Category Archives: CAMERA

Jimmy Carter’s apology to the Jewish people

What is it about Atlanta and Israel?

First, in response to a firestorm of criticism and vilification, Atlanta resident and iconic film star Jane Fonda issued a mea culpa about the wording of a petition she signed protesting the Toronto International Film Festival’s celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv. She said she signed it, “without reading it carefully enough, without asking myself if some of the wording wouldn’t exacerbate the situation rather than bring about constructive dialogue”. To her credit, Fonda did not remove her signature. But it was still an extraordinary move that reflected the intense pressure she was under. (This level-headed group of Atlanta Jewish leaders rose to her defense.)

And now, Jimmy Carter, reportedly in an effort to ease his grandson’s political path to a Georgia state Senate seat, has written an open letter of apology to, well, the entire Jewish people.

An open letter to the Jewish community at the season of Chanukah from former President Jimmy Carter:

The time of Chanukah and the Christian holidays presents an occasion for reflection on the past and for looking to the future. In that vein, I wish to share some thoughts with you about the State of Israel and the Middle East.

I have the hope and a prayer that the State of Israel will flourish as a Jewish state within secure and recognized borders in peaceful co-existence with its neighbors and with all the Moslem States, and that this peaceful co-existence will bring security, prosperity and happiness to the people of Israel and to the people of the Middle East of all faiths.

I have the hope and a prayer that the bloodshed and hatred will change to mutual respect and cooperation, fulfilling the prophetic aspiration that the lion shall lie down with the lamb in harmony and peace. I likewise hope that violent attacks against all civilians will end, which will help set a better framework for commencing negotiations. I further hope that peace negotiations can soon commence, with all issues on the negotiating table.

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Sue them already, Israeli TV host suggests new tactic to silence media

Israeli television news personality Yair Lapid offers a rather remarkable idea for dealing with the international media when they say things the Israeli government doesn’t like: “sue them.” Of course, in the United States, going this extra mile may not be worth the effort. Just last night, I was chatting with a journalist friend who works for a major news outlet. She acknowledged that the right-wing media advocacy group, CAMERA, had been so successful in harassing the outlet every time they covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that no one wants to touch the story. (Another favorite CAMERA tactic is jamming up public radio station lines during member drives to make 1 penny bids. Who thinks of this stuff?)

From Ynet:

Just sue them

Yair Lapid offers new tactic in international struggle against new anti-Semites

We sat in the small and well-kept backyard at the home of Israel’s ambassador in London, Ron Prosor. Light rain was falling intermittently, leaving behind it fresh English air, yet the expressions around the table remained grim. The conversation focused on the British media’s takeover by anti-Israel elements.

Prosor is a large and smiling man, with a soft base voice, but his smile was gone when he spoke of the way he is being welcomed by pro-Palestinian protestors every time he arrives for a lecture at a British university.

You need to read some of the things they write about us here, he sighed. I don’t even know how to start responding to them.

Don’t respond, I said. Sue them.

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Johann Hari writes about the McCarthy-ite attacks on Israel’s Critics

Below is a new London Independent article recounting one reporter’s own experience, along with the experience of others, (discussed here previously). We need to be ever vigilant. The forces arrayed against legitimate criticism of US supported Israeli transgressions must be countered for there to be any possibility of a stable peace in the region. There will always be “push-back” from such forces, CAMERA, the David project, etc, but there is a growing movement of progressive voices, Jewish and otherwise, that is making the claim of monolithic and unquestioning support for Israel more and more difficult. Even the New York Times with the new bureau chief Ethan Bronner is starting to report in a slightly more balanced way.
The Loathsome Smearing of Israel’s Critics

by Johann Hari

In the US and Britain, there is a campaign to smear anybody who tries to describe the plight of the Palestinian people. It is an attempt to intimidate and silence — and to a large degree, it works. There is nobody these self-appointed spokesmen for Israel will not attack as anti-Jewish: liberal Jews, rabbis, even Holocaust survivors.

My own case isn’t especially important, but it illustrates how the wider process of intimidation works. I have worked undercover at both the Finsbury Park mosque and among neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers to expose the Jew-hatred there; when I went on the Islam Channel to challenge the anti-Semitism of Islamists, I received a rash of death threats calling me “a Jew-lover”, “a Zionist-homo pig” and more.

Ah, but wait. I have also reported from Gaza and the West Bank. Last week, I wrote an article that described how untreated sewage was being pumped from illegal Israeli settlements on to Palestinian land, contaminating their reservoirs. This isn’t controversial. It has been documented by Friends of the Earth, and I have seen it with my own eyes.

