Sky News: Spot the “Error”

A Sky News report on a battle in the Israeli Supreme Court over the route of Israel’s security barrier through the Palestinian village of Battir on the West Bank produced a bit of a gaffe:

skynews290114

Safe to say that the Palestinian residents of Battir wouldn’t be too happy that their village is referred to as a “West Bank settlement” in the subheading below the headline and the caption on the video (underlined in red here).

Of course, had the word “settlement” not been politicized to refer in everyday usage to Jewish communities over the Green Line, there would be no problem using it to refer to any town, village or community in the West Bank, Jewish or otherwise.

Cue an email to Sky News and the “error” has been corrected.


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January 29, 2014 11:53 By Category : Backspin UK News Tags:, , ,

UK National Union of Journalists To Support BDS?

NUJHere’s a boycott of Israel that will make the American Studies Association look like a walk in the park.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Britain’s National Union of Journalists will discuss boycotting Israel and formally throwing its support behind the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS).

Jake Wallis Simons writes:

It is my understanding that at the NUJ’s Delegate Meeting in April, a motion will be tabled calling for the following:

1. To encourage members to boycott Israeli products and back lecturers and other professionals who refuse to cooperate with Israeli institutions.

2. To write to the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] Movement declaring the union’s support for the campaign.

The bias of the proposed NUJ motion is clear. It explicitly states that, “just as the boycott Apartheid campaign finally helped to bring an end to racist injustice in South Africa, a similar campaign against Israel can help end bloodshed there”.

The NUJ and its 38,000 members have been down this road before. In 2007, members voted to boycott Israeli products, ostensibly to protest Israel’s war in Lebanon. Less than three months later, the union scrapped the boycott.  The timing raised questions that the NUJ’s move was a pandering ploy to help free abducted BBC reporter Alan Johnston.

Bottom line, you can’t call yourself an objective journalist if you support the boycott of the country you cover. Journalism has to be outside the realm of politics.

If this motion does come to a vote, NUJ members should disclose their votes. It’s in the public’s interest to know.

And if the motion passes, the journalism of its members working in Israel will have zero credibility.


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January 29, 2014 10:20 By Category : Backspin Tags:, ,

Hateful Filibustering in The Scotsman

scotsmanlogoHugh Reilly is, according to The Scotsman, “a former member of the Scottish Friends of Palestine” and has been given space in the newspaper entitled “Stop Israeli filibustering over Gaza.”

According to Reilly:

Israel is conducting a colonial war, empire-building in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, contrary to international law

and:

Under Benjamin Netanyahu’s gaze, the dream of a Greater Israel continues.

The reference to a “colonial war” and “empire-building” is to portray Jews and Israelis as interlopers in the region with no legitimate rights to their homeland. As for the “dream of a Greater Israel,” this is no longer regarded by mainstream Israelis as anything other than a fringe view on the margins of Israeli politics.

Reilly states:

It puzzles me why we are constantly informed that Israel’s security needs are of paramount importance when even a cursory glance at the conflict’s casualty figures suggests that the Palestinians’ need for security is somewhat more pressing.

Hugh Reilly

Hugh Reilly

The use of casualty figures (more Palestinians than Israelis have died over recent years) is a simplistic method of painting the conflict in black and white terms and ignores the reality. Reilly does not consider how many of those Palestinian casualties were involved in terror activities. In addition, the reason that there are less Israeli casualties is down to Israeli measures to protect its population from Palestinian terrorism.

Would Reilly consider it fairer if Palestinian rockets from Gaza were allowed to hit Israeli schools and kindergartens? In dismissing legitimate Israeli security needs, Reilly also dismisses the threat of Palestinian terrorism and the fact that Israeli actions that have led to Palestinian deaths are a result of countermeasures in the defense of Israeli civilians.

Reilly goes on to claim:

Supporters of Israel’s West Bank squatting never tire of repeating the canard that Israel departed Gaza in 2006. By any measure, including international law, Gaza is still occupied as Israel controls that finger of land’s borders, airspace and coast. The blockade of Gaza persists.

Reilly conveniently ignores the fact that Egypt also maintains control over one of Gaza’s borders and is currently exerting enormous pressure on the Hamas government in Gaza. That Israel departed Gaza in 2006 is certainly no “canard” and Israel is legally entitled to enforce border controls and a naval blockade against a hostile entity.

