Reuters’ faulty math and translation

From a Reuters report today on Israeli plans to expand the Golan Heights population:

Israel’s main daily Yedioth Ahronoth said the $62 million plan would double the Golan’s 18,000 settler population within three years. But an Agriculture Ministry spokesman said “only” 900 families would be settled — a roughly one-third increase.

The Yedioth Ahronoth report has now been disproven, so let’s turn to the actual plan: How exactly are 900 familes one-third of 18,000? They would have to be families of 6.6 persons each – more than double the Jewish Israeli average (which is 3.2). The actual article in Yedioth Ahronoth (here, in Hebrew) said (we’ll translate):

The head of the Golan Regional Council, Eli Malka, explained that the council’s plan does not include building new communities, but rather expansion of existing communities as tourist villages. He added that the essential focus of the plan is expanding the rural population by about 30% (900 familes in three years), and raising agricultural exports by 70%.

Haaretz adds:

The program aims to increase the population on the Golan by some 300 families every year, just a few more families a year than the current Golan Regional Council program has drawn in the last 18 months.

So Reuters:

1) misrepresented the explanation as coming from an ‘Agriculture Ministry spokesman’ (i.e. Sharon crony), when actually he was a local Golan leader,
2) misrepresented his statement in defense of the program, which referred to expanding the rural population along natural growth lines, not increasing the entire population of the Golan by 30%. (The actual increase in Golan Jewish population, according to the plan, would be about 16%.)

The result: Israeli policy is attacked, then denied an accurate explanation. Unfortunately, this is par for the course for Reuters.

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AFP also got their numbers wrong:

Official sources said a cross-ministerial commission had ratified a plan to speed up the building of 900 homes which would increase the Jewish population from 10,500 to around 15,000 over three years. (emphasis added)

Actually, two years ago the Golan had 16,000 Jewish residents, and that figure has now increased to the 18,000 stated by Reuters. And to meet AFP’s calculations, the 900 new families would need to average 5 per household ? still much larger than actual Israeli families.

January 1, 2004 11:00 By Category : Backspin

European media’s pro-Arab bias

Two items on this today:

1) A French newspaper has fired a reporter for publishing a book critical of anti-American bias in the French press. Associated Press reports:

The book, “La Guerre a Outrances” (The War of Outrages), criticizes the French reporting for continually predicting the war would end badly for the U.S.-led coalition.

“Readers can’t understand why the Americans won the war,” Hertoghe said in a telephone interview. “The French press wasn’t neutral.”

The book, published Oct. 15, charges French reporters were more patriotic than journalistic and what was written amounted to disinformation.

James Taranto adds: “What’s really pathetic is that in France, being ‘patriotic’ means showing fealty to a fascist Arab dictator.”

2) Frontpage Magazine translated an interview with a Barcelona leftist and contributor to a forthcoming book that ‘denounces the flagrant imbalance in the handling of information from the Middle East.’

Marc Tobiass: Why did you feel the need to write “In Favor of Israel”; to participate in the publication of this book?

Pilar Rahola: Since the start of the second intifada, the Spanish press, on the right as well as the Left, has taken a particularly aggressive approach toward Israel, an approach that leaves out the reasons for Israel’s actions and tends to ignore the Israeli victims in this conflict. In this situation, a small minority of intellectuals, public personalities—sensitive to the Jewish question in general and to Israel particular—felt deeply touched by this problem. Outraged by the return of Judeophobia in Spain, we, each in our own way, began to write articles; to use the media to condemn this situation.

Here Rahola touches upon deeper causes for European media bias:

Marc Tobiass: There is a comment in your text that sent shivers down my spine. You say that Judeophobia is, in the final analysis, the common denominator between Europe and the Palestinians.

Pilar Rahola: It’s true that there are in Europe non-Jews who are sensitive and respect the Jewish soul, which is also part of the foundation of Europe, but they constitute a minority. The majority, the unconscious European collective, does not understand, does not absorb, nor accept, the Jewish phenomenon. And it is there that the essential meeting point between the European and the Palestinian takes place. Palestinian identity is not just a recent phenomenon, but it is, above all, built on hatred of Israel, hatred of the Jews.

An important interview – read the whole thing here.

December 31, 2003 21:44 By Category : Backspin

EU ‘proxy war’ vs. Israel

From The American Thinker:

Ilka Schroeder, a 25 year old former German Green Party member, who is now a member of the EU Parliament, has delivered an important address at the Center for German Studies of Ben Gurion University in Israel. She characterized the Palestinian Intifada as a European proxy war on America.

“The Europeans supported the Palestinian Authority with the aim of becoming its main sponsor, and through this, challenge the U.S. and present themselves as the future global power. Therefore, the Al-Aksa Intifada should be understood as a proxy war between Europe and the United States.”

Europe actively fighting the U.S. through supporting Palestinian terror. A highly disturbing breaking of ranks.

December 31, 2003 21:25 By Category : Backspin

Glenn Reynolds on the conflict

Superblogger Glenn Reynolds – the Tennessee law prof otherwise known as Instapundit – has an uncharacteristically strong condemnation of US support for Palestinians today – read it here. Excerpt:

These folks are our enemies, and deserve to be treated as such. They don’t deserve a state of their own. It’s not clear that they even deserve to keep what they’ve got.

