December 30, 2005

Chopping down a libel

In Welcome to the Settler Defamation League, Israel Perspectives takes (rhetorical) aim at an op-ed that accuses Jewish residents of Yehuda and Shomron of indiscriminately chopping down Palestinian owned olive trees.

The Arab claims here, have to be taken with a large degree of skepticism. A month ago when the charge was in the news, Boker Tov Boulder argued that the charge was likely phony in "Tree Huggers and Cutters." In fact the possiblity was raised that the chopping of the trees hadn't been destructive (and hadn't been done by Jews) but that it was part of the pruning process.

My own skepticism to these claims goes back to an article in the Baltimore Sun back in 1993. Doug Struck, then the Sun's reporter in Israel wrote "In West Bank, even trees fall victim Settlers vent anger on olives" and it was published Nov 17, 1993. Here's part of what Struck wrote:

According to a Palestinian group that keeps track of such things, 106,600 trees have been cut, bulldozed or uprooted, mostly by Jewish settlers, since the start of the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, six years ago.

Notice how Struck used a "Palestinian group" as his source. (Of course a number of Israeli groups would have been willing to bring this libel against residents of Yehuda and Shomron.

An astute letter writer noted:

At the beginning of his article, Mr. Struck cites aPalestinian Arab source claiming that since the intifada started, Israelisettlers have destroyed 116,600 trees. That averages to nearly 50 trees a day over six years.

The figures might be credible if Israeli settlers had no other occupation during the time. But it's ludicrous to assume that Israeli settlers have nothing better to do with their time than cut down trees. Perhaps Mr. Struck was aware of his credibility problem, for he noted, with no authentication, that his source "keeps track of such things." I thought journalists were supposed to be skeptics.

The claim is incredible and not believable. As the letter writer noted, who would have time to chop down so many trees? But the charge was against Jews and its credibility therefore didn't matter.

The name of that letter writer? David Gertsman (Yes, they spelled my name wrong.)

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Posted by SoccerDad at December 30, 2005 5:54 AM
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