ANTI-ISRAEL BIAS PARTIALLY FUELLED BY BBC, NYT & OTHER “BIG-MEDIA”

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 

 

Contents:

 

How About Giving Israel’s Views A Chance?: Alex Margolin, Jewish Week, Feb. 3, 2015— In one of the most outrageous interviews broadcast in recent memory, a UK reporter covering the Paris anti-terror rally interrupted his guest, an Israeli woman living in Paris, to claim that Palestinians have suffered greatly at the hands of the Jews.

The New York Times and its Israel Bias: Richard A. Block, Jewish Daily Forward, Jan. 22, 2015 — The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not confined to the battlefield.

How Israel Can Fight Media-Based Delegitimization: Manfred Gerstenfeld, CIJR, Jan. 27, 2015— Media play a major role in the delegitimization and demonization of Israel. 

Can Charlie Hebdo’s Spirit Include Israel?: Noah Beck, Algemeiner, Jan. 9, 2015 — While most of us would agree that religious fundamentalists, foreign and domestic, sometimes do serious harm to our society, there are other kinds of fundamentalists who are also dangerous: I refer to legal fundamentalists.

 

On Topic Links

 

The Conflict and the Coverage: Margaret Sullivan, New York Times, Nov. 22, 2014

The Ideological Roots of Media Bias Against Israel: Matti Friedman, Fathom Journal, Autumn, 2014

British News Networks' Shameful Treatment of the Holocaust: Alina D. Sharon, JNS, Jan. 29, 2014

The New York Times Rescues the Palestinians Again: Moshe Phillips & Benyamin Korn, Algemeiner, Jan. 12, 2014

                                                                     

                            

HOW ABOUT GIVING ISRAEL’S VIEWS A CHANCE?                                                                     

Alex Margolin                                                                                                     

The Jewish Week, Feb. 3, 2015  

 

In one of the most outrageous interviews broadcast in recent memory, a UK reporter covering the Paris anti-terror rally interrupted his guest, an Israeli woman living in Paris, to claim that Palestinians have suffered greatly at the hands of the Jews. When the woman protested the conflation of the terror in Paris with the plight of the Palestinians, the reporter, Tim Willcox of the BBC, offered the condescending reply, “You understand, everything is seen in different perspectives.” It’s shocking to hear a seemingly credible reporter infer that the terrorist acts in Paris are somehow rooted in Israel, and that saying so is a legitimate “perspective.” What’s even more shocking is that it’s not limited to one reporter.

 

“Willcox is not some isolated and aberrant racist; his views are the standard opinions of the European left middle class,” Nick Cohen wrote in The Spectator in the aftermath of the interview. “I meet them every day in my political neighborhood.” Like Willcox, members of the media in Europe and the U.S. place a great deal of rhetorical value on the need for “different perspectives” in their coverage. But when it comes to applying the principle, one perspective is greatly under-represented — that of the government of Israel. Take The New York Times, for example. According to a study carried out by HonestReporting covering the first three months of 2014, some 67 percent of Times articles during that period expressed criticism of Israel or depicted Israel’s actions in a negative light, and 55 percent of the paper’s articles lacked important context that could shed light on Israel’s actions. During the Gaza war, when the Foreign Press Association condemned Hamas’ intimidation of reporters in Gaza, the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren, issued a tweet calling the statement “Israeli narrative” and dismissing it as “nonsense.” So if a BBC reporter at an anti-terror rally in Paris decides to randomly criticize Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, it’s a case of “seeing different perspectives.” But if the Foreign Press Association and the Israeli government say Hamas is abusing journalists, the Times bureau chief disagrees and dismisses it. Of course, Rudoren has managed to see other perspectives when they involve Palestinians. While most people would see Palestinian rock throwing as an act of violence, Rudoren made sure her readers understood that for some Palestinians, “rock throwing is a rite of passage and an honored act of defiance.”