Reilly continues:

For years, Israel fed the line that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, that only dangerous or dual-purpose materials were prohibited. However, as the Huffington Post revealed in 2010, the list of banned imports to that enclave proved to be a riveting read: A4 paper; books; pasta; crisps; shampoo and musical instruments – to name just six of the 81 prohibited items.

In fact, as of October 2012, the State of Israel updated and expanded the civil policy regarding imports to the Gaza Strip. The list of restricted materials was revised and shortened as part of the ongoing Israeli efforts to relax restrictions on civilian goods entering Gaza. Items and materials that remain on the restricted list are all weapons, military materials, and dual-use items. Reilly’s reference to “81 prohibited items” is no longer relevant.

But just to make sure to delegitimize the right of anyone to criticize his article, Reilly claims:

It is an unfortunate fact that any writer who dares to criticise the Israeli government’s actions in the occupied territories invariably excites cries of anti-Semitism from some quarters.

This is simply false. Criticism of Israel is not automatically treated as anti-Semitic by Israel’s supporters who rightly recognize that Israel is not beyond legitimate criticism. This charge by Reilly is not only untrue but actually demonstrates the refusal of Israel’s critics to engage in the possibility that some criticism does cross the line.

According to Reilly:

Shooting the messenger, or even just smearing him, helps maintain the Middle-East problem as something of a taboo subject.

Critics of Israel are able to get op-ed space in many mainstream media publications. Discussion is certainly not a “taboo subject” and Reilly’s claim is meant to portray him as some sort of persecuted martyr for engaging in criticism of Israel.

If Reilly is a victim of anything, it is of his own prejudices and blind hatred of Israel.

Send your considered comments to The Scotsman through its contact form - http://members.scotsman.com/contact.cfm – remembering to select “The Scotsman letters to the editor” from the drop-down menu and including your full postal address to be considered for publication.


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January 28, 2014 11:48 By Category : Backspin UK News Tags:,

Watchdog of the Week: Jason Levinson’s Letter in the Irish Times

watchdogoftheweekIt’s not often you see a letter from as far afield as Texas, USA, in the letters page of the Irish Times. HonestReporting subscriber Jason Levinson was compelled to write after reading our critique of Eamonn McCann’s appalling attack, not only on Ariel Sharon, but also on the Jewish religion.

Here is Jason’s letter:

Sir, – Eamonn’s McCann’s article (Opinion, January 16th) lacked one important thing – namely, facts, to support his thesis.  At no point does McCann provide any evidence that the biblical quotes he provides, or any part of the Bible, had any impact on Ariel Sharon’s political ideology.  Rather than facts, McCann merely writes his personal suppositions of Sharon’s belief system.  Moreover, he makes false historical claims. 

For instance, he stated that Sharon wanted to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from Israel yet the only mass cleansing under Sharon’s leadership is when he forcibly removed the Jewish community of Gaza.  Taken in sum, it appears that McCann’s goal is not to educate the readership of The Irish Times but to teach them to demonise religion. – Yours, etc,

In an email to HonestReporting, Jason writes:

I strongly believe in the influence of writing to media and government officials/bodies in defense of values that I hold, such as the proper treatment of Jews and Israel.  I believe that if we are active and make sure that the world is given the correct information, not only will there be less errors made about Jews and Israel but there will be also less attempts at anti-Semitism and hatred because those that are spawning the hate will know that they cannot act improperly without a reaction.  If we are quiet, then we are silently condoning bad behavior.

For taking action and getting his letter published, Jason Levinson from Texas is our Watchdog of the Week.

Are You the Watchdog of the Week?

Have you achieved a success in the fight against anti-Israel media bias? Want to share your success with thousands of HonestReporting’s readers?

If the answer is yes, you could be the next Watchdog of the Week!

Here are just a few of the things you could do to qualify:

  • Sending a tip-off to HonestReporting through our Red Alert page  that we act upon;
  • Get a letter published in a media outlet;
  • Or perhaps you’ve achieved something else that you feel is deserving of this accolade.

Let us know by sending an email to action@honestreporting.com describing your recent achievement and maybe you can be the Watchdog of the Week.


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January 27, 2014 10:00 By Category : Backspin Tags:, , , ,

Bye Bye, Harriet

Harriet Sherwood

Harriet Sherwood

The Guardian‘s Harriet Sherwood says farewell to the Mideast. The palpable negative feelings we’ve read between the lines in her years of coverage overtly bubbled up. A correspondent expressing feelings like this should’ve been pulled a long time ago:

I am leaving angry about an occupation that has lasted close to half a century, weary of Israel’s grinding oppression of the Palestinian people, cynical about the political leadership on both sides and in the international community, and pessimistic that a fair resolution will be reached.

