It’s Just “Tit-For-Tat” For the Financial Times

While its actual article doesn’t employ such terminology, the Financial Times’ subhead on its Middle East news page raises some eyebrows:


“Tit-for-tat” expresses a false moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorists initiating the firing of rockets towards Israeli civilian targets and Israeli counter-measures to protect its civilians.

Suspiciously similar to the all too familiar “cycle of violence.”

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March 13, 2014 15:36 By Category : Backspin UK News Tags:, , ,

Only Israel to Blame In UNRWA’s Eyes

unrwalogo2UNRWA’s deputy commissioner-general Margot Ellis writes on The Guardian’s Comment is Free how the greater media focus on Syria has impacted UNRWA’s fundraising ability for emergency projects for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank:

Aid money follows the cameras. Cameras follow conflict. Syria is no exception. …

Gaza hit the headlines during the upsurge in fighting in the winter of 2008-2009 and then again in November 2012. For a brief few days the cameras were there to capture the Israeli attack and the rockets that flew towards Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The West Bank is even more severely “news fatigued”. The occupation, now more than 45 years old, is hardly a news story, some would say.

Ellis is effectively acknowledging the symbiotic relationship between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and aid agencies and the media. If UNRWA can only raise money on the back of media coverage of the conflict, is it any wonder that NGOs make so much effort to supply the media with one-sided reports bashing Israel?

And to prove the point, Ellis writes about the plight of Palestinians:

The only way of dealing with these man-made emergencies is to get rid of the underlying causes: the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and the closure of Gaza which is stifling the economy, increasing poverty and unemployment, and forcing even greater dependency on aid provided by the international community. The need for emergency interventions would diminish dramatically if Gaza was opened up for normal business and trade.

So only Israel is responsible for the situation of the Palestinians. No mention of Hamas’s control over Gaza or Egypt’s closure of the Rafah border crossing. No mention of Palestinian terrorism that has contributed to Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement as a security necessity.

But just imagine if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were to be resolved. Where would UNRWA be then? Margot Ellis and NGO workers like her would be out of a job. And where would organizations such as UNRWA be then?

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March 13, 2014 11:36 By Category : Backspin UK News Tags:, , , ,

AFP Retracts False Palestinian Charge

afplogoIt’s all too easy to accuse Israel of any crime you can imagine, especially when the media rely on unnamed Palestinian sources for their stories. Take this from AFP under the headline “Palestinian dies after Israel troops fire on his car“:

A Palestinian died on Tuesday after Israeli troops fired on his car near Tulkarem in the northern West Bank, Palestinian security sources said.

The sources said his car then veered off the road, and it was not clear whether the gunfire or the subsequent crash killed him.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli army, but the police described the incident as a traffic accident.

The Times of Israel reports, however that the AFP retracted the story after the Palestinians notified them that “their information on army gunfire was incorrect.”

TOI goes on to report:

According to Ma’an, Palestinian government sources claimed that the wreck was the result of a high-speed chase by Israeli security forces. However, an IDF spokesperson said that there were no reports of a chase, and the incident was “probably a car accident.”

The real surprise in this case is that the Palestinians owned up to an error. No surprise though that AFP was prepared to run the story in the first place. But just how much damage can a story do before it gets quietly buried by a newsroom?

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March 11, 2014 14:41 By Category : Backspin

Context-Free Headlines

Not everybody reads articles. You just see headlines as you quickly your news sites and social media feeds.

Which is why this AP headline contains all the info most people will know about yesterday’s incident at the Allenby Bridge border crossing.

Associated Press

You have to read the article to find out that Raed Zueter tried to grab a gun from a soldier.

“The terrorist ran toward soldiers yelling ‘Allahu akbar’ attempting to seize their weapons,” the Israeli military said. “The soldiers felt an immediate threat to their lives and fired toward his lower extremities. The suspect then began to strangle a soldier and the force resorted to firing again.”

AFP’s no better.

Israeli troops kill Jordanian judge at border crossing

While Zueter’s death has whipped up a predictable firestorm in Jordan, sensationalized headlines like these only inflame tensions even more.

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March 11, 2014 10:40 By Category : Backspin Tags:, , , , ,

Guardian Headline Screams Bias

What would you think if you saw this in The Guardian?


A headline referring to discrimination against women in the workplace plus a photo of Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset would suggest a serious problem for women’s rights in Israel.

It’s only when you look at the rest of the article that you will see that it includes a selection of rather dry news briefs from the civil services of countries including Canada, India and Pakistan.

But only Israel warrants a sensationalized headline and a photo that bears very little relevance to the non-story at hand.

As for the rights of women in Israel, The Guardian may wish to consider that the issue of gender inequality has arisen in a state comptroller report precisely because Israel takes this seriously. Israel, a state that has had a female prime minister, doesn’t only compare favorably on this issue to its Middle East neighbors (where, for example, women in Saudi Arabia are not even allowed to drive), but also does with other Western liberal democracies.

Yet another example of The Guardian’s unhealthy obsession with reporting anything and everything remotely negative to do with Israel and amplifying it to a wholly disproportionate level.