 

The solution to the problem starts with holding the media accountable for upholding its principles of balance and objectivity. Any story that is critical of Israel must provide Israel’s perspective on the issue so that a reader can understand Israel’s rationale. But that, by itself, is not enough. There must also be proactive action to make sure Israel’s perspective reaches the public. Israel’s story cannot be left in the hands of the media. It must be told as often as possible in ways that reach the largest number of people. HonestReporting took a step in that direction recently by running a full-page ad in the Times featuring the text of a speech by Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor. The speech was uncompromising in making Israel’s case to the world. It covered Israel’s efforts to reach peace with the Palestinians, the need to protect its citizens, and even the plight of the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands. In other words, it covered the points that rarely appear in print in the mainstream media.

 

Israel’s supporters cannot afford to wait until media coverage of Israel improves and journalists recognize that different perspectives apply to Israel as much as to the Palestinians and their supporters. It’s up to everyone who cares about Israel to help make Israel’s case to the world, one social network at a time. Israel has a compelling and inspiring story. Ambassador Prosor’s speech provides a positive template for promoting Israel’s perspective. In a time of unprecedented access to communications tools capable of reaching enormous numbers of people, no one should feel exempt from joining the battle.

                                                           

Contents                                                                                               

                                         

THE NEW YORK TIMES AND ITS ISRAEL BIAS                                                                               

Richard A. Block                                                                                                  

Jewish Daily Forward, Jan. 22, 2015

 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not confined to the battlefield. It is also waged in the media, nowhere more prominently than in The New York Times. In “The Conflict and the Coverage,” a November column she “never wanted to write,” Margaret Sullivan, Times Public Editor, addressed “hundreds of emails from readers on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, complaining about Times coverage.” Her verdict: a “strong impression” “that The Times does everything it can to be fair in its coverage and generally succeeds.” She was wrong.

 

A prime reason is the limited evidence Sullivan considered. “This column,” she wrote, “is restricted to news coverage and does not consider the opinion side offerings.” This ill-advised, self-imposed constraint doomed her effort from the outset. The Times’ “worldview” of the conflict is also revealed in its editorial page, headlines and storylines, and the Op-Ed columns it chooses to run. During last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas, Times Op-Eds, with rare exceptions, supported the Palestinian narrative: ““Israel’s Puppy, Tony Blair;” “Israel’s Bloody Status Quo;” “How the West Chose War in Gaza;” “Darkness Falls on Gaza;” “Israeli Self-Defense Does Not Permit Killing Civilians;” “Israel Has Overreacted to the Threats it Provoked;” “Zionism and Its Discontents;” “U.S. Should Stop Funding Israel, or Let Others Broker Peace;”… Times headlines were likewise revealing. When Hamas broke yet another ceasefire and resumed firing missiles at Israeli civilians, Israel defended itself. The Times declared obtusely, “Hamas Rockets and Israeli Response Break Ceasefire.” Others: “As Israel Hits Mosque and Clinic, Air Campaign’s Risks Come Home;” “Israelis Watch Bombs Drop on Gaza From Front-Row Seats;” “Questions About Tactics and Targets as Civilian Toll Climbs in Israeli Strikes;” “Foreign Correspondents in Israel Complain of Intimidation;” “Israeli Shells are Said to Hit UN School;” “Military Censorship in Israel;” “A Boy at Play in Gaza, a Renewal of War, A Family in Mourning;”… In failing to account for these and ignoring their cumulative effect, Sullivan’s assessment is hopelessly flawed.

 

Sullivan defers meekly to senior editor, Joseph Kahn, on the charge of unbalanced coverage. “I hear that claim a lot” he said, from “people who are very well informed and primed to deconstruct our stories based on their knowledge…The Times does not hear this complaint from readers who are merely trying to understand the situation.” In other words, the lack of complaints of bias by people unequipped to perceive it invalidates criticism by readers who are informed! Sullivan’s statement, “Even something as seemingly objective as death tolls can become contentious” is naive. Most journalists credulously accepted Hamas’ claims as factual, reporting them without substantiation. Others, fearing reprisal, followed Hamas’ dictate: that all Palestinian casualties be described as “civilians,” teenage combatants as “children,” and every death as Israel’s fault. Again, Sullivan is silent.