The response? There was little attempt to dispute the facts I offered. Instead, some of the most high profile “pro-Israel” writers and media monitoring groups — including Honest Reporting and Camera — said I an anti-Jewish bigot akin to Joseph Goebbels and Mahmoud Ahmadinejadh, while Melanie Phillips even linked the stabbing of two Jewish people in North London to articles like mine. Vast numbers of e-mails came flooding in calling for me to be sacked. Continue reading

Right-wing Israel advocacy group’s secret Wikipedia campaign unveiled

Electronic Intifada (EI) has this exclusive report about CAMERA, a controversial right-wing advocacy group known for their efforts to make Israeli-Palestinian media coverage more sympathetic to Israel (see Muzzlewatch stories about CAMERA tactics here). After years of launching media boycotts and campaigns, and charging various people and outlets with anti-Semitism, CAMERA is now attempting a stealth campaign to change Wikipedia entries about the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Or, in the words of EI, they are attempting to rewrite history. The operative word here is stealth. Electronic Intifada describes the secret emails, which you can read in their entirety at EI.

Throughout the documents EI obtained, CAMERA operatives stress the need for stealth and secrecy. In his initial action alert, Ini requests that recipients “not forward it to members of the news media.” In a 17 March follow-up email sent to volunteers, Ini explains that he wants to make the orchestrated effort appear to be the work of unaffiliated individuals. Thus he advises that “There is no need to advertise the fact that we have these group discussions.”

Anticipating possible objections to CAMERA’s scheme, Ini conjectures that “Anti-Israel editors will seize on anything to try to discredit people who attempt to challenge their problematic assertions, and will be all too happy to pretend, and announce, that a ‘Zionist’ cabal (the same one that controls the banks and Hollywood?) is trying to hijack Wikipedia.”

But stealth and misrepresentation are presented as the keys to success. Ini suggests that after volunteers sign up as editors for Wikipedia they should “avoid editing Israel-related articles for a short period of time.” This strategy is intended to “avoid the appearance of being one-topic editors,” thus attracting unwanted attention.

Ini counsels that volunteers “might also want to avoid, for obvious reasons, picking a user name that marks you as pro-Israel, or that lets people know your real name.” To further conceal the identity of CAMERA-organized editors, Ini warns, “don’t forget to always log in before making [edits]. If you make changes while not logged in, Wikipedia will record your computer’s IP address” — a number that allows identification of the location of a computer connected to the Internet.

Los Angeles Times counters charges of anti-Israel bias

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CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, is taking out full page ads in Los Angeles newspapers charging the Los Angeles Times with anti-Israel bias. Besides what they call “unbalanced” op-eds, they also accuse the Times of utilizing Nazi imagery. LA Times op-ed editor Nicholas Goldberg defends the charges in an interview with the Jewish Journal this week. (The Los Angeles Times has long been targeted by protesters over their coverage of Israel. In 2002, some 1,000 readers participated in a one-day boycott to protest their “anti-Israel” stance, part of a nationwide effort that focused on other supposedly anti-Israel newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. )

Goldberg told the Los Angeles Jewish Journal that living in Jerusalem and covering the region as a reporter from 1995-1998 meant he “emerged with a more sophisticated and nuanced viewpoint.”

I do feel that the way the region is covered, and especially the way the conflict is covered in the opinion pages in America, has generally been very narrow compared to what you read in Israel. If you read Ha’aretz, if you see the Arab newspapers — if you see Al Ahram in Cairo — you will be exposed to points of view that you don’t hear in the United States. One of the things I decided when I became Op-Ed editor is that I would like to bring a broader range of viewpoints on the Middle East to the page. I’ve tried to do that.

As to CAMERA’s charges:

JJ: CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, published advertisements alleging that you put out 50 percent more pro-Arab Op-Eds than pro-Israel Op-Eds in a 19-month period and that your pages are biased.

NG: I think their numbers are misleading. They took a bizarre time period of 19 months for some reason ending last July, and they left off a number of pieces that we’ve run on the Op-Ed page that didn’t seem to help their cause.

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Los Angeles Jewish Journal editor tells CAMERA to “butt out”


Almost 15 years ago, on the invitation of my uncle, I went on a Jewish Federation major donor mission to Israel with Stanley Hirsh, an interesting macher who made his fortune in the schmatta (textile) industry and who served as the publisher of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal.

We visited the site for a new maternal-child welfare clinic, named, as I recall, after Stanley and his wife Anita, who had donated $1 million dollars for its construction. What was unusual was that the clinic was to primarily serve Arab Israelis, who comprise some 20% of Israel’s population, but who, to put it lightly, get short shrift when it comes to public services or opportunities. The Jewish Federation staffer on the trip told me that he could not raise one additional dollar for the clinic because donors didn’t want their funds to go to non-Jews, but the Hirsch’s were proud of their contribution and pressed forward with the project.

