay the price for violating the fundamental intention of the Oslo Accords.)
  • For humanitarian reasons, unless the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza can be relocated to other Arab countries (not a likely scenario since all the other Arab countries don’t want them and they have good reasons to be afraid of them) they should be given an independent but disarmed state of their own, or several small independent disarmed states, or whatever, where they presently reside, on only whatever land it takes to maintain them in Gaza or the West Bank. But they should not be given the whole West Bank.
  • The Palestinian Arabs and the Arab/Muslim world as a whole should agree to an end of claims against Israel and publicly recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. 
  • The Arab/Muslim world should acknowledge Israel for its democratic, inclusive multi-cultural character and its defense of Arab rights and Muslim religious sites.

The Western world should restrain the antisemites among them from supporting the extremist Arabs’ attempt to polarize the world to the exclusion of Jews and Israel. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Anti-Israel bias in Boston Globe revealed in discrimination op-ed

This op-ed was published in the Jewish Advocate on August 4, 2017. It may also be found on the Jewish Advocate website at

Following the text of the article, we include here the correspondence with the Boston Globe. This correspondence was not included in the Jewish Advocate.

Jewish Advocate

Anti-Israel bias in Boston Globe revealed in discrimination op-ed

By Alan H. Stein

Alan H. Stein is the founder of PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel, and president emeritus of PRIMER-Connecticut.

The July 18 Boston Globe op-ed by Katherine Franke headlined, "Mass. shouldn't outlaw boycotts," was so biased and hateful that CAMERA felt compelled to issue a major alert devoted entirely to it. But it wasn't out of character for the Boston Globe, which has a long track record of strong anti-Israel bias.

Franke's op-ed was not only factually flawed and misrepresented the anti-discrimination bill before the Massachusetts Legislature in order to unfairly malign Israel, it was given a misleading headline designed to imply something false: that the Legislature was considering a bill that would outlaw boycotts.

I've been keeping a log of Globe opinion pieces - editorials, op-eds and letters - relating to Israel since September 2014, and categorized each as either pro-Israel, anti-Israel or neutral. During that time, the anti-Israel opinion pieces have outnumbered the pro-Israel pieces 92-75. I'm sure I missed some items, but the disparity is pretty clear.

The most telling category is editorials, since that reflects the official opinion of the newspaper. During this period, I found only one Globe editorial that could be considered pro-Israel; published last November, it deplored the UNESCO decision "denying the Jewish people's historic connection to the holiest site in Judaism." In contrast, I found seven anti-Israel editorials.

There were 33 pro-Israel op-eds, compared with 48 anti-Israel op-eds. Of the pro-Israel op-eds, 18 were from Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby and 7 were from famed attorney Alan Dershowitz. Take those away, and we see the Boston Globe published only eight pro-Israel op-eds, in contrast to 48 anti-Israel op-eds!

There have been slightly more pro-Israel than anti-Israel letters, 41- 37, but even here, but it seems like when the Globe publishes pro- and anti- letters in the same issue, it generally gives more prominence to the anti-Israel letters.

For example, the Boston Globe chose to publish just two letters about Katherine Franke's anti-Israel op-ed, one supporting the op-ed and one criticizing it. This may seem balanced, but the Globe put the anti-Israel letter prominently on top. The anti-Israel letter was two-and-a-half times as long as the pro-Israel letter it published - 235 words to 92 words - and exceeded the Globe's 200-word limit.

Franke's op-ed itself was nominally in opposition to a bill before the legislature, "An Act prohibiting discrimination in state contracts." The key provisions are that companies entering into significant contracts with the state must certify they are in compliance with certain existing anti-discrimination laws and will not refuse "to do business with any other person when that action is based upon such other person's race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, gender identity or sexual orientation."

Franke misrepresented that provision as a "pledge that they will not engage in a boycott." She then used that misrepresentation to link the anti-discrimination bill to the prohibition on political boycotts in Alabama at the time of the Montgomery bus boycott.