 

She misses the main point of Matti Friedman’s critiques in Tablet and The Atlantic, that “Most reporters in Gaza believe their job is to document violence directed by Israel at Palestinian civilians…The story mandates that they exist as passive victims…The international media’s Israel story is a narrative construct that is largely fiction.” Nonetheless, Sullivan implicitly confirms this by urging The Times to “Strengthen the coverage of the Palestinians.” Perhaps she had in mind an exchange between Times Opinion Page staff editor, Matt Seaton, and a pro-Israel media critic. After Tweeting out a link to a Times Op-Ed by an Arab citizen of Israel accusing it of institutionalized discrimination, Seaton was asked when the paper would report racism among Palestinians. He replied, “soon as they have sovereign state to discriminate with.” Thus, it comes as no surprise that, as Sullivan laments, many readers mistrust the motives and efforts of Times editors and reporters. But by ignoring editorial misjudgments in framing headlines and stories, Op-Ed publication decisions, and evidence of endemic bias against Israel in the media in general and The Times in particular, her suggestions are modestly helpful at best. Her assertion that The Times needs to do a better job of providing historical and geopolitical context is laudable, as is her suggestion that it should “find ways to be transparent and direct with readers about [its] mission in covering this area.”

 

The ultimate question is whether The Times will transform its culture, given systemic problems that Sullivan, and senior editors she takes at face value, fail to acknowledge. Her most problematic recommendation is that The Times stop trying to show both sides of each story, creating the impression of “running scared“ or exhibiting “an excess of sensitivity.” Rather, its reporting should reflect “the core value of news judgment.” However, in covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict poor news judgment is The Times’ essential deficiency. In her widely praised book, “Buried By The Times,” Northeastern University Professor Laurel Leff excoriated “America’s most important newspaper” for its scandalously negligent coverage of the Holocaust. Max Frankel, Times Executive Editor from 1986 to 1994, called it “the century’s most bitter journalistic failure.” Someday, historians will render a similar judgment on its coverage of the Jewish State and will discern a clear connection between the two colossal miscarriages of justice.

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                      

                      

HOW ISRAEL CAN FIGHT MEDIA-BASED DELEGITIMIZATION                                                                

Manfred Gerstenfeld                                                                                                              

CIJR, Jan. 27, 2015

 

Media play a major role in the delegitimization and demonization of Israel.  Their share in this process cannot be assessed scientifically. Yet over 40% of citizens of the European Union — aged 16 years or older – believe that Israel is a Nazi state, or alternatively, think that Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians. There is no doubt that this demonic image of Israel has been partly caused by many media.   

 

Several studies show these statistics. The largest study on this subject was conducted and published in 2011 by the University of Bielefeld, Germany. It covered seven EU countries in which more than half of the European population lives:  the Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, UK, Germany, Portugal, and Poland. Studies in Switzerland and in Norway gave similar results. Evidently, there are many other factors besides the media which have led to these abysmal beliefs. Politicians, trade unions, NGOs, various — mostly liberal — church leaders, academics, the Palestinian lobby, as well as others, play a major role in the demonization process. Contributors include the United Nations, and some of its associated bodies, such as the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

 

Over the past decades, anti-Israeli media have made the most of a unique situation. The freedom of the press includes the freedom to cheat, lie, incite, often to extremes, and the liberty to ignore essential facts at will. Media have the power to criticize others, relentlessly and sometimes brutally, and yet there are few ways to take them to task. There are hardly any checks and balances. The work of their staff is only subject to that particular media's rules of self-regulation. Except in extreme cases, journalists are not accountable to anyone outside their profession. Reporters are free to choose which facts they will mention and which they will omit, even if such tactics lead to major distortions of their readers' perceptions. Their means of slanting information, if they wish to do so, are almost unlimited. In addition, media rarely criticize each other, even though it would create much greater accountability among journalists.

