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‘Haaretz’ Corrects Forced-Contraception Story

Over a month too late, an explosive story loses its bite

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There was no shortage of outrage following a report by Haaretz in late Janaury asserting that Israel had acknowledged a policy of forcing long-acting birth control shots upon Ethiopian women in transit camps who wished to emigrate from Ethiopia to Israel. The story also charged that Israeli officials hadn’t told the women the effects of the Depo-Provera shots. The explosive first of the story went like this:

A government official has for the first time acknowledged the practice of injecting women of Ethiopian origin with the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera.

Beyond the normal outlets that selectively focus on Israeli scandals, sites that report on women’s issues reprinted the Haaretz story and, in multiple acts of stenographic journalism, cast their vicious judgments of Israeli racism and sexism to their readerships.

The first problem with the story: No Israeli official ever acknowledged there was such a practice at all; it was denied by Joint Distribution Committe, which ran the clinics, and the Health Ministry. (The Scroll was able to convince the popular site Jezebel to retract a damning first line after the story had already blown up and commenters had accused Israel of committing genocide.)

After an Israeli committee was established to investigate the matter, a second story ran in Haaretz last week repeating much of its original reporting. Then, earlier this week, came this correction (compelled by CAMERA):

This article, which was updated on March 6, 2013, reported on Health Ministry director-general Prof. Roni Gamzu’s instruction to gynecologists not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera if there is any doubt that recipients did not understand the implications of the treatment. The original version failed to state that this instruction was issued “without taking a stand or determining facts about allegations that had been made,” and referred to all women and not just women of Ethiopian origin.

So not only had the head of the Health Ministry not admitted the practice, he had–of his own volition and not under duress from scandal–issued a directive for doctors to make sure that all women (and not just Ethiopian women in transit camps) fully understood what the shots would do.

At this point, I have really no idea where the truth is in this highly unnerving and disquieting story, but the distance from where the story started and where it is now is unacceptable. We can give Haaretz credit for issuing a correction at all, but the amount of damage this story has done to Israel’s reputation will never be fully known.

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The story shares a formulaic similarity to the recent “Palestians Only Bus Lines” hysteria. These attacks seem to pop up every few months. In fact, I’ll bet you could go back in history and dredge up a whole series of disinformation fitting the same pattern. In every case, a lynch mob gathers around a loudly trumpeted but barely factual report that casts Israel as immoral and criminal.

Cool_Romeo says:

And in every case any future correction does little, if anything, to correct the damage done.

zach says:

Let’s not forget the “report” about a Beis Din in Israel ordering a dog to be stoned.

Poupic says:

Anything Haaretz prints should be taken with a g4rain of salt. It has no readership to sustain this paper except unknown financial sources. Your guess is as good as mine. Why waste time with what Haaretz writes?

Adam_Chandler says:

Because the story got picked up by the Los Angeles Times and went high and wide.

Poupic says:

Los Angeles time, NPR, The N.Y. Time… all chose Haaretz as their source of information because it fits their aim of demonizing Israel. They all know that Haaretz is with no Israeli readership thus doesn’t represent the Israeli public at all, far from it. But they use it and re use it to abuse the world into thinking that they report news and Israeli opinions when in fact it is their own manufactured probably specifically by Haaretz to get them to secretly fund them. One day we will know the truth how Haaretz still exist while bigger more powerful papers then them are only a memory in older people like me such as Davar and Al Hamishmar who are no more. What a blessing!

herbcaen says:

Haaretz is a Palestinian publication funded by anti-Israel Europeans, whose cause d’etre is to promote the replacement of Israel with a palestinian state. The editorial staph of Haaretz derives vicarious pleasure from Jewish victimhood, and therefore every bus bombing or killing of Jews anywhere in the world is a just cause of celebration at Haaretz

Seán O'Maoildeirg says:

There seems to be a long standing practice of publishing misinformation by both sides. There are all the stories about Arafat having HIV and the one here about Ethiopian women being compulsorily sterilised when they entered the state of Israel. Propaganda knows no truths.

BertArcher says:

Damage done to Israel’s reputation? Do you mean its reputation inside Israel? Because I think outside Israel, that boat has sailed, been boarded, impounded, and then sailed again.

Elon says:

Forget the American news. Even Jerusalem Post believed Haaretz.

Poupic says:

No readers and yet they continue. Who is paying them to publish their BS?

Elon says:

The problem is even those who take our side like ynet and jpost still consider Haaretz legitimate news instead of propaganda.

UryV says:

What really galls me about this whole affair is that the critics haven’t stopped for a moment to think what would have happened if the women in the camps had *not* been given DepoProvera. Nature would have taken its course, under very bad conditions, babies and mothers would have died left and right, and there would have been a tsunami of criticism for *not* administering the contraceptive.

herbcaen says:

The Saudis, Iranians, Europeans and Soros-the 4 horsemen

While I agree that Haaretz was irresponsible here, a portion, if not the lion’s share, of the blame lies with lazy and irresponsible journalists and publications that did not bother to substantiate, check facts, or cast a critical eye on the Haaretz report. Without naming names, this includes a wide swath of the general media and the Jewish media.
Consider, Shmarya of FailedMessiah, who has been known on occasion to be severely critical of the Israeli government, took to time to contact Dr. Rick Hodes, medical director of the JDC operation in Ethiopia ( I met him when he was chaperoning several Ethiopian kids to the US so they could undergo surgery. I believe he adopted them to get them into the country. If there is a tzaddik in this world, it is Rick Hodes). Hodes both denied the content of the reports that had been coming out and offered a cultural explanation for why they adopted the approach they did. THIS WAS IN EARLY DECEMBER! See for yourselves: http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2012/12/jdcs-ethiopia-medical-director-denies-forced-sterilization-234.html

So yes, Haaretz is a bad guy here, but there is always a chance that a publication gets a story wrong. Happens all the time. The really troubling thing here is the alacrity with which everyone else gets on the bandwagon without even a modicum of journalistic integrity or responsibility. And these are some of the most respected publications in the world.

Michael Makovi says:

The Haaretz article is NOT a correction. The Haaretz article does NOT say that the allegations are false. It says only that the allegations are being investigated by the government. To quote the Haaretz article:

“Without taking a stand or determining facts about allegations that were made” — !!!! Read this again!

“”I would like to instruct, from now on, all gynecologists in the HMO” — This refers only to the future!!! It does NOT deny allegations about the past, only it ensures that if the allegations are true, they will cease from NOW on.

MichaelLustig says:

I recently returned from a trip to Ethiopia, which included a visit to the clinic in Gondar referenced in the NYTimes article (“Israeli Ethiopian Birth Control Ignites Debate”, Feb. 18). Although my experience was local to Ethiopia (not Israel), I believe that an observation made there is relevant with respect to this current brouhaha. Upon speaking directly with patients it was clear that all contraceptive treatments were entirely voluntary (and quite welcomed), and that there was a very strong cultural bias (in opposition to my own and the other Americans) in cases where there are direct alternatives, *toward* injections and away from pills. While I certainly can’t speak to that preference carrying over once Ethiopian Jews emigrate to Israel, it’s a relevant factor that certainly bears exploration and may indeed explain the type of contraceptive that patients choose to receive.

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‘Haaretz’ Corrects Forced-Contraception Story

Over a month too late, an explosive story loses its bite

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