A guest post by CAMERA intern Aron White
Here is a screenshot from the top of the Middle East Homepage of the Independent, which links to an Associated Press (AP) article published at their site.
On the basis of this headline and photo, one would assume that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, said that Israel now has the opportunity to ‘end the Palestinian state’.
They would be wrong – Mr. Netanyahu did not say any of that. The comments were made by Naftali Bennett, the Israeli Education Minister and leader of the Jewish Home Party. Yet in reporting the story of Mr. Bennett`s comments, The Independent led with a photo of Netanyahu, which implies to the reader that it was Netanyahu who made the comments. He did not make the comments, and his position, whereby he supports the two state solution, remains unchanged. (Whilst Mr Netanyahu’s support for the two state solution in 2009 is mentioned in the 12th paragraph, the fact that his position remains unchanged is not mentioned.)
Using a photo of one person on a story about the quotes of another is totally misleading arguably in breach of the Independent`s Code of Conduct. Let us imagine a comparable situation in the UK, where the comments of one high profile politician are conflated with the opinions of the Prime Minister.
In the aftermath of Donald Trump`s victory, Nigel Farage tweeted that “Unlike Obama and Clinton who sneered at us, Donald Trump actually likes the UK.” Would it be appropriate to run the headline, “Barack Obama Hated the UK,” with a photo of Theresa May? And for the sake of comparison, see how other outlets published the same Associated Press article that the Independent were publishing. When the Times of Israel and US News and World Report published the same AP story about Naftali Bennett, the story featured a photo of…..Naftali Bennett.
Conflating the opinions of government ministers or party leaders with those of the Prime Minister would be misleading in any country, but this is especially true in Israel.
In all of Israel`s history, Israel has only ever known coalition governments, as no party, left or right has ever won a parliamentary majority in any of Israel`s twenty elections (In the same period of time, the UK has had a coalition government just once). Israel has a dizzying number of different parties – in its 68 years of existence, no fewer than 111 political parties have been represented in the Knesset. The current government is formed from a coalition of six parties – Likud (lead by Netanyahu), Yisrael Beiteinu, Jewish Home (lead by Mr Bennett), Kulanu, Shas and United Torah Judaism. Each of these parties have different political platforms and ideological worldviews.
Yet none of this matters to the Independent.
The article describes Mr Bennett`s opinion as reflective not of the view of his party, but the view of the “nationalist, Israeli right wing,” – and with the photo of Netanyahu above, the implication is obvious. Anything the Jewish Home says is assumed to be reflective of the Prime Minister’s opinion, when in the fact the opposite would be a more correct assumption; By definition, if they are heads of separate political parties, their opinions will often be divergent. But to the Independent, there is no difference of opinion, no debate, there is just the monolithic nationalist Israeli right wing destroying the Palestinian future.
The goal of journalism is to report the facts and inform the reader. When the Independent chose to mislead with a photo of Netanyahu, they were not engaging in journalism, but were involved in polemic and slander.