2003: It was the year of the road map, the year of the hudna. Abu Mazen and Abu Ala, war in Iraq, targeted strikes in Gaza, the security fence. Destruction of Maxim in Haifa, Cafe Hillel in Jerusalem, the horrific “Children’s Attack” on bus #2. The year that brought us an Israeli in space, Der Stuermer in the UK, the homicide donkey, child guinea pigs, and Rachel Corrie.
2003 was another trying year for Israel a nation fighting simultaneous, uphill battles against terror and for fair coverage in the world media.
With the year drawing to a close, HonestReporting regretfully presents the third annual Dishonest Reporting “Award,” our yearly recognition of the most skewed and biased coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Thanks for your nominations and votes! We begin with the ignoble award “winner,” followed by recipients of Dishonorable Mention:
IGNOBLE AWARD WINNER: REUTERS
With over 200 news bureaus worldwide, Reuters stakes its claim as “the largest international multi-media news agency.” Though Reuters’ own editorial policy claims the agency’s reporters “do not offer subjective opinion,” and intend merely “to enable readers and viewers to form their own judgement,” in fact Reuters’ coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is flagrantly biased against Israel. Some examples from 2003:
* In January, Reuters blamed Israel for “killing” Palestinian suicide bombers:
“Iraq has paid millions of dollars to families of Palestinians, including those of suicide bombers, killed by Israeli forces since the start of the uprising in September 2000.”
* As Israel prepared to build a wall to protect worshippers at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, Reuters published this headline:
“Israel to Split Christ’s Birthplace with Barrier”
To emphasize its (completely external) point, Reuters repeated the word “Christ” or “Christian” in each of the article’s first four sentences.
* On Nov. 18, two Israeli soldiers were killed outside Bethlehem and a number of Palestinians were wounded in Gaza. Reuters had pictures of both events, but journalists who subscribe to Reuters’ photo service were encouraged to publish the Palestinian victims in an email.
* When Palestinian terrorist groups announced a hudna with the PA, Israel was not a party in the agreement, and the official road map demanded a full disarming of terror groups not a temporary hudna cease-fire. Yet Reuters took the opportunity to vilify Israel with the headline:
“Israel Pours Scorn on Truce With Militants”
And when Israel did show flexibility for Palestinian demands, above and beyond the roadmap’s requirements? On Nov. 3, Reuters reported that Israel reinstated 15,000 Palestinian work permits, and included this comment in a news report:
150,000 Palestinians [previously] made a living in Israel, so Sunday’s restoration of 15,000 Israeli work permits is still only a drop in the ocean.
Actually, 15,000 was fully 10%, and a risky loosening of anti-terror policy. Even the Palestinian official quoted by Reuters called it “an important step.”
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The previous examples are specific to particular articles, but Reuters’ anti-Israel bias extends to general editorial policy on terminology and headlines:
Reuters’ refusal to use the term “terrorism” or “terrorist” reached new levels of absurdity this year. In November, Reuters released a list of “Worst Guerilla Attacks since September 11” that omitted terror in Israel entirely.
But beyond distancing itself from the term “terror,” Reuters regularly legitimized Palestinian terrorist groups and their murderous acts by ascribing to them a worthy (though false) motive the pursuit of independence:
The military wing of the Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement faxed to Reuters. Hamas has spearheaded a 28-month-old Palestinian militant uprising against Israel for a state in Gaza and the West Bank. (Feb. 15 – emphasis added)
Members of the Islamic movement Hamas burn the Israeli and the U.S. flag over a model of the Star of David during a march through the streets of the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza and vow to continue the three-year-old uprising for statehood. (emphasis added)
Hamas makes it perfectly clear in their official charter that their goal is the destruction of the State of Israel, and not merely an independent Palestinian state. Legitimate liberation struggles do not target innocent civilians in a systematic manner. Yet Reuters persists in this charade, justifying the horrific terrorist acts.
