An uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy
― Mahatma Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments With Truth
Recently, my city asked me to be interviewed by CTV – Canadian Television. Interviewer Paul Workman played the role of reporter and Orly Halpern played the role of producer and Israeli host.
But, throughout the hours of filming, their questions, camera angles and choice of shots ignored salient examples of coexistence like the emergency medical services that treat Jews and Arabs and is staffed by Jewish and Arab doctors and nurses; ignored the music conservatory, museum, theater, and shopping center. The entire report was evasively crafted ensure the audience would never get a comprehensive sense of the reality, scope or significance of Ma’ale Adumim.
In plain words, the angles and the journalists lied, by errors of commission and omission.
As I drove them around, I soon got the impression that Orly and Paul thought they were fooling me. I already knew that four hours of interview and footage would be drastically slashed, as in past similar interviews with other agencies which dwindled to 2-3 minutes of airtime. But I never expected to see that CTV had edited my comments down to a few non-contextual sentences, mendaciously exploited to frame the message they came to tell.
Workman and Halpern would insist “where are they building?” and when they saw the sum total of nine buildings that have been under construction for more than a year, they asked “How can we get there?” These future homes would be portrayed not as they are, but rather as a symbol of expansionism in a city that, in fact, has barely grown in the last decade because successive Israeli governments choked back construction in order to feed the concept of a “building freeze” in exchange for the Palestinians agreeing to negotiate.
So, in the end, we froze alone at the negotiating table.
The legacy media trio didn’t want to see the Ma’ale Adumim industrial area where thousands of Palestinians work every day. They didn’t want to see the medical center where Jewish and Arab doctors work; where Jews and Arabs are treated alike, or even the mall where Jews and Arabs regularly shop – together.
It was pretty obvious what Workman and Halpern wanted to show and what they wanted me to say, and his exasperation became more and more evident as he repeatedly accused me of being “evasive.” I took that as a compliment and yet, I have to admit, in the end, I was surprised. Not by what they showed, but by what they omitted.
The final edit was nothing less than a skillful hatchet job. All that they could find in what I spoke about for nearly four hours was a sentence here or a sentence there. In one egregious case, Paul actually falsely identified me and simply dubbed in his words over mine; in others, the frames were carefully cut to exclude my responses to his questions.
Truly, I have never seen anything so downright obvious. Just watch the clips. Notice how only single sentences appear, and seem to be flippant remarks? That’s because they were wrenched out of context, and carefully trimmed to omit my detailed explanations, such as why I don’t believe in the so-called “two-state solution” – something that Workman, in any case, decided was an idea I abhor – not to mention and a sentiment I never expressed.
Ma’ale Adumim is a beautiful, modern, flourishing city. But Workman tried to turn it into something else. Watch the clip, and then read below to see what I really said and what they didn’t have the professional integrity to present fairly or honestly.
Notice the illustrative graphic behind the anchorwoman? That’s not Ma’ale Adumim. The picture dates back to at least 2011 and seems to be the picture everyone grabs whenever they want to talk about settlements. However, according to a Swedish article, it isn’t even Ma’ale Adumim; it’s Modi’in Illit, a city nearly 50 kilometers away. In other words, it’s an old, inaccurate image meant to imply something that is not real. Sadly, CTV’s coverage was as false and inaccurate as the picture they deliberately chose to represent – and misrepresent – their story. What else was wrong in what she said?
- Controversial – There is nothing controversial about Ma’ale Adumim. According to a 2016 Jerusalem Post survey, at least 78 percent of all Israelis not only believe Ma’ale Adumim is an integral part of Israel, but they favor annexing the city to remove any question in future peace talks (pending a Palestinian agreement to stop the violence and begin negotiations). All American presidents (including Barack Obama) have recognized that you can’t turn the clock back 50 years because the Palestinians now claim they’ll accept borders they rejected for 70 years.
- Expansion – well, practically speaking, there is no expansion. We are a city of over 40,000 residents, and in the last few years, we have added a massive total of 93 new apartments – not whole buildings – apartments. That “expansion” doesn’t even cover natural growth, let alone adequate space for new residents.
It all came down to what he wanted the audience to know, not the facts of that he was shown. He starts with the claim that there are “big plans for this hilltop”:
- There are, in fact, big plans, but he didn’t present any of them. We’re building a movie theater above the mall, which adds on a fourth floor. In recent years, we improved the public transportation situation, and refurbished many of the children’s parks. More such changes are expected. The mayor built a lake and there are two restaurants nearby – probably more will come. There was even talk of building an amusement park beside the lake. Our annual Independence Day celebration is in a few months – so there are big plans there and fireworks.But, to Workman, the beauty, the building, the commerce, the enjoyment are nothing but a thorn in his side.
