Honest Reporting in Global Media — Daniel Pomerantz
Honest Reporting in Global Media — Daniel Pomerantz
An entire organization grew from a small mailing list … HonestReporting is an NGO that’s grown exponentially over the past two decades. Today, the mailing list is 100,000 strong. And CEO Daniel Pomerantz helps his organization separate fact from fiction in global media. In this episode, he discusses how HonestReporting combats fake news — and its false depiction of Israel — with host Charles Mizrahi.
- An Introduction to Dan Pomerantz (00:00:00)
- The Photo That Started It All (00:04:37)
- Reporting Gone Wrong (00:13:06)
- Context is Crucial (00:23:01)
- Reframing the Narrative (00:27:50)
- Speaking Across the Aisle (00:38:31)
- The Future of Journalism (00:42:52)
- Analyzing Conflicting Sources (00:48:49)
After working as an attorney in the U.S., Daniel Pomerantz embraced a new calling. As the CEO of HonestReporting, Pomerantz helps ensure his organization practices truthful reporting and exposes the biases, misinformation and prejudice that plague global media — particularly as it impacts Israel.
In addition, Pomerantz serves as an on-air law expert and on the adjunct faculty at the Interdisciplinary Center University (IDC). At IDC, he advises the schools of entrepreneurship and management.
Before You Leave:
DAN POMERANTZ: There was a headline in NBC News: “Israeli police shoot to death Palestinian woman in Jerusalem’s Old City. What the headline doesn’t say is that, at the time, she was stabbing people.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: My guest today is Dan Pomeranz. Dan is the CEO of HonestReporting – an NGO that monitors the media for bias against Israel. HonestReporting was started by Jewish, British university students at the onset of the Second Intifada in the early 2000s. It was founded as an email list after a skewed news report in the New York Times showed a bleeding boy near a Israeli soldier who was yelling and waving a club. The caption read: “An Israeli Policeman and a Palestinian on Temple Mount.”
CHARLES MIZRAHI: The picture depicted the Israelis as aggressors against Palestinian children. It was used in the Palestinian Information Center website and online calls to boycott Coca-Cola for doing business with Israel. In fact, the picture was of an American Jewish boy being saved by Israeli soldiers from a lynch mob in an Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I recently sat down with Dan, and we talked about how HonestReporting combats the false depiction of Israel in the media and the challenges it faces while trying to push back on fake news.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Dan, thanks so much for coming on the show. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. And I just want to tell you upfront: I’ve been a long-term subscriber to HonestReporting. I think I’ve been a subscriber for close to 20 years.
DAN POMERANTZ: My pleasure, Charles. That’s so wonderful to hear. We really appreciate it. We have a lot of followers who have been loyal for a very long time. And that means a lot to hear. So, I’m glad we get to meet.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah, same here. Before we get into the photo that started it all — which I think is going to be really important — HonestReporting is an organization that was built 20 years ago to combat fake news. Fake news is what everyone knows about in the last four to five years. There’s no question about it. But you folks were some of the original pioneers who went up against Big Media and the fake news it was disseminating — specifically about Israel during the Intifada.
DAN POMERANTZ: Yeah, we were doing it before it was cool. Lately, the term “fake news” has become politicized. But if you just ignore the politics for a moment and think about what the word means, we all know it’s a problem these days. And it’s a problem that goes far beyond Israel. It’s sort of like that old expression: “What starts with the Jews doesn’t end with the Jews.” Or, there’s that old poem: “At first, I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t the Jew. And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t this. And then, they came for me, and there was nobody left to speak up.”
DAN POMERANTZ: I’m not trying to be quite as dire as that. But the truth is we saw this coming 21 years ago. We knew it was a problem then, and the problem has only gotten worse and spread.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Right. And in this case, people’s lives are being lost. People have been killed as fake news has persisted throughout the past two decades — and probably even longer. It’s demonizing Israel and the Israeli people [despite] the realities on the ground.
DAN POMERANTZ: There’s a dire problem here. This isn’t just talk, propaganda or ideas that people have. Terrorist organizations are watching the news closely. When they score a PR victory, they know they get real gains from that. It influences policy. It influences countries’ positions in stopping Israel’s self-defense. It influences the [organizations’] ability to oppress their own people. As hard as it is to be an Israeli facing terrorism, I have to admit that it’s much harder to be a Palestinian in Gaza. They’re living under the PA and those governments.
DAN POMERANTZ: And every time they score a PR victory, it’s bad for Israelis. It’s bad for Palestinians. They know that. So, it really makes a difference. And when you take the opposite approach, if you hold them accountable and make every one of their acts visible for what they are — which is harmful, dangerous and nightmarish — then it decreases the incentive that they have to continue doing it. So, the news makes a difference in terms of making our world a better — or worse — place.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Perfect. Well said. We just passed the 21-year anniversary of the photo that started it all. I’m going to put a link down in the podcast description of where listeners can find this photo. I don’t want to spill the beans. I want you to describe it and explain how it started HonestReporting. We can go from there.
