It is not the attitudes of Israelis that are shocking but the shoddy manner in which the survey was formulated, the shoddier manner in which Gideon Levy misinterpreted the results and the irresponsible manner in which Haaretz
 printed it without any attempt at evaluating its credibility that should shock him

Kudos to Arno Rosenberg for his November 2 blog in TOI “The problem with Ha’aretz” in which he admitted his blunder in unjustifiably blasting of Israel as a racist country in an earlier blog based on Gideon Levy’s distorted interpretation of a poll published in Haaretz.

 Although he criticized Haaretz in strong terms, Mr. Rosenberg offered no regret or apology for his irresponsible contribution to the Israel apartheid canard that is used as a powerful weapon by the BDS movement, even though Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the movement has admitted that the likening of the situation in Israel to apartheid is unjustified.

With great respect I suggest that Mr. Rosenberg, as a university student and aspiring writer,   enroll for courses in critical reading and evaluating research papers.  One of the first lessons he will learn is to check his facts and  not to accept everything printed even in reputable media as accurate. He will also learn that in evaluating a report of an opinion survey he must check the credibility not only of the reporter’s interpretation but also of the persons who commissioned the poll.

 May I hope that this unfortunate experience will have a useful outcome in guiding Mr. Rosenberg towards a promising career as an ethical journalist who carefully distinguishes between fact and personal opinion and whose credibility will be undoubted?

 May I hope too, that he will revise his closed mind approach in saying he doesn’t “want to hear that this view of Arabs is the fault of Hamas’ anti-Semitism, of Arab Israeli’s refusal to embrace the state”? These are factors that deserve legitimate reasoned discussion as many of Israel‘s actions like separate roads and checkpoints are reactions to threats like those contained in the Hamas and PLO Charters.

Referring to the recent apartheid poll that reverberated around the world, Arno Rosenberg wrote in his earlier blog “Not my Zionism, not my Israel“,.

 “The survey results are shocking in their bluntness, and I feel deep shame that so many of my people are blatantly racist. 42% of Israeli Jews both want the government to treat Jews better than Arabs and also do not want to live in the same building as Arabs”.

 I suggest with great respect to Mr. Rosenberg that his deep shame is misplaced. It is not the attitudes of Israelis that are shocking but the shoddy manner in which the survey was formulated, the shoddier manner in which Gideon Levy misinterpreted the results and the irresponsible manner in which Haaretz printed it without any attempt at evaluating its credibility that should shock him. 

Let me explain 

The poll in question was deeply flawed at the outset. By its own admission the pollsters asked about apartheid while unsure that the respondents understood the questions.  In a press statement the group that commissioned the poll wrote “it was not clear what these respondents understand by the term“. The wording of the questions and the order in which they are asked are extremely important factors in preparing a scientific poll. Surely a survey has no value at all if respondents are unsure about the meaning of the questions.

 Rather than rely on a journalist’s description of survey results it is important to examine the original questions and answers. Every reliable polling firm will readily make these available and in this case a comparison shows material differences between the original and Levy’s versions.

For example Levy wrote “A sweeping 74 percent majority is in favor of separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. A quarter – 24 percent – believe separate roads are “a good situation” and 50 percent believe they are “a necessary situation.”  This is a distortion of what the 50% said. Levy omitted to tell us that this 50% object to the separate roads. Their response was “It is not good but nothing can be done about it“. He also omitted to tell his readers that a further 17% disapprove of separate roads and believe the situation should be discontinued. The actual result is that if don’t knows are excluded, 74% disapprove of separate roads despite the difficult security situation.

Levy wrote “42 percent don’t want to live in the same building with Arabs and 42 percent don’t want their children in the same class with Arab children“. He ignored the fact that a clear 53% overall majority and 68% of the secular respondents have no objection. Moreover, an unbiased analyst would weigh the important factor that the overall average is skewed by the religious respondents who tend to live in insular religious neighborhoods because they would be unhappy to have Jewish or non-Jewish neighbors who do not observe the Sabbath. This applies wherever they live in the world and these preferences have nothing remotely concerned with South African apartheid. 

Let’s look forward to some great unbiased, credible journalism from Mr. Rosenberg.