2004. It was the end of the Arafat era, the end of Sheik Yassin’s terror reign. The year Israel’s security fence saved innumerable lives yet was condemned at The Hague. Deadly Kassam rockets from the south, Ketushas from the north, and suicide bombings in Ashdod, Beersheva, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The year of Iraq conspiracy theories, and vicious anti-Israel material disguised as art, science, and urbane opinion.On one hand, the media are looking better. This year, the western press became more careful in its reporting of the Mideast conflict, with news stories only rarely exhibiting the overt anti-Israel bias prevalent in previous years.
On the other hand, the bias that persists has become more subtle, implicit, and downright libelous. For example, the media have allowed the following terminology to gain broad legitimacy: The security fence as an ‘Apartheid wall’, Israel practicing ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Palestinians, and a sinister ‘Likud cabal’ infesting Washington ? such terms have gained currency on the pages of major newspapers, despite having no basis in reality.
Thanks for sending in your nominations. Now, without further ado, we present this year’s Dishonest Reporting ‘Award’ winners:
Winner: While photojournalists were recording a seemingly candid expression of Palestinian suffering alongside the security fence, AP’s Enric Marti shot the scene from another angle, including the pack of photographers in his frame:
This image speaks volumes about media coverage of Palestinian life. The photographers are not merely ‘capturing the scene,’ but rather creating it ? either actively (by asking the woman to pose) or passively (allowing themselves to be manipulated by her posing for their cameras).
The ‘Award’ winners in this category are the five unidentified photographers who sent to their newsrooms the version depicted here (at right).
Winner: Barbara Plett, BBC. When Yassir Arafat’s health failed in November, BBC’s West Bank reporter Plett openly wept for the Godfather of Modern Terror. Plett’s weeping revealed an unprofessional (and, some would say, bizarre) identification with one side of the conflict that she is employed to cover in an objective fashion.
The Guardian for hailing Arafat’s ‘undisputed courage as a guerrilla leader,’ exceeded only ‘by his extraordinary courage’ as a peace negotiator.
Syndicated columnist Gwynne Dyer, for proclaiming that what Arafat ‘did right’ in his life were ‘successful acts of terror’ that drew attention to the Palestinian cause.
And Jonathan Cook, writing in the International Herald Tribune for expressing his understanding and appreciation of Palestinian terrorism as the ‘surest way to get their struggle noticed.’ (The IHT was also caught altering New York Times articles to make Israel look worse, and Palestinian terrorists look better.)
Winner: David A. Schlesinger, Reuters. In a remarkable moment of candor, Schlesinger, Reuters’ global managing editor, admitted that one reason his agency refuses to use the term ‘terrorist’ has nothing to do with editorial pursuit of objectivity, but is rather ‘to protect our reporters.’ Schlesinger described the ‘serious consequences’ if certain ‘people in the Mideast’ were to believe Reuters called those who detonate civilian buses and open fire on pregnant women ‘terrorists.’
Runner-up: Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler, for rationalizing the Post’s ongoing refusal to use the ‘T-word’ in reporting on Palestinian terror. The term ‘terrorism’ is ‘not helpful,’ Getler explained, since using it would ‘adopt the language of one side.’ Moreover, said Getler, ‘Palestinians view many Israeli actions… as terrorism.’
Winner: Neil MacDonald, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In May, while delivering CBC television’s lead story on the political fallout from the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses, Macdonald shifted attention away from Iraq and toward 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 brought on camera a retired US diplomat who made the outlandish claim that the Israeli Mossad was behind the Abu Ghraib tortures.
Then in December, Macdonald did it again. Reporting on the deadly al-Qaeda attack on a US consulate in Saudi Arabia, Macdonald gratuitously dragged Israel into the story, going out of his way to find someone willing to blame America’s relationship with Israel for the attack. Macdonald put one Allen Keiswetter on the air, who said
I think the principal reason is our policies on the Arab-Israeli issues. This is extremely important. We’re now regarded as being very much in the pockets of Sharon. And the second reason of course is Iraq.
CBC Ombudsman David Bazay, in response to allegations of anti-Israeli bias in the May incident, declared that while Macdonald was not guilty of bias, ‘editors and producers must not only avoid bias; they must avoid the appearance of bias. And, I agree, the May 4 report did expose [CBC] to the appearance of bias.’
With Macdonald, CBC is finding it increasingly difficult to discount the allegations of bias.
In 2004, anti-Israel invective made its way off the newspaper page and became propagated via ‘alternative’ media:
Winner: Dror Feiler. A Stockholm art show (accompanying an international conference on preventing genocide) included a large exhibit by Feiler glorifying the Palestinian terrorist who murdered 21 Israelis at Haifa’s Maxim restaurant. Dubbed ‘Snow White and the Madness of Truth,’ the exhibit showed a tiny sailboat floating on a pool of red water, and the accompanying text cast the mass murderer as a ‘Snow White’ victim.
In a spontaneous act of protest, Israeli ambassador to Sweden Zvi Mazel threw a light fixture into the red pool, then said: ‘I could not remain indifferent to such an obscene misrepresentation of reality. This was not a piece of art. This was a monstrosity.’
? The City of Melbourne, Australia, for sponsoring a professionally-designed window display (at left) of the flag of Israel, covered with red text spelling out ‘statistics’ on alleged horrors committed by Israel since 1948. Besides unfairly singling out democratic Israel for a publicly-funded harangue halfway around the world, the text also contained a number of libelous fabrications ? e.g. claiming that ’200,000 Palestinians have been killed and 200,000 settlements have been built.’
And in December, Hamas supporters placed on a busy Melbourne street four large lightboxes paying homage to fallen terrorist leaders.
? The town of Oleiros, Spain, whose public information signs flashed the message ‘Let’s stop the animal!!! Sharon the assassin, stop the neo-Nazis.’
A Houston art studio for hosting a Palestinian art exhibit containing a painting (at right) of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon collecting and boiling a young Palestinian’s blood. The Westchester NY County Center hosted a fundraiser to bring this exhibit to the New York metropolitan region.
The British Medical Journal, for an article entitled ‘Palestine: The assault on health and other war crimes,’ by Dr. Derrick Summerfield. Summerfield falsely branded Israel as guilty of ‘war crimes,’ deliberate child-killing, illegal colonization and apartheid, and made no mention of how Palestinian terror and political corruption have contributed to the unfortunate state of the Palestinian heath system.
Summerfield’s article is a prime example of how such terms and outlandish accusations have become legitimized in public discourse. The very editors and publications that remain reluctant to use the term ‘terrorist’ to describe Palestinian atrocities are increasingly willing to float accusations against Israel for committing ‘crimes against humanity.’
So while 2004 saw real progress in certain areas, Israel remains the target of biased and distorted reporting the world over. In 2005, HonestReporting subscribers will need to remain diligent to this crucial facet of the Mideast conflict.
Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.