- Ma’ale Adumim has 40,000 residents, over 2,500 businesses, 500 educational facilities, 200 parks and public gardens. Workman called us a “hilltop.” We are a city, but Workman couldn’t stand referring to Ma’ale Adumim like that.
- In the opening to his comments, Workman presented but one sentence that I had said, choosing to censor my clarifying comments before and after. He “talked over” my explanation, adding in one of his more personal attacks. In the part he cut out, Workman asked if I was a settler and I answered that I was. I then explained to him that human beings are all settlers – that’s what we do. We settle into our homes – in Ma’ale Adumim, in Tel Aviv, even in London. He cut all that and accused me of being an “uncompromising settler.” There are few journalists more unethical than those who twist truth. That’s what Workman did.
What he didn’t show included:
- “Do you believe in negotiations?” I responded by asking him with whom shall we negotiate? Clearly that clip wouldn’t be included. He accused me of being evasive again. I tried again. Yes, I believe in negotiations – any time, anywhere. Israel has always come to the negotiation table, I told him.
- “What do you see as the final output?” he asked. I told him that I didn’t believe in detailing the end of a negotiation before it even began.
- He asked about “stolen land” I asked him whom he thought we stole it from? No answer, the question cut.
- I asked him why the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964 to fight an occupation that only began three years later.
- I spoke of the many compromises Israel has made for peace, and he called me uncompromising!
I referred to Ma’ale Adumim as a city. At one point, Workman turned to me and said, “you call it a city?” “No, Paul,” I answered, “I don’t call it a city – the government of Israel has called it a city since 1991.” With the exception of one reference to Ma’ale Adumim being a “small city,” he consistently referred to my home as a settlement.
Workman reported that Ma’ale Adumim was “seized” by the Israelis, not won in a defensive war. Amazingly enough, this was a claim I addressed specifically during our tour. Another piece cut because Workman wanted to push a lie. Ma’ale Adumim was not “seized” from the Jordanians. We were attacked in 1948 by Jordan when they seized the land and we were attacked by Jordan in 1967 when they lost it. History shows this, even if Workman and Halpern won’t. As Jordan conquered the land in 1948; we conquered it in 1967.
But of all the conquerors to come to this land – the Romans, the Ottomans, the British, the Jordanians – only one people can say they conquered it back, and that would be the Jewish people.
- Annexation? Actually, what is on the table is sovereignty and applying civil law to Israeli civilians, something 88% of Israelis agree with, according to the survey cited above. My city is solidly within the Israeli consensus, not controversial.
- Clearly violates international law? According to major experts on international law, Paul Workman is wrong. But apparently Workman can’t be bothered with facts. What is clear is that there are people who say the settlements violate international law and there are people who say they do not. There are highly-acclaimed lawyers on both sides. As a journalist, I would have expected Workman to present the issue, not his inaccurate conclusion. No experts addressed this issue, though there are countless and readily available sources that prove Paul Workman wrong, including:
- An article in Commentary Magazine by David M. Phillips, a Professor of Law at Northeastern University
- An article by Robert Stark, which quotes the UN Charter (which states that land cannot be acquired by an act of war – as in the Jordanians seizing the land in 1948 – and therefore, Israel did not seize the land because it was never legally Jordanian). The article further quotes Professor Julius Stone, “one of the 20th century’s leading international law experts.”
- An article about Canada’s double standard and the settlements (which got the Ma’ale Adumim picture right) written by Jason Reiskind, a specialist in international law who worked for the Department of External Affairs.
- Many other articles (including excellent work by Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz).
That CTV sent Workman and Halpern to my city and allowed them to misrepresent our interview speaks volumes about CTV. I wrote to Orly Halpern twice and asked her for a copy of the full video. Her response was that “If it hasn’t been deleted it’s in Toronto. I’ll check and get back to you.” Naturally, I’m still waiting.
Perhaps if you live in Canada, you can join me in demanding that they air a decent, representative interview.
I learned long ago that lies are – ultimately – impotent against the truth. Without question, anyone who visits Ma’ale Adumim will quickly be able to sort the lies from the truth, the thriving city from the “hilltop” Workman attempted to portray.
That CTV allows its reports to manipulate reports is a sad commentary on the television network. When truth is censored; democracy is at risk.