Home > Suppression of Dissent > Fact checking the anti-NIF report: Systematic omission and distortion of data

Fact checking the anti-NIF report: Systematic omission and distortion of data

Amir Paz-Fuchs

Dr. Amir Paz-Fuchs is a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at Ono Academic College and a member of the board of Bimkom — Planners for Planning Rights.

Other recent posts on the latest wave of suppression of dissent in Israel | Essays Hadas Ziv; Hagai El-Ad; Yariv Mohar; Aeyal Gross; Dorit AbramovitchAmir Paz-FuchsNews and analysis IDF joins assault on Israeli human rights community;Israeli media goes after New Israel Fund: “Responsible for Goldstone Report”; Hagee and CUFI fund anti-NIF campaign organizer; Two senior Maariv reporters attack the anti-NIF campaign sponsored by their newspaper; Following the Im Tirzu campaign: First Knesset steps against NIF; Israeli McCarthyism, circa 2010Debunking the Im Tirzu report part I: Keshev’s Yizhar Be’erDebunking the Im Tirzu report part II: Ha’ir media critic on journalism as propagandaDelegitimization and censorship continue: JPost stops publishing Naomi Chazan’s columnsNahum Barnea: How US Jewish leaders stepped in to block the Knesset anti-NIF billYediot’s Sima Kadmon methodically deconstructs the anti-NIF smear campaignContextualizing the JPost and Chazan: You can’t have it both ways |

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Fact checking the anti-NIF report: Systematic omission and distortion of data

This analysis compiles a critical mass of examples of misrepresentation of data  in the Im Tirzu anti-NIF “report.” A recent Keshev report underscores substantial omission of relevant data. Combined, regardless of whether they are the result of malice or incompetence, these systematic flaws are more than enough to cast doubt on the reliability of the entire report and on the organization using it to demonize Prof. Naomi Chazan as an individual, the NIF as an organization and Israeli human rights NGOs as a community.

Caspit

On January 29 2010, journalist Ben Caspit presented his political credo in Maariv’s Friday Political Supplement, providing broad and extensive platform to a shallow and poorly conducted “report” by a movement named Im Tirzu (“if you wish” in Hebrew)  According to the “report” and the article, “the New Israel Fund sponsors very many Israeli organizations that supplied the Goldstone Committee with incriminating materials against the IDF.”  That was reason enough for the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to establish a subcommittee to look into how foreign foundations sponsor Israeli organizations.

However, detailed examination of the data supporting the allegations against the sixteenIsraeli NGOs listed by the “report” should be reason for worry for anyone honestly concerned about Israel’s future: If indeed, as Im Tirzu leader Ronen Shoval told Caspit, the researchers were trained by the IDF Intelligence Corps, our security situation is even worse than previously thought.  The “report” is so amateurish that its authors would have flunked their course if they submitted it as a college paper. There would also be a good chance the institution would task a faculty panel to investigate suspicion of  intentional distortion of data.

Omission of data

Shoval

A report by Keshev — The Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel examined the main Israeli sources referred to by the Goldstone report and, unsurprisingly, found that the Im Tirzu study simply chose to ignore many of the citations: of Israeli cabinet members [see Yishai quote below], IDF generals [paragraph 14, see Eizenkot quote below], government-affiliated organizations, and major Israeli media, Maariv included.  If we are to follow the rationale of the “report”, they too should be accused of “causing Israel serious political damage and harming its military ability to defend itself at war,” and they too should be considered “extreme leftists and anti-Zionists” (sic).

Eizenkot

The Keshev report presents the main Israeli sources of information that the Goldstone committee used, including the then CO Northern Command Gadi Eizenkot, who adopted the Dahia doctrine according to which “We will employ disproportional force and inflict huge damage and devastation on every village from which rockets were fired at Israel” because “the way we see it, these are not civilian village but rather military bases”; then CO Southern Command Dan Harel, who said: “We will attack not only terrorists and launchers…but also government buildings, production centers of the security apparatuses, and more”; or Minister Eli Yishai, who stated: “We can destroy Gaza to make them realize that they should not mess with us…..  I believe they should be all razed.  Thousands of houses, tunnels, and infrastructures should be destroyed.”

