EIGHT TIPS FOR READING ABOUT ISRAEL by Matti Friedman, Spring, 2021 

The political bent of most of the media is such that what is written about Israel is almost universally distorted, outrageous and false. Matti Friedman writes, “Some Western observers have formed a picture of Israel … only tenuously linked to reality… The shared narrative in Western Europe and North America is largely a negative one that grows increasingly negative as the ideological landscape of the West becomes more polarized and inflamed.” So how can one trust that what is written about Israel is factual? A cynic might say, “you can’t”, but Friedman suggests some ways to help the reader decide he’s getting “sane information or a narrative of a different kind.” Some are common-sense ways to vet the writers. Does he speak the language? Does he have a particular position — like being a member of Breaking the Silence or B”Tselem — that imposes an ideological filter on reality? What is the time frame? Clearly someone who is told that the initiating event of the Israel-Palestinian problem was Israel occupying the West Bank in 1967 will never know than it has been legally Israeli land since 1920 and inhabited by Jews way before then. In 1967, Israel got back land that Jordan snatched when she invaded Israel in 1948. Other tests where context and comparison are important take more thought and effort. This is a most useful article.

AUTHOR: Matti Friedman is a journalist and the author of three highly acclaimed books: The Aleppo Codex, Pumpkin Flowers, and Spies of No Country. A former Associated Press correspondent, Matti’s work as a reporter has taken him from Israel to Lebanon, Morocco, Moscow, the Caucasus, and Washington, D.C. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Tablet Magazine, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Jerusalem with his family.

This article was published Spring, 2021 in the Sapir Journal and is archived at

It is archived at Think-Israel at