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The Jewish Report Editorial

Getting to the critical, elusive truth

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What’s true and what’s not? This is getting really confusing. I feel the need to check everything I read or hear because there seems to be so much fake news out there. Even what would appear to be reliable sources don’t always seem to get it right.

Yes I know, coming from a journalist and the editor of a newspaper, this could be worrying for our readers. The truth is: I find it distressing. Having said that, we at the SA Jewish Report ensure that we check and check again. I know you expect it from us, and I’m grateful for that.

What you don’t know about are the stories that have fallen by the wayside because we haven’t been able to prove them. Rather than take the chance of getting it wrong or publishing fake news, we let them go or hold them over until we have proof or proper corroboration.

If every story was a page, we would have a mountain of pages on our newsroom floor of stories we don’t publish. It’s sometimes disheartening for journalists who have put their heart and soul into getting that story for you when it doesn’t stand up to the truth test. We don’t take chances, and we do our utmost to avoid errors. But errors sometimes unwittingly find their way into our newspaper.

This week, someone wrote to us to ask “what has happened to the standard of journalism” as she pointed out that we had the word “infinity” when it should have been “affinity” in a sentence. She was right. We made a mistake, and we apologised.

This week, we were going to lead the newspaper with a story about an alleged Jewish multi-billionaire who was about to give South Africa a lot of his money, but decided to withhold the funds because the president made anti-Israel statements. We picked the story up in a reputable Israeli newspaper.

We even managed to get a copy of the letter that was allegedly sent to the president, and it was fairly convincing, not least of all considering that those who also got a copy of it were in important positions in the United States government. It was an astonishing story and so convincing.

However, our exceptional journalist on the story, Tali Feinberg, had a hunch that there was something amiss. Ultimately, we learned that the man was a fraud and received articles to prove it.

Suffice to say, I’m still not 100% sure either way. If the man is a fraudster, he’s really good at covering his tracks. Either way, we are still digging.

If it’s 100% fake, what was the person behind it trying to achieve? Think about it? If you weren’t Jewish and you didn’t love Israel, what would you think of a Jewish person who decides to withhold money that he had promised to our economy because he wanted to “force” the president to be kinder to Israel? There’s a good chance it would reinforce antisemitic stereotypes, don’t you think? So, who was behind it? Watch this space!

Then, this week, Facebook removed a post that went viral, getting about 25 000 views. It was said to include an Israeli soldier kneeling on a Palestinian child’s head, reminiscent of the George Floyd saga – only worse as this was a child. The words that went with it were: “An Israeli soldier kills a Palestinian child and the world has not moved for him[.] Share the picture until it rotates in the world to show the Zionist brutality in Palestine.”

It turns out that if you look carefully, you can see it isn’t an Israeli soldier at all, but a Chilean soldier. What’s more, it’s not the first time this photograph has gone viral under the guise of being an Israeli soldier. It happened in July 2020 and before that. The photograph was apparently taken in 2016 in Chile. This was pure fake news with the clear agenda of communicating how violent and vile Israel and its people are.

There are so many such ‘fake’ photographs, particularly with wounded children, out there to make Israel look bad. It’s a clever tactic, unfortunately, because it works.

Flip that around, and just how many factual stories aren’t being told for fear of what they might lead to? There is a great deal of fear out there, and people who prefer to stay under the radar, not wanting to make the news.

We were told that following the protest outside Beyachad two weekends ago, there was a Hatzolah ambulance that was taking an elderly lady to the hospital. They needed to hurry for her sake.

Allegedly, they got caught up in the anti-Israel protest, which slowed them down, but then managed to get onto the highway. This should have been their chance to get to the hospital fast, only people from the protest in large cars allegedly prevented them from take their offramp and causing distress.

We believed this story to be true because if it was, the community and the world should know what certain people are willing to do to us while still insisting that it is Israel and the Jewish nation that are bad. However, as long as nobody was willing to corroborate it, we couldn’t tempt fate by publishing the story without it.

Again, if it was made up, it could have been much more elaborate and exciting, but if it wasn’t, we should be publishing it. However, it’s impossible to force people to speak, even off the record.

I’m saying that, even as a reader, you should check the source of the story. Not every journalist is as ethical as ours. And not every story is as it seems.

I wish you all a great month of June.

Shabbat Shalom!

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Diana Finzi

    Jun 3, 2021 at 8:48 pm

    Hi Peta, thanks for the very interesting SA Jewish report. The articles and issues presented are relevant to South africans whether living in SA or Israel. I have been in Israel for the past 30 years and so value the support of SA Jewry.

    I , however, feel the need to comment on the article written by Paula Slier in which she presents the possible future government in Israel and its leaders. I am not a supporter of Naftali Bennet /Yamina but believe that he deserves to be depicted in a more general way than what she has written. Bennet has had a distinguished military career and is a highly successful entrepreneur. What is needed is the building of bridges to heal the fractured society left by Netanyahu. In all the reader is left with a negative and gloomy impression of the new government before it has even begun.

    What I would like to request is that a more balanced picture is presented of both Bennet and Lapid. They may be the leaders in the next while and I would like my fellow South Africans to draw their own conclusions as to who these people are.

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