Systematic distortion of data

Yishai

Following in the footsteps of Keshev’s Yizhar Be’er, who focused on the omissions of the Im Tirzu “report,”  I will now proceed to examine the substance of the charges leveled at the Israeli NGOs. Allegedly these organizations provided the Goldstone committee with “incriminating materials.”  How did the Im Tirzu researchers reach that conclusion?  They counted the report’s footnotes (!) and eagerly listed the organizations they mentioned.  The problem is that if only those researchers bothered to read the footnoted texts, they would have realized that in many cases, the issues did not at all pertain to Gaza, but to the West Bank and even to human rights in Israel.

Furthermore, in most cases, the cited passages were taken from reports, press releases, or petitions to the Israeli High Court of Justice authored and published or filed long before the Gaza war. Many were authored by organizations whose mandates do not include the Gaza Strip and their materials were cited in relation to human rights in Israel generally. Of the sixteen organizations listed, only four actually testified before the committee.

Below is a list of citations which the Im Tirzu “report” used to support its allegations, but which, for better or worse, cannot be substantially connected with the committee’s research inasmuch as it pertains to the inquiry of the IDF and defense forces’ activities during the Gaza operation.

  1. Ad from the anti-NIF campaign

    Ad on page 3 of the January 31 edition of the Jerusalem Post.

    Adalah — The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel: The only relevant data this NGO provided was an assessment of the number of Gazans who were detained without a trial during the operation, arguing that they were not allowed to have a phone call.  Since the UN committee members met with and interviewed some of those detainees, the Adalah’s submission was superfluous.  The three other Adalah citations counted by Im Tirzu are clearly irrelevant: reporting on the arrests of Israeli citizens who protested within Israel during the war; a report on Area C in the West Bank; and (the peak of absurdity) a petition still pending in court (footnote 789 of the Goldstone report.)

  2. B’Tselem — The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories: A multitude of Goldstone citations of B’Tselem reports counted have nothing to do with the Gaza war. These “incriminating materials” include:  First Intifada casualty figures, the implications of the separation barrier and impediments to freedom of movement on Palestinian life in the West Bank, violations of the human rights of East Jerusalem Palestinians, and a report on the IDF’s failure to investigate reports of criminal behavior by soldiers during the Second Intifada. Undoubtedly, however, the most damaging “material” was BTselem’s confirmation of the number of Israelis (!)  killed by Kassam rockets during the war,
  3. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI):  “Incriminating materials” include a report [page 5] on police refusal to permit a demonstration in Tel Aviv during the war if Palestine flags were displayed and a report East Jerusalem residents’ rights. In addition, ACRI joined Attorney Daniel Reisner, former head of the IDF International Law Department, in providing information regarding the ratio of IDF investigations to civilian deaths during the Second Intifada (footnote 750).
  4. Hamoked — Center for Defense of the Individual: Citations irrelevant to IDF conduct during the war: Palestinian freedom of movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; quotation of Justice Minister Daniel Friedman (!) calling for the denial of rights to Palestinian security prisoners in Israel as an instrument of pressure for the release of Gilad Schalit; and a  High Court of Justice petition prison conditions in Israel.
  5. Yesh Din — Volunteers for Human Rights: This NGO operates almost exclusively in the West Bank, which explains why Goldstone cited its reports on on Israeli military courts in the West Bank, IDF accountability regarding violence against Palestinian non-combatants in the West Bank (which cites a 2005 Maariv article!), and a High Court of Justice petition on West Bank residents held in Israeli prisons. Despite their lack of relevance, Im Tirzu aggregated these citations into the “incriminating materials” statistics.
  6. Physicians for Human Rights — Israel (PHR-I): A multitude of PHR sourced “incriminating materials” counted by Im Tirzu refer to issues such as: the pre-war Palestinian, ongoing closure policies, and the treatment of Palestinian prisoners.  An interview the  committee held with PHR representatives (footnote 1037) on the lack of bomb shelters in Israeli Bedouin villages within Kassam rocket range is also considered “incriminating” by Im Tirzu.
  7. Gisha — Legal Center for Freedom of Movement: A report on the implications of the pre-war Gaza blockade and a position paper on the ongoing Israeli policy of separating the Gaza Strip and West Bank, are considered by Im Tirzu as war crimes eveidence.
  8. Bimkom — Planners for Planning Rights: That organization never dealt with the situation in the Gaza Strip, neither during the (relative) calm nor during the fighting.  Indeed the only references to its materials relate to planning policies in Area C in the West Bank, and with the impact of the separation fence Palestinian life in the West Bank. According to Im Tirzu, however, these are among the cornerstones of the Goldstone’s criticism of the IDF’s conduct during the war.
  9. Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR): This NGO earned its place on the “incriminating sixteen” list beacuse of one citation — as a petitioner against the demolition of the vast majority of houses in a Palestinian village in the Jordan Valley.
  10. Itach — Women Lawyers for Social Justice: This NGO is not even mentioned in the Goldstone report. Im Tirzu decided to include it anyway, however, because it found a reference in one of its publications to a letter by eight other human rights organizations  to the attorney general, urging an independent Israeli investigation ion IDF conduct during the war. Similarly, Machsom Watch and New Profile are listed because of their association with anti-war protests in Israel. Both organizations are not referenced by Goldstone.
  11. Other Voice (Kol Aher) — For a Civil Solution in the Sderot-Gaza Region provided the Goldstone committee with information for the chapter it devoted to  the daily and ongoing suffering of Sderot residents and students of the Sapir College because of  Kassam attacks.