The terminology even reaches articles addressing Israeli perspectives. After the tragic space shuttle explosion in February, Reuters described Israelis’ sadness over the death of astronaut Ilan Ramon:
The launch of Ramon’s space flight had virtually erased news of the country’s woes, spreading space fever among Israelis embittered by a Palestinian uprising for statehood, a scandal-plagued national election and a domestic recession. (Feb. 2, emphasis added)
Israelis were not embittered by an “uprising for statehood.” They were, as always, prepared to offer Palestinians a state. They were embittered by relentless Palestinian terror.
Reuters refuses to use the term “terrorist” because (as global news editor Steven Jukes states) “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.” But by continually using the term “uprising for statehood” to describe the terrorist wave, Reuters chooses to present them as freedom fighters. So much for journalistic neutrality.
Reuters regularly makes the effort to help readers “understand” the human side of Palestinian terrorists. When two Israelis were killed in Negohot, Reuters included this background information to help readers rationalize the terrorist act:
Palestinians regard Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as major obstacles to peace and have regularly attacked them. (Sept. 26)
This description suggests preposterously that Palestinian terrorists perpetrate the willful murder of civilians out of their quest for peace.
In violent acts by Israelis, “Israel” was named in 100% of the headlines, and the verb was in the active voice in 100% of the headlines, i.e.:
“Israeli Troops Shoot Dead Palestinian in W. Bank” (July 3)
But in violent acts by Palestinians, the Palestinian perpetrator was named in just 33% of the headlines, and the verb was generally in the passive voice, i.e.:
“Bus Blows Up in Central Jerusalem” (June 11)
That is, in the world of Reuters headlines, when Israel acts, Israel is always perpetrating an active assault and the Palestinian victim is consistently identified. But when Palestinian terrorists act, the event just “happens” and Israeli victims are left faceless.
Moreover, Reuters presents Palestinian diplomats as pursuing peace, but frustrated by their obstinate Israeli counterparts:
The overwhelming message from Reuters headlines is tendentious indeed: Israel is the aggressor, and Palestinians are hapless victims.
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Though maintaining that “the integrity, independence and freedom from bias of Reuters must be upheld at all times,” Reuters’ news reports indicate that the agency has clearly taken sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ceasing to provide neutral information, Reuters has instead become a sort of world ambassador for Palestinian factions, operating via the ubiquitous Reuters news wire.
And for this, the Reuters “news service” deserves the Dishonest Reporting “Award” for 2003.
DISHONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order)
The world’s largest wire agency featured pro-Palestinian editorializing in straight news stories, factual mistakes, and coverage that downplayed Palestinian terrorism:
* In late April, a Palestinian suicide bomber struck a crowded Tel Aviv nightclub. The attack came just hours after the Palestinian Legislative Council confirmed the nomination of Mahmoud Abbas as the new Palestinian Prime Minister. The AP headline: “Bomb Mars Historic Day For Palestinians.” (Actually, the bomb “marred the day” for three dead Israelis and their families.)
* AP glamorized Palestinian terrorists ? a Feb. 25 tribute to dead terrorist Abdallah al-Saba waxed eloquent: “a new chapter in Palestinian lore was being spun” as this “longtime Islamic militant chose to fight and die rather than give in to Israeli wrecking crews.” AP issued a lengthy, sympathetic biography of Hamas terrorist extraordinaire Abdel Aziz Rantisi: “pediatrician and poet,” a caring and gracious patriarch of “six children and 10 grandchildren. He has written poetry for one of them, a girl named Assma.” The AP article then proceeded to quote effusive verses from Rantisi’s love poem.
* In March, AP brushed off terrorist rockets as insignificant: “Palestinians have been firing primitive, homemade Qassam rockets from northern Gaza at the Israeli town of Sderot. Most of them miss their target, and those that land cause little damage with their small explosive warheads.” (March 6)
In fact, the increasingly sophisticated Qassam missile constitutes an extremely serious threat to Israeli cities, and the over 2,000 Qassams fired by Hamas have injured numerous Israelis, some seriously. Would AP minimize the threat if, say, Mexicans began lobbing missiles toward Houston?