We can argue about whether Massachusetts should enact a bill to punish hateful anti-Israel boycotters; however, the bill under consideration was written to avoid including the word boycott. This was pointed out to the Boston Globe, with a request for a correction. The Globe acknowledged receiving the request but dismissed it, arguing that 'pretending discrimination' and 'boycotting' are synonymous.

The headline, "Mass. shouldn't outlaw boycotts," clearly implies the bill would outlaw boycotts. Even if one buys the Globe's argument about boycotts and discrimination being the same, the bill does nothing to outlaw anything. When pressed on this, the Globe claimed the headline was, "smart, pertinent, and accurate."

At the same time, it is hard to imagine the Globe publishing an oped with the headline, "Mass. shouldn't outlaw discrimination."

Yet the Boston Globe not only published an op-ed supporting discrimination against Israelis, the newspaper defended it.

Email Exchange

The following is the exchange of emails with the Boston Globe. Most emails also contained the prior emails; that duplication is omitted here.

Sent July 19 with subject "Please issue a correction" to and

To: The Boston Globe

The July 18 op-ed, "Mass. shouldn't outlaw boycotts," contains, among many other factual errors, the blatantly false statement that the anti-discrimination bill being put before the legislature "would require that anyone who applies for a state contract over $10,000 must sign a pledge that they will not engage in a boycott that targets a person or entity because of their 'race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation..'"

The proposed bill doesn't even contain the word "boycott."

As you are aware, while newspapers aren't responsible for the opinions contained in the opinion pieces they publish, they are responsible for the accuracy of the facts they publish. In accordance with that solemn responsibility, the Boston Globe is obligated to publish a correction.

Additionally, the very title of the op-ed, while technically not factually incorrect, is tantamount to a factual error because it strongly implies there is an effort to have Massachusetts outlaw boycotts. Even the language incorrectly given in the op-ed would do nothing to restrict boycotts.

Quite frankly, the Boston Globe should be embarrassed that it published such an error-filled and malicious op-ed, one which effectively promotes discrimination, and should not only issue corrections for the factual errors but apologize for publishing it.


Alan Stein

Sent July 21 with subject "Resend: Please issue a correction:"

[I sent this request for a correction on July 19 and have neither seen a correction issued nor received a response to my message. Since the article was given prominence in the Boston Globe, the error was blatant, unquestionable since the text of the proposed legislation is publicly and easily available, and fundamental to the entire thrust of the article, there is no question but that a correction must be issued. I therefore infer that my original email got lost in cyberspace and never reached the Boston Globe; hence this resend. If this doesn't reach you either, I will try again using a different email account.]

Received July 21:

Dear Mr. Stein,

I did receive your original e-mail, so there was no reason for the follow-up. I don't think the column was in error as you describe. I have pasted a link to the language of the bill in question (I acknowledge that the word "boycott" is not included, but please note this language:  "... will not during the duration of the contract, refuse, fail, or cease to do business with..." That sounds like the description of a boycott to me).

I have shared your original letter with the op-ed editor, and we'll revisit this after the weekend.


Matthew Bernstein
Letters editor

Sent July 21:

Dear Mr. Bernstein:

I am astounded by your response.

The proposed legislation is called "An Act prohibiting discrimination in state contracts," not "An Act prohibiting boycotts in state contracts."

I cannot imagine that the Boston Globe would have ever published an analogous op-ed had the rest of the sentence you partially quoted ended with the word "race." And had the Boston Globe had the poor sense and insensitivity to publish such an analogous op-ed and received a request for a correction, I cannot imagine anyone at the Boston Globe defending the indefensible by saying "That sounds like the description of a boycott to me."

Ignoring all the bias, hatred and factual errors in the op-ed which I didn't mention in my earlier email, what about the headline, which is totally the responsibility of the Boston Globe and had such a disgracefully misleading implication that it was tantamount to a factual error?

