Why I spent the start of Hanukkah in Israel and what I learned, Part One of Three

A Facebook post caught my eye. Honest Reporting–a group I didn’t know much about–was planning an 8-day “mission” in Israel starting three days before Hanukkah. When it became apparent that neither of my offspring nor my grandchildren would be around for Hanukkah this year, I took a deeper look. The program looked very interesting and with my wife’s consent, I signed up.

What’s Honest Reporting and what is an HR mission?

Honest Reporting is dedicated to combatting media bias in the coverage of Israel by English-language media. One of their activities for the past 15 years has been to invite people to Israel to get a close-up look at the country, the people and the issues–what they call “missions”.  

There was another factor in my decision-making process. I had just read and reviewed two books that document media bias in the coverage of Judaism, Zionism and Israel at the New York Times. (My review of Laurel Leff’s analysis of the Times coverage of the Holocaust years can be found here, and here’s the link to my review of Jerold Auerbach’s detailed examination of the Times treatment of Zionism and Israel from 1896 to 2016.)

Long-story-short, I didn’t have to be convinced that bias is pervasive in the coverage of Israel in the most read, listened to, and watched media. Rather, I wanted to see up-close whether Honest Reporting was having any success combatting it.

It turns out they are. Their editorial staff monitors the media daily and reacts if they see something problematic whether it’s an “honest” mistake, a misunderstanding or the result of sloppy journalism, such as relying on biased sources.

Here’s an example of a story they challenged: During the 2014 Gaza War, the New York Times and others reported casualty figures issued by the Gaza Health Ministry without informing readers that the Health Ministry is not some neutral bureaucratic entity. Rather, it’s part of Hamas, the terrorist group that governs Gaza, and they were inflating the casualties to play into their false narrative that Israel was killing innocent women and children.

Honest Reporting has a solid track record at getting corrections when they communicate their concerns to reporters, bureau chiefs, headline writers or whomever is involved in producing the offending information. Often, even when the offending outlet doesn’t post a correction, they find the reporters do a better job when they know someone is watching what they write.

In addition to monitoring the news, Honest Reporting has a division called MediaCentral that takes reporters to meet people whose viewpoint they feel is worth hearing. While we were in Israel, I saw an article in the Jerusalem Post that credited MediaCentral for alerting them to a story worth covering.

All of Honest Reporting’s information feeds are free to access. I recommend signing up for IsraBite News—a 6-day-a-week email that can help you stay on top of news related to Israel and the Middle East. It also contains videos they’ve produced that help people understand the big questions as well as links to opinion pieces they find worth reading.

If you’re a social media junkie, you’ll be happy to learn Honest Reporting monitors social media and uses social media channels to counteract bias.

That will have to do as an overview. I’ll go into what the “mission” I attended was all about in a follow-up post and conclude this series with insights and advice offered by Honest Reporting staffers.


2 Responses to Why I spent the start of Hanukkah in Israel and what I learned, Part One of Three

  1. Barbara Naglie December 30, 2019 at 6:29 pm #

    Excellent commentary Peter. It was a pleasure to spend the week together with all the other participants and The Honest Reporting staff. Barbara and Harvey Naglie

  2. Esther Beck December 30, 2019 at 9:35 pm #

    We support HR just because of what you posted here.

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