As I promise in my blurb, I refuse to steal readers’ time by writing the obvious or predictable. I will try make a case here for, not against, the upcoming deportation of an anti-Zionist Dutch journalist turned activist from Israel. I will show that this is not a curtailing of democracy, free speech and the free press but rather the protection of them.
Today is the International Day for Freedom of the Press (World Press Freedom Day) with as its theme this year: “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies“.
My reasoning here will differ so much from what is common in The Netherlands (and the rest of the Free World) that I must assert that I’m serious, not playing the devil’s advocate and that this is not a parody. I want to show my readers that Israel just could have the better arguments here, even if that might collide with their set convictions. In the second part, I will show that this was all a provocation and that Israel fell for it.
It is often claimed that there is a conflict between Free Speech and needs as security, protection of people’s good reputation and safeguarding of public order. This is as nonsensical as saying that administration of medication must be balanced with a need for no medication. In this parallel, the goal is optimal health. In the perceived above contradiction the goal is the protection of democracy, free speech and a free press. Threats to security, slander and public order are of themselves threats to the principle of equal rights for all!
To summarize, there is no conflict between democracy, free speech and a free press on the one hand and protection against abuse of them on the other hand. I want to show a bit that in Israel this fight for freedom of the public is doing a bit better than in the rest of the Free West. Let’s look at some concrete cases.
- Uniformity — religious symbols at work and in public
In the past years, in the West, emotions rise high in discussions about how much religious symbols, like crosses, kippot, hijab, niqab and burka should (not) be worn in public or at work. In Israel, we do much better. We really don’t care. As long as it is decent enough, people can dress anyway they want.
- Using democracy to uproot (part of) it
The population in Gaza was allowed to vote one vote per person for one party for one time. That was not a budding democracy – that was the end of it. It is not democratic to allow parties to participate in an election that want to do away with equality. Such parties could not stand for election in Israel.
- Rabbi Meir Kahane
For this very reason, Rabbi Meir Kahane, may G-d revenge his blood, was thrown out of the Knesset and his followers are not allowed to participate in any other elections.
Three days before winning general elections in The Netherlands in 2002, the eccentric Fortuyn is murdered. He wanted to uproot the political establishment, and history should tell us if they had him killed. But in any case, he was the forerunner of Geert Wilders in that he shattered the taboo on public racist statements. (His antipathy for Islam can be easily understood from that he was a proud homosexual.) Whatever the case, in Israel he would not be able to run for office.
Same with Wilders. The Dutch prosecutor twice tried to convict him for racist statements – in Israel he would have been barred from public office period.
The culture of lying
While lying is everywhere, nowhere in the world it is as perfected as in the Middle East. While decency is a Western norm, saying whatever suits your interests best, is the predominant norm in Arab culture. (NB: There are honest Arabs just like there are dishonest Netherlanders.) This low priority for honesty but high priority for authenticity of one’s feelings is not seen as lying but rather as coming up for your story. Reality and proof are taken as foreign concepts from people who want to harm you narrative. The idea that some things are simply not true is a notion hostile to obtaining deserved rights and dignity. Demanding from Arab leaders to be honest is as poorly understood as insistence to ISIS terrorists to be nice. They just don’t know what you’re talking about.
When reporters broadcast lies, they threaten the free exchange of information held so dear in democracies. Sometimes this is done about Israel from naivety, sometimes in the name of democracy, and often the lies eerily resembles those told about Jews for thousands of years. Lying is not just “a variation on the truth” as layers like to call a lie. Reporting untruths is not an expression of freedom of the press but rather is hindering the free flow of information.
The problem of the press being free to write whatever it wants, true or not, is exacerbated by two things. Firstly, the absence of any law demanding that it’ll give account of its recounts. Important in a democracy is a balance of the three basic powers, the administration, the parliament and the courts. An elaborate system of checks and balances must prevent abuse and concentration of power. However, the Press is not balanced by anything, as long as it pleases enough of its consumers and advertisers.
Secondly, in many countries there is a gentleman’s agreements between news agencies and media to not criticizing each other, as I have written before.
Readers and viewers must ask themselves continuously if they are lied to.