 

The battle against big media’s delegitimization of Israel is being fought by a few media watch organizations. Media watching can be defined as critically examining one or more media on a regular or recurrent basis. It usually results from a conviction that certain media are biased against a cause that the monitoring body or individual supports. Media-watching activities include collecting, analyzing, and publishing data. Media watchers are fulfilling an important role in exposing the bias of anti-Israeli media. Yet even the best known among them, such as CAMERA and HonestReporting, only reach a limited number of addressees if one compares it to the audience of the media themselves. 

 

In the current reality, Israel is being attacked on many fronts. The main one is the military battlefield, and to counteract this, Israel has developed an advanced structure – the Israeli army, the IDF.  Another front concerns intelligence, and Israel has three intelligence services which have undertaken remarkable feats over the decades: the Mossad, the domestic intelligence service, Shabak, and the military intelligence service, Aman.  The growing number of cyberattacks on Israel has led to heavy investment in cybersecurity. Israel hopes to become a world leader in this field.

 

In the area of propaganda, however, which has led to the demonization and partial delegitimization of Israel, there is no such opposing force. One might say that at present, many delegitimizers and demonizers have “a free anti-Semitic lunch.” The situation can only improve in a substantial manner if the Israeli government sets up a properly funded anti-propaganda structure.  Such an agency would lay the groundwork for action concerning biased media and others who demonize and delegitimize Israel or the Israeli government. The anti-propaganda agency’s research department would have to establish a database which would contain both historical and behavioral information on specific enemies of Israel, whether their anti-Semitism is partial or full-blown. A newspaper, for example, can be an enemy of Israel even if it occasionally publishes a positive item about the country, in between publishing mainstream negative information on Israel. Post-modern times have greatly strengthened and expanded the phenomenon of the “part-time anti-Semite.” These are people who commit anti-Semitic acts intermittently, and on a few occasions may even make positive gestures toward Jews and Israel. Several contemporary left-wing and other political leaders regularly commit anti-Semitic acts, including applying double standards against Israel. Similarly, media can be part-time enemies of Israel. 

 

A second activity of the Israeli anti-propaganda structure would be to monitor ongoing issues. On some media, the major pro-Israeli media watchers are already doing an excellent job and have done so for many years. Their work would be an extremely valuable asset for the monitoring division of a future anti-propaganda agency. The third division of the anti-propaganda agency would deal with activism. This is a delicate subject for a state-controlled body. Yet the intelligence services of many countries are activist bodies under the aegis of the government. The operational branch of the new Israeli structure would have to develop increasingly effective methods to fight the anti-Israeli propaganda, as well as anti-Semitism. It would have to assess which activities it would undertake itself, and which would be delegated to and implemented by others, such as other government services, non-governmental bodies in Israel and abroad, or even some individuals. As far as the battle against hostile media is concerned, the reality of free speech within democracies dictates that this fight has to be conducted in a more sophisticated matter.  

 

In today’s media market, much of the international news is provided by big news agencies. The most important ones by far are Reuters and The Associated Press, both of which are biased against Israel. A former AP journalist managed to publicly expose the distorted methods of AP’s Israel office. In August 2014, after he had left AP, Matti Friedman wrote about his experiences working at the agency’s Israel office. In his words: Israeli actions are analyzed and criticized, and every flaw in Israeli society is aggressively reported. In one seven-week period, from Nov. 8 to Dec. 16, 2011, I decided to count the stories coming out of our bureau on the various moral failings of Israeli society – proposed legislation meant to suppress the media, the rising influence of Orthodox Jews, unauthorized settlement outposts, gender segregation, and so forth. I counted 27 separate articles, an average of a story every two days. In a very conservative estimate, this seven-week tally was higher than the total number of significantly critical stories about Palestinian government and society, including the totalitarian Islamists of Hamas that our bureau had published in the preceding three years.

