U.S. warned European governments not to support Palestinian state


The United States reportedly warned European governments in a memorandum not to support a Palestinian bid for increased status at the United Nations.

The memorandum, which was seen by the British newspaper the Guardian, called giving the Palestinians enhanced non-member state status “extremely counterproductive” and threatened “significant negative consequences” for the Palestinian Authority, including financial sanctions, the newspaper reported on Oct. 1.

The memorandum, sent by U.S. officials to representatives of European governments at the United Nations General Assembly last week in New York, said that Palestinian statehood “can only be achieved via direct negotiations with the Israelis.” It called on the European governments to block Palestinian attempts to be recognized as a non-member state.

It also asked each government where it stands on the issue and said the U.S. was interested in knowing whether the European government had been approached by Palestinian representatives.

The Palestinians reportedly will wait until after November's U.S. presidential elections to make their bid in the General Assembly, where the United States does not have a veto, for the new status. They will, however, press for a vote by the end of the year and expect the issue to pass by a “comfortable majority,” according to the Guardian.

Guardian correction withdraws claim that Tel Aviv is Israeli capital


The Guardian newspaper retracted its claim that Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel after a watchdog group filed a lawsuit against Britain’s Press Complaints Commission.

In May, The Guardian posted a photo with a caption that referred to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The caption was later corrected, saying that it “wrongly referred to the city (Jerusalem) as the Israeli capital. The Guardian style guide states: ‘Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is.”

The watchdog group HonestReporting filed a complaint with the UK Press Complaints Commission, which ruled that the newspaper could refer to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital and was not in breach of accuracy clauses.

HonestReporting then launched legal proceedings against the commission.

Under pressure from the commission, The Guardian issued a correction and changed its style guide. The correction does, however, assert that Israel’s designation of Jerusalem as its capital is not recognized by the international community.

The correction, issued Wednesday, read that “A correction to a picture caption said we should not have described Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. It went on to relay the advice in our style guide that the capital was Tel Aviv. In 1980 the Israeli Knesset enacted a law designating the city of Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem, as the country’s capital. In response, the UN Security Council issued resolution 478, censuring the ‘change in character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem’ and calling on all member states with diplomatic missions in the city to withdraw. The UN has reaffirmed this position on several occasions, and almost every country now has its embassy in Tel Aviv. While it was therefore right to issue a correction to make clear Israel’s designation of Jerusalem as its capital is not recognized by the international community, we accept that it is wrong to state that Tel Aviv—the country’s financial and diplomatic centre—is the capital. The style guide has been amended accordingly.”

HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams called on the commission “to issue a new ruling categorically stating that Tel Aviv is not Israel’s capital so that it is clear to the British media that it will not be allowed to repeat this error.”

Guardian not wrong to say Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital, panel says


A complaint leveled against the Guardian over Israel’s capital city was decided in favor of the British newspaper.

In correcting a photo caption that had referred to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the newspaper wrote that “The caption on a photograph featuring passengers on a tram in Jerusalem observing a two-minute silence for Yom HaShoah, a day of remembrance for the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust, wrongly referred to the city as the Israeli capital. The Guardian style guide states: ‘Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is.’ “

The watchdog group HonestReporting submitted an official complaint with the United Kingdom Press Complaints Commission saying that Israel has identified its capital as Jerusalem.

In its decision issued Sunday, the Press Complaints Commission said that “While it is correct to say that Israel classes Jerusalem as her capital city, this is not recognized by many countries and those nations enjoying diplomatic relations with Israel have their embassies in Tel Aviv. As such, the Commission was of the view that the newspaper was entitled to refer to Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel. There was no breach of the Code in this instance.”

Clause 1 of the commission’s official code states that newspapers “must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information,” and the terms of Clause 1(ii) state that “a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognized must be corrected promptly and with due prominence.”

“We believe that this flawed ruling has the potential to further delegitimize Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital, giving the British media a carte blanche to follow The Guardian’s lead,” HonestReporting said in a statement on its website.

The watchdog points out that the UK Foreign Office says that “Israel maintains that Jerusalem is its capital city, a claim not recognized by the UK and the international community. The UK locates its embassy in Tel Aviv.” It does not, however, identify Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital.

Avi Leibovic: Guardian Angel of the Streets



 

Stand on any corner in Hancock Park or Beverlywood, says Avi Leibovic, and within 10 blocks you can find Orthodox teenagers engaged in weekly poker games, drug use, underage drinking and reckless sex.