DAN POMERANTZ: In this photo, you see a picture of a policeman holding a club over his head. Down at his feet is a kid who has blood dripping all over his face. And the caption reads: “An Israeli policeman and a Palestinian on the Temple Mount.” It got published by The Associated Press — which means it got picked up everywhere.
DAN POMERANTZ: Most notably, it got picked up by the New York Times, but it was picked up in publications all over the world. And then, the kid’s father saw it. The kid was not Palestinian. He was a Jewish American boy who was in Israel to study in yeshiva. He’s from Chicago. His name is Tuvia Grossman. His father saw his own son being portrayed as a Palestinian in this photo.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Hang on a second. This photo was on the front page of the New York Times — above the fold.
DAN POMERANTZ: That’s correct. And it had that caption.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: As you listen to this podcast, I want you to look at this picture — stop the podcast now and click on the link. Or, look at it right afterwards. You really don’t get a sense of what this picture depicted and how you would have been furious if it were true. It was depicted as an Israeli beating up a Palestinian kid — for no reason — on the Temple Mount. Keep that in mind as Dan continues.
DAN POMERANTZ: By the way, there was a gas station in the background of the photo. Anybody who knows anything about Jerusalem knows that there’s not a gas station on the Temple Mount. There’s the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock — not a gas station. From that alone — I’m a big fan of critical thinking. People always ask me: “How can I tell if the news is true”? Or, they’ll ask: “Which source should I trust?” And I always say: “It’s not about the source. It’s about using the tools you have to look at any source and ask yourself: ‘Does something seem off here?'”
DAN POMERANTZ: The moment you see a gas station on the Temple Mount, you know that whoever wrote the caption knows less than nothing about Jerusalem. That’s not a spelling mistake. You have to not know what’s going on. So, that’s the first problem you see. Then, you wouldn’t know that Tuvia Grossman was a Jewish kid from Chicago unless you happened to be his father.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Let me build this up for those who are driving to work or not looking at this picture. Let me add a little more color to it. The photo is above the fold. It’s around three or four columns wide. And it’s from September 30th, 2000 — right at the start of the Second Intifada. It was before suicide bombers were walking into pizza parlors or buses and blowing up Israelis — and anyone around them. Children, women and men — it was horrific! Absolutely horrific.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, this photo is in color. It shows a kid who’s petrified out of his mind. He’s in a white shirt that’s stained with blood. And an Israeli policeman is holding a club at a right angle above his head. And [the policeman] is shouting. That’s the picture that [circulates] throughout the world. Now, tell us what’s actually happening in this photo.
DAN POMERANTZ: This is an evocative photo. The kid was sitting there and looking horrified — with blood on his face. The police officer was standing there with a baton above his head. It looked like the policeman was just beating the kid with the baton. What actually happened was this Jewish kid had been pulled from his taxi by a mob of Palestinians who were worked up and trying to do something violent. They beat him. They probably would have beat him to death.
DAN POMERANTZ: But then, the police officer comes. And the police officer’s name is Officer Safadi. He’s a Druze guy. Now, if you don’t know who the Druze people are, they have their own culture and religion. Their main language is Arabic. They’re not Muslim, but they do sometimes self-identify as Arab. Sometimes, they don’t.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: But they’re definitely not Jewish. There’s no question about that.
DAN POMERANTZ: They’re definitely not Jewish. And if they’re not Arab, they’re certainly very close to the Arab culture. And that’s significant because the New York Times said that an Israeli — presumably a Jew — beat a Palestinian Arab. In reality, it was an Arab — or someone close to being culturally Arab — protecting an American Jew from Palestinians.
DAN POMERANTZ: The point I always like to make is: This is not about Jews versus Arabs. This is not about Israelis versus Palestinians. It’s about people who care about peace and coexistence standing up against people who want to destroy those things. And that’s what that picture showed.
DAN POMERANTZ: That was actually one of the most hopeful, optimistic messages for our world that you could see. And it’s said that Israel was a source of a hopeful, optimistic message. People of all religions and cultures were standing together against violence and terror. The New York Times decimated that message and reversed it with utter fiction.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: OK, so this picture goes throughout the world. As you mentioned, The Associated Press takes it and circulates it everywhere. And this is now the face of Palestinian oppression in Jerusalem. Israeli policemen are beating Palestinian kids. You couldn’t get worse than that.
DAN POMERANTZ: For years afterwards, the photo was used by Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. It has been all over the Arab world. Long after it was debunked, it continued to be used as a symbol of Palestinian oppression. You can imagine how Tuvia feels about that.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Right. An American Jewish kid is the symbol of Israeli horror — masquerading as an Arab. It’s hysterical. The New York Times did a great service. OK, so the New York Times puts this out there. There’s no HonestReporting at the time. Is that right?
DAN POMERANTZ: That’s correct.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, a bunch of Jewish, British university students started a mailing list?
DAN POMERANTZ: Yeah, that’s right. This was before social media. There was no such thing as putting it up in a place where everyone could share it. So, they did what they could. They started an email list to try to get attention and get people engaged. You told me that you were in New York at the time, right?
