CiF Watch prompts improved language to Indy description of Israel’s security fence

On July 4th, we posted about a mostly unproblematic and indeed quite interesting report in The Independent by Michael McCarthy about Jerusalem’s Bird Observatory which nonetheless included a short passage containing a misleading characterization of Israel’s security fence. Here are the passages, with the relevant sentence in bold:

For Jerusalem overwhelms you. In the Old City, sacred to all three Abrahamical religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims, history and tradition are overpowering, as are the assaults on the senses: the sunlight flashing on copper coffee pots, an Arab flute being played somewhere, the bewildering mix of languages, the smells of cumin and cardamom and coriander.

But the politics is the most overpowering phenomenon of all, and the anguish of two hostile peoples struggling for one land is never more than a glance away. It’s seen above all now in The Wall, the 25ft-high separation barrier the Israelis have built between their Jewish citizens and the Palestinians of the West Bank, and whether or not you agree with the argument for it – that the Arab suicide bombings of the Second Intifada became an intolerable burden on Israeli civil society – there is no doubt that it now appears, snaking over the hills, as something monstrous. 

As we noted in our post,  Israel’s security fence was of course built to serve as a protective barrier between Israeli citizens (of all religious backgrounds) and Palestinians of the West Bank who are not Israeli citizens.  The language in McCarthy’s report could easily be interpreted as meaning that only the state’s Jewish citizens were being protected, and that the barrier had a racial component.

After contacting Indy editors we received an extremely thoughtful reply, explaining that the passage did accurately reflect the fact that the terrorist campaign during the 2nd Intifada which prompted Israel to construct the security fence did have a religious component, insofar as terror groups were attacking Israel due to the fact that it is a ‘Jewish’ state.   While this is a credible argument, editors ultimately accepted our concerns, and revised the language accordingly, omitting the word “Jewish”, so that the sentence now reads:

“It’s seen above all now in The Wall, the 25ft-high separation barrier the Israelis have built between their citizens and the Palestinians of the West Bank…”

We commend Indy editors for responsibly responding to our complaint.

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