The Independent misleads with photo illustrating Naftali Bennett’s 2-state comments

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.


US News and World Report, Nov. 15


Times of Israel, Nov. 14

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.


13 replies »

  1. Can you please publish a list including email addresses for those at the Independent to who we should complain or ask for justification as to why they chose this pic?

  2. “…they were not engaging in journalism, but were involved in polemic and slander.”
    Why slander and not libel?

    In general terms, Libel is defamation in permanent form and Slander is defamation in a non-permanent form.
    Most commonly Libel tends to be written, broadcast or published online and Slander tends to be the spoken word.

  3. “In all of Israel`s history, Israel has only ever known coalition governments […]”

    This is not *exactly* true. The Israeli electorate has never given a single party a majority in the Knesset, but in 1969 The Alignment (a merger of the Israeli Labor Party and Rafi) had a majority of 63 out of 120 Knesset seats until the elections held the same year.

  4. Independent were the biggest promoters of the Jenin massacre hoax in 2002.
    Look how Robert Fisk promoted this Palllywood lie.
    Robert Fisk’s ‘Secrets’ and Lies
    By: Sean Gannon
    June 14, 2007

    From the article.

    Of course, corrections and clarifications have never been a feature of Fisk’s reporting on Israel. Most notoriously, he has never properly repudiated the false claims made in his April 2002 articles on the Battle of Jenin in which, despite being in California at the time, he described the “stench of death wafting out from the Palestinian city” and accused “Israel’s undisciplined soldiery” of “running amok,” massacring “hundreds” and concealing the evidence from the world.

    Fisk, at first, defended himself by claiming that he never actually described Jenin as a ‘massacre’ and, to be fair to him, this was true. But in writing of “the evidence of mass killings,” the “hundreds of corpses — some of which disappeared, some of which appear to have been secretly buried” and of an Israeli army “that has not yet finished filling the mass graves of Jenin,” he left no room for doubt as to the impression of events that he wanted to leave. He then attempted to shift to blame for the ‘massacre’ rumour onto Israel, asserting that it was IDF officer, Ron Kitrey, who first spoke of “apparently hundreds” of dead, conveniently ignoring the fact that Kitrey quickly clarified that he was referring to “casualties – those killed or wounded” rather than solely to the number of dead. Today, Fisk defends his second-hand story by arguing that the 52 Palestinian deaths (38 of them terrorist combatants) actually constituted a massacre.

  5. Phil Reeves of the Independent in 2002 how he promoted the Jenin massacre lie.
    Propagandist Phil Reeves changes name, becomes respectable
    by Vic Rosenthal
    June 12th, 2012

    Remember the “Jenin massacre?”

    In April 2002, IDF forces fought with Palestinian guerrillas from the Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad factions for 10 days. After the dust cleared, 23 Israelis were dead along with 52 Palestinians, of whom 5 were judged to be non-combatants.

    Immediately thereafter, Palestinian sources claimed that hundreds had died in a monstrous war crime that James Petras, an American academic, compared to the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghettto.

    Reports of the devastation multiplied, larded with atrocity stories. A ‘documentary film‘ made by a Palestinian director was full of such charges, including the supposed destruction of a hospital wing by tank shells. Later, it was pointed out that no such wing had ever existed.

    Nothing was more gripping than on-the-scene reporting by Phil Reeves of the UK Independent, scant days after the battle ended:

    A monstrous war crime that Israel has tried to cover up for a fortnight has finally been exposed. Its troops have caused devastation in the centre of the Jenin refugee camp, reached yesterday by The Independent, where thousands of people are still living amid the ruins.

    A residential area roughly 160,000 square yards about a third of a mile wide has been reduced to dust. Rubble has been shovelled by bulldozers into 30ft piles. The sweet and ghastly reek of rotting human bodies is everywhere, evidence that it is a human tomb. The people, who spent days hiding in basements crowded into single rooms as the rockets pounded in, say there are hundreds of corpses, entombed beneath the dust, under a field of debris, criss-crossed with tank and bulldozer treadmarks.

    In one nearby half-wrecked building, gutted by fire, lies the fly-blown corpse of a man covered by a tartan rug. In another we found the remains of 23-year-old Ashraf Abu Hejar beneath the ruins of a fire-blackened room that collapsed on him after being hit by a rocket. His head is shrunken and blackened. In a third, five long-dead men lay under blankets.

    A quiet, sad-looking young man called Kamal Anis led us across the wasteland, littered now with detritus of what were once households, foam rubber, torn clothes, shoes, tin cans, children’s toys. He suddenly stopped. This was a mass grave, he said, pointing.

    We stared at a mound of debris. Here, he said, he saw the Israeli soldiers pile 30 bodies beneath a half-wrecked house. When the pile was complete, they bulldozed the building, bringing its ruins down on the corpses. Then they flattened the area with a tank. We could not see the bodies. But we could smell them.

    Reeves never said that he saw the “hundreds of corpses.” But one has to be a careful reader to notice that. In another article, he simply repeated ugly Palestinian stories:

    In the first of this article published yesterday we described how even children were not immune from the Israeli onslaught. Faris Zeben, a 14-year-old boy, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in cold blood. The soldiers in the tank gave no warning, said Faris’ eight-year-old brother Abdel Rahman. And after they shot Faris they did nothing.

    Fifteen-year-old Mohammed Hawashin was shot dead as he tried to walk through the camp. Aliya Zubeidi told us how she was on her way to the hospital to see the body of her son Ziad, a fighter from the Al-Aqsa brigades, who had been killed in the fighting. Mohammed accompanied her. “I heard shooting,” said Ms Zubeidi. “The boy was sitting in the door. I thought he was hiding from the bullets. Then he said, ‘Help.’ We couldn’t do anything for him. He had been shot in the face.” In a deserted road by the periphery of the refugee camp, we found the flattened remains of a wheelchair. It had been utterly crushed, ironed flat as if in a cartoon. In the middle of the debris lay a broken white flag. Durar Hassan told us how his friend, Kemal Zughayer, was shot dead as he tried to wheel himself up the road. The Israeli tanks must have driven over the body, because when Hassan found it, one leg and both arms were missing, and the face, he said, had been ripped in two.

    There’s more, but you get the idea. Reeves’ ‘reporting’ consisted of a combination of suggestions of terrible hidden crimes, uncritical repetition of Palestinian stories, and an overall tear-jerking emotional tone. He was careful, however, not to explicitly make any false statements that could be checked.

    By his series of sensational articles in the Independent, Reeves may have done as much or more than any Western reporter to spread the myth of the ‘Jenin Massacre.’

    So where is Phil Reeves now?

    Where does he fit, this vicious little whore, this character assassin of the Jewish state, this yellow journalist?

    Where else? Reeves — now called ‘Philip’ instead of ‘Phil’, befitting his new-found respectability as a ‘journalist’, found a spot at that paragon of fairness and professionalism, NPR!

    Philip Reeves is an award-winning veteran foreign correspondent who covers Europe out of NPR’s bureau in London…

    Reeves joined NPR in 2004, after spending 17 years as a correspondent for the British daily newspaper, The Independent. During the early stages of his career, he worked for BBC radio and television after training on the Bath Chronicle newspaper in western Britain.

    • NPR’s Linda Gradsteen reported the “Jenin massacre” but she didn’t wait for the dust to settle. NPR was reporting a “reported massacre in the city known as Jenin” for the entire 4 day battle, and to my knowledge, never once acknowledged they exaggerated the situation.

      NPR sucks balls. It’s no wonder they hired that clown to replace her.