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah.
DAN POMERANTZ: And people were printing it out?
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah. There were still holdouts in 2000 for email, right? There were still people dialing up — using modems. I remember that in synagogue on Friday nights, they told you to sign up. Some people said: “I don’t have an email address” — or what have you. So, they printed out the picture and commentary.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: If you didn’t know what this was, you would say: “Oh my gosh. How could this be happening in Israel?” Then, as weeks went by and the organization started — I remember a 2002 a suicide bombing that was horrendous. It was everywhere. So many people were dying in terrible ways. HonestReporting was printed out each week and pointed to the inaccuracies in the media and the distortion of what was actually happening.
DAN POMERANTZ: Yeah. An entire organization grew from that mailing list. And now, we’ve got a mailing list with 100,000 people on it. We’ve got a staff of 20. We’ve got a headquarters in Jerusalem and offices in Tel Aviv and New York. We’ve done a lot of work since then. And it makes a difference. Journalists used to outright lie or get facts wrong. But now that we’ve started being diligent — it’s grassroots. We put out our critique, and all of our followers respond and write letters to the editor. They could get hundreds or thousands of letters.
DAN POMERANTZ: And they started changing their tactics. Then, they started telling half-truths or saying something that was technically true but very misleading. And then, we started finding ways to catch them.
DAN POMERANTZ: Now, we have a sophisticated software to analyze the long-term trends and see what they’re leaving out — which is another technique. They might not say something that they should be saying. I find that encouraging because it shows me that they know we’re watching and can have an impact on their reputations and credibility. That’s the one thing journalists care about. Credibility is all that they have.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Credibility is all that they have. Yet, in the battle against terrorism, it seems that there are so many inaccurate stories that call terrorists “freedom fighters.” If four people died in a suicide bombing — and two of them happened to be suicide bombers — they would say that four people died in the suicide bombing. There are inflated numbers and a whole bunch of other things that you can definitely shed more light on.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: If a journalist’s reputation is everything, why are they willing to risk it by printing half-truths? Do they not know them to be half-truths? Or, did they mess up while rushing to meet a deadline? Is there a plan, or is this a one-off?
DAN POMERANTZ: That’s a really good question. And the answer is that when we talk about the media, we’re talking about hundreds of companies that employ thousands of people. And people are different. Some people are anti-Semites. That exists. In fact, we exposed a couple of them this year. A woman was fired from the BBC when we exposed that she had been tweeting: “Hitler was right.” And this is a woman who was assigned to cover Israel during the Gaza conflict in May. Of all things to assign someone to, if they’re an anti-Semite, you’d think: “Don’t assign them to Israel.”
DAN POMERANTZ: Some journalists are trying to do the right thing and they’re just misinformed. Some want to get the Pulitzer Prize. Some journalists — and this is the part that I have the biggest problem with — feel like their job is to go out there, change the world and be a voice for the voiceless. The job of a journalist is to provide reliable information to people like you and me so that we can read the story and come to our own well-informed conclusions. It’s not about pushing an agenda.
DAN POMERANTZ: Now, if you have an agenda, that’s can be an admirable thing. Join an advocacy organization. Have your agenda, but be honest about it. I compare it to a surgeon. Doctors in Israel — and all over the world — take pride in the idea that if someone comes into their emergency room, it doesn’t matter if they’re a terrorist or a terrorist’s victim. They’ll treat everybody the same.
DAN POMERANTZ: And then, after the emergency surgery, there are courts, judges and lawyers to work out the rest. Doctors take great pride in that — as they should. If a doctor were to say: “Well, I assume this guy on my operating table is a terrorist. I haven’t gone to court and figured out all the facts, but I think he’s a bad guy. So, I’m going to go ahead and kill him.” That’s basically the equivalent of a journalist saying: “I know who the good and bad guys are, so I’m going to twist the story in order to make a point.” There are journalists who definitely do that.
DAN POMERANTZ: I was speaking to a journalism class recently. It was a class of international journalists who came to the IDC University in Israel. I asked: “Why are you guys going into journalism?” Some of them said: “I want to make a difference in the world and change life for people who are underrepresented.” And I said: “That’s admirable, but it’s not journalism.”
DAN POMERANTZ: And there’s another story that’s very telling. Do you know how the phrase “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” came about? A lot of people don’t know the story. It actually happened on 9/11. It may not have been the first time that someone said it, but it was the first time it became popularized. The Associated Press refused to call the 9/11 hijackers “terrorists.” And when they were asked about it, the president of AP said: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
DAN POMERANTZ: But what was even more telling was that another top executive from the Associated Press said: “We’ve got journalists all over the world. And if we say something that angers the people in the countries that they’re in, it could put their lives in danger.” Now, on a superficial level, it sounds like a very responsible corporate executive is saying: “I care about the safety of my employees.” But on a deeper level, this is someone who runs a global journalism organization. News from the AP gets to almost every newspaper you read. The New York Times, CNN — everyone takes from the AP.