It would make sense to me if Stanley Hirsh, who has since died, was responsible in some way for hiring Rob Eshman, the current editor of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. I certainly don’t agree with Eshman all the time, but I respect him because he’s smart, thoughtful, and most important, independent. The Journal does not simply reprint “those crap Federation press releases,” as one Jewish paper editor once told me. Eshman cares about what happens in the Middle East, but he doesn’t buy the hysteria generated by so many Jewish advocacy groups whose formula for fundraising success is anti-Semitism! anti-Semitism, and more anti-Semitism!

It’s gotta take a lot of chutzpah to do what he did last week. The Palestinian Christian liberation theology group Sabeel is holding one of its conferences in nearby Pasadena February 15-16, and once again, as in Boston, pro-occupation groups are doing everything they can to demonize not just the people of Sabeel, but any church that offers support.

In response, Eshman wrote in an editorial called Butt Out:

I’m always leery when Jewish groups ride in from out of town to try to save us from the bad guys. We have plenty of sharp-eyed Jewish defense groups locally who can tussle on our behalf. It’s just a bit condescending to think we rubes, out in America’s second-largest Jewish city, don’t know how and when to fight. Or whom.

For the past couple of weeks, the Boston-based pro-Israel media watchdog group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) has been riling up rabbis, congregants and any Jew with an e-mail address to pressure the All-Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena to cancel the appearance of a prominent Palestinian activist, the Rev. Naim Ateek.

While Eshman is not a fan of Sabeel director Ateek’s use of liberation theology language or his advocacy for divestment, he knows a non-violent advocate when he sees one, and unlike CAMERA, supports the right of a man (who, incidentally supports a two-state solution) to speak.

But Ateek isn’t the only potential casualty of CAMERA ‘s tactics. Its also Jewish-Christian relations in the city:

“CAMERA is trying to paint All Saints as an anti-Semitic organzation that is against the State of Israel,” the Rev. Ed Bacon, leader of All Saints, told me. “That is far from the truth. What we are trying to do is teach people to be sophisticated about how they talk about these issues. I’m not sympathetic with Sabeel to the exclusion of the right of the state of Israel to exist.”

Perhaps it is no surprise that CAMERA, and The David Project found widespread support for their witch-hunt among institutional Jewry in their own backyard in Boston during the last Sabeel conference. (Sabeel organizers had the audacity to use the A word (apartheid- the very same word used with some frequency by the staff of Israel’s Ha’aretz, according to their lead political correspondent.) It is a relief, indeed, if their campaign is dismissed by local Jewish groups in Los Angeles.

Eshman concludes:

Meanwhile, I, for one, want to hear what the man has to say. I believe Israel is strong enough to withstand the rhetoric of a 70-year-old cleric dedicated to nonviolent coexistence.

If it’s not, even CAMERA can’t save us.


Disturbing back-story on Sabeel, Old South Church in Boston, and institutional pressure from some Jewish leaders

Here is a lengthy email from The Shalom Center’s Rabbi Arthur Waskow about how he became a last-minute replacement for Dennis Ross as a speaker at Old South Church in Boston. The church rented space to Palestinian liberation theology organization Sabeel for their conference this weekend which featured Archbishop Desmond Tutu. As Waskow writes:

The church, which had had warm relationships with the official Jewish structures of Boston, realized that Sabeel’s and Tutu’s presence might be a problem for those Jewish organizational structures. So it planned a series of speakers under its own sponsorship, separate from the Sabeel conference, representing a range of religious views, and asked advice from the official Jewish structures about speakers for a series of their own, including one who might speak right after the Sabeel conference to “balance’ the Sabeel presentations. Two Jews acceptable to these Jewish officials were suggested, were invited, and agreed to speak.

According to Rabbi Waskow, former Clinton aide Dennis Ross agreed to speak on the Sunday after the Sabeel conference.

But then something went awry. The Jewish officialdom decided to demand that the church require Sabeel to include in its conference a speaker who would present views very different from Sabeel’s and Tutu’s, far more favorable to Israeli interests and policies as defined by the Israeli government and the Jewish officialdom.

Old South, appropriately, said they could not do this. So Ross and another rabbi withdrew, presumably under pressure. And then a protest against the church and Sabeel was called for Friday. And the church invited Waskow as a last minute replacement for Sunday.

Read Waskow’s entire email here:

Unveiling the “Mystery”:
My Speech at Old South Church in Boston

Dear Friends,

I promised after Sunday to explain what was going on in my “emergency” invitation to and my decision to speak at Old South Church in Boston. Today is Monday: here is the explanation.

Last week I got several calls, one from a Massachusetts rabbi and then from the pastor (Rev Nancy Taylor) of Old South Church, which is one of the great churches of Boston: UCC, United Church of Christ, descendant of the Congregationalist churches that founded the Massachusetts Bay colony. Old South was where the Boston Tea Party was planned. Now it is a strong, big, wealthy, and widely respected congregation with a young, vigorous head pastor. (More about her and the church later.)

