Robert Fisk’s Orwellian Newspeak

Dear HonestReporting Member,

Back in the 1970s Fisk began reporting from Beirut for the London Times. His dispatches in 1982 from the Palestinian side of Beirut were full of purple prose describing Palestinian women as “Madonnas” of renaissance artists or “El Greco” characters with “beseeching eyes and hands.” Fisk’s identification with the Palestinians only grew after shrapnel from the fighting hit near his apartment. When Palestinian fighters fled Beirut, Fisk sadly wrote of his “friend’s” humiliation, embarrassment and “uncontrollable… weeping.”

Now, 25 years later, Fisk is sending daily dispatches from Palestinian territories for the British Independent.

In one recent article entitled, “How pointless checkpoints humiliate the lions of Palestine, sending them on the road to vengeance” (April 14), Fisk sat in a column of Arab cars waiting to pass through an Israeli checkpoint.

Fisk charges Israel with “bestializing” the Palestinian people. He describes the humiliation of Arab men whom he identifies as “lions and eagles,” who are whipped into obedient “donkeys.” Finally, he writes — in the first person — “Now it was our turn [to go through the checkpoint]… cockroaches ready to be crushed.”

On April 17, Fisk renewed an old canard, in an article entitled, “When journalists refuse to tell the truth about Israel — Fear of being slandered as ‘anti-Semites’ means we are abetting terrible deeds in the Middle East.”

The article compares Israel with South Africa. Well, “No,” Fisk admits, “Israel is not South Africa,” yet he incessantly continues to compare Israel with the apartheid regime. Israel’s attempts to stop terror cells that plan and carry out attacks against Jewish civilians are, in Fisk’s eyes, reminiscent of South African “death squads.” Fisk also accuses Israel of racism, but no facts are offered — perhaps because Israel is guilty only of protecting the security of its residents, rather than imposing racist restrictions.

Fisk portrays any reporter not willing to criticize Israel as a coward: “Our gutlessness, our refusal to tell the truth, our fear of being slandered as ‘anti-Semites’ — the most loathsome of libels against any journalist — means that we are aiding and abetting terrible deeds in the Middle East.”

This is an old Fisk theme. In a ranging interview in The Progressive (July 1998), Fisk attacked the Middle East reporting of American colleagues. “American journalists, whether they be on television or in the press, are very frightened of writing a report which is going to make Israel — or, more important, Israel’s supporters in the United States — unhappy. If you dare to criticize Israel’s policies or their actions… you will inevitably get the claim that you must be racist, anti-Semitic, and that is intended to shut you up.”

If you find Robert Fisk’s articles biased, please write your own letter, in your own words to:

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias. We are having an impact!



As a follow-up to our recent communique about the USS Liberty, we present some additional comments:

From: A. Jay Cristol, Federal Judge, Southern District, Florida

To the Editor of the New York Times: (published April 30, 2001)

Re “Book Says Israel Intended 1967 Attack on U.S. Ship” (news article, April 23): James Bamford’s book “Body of Secrets” indicates that the attack on the United States intelligence ship Liberty by Israel in 1967 was intended.

I researched this matter for 13 years. I analyzed 10 official United States investigations of the incident by the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States Navy, the President’s Foreign Intelligence Board, the Department of Defense and the National Security Agency, plus five Congressional investigations. They all came to the same conclusion, as did three official Israeli investigations: The attack was a tragic mistake, or there is no evidence that it was intentional.



To its credit, the New York Times Book Review published a review debunking a new book accusing Israel of deliberately killing 34 Americans in the 1967 attack on the USS Liberty. The review says this section is the book’s “weakest,” that the claim “hardly seems plausible” and that the author “sides with the conspiracy theorists,” and “rather too credulously” at that.

All of which makes it even more egregious and inexplicable that the New York Times news department spun this book’s claim into a full-length news article on April 23, 2001, a news article so one-sided that the article didn’t even include a fresh comment from the Israeli government responding to the allegation.

The Times book review suggests that perhaps the book’s analysis “has been skewed” by the author’s “palpable distaste for the Jewish state.” What, readers are left to wonder, was it that skewed the coverage of the book’s claim by the Times news department?