DAN POMERANTZ: In no uncertain terms, this top executive was saying: We are willing to compromise the accuracy of our journalism — depending on who threatens us the most. He didn’t say in those words, but that’s what he said. If our journalists are unsafe in a certain place, we’re going to change what we write about to make our journalists safe. Perhaps, that’s responsible on a human level. But again, it’s not journalism.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And even in the Palestinian territories — as well as Gaza — I remember that, after 9/11, the Palestinian Authority was threatening a journalist from covering celebrations and the handing out of sweets after the World Trade Center came down. Yasser Arafat was making sure that none of that information got out — while the Palestinians were handed out sweets as if it was a happy occasion.
DAN POMERANTZ: There are a couple of things that journalists need. One is safety. The other is access. Sometimes, you don’t even have to threaten a journalist. You just have to say: If you don’t write what I like, I’m going to kick you out of the country. You think back to the days of people like Dan Rather — and the classics of journalism. After they went to the Soviet Union, they would come out and say: “This report has been censored by the Soviet censor.”
DAN POMERANTZ: And then, during the Gulf War in 1991, there was an interview with Saddam Hussein. They came out and said: “Our interview has gone through Saddam Hussein’s censors.” Sometimes, you can’t do the most complete reporting because there are restrictions. But you should let your viewers know that so they can evaluate the information in the most accurate way.
DAN POMERANTZ: But like I was saying, there are a lot of people who feel like they’re out there on a mission. They think they know what’s right. And if the facts create cognitive dissonance for them, they try to ignore them or sweep them under the rug because they feel like they’re trying to make a difference — trying to tell a certain narrative — rather than a true story. The world is a complicated place. It takes time and thought to understand it. You can’t parachute into Israel, and in the course of a day, be ready to report with any kind of accuracy. You’ve got to really listen.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Do you find that the reporters who report distorted information — that is sometimes fed to them from Palestinian sources and Arab terrorist organizations — are naive? Or, do they not have the experience to realize what kinds of complicated neighborhoods they’re reporting on.
DAN POMERANTZ: You get a little of both. Some are naive. Some realize that if they take an anti-Israel approach, they’ll get more accolades from their peers and colleagues. But there are definitely people who think they understand the situation and they’re doing good. There was a story where some journalists interviewed the mother of a terrorist. The terrorist had been killed while carrying out an attack. Now, they went to this mother’s house, and she was crying. She was upset and talking about how she lost her only son. It was her only son.
DAN POMERANTZ: It’s emotionally heart-wrenching to sit there with a mother who lost her son. Regardless of why her son died, those are a mother’s tears. That’s a very human thing. But you have to do the work and research to realize: If her son hadn’t been carrying out a terrorist attack, he might not have died. Or if the police officer who shot him hadn’t, then he would have potentially killed many other people.” There was a headline today. I’m going to pull this up on my phone. It wasn’t today. It was from three days ago. I don’t know when this podcast is going to air. But this week — while we’re shooting this episode — is the anniversary of the photo that started it all. In this same week, there was a headline in NBC News: “Israeli police shoot to death Palestinian woman in Jerusalem’s Old City. What the headline doesn’t say is that, at the time, she was stabbing people.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: OK, let me let me stop you there.
DAN POMERANTZ: Yeah.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I don’t want to be paranoid. And I don’t want to think the whole world is against me. But why was the context not given in that headline — in your opinion?
DAN POMERANTZ: It’s a funny thing. When you talk to journalists, their first response will often be: “The headline is technically true.” And it is technically true. But it leaves out —
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, 9/11 was a plane crash. Technically, it was a plane crash, right?
DAN POMERANTZ: Yeah. Technically, it was a plane crash. Technically, the headline could read: “19 Saudi men killed in a plane crash.” Or, you could even say that the World Trade Center knocked down their plane. It got in its way.
DAN POMERANTZ: I think you have people who have a sense of what’s clickbait, popular and hot. And I think that some journalists have this sense of being — they’ve grown up on the idea that Israel must be evil because it’s larger. Or, Israel is evil because somebody told them that. They become inherently suspicious of Israel and think: “Maybe this woman was stabbing people. But maybe not. And I don’t trust what I’m hearing.” Or, she was stabbing people, but maybe she had a good reason. She has been oppressed all her life. But the important thing is that Israel is being oppressive, and that’s the story I have to tell. And the fact that she was stabbing people gets in the way of this good story.”
DAN POMERANTZ: There’s only one way I can explain it. Many years ago, a friend of mine got into conspiracy theories. She posted something on Facebook about how the United States spends so much more money on defense than education. She had a big graph that showed defense spending was really high and education spending was really low. I checked it out and realized that she was just looking at federal education spending and not state education spending. If you add up the spending in all the states, it’s actually a much larger number.
