NY Times Duped Again?

Joel Mowbray argues that the NY Times was used by the CIA and State Dept. to smear Ahmed Chalabi and his allies in the Bush administration. The Times recently admitted it was duped by questionable sources about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.

June 7, 2004 15:23 By Category : Backspin

Bird’s Eye View of the Liberty Incident

miragexThe USS Liberty incident continues to provide grist for all kinds of conspiracy theories (here and here among others). Recently, the Israeli Air Force allowed a reporter from the Jerusalem Post to listen to tapes of the radio transmissions before, during and immediately after the June 8, 1967 attack on the US intelligence-gathering vessel. One of the pilots involved, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Yiftach Spector, agreed to be identified for an interview as well.

On that fateful day, a mysterious ship was reported off the coast of El-Arish; the IDF thought the ship might have been responsible for the shelling of an arms depot on the beach. Three torpedo boats were dispatched but then the Air Force was requested to intercept the ship.


June 7, 2004 12:20 By Category : Backspin

Winning vs. the terrorists

Two further items to support our communique from yesterday:

* ‘Is Israel Winning the War on Suicide Bombers?’ Arieh O’Sullivan, JPost

Every night, soldiers and Shin Bet agents round up suspected Palestinian terrorists and fugitives in the West Bank in a quiet but effective crushing of terrorism. Intelligence from interrogations of detained Palestinians is key to thwarting attacks. There were three major suicide bombings inside Israel in the first five months of 2004 that killed 28 and wounded 120 people. In comparison, in the first six months of last year, six suicide bombings killed 54 people and wounded over 300. In 2003, there was a total of 23 suicide bombings that killed over 180 people.

* Security Fence Brings Stability to Jenin – Matthew Gutman, JPost

According to Hader Abu Sheikh, an official of the Palestinian Legislative Council, “there is 70% more nightlife in Jenin than a year ago.” “We are talking about the resumption of traditional Palestinian nightlife,” explains Abu Sheikh. “Weddings, men sitting in cafes late at night, women visiting each other….The point is, people are no longer confined to their houses at night, because Israel has left the city.” According to the IDF, the security fence relieves the army of the necessity to regularly patrol the city.

“There are positive business indicators, as people are starting to think of capital and investment and commerce again,” said Ziad Mifleh, director-general of the Jenin Chamber of Commerce. Even Palestinian Legislative Council member Sakhri Turkuman, a Fatah official, concedes that the security fence has “created some stability in Jenin.”

Now why don’t the major Western media outlets pick up these stories?

June 4, 2004 18:06 By Category : Backspin

Dore Gold on the ‘neocons conspiracy’

doregoldDore Gold is the latest to address the problem of blaming ‘Jewish insiders’ for the Bush administration’s decision to go to war on Iraq. Excerpt:

* An insidious but steady drumbeat can be discerned over the last several weeks charging that the primary interest of the Bush administration in going to war against Saddam Hussein was to defend Israeli security interests. This newest wave is often more subtle but also far more mainstream than what was voiced in this regard just last year.

* Yet from Israel’s perspective, by 2003 the Iraqi Army had been severely degraded in both military manpower and equipment. Continuing UN sanctions had made Iraqi re-armament difficult and Iraq was clearly not Israel’s primary concern. Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens concluded in August 2002 that in the immediate future, “the [missile] threat that Israel most likely will have to contend with” is that of Syria. He described the Iraqi capability as “relatively limited.” During the same month, Israel’s current chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, declared in Jerusalem that the threat posed by Iraq “doesn’t make me lose sleep.”

* In other words, the American war against Iraq may have had an unintended side-effect of removing a secondary or tertiary threat to Israel, but not a primary threat.

See also our earlier post on this topic.

June 3, 2004 23:05 By Category : Backspin

HR’s response to AJR article

The American Journalism Review published an article by Barbara Matusow criticizing the role of media monitors in coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Here’s HonestReporting’s response to the AJR:

To the AJR Editor,

In her recent article ‘Caught in the Crossfire’, Barbara Matusow critiques our organization among others that advocate balanced coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Unfortunately, Ms. Matusow omits any mention of the countless corrections and significant improvements in coverage that our organization has been reponsible for, and for which Mideast correspondents themselves often express appreciation. Perhaps worse, Ms. Matusow maligns responsible news outlets such as CNN that have devoted resources to improving balance in their Mideast coverage, claiming editors there are merely bowing to the “intense pressure.”