As I wrote, the Boston Globe is obligated under various codes of ethics to issue a correction for the factual errors in the op-ed and has a moral obligation to apologize to its readers for publishing such a disgraceful op-ed with such a misleading headline.


Alan Stein

Received July 24:


Matt Bernstein forwarded his email stream about your objections to Professor Franke's column. No correction is needed. I concur with Matt's interpretation -- and the interpretation of many others -- of the bill. The term boycott isn't used in the legislation, but the definition is.

You might note that we ran an opposing view today. And Jeff Jacoby has also weighed in.

Ellen Clegg

Sent July 24:

Dear Ms. Clegg:

You've got to be kidding.

At last count, there were 77 co-sponsors for this legislation, which they called "An act prohibiting discrimination in state contracts," not "An act prohibiting boycotts in state contracts." Although I often disagree with many of our state legislators on various issues, I believe most of them are fairly intelligent. I can only infer that you believe either (a) all 77 co-sponsors erred in using the term discrimination rather than boycotts or (b) discrimination and boycotts are synonymous.

Also, neither you nor Mr. Bernstein has responded regarding the headline, "Mass. shouldn't outlaw boycotts," which is so blatantly misleading, clearly implying the bill would outlaw boycotts, as to be tantamount to a factual error. I still await a response regarding that issue.

Finally, regarding Jeff Jacoby's weighing in, I double-checked both yesterday's paper and today's paper and couldn't find the item to which you sent a link. Has or will his "weighing in" appear on the actual paper, or merely online or in emails?

I do appreciate the column by Jeremy Burton being run, but an error-filled, hateful op-ed doesn't get balanced by a single rational op-ed. As with violence and terrorism, it's easier to destroy than to rebuild; it's easier to inspire hatred than to undo the damage.


Alan Stein

Received July 24:

Jeff has a newsletter that goes to subscribers who sign up, and is also published on our website. There's no such thing as "merely" online anymore, because that's where our audience is growing.

I thought the headline was smart, pertinent, and accurate - it reflects the gist of Professor Franke's argument quite well. No correction needed there, either.

Ellen Clegg

Sent July 24:

Dear Ms. Clegg:

Re "merely" online: Perhaps I should have written "online only." Since the entire printed paper is also online, the "online only" readership is clearly a proper subset of the total readership.

Re the headline: It may have been smart, but it certainly was neither pertinent nor accurate. I just went through Franke's op-ed again and saw nothing to suggest she was arguing the proposed legislation would ban boycotts. Although I haven't done so on a professional level and headlines were never my forte - for me they were generally an annoying afterthought - I have edited both newspapers and newsletters and would not have given anyone who came up with a headline as misleading as the one on Franke's op-ed the chance to write another.

I do thank you for at least reading what I've written and hope that, even though the Boston Globe is clearly unwilling to take ownership of its mistakes at this time, attempts will be made to be accurate and responsible in the future.


Alan Stein

Sunday, July 23, 2017

D'Var Torah: An Extraordinary Israeli Family and Bridge Between Israel and the Diaspora

[In my American synagogue, Temple Israel of Natick, congregants give the D'var Torah during the summer months. A few years ago, at a meeting of our Israel Action Committee, I suggested the committee should take advantage of the opportunity, with each year one of us giving a D'var Torah about Israel. Everyone then pointed at me, and I wound up giving it three out of the last four years. This year's was special for me because, by coincidence, I was scheduled for the same day as my mother's yahrzeit.

This was my D'var Torah as delivered, except for minor changes I made on the spur of the moment.


Today's double-parshah brings us to the end of Bemidbar, as the Israelites were ending their 40 years in the desert and preparing to finally enter the land of Canaan. Moshe distributes the portions of the land to the different tribes.

After being attacked by the nations that lived on the east bank, the Israelites were already in possession of a vast tract of land outside their originally intended borders. Shades of the yet-to-come Six-Day War.