DAN POMERANTZ: I said to her: “I agree with you. I think we should spend more on education. But the figure you have is not true because the United States — as a whole country — actually spends more than that.” And she said these words: “It doesn’t matter. The point is too important. We have to make the point so that people will listen.” And I thought to myself: “You just told me — to my face — that because you believe in your point, you’re willing to lie to make it.” And she honestly felt like she was being a good human being. It’s so important to get education spending awareness on people’s minds that it doesn’t even matter if I lie a little bit to get there.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, the means justify the end — regardless. All right, so it’s not 100% true. But it still is, and I want to make a point. There’s no line between truth and reality. You start with the arrow and then paint the bull’s eye.
DAN POMERANTZ: For many people, it is that way. Because this is my job, I have to understand it. Because my goal is to make a difference in the world and move the needle in journalism. I have to understand that many people genuinely think this way. They honestly believe it.
DAN POMERANTZ: I’ve been in debates with senior members of the PLO Central Committee. I was in a debate with Omar Barghouti — the founder of BDS. And I honestly find it easier and pleasant to be in debates with people like that because they know exactly what they’re doing. They know what Israel is all about. Omar Barghouti — who believes in boycotting Israel — got his degree from the University of Tel Aviv. He said: “It’s an apartheid state.” He got a degree here. So, he knows — and these guys all know. So, they’re playing their games.
DAN POMERANTZ: When I’m on TV with them, my job is to expose them. On an emotional level, I’m OK with that conversation. What’s hard for me is when I’m talking to someone who has drunk the Kool-Aid and really believes that they’re doing something that makes the world a better place. They really believe that lying, twisting the truth or hiding facts makes the world a better place. Oddly enough, there are people who believe that. But once you speak to people like that, you find that that emotion is really deep.
DAN POMERANTZ: In everybody’s personal movie, they’re the hero. Nobody’s the bad guy in the movie of their own life. So, you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and ask: “In what way does this person think that he or she is doing good in the world?” If you can find that point, then maybe you have a chance of communicating with them and moving the needle.
DAN POMERANTZ: Sometimes, we do. Sometimes, we can talk them through and get them to come around. But sometimes, we have to put public pressure on them. And then, when they see that the thing they wrote has caused them a certain amount of humiliation, then they’ll step back. But whether it’s through the positive way or the pressured way, you have to reach people in their headspaces.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Israel’s defense was never not a bipartisan issue. Both sides of the aisle were for Israel’s defense and supplying it with military equipment — especially the Iron Dome.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Most recently, House Democrats passed a budget bill that took out a billion dollars in emergency funding for Israel’s Iron Dome. When they shoot rockets from Gaza to Israeli population centers, the Iron Dome sends missiles and blows them up.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: OK, they’re not 100% accurate. They’re not going to knock down every [rocket]. But the majority of them are, and it saves tens of thousands of lives. Over the past couple of weeks, eight Democrats voted against this — which was never an issue. AOC voted “present” and cried hysterically — or made it look like she was pretty sad about this.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: When Rashida Talib tweets out something to the effect of: “We must stop enabling Israel’s human rights abuses and apartheid government” — how does HonestReporting take that, shed some light on what’s happening and tell the public that they’re not seeing all the facts?
DAN POMERANTZ: The thing about the Iron Dome is that it’s a purely defensive system. It cannot do anything other than protect people. And it doesn’t just protect Israelis. Without the Iron Dome, Israel would have to escalate, go into Gaza on foot and cause more casualties. So, this saves Palestinians.
DAN POMERANTZ: During one of the recent wars, I got caught outside. During a war, when they fire rockets at us, you hear air raid sirens. Then, you have to run to the nearest bomb shelter. If you’re anywhere in a city and near a building, there’s one you can get to.
DAN POMERANTZ: But every once in a while, you get caught out in a field, by a road or somewhere where you don’t have a place to go. When that happens, you have to lay down on the ground — face-down — and interlace your fingers over the back of your head. If there’s a direct hit on you, you’re dead. But if something explodes near you, the danger becomes shrapnel — and shrapnel tends to fly in an upward trajectory. So, if you get yourself low to the ground and cover your face, you might not get hit by shrapnel.
DAN POMERANTZ: While I’m lying there — by the side of the road, with my face in the ground and my hands linked behind my head — I’m thinking to myself: “It’s entirely possible that Israel knew about this particular rocket-launching device but chose not to blow it up because there were Palestinian civilians nearby.” This happens frequently. Israel will spot it, but a civilian is nearby, so they don’t destroy it. It was possible that they didn’t destroy this one, and it kept firing.
DAN POMERANTZ: Every time that happens, Israel has to decide. “If I blow this thing up, I might harm a Palestinian civilian. But if I don’t blow it up, it keeps firing at Israeli civilians. And I’m a civilian, too. And right now, I’m lying on the ground hoping I don’t get hit by a missile or shrapnel.” That’s because we, as Israelis, will risk our lives to save Palestinians.