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Right-wing media watch dog group’s conference on “Israel’s Jewish Defamers.” “The CAMERA people are losing and they know it.”

Philip Weiss and Tony Karon both chime in and Ben Harris at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency provides excellent coverage, while I offer my own personal observation below.

We told you about the CAMERA Israel’s Defamers conference.

Enemy number one? The respected Israeli paper Ha’aretz. Harris reports:

In her opening remarks, [CAMERA director Andrea] Levin insisted that it is not criticism that is at issue, but defamation, which, when coming from Jews, is afforded added potency. She singled out Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper, one of the country’s most respected news sources and — through its English-language edition and Web site — a chief source of media perspective on Israel abroad. Levin accused the paper of printing outright lies and failing to issue corrections, even when the mistakes are pointed out.

David Landau, Ha’aretz’s editor-in-chief, refused — “as a matter of policy and principle” — to respond to the substance of Levin’s criticisms because they came from CAMERA, an organization that he dismissed as “Mcarthyite.”

“I advise your readers to relate to CAMERA’s tendentious statements and comments with the same measure of skepticism,” Landau said, “and to read Ha’ and draw their own conclusions as to the veracity of our reporting and the contribution of our op-ed columns to honest and caring debate within Israel and the Jewish world.”

Weiss observed:

The most important statement Levin made was that she gets the brushoff from Amos Schocken, the Haaretz publisher, but with the American media, “there is an unwritten contract between them and us.” (Verbatim transcript to come later, when I have a little time…) An unwritten contract: to be fair to Israel, to print CAMERA members’ letters, to pick up the phone.

Isn’t that amazing and scandalous? Levin is explaining why there is a free debate in Israel and not here. Because of the lobby and its “unwritten contract.” Because U.S. support is crucial to Israel’s existence. And so Americans, who supposedly so love the Middle East democracy that they support it out of the goodness of their hearts, must not read the news from Israel.

Enemy number 2? Rabbi Michael Lerner. Harris continues:

The real heat at the conference came later, with a tour de force from celebrated author Cynthia Ozick, whose presentation, “Reflections on Apostasy,” vilified Jews who appear to identify with the enemies of the Jewish people. Ozick reserved particular vitriol for Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the left-wing journal Tikkun and a frequent critic of Israel.

After ridiculing him as a “garrulous mime,” questioning the validity of his rabbinical ordination, and slapping him with a flurry of unflattering adjectives — chaotic, disorganized, self-contradictory, puerile, and unbearably long-winded, to name but a few — Ozick accused the yarmulke-wearing rabbi of providing Jewish sanction to some of Israel’s most implacable foes.
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“Israel’s Jewish Defamers.” CAMERA goes after Ha’aretz and Progressive Jews at NYC conference

CAMERA asks recipients to “share this invitation with people committed to fair and factual reporting about Israel and the Middle East,” which obviously means Muzzlewatch readers.


They used to call Jewish critics of Israeli human rights violations self-haters. Now the new term is “Israel’s Defamers.” It works. It rhymes with self-haters. And it allows a notoriously right wing Jewish media watchdog group, CAMERA, to demonize and blacklist an entirely different group of Jews, those who speak the radical notion that Israel must treat Palestinians as full human beings if it ever, ever wants to see peace or security.

CAMERA chief gadfly and keynoter Andrea Levin will have plenty to talk about when she takes on the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, which provides often remarkable coverage of life under occupation. Recently, their chief Palestinian affairs writer Danny Rubinstein caused a big stir in the UK when he refused to back off from using the word “apartheid” to describe the situation in Israel and the territories.

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Jerusalem Post and CAMERA, hand in hand, fight the good fight against Law and Order

The Jerusalem Post continues its invaluable role as an echo chamber for right-wing “pro-Israel” groups like media pitbulls CAMERA. NBC’s TV show, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, is now high on their target list. They charge the show with airing a blatantly anti-Semitic episode that deals with the apparently benign Israeli practice of bulldozing Palestinian homes and other structures.

The show, according to CAMERA, “fosters negative stereotypes of Jews as disloyal Americans and Israelis as brutes who demolish Palestinian schools and kill innocent civilians.”

I haven’t see the episode, but at least one blogger Steven I. Weiss did, and he’s written a point by point refutation of CAMERA’s charges, starting here:

Jewish agents of disinformation are conspiring to make a large corporation appear anti-Semitic through untruth and innuendo. No, its not a Law & Order plot-line, its a protest of one.
The Jerusalem Post reports on complaints to NBC over a recent episode of the Criminal Intent part of the franchise that portrayed the investigation of a series of deaths having something to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The only evidence of the complaints is this page on CAMERA, which seems to intentionally overlook the real plot-line in order to generate a false anti-Israel/anti-Semitism claim about the show; the JP adds to the problem with its own false set of facts.