Security Fence Scrutiny

Dear HonestReporting Subscriber,

Media coverage of Ariel Sharon’s visit to Washington was dominated by one issue — Israel’s security fence, currently under construction in the West Bank. Journalists followed the lead of Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas, who lodged a complaint with President Bush regarding the fence during his visit last week, and Yassir Arafat, who on Tuesday called the security fence “a Berlin Wall.”

The fence’s contribution to anti-terror security is clear, but Ariel Sharon explained to columnist William Safire a further, diplomatic advantage it grants: “Arafat’s strategy is to make terror a part of political negotiation…When you don’t get all you want, you use terror – you start an intifada. The security fence, when it is finished, will close off this strategy. Losing this negotiating weapon bothers them.”

While many news outlets presented balanced reports on this controversy, others went overboard.

— Philadelphia Inquirer cartoonist Tony Auth issued this cartoon that depicts Palestinians caged within a Star of David:

In fact, the security fence is only on the Western side of most West Bank residents, and though the fence restricts some movement, legal Palestinian passage through official gates remains completely free. And by ignoring the fence’s justification as an anti-terror measure, the cartoon shows an utter lack of context.

Comments to:

Salon magazine’s profile of the fence, “When Security Becomes Apartheid,” devotes the first 2,000 words of the article to the difficulties the fence causes local Palestinians. Only then are Israeli positions presented, in a cynical fashion — an Israeli cabinet minister is described as having an “air” about him, “sitting in an easy chair in his air-conditioned office in the Knesset.”

And only at the very end does Salon reporter Ferry Biedermann come clean about his own, false apartheid comparison: “the Palestinian use of the term ‘apartheid’ in connection with the wall is misleading…There is no systemized structure of racial discrimination in place that is comparable to the apartheid that used to define South African society.”

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— In England, The Newcastle Journal both grants Palestinian statehood and misrepresents the security fence’s aim in its headline, “Israel Vows to Fence Off Palestine.”

London’s Independent, meanwhile, paints Sharon as sly and evasive in Washington — the Israeli Prime Minister “reverted to the familiar tactic of laying the blame on the Palestinians for not moving more forcefully to crack down on terrorism.” And The Independent is apparently irritated by the warm personal relationship the two leaders have built: “Though Israel gave so little discernable ground, the two men were all smiles and friendliness, referring to each other as ‘Ariel’ and ‘George’.”

Comments to Independent:

The security fence, originally proposed by the previous Labor-led government, is an extremely expensive project ($2 billion) that is viewed favorably by most Israelis, but only as a last resort. In the midst of a severe economic downturn, Israel can only justify this project to save the lives of its citizens, who remain vulnerable to constant and ongoing terror attacks. The Palestinian Authority has not done their job of reining in terror, so Israel must do so. Israel’s options are either constant invasion of Palestinian towns, or building a passive fence. Nearly everyone prefers the latter.

While the media scrutinize the security fence, the central issue — indeed, the only issue — has fallen away. As U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay stated while addressing the Knesset yesterday, “An immediate and total end to Palestinian terrorism is not a concession the civilized world asks of the Palestinian Authority to advance the peace process. It is a prerequisite to the Palestinian Authority’s invitation to it.”

HonestReporting encourages subscribers to monitor their local media for fair coverage of Israel’s security fence, a passive measure to compensate for the PA’s failure to comply with the road map’s anti-terror mandates.

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


As noted in the last HonestReporting communique, most major news agencies failed to provide the full background on Iraqi Jewry’s persecution following Israel’s establishment. Apparently in response to HonestReporting feedback, Associated Press has issued a new version of their report, which now includes this key information:

“120,000 Jews [fled] Iraq after the creation of the state of Israel set off a campaign of state-sponsored persecution of Jews in 1949, including public hangings.”


The San Diego Union-Tribune’s readers’ representative, Gina Lubrano, noted the flood of letters from HonestReporting subscribers in response to that paper’s comparison of terror victim Marla Bennett to Rachel Corrie (critiqued by HonestReporting on July 21).

Lubrano reports, however, that many of the readers’ letters contained profanities.

HonestReporting urges our subscribers to refrain from the use of profanity, name-calling, and violent tone when writing to news outlets. As stated in our “Tips for Writing Good Letters,” the use of hostile language is always counter-productive and undermines the integrity of other letter-writers and the entire HonestReporting campaign.

Meanwhile, web-logger Brian Blum has recreated the Union-Tribune newsroom discussion that should have preceded the reporter’s mission. A highly recommended piece, available here.




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