DAN POMERANTZ: The Iron Dome helps with that. If you have the Iron Dome, you can shoot these things out of the sky. If you don’t have the Iron Dome, you have to go in and destroy these rocket launchers — or Israeli civilians will die. Terrorist organizations build them in schools, mosques, kindergartens and U.N. facilities. They do that on purpose to make them harder to destroy — or to get a PR victory if Israel does destroy them. Because then, the story doesn’t become “Israel destroyed an offensive weapon.” It becomes: “Israel killed children in a kindergarten classroom.”
DAN POMERANTZ: By the way, that brings us back to the idea that terrorist groups put these things in kindergarten classrooms because the media enables that practice. The media gives them that PR victory. If the media didn’t give them that PR victory, they would have less incentive to put those missiles in kindergarten classrooms in the first place. So, the media is harming Palestinians much more than Israelis. And the Iron Dome protects Palestinians and Israelis. So, there’s no logical reason to vote against this — whether you support Israelis or Palestinians. It would only be [logical] if you supported the terror organizations who are oppressing Palestinians and Israelis.
DAN POMERANTZ: What AOC, Rashida Tlaib and the other members of the squad were doing was using this budget bill as an attempt to pitch a narrative. And that narrative is that Israel is evil and shouldn’t be permitted to protect itself from terrorism.
DAN POMERANTZ: Now, there is also a Republican argument against foreign aid — but it’s not a very popular one. Some Republicans say: “We shouldn’t spend money on foreign aid because we should spend our money locally.” But most Republicans and Democrats understand that what we spend on foreign aid — particularly on Israel — is an investment for the safety of America. So, there was a follow-up to this budget bill — which reinstated Iron Dome funding. The vote was 420 to nine. There were eight Democrats and one Republican.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: There were eight no’s and one “present.”
DAN POMERANTZ: Right. I’m not concerned about the Republican anti-foreign aid idea because it’s been around forever. It doesn’t have a lot of traction — even in the party. It’s an idea that people pitch around. But for the most part, it doesn’t have legs. Also, most American foreign aid is spent on American products anyways. So, it creates American jobs.
DAN POMERANTZ: But what we saw in Congress — the eight Democrats — used to only be heard on college campuses. And then, it started entering the halls of Congress. But we said: “It’s still not a big deal because they’re fringe politicians who have no real leverage.” But then, the next thing that happened was it created major change in a major budget bill.
DAN POMERANTZ: Israelis only like to recognize a crisis when it’s on top of them. And so, the attitude in Israel has been: “Why do we care? It was out one day. It was back the next day. The vote was bipartisan. There’s huge bipartisan support for Israel. What’s the problem?” The problem is that it’s a trend. It went from nothing to college campuses to the halls of Congress — where it torpedoed a major budget bill. The question is: What’s going to happen next? Because we see a trajectory.
DAN POMERANTZ: And that’s why I’m trying to spread the message. We have to talk to young, liberal progressives — to people on campus. We’ve got to speak their language. We need to use their vocabulary. Because you know what? When you talk to people who are right-leaning, their main priorities are going to be safety, security, defense and protecting America and American allies. When you talk to people on the left, their concerns are human rights and liberal values. And you know what? The fact is that Israel wins in both of those.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Let me interrupt you for a second. When you talk about people on the left — the extreme left, also — you mention human values, rights and so on. Where’s the outcry from the left over what’s happening with the Taliban in Afghanistan? Why aren’t there protests in the street? Why aren’t we seeing the tears that we saw back when Israel was getting attacked daily with missiles? Why don’t we hear anything about that?
DAN POMERANTZ: I don’t have an answer to that. But I will say that part of my job is speaking to people who don’t agree with me — to see if I can get them to move the needle. And if you’re going to speak to someone whose main concern is human rights, you’ve got to speak to them in their language. So, if you want to talk to someone about Afghanistan — If you’re talking to someone who cares about American security, you should say: “Here are the American security issues that are involved in Afghanistan. Here’s why we should be doing things differently.”
DAN POMERANTZ: But if you want to talk to someone on the left, you have to say: “Listen, this is what’s happening to women in Afghanistan. This is what’s happening to journalists in Afghanistan. This is what’s happening to free speech and human rights in Afghanistan. This is what the Taliban has done all over the world.” Whether you’re on the right or left, you should have the same opinion.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I agree with you. So, why aren’t we hearing that? Why didn’t we see that with Israel and Gaza? There were protests in almost every major city in Europe — and in the United States as well — for these terrorist organizations and against Israel. Liberals and leftists stand for women’s rights. Where’s the outcry? Where’s the outcry that the Taliban is now taking these women who have been free, lived their lives and became judges, lawyers, musicians, soccer players and actors and subjugating them to stay home and be shot if they don’t wear the burka? Where’s this outcry?
DAN POMERANTZ: I have a theory about that. You try to read somebody’s mind. It’s hard to know what someone’s thinking. But I do have a thought. There’s a very strong value on the left to not be racist. And that leads to the misleading idea that if I take a stand against any organization that identifies itself as Muslim — even if it means Islamist — then that means I’m a racist. So, to stand against the Taliban — I think to some people — makes them feel like they’re being racist because it is an Islamist organization. But of course, all the people that the Taliban are oppressing are Muslims as well.