The tribes of Reuvain and Gad had large numbers of sheep, found the land was good for grazing and decided to settle on the east bank, angering Moshe, who feared the other tribes would believe those tribes were afraid to continue into Eretz Yisrael. To alleviate the problem, Moshe made a deal with them: the tribes of Reuvain and Gad would lead the charge into the land of Canaan, but after the land was conquered they could return to their land on the east bank.

Moshe also gave half the tribe of Manashe territory east of the Jordan River. There are several explanations given; I'm partial to the explanation that Moshe was concerned the separation of the tribes would create a sense of alienation, but by having half of the tribe of Manashe on either side of the Jordan it would serve as a bridge, between the Jews living in Eretz Yisrael on the west bank and those in the Diaspora on the east bank.

Sometimes it feels as if Marsha and I, splitting our time between Israel and America, also serve as a bridge.

The first time I went to a General Assembly of what was then CJF, the Council of Jewish Federations - now JFNA, Jewish Federations of North America - the theme was ״אנחנו אחד,״ We are One. Actually, I don't remember what the Hebrew was; my Hebrew then was even worse than it is today. At that time, we didn't seem to need bridges between the Jews in Israel and America.

Today, we have lots of bridges, most prominently Partnership2Gether - the wonderful volunteer program Steve and Carol Doppelt run in Haifa each summer is part of that - and Birthright.

I'd like to talk about, one bridge, one family, an Israeli family which spans Europe, America and Israel. An extraordinary family but also a microcosm of the Israeli experience. I think it can give some insight into what it is to live in Israel, to be Israeli, with the clarity and the ambiguity, the heartache and the joy, the way Israelis cope with a conflict the Palestinian Arabs won’t end, yet still manage to live full, fulfilling lives.

Ervin Birnbaum is rabbi emeritus of Bet Israel, our Masorti synagogue in Netanya. He was born in Czechoslovakia, as a teenager fled the Nazi deportations to Budapest and fought with the Underground. Seventy years ago today, the British had just taken him off the Exodus - Paul Newman should have been playing him - prevented him from staying in Eretz Yisrael and put him on a ship back to the Europe from which he thought he was escaping.

He eventually landed in New York with his parents and brother, having lost most of his other relatives during the Shoah, earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University and his rabbinical education from the Jewish Theological Seminary, although in reaction to his experience in the Holocaust, he was an atheist at the time he served his first pulpit.

Ervin and his wife Hadassa, who grew up in New Jersey, have three sons, Aiton, Liel and Daniel, all born in America before they made aliyah in 1970. They settled in Sde Boker, where Ervin founded an English language college preparatory school at the urging of David Ben Gurion. They moved to Netanya in 1978, when Ervin became rabbi at Bet Israel as well as National Educational Superintendent for Foreign Language Programs of Youth Aliyah. In 1989, he founded Shearim, Gates, today the longest running Russian outreach program in Israel, and which he still runs, at the age of 88.

Hadassa is a retired social worker who, among many other things in retirement, was the volunteer coordinator for ESRA's (English Speaking Residents Association) Moadon for Young Disabled Men and Women. She's even more active and involved than Ervin, but I want to move on to their sons, grandsons and a special Shabbat service at Bet Israel this past winter.

Aiton is the eldest son. He's a psychologist and also a licensed tour guide who leads the monthly tiyulim, tours, Shearim organizes to help Russians learn more about Israel and which Marsha and I go on during our months in Netanya.

Liel, a teacher, is the middle son. You read about one of his sons in 2014, although his name wasn’t given. During the last Gaza war. Liel’s son was critically injured and it was touch and go for weeks as Liel and his wife and family, brothers and parents, were living every Israeli family's nightmare.

The youngest is Dani, who is a businessman, the CEO of SodaStream. A few years ago, he was honored as Israel's outstanding exporter. He brought some of his Arab workers from the SodaStream factory in Mishor Adumim to the ceremony, at the president's residence in Jerusalem, and insisted that he be subjected to exactly the same security screening as his workers. He was incensed when they were subjected to more rigorous screening than he. When he was presented with his award, he publicly chastised Shimon Peres for the way his  Arab workers were treated.

