An open letter to TOI editor and journalists

June 12, 2015

An open letter to Times of Israel founding editor, David Horowitz and journalists, Haviv Rettig Gur and Raphael Ahren

From Maurice Ostroff, Herzliya
Charles Abelsohn, Kfar Saba
David Kaplan, Kfar Saba
Paul Simko, Fort Myers, Fl., USA
Zvi Green, Tel Aviv
Rusty Rostowsky, Tel Aviv
Jock Falkson, Raanana
Henry Shakenovsky, Ramat Hasharon


It was more than disappointing, indeed shocking, to be faced with TOI’s June 10, huge, glaring headline:

In Herzliya, Netanyahu thumbs his noTHUMBING NOSEse at the Palestinians – and the world

The expression “thumbs his nose” unjustifiably implies disrespect and derision that will inevitably provoke NEGATIVE reciprocal reactions.

Nor was the June 10 piece by Raphael Ahren much better. It carried the headline “Netanyahu talks a lot, says little, in strikingly uninspiring Herzliya address”

By comparison, usually unfriendly media were much more moderate and even encouraging. The usually very critical Guardian headline read “Israel’s strategic position enhanced by chaos of Arab neighbourhood” and Al monitor headlined the speech as “Netanyahu’s ‘autumn restart’ plan”

Moreover it is well-known that a great majority of readers skim headlines and ignore the body of articles that are not of particulate interest. In a December 2014 very cogent article in the New Yorker titled “How Headlines Change the Way We Think” Maria Konnikova wrote:

By now, everyone knows that a headline determines how many people will read a piece, particularly in this era of social media.. By its choice of phrasing, a headline can influence your mindset as you read so that you later recall details that coincide with what you were expecting.

Although the above TOI articles give the impression of factual news reports, they merely express the strong opinions of Mr. Rettig Gur and Mr. Ahren in violation of the journalistic ethic of clearly distinguishing between fact and opinion.

The authors would have shown more respect for their readers if they gave us straight reports of the speech and credited us with the intelligence to evaluate it, especially since their critical opinions are not widely shared. For example Al Monitor described the speech as a first cautious trial balloon of sorts for a new diplomatic initiative to be launched as soon as the Iranian issue is no longer on the agenda, adding that the speech succeeded in bringing diplomatic negotiations back to the center stage.

In its constructive approach Al monitor wrote that although Netanyahu may have said that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch, the issue is back on the agenda, and in a big way. Unlike in his previous speeches, the need to renew negotiations without any preconditions and return to a two-state solution that includes a Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state once again figures prominently in the prime minister’s speeches, second only to the Iranian threat.

Political and diplomatic forces in Israel are already working out the details of this new initiative in an informal capacity. The idea is to freeze Israeli construction outside of the major settlement blocs, to deliver a conciliatory speech on diplomatic affairs that relates positively to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative (with the necessary reservations) and add an alluring bundle of on-the-ground Israeli concessions to the Palestinians. At the same time, Israel will continue to encourage what it calls a stabilization package for Gaza that includes further easing of the blockade and the flow of reconstruction and aid materials into Gaza to help Hamas overcome the Salafist opposition and support it as the sole government in the Gaza Strip.

We sincerely hope that this letter will be accepted in the constructive spirit intended and that we may look forward to your considered responses.

About the Author
Maurice Ostroff is a founder member of the international Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers, better known by its acronym CoHaV, (star in Hebrew), a world-wide umbrella organization of volunteers active in combating anti-Israel media and political bias and in promoting the positive side of Israel His web site is at www.maurice-ostroff.org
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