Not much has changed since Leibovic was a teenager in L.A.’s Orthodox community 15 years ago.

Now 32, a lawyer, rabbi and father of six, Leibovic has made it his life’s mission to find these youth and to pull them back toward a life where they can envision a future with regular employment, a strong sense of self and a sincere love of Yiddishkeit.

Five years ago, Leibovic was approached by the prodigal son of a prominent Orthodox family for help and inspiration. Soon, their one-on-one Torah study grew into a larger group, made up mostly of recent alumni of Neve Zion, the yeshiva outside Jerusalem where Leibovic had formative experiences as a teen and young adult.

That group grew into Aish Tamid, a nonprofit that now has a staff of part-time counselors, therapists, social workers and rabbis that in the last five years has served 400 young men and teens.

At a recent free workshop in Excel that Aish Tamid offered in a mid-Wilshire office building, Leibovic is working the room, making sure everyone is set up and liberally slapping on warm handshakes, high fives and “Howah YOUs.”

He looks tired but energized, with rings of red around eyes that are the same color as his trim auburn beard. His large black velvet kippah sits low across his forehead.

Leibovic, a doting perfectionist, teaches Torah, runs a Friday night service and holds court at a “tisch” at his home, where dozens show up every Shabbos for songs and inspirational story-telling. His “guys” are anything from hard-core addicts to kids who just didn’t fit the yeshiva mold, and he helps them finish school, find jobs, go clean, reconcile with family or get back into Judaism.

Last year Leibovic took a sabbatical from his job in his family’s law firm to build Aish Tamid’s infrastructure, but he is now back at work full time. He sets aside every night from 5:30-8 p.m. for his wife and their 6-year-old triplets and three younger children.

And from 8 p.m. on, and often well into the morning, he’s there for his guys.

He can do it because he gets them. He knows their insecurities and their haunts. He speaks their language — from his dude-laced lingo with a Brooklyn accent to his knowledge of the latest music.

“If not for Avi, I would be wandering the streets of Brooklyn,” says Yitzy, a 17-year-old who now has a job and is working toward getting his high school diploma.

Leibovic has never taken a salary from Aish Tamid, and he admits the work is taking a toll on him and his family.

But he’s sticking with it.

“If you give the kids time and if you give them love, if you give them the opportunity to express themselves in a way that is not cookie-cutter, you see tremendous success,” he says. “Guys who have been written off by their schools, their family and their community, we find that we are able to rekindle their aish tamid [eternal flame].”

For information call (323) 634-0505 or email to info@aishtamid.org.

 

MORE MENSCHES

Jack and Katy Saror: Help Knows No Age

Joyce Rabinowitz: A Type Like No Other

Saul Kroll: Healing Hand at Cedars-Sinai

Jennifer Chadorchi: The Hunger to Help

Karen Gilman: What Makes Her Run?

Steven Firestein: Making Magic for Children

Yaelle and Nouriel Cohen: Kindness Starts at Home

Moshe Salem: Giving a Voice to Israelis

David Karp: A Guide for Unity in Scouting

David and Goliath and David


You want media bias? I’ll give you media bias. Here’s one big city newspaper’s account of the Israeli incursion into the Jenin refugee camp: “Jenin camp looks like the scene of a crime. Its concrete rubble and tortured metal evokes another horror half a world away in New York, smaller in scale, but every bit as repellent in its particulars.”

That’s from the London newspaper The Guardian. The Los Angeles Times, in contrast, ran a long, two-page investigation into what happened in Jenin. It reported the evidence of terrorism that led to Israel’s decision to go in. It documented the precise and risky manner by which the Israeli army chose to carry out its operation. It recounted the fear of the soldiers and refugees, the killing of innocent Palestinians (that’s part of the story) and it investigated the wildly inflated stories of Palestinian propagandists and found them lacking.

It was a good — but as Dan Gordon reveals on page 10, not perfect — report, done under difficult wartime circumstances. Along with it, the Times editorialized against Palestinian claims of the camp’s innocence. “In tiny rooms,” the editors wrote last week, “men packed gunpowder and fertilizer into canisters that some bomber would use to blow apart Israeli men, women and children.”

If that’s their Guardian, and this is our Times, why are so many Jews so enraged at the folks at First and Spring?

