More than a few eyebrows were raised over the weekend when it was reported that the BBC – yes, the BBC! – had set up a team devoted to debunking ‘fake news’. As we noted in the subsequent tweet, our sister site, BBC Watch, knows a thing or two about this vexing problem.
— CAMERA UK (formerly UK Media Watch and BBC Watch) (@CAMERAorgUK) January 14, 2017
Though CAMERA and its affiliates have sometimes achieved success in getting editors to cease publishing specific, recurring false claims about Israel, other instances of ‘fake news’ continue to be published despite our efforts to demonstrate their fallacy.
For instance, in September, we posted about a Guardian op-ed which included the oft-repeated false claim by the NGO Adalah that there are “50 racist laws” in Israel. However, Guardian editors, perhaps in part due to their assumption that claims made by “humanitarian” NGOs are inherently credible, refused to correct the relevant passage.
Yesterday, The Independent published an op-ed by Nadia Hijab (This is the one good thing about Obama’s legacy in Israel – and John Kerry might be about to destroy it, Jan. 14th) which included the same claim.
Here’s the relevant passage – which was also repeated in the strap line:
Kerry’s principles are full of internal contradictions. For example, saying that Israel must be a “Jewish state” in which the 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel “must be able to live as equal citizens” is not grounded in reality: there are already over 50 laws that discriminate against them, and Kerry’s principles do nothing to address these.
As we noted in September, CAMERA and NGO Monitor have refuted Adalah’s claims of “50 racist laws” in Israel – a charge used so carelessly that even an Israeli public health law requiring that parents vaccinate their children is characterised as a “racist law”.
- The overwhelming majority of the laws featured in the list (53 out of 57) do not even relate to the citizens’ ethnic origins and those that do, are designed to prevent and avoid discrimination. For example, the Law and Administration Ordinance (1948) that defines the country’s official rest days, and the Law for Using the Hebrew Date, both explicitly exclude institutions and authorities that serve non-Jewish populations for whom the law provides for definitions and procedures appropriate for their specific needs.
- In 21 cases, Adalah’s claims of discrimination stem from the organization’s extremist stance that rejects the nature of Israel as a nation-state in general and as the nation-state of of the Jewish people in particular. For example, the Yad BenZvi Law is defined as a discriminatory law because of the institution’s objective of promoting Zionist ideals.
- 18 of the laws reflect customs in other Western democracies whose democratic character no one would disparage. For example, according to Adalah, the flag constitutes a discriminatory law. Needless to say, this unfounded reasoning would mean that any country, the flag of which bears a cross or crescent discriminates against its non-Christian or non-Muslim minorities. A more in-depth comparison between the laws frequently found that Israeli legislation is actually characterized by a higher degree of tolerance for its national minorities.
- In at least 13 cases, a large disparity exists between the explicit content of the laws and the biased (and sometimes warped) interpretation accorded to them by Adalah. In some instances the claimed discrimination is difficult to identify. For example, the Golan Heights Law is considered discriminatory due to its objective of “according a legal basis for the implementation of Israeli law on the territory of the Golan Heights conquered by Israel”. It would seem that only Adalah is capable of explaining a law intended to grant equal rights to all residents of the Golan Heights as being discriminatory.
- 8 laws are intended to protect the security of all Israeli citizens regardless of religion, race or gender. Included in these laws are a number of legislative amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law and the Prisons Ordinance aimed at assisting the security forces in preventing terror attacks. These laws adversely affect only those clearly suspected of engaging in terror activity without distinguishing between Jews and Arabs. In effect, this very claim is woefully discriminatory because it presumes that Arab citizens of Israel are generally hostile and prone to terror activities.
- 7 of the laws do not even relate to Israel’s Arab citizens but rather to those noncitizen individuals towards whom the State is not obligated to act with equality. 3 The absurdity in Adalah’s approach can be demonstrated by the example of the Trading with the Enemy Act (a law evolving from British Mandatory law) being included in the list of discriminatory laws because “the countries declared as such (Iran, Syria and Lebanon) are Arab and/or Muslim states”. Presumably the law could be remedied by adding other, non-Muslim and non-Arab enemy states.
- In the case of some of the laws mentioned in the list, the supposed discrimination in question actually affected the Jewish majority and not the Arab minority. For example, Clause 7a of the Basic Law: the Knesset, the objective of which is to prevent the candidacy of political parties acting against the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, has been implemented only against Jewish parties on grounds of anti-democratic objectives. Similarly, amendments to the Absorption of Discharged Soldiers Law are indicted by Adalah for discriminating in favor of Jewish citizens, but these citizens are the ones specifically obligated to serve three years of military service for sub-minimum compensation and living conditions, thus postponing their university education and professional advancement. It is the Arab citizen who enjoys the option of exemption from military service altogether or alternatively, of volunteering for national civil service which does not place them in harm’s way but which nevertheless affords them the same benefits awarded to discharged soldiers.
- In a number of cases, Adalah misuses objective crime statistics to claim discrimination. According to this logic, if members of the Arab sector of the population are the main criminal violators of a certain law, then that particular law perforce is deemed racist. This could apply to laws against theft of property, against sex crimes or against driving through red lights. The constructive and proper solution, to disproportionate violations is not annulment of necessary laws, of course, but rather, educating and encouraging observance of the law among all sectors of the population-without distinction or favoritism.
As you can see, the Adalah claim – repeated by the Guardian and Independent – that there are “50 racist laws” in Israel does not hold up to critical scrutiny, and we’ve complained to Indy editors asking that the inaccurate claim be removed.