USA Today’s Deceptive Backgrounder

Online news sites have the unique ability to provide historical background via slide shows and multi-media links alongside news articles. Properly done, these ‘backgrounders’ can supply essential context to daily reports. In particular, coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with its complex history, certainly benefits from such a resource.

But USA Today’s online backgrounder ? The Mideast Conflict: A look at the region’s history ? contains distortions of seminal historical events. Here are some examples (the USA Today material is on the left):

? This opening slide suggests Jews began moving to the region only after the Holocaust, but in fact a sizable Jewish population had lived there for centuries, and the great majority of the pre-state immigrants arrived before the Holocaust. And beyond whimsically ‘considering’ themselves entitled to ‘refuge,’ the Jewish people’s claim to a homeland in Israel had been confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922, based on the Balfour Declaration.

? The UN partition plan was rejected not only by local Arabs ? the term ‘Palestinians’ in this context wouldn’t emerge for two decades ? but all of the regional Arab powers (and was accepted by Jewish residents). This wholesale Arab rejection of and pledges to destroy Israel would be central to all further developments ? but is absent from the USA Today account.

? Many of the ‘Jewish settlers’ who declared the State of Israel had been established there for generations ? why the term ‘settlers,’ undermining their historical claim? Moreover, the ‘subsequent war’ was essentially an invasion by Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi, Egyptian, and Transjordanian forces ? with the stated goal of annihilating the nascent Jewish state.


?
Beyond this sympathetic portrayal of ‘mobilizing the Palestinian people to recover their homes,’ the PLO’s National Covenant explicitly denied Israel’s right to exist, calling for an Arab nation from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean to be obtained via the destruction of Israel.


?
Israel’s ‘offensive’ action was prompted by much more than mere ‘threats of invasion.’ Syria had been shelling northern Israeli towns and pledging Israel’s destruction for years, and Egypt’s Nasser remilitarized the Sinai with six full divisions, then blockaded of the Straits of Tiran while declaring ‘we are ready for war.’ The Six Day War was, unquestionably, a defensive war for Israel’s survival, yet USA Today presents Israel as the agressor.

*   *   *

Where did this ‘historical’ material come from? USA Today cites UK’s The Guardian as a primary source ? which explains a good deal. The Guardian, which has a clear editorial alignment against Israel and is frequently critiqued by HonestReporting for flagrant bias, is a strange choice of source material for a centrist American paper like USA Today.

One likely source for USA Today was The Guardian’s own backgrounder on the conflict. While problematic in some respects, The Guardian presentation is actually factually better than USA Today on the history of Jewish presence in the region, Jewish acceptance of the 1947 Partition Plan, and PLO pledges to destroy Israel.

So one must ask:

1) Why does USA Today ? an influential, centrist American news outlet ? use a partisan source such as The Guardian for an important backgrounder on the Mideast conflict?

2) Why does USA Today then go beyond The Guardian in distorting key historical facts against Israel?

Comments to: editor@usatoday.com

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

HonestReporting

[Thanks to Benjamin Radpavar for contributing to this communique.]

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