Sherwood went off the deep-end awhile ago, served up shallow reporting, and was a big part of why our readers gave The Guardian our 2011 Dishonest Reporting Award.

But compared to the outright viciousness of her predecessors, Chris McGreal and Suzanne Goldenberg, I’ll remember Sherwood relatively favorably. I don’t know who The Guardian plans to replace her with. (Better the devil you know?)

Since anyone with the title of “Jerusalem correspondent” leaves the Mideast with the august reputation of “expert” for future commentaries, reminiscences, and other B-list talking-head situations, I doubt we’ve seen the last of her.

Bye bye, Harriet. I can’t say it’s been a pleasure.


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January 26, 2014 12:49 By Category : Backspin Tags:, , ,

Watchdog of the Week: Friends of Israel (Western Australia) Fighting Bias Down Under

watchdogoftheweekThis week’s Watchdog of the Week is awarded to an organization rather than an individual.

In September 2008, nine highly committed individuals held an informal meeting with the aim of creating an informal organization with priority to be given to fighting Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, assisting pro-Israel activity on Perth campuses and developing a website.

With the endorsement of over 450 community members at a public meeting in May 2009, Friends of Israel (Western Australia) officially launched in September 2010 with a number of key aims and challenges:

  • Providing members and the broader Australian community with up-to-date, factual information to assist in their knowledge of and their advocacy for Israel.
  • Developing dialogue with the mainstream churches, the trade union movement and the broader Australian community.
  • Promoting messages to both Jewish and non-Jewish schools and various community groups.
  • Arranging guest speakers from Israel and encouraging audience attendance from across the spectrum.
  • Responding to adverse newspaper reports with letters to the editor.

foiwaFast forward to today and FOIWA has its own website and membership stands at over 1000.

HonestReporting was delighted to meet two of FOIWA’s key activists, Phil Samuell and Lee Edmundson, who joined us on our last Mission to Israel. Watchdog of the Week is our opportunity to acknowledge the the efforts of Phil, Lee and the rest of their team as a fine example of how grassroots activists can make a difference.

Are You the Watchdog of the Week?

Have you achieved a success in the fight against anti-Israel media bias? Want to share your success with thousands of HonestReporting’s readers?

If the answer is yes, you could be the next Watchdog of the Week!

Here are just a few of the things you could do to qualify:

  • Sending a tip-off to HonestReporting through our Red Alert page  that we act upon;
  • Get a letter published in a media outlet;
  • Or perhaps you’ve achieved something else that you feel is deserving of this accolade.

Let us know by sending an email to action@honestreporting.com describing your recent achievement and maybe you can be the Watchdog of the Week.


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January 22, 2014 14:05 By Category : Australia Backspin Tags:, , , , ,

Canadian PM Turns Tables on the Media

Stephen Harper

Stephen Harper

Toronto Sun reporter David Akin, accompanied Canadian PM Stephen Harper on his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. According to Akin, it appears that when it comes to the media’s attitude towards Israel, Harper gets it:

Sometimes reporters just don’t get it.

Heck, I’m a reporter and I’m the first to admit that.

But at a joint press conference here Tuesday, Canada’s Stephen Harper and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu essentially teamed up to say that, when it comes to politics in the Middle East, reporters just don’t get it.

For the last two days, Canadian, Palestinian and Israeli journalists have, in Harper’s view, been trying to get him to say something bad about Israel and Netanyahu. After all, it says on a Canadian government website that it is official Canadian policy that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal. Why, the journalists asked, couldn’t Harper just say that?

More to the point, after spending a good chunk of his historic 2,400-word speech to the Knesset on Monday explaining that there was no way he was going to single out Israel for criticism in any public forum, Harper must have been wondering why the heck reporters continued to try to get him to do just that.

So he turned the tables.

“Yesterday in the Palestinian Authority, no one asked me there to single out the Palestinian Authority for any criticism in terms of governance or human rights or anything else,” Harper said, speaking about the press conference he’d held Monday in Ramallah side-by-side with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas. “When I’m in Israel, I’m asked to single out Israel. When I’m in Palestinian Authority I’m asked to single out Israel and in half the other places around the world you ask me to single out Israel.”

Read the full article here.


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Image: CC BY-SA Remy Steinegger/flickr.