The existence and role of global Anti-Jewish sentiments
A newspaper in the West could write a 100 years ago, and get away with it, that we all know that women are more charming but less strong or smart than men. What parades as common truth could in fact be mere prejudices against an oppressed group of the population.
The following might come as a shock to you if you live outside of Israel, to the extent that you will not believe me. In that case, let me be the first one to bring to you that the world’s news media in the West generally report about Israel “with bias” – and that is still an understatement.
Stories by well meaning honest reporters at location are “edited” by staff at home to fit the news agency’s policy to “stay neutral” on Israel, which is a euphemism for trashing her. Such distortions are tailor-made to oppressive ideas about Jews. One will not read that Israeli Jews are lazy or stupid. Rather, there are two sets of stereotypes that are promoted: classical ones and what I would call instrumental ones.
Classical ones are famous. Jews are portrayed as evil, murderous, oppressive, dishonest, shrewd. Everything that fits the old blood libels.
Instrumental labels are meant to undo complaint against Gentiles. They often overlap the classical prejudices, but have a special function.
- Portraying Israeli Jews as murderers, the murder of the Six Million becomes less bad. It’s even good to add that the Jews now behave as Nazis themselves.
- Portraying them as oppressors, thousands of years of oppression of Jews in the Diaspora kind of disappear.
- Portraying the world’s attitude towards Israel as hostile makes it look like Israel stands alone without true friends, as if it is good manners to be hostile to them.
Conclusions from the above principles
So, just as much as a million newspaper articles of a century ago claiming that women are inferior mean nothing, as invaluable are a million newspaper reports now that Jews in Israel (or anywhere else) are monstrous.
The war for truth against the global tidal wave of Jew hatred that Israel loses every day is not a board game. Its loss is an important part of why there is no peace here. And that’s why it is important that the Jewish State acts against those who slander her. Even if this is not our own mission. Gentiles the world over should stand up against the hate-producing daily innuendo and lies about the Jewish State. However, don’t blame Israel, when it see a small chance to help block some fake reporting that keeps hatred and wars going, while the rest of the world tolerates the filth.
It is anti-democratic to be liberal to people who threaten democracy and peace. It helps freedom and equality of all people to stop those who spread hatred and slander about multitudes of minorities, Jews included.
Details of the specific case
Last but not least, let me present some pertinent details of this specific case.
Journalist turned activist Derk Walters works since 2014 as accredited correspondent for the NRC in Israel. NRC Handelsblad is the elite daily of The Netherlands, just as the British The Times is for the UK. It is no coincidence that the by Israel rejected anti-Zionist journalist turned activist is a reporter for the high-brow newspaper in the Low Countries. Hatred for Jews has been especially popular in the top echelons of Dutch society for centuries.
This is a timeline of what happened:
- In 2011, one of NRC Handelsblad’s veteran editors, Hans Mol, who had worked in the paper for 23 years before retiring, published a book titled “How Nuance Disappeared From A Quality Paper: NRC Handelbald [sic] Takes Up an Anti-Israeli Position.” In it, he accused [the] NRC of pursuing an editorial line on Israel that “does not live up to basic journalistic standards.” [Word for word quote from the TOI.]
- In 2014, Derk Walters becomes the permanent correspondent for the NRC in Israel.
- The Government Press Office starts following hostilities from foreign reporters. Walters was hard to miss. Early in 2016 he is requested to start acting like a journalist and stop playing activist, ‘legitimizing’ violence against Jews. It will not help and this is not followed by repercussions.
- On a technicality, in a primitive attempt at lawfare, Herman Loonstein, a famed Zionist lawyer from Amsterdam, reports the Jerusalem Government Press Office that the NRC should not be a true newspaper. The argument was procedural and silly, so it would not work for long, but it was posed anyway, no doubt just to bother the paper. How this helps Israel’s case for fair reporting is hard to see. Maybe the rational was that it’s OK to be unfair to the unfair. The brilliant and prominent lawyer he is, he should have foreseen that such a Pyrrhic victory would be followed by a bad loss that will reverberate for years to come.
- Summer 2016, Walters moves from Tel Aviv to Arab Jerusalem East. He does not report this to the authorities.