December 31, 2003 21:20 By Category : Backspin

Terrorist Trading Cards, v.2

While Palestinian kids are busy collecting cards that glamorize terrorists, Israelis now have a product of their own: Most Wanted Palestinian Terrorists

When does peace have a chance in this conflict? When the Israeli version is a hotter item on the Palestinian street.

(Here’s a JPost article on this.)

December 31, 2003 12:53 By Category : Backspin

‘Terror’ Inconsistency at AP

Here we go again…on an AP report yesterday from Saudi Arabia, note how the news agency refers to the suspect:

Terror Suspect Surrenders to Saudi Police A terror suspect surrendered to Saudi police, and a Western diplomat said Islamic militants are going after the security officials who are hunting them…

But when the dateline’s Gaza City:

An Israeli helicopter fired two missiles at a car carrying militants from the violent Islamic Hamas, wounding 11 people despite earlier reports that Israel and the militant group had reached an agreement to halt violence.

Same day, same crimes, same news agency, two standards.

Comments to AP:

The same deal at BBC today:
‘Saudi terror suspect surrenders’ vs.
‘Israeli Gaza raid targets Hamas’ : The Palestinian militant group Hamas confirmed two of its members were in the vehicle, but escaped unharmed.

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December 31, 2003 12:22 By Category : Backspin

LA Times Ignoring Neumann’s Background

Our communique yesterday addressed the LA Times granting op-ed space to a far-out radical – Michael Neumann – who would (in his own words) ‘use anything, including lies, injustice and obfuscation’ to promote his anti-Israel agenda. The Times felt this person was qualified to pontificate on the resurgent wave of anti-Semitism.

The LA Times published a number of letters today that took issue with Neumann, but none of these letters addressed the heart of the matter – that Neumann has written this, which should disqualify him from any respectable public platform:

My sole concern is indeed to help the Palestinians, and I try to play for keeps. I am not interested in the truth, or justice, or understanding, or anything else, except so far as it serves that purpose…I would use anything, including lies, injustice and obfuscation, to do so. If an effective strategy means that some truths about the Jews don’t come to light, I don’t care. If an effective strategy means encouraging reasonable anti-Semitism or reasonable hostility to Jews, I don’t care. If it means encouraging vicious racist anti-Semitism, or the destruction of the State of Israel, I still don’t care.

We’re still waiting for the Times to both publish a letter that raises the issue of Neumann’s prior writings (we know they got them…) and justify their granting this nihilist prominent space on this weighty matter. In the meantime, this guy hits the nail on the head:

Neumann concludes his convoluted screed by stating that anti-Semitism is not a priority, but only after he asserts that “a substantial majority of adult Jews” have “some responsibility” for Israeli “war crimes and human rights violations.” Obviously, anti-Semitism is not a priority for someone who believes that most adult Jews are war criminals. The relevant question is whether anti-Semitism is a priority for people who are actually in touch with reality. – David Podvin, West Hills

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December 30, 2003 15:26 By Category : Backspin

Bad News Sells

Gregg Easterbrook says in his new book, The Progress Paradox, that mainstream journalists focus on bad news because the elites they serve benefit from fear-mongering. Easterbrook tells Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post that reporters “want their own work to be seen as important, as we all do. If you present something as scandalous or dangerous or frightening, that’s more compelling than a story about something that’s gone well.”

This has important implications for over-reported regions such as Israel – see our entry on this topic.

(Hat tip: Romenesko)

December 30, 2003 15:08 By Category : Backspin

Worth Reading Today

* Relative Calm Watch : Israel’s only dealing with 54 terror alerts, according to the Jerusalem Post.

* Top Ten Media Blunders of 2003

* Good staff-ed in the Washington Times. The upshot: Disengagement is a sea change for Sharon because it highlights an end to ideology of “Greater Israel,” and if the Palestinians would wake up and smell the coffee, they could have a state of their own, even though they blew previous opportunities.

* Khaled Abu Toameh reports that Palestinians Still Side With Saddam:

Saddam Hussein is still seen by some Palestinians as a hero and a symbol of defiance against Israel and the U.S. Saddam’s picture appears at protests against the separation fence, at rallies for Palestinian prisoners, and at funerals of activists. Saddam’s sympathizers can be found in almost all the Palestinian factions, including Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. The Palestinian branch of the dissolved Iraqi Ba’ath Party, known as the Arab Liberation Front (ALF), remains active in several Palestinian cities and villages.
In the past three weeks, the ALF and “Saddam’s friends” have published two paid front-page advertisements in the Palestinian daily al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, condemning the U.S. for apprehending Saddam.

* J Post editorial on Fence-Building Anarchists:

The complaint of the Palestinians and their fellow travelers generally boils down to “it all started when he hit me back.” Want to help the Palestinians? Tell them to stop attacking Israel, and the record shows that Israel will quickly reciprocate by easing its onerous security measures. It is Palestinian terrorism that is building the fence, with the help of its supposed friends.

* Barry Rubin, in Is There an Alternative to Arafat’s Leadership?, says “the bottom line is: Arafat will not make a deal. Therefore, either an alternative to Arafat is found or we will have to out-wait him, in order to achieve peace.”

December 30, 2003 14:46 By Category : Backspin

Bungled Headline of the Day

From The Age (Melbourne):

Sharon Prepares for Failure

Failure of what? You have to read this Reuters report to find out Sharon appointed Giora Eiland to prepare for disengagement in the event of the failure of the road map.

December 30, 2003 14:41 By Category : Backspin