At the annual American Jewish Press Association (AJPA) Conference, held recently in Philadelphia, a newsworthy session was held with Chemi Shalev, the newly appointed US correspondent for the English language edition of the Israeli newspaper HaAretz.
Working with foreign journalists in Jerusalem for the past 25 years, the significance of HaAretz reaches beyond its scope as a daily newspaper in Israel.
The HaAretz English edition, sold in Israel together with the International Herald Tribune, is the paper of record for reporters who cover complexities of Middle East issues.
Therefore, the opportunity for AJPA to hear Shalev’s insights into Middle East reporting policies was significant.
After hearing Shalev’s insightful analysis of current Israeli politics and the current state of Israeli-Arab negotiations, our news agency posed a question to Shalev:
Why does HaAretz not report what the Palestinian Authority communicates to their people in their language, on the PBC TV, the PBC radio, Palestinian Authority newspapers and the Palestinian Authority schools?
After all, over the past few weeks, PBC TV has conducted daily features that promote the armed struggle to liberate all of Palestine, praise for those who martyr themselves while murdering Jews, transforming Israeli cities into Arab cities, and worse.
And then there are the new school books of the PA, which indoctrinate the next generation to liberate all of Palestine by the force of arms, while the theme of PA education remains the “right of return” to Arab villages from 1948 within the green line which no longer exist.
15 years ago, access to PBC TV and to PA school books was difficult.
Our agency would dispatch messengers to the heart of Ramallah or Gaza to buy DVDs of PBC telecasts or purchase new PA school books and then commission translations of both.
Today, all a journalist has to do to view PBC TV is to peruse the PMW or MEMRI web sites, or to do what our agency does: we paid a technician 125 shekels to adjust our TV to gain access to PBC TV.
Today, all a reporter has to do to see the new PA school books is to buy the PA school books which are sold on Salach A Din Street in Jerusalem. And the PA school books can now be seen online.
Shalev’s candid response: “We do not have room to cover all of that.” The follow up question was simpler: In the context of any article that HaAretz runs on the peace process, why not mention what the spokespeople of the PA say that day in their media and in their own language?
Shalev: “As an editor, I would recommend not covering that.”
In other words, a senior editor of HaAretz admitted to a gathering of journalists that his newspaper engages in a journalistic indiscretion.
As a matter of policy, Shalev admitted, Haaretz will not report the consistent message that the Palestinian Authority conveys in the Arabic language.
This poses a challenge to agencies that rely on HaAretz as a source. At the AJPA conference, our agency also asked the representatives of the JTA, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, if it would change its policy of not reporting what the Palestinian Authority conveys in Arabic.
JTA has not responded to this question, which our agency has been posing to JTA for more than a decade, without an answer.
Perhaps JTA’s new correspondent in Jerusalem will respond to the challenge.
Over the past ten years, our agency has also asked AJPA to allow time for an audiovisual briefing on what the Palestinian Authority conveys in the Arabic language. AJPA has consistently turned down the request.
However, the tenacity of our agency will persist with the question:
Does the media not deserve to know what the Palestinian Authority conveys in the Arabic language, at a time when hopes for a renewed peace process continue to dominate the news?