JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin said last week’s Atlantic magazine conference on “Disinformation and the Erosion of Democracy” illustrated the problem better than its organizers could have imagined.
“If there is anything we should have learned in the last few years,” he pointed out, “it is that when legacy media use the word ‘disinformation,’ it’s often merely shorthand for political speech they don’t like or stories that make their preferred political candidates and policy prescriptions look bad.”
He said that when confronted by students about the disinformation they spread in 2020 about Hunter Biden’s laptop being a Russian plot or prior to that about former President Donald Trump colluding with Russia, “trusted” mainstream media figures had no answers other than to say say that holding them accountable for their lies was itself “disinformation.”
But as Tobin argued, this is about more than partisan score-settling.
The conference’s keynote speaker, former President Barack Obama, was a master of disinformation about his 2015 Iran nuclear deal. And the same government and media figures routinely distort the truth about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which not only makes the Jewish state less safe but also helps fuel anti-Semitism elsewhere.
Tobin was then joined by KeepJerusalem.org’s Chaim Silberstein, who discussed his efforts to reclaim Jewish property in the Shimon HaTzadik and Nahalat Shimon neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The international media commonly refers to these Jewish neighborhoods as Sheikh Jarrah and asserts that they are occupied Palestinian land. But as he pointed out, the Arabs who currently live there are squatters who have not paid rent and have no right to these homes.
“The world has swallowed this story hook, line and sinker in every news item you read,” said Silberstein.
Explaining the history of the dispute, he noted how the Jewish inhabitants were forced to flee their homes in 1948 because of the Jordanian invasion. But even after Israel united Jerusalem, the Arab squatters have been allowed to stay because the Israeli courts and government are afraid of stirring up controversy.
In his efforts to reclaim these properties, Silberstein has had some success but more obstacles. The Israeli Supreme Court’s efforts to propose compromise solutions has allowed this erosion of Jewish sovereignty and rights to continue.
Silberstein argued that if Israel fails to defend its sovereignty in Jerusalem, it will only encourage more Palestinian intransigence and encourage them to continue to hope for the Jewish state’s destruction.
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