Im Tirzu demonstration

This analysis provides a critical mass of examples of misrepresentation of data  in the Im Tirzu “report.” The Keshev report underscores substantial omission of relevant data. Combined, regardless of whether they are the result of malice or incompetence, these systematic flaws are more than enough to cast doubt on the reliability of the entire report and the organization using it to demonize Prof. Naomi Chazan as individual, the NIF as an organization and Israeli human rights NGOs as a community. Yet for ten days media outlets have been treating the issue as, at best, a symmetrical controversy. Independent fact-checking, is, apparently, an anachronism.

Editor’s note: In an interview tonight (February 9 2010) Im Tirzu leader Ronen Shoval told the JTA’s Ron Kampeas (one of the few journalists covering the substance of the report consistently and responsibly) to “check the Goldstone report for a single mention of Sderot from an NIF group and get back to me.” Items 2 and 11 provide multiple mentions. If Shoval is willing to include Bedouin citizens of Israel, even if though they are not Jews, in this equation, item 6 also applies. What is Shoval thinking? Either he is not familiar with the report or he assumes that nobody will bother to check the veracity of his assertions. This is the man who sees himself as a future national leader; the man whose reporting nearly led the Knesset to establish a parliamentary commission of inquiry.

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  1. February 10, 2010 at 14:18

    Amir,

    Your argumentation is odd. You seem to be saying that since Goldstone used NIF-NGO materials to bolster mostly the parts of his report which damn Israel for actions beyond Gaza, they have no case to answer. On the contrary. Those sections of his report are almost as defamatory as the parts about Gaza,and as you have just said yourself, they are based heavily on NIF-NGO materials. It seems tome you have just proven Im Tirzu’s case? Or did you meanto say something else? Please clarify.

    Since you’re into fact checking, you might wish to look at the 30.6.2009 document submitted to Goldstone by ACRI et.al. It’s a perfect demonstration of Im Tirzu’s thesis, though not cited by them.

  2. Amnon Portugaly
    February 10, 2010 at 20:11

    The Israeli Right media message machine.

    The Israeli Right political movement, which now dominates nearly every aspect of the Israeli government, has a media message machine that achieved effective dominance over the flow of information to the Israeli people. This media system is fed by several think-tank organizations funded by a few wealthy Jewish-American right-wing individuals and foundations.

    To get their message out, the Israeli Right have built a powerful propaganda system, which churns out and amplifies the ‘message of the day’ through a wide network of outlets and individuals, including TV, Newspapers, talk radio, Knesset MKs, as well as religious broadcasters. This propaganda machine can build up a fact or a lie, broadcast it, and has it echoed and recycled in TV News commentary, in radio talks, in Ma’ariv news stories and editorials, by myriad right-wing pundits, by Right organizations’ seminars and papers, and in Knesset hearings and speeches.