January 22, 2014 11:28 By Category : Backspin Canada Tags:, , ,

Israel Lobby Trope in The Independent

independentlogoThe Independent’s Jerusalem correspondent Donald Macintyre also writes UK political columns. In his latest, he looks at the differences in approach towards Iran between UK and U.S. politicians:

Many MPs, in other words, want to go further, faster in rapprochement, with Iran. Contrast that with Congress, where many members have been pressing for sanctions to be tightened. All of this makes it hard not to conclude that one difference is the much greater power wielded by the Israel lobby in the US legislature than in its British counterpart.

Is it really so difficult to believe that some U.S. Congressmen may harbor genuine concerns and mistrust towards Iran without some all-powerful “Israel lobby” pulling the strings? And if Macintyre claims that this is “one difference” then why not tell us what the other differences are?

Far easier to buy into the trope of Jewish power to explain something that you find politically disagreeable. That this is coming from the pen of The Independent’s man in Israel is equally disturbing.

And is it really all that different from The Economist’s cartoon that suggested the very same thing?

Perhaps it’s not surprising considering that this is the newspaper that produced this front cover image back in 2006:

independent_1


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January 22, 2014 10:36 By Category : Backspin UK News Tags:, , ,

Shades of Anti-Semitism in The Economist

An article in The Economist examining the Iranian nuclear deal barely mentions Israel. So what was the magazine thinking when it published this cartoon to accompany the article?

economistcartoon0114i

The cartoon is clearly meant to imply that both U.S. President Obama and Iranian President Rohani are being constrained in their efforts to reach out to each other. In the case of Obama, the U.S. Congress is portrayed as the proverbial ball and chain.

But take a closer look. Two Stars of David appear, one in the outer rim and the other located directly over the eagle symbol.

Note that this is not an Israeli flag but a Jewish symbol. Is the cartoonist implying that Congress is under Jewish control?

Jewish control over governments, the media and the international financial system is a classic feature of anti-Semitism and the cartoon is, wittingly or unwittingly, promoting this trope.

This falls firmly under the working definitions of anti-Semitism from both the U.S. State Department and the EU, which specifically include:

Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

Perhaps this never occurred to the cartoonist or the staff of The Economist. It should have.

UPDATE:

Within hours of publication of this post, The Economist removed the offensive cartoon from the article and added the following:

Editor’s note: The print edition of this story had a cartoon which inadvertently caused offence to some readers, so we have replaced it with a photograph.

More coverage in The Times of Israel.

However, the cartoon still appears on The Economist’s Middle East page.

economistmideastpage210114

UPDATE 2:

The image on the Middle East page has now been replaced.


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January 20, 2014 15:34 By Category : Backspin UK News Tags:, ,

Watchdog of the Week: Adrian Needlestone Spots CNN Bias

watchdogoftheweekThe death of Ariel Sharon prompted countless articles and many hours of television news coverage. It’s times like these when the thousands of extra eyes of HonestReporting subscribers can be invaluable.

Adrian Needlestone was watching CNN on January 12 from the UK and was appalled by what he saw. Adrian alerted HonestReporting with the exact details of the program and the time that it was broadcast allowing us to locate it and view it for ourselves.

We were also appalled at the CNN report that lacked any context and implied that Ariel Sharon had carried out the Sabra and Shatila massacres. This resulted in a post on our Backspin blog.

For taking action that led directly to exposing CNN, we’ve awarded Adrian Needlestone this week’s Watchdog of the Week award. Adrian informs us that he:

spent 25 years working as a journalist mostly as a reporter on a variety of Fleet Street papers but also enjoyed spells on BBC radio and Sky TV when it was first launched in the UK.  A brief period working in Florida for the infamous National Enquirer was an exhilarating but surreal experience . Now I mostly sit and watch the world go by and shake my head in amazement as Editors in their 20′s pop up at the helm of some of the UK’s most prestigious titles. Craft and experience seem to have been trumped by university degrees and fiercely held opinions that can only be accounted for by the certainties that are the prerogative of youth.

Are You the Watchdog of the Week?

Have you achieved a success in the fight against anti-Israel media bias? Want to share your success with thousands of HonestReporting’s readers?

If the answer is yes, you could be the next Watchdog of the Week!

Here are just a few of the things you could do to qualify:

  • Sending a tip-off to HonestReporting through our Red Alert page  that we act upon;
  • Get a letter published in a media outlet;
  • Or perhaps you’ve achieved something else that you feel is deserving of this accolade.

Let us know by sending an email to action@honestreporting.com describing your recent achievement and maybe you can be the Watchdog of the Week.


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January 16, 2014 13:56 By Category : Backspin Tags:, ,