His company, of course, has been one of the most prominent targets of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, in spite of the fact that he employed over 600 Palestinian Arabs at wages 4 times what they would have earned if they had jobs with the Palestinian Authority. This anti-Israel movement especially targets companies operating beyond the 1967 armistice lines even if those businesses provide much needed employment for Palestinian Arabs. When Dani was forced to relocate his company to Rahat, in the Negev, he provided bus transportation for his Arab employees and fought the Israeli government to provide work permits for as many as possible.

The Birnbaums are a very musical family. The Russian outreach program Shearim got started in 1989 when Ervin saw Russian immigrants begging for money as street musicians. He convinced one of them to come to Bet Israel the next Monday at noon. At Shabbat services, he ordered everyone in the Congregation to come back, Monday, noon, for a concert.  Except for some holidays and summer breaks, there's been a concert at the same place, in the heart of Netanya, every Monday ever since.

Aiton and Liel serve as rabbi and cantor for the High Holiday services at Bet Israel. Dani used to serve as a High Holiday chazzan at a synagogue in Cincinnati. Dani's wife, Bat Ella, goes on concert tours. Although she's totally secular, her music is all tefillot, many from her late friend, Debbie Friedman, with whom she often sang. It would be fantastic if Temple Israel could get her to perform here on one of her tours.

Once a year, for Hadassa and Ervin's anniversary, the whole family comes and runs the service, which that Shabbat is like going to a hootenanny. Last Friday night, the family led a musical Kabbalat Shabbat, which I've heard was fantastic although we missed it because we're here for the summer.

In my opinion, the best voice in the family belongs to Nitzan, Bat Ella and Dani's son. In fact, I think he has the most beautiful singing voice I've ever heard. I've told his grandmother he should be sent to tour college campuses here in America.

One Shabbat last summer, he led services for the first time. Marsha and I, being here in Natick, missed it. But we didn't miss an even more special Shabbat a few months ago, when Nitzan led Shabbat services the day before his induction into the army.

During the service, after the Torah reading, we recite the prayer for Israel. It's the same one we will say here in a few minutes, on page 149.  With his father standing beside him, Nitzan so beautifully chanted this prayer for Eretz Yisrael the day before being inducted into the IDF.

Dani was standing beside Nitzan because, in our synagogue in Israel, we follow the prayer for Israel with the prayer for the safety of our soldiers.

That Shabbat, that was Dani's job.

Dani, whose nephew the soldier had almost been killed little more than two years before, chanted the prayer for our soldiers, standing with his son the day before his induction ... and with everyone in the congregation standing with them both, as one with the entire family. It doesn't get more Israeli than that!

In Israel, it's all personal and always personal. Everyone has close relatives or friends who have been injured or killed in war or in terror attacks and everyone - except for some of the ultra-Orthodox - worries about their children in the army.

I really can't describe the emotions I had ... we all had ... as that father, our friend, whom many had known since he, too, was young, read the very personal prayer for the safety not just of anonymous young men and women defending us all, but for the safety of his own son.

One of the other reasons sometimes cited for Moshe allowing the tribes of Reuvain and Gad, and half of the tribe of Menashe, to dwell outside Canaan was the benefit the Israelites could derive from support outside, from their Diaspora. And remember Moshe insisted those tribes join the rest of our people during wars.

Today, we have a larger Diaspora than two and a half tribes out of twelve and, as in Biblical times, we have plenty of internal disputes. But we should always remember our connection to each other, that we are one large family, and like any family we must support each other.

Parents, like Dani and Liel and Aiton, and grandparents, like Hadassa and Ervin, and young men and women, like Nitzan, need and deserve to feel that our hearts, not just in Israel but here in the Diaspora, are with them.

שבת שלום.