Makor Rishon fixed us in its sights. It’s unfortunate it did so while trampling over the facts

The American media often uses the term “Hatchet job” to denote a vicious attack on another’s reputation, an attack often masquerading as legitimate and fair criticism. It was saddening to see Makor Rishon going on a hatchet attack on Yesh Din during the weekend, since my experience with Makor Rishon is that of that rare beast, a right-wing-yet-fair newspaper. There was nothing fair about its attack on us; in fact it was accompanied by deceit.

Let’s begin with the softer target, Yehuda Yifrakh, the editor of the Zeddek supplement of Makor Rishon, dealing with legal affairs. Yifrach begins his op-ed by saying he recently had a conversation with the fly he keeps on our wall. This was in particular bad taste, seeing as a complaint that the offices of Michael Sfard, the attorney often representing Yesh Din, was burglarized and that documents stolen from it made their way to Makor Rishon is still under investigation. Recently, the chairman of Im Tirzu, Ronen Shuval, admitted that his organization sicced private investigators at Sfard’s offices (Shuval claimed the PIs were acting legally). Such activity is not, on the face of it, in accord with the NGO’s official goals; perhaps, one day, Yifrakh will write about this as well.

And after having our laughs, we should note that Yifrakh resides in the outpost ‘Amona, which Yesh Din is trying to evacuate as it is mostly built on private Palestinian land. Furthermore, a house built by Yifrakh in ‘Amona was one of nine houses demolished there in 2006, following an appeal by Peace Now – represented by Michael Sfard. In other words, Yifrakh has a clear interest, if not an obsession, in harming Yesh Din and Attorney Sfard. And yet, he fails to mention this to his readers, and avoids full disclosure.

Yifrakh’s article is the unfortunately all too common paranoid delusion about the ties between human rights organizations and the legal establishment. Yifrakh seems to think that our attorneys have the ear of the Government’s Counsel Weinstein, which led to the latter sending a letter this week to the Minister of Defense demanding he enforce the land laws In the West Bank. Yifrakh can rest easy; our real influence over the prosecution is very limited; he can cite the fact he still resides in ‘Amona as proof of this. Furthermore, we at Yesh Din suspect Weinstein’s letter is intended to cover his backside or to gain a few more employees. Had Weinstein really wanted to enforce the laws in the West Bank, he has a very good arsenal at his disposal as it is.

The delusion of Yifrakh’s article is particularly funny in light of Tzofnat Nordman’s article, titled “Legal Harassment”, appearing in the same supplement. Nordman makes two claims: First, that Yesh Din is using the legal process of an appeal to cause bother to settlers; second, that we truly suck at this. According to Nordman, only one appeal by Yesh Din led to an indictment, specifically of a minor whose name is withheld – and that even this indictment was recently rescinded.

Nordman’s article misleads the readers on several points. Firstly, Nordman misrepresents the nature of an appeal. She makes them believe an appeal is intended to force the prosecution to indict. Not so. The vast majority of the appeals we present are intended to convince the prosecution to order the police to undertake its work seriously and not accept the usual botched investigation. Only in a small number of cases, when we become convinced that the police, lo and behold, actually managed to gather enough evidence for an indictment but the prosecution (or the police prosecutor) decided to close the case without one, we appeal its closing and ask for an indictment. It should further be noted that every case appealed is carefully examined, and that we appeal about 10% of the cases we deal with.

Nordman quotes a Yesh Din position paper from 2011, and notes that between 2005 and 2011 Yesh Din appealed presented “185 appeals on the closing of the aforementioned cases.” Again, this is not the case. Secondly, Nordman attributes to Yesh Din success in just one appeal – but the very report she quotes speaks about 29 successful appeals. That is, about one in six or 16% of our appeals were successful. This is considered to be a very high rate.

So on one hand, Nordman presents her readers with inaccurate information about the nature of an appeal, and on the other it misquotes the data she obviously had in front of her. She ought to have known those 185 appeals did not deal with refusal to indict, and she must have known that according to the very data she quotes, there were 28 more successful appeals than she reports. It all becomes more sordid when you learn that Nordman is herself a lawyer, so it’s harder to believe she did not realize what she was writing about.

And if this wasn’t enough, then Nordman resorted to plain deceit. Anyone reading Yesh Din’s comment to Makor Rishon will realize something is off kilter: The comment does not match the article. It refers to the withdrawing of the indictment of the minor, mentioned above, and not to any other point made by Nordman. Why? Because Nordman did not bother to ask us for comment about them, just about the issue of the withdrawn indictment. Given all that, publishing our comment was false representation, to say the least.

Normally, an editor would go over Nordman’s text, would ask to see her sources, and would notice something is wrong with our comment. But Nordman’s editor, Yifrakh, didn’t really serve as an editor here: He was the hand holding the hatchet.

And that’s precisely what it looked like.