Jonathan Cook is a thorough journalist and a friend of mine. At least till this morning, he was. Unfortunately, reading his Aljazeera piece today I am forced to admit to my former friend’s major professional failing. In this report he falls short of my expectations from him; he fails two basic criteria of trustworthy journalism, impartiality and accuracy. I hereby apologize on his behalf on the condition that he recants on the first occasion I contact him in person.
Cook’s unworthy intentions, and perhaps those of the entire Aljazeera system, are obvious from the analysis of the opening two paragraphs of the report:
“For the first time in its history, an interrogator from Israel’s secret police agency, the Shin Bet, is to face a criminal investigation over allegations of torture.”
You would expect a serious commentator of a major news network in the emerging Middle East that we and our Saudi and Gulf Emirates partners are busy molding in hope of bringing full peace to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and perhaps Iran as well, to show a modicum of friendship and respect. In the very first phrase, Cook misses his chance to show his neutrality and states dryly in referring to our Shin Bet: “For the first time in its history …” No respectful qualifier such as ‘glorious’ or ‘model’ or the like to show deference to the system’s truly impressive achievements that come through despite the author’s prejudices.
Cook continues with his biased reporting by casting doubt, by implication and through the use of quotation marks, on our Supreme Court’s wording:
“It will be the first probe of the Shin Bet since Israel’s supreme court issued a landmark ruling nearly two decades ago prohibiting, except in extraordinary circumstances, the use of what it termed “special methods” of interrogation.”
Throughout his piece, he continues using the antagonistic and accusatory term of ‘torture’ instead of the correct and respectful use of the proper term of ‘special methods’ that our Supreme Court of Justice uses. He finds solace in quoting representatives of leftist anti-Semitic terror advocates who hide behind the facade of so-called human rights organizations such as Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights and the Committee Against Torture in Israel. Such resources are happy to level against us, the only democracy in the Middle East, the most damaging accusations. They repeatedly make groundless claims attempting to distinguish between a ticking bomb, the accepted rationale for allowing special methods, and the average Palestinian, even terrorists of near adult age. The same total lack of impartiality continues throughout the entire journalistic charade.
Inaccuracy is an even greater shortcoming of Cook’s piece: He reports that:
“Israeli military courts almost never examine how [accused Palestinians’] confessions were obtained or whether they are reliable, say lawyers, contributing to a 99.7 percent conviction rate.”
That is ‘where the dog is buried’ as our Hebrew axiom goes. My resources give the more accurate rate of 99.8 percent. For the casual reader, and when first glanced, the difference may appear small, a matter of one-in-a-thousand difference. But when you consider the issue in depth, you start to register its greater significance. To my mind, science achieves its greatest accomplishments at its two extremes, the macro and the micro levels of research and analysis, witness, if you will, the magic of subatomic physics at one end and the thrill of space science and exploration at the other. Bear with me please while I enlighten you with the way I see this sleight of hand in Cook’s reporting: When we are attentive to precision, the drop from three to two amounts to 33.3 percent, a most significant change.
Look at the figures from my perspective. After all, facts are facts and two in a thousand is our factual starting figure before Cook got his hands on it. To pump the level of failure of Israeli airtight administering of justice to the Palestinians by the combined input of the mighty and most moral army in the world and the justice ministry of the only democracy in the Middle East, to pump that up from two to three in one fell swoop is statistically to inflate the figure by a whole 50 percent and not 33.3 only. RIDICULOUS!
Wait! I am not done with you, Mr. Cook! Let us all take an analytical look at the following paragraph you write about Mivtan, the “watchdog body in the justice ministry”:
“But following criticism in 2013 from a state inquiry, the Turkel Commission, Mivtan was transferred [from the Police Department] to the justice ministry. Last year it recruited a second investigator, who reportedly speaks Arabic.”
Need I tell you what analysis we should apply here? That one added staff member is a whole one-hundred percent increase. How often have you seen departments charged with internal watchdog duties against their own bosses double their entire staff in the space of one year? Also, the fact that the added staff member speaks Arabic (please, notice the sly ‘reportedly’ qualifier insinuating unreliability or even the intentional misinforming if not outright lying by the whole system, the IDF, the Police Department and the Justice Ministry included) is of major importance. Considering the abundance of speakers of that language among terrorists under interrogation, and the fact that Arabic language courses at Israeli high schools and universities where he or she would have studied their Arabic are designed by the Shin Bet itself with such interrogations in mind, the choice of an Arabic speaking interrogator is a master’s stroke. The addition of such a bilingual investigator is, to all practical purposes, the equivalent of two added positions, an investigator and a translator. We are speaking of tripling of the staff of this major department, a full 200% increase. In the interest of accuracy and in the best precise traditions of accounting, we should look at all the support staff positions from doormen to janitors, cooks and the like, and add a 10-20% of a staff position to this department. That adds up to a total of 215% gain in staffing in one single year. And if those general support staff are Arabic-speaking Jews, as their lowly positions might actually guarantee, then we are speaking of 230% hike.
I can go on and on. But I intend to maintain some form of a relationship with Cook, for who would speak out for me when my turn comes?!