Netanyahu Disputes Time Report

Thursday, 20 Jan 2011 12:02 PM

By Jim Meyers

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A senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sent a letter to Time magazine’s managing editor claiming a recent Time article displayed “obvious bias and numerous distortions” about Israel.

The article, headlined “Israel’s Rightward Lurch Scares Some time,magazine,benjamin,netanyahuConservatives,” was written by Karl Vick and dated Jan. 11. It charged that “Israel’s government is more extreme than the citizenry that elected it.”

Netanyahu adviser Ron Dermer wrote to Time’s Richard Stengel: “I hope that you will agree that the article’s obvious bias and numerous distortions are not worthy of the standards of your prestigious magazine.

“Israel is depicted in the article as essentially sliding towards fascism. Your correspondent refers to Israel’s Shin Bet (the equivalent of the FBI) as a ‘secret police,’ claims that the Israeli government ‘increasingly equates dissent with disloyalty,’ and accuses the Prime Minister of ‘taking a page from neighboring authoritarian states.’”

Dermer notes that the evidence offered for offered these “outrageous allegations” includes a preliminary vote in Israel’s parliament requiring naturalized citizens to make a pledge of allegiance, a proposal to strip citizenship from Israelis convicted of espionage and terrorism, calls on Jews not to rent property to Arabs, and demonstrations demanding prohibitions of Arab boys from dating Jewish girls.

Responding to one of those allegations, Dermer writes: “Oaths of allegiance are commonplace in most democratic countries, including the United States. Naturalized citizens in America swear an oath to its Constitution and to defend the country against ‘all enemies, foreign and domestic.’ Israel’s proposed pledge would require naturalized citizens to swear an oath to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, words taken directly from our Declaration of Independence.”

Addressing another allegation, Dermer observes: “In the United States, Senator Joe Lieberman proposed a bill last year to ‘add joining a foreign terrorist organization or engaging in or supporting hostilities against the United States or its allies to the list of acts for which United States nationals would lose their nationality.’ Is American democracy threatened by such a bill?”

Dermer writes: “Finally, contrary to the implication of your correspondent, Prime Mister Netanyahu has publicly and forcefully condemned the racist sentiments that were mentioned in the article. For example, this is what the Prime Minister said at the opening of Israel’s annual Bible Quiz to an audience of mostly observant Jews a few hours after he learned of the letter calling on Jews not to rent apartments to Arabs: ‘There are non-Jews among the citizens of this country. How would we feel if someone said not to sell apartments to Jews? We would have been outraged, and indeed we are outraged when we hear such things in neighboring countries or anywhere else. Such statements should not be made, neither about Jews nor about Arabs.’

“Contrast this unequivocal condemnation by the leader of Israel to the Palestinian Authority law that mandates the death penalty for anyone who sells land to Jews. Such laws are all too common in a Middle East in which Christians are persecuted, gays are hanged in public squares and women are stoned for adultery . . .

“Israel has upheld its democratic values despite being threatened like no country on earth. In defending itself against wars of aggression, unparalleled terror campaigns and continuous promises to annihilate it, Israel has a track record on the protection of rights that would compare favorably to the record of any democracy, much less democracies under threat.”

Dermer adds: “I can assure you that no matter how biased and unbalanced your correspondents’ coverage of Israel, they will always be free here to write whatever they want. Of course, Time is also free not to print it.”

Time magazine has posted Dermer’s letter on its website.

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