Separating myths from facts in the Middle East

Separating myths from facts in the Middle East

Israeli-born activist wields a busy pen in fighting ‘lies’

Eli Hertz, chair of CAMERA, has been campaigning for many years against what he sees as media lies and distortions about Israel.
Eli Hertz, chair of CAMERA, has been campaigning for many years against what he sees as media lies and distortions about Israel.

Eli Hertz is fighting the war of words. Through his own organization, Myths and Facts, and as chair of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, or CAMERA, he wields the pen — or more often the computer — to counteract what he sees as an onslaught of media distortions about Israel.

Chief among these distortions, he says, are contentions that Jews have no legitimate claims to the Holy Land.

“I have more than 25,000 documents from British archives,” said Hertz. And although he has a long way to go to read all of them, he said, he has read enough to prove how, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the major powers divided the Middle East, providing land for the Arabs and land for the Jews.

“These are not things that I imagined; they gave us legal rights,” he said.

“Whose Land Is It?” will be the subject of his talk on May 26 at Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim in Cranford. The event is sponsored by the Israel Support Committee of the Cranford temple, Congregation Beth Israel in Scotch Plains, Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah in Clark, and Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, and is open to the public.

An Israeli based in New York, Hertz heads a company specializing in work environments. The Boston-based CAMERA has a staff of 30. Through Myths and Facts, working just with his three grown children, Hertz was sent out some 22,000 in-depth rebuttals. (Hertz’s group is not related to the book Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict, written by Mitchell Bard and produced since 2002 by the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise.)

“It’s very tough, but I work with very good people,” he told NJ Jewish News. He was speaking on the phone while on a visit to Israel, and at midnight he was still engaged in his fact-correcting work.

Hertz said CAMERA has managed to make many journalists more careful about their accuracy through its barrage of researched and sourced corrections. “You don’t do well with your publisher if three or four times they hear that you had the wrong information,” he said. “It puts you out of business.”

Myths and Facts takes a longer view than yesterday’s headlines to examine the historical disputes about the Middle East.

Hertz sets his case in his book, This Land Is My Land, Mandate for Palestine, published in 2006 and updated in 2008. He said the Israeli government provides the work to foreign journalists covering the country. In 2005 he wrote Reply, a response to the International Court of Justice’s 2004 ruling that challenged the legality of the security barrier separating Israel and the West Bank.

Much of the trouble comes from the choice of words, Hertz said, including “wall” instead of “fence,” or “occupation” to describe the Israeli presence in disputed areas.

“It’s getting worse,” Hertz said, “because the Palestinian Arabs think that the more they bluff and lie, the better it works, and the media supports that. We have to fight it.”

Israel Support Committee chair Conrad Nadell said he has known Hertz for more than 20 years, from the time they were both in the computer business.

“Like most people, I was troubled by the conflicting claims of both the Jews and Arabs to the same lands,” Nadell said. “Although I felt pretty knowledgeable about the history of Jewish claims to the land, his research brought out facts I was unaware of. Eli put together the historical and legal issues in a clear and easily understandable manner.”

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