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March 9, 2014 11:49 By Category : Backspin UK News Tags:

Save the Date: HR CEO to Speak at Newton, MA Event


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March 6, 2014 17:14 By Category : Backspin

Guardian Removes “Jewish Lobby” Reference

The Guardian’s report on the IDF capture of an Iranian weapons ship contained the following paragraph:


The reference to a “powerful Jewish lobby” is insidious as well as inaccurate (AIPAC is not an exclusively Jewish organization). HonestReporting Managing Editor Simon Plosker tweeted the following to The Guardian’s Middle East Editor Ian Black:


CiF Watch also weighed in and some hours later, The Guardian amended its article to refer to AIPAC more accurately as the “powerful pro-Israel lobby.” Nonetheless, the initial “slip” on the part of The Guardian’s journalists gives us a very sorry but unsurprising insight into their prejudiced thinking.

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March 6, 2014 17:05 By Category : Backspin UK News

Joe Hyams at AIPAC: We Can Defeat the BDS

joeaipac1The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is trying to undermine Israel’s legitimacy, but we can defeat the movement if we work together to subvert its message, HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams told attendees of the AIPAC Policy Conference this week in Washington, DC.

Joe joined CAMERA’s CEO, Andrea Levin, and The Israel Project’s CEO, Josh Block on a panel discussing “Middle East Media: Covering a Region in Turmoil,” on the second day of the conference.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared to the AIPAC audience that the BDS would fail, Joe took up the challenge of showing the audience how.

Unlike traditional forms of media bias from the mainstream press, which stand to lose credibility when they are shown to be violating principles of journalism, BDS thrives on media exposure,” Joe said.

The only way to address it is to subvert its message. SodaStream is the most successful high profile example of this to date,” he continued. “They managed to appear more humanitarian than Oxfam, and created an alternative to the dogma that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is entirely bad for the Palestinians.

joeaipactweetJudging by the audience response, which included live tweets throughout the talk, Joe’s message clearly hit its target. Joe also talked about the elements of fair media coverage and what Israel’s advocates can reasonably expect from the media.

But the annual AIPAC Conference is more than just three days of speeches and panels on the biggest issues facing Israel. It’s also an opportunity to exchange ideas with the brightest stars in the world of Israel advocacy and create opportunities for collaboration that will benefit the Jewish world in numerous unexpected ways.

Joe met with a wide range of policy makers and opinion leaders throughout the conference, including current ministers in the Israeli government, leaders of local communities across the U.S., authors, journalists and activists.

Joe Hyams with Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz

Joe Hyams with Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz

As an invited speaker and not just a delegate attending the conference, Joe was in high demand, even when he attended sessions by other speakers. During a working dinner, Joe was addressed from the podium, with the speaker informing the audience that Joe was “a temporary Bostonian” and recommended him as a keynote speaker for upcoming events.

Joe’s appearance at AIPAC was an important gateway to bringing HonestReporting’s message to a wider audience. And it comes just as the wider Jewish world has come to see the depth of the media threat HonestReporting has been fighting for the past 13 years.

Now, more than ever, we need our supporters to join us as we set our sights on the most insidious media threat we’ve faced in a decade – one which seeks to undermine Israel’s very legitimacy. But together we can turn the tide against the BDS and bring Israel a bright new future.

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March 6, 2014 16:35 By Category : Backspin Tags:, ,

Reuters: How a Typo Can Create a Conspiracy Theory

It’s not unusual to find anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists lurking in the nether regions of the web who will always try to claim that Israel mounts “false flag operations” to discredit its enemies. In the case of the Iranian weapons ship seized by the IDF, this would entail Israel planting the missiles on board in order to serve its own nefarious propaganda.

While this sort of fringe lunacy can be readily dismissed, it isn’t helpful when a reputable media outlet makes an error that might assist in the construction of such a conspiracy theory.

Take Reuters, which initially reported:

Israeli television footage showed what appeared to be marines inspecting a rocket on the floor of a ship hold, with cement bags labeled “Made in Israel” in English next to it.

In fact, this is what Israeli television footage, courtesy of the IDF, actually showed:


The cement bags were clearly marked “Made in R. Iran” and not Israel.

While Reuters has since corrected its original report, the same cannot be said of other international media outlets that relied on the Reuters story for their own coverage, including the Sydney Morning Herald and Canada’s Globe and Mail.

This illustrates the added responsibility that the wire services have to get it right the first time and the dangers behind a simple typo.


Both the Sydney Morning Herald and the Globe and Mail have updated their articles to match the corrected Reuters version.

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March 6, 2014 12:17 By Category : Backspin

The Independent Headline That Sums Up the Bias

If there was ever a headline that sums up the one-sided view that Israel and only Israel can and should make concessions in peace negotiations with the Palestinians, this is it in The Independent:


So, according to The Independent, simply recognizing the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state is “impossible” for Mahmoud Abbas. And what’s more, according to The Independent, Netanyahu is clearly the spoiler in the talks for making the demand.

But what about Palestinian demands to flood Israel with millions of “refugees” under the so-called Right of Return? Why is asking for the effective end of Israel as a Jewish state not considered an “impossible” demand on the part of the Palestinians?

Just another example of how media bias is allowed to present peace talks as a one-way street where Israel is the only driver. Palestinians are portrayed as powerless passengers on the journey with no responsibility for the bumps on the road.

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March 5, 2014 11:35 By Category : Backspin