* In May, AP began using the term “bystanders” to refer to Israeli victims of Palestinian terror: “In 93 suicide attacks since the current violence erupted in September 2000, 357 bystanders have been killed.” (May 18) A “bystander” is an individual peripheral to the central action in a given event. AP’s term masks the true, civilian target of nearly all Palestinian terror.
* In one week in March, an Iraqi killed five American soldiers by blowing himself up in a taxi, while in Netanya, a Palestinian ignited his explosive belt at the entrance to a cafe, causing 50 Israeli casualties. AP listed the Iraqi attack among other historical “terror attacks against the U.S. military,” but called the Netanya attack the work of a “Palestinian militant.”
* In a report addressing the Palestinian claim to a “right of return,” AP erroneously stated: “Israel has always objected to the right of return for about 4 million Arabs who fled the war that followed Israel’s creation in 1948, but never made renouncing the demand a condition for peace talks before.” (May 7)
In fact, no party has ever claimed that 4 million Arabs fled Israel during its War of Independence. The actual number of Arab refugees in 1948-9 was, according to Israeli sources, 538,000. The UN puts the figure at 720,000, while Palestinians have claimed up to 850,000.
* When American Rachel Corrie died under an IDF bulldozer in March, AP distributed a photo showing Corrie, standing in direct view of the bulldozer driver, dressed in orange and speaking into a megaphone in the direction of the oncoming vehicle:
The AP caption read: “Rachel was run over Sunday by the bulldozer that she was trying to stop from tearing down a building in the Rafah refugee camp, witnesses said.”
The photo was carried in hundreds of newspapers worldwide. The AP caption led readers to believe that this photo depicted the very scene and moment of the accident, and implied cruel, criminal recklessness on the part of the IDF driver. But in fact, the photo was taken hours before Corrie’s death, which the IDF later deemed an unfortunate accident. Corrie’s death occurred while she was hidden from the driver’s view.
* On numerous occasions, AP called Palestinian terrorists “revenge bombers” Israeli anti-terror strikes were said to “trigger” “revenge attacks.” For example: “Generally the militant group Hamas carries out revenge attacks ? as it did this week, when a suicide bomber killed 17 people in a Jerusalem bus blast.” (June 13) This term paints Israel as the source of the conflict, and denies the sworn, documented commitment of Hamas and other terrorist groups to destroy Israel regardless of Israeli actions.
This year, the Beeb (the 2001 Dishonest Reporting “Award” laureate) was brought to its knees by domestic controversy, but found time to promote and broadcast a film that makes the outrageous claim that Israel used nerve gas against Palestinians in the Khan Younis refugee camp. And in September, when a terrorist killed two Israelis while they were eating a holiday meal (and was then felled by a nearby soldier), BBC headlined the event: “Three Dead in West Bank Attack.”
Former Palestinian Prime Minster Mahmoud Abbas authored a book that denies the horrors of the Holocaust, but you wouldn’t know it from the BBC profile that introduced Abbas to their readers: “A highly intellectual man, Abu Mazen [Abbas] studied law in Egypt before doing a PhD in Moscow. He is the author of several books.” (BBC later updated the profile to include criticism of Abbas’ positions.)
When twin suicide bombers murdered two Israelis and injured many others one August day, the Christian Science Monitor’s homepage headline read: “Suicide attacks jolt Mideast peace hopes; Bombings may hurt Palestinian effort to stop Israel’s barrier.” The text of the article first indicated that the bombings “threaten to undermine the Palestinian Authority’s campaign to stop Israel’s barrier,” and only afterward noted that the terror attack “left two Israelis dead and 11 wounded.” Apparently, the warped moral compass of CSM determined that the most serious injury the twin suicide bombings inflicted was not to actual human victims, but to the “hurt” Palestinian political goals.
