UK Media Watch prompts Times of London correction to false Israeli “book ban” claim

Our post yesterday, comparing UK media outlets’ coverage of an Education Ministry decision not to include a book depicting an Israeli-Palestinian love affair on the literature curriculum, named a Times of London article by Catherine Philp as the most inaccurate report on the row.

Specifically, both the headline and text erroneously claimed that Israel “banned” the book Borderlife, by Dorit Rabinyan.

Original Times of London headline

We argued thusly:

The article by Catherine Philp doesn’t at all clarify the remarkably misleading headline and opening passage claim that “Israel’s education ministry has banned” the book “from being taught in schools”. (Philp also claims that the ministry’s statement on the book cited a fear that it would promote “miscegenation”. However, it did not cite “miscegenation”. It cited “assimilation” (התבוללות).  The word “miscegenation” of course possesses more racist connotations than “assimilation”.)

This morning, we asked Times of London editors to revise the headline and passage to more accurately reflect the ministry’s decision, and recently we learned that they upheld our complaint.

Here’s the revised, slightly more accurate headline.

times new headline

Additionally, per our complaint, the incorrect word “miscegenation” was changed to “assimilation”.

We commend Times of London editors on the prompt correction.

25 replies »

      • @Adam Levick –

        UK press coverage of this incident actually differed hardly a whit from the Israeli press coverage it received – up to and including the headline descriptor of a “ban” (eg, in Arutz Sheva’s story, ‘A-G to probe Education Ministry ban on Jewish-Arab love novel’ @ ).

        Your apparent myopia when it comes to Israel’s OWN catalogue of “bad image” news reporting and op. eds – not to mention misleading/manipulative headlines, inaccuracies, and bigoted, violence-inciting BTL content – really is extraordinary.

        If you paid the slightest attention to these, the very least you’d gather by the end of (let’s say) a month is that the British media you regard as being so hostile in its agenda rather mysteriously “misses” or “ignores” countless opportunities to present Israel in a negative light – all conveniently dished out by Israeli press websites, left, right and centre of the political spectrum, every day of the week.

        • So you’re saying that Israelis benefit from a freedom of press that leads to multiple perspectives of the news…. in Israel? But I thought Israel was the worst country in the world. An occupying Human Rights denier who uses its military might to obliterate the millions of Palestinians still living in and around the modern state of Israel.

          Anyway, this is about English Words and how they are used to Paint Pictures that aren’t necessarily true. The subject of this site is Western Media’s inability to grasp a balanced perspective regarding Israel and her Arab neighbors, oftentimes choosing to highlight a negative perspective of the Jewish state. This isn’t about the nonsense you routinely bring to the table.

          How about for 2016 you stick to the subject matter? That JUST MIGHT help you understand where we Jews and Israel lovers are coming from. Of course, I don’t expect that to happen because I truly believe you’re not interested in a balanced perspective of Israel. Balance isn’t your goal in life.

        • That’s funny. I just clicked on the link that you have provided yourself and instead of “ban,” it uses the more accurate word “disqualification.” I wouldn’t doubt that it stated “disqualification” the whole time because truth isn’t something you let get in the way of your agenda, but even if it has been edited, it proves that Israel’s journalistic standards are much higher (read “less agenda-driven”) than the UK’s.

          • @Michael –

            ‘…even if it has been edited, it proves that Israel’s journalistic standards are much higher…’

            No, it doesn’t. All it “proves” is that Israeli journalists – like journalists all over the world – amend stories for a variety of reasons. For all you know (and this is the most LIKELY explanation), Arutz Sheva changed its headline for exactly the same reason the Times did – in response to a complaint.

            • Give it up, dear. You are just an obsessed hysterical spittle-flecked loon, and everyone here (bar a couple of similar posters, e.g. Stephen) can see you for what you are and are laughing at you.

    • Maybe, maybe not. However, in contrast to the Times’ edit Arutz Sheva’s is actually meaningful, demonstrating that they are professional, as well as moral, unlike the Times’ “journalists.”