As Sheldon Teitelbaum reports on page 10, Jewish community anger toward the Times has only increased since The Journal’s first story on May 25, 2001 investigating the paper’s Israel coverage. The outrage peaked nearly a year later on April 22, when the Times, alone among major L.A. media outlets, neglected to report on the Israel Festival, which drew between 30,000-40,000 people to Woodley Park the previous day.

Last Sunday, a week after that festival, Times Senior Editor David Lauter presented his point of view on the controversy at a panel discussion, “The Media and Israel,” at Temple Beth Am. I was on the panel, along with Matt Chazinov. Chazinov is foreign editor of the Orange County Register and, like Lauter and me, a member of Beth Am.

But the discussion wasn’t about “the media.” It was about the Times. Lauter tried deflecting some of the criticisms up front, in an opening statement.

“We simplify,” he said. “We condense. In the interest of clarity, we sacrifice nuance.” Such is the nature of journalism, and people who know the most, and care the most, about a given subject are most likely to notice what the editors left out. A frequent omission is context and history.

“Journalism is only the first rough draft of history,” Chazinov reminded the crowd.

But they were not assuaged.

Lauter cited studies demonstrating that people who are partisan about one side or another almost always feel news coverage is slanted against their side. He said the Times fields numerous complaints of pro-Israel bias from the Arab community. “It is not possible for the coverage to be biased in both directions,” he said.

The crowd was not assuaged.

Lauter continued: Foreign correspondents are most often generalists, not regional experts. Operating under demanding conditions, buffeted by the spin from competing points of view, they work hard to balance, to fact check and verify reports. And despite their best intentions, they sometimes make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, said Lauter, but, “when we make a mistake, we publish it and show it to 2 million readers.”

The crowd brought up specifics: a subhead that used the word “vicious” to describe an Israeli action. (Lauter said that was a mistake, and the copy editor who wrote it was chastised.) A photo of a Chassidic rabbi that misrepresented the majority of people who showed up for a pro-Israel rally. (A mistake, said Lauter, and the photo editor was chastised.) The failure to cover the April 21 rally. (A big mistake, said Lauter, and the people responsible were chastised.) These mistakes and more “do not necessarily represent bias,” Lauter said. (Though I have to say there do seem to be quite a few goofs for a paper that aspires to greatness.)

Rabbi Joel Rembaum raised the question of whether Foreign Editor Simon Li wasn’t responsible for some of the least-appreciated headlines, photos and captions. Lauter said that Li, who was singled out in The Journal’s reporting on the Times last year, is a superior, dedicated editor who is simply not adept at handling readers’ complaints.

That may be true, but the end result, for many readers, is an air of aloofness and unresponsiveness surrounding the Times. People would be even more impressed, I imagine, if Times editors would come out of their compound and talk more often. In Chicago, Tribune editors held two open meetings at which Jews upset with Israel coverage voiced their complaints. Editors at the Trib’s subsidiary, the Times, have been less than forthcoming.

(At press time, The Journal learned that Li had stepped down as Times foreign editor. Former Mideast correspondent Marjorie Miller will take his place.)

If anything, said Lauter, American newspapers are biased in favor of Israel. He pointed to a sympathetic profile the Times ran in April of an Israeli woman soldier. “When was the last time you read a story [in the Times] about the bravery of a Palestinian fighter?” he asked. Editors, like the rest of us, see the world through a certain framework. The American press sees Israel as a sometimes flawed, democratic nation facing people who resort to violence and terror in their essentially just fight for nationhood, he said. “If you believe media coverage influences public opinion,” Lauter said, “it’s hard to square consistent support for Israel with allegations of media bias.”

What Lauter did not directly address was the fact that despite their pro-Israel “framework,” journalists almost always root for the underdog, and almost all have a bias against Israel’s permanent occupation of the West Bank and Gaza The bias against occupation does influence coverage — my opinion, not Lauter’s.

Nevertheless, audience members were perhaps a bit more mollified at this point. They were impressed that their specific complaints had made an impact on Times editors. Specific complaints get attention. The more general and hot-headed the gripe, Lauter said, the more likely it was to be shelved. He was referring, not too obliquely, to a litany of grievances sent to the Times by StandWithUs.

Toward the end of the discussion, one woman in the audience admitted that she preferred the old days when the press portrayed Israel as David and the Arabs were Goliath. Lauter was nonplussed. “Ninety-nine percent of the time Goliath wins,” he said. “So stick with Goliath.”