Sunday, 12 November 2017

The importance of reporting all the facts

 This article was written jointly with Roger Froikin

Our dear friend Sheri Oz recently published a series of articles on the Jordan Option conference that was held in Jerusalem on October 17.

She was among those who attended the conference. Her articles were based on her personal impressions of the conference and its speakers. While Sheri's articles contained important information, perhaps they could have provided a wider perspective of the conference and its organizers. On initial impression, Sheri’s articles seemed objective as she reported the events and quoted, mostly verbatim, the person(s) she interviewed leaving the readers to draw their own conclusion.

However, a second and more careful reading of the articles seems to reflect merely one side of the issue, the one she heard at the conference and those she spoke to wished her to share with her readers.

First, contrary to what is mentioned in Sheri's articles, there was no "controversy" between the London based Jordanian asylum seeker, Mudar Zahran and the highly respected Yisraeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh. In fact, Mudar has been waging a smear campaign against Khaled Abu Toameh for several years. Second, we need to understand that such a report, as this article clearly was meant to be, will always be more influenced by those interviewed than it will be objective on an issue.

Though the article mentioned the other side, Khaled, Sheri never contacted him or gave him the right of response.

The campaign began after Zahran was booted out of Gatestone Institute. Two people who, according to Khaled Abu Toameh, have been involved in the smear campaign, Ted Belman and Rachel Avraham, are currently facing legal proceedings by law firms hired by Gatestone Institute and Khaled Abu Toameh.

It needs to be noted that Sheri's articles, though no fault of her own, were not inclusive of important information published recently about the conference and its organizers. Take, for example, the recent disclosure by Varda Epstein on Elder of Ziyon website that one of the keynote speakers, Michael Ross, is a lobbyist for the adult entertainment industry in California. Sheri's articles quote Ross, but do not make any reference to his work in the porn industry. Granted, the disclosure and exposure of Ross’s involvement in the pornography industry came out AFTER Sheri published her articles. Were Sheri to write today, however, now that Sheri knows the truth about Ross, she might want to ask herself what is the connection between porn and the conference she and others paid money to attend.

Sheri was aware of the public controversy surrounding the conference and Mudar as she has read Varda Epstein’s articles prior to writing her articles. Though I personally never detected any support of either Mudar or Belman in her article, the two twitted it as if the article praised them and their venture. Is it possible that either they or some of us might have grossly misunderstood Sheri’s intentions behind writing the article?

Recently, the Gatestone Institute issued the following Notice. Sheri was aware of it as well. Here it is:

It is important for all of us that these matters be looked at carefully and fairly and without providing half the story, half the facts. The best results come when we have all the facts with which to judge.


  1. Thank-you so much for honouring me by writing an article dedicated to my series of articles about the Jordan Is Palestine conference (which I see as being more of a “Mudar for President or Prime Minister of Jordan” Conference). You rightly note that I did not include material that came to light after I had already published my piece -- well, is that not the purpose of later pieces to pick up from where earlier pieces left off? I do not see it as my job to work with hindsight regarding things that have not yet happened. Secondly, I did not want to discuss the issue between Mudar and Khalad at all, and only raised it because Ted did at the conference and Mudar did when I later spoke to him on the phone. Since I was providing as complete a report as I saw possible within the scope of a blog post, I only thought it fair not to totally exclude what they said. I saw no reason to ask Khalad about it because he was not at all the subject of my article -- Mudar was. I am sorry if controversy is not the appropriate word for what happened. But, as I already said, it was not my goal to deal with that, nor with Mudar having been thrown out of Gatestone -- I was writing about a conference and about what makes Mudar think he can run a country.

    As you know, Batzi, from personal communications between the two of us, I have not stopped examining this particular question and I consider my research in this area to be still ongoing. I cannot write about what I have not yet found out. But I will let you know when I have more to say.

    Finally, I am not responsible for what other people see or think they see in what I write. I try to write as clearly as possible. If I err, I will re-examine what I have written and correct my errors or state why I believe that I did not err. And if you think I did not give readers a full picture of the conference, well, I did my best. Anything outside the conference I reserve for later treatment in dedicated articles of their own.

    1. Sheri,
      Thank you for your elaborate response.
      I agree that one cannot comment about issues one is not aware of at the time of writing an article.
      I felt that overall your article achieved what you set out as your goal, reporting.
      However, knowing the nature of the events that led to the conference, one would have expected the employment of a more cautious language. Naturally, since only one point of view was presented, one can expect the interested parties to interpret your article as an endorsement of their agenda even if that was not your intended goal which I personally know it was not.
      Yes, I am aware of your pursued interest in this subject and many of us, myself included, are waiting with baited breath for your next article.
      Thank you for your gracious response <3