Blaming Israel for Abu Ghraib?

May 10, 2004 12:00 by

While the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal has everyone asking how US soldiers could commit such acts, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation suggests this answer: The Israelis made them do it.

On the May 4 broadcast of CBC TV’s National News (see video in RealVideo or Quicktime), correspondent Neil Macdonald delivered the lead story from Washington ? political fallout from the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse pictures. Macdonald makes a bizarre shift from Iraq to turn his report against Israel, proposing to viewers that

the occupation of Iraq and George Bush’s unprecedented alliance with the right wing government of Israel has placed Americans overseas in danger.

Macdonald then focuses the camera on a retired US diplomat, Eugene Bird, who makes the outlandish suggestion that the Mossad may have been behind the tortures:

We know that the Israeli intelligence was operating in Baghdad after the war was over. The question should be: Were there any foreign interrogators among those that were recommending very, very bad treatment for the prisoners?

CBC’s Macdonald ? delivering the top story for the Canadian nightly news with the broadest public reach ? brings no facts or sources to substantiate these grave charges. Further, by including Bird’s statement (from a news conference of former US diplomats critical of President Bush’s support for Israel), Macdonald manipulated two unrelated stories in a way that only a journalist with an anti-Israel agenda would have even considered.

Eugene Bird, afforded a prominent voice by Macdonald, is far from a neutral Washington expert: Bird is president of the Council for the National Interest, an anti-Israel lobby group whose mission statement is

to restore a political environment in America in which voters and their elected officials are free from the undue influence and pressure of a foreign country, namely Israel.

Moreover, Bird (who held no senior diplomatic position above foreign service officer) writes regularly for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, a journal known for its strong anti-Israel bias. Last month he called upon Americans to write to their congressmen and the President ‘and urge them to adopt an Israel Accountability and Security Act.’

Bird’s insinuation that the Mossad was behind the Abu Ghraib abuses is the type of material we’ve come to expect from crude Arab propagandists like Al Jazeera, who in fact issued a similar report, ‘Israeli Lessons for the US in Iraq’, quoting a Palestinian Authority official who

believes that what the Americans are doing to the Iraqis amounts to a ‘carbon copy’ of what the Israelis have been doing to the Palestinians.

‘I am inclined to think that the Americans copied the Israeli techniques. I can’t prove it in an objective manner, but the striking similarities are overwhelming.’

HonestReporting readers will recall Macdonald’s long history of anti-Israel bias during his four-year tenure as CBC Mideast correspondent. Now, 10,000 miles away in Washington, Macdonald is finding even more creative ways to promote Arab conspiracy theories of unfettered Zionist evil.

In summary, with his report on Abu Ghraib Macdonald (1) makes a forced association between Israel and an unrelated topic that is generating viewer outrage, and (2) via a highly questionable source, promotes an unsubstantiated claim that shifts blame for Abu Ghraib upon Israel.

Comments to: letters@cbc.ca

UPDATE: The CBC apologized for this Neil Macdonald report with this statement, read on the nightly news by anchorman Brian Stuart on May 7:

A clarification now about a story we told you about on Tuesday. In a report on the US abuse of Iraqi prisoners we included a comment from a news conference by retired American diplomats criticizing U.S. Middle East policy. A representative of the group suggested that Israeli intelligence might be linked in some way to the abuse at the prison. The fact is there is no evidence that Israel was involved in what happened in the Iraqi prison. The comment from the diplomat should not have been included in the report and we regret the error.

 

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.

HonestReporting

 

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