Fact checking the anti-NIF report: Systematic omission and distortion of data
Other recent posts on the latest wave of suppression of dissent in Israel | Essays Hadas Ziv; Hagai El-Ad; Yariv Mohar; Aeyal Gross; Dorit Abramovitch; Amir Paz-Fuchs| News 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 2010; Debunking the Im Tirzu report part I: Keshev’s Yizhar Be’er; Debunking the Im Tirzu report part II: Ha’ir media critic on journalism as propaganda; Delegitimization and censorship continue: JPost stops publishing Naomi Chazan’s columns; Nahum Barnea: How US Jewish leaders stepped in to block the Knesset anti-NIF bill; Yediot’s Sima Kadmon methodically deconstructs the anti-NIF smear campaign; Contextualizing the JPost and Chazan: You can’t have it both ways |
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.
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
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).
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
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.
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.)
- 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,
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.