In a grave act of disrespect, The Guardian (UK) exploited the death of Col. Ilan Ramon to take a swipe at the Israeli government. In a report headlined, “Israel remembers astronaut as Sharon capitalises on US links,” Chris McGreal wrote that the Israeli government “used the tragedy to paint Israel as a democratic western nation standing firm with the US against the barbarians.”
In August, Yassir Arafat made a claim to “mass arrests of Palestinians,” and The Guardian repeated Arafat’s unsubstantiated claim as fact. The Guardian noted the hundreds of emails from HonestReporting subscribers on this matter, then surreptitiously moved back the frame of reference for their “mass arrests” claim, to a full month before the date referred to in the original article. We noticed.
In January, The Independent (UK) published an editorial cartoon by Dave Brown depicting Ariel Sharon biting into the flesh of a Palestinian baby:
In a decision as shocking as the original one to publish the cartoon, the British Political Cartoon Society awarded its Cartoon of the Year for 2003 to Brown’s appalling and libelous work. (The Society deflected criticism by saying the award was based on popular vote.)
In July, The Independent painted Sharon as sly and evasive in Washington the Israeli Prime Minister “reverted to the familiar tactic of laying the blame on the Palestinians for not moving more forcefully to crack down on terrorism.” (Far from a diversionary “tactic,” the uprooting of Palestinian terror would certainly foster peace.) And The Independent was apparently irritated by the warm personal relationship the two leaders have built: “Though Israel gave so little discernable ground, the two men were all smiles and friendliness, referring to each other as ‘Ariel’ and ‘George.'”
In July, the LA Times made the patently false assertion: “Along with prisoner releases, the next important element in moving ahead with the ‘road map’ is the Palestinian demand that Israel withdraw from more of the West Bank.” In fact, prisoner releases are not even mentioned in the road map. And according to the road map, the PA’s obligation to uproot terror was clearly “the next important element.”
In August, after the IDF killed a Hamas leader, a Hamas spokesman fed reporters this line: “The Zionist enemy has assassinated the truce,” so therefore “we consider ourselves no longer bound by this cease-fire.” This, despite the fact that Hamas themselves admitted to engineering the horrific Jerusalem bus bombing the week before. Nonetheless, the LA Times swallowed Hamas’ propaganda and issued the headline: “Truce Ended After Israeli Airstrike.”
A July San Diego Union-Tribune article merited the ignominious honor of generating the most letters from HonestReporting subscribers. The Union-Tribune blithely compared the death of an innocent terror victim to Rachel Corrie, whose militant organization was found harboring an Islamic Jihad terrorist in March. Both young West Coast women, said the Union-Tribune, “believed in their struggle.”
A July Washington Post editorial repeatedly called Palestinian terrorist organizations “militant groups,” and then sandwiched among those references referred to “militant Jewish settlers.” The editorial claimed these two groups constitute “the extremists on both sides.” HonestReporting investigated, but has yet to find any cases of Jewish suicide bombers.
After Israeli planes hit an abandoned Syrian camp, the Washington Post opined that “Mr. Sharon prodded a country suspected of supporting terrorism.” Suspected? Since 1979, Syria has never failed to make the U.S. State Department‘s annual listing of nations that sponsor terrorism.
On April 30, the road map was delivered in Israel, and on that very day a terrorist struck a Tel Aviv bar, killing 3 and wounding 40. The Washington Post not only failed to give the terrorist attack headline coverage, but granted it only one brief paragraph, buried deep in the article covering the launch of the road map.
On the other hand, the very next day (May 2), on the front page above the fold, The Washington Post published an article headlined “Israeli Incursion Kills 13 in Gaza, ‘Map’ Sabotaged Palestinians Say.”
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HonestReporting encourages subscribers to write to Reuters, expressing your perspective on their “news” coverage: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.
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