Why world media should accept Leo Dee’s dare

Why world media should accept Leo Dee’s dare

In the 11th century before the common era, a Moabite princess needed to make a decision. 

She could remain in her Moabite palace and live an easy life of prosperity. Or she could join the mother of her deceased husband, as she traveled back to her homeland, the Land of Israel, and live in poverty.

Ruth’s decision to join her mother-in-law and glean leftover wheat in the fields in order to survive is even harder to understand in current society, in which money is often prioritized over all other values.

Thirty-one centuries later, many people still make that courageous and counterintuitive choice to sacrifice themselves financially to live in Israel.

The family of Leo and Lucy Dee is a modern-day example of immigrants who left behind relative prosperity to live meaningful lives in the Judean hills. Leo gave up prosperous work in the financial sector in London to live in Efrat, adjacent to the fields of Bethlehem, where Ruth gleaned.     

In one of the unsung miracles of the Book of Ruth, her aliyah to Israel got good press. 

When Ruth asked the local leader Boaz why he was treating her well, he answered: “I have been told of all that you did for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband, how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and came to a people you had not known before.”

To emphasize how miraculous it was that Boaz heard positive news about Ruth, the scripture uses a rare doubling of words: הֻגֵּד הֻגַּד to describe what he heard about Ruth through the grapevine. 

The Dee family was unfortunately not as lucky with how their aliyah was portrayed. 

Not only did Leo Dee have to deal with the excruciating news of the murder of Lucy and their children Maia and Rina in the Jordan Valley, he also had to handle how it was portrayed by the media in his native England. Media outlets around the world appeared to justify the murders by noting where the Dee family lived and died. 

The media watchdog I head, HonestReporting, called out The Guardian for passively saying the victims had been “killed” as opposed to “murdered” and for stating the location of the deaths in order to justify them rather than pointing out that the perpetrator was a terrorist. An Associated Press headline did not identify the victims or the murderer: “Two killed in West Bank after Israel strikes Lebanon, Gaza.” 

Blaming the victims to a new level, Al-Jazeera’s headline was “Two Israeli settlers killed in occupied West Bank shooting.” The subheadline stated that “a deadly gun attack was carried out on a vehicle near the illegal Hamra settlement,” dehumanizing the teenagers as if the terrorist’s goal was to harm the car.

As HonestReporting repeatedly reminds our readers, by making excuses for why Jews are being murdered, the international media is complicit and implicitly fans the flames of more violence.

The one positive that has come out of the brutal murders of a mother and her two daughters is that the world has been introduced to Leo Dee, a brilliant orator, inspiring rabbi, loving husband and proud father.

Realizing that he had been thrust into the spotlight against his will, Rabbi Dee decided to use his pulpit to spread goodness and to challenge the international media to cover Israel fairly. He called a press conference attended by the Reuters wire service before his wife was buried and he interviewed with nine media outlets while sitting shiva.     

Rabbi Dee’s message to humanity was “never accept terror as legitimate, never blame the murder on the victims, and there is no such thing as moral equivalence between terrorist and victim. The terrorist is always bad.”

Dee dared the foreign press to stop criticizing Israel for existing.  

“Isn’t that how the world media treats Israel?” he asked. “We build, they murder us, they destroy. [They say] it’s your fault, since you built it in the first place.”

Dee’s request to post Israeli flags on social media was readily accepted by Jews around the world. His more important call to cover Israel fairly met with less success.

“World media: show me your true colors,” he implored. “Do you really believe in moral equivalence? Will you continue to support evil by giving it a voice? Am I and my family really a threat to world peace? We who teach kindness and love? We who value life over anything else? Is this anonymous killer really justified? Is he progressing moral values and a future for himself? Come on! Wake up! Listen to your souls. Do you really believe it? Or does it just sell advertising space for material goods none of us really need?”

Dee’s dare should become the baseline for media reporting about Israel from now on. Journalists from media outlets across the globe need to ask themselves before they file their reports whether they crossed that line. 

Unfortunately, CNN crossed that line by following its interview with Leo Dee by shamefully equating the deaths of Lucy, Maia and Rina with those of Palestinians and then their top anchor Christiane Amanpour said the Dee family was killed in a “shootout.”

After pressure from HonestReporting to apologize publicly, she did on her show this Monday.

Like the Dees, I came to live in the Jewish state, hoping for a better fate for my family. Like for Ruth, it has not always been easy.

I hope the international media will prevent the next tragedy by heeding the lesson of Leo Dee and reporting more responsibly.

Gil Hoffman is the executive director and executive editor of the pro-Israel watchdog HonestReporting, which monitors coverage of Israel in the international mainstream and social media. He served as chief political correspondent and analyst of The Jerusalem Post for 24 years.

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