- Walters decides on a further provocation of the State. It worked – they fell for it. He fails to renew his work visa, violating Israeli law. He continues to work without a permit for months, and according to the NRC with intent and not from an oversight.
- Walters is been allowed to work without a visa for months, to no avail – he still does not ask for an extension.
- Then he is granted a three-month extension, and the GPO declares that no further extensions would be granted.
- However, as reported already by the NRC, together with the email to the journalist, with typical Israeli sloppiness, was sent an internal memo from director Ron Paz to his boss Nitzan Chen [my translation from the Dutch in the NRC – see illustration below]: “Here is my suggestion for an answer to reporter Derk Walters. Let’s let make them sweat a lot, leaving all options on the table, including a complete change of our decision, and let’s give the Foreign Ministry also some say in the matter. What do you say? Note: I’ll make trouble about his address in Tel Aviv, because I know that he moved to Jerusalem East – which he posted on his Facebook.”
[The text continues below the illustration from the NRC.]
- Therefore, I predict that Israel in the end will not block Mr. Derk Walters to continue to work here as journalist and activist, and he knows this. Just like Loonstein, the GPO seemed eager to score a point, to bother the botherer – never mind that it will boomerang them.
- Predictably, NRC Editor-in Chief decides to milk the occasion anyway. He screams foul. This is an attack on the Free Press.
- Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders too declares to be saddened about this assault on a Free Press. His repeated interventions had not helped. His reaction is of course ridiculous because there are dozens of foreign reporters working from Israel from which only a minority is uncritical about the Jewish State.
- A Dutch MP from a party largely hostile to Israel comes with a plan to establish an “Emergency Fund for Freedom of the Press,” for journalists abroad, to assist them with lawyers’ bills when their work brings them in trouble.
- The Dutch Israel Lobby the CIDI has requested from the Israeli Embassy in the Hague to reconsider the deportation.
Much respected Jerusalem based Dutch journalist and author Chaya Brass today, in an overview for the Dutch in Israel Yahoogroup HOI, opinioned that [my translation of part of her Dutch analysis] “the world of journalist Derk Walters [is] one filled with fear because in his eyes he’s arrived in a racist dictatorship, in which it is completely clear what is black and what is white, who are the persecutors and who the persecuted, etc. He stands with the good, the resistance, so he probably will feel chased and watched. Possibly, he really is being watched. For sure!! After all, he’s not merely a spectator anymore but rather a participant who lives here – by now illegally.”
Brass, who on a number of occasions has had lengthy discussions with the NRC about aspects of Walters’ reporting, continues nevertheless: “His reporting really was not always so terrible, believe me, but still demonstrated sometimes (or regularly) that he himself had left the position of observer and had become a player in the play, an activist. Maybe [in his own perception] even a fellow victim from over-identification with that one side of the conflict.”
She continues that he’s been told repeatedly that he should not report to a Dutch newspaper about a new for Palestinians questionable bill as if that is already a law and as if there is no High Court of Justice that may still block it. Neither should he quote a Jerusalem deputy mayor’s questionable remark but leave out a correction immediately pronounced by the mayor. Another omission in his reporting is the total absence of voices of victims or terrorist attacks. The Times of Israel list more objectionable reports by him, which were not corrected by the NRC when exposed. One example is from 2016, when he stated that Israeli soldiers “shot dead five Palestinians” in Hebron without mentioning that the army had declared that they were shot while trying to stab Jews. You get the picture.
Brass asks her readers: “Did Walters purposely decide to cause political commotion about freedom of the press, to cause as much damage to the already shaky name Israel has about that? […] It does look like it. It fits him. And together with the [blunder from lawyer Loonstein] he has succeeded substantially.”
On a totally different note, I’m sorry to add that the State of Israel has always been weak in insisting that her good name gets protected better. I suspect her of intentional dysfunction. She has a motive. The more hostile the world’s media report about Israel, the more Jews will feel unsafe and make aliyah. However, even if that would be true, that doesn’t absolve journalists slandering her. We don’t credit Cossacks with promoting Zionism or Hitler with founding the Jewish State. We also don’t call liars about the Zionist State successful Zionists.