    The Israeli Right media machine is able to magnify their message through a network of right-leaning TV and radio channels, most recently Ma’ariv, constantly repeating, often verbatim, the messages out of the Right organizations. If a sympathetic journalist wants something on the settlers – it’s immediately in his hands; if TV presenter needs a guest to talk about the Goldstone report, he’s got him from one of the think tanks.

    More help came from the far-less known religious broadcasters. ‘Under the radar screen,’ the religious community has created a formidable electronic media infrastructure and now plays a major role influencing public opinion. The religious media are producing and distributing “news,” and commentary, and their reach and influence are undeniable.

    New Israel Fund, Gush Katif, Foreign donations to civil society organizations, Privatization, Settlements, you name it – the right’s can ensure that a message is broadcast across the county, echoed in national and local news, and reverberated in the speeches of respectable academics as well as radical politicians. With no real factual basis, or half truth, a ‘research’ chosen for effect was published in Ma’arive. Avry Gilad then reads from the article on his radio show. Conservative pundits recycle the charges in columns and radio shows across the country. The article is discussed in the Knesset. And so it goes. A biased, politically inspired hatchet job becomes an article of faith, clothed in the praise of conservative pundits.

  3. Danny Shapiro
    February 12, 2010 at 10:44

    Amir, thanks for this important information. However, the credibility of the article is undermined somewhat by the incorrect caption under the last photo. People who are looking to discredit you will say “he couldn’t even get the caption right, the rest of the information is suspect also.” I suggest you correct the caption.

    • February 12, 2010 at 14:38

      Thank you for the tip. You were right, the this photo was from the demo outside the Herzeliya conference. Although for all intents and purposes this is academic — the signs and kaffiyeh’s etc. were virtually identical in both — we are more than happy to correct. It’s not often that someone with such inside knowledge joins the Coteret collaborative research effort and we welcome you aboard.

  4. February 12, 2010 at 22:17

    How careful is this blogger? Let’s see – there is a photo labeled “Im Tirzu demonstration outside Prof. Naomi Chazan’s home” But the placards say “We love Naomi, We hate IDF” and “Thank you.” So the person who wrote this blog, the great expert, did not even bother to look at the photo. What a great case they made against the supporters of Chazan! Israelis don’t hate the IDF, because without the IDF there would be no Israel. The IDF is us, our sons and our daughters. So NIF and their supporters do not represent “democracy,” but rather an attempt to buy support for unpopular views with money from abroad. That’s not “democracy.”

    I am not a settler supporter and I voted for Meretz in the past. I can’t do that any more. I won’t be associated with people who hate the IDF and their supporters, and with people who mobilize initiatives to destroy the state of Israel.

    Even those of us who felt that the Goldstone report was unfair called for a thorough civilian investigation of the IDF, a position that I am sure NIF would support. But the same logic must work for NIF supporters. Im Tirtzu may have gotten many facts wrong, but there are certainly problems with some of the organizations that NIF funds and has funded in the past.

  5. February 12, 2010 at 22:19

    Didi Remez wrote about the incorrectly captioned photo “we are willing to correct” – but the caption was not corrected. The placards should also be translated so that everyone understands exactly who is supporting NIF and why. Evidently, if you support NIF, you must hate the IDF.

  6. February 13, 2010 at 07:40

    Ami, you really need to get a grip. This was an Im Tirzu demonstration. The caption is perfectly accurate. Their idea of sarcasm was staging a faux Hamas demonstration. Your confusion is understandable, but you might straighten out your argument before shooting off accusations. By the way, in order to understand the photo, all you need to do is look at the campaign ad in English nearer the top. This blog is intended for readers capable of making that simple inference themselves.

  1. February 10, 2010 at 10:03
  2. February 11, 2010 at 16:20
  3. February 11, 2010 at 23:22
  4. February 15, 2010 at 00:12
  5. February 15, 2010 at 21:30
  6. March 12, 2010 at 20:01

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