      • Michael, I have noted over the past few years a definite shift towards the outright antisemitic in the Times, e.g. several ‘cartoons’ plus the coverage of the Jenin ‘massacre’. And it went downhill from there (!).

  1. The word “ban” is very often used very loosely and imprecisely in the mainstream media – this lack of precision affecting not only the so-called tabloids but also the more highbrow papers. It is therefore not so much the use of the word than the completely misleading “translation” of “miscegenation” which should be criticised.

    There is also another reason why this book is unsuitable for Israeli schools – its propaganda against the IDF, condemned as “racist”, etc, as even Haaretz reports

    • “There is also another reason why this book is unsuitable for Israeli schools – its propaganda against the IDF, condemned as “racist”, etc, as even Haaretz reports”

      Well, as far as I’m concerned, Haaretz screwed the pooch long ago. There’s nothing they say that I would take without seeking confirmation through another resource. (Don’t feel bad. I feel this way about DEBKA, too.)

  2. The book wasn’t even banned from the school curriculum, so they are still wrong. It was removed from the standard classes only. Hardly newsworthy and totally racist

  3. One of the earlier examples I can remember is the “banning” of the film “Scum” – about goings on in a youth detention centre – from UK network TV. There has never been any serious attempt to prosecute it under the Obscene Publications act and so it could be screened – only not on UK television according to the rules of the time. Strictly speaking the word should only be used in contexts where legislation has been invoked and applied.

  4. I should add that that I define as a “serious attempt” a decision by the DPP to ban a publication – not Mary Whitehouse’s private prosecution.

    The recent decision by cinema chains not to run a vaguely religious Xmas advert was an exercise of their freedom to publish – or not to publish. It was not a “ban” – a word widely used in the press.

    • That’s still not the same context as here. In that case, there is an outright refusal to show the advert, very unlike “banning” Borderlife.

  5. The contexts are different but in all cases the use of the word is at variance with precise dictionary definitions. I do not think that such imprecise or incorrect uses necessarily reflect any desire to mislead.

    From the online Oxford English dictionary – to ban something is “Officially or legally (to) prohibit (something)”

    • If there was enough similarity to compare, then there would no possibility of introducing Borderlife whatsoever into a classroom setting, as opposed to the other examples you have purported to show. Were it not for the de rigeur anti-Israel bias found in the British media, that could be valid. However, given that bias as consistently demonstrated on this site and others, it is a very reasonable, if not incontrovertible conclusion that the desire to mislead does indeed exist.

    • When it’s a ‘serious’ paper that has been shown repeatedly to have jumped on the antisemitic bandwagon, I am not about to give them a pass by accepting that there was no desire to mislead.
      I am saying this even though there are practically no papers left where at least 50% of the journalists are even vaguely literate.

  6. Palestinian curricula is designed to incite immoral, racist hatred of Jews, but this is what Catherine Philp and the Times of London find much, much more newsworthy.
    Question: Is it a good book? Is it well-written and compellingly educational so that it should be required?

    An idea: Send Ms. Philp two copies to forward to the PA and Hamas ministries of education. Let them decide whether to require it for their students, and then sit back and wait for the reactions of Ms. Philp and the entire British media for their reactions. And wait, and wait, and wait.

  7. As my original post shows I agree with the criticism of the use of the loaded term and mistranslation “miscegenation” and think that there is a clear probably ideologically motivated desire to deceive by the Haaretz reporters. The uncritical reproduction of their misleading report by the Times journalist shows at best laziness and at worst some degree of bias.

    The use of the word “ban” does not – and I have given examples of its imprecise use in various contexts.

    More important is the fact – as acknowledged in another Haaretz report – that the author of this book is ready to incorporate Breaking the Silence type propaganda into her novel, making it unsuitable for use in an Israeli school environment.

    • Yes, the use of the word “ban” does indeed indicate an agenda to deceive readers. You have provided only poor examples inasmuch as your examples do indicate outright rejection which the case of the Israeli school system vis a vis Borderlife does not.