“One newspaper reporter,” laments Ms. Matusow, “acknowledged in an interview that she has balanced the number of quotes in her dispatches to ward off criticism.” Our understanding is that balanced quotations are a desirable practice when covering a conflict. Why does Ms. Matusow consider this an unfortunate result of media monitors?

Indeed, Ms. Matusow’s tendentious piece is precisely the type of journalism our organization seeks to correct.


Michael Weinstein
Managing Editor

June 3, 2004 14:55 By Category : Backspin

Dershowitz at Berkeley

Transcript of a fine speech by Alan Dershowitz at UC Berkeley on May 29, 2004:

a young student came to me from Harvard College and asked me for forgiveness. I said, “What do I have to forgive you for? I don’t even know you.”

He said, “I never speak up on campus, in my classroom, in my dormitory, at dinner. I never speak up in favor of Israel even though I’ve been there on Operation Birthright and I know the facts and hear the lies.”

“Why not?” I asked.

He replied, “Because if I am perceived as pro-Israel, pro-Zionist, in favor of Israel, I won’t be able to get dates with young girls.”


June 3, 2004 8:58 By Category : Backspin

Jay Rosen on bias, balance, and fairness

Big discussion on Jay Rosen’s blog regarding issues of media bias, balance, and fairness.

Rosen doesn’t think ‘bias’ is a helpful term at all, since

any work of journalism is saturated with bias from the moment the reporter leaves the office–and probably before that–to the edited and finished product.

There’s bias in the conversation our biased reporter has with his biased editor, bias in the call list he develops for his story, bias in his choice of events to go out and cover, bias in the details he writes down at the event, bias in his lead paragraph, bias in the last paragraph, bias when his editor cuts a graph. The headline someone else writes for him– that has bias. There’s bias in the placement of the story. (No bias in the pixels or printer’s ink, though.)

Two of Rosen’s readers reframe the question, therefore:

Any selection of facts will necessarily represent a bias. I think the main problem most Americans have with the current incarnation of the mainstream media is not that they have biases, but rather that they all share the same rather narrow biases, a reflection of the fact that almost all the media is now controlled and produced by a very narrow and unrepresentative slice of the population.


The overriding value in journalism, along with accuracy, must be not objectivity but fairness. Not the kind of fairness wherein for every Hannity you have a Colmes, but the kind of fairness where, regardless of the journalist’s personal feelings, he or she can judge a piece of reporting on whether all the important points of view have had a legitimate chance to change minds.

Though we at HonestReporting sometimes use the term ‘bias’ to describe problematic Mideast coverage, ‘fairness’ might be a more appropriate term in many cases. And there is certainly a narrow, pack mentality among many Israel correspondents that results in unbalanced coverage of this conflict.

June 2, 2004 16:07 By Category : Backspin

Hizbullah TV’s ‘Road to Palestine’

Via MediaLine:

Hizballah’s TV station Al-Manar is airing video-clips day and night depicting the fight against Israel and the aspiration to correct what it sees as the historic injustice done to the Palestinians. In other words: the complete destruction of the state of Israel.

A recent video clip says: “We shall return,” together with the names of Israeli cities such as Beersheva and Tiberias.

With funding and assistance from Iran, Syria, and more recently from al-Qaeda, Hizballah has turned into a leading force in the Arab and Muslim world.


June 2, 2004 15:32 By Category : Backspin

Only Israel labled ‘Nazi’

NAZIWalter Reich in the LA Times (req. reg.) :

Genocidal mass murder continues to foul the world. So do large-scale massacres of civilians and brutal executions.

Yet the foulest epithet in any language — “Nazi” — is hurled not against any of the perpetrators of those crimes but, uniquely and systematically, against Israel.

A piece well worth reading. We received a number of alerts from concerned Times readers regarding an illustration that accompanied this article in the print edition. The illustration (above – click for larger version) was the word ‘NAZI’ with Israel written inside the ‘I’.

While the illustration was ill-conceived, its context alongside the article indicates that there was no major impropriety from the Times on this one.

June 2, 2004 13:37 By Category : Backspin

Reuterization of Washington Times?

AtlanticBlog points out this line from a Washington Times report on the UN Human Rights Commission:

Washington has staked out an increasingly moral and, in many quarters, unpopular stand in the HRC by aggressively seeking the censure of China, Zimbabwe, Cuba and other dictatorial regimes, even as it defends Israel.

Asks William Sjostram:

“even as”? So when did Sharon pull off a military coup and cancel elections?

Comments to Washington Times: click here

June 1, 2004 17:20 By Category : Backspin