Israel won a rare media victory this week when the UK’s nongovernmental press regulator ruled that the Guardian was wrong to call Tel Aviv Israel’s capital. The ruling by the UK Press Complaints Commission, according to Honest Reporting (which filed the PCC complaint), “set a precedent on British coverage of Israel, effectively barring all British publications from referring to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital.”
The commission also did the Guardian, and the British press in general, a favor. Since Jerusalem is, in point of fact, Israel’s capital, and since a large part of Jerusalem is uncontested, the refusal to put embassies there or to refer to Jerusalem as the capital has always been an assault not only on the Jewish state’s sovereignty but also on basic logic. However, calling Tel Aviv the capital is inexplicable. Whatever Israel’s opponents think of Jerusalem, how could anyone possibly justify inventing a new capital for the Jewish state? No newspaper that refers to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital could possibly retain any credibility. The Times of Israel reports:
In Monday’s decision, the PCC concluded that “the unequivocal statement that Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel had the potential to mislead readers and raised a breach of… the Editors’ Code of Practice.”
The editor’s code states that the press “must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information.”
The PCC initially ruled in the Guardian’s favor, and Honest Reporting took steps toward filing for judicial review, leading the PCC to reverse course. The same article also pointed out the effect that making up the news can have on reporting in general: it can encourage other newspapers to make things up out of whole cloth as well. The paper notes a truly sad correction issued by the Daily Mail:
A Comment article on 23 August mistakenly suggested that Israel’s government was in Tel Aviv when it is, of course, in Jerusalem.
Of course. But you can almost begin to understand how such a mistake happens. If newspapers like the Guardian are unchallenged in their assertion that Israel’s capital is Tel Aviv, it would follow that they had done so because the buildings housing Israel’s government are in Tel Aviv. But they are not; they are in Jerusalem. Swindled by the Guardian, the Daily Mail invented government-related accommodations that didn’t exist, as if reporting on Israel is basically just playing a game of Sim City.
The Jewish people’s physical and spiritual connection to Jerusalem is such that it animates an overwhelming amount of Jewish ritual, from prayer to weddings to holiday traditions. As such, it’s easy to understand why Israel’s antagonists focus on the city. The denial of Jewish rights in Jerusalem takes many forms, including the Guardian’s shameful behavior.
After driving through the serene woodlands of Canada, Winston Churchill once turned to his son and said: “Fancy cutting down those beautiful trees we saw this afternoon to make pulp for those bloody newspapers, and calling it civilization.” Hard to argue with the sentiment while reading papers like the Guardian.