DAN POMERANTZ: I always say this in Israel. If you genuinely care about Palestinians, you have to take a stand against the terrorist organizations that oppress them. We did a better job of this in Syria. When the United States — or the coalition forces — launched a strike on ISIS or Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons, people weren’t saying: “Oh my God. How could we attack Syria and Syrians?” They said: “Thank goodness we finally attacked the people in Syria who are oppressing Syrians.” I know that people are capable of understanding that complexity. It’s not just two sides. It’s not just America against Syria. It’s America against Syrian forces that are oppressing people in Syria.
DAN POMERANTZ: So, we know people were capable of understanding that. And we know that when Trump originally said he was going to pull U.S. forces out of Syria, he ended up not following through. But there was a big outcry against that. And actually, I agree that it was the right thing to keep the forces in — which he did in the end.
DAN POMERANTZ: But that’s a dynamic that we should be able to understand in Israel, the Middle East and Afghanistan. This isn’t about the West versus Islam. This is about what we can do to help people of all religions who are being oppressed. And sometimes, that oppression is done in the name of a certain religion. But that’s misleading because the oppressors are oppressing people of that religion.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I saw recently read about the Uyghurs in China. I don’t know how many millions of people are in concentration camps. The Chinese government is looking to destroy the Uyghur culture by torturing these people, putting them in concentration camps, making them change their names and so on. And recently, Iran — and I think the Taliban — have signed agreements with or are closer to China — which is absolutely staggering.
DAN POMERANTZ: Yeah. I’ll tell you what: A lot of American corporations have gotten closer to China. Hollywood has gotten closer to China. Hollywood now censors itself. Seven Years in Tibet couldn’t get made today. I think the NBA recently apologized to China. The thing about the Chinese is that they are very good at thinking long term. And when I say “long term,” I don’t mean 10 years. I mean generations.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah, centuries.
DAN POMERANTZ: And one of the greatest things about capitalism is that we’re always thinking of the best, most efficient and innovative way to get something done — and to get it done now and fast. But it does have its disadvantages. As a good, responsible CEO, you’re going to do what makes your company the most money. And that means doing whatever it takes to enter the Chinese markets.
DAN POMERANTZ: And a government — such as the United States Government — is going to want to create an environment in which American companies can function around the world — including in China. China is taking advantage of that, and it’s doing it in a way that’s very clever. I think that we — as a country — have to think. You don’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. You don’t want to destroy the capitalist system that has brought us so much prosperity and strength. But you do have to temper it with long-term thinking — especially when you’re facing an adversary who uses unfair trade practices in order to implement a multi-century plan.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Dan, I have one last question for you. You speak with a lot of journalists and journalism students in colleges. Has journalism gone through a metamorphosis — where journalists were concerned about getting the story right and putting their personal feelings on hold? I remember — as an aside — how, when Kennedy was shot, journalists were trying as best they could to report and divorce their feelings from the event.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And sometimes, they were successful. With Walter Cronkite’s case, he gulped for a second and almost couldn’t. But there was a sense of getting the story right. Do you see any hope for future journalists? Should their concerns — and the teachings in schools — be about getting the story right instead of the way they want it?
DAN POMERANTZ: Like I was saying before, when I speak to groups of journalism students, there will always be a certain percentage of the class that says: The reason [I’m going into journalism] is to make a change in the world, affect situations, change politics and speak up for the people who don’t have voices. But, in fact, their real job should be to convey reliable information to other people who can make their own choices based on whatever the information is.
DAN POMERANTZ: You remember Woodward and Bernstein when they exposed Nixon. Now, I can’t read their minds, and I don’t know if this is true. But based on what they said in statements afterwards, they weren’t looking to topple a president. They were just following the story. And from what they said, if the story would have exonerated Nixon or turned out to be nothing at all, they would have reported that just as faithfully. But they followed the story, and it ended up leading to a truth that toppled a presidency. But it was the truth. It wasn’t an agenda.
DAN POMERANTZ: And now, I think a lot of young people want to be Woodward and Bernstein. But they don’t want to be seekers of the truth. They want to be the people who topple a president or regime and or get a big prize. And they know that they won’t get that by reporting a story that exonerates people or doesn’t have meat to it. So, there’s an element of that.
DAN POMERANTZ: But what we haven’t touched on is that the world is changing with new media. You have a lot of people spreading information on all these platforms — and there’s always a new one. Twitter is the biggest one for journalists now. But there’s TikTok, Instagram and all sorts of platforms. There’s always a new one coming.
DAN POMERANTZ: Conventional journalism is getting hit hard — economically — by that. But the interesting thing is that it continues to have a strong impact on messaging. A lot of what you see — even on social media — begins with a legacy journalism piece that gets posted. And then, everyone comments and shares their thoughts. That piece will often have credibility because it was written by this big brand name.
DAN POMERANTZ: A friend of mine was recently having this debate with me. He was telling me that such and such company didn’t pay federal taxes this year. And so, I looked up the company’s SEC filings and saw that it did pay federal taxes. It had some projects at the state level that gave them offsets. And so, the offsets approximately equaled the federal liability. The journalists said that, effectively, the company paid no federal taxes.
