By promoting the flawed story as a news-breaking "exclusive" - based largely on alleged claims by Yechiel Eckstein - the Jerusalem Post consequently used the upheaval over the Carmel fire as a maneuver against Orthodox groups that do not solicit or accept funds from missionary affiliated organizations.
Politically expedient reporting may be legitimate, but disseminating false reports and propaganda is not.Jewish Israel investigates…
In the aftermath of the Carmel fire, there has been an expected outpouring of support from Christian evangelical and messianic groups. In an upcoming series of reports, Jewish Israel will expose the sincere, the deceptive, and the opportunistic among those who are partnering with major Jewish charitable institutions.
But first, we begin by covering an outrageous post-fire media stunt performed by the Jerusalem Post that demands exposure and investigation, and which will hopefully be rectified by that publication.
Take My Fire Trucks, Please!
Shas is the party that, outside of its own constituency, everyone -- loves to hate. Say "Shas" and Israel’s mass media instantaneously salivates, for many valid and some rather dicey reasons. Justifiably or not, the fingers of the press, the politicians and much of the public are pointing at Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas, for lack of preparedness on the fire front.
Is it a "lynch", as Yishai claims? Is the Interior Minister negligent? Or is the press simply barking up the wrong tree in the name of political expediency?
Far be it for Jewish Israel to jump into this political fire. We'll leave that to the official investigators. However, by sensationalizing claims by Yechiel Eckstein of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), the Jerusalem Post consequently fanned the flames of scandal, expedited calls for Yishai's resignation, and gave a boost to Israel's dependency on evangelical philanthropy.
In what was heralded as an "exclusive", the December 6th front page headlines of the JPost alleged that Yishai refused fire truck donations from Christian group.
Jewish Israel asked sources closest to the original story (not from the Interior Ministry) if Interior Minister Eli Yishai really refused actual fire truck donations from the IFCJ. The answer we received was, "definitely not".
According to our firsthand sources, Eckstein was offended by Yishai's opting out of an IFCJ ceremony and photo-op (possibly for religious reasons). One of those sources told us that, "Eckstein said he would have provided more trucks [like those given in the past] but no offer was made because of Yishai's attitude."
We kid you not. Now depending on one's opinion, failure to nurture a relationship with the IFCJ and pay homage to Eckstein in a photo-op could be deemed as behavior unbecoming the head of the Interior Ministry. It could even be worth an opinion piece, but it is surely not enough to pin the blame for a national disaster on Eli Yishai via a headline-breaking exclusive in Israel's premier English daily the morning after the inferno.
Jewish Israel reminds our readership that, outside of IFCJ donations and the hoopla surrounding evangelical Christian events and support, there are plenty of established Jewish charities tirelessly and successfully working on Israel's behalf. Just last week, an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn reportedly contributed 13 million dollars directly to Israel’s Treasury to help repair damages caused by the Mt. Carmel fire. Only, unlike IFCJ, this U.S. Jewish donation was anonymous, so there likely won't be a ceremony or a photo-op (and headlines are minimal).
If the circumstances weren't so tragic, it would be comical. In the days immediately following the fatal fire, the Jerusalem Post published no less than three articles, penned by four of their top columnists, and a number of letters to the editor, which referred to the Christian fire truck pseudo-scoop again and again. All that appeared to be missing from the "poison pen" columns directed at Eli Yishai was a little P.S. declaring, "with love to Yechiel, from the JPost staff".
The Jerusalem Post and Yechiel Eckstein are friends and allies. Jewish Israel notes that at one point, IFCJ was a publishing partner with the JPost in their production of the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition. Two years ago, this writer inquired about that relationship in correspondence with Gershom Gale, editor of the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition. We received the following reply:
"Rabbi Eckstein and his IFCJ are no longer partners with The Jerusalem Post in the production of The Christian Edition, though the publication remains a natural friend and ally of his organization."
The current publishing partner of the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition is the International Christian Embassy (ICEJ).
The writer of one sensible oped piece, which did manage to get published in the JPost, made the following observation:
"...if the organization[IFCJ] cared so deeply, it could have donated the trucks to the Fire and Rescue Service and, to be sure, its officers would have been happy to be in the photos...When the Orthodox have accepted pro- Israel Christian donations, they have been ridiculed for it. Did Yishai err here? It’s not clear."
The Little Fire Engine That Couldn't
Very few Israeli or international media outlets found the JPost “hot off-the-press exclusive” newsworthy enough to run with it. But that didn't stop those initial erroneous headlines from spreading like wildfire throughout the blogosphere, with everyone from Christian bloggers to online PR consultants picking it up.
The Jerusalem Connection ran the story, but James Hutchens, founder and president of that publication described as "the foremost Christian Zionist online magazine in America", enjoys a special connection with Yechiel Eckstein.
While State Comptroller Micha Lindenstraus finds fault with Interior Minister Eli Yishai and a number of other political leaders and government offices in his initial Carmel fire report, neither the JPost exclusive report nor Eckstein's alleged claims are mentioned therein.
Without a significant and widely-published retraction, the JPost's misleading headlines, "Yishai refused fire truck donations from Christian group", will continue to be spread and be accepted as truth by uninformed sources.
On December 15th, more than a week after the erroneous banner headlines graced the front page of the Jerusalem Post, respected JPost columnist and Jewish community leader, Isi Leibler, also disseminated the JPost’s inaccurate information in his regularly featured opinion column. Excerpt:
"If this were not enough, almost concurrently, the nation learned that Shas Interior Minister Eli Yishai had rejected an offer of fire-fighting equipment because it was being donated by Evangelical Christians."
Jewish Israel responded with a letter to the editor - which was edited by the JPost.
[Note: Jewish Israel has been critical in the past of Leibler’s blind embrace of evangelical support for Israel”]
This is certainly not the first time the JPost has gone to bat for Christian groups at the expense of Orthodox Jewish reputations. The JPost gave extensive and one-sided coverage to both the Bass and Beckford trials. The trials, which pitted messianic missionaries against Orthodox Jews in the Negev, enjoyed JPost news and oped columns, as well as a magazine feature story. Yet with all of the publicity given the cases, the Jerusalem Post failed to issue follow-up reports on the outcome of the trials when both Christian parties lost in Israeli courts.
Makes you wonder if you're reading the JPost or Pravda with your morning coffee.
Breaking news:Yishai: Deal reached on extra NIS 300m. for firefighters