DAN POMERANTZ: My friend was sending articles from CNN and MSNBC. He said: “Look, all these guys say they paid no federal taxes.” And I said: “I don’t care if it came from CNN or MSNBC. I can go to the original source. I can see the company’s SEC filings.” If I’m looking out the window and it’s raining — but the news is telling me it’s sunny — I don’t care if that news source is reputable. I have a window.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: You know what I’ve found? A friend of mine does that. In 2008, I used to see him every day. And he used to give me the headline of the day. I’d say: “That’s not the real story. You just read the headline, right? Let me tell you what’s going on with the financial crisis.” And I do understand that. To dig a little deeper takes work, and who the heck wants to work? It’s much easier to take a headline and run with it.
DAN POMERANTZ: It is. And this is my message to everyone. There’s one message that I want to convey to everybody. People always ask me: “Which news source can I read that will be accurate? Which news source about Israel can I read that’ll be accurate? Those are hard questions.
DAN POMERANTZ: The New York Times has it been problematic. But they have Bret Stephens. And until recently, they had Bari Weiss — who did very good work. There are newspapers in Israel — The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post. They’re located there. They know Israel well, and they’re generally good. But even then, there are certain journalists that I disagree with sometimes. I disagree with their approach. Anyone is capable of getting it right or wrong. It’s about critical thinking.
DAN POMERANTZ: I started my career as a lawyer in America before coming to Israel and joining HonestReporting. As a lawyer, they teach you about critical thinking. It was a funny joke once. Don’t believe everything you think. You think they’re going to say: “Don’t believe everything you hear.” Don’t believe everything you think. Just because a thought is in your brain, ask yourself: “How did that thought get in my brain? How do I know this is true?” Once you start questioning that, you might realize that things may not be as true as you think — once you examine yourself.
DAN POMERANTZ: So, that’s the first step to truth. Examine yourself. Why do I believe this is true? Look at the story. Are there internal inconsistencies? Does the headline contradict the bulk of the article? Or, is there a paragraph right at the end that’s buried and contradicts everything that came before it? That’s your first clue that something’s wrong.
DAN POMERANTZ: The next thing you can do is look at multiple sources. That can be misleading because if the Associated Press or Reuters puts out a story, it may appear in 100 different publications. But those aren’t 100 different stories. That’s one story that got reprinted 100 times. So, look at multiple different sources and ask yourself: “Where do these sources align, and where do they contradict? And where they do contradict, which one makes the most logical sense — given all the other facts that I know?”
DAN POMERANTZ: If you really want to test yourself, try this for a subject that you know nothing about. Pick the border clashes between Iran and Azerbaijan. Pick the conflict in the Kashmir between Pakistan and India. Pick a situation you don’t know about, look at a few sources and see if you can test yourself to figure out what’s really going on. You’ll discover that it’s never as easy as you think.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Nice. That’s great.
DAN POMERANTZ: But it can be done. That’s the important thing.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It takes work. We look for shortcuts. It’s much easier to look at a headline or picture and draw a conclusion. Anything else requires a lot of thought. And most people don’t have time for that. They want everything wrapped up and easily explainable — a sound bite.
DAN POMERANTZ: That’s fine. But what I say to people is: “If you care enough about an issue to protest or take a position, then you should care enough to learn about it. And if you don’t care enough to learn about it, don’t take a position.” I’ll tell you what: There are a lot of issues in the world that I don’t know about because I’m only one person. And that’s fine. But I don’t take a position on those issues, and I’m not afraid to say the words “I don’t know” when it’s appropriate.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: That’s great advice. Super. Dan Pomeranz is the CEO of HonestReporting. How can listeners find you?
DAN POMERANTZ: Come to HonestReporting.com. First of all, you can find me on Twitter. My handle is danielspeaksup. That’s one word. But you can also find HonestReporting on Twitter and every other platform. Our handle is HonestReporting — one word.
DAN POMERANTZ: But if you come to HonestReporting.com, you can sign up for our newsletter. And if you really want to swim in this and have a good intuition for what’s right or wrong — the way you build it is five minutes a day. Sign up for our newsletter! Read it every day for five minutes. Within weeks, you’re going to start discovering that you have a good sense of what’s right and wrong in the news — just from having that constant input of information.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Outstanding. That’s excellent advice. Dan, thanks so much for being on the show. I really enjoyed it. I could speak to you for another couple of hours. This is really great stuff. I wish continued success to you and HonestReporting.
DAN POMERANTZ: Thanks a lot, Charles. Thanks so much for having me.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Charles Mizrahi Show. If you’re a new listener, welcome! If you’ve been listening for a while, we’re glad to have you back. Either way, we’d love to know what you think of the show. Please leave a review if you listen on Apple Podcasts. Reviews make it easier for others to find the show. You can also see the video of the interview on The Charles Mizrahi Show channel on YouTube.
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