 

Friedman later wrote an article in The Atlantic entitled, “What the Media Gets Wrong about Israel.” The article further exposed how the AP intentionally reported stories that cast Israel in a negative light and chose not to report on Palestinians behaving badly. The reaction of Friedman’s former boss at AP, Steven Gutkin bordered on the ridiculous. It consisted mainly of an ad hominem attack on Friedman. Strangely enough, his former boss chose to publicize his response using the local Indian website Goa Streets, his new place of employment after leaving AP

 

Friedman’s publications may serve as an excellent example for the potential activities of the anti-propaganda structure. Friedman made his disclosures at his own initiative. There are a few other journalists who have done the same.  For instance, Hans Mol, a retired journalist of the Dutch liberal daily, NRC-Handelsblad, has published a book about the paper’s anti-Israeli positions. He writes, “In its reporting about Moroccans, about Muslims and about Islam, about Israel and the Middle-East conflict, the paper has increasingly chosen its side: in favor of Hamas and against Israel, in favor of multiculturalists against critics of Islam; for covering up, and against disclosure.” The anti-propaganda agency, in collaboration with media watchers, could start to systematically search for journalists who have worked for major media and then either left or retired. Among these journalists, they could look for those who are either pro-Israel or have grievances against their former employer and who are willing to relate information about how the anti-Israel bias functions. Such a tactic is a low-cost activity which can yield much information. The classic form of media analysis can also be very useful. It is not difficult to get an idea of the pronounced bias AP maintains against Israel, beyond what Friedman has already written. Part of it is easy accessible online, and much can be obtained from media watchers such as CAMERA and HonestReporting

[To Read the Full Article, Will Footnotes, Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Manfred Gerstenfeld is a CIJR Academic Fellow

 

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                      

                                                   

CAN CHARLIE HEBDO’S SPIRIT INCLUDE ISRAEL?                                                                      

Noah Beck                                                                                                                                 

Algemeiner, Jan. 9, 2015

 

The Islamist massacre at Charlie Hebdo has understandably captured global attention because it was a barbaric attack on France and freedom of expression. In a moment of defiant moral clarity, “je suis Charlie” emerged as a popular phrase of solidarity with the victims. Hopefully such clarity persists and extends to those facing similar challenges every day in the Middle East. Christians and other religious minorities have been beheaded by Islamists for years, but it wasn’t until US journalist James Foley was beheaded that the West cared. The Islamic State raped and slaughtered thousands of Yazidis — leaving the surviving refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar — before the West took notice. But one Islamist besieging a cafe in Sydney, killing two, dominated global coverage for the entire 16-hour incident.

 

Western leaders and media must realize that religious minorities in the Middle East are the canary in the coalmine for the West when it comes to Islamist threats. And Israel provides the clearest early warning of all, precisely because — despite Israel’s location in a region of Islamists and dictatorships — the Jewish state has free elections, freedom of speech, a vigorous political opposition and independent press, equal rights and protections for minorities and women (who are represented in all parts of civil, legal, political, artistic, and economic life), and a prosperous free market economy. But had Palestinian gunmen similarly attacked Israel’s most important daily newspaper and then escaped, would the event inspire such constant coverage or international sympathy? Israel has suffered countless massacres followed by a suspenseful manhunt for the Islamist terrorists; in each of these incidents, the world hardly noticed until Israel forcefully responded and Palestinians died (prompting global condemnation of Israel).

 

However, when there is an attack in Europe, North America, or Australia, there is widespread grief, solidarity, and an acceptance of whatever policy reaction is chosen. But when Israel is targeted, there is almost always a call for “restraint,” as happened last November after fatal stabbings by Palestinian terrorists in Tel Aviv and the West Bank. If two Palestinians entered a European or North American church and attacked worshipers with meat cleavers, killing five people, including priests, the outrage would be palpable in every politician and journalist’s voice. But when Israelis were victims of such an attack, Obama’s reaction was spineless and tone deaf. Did Obama condemn the Charlie Hebdo massacre by noting how many Muslims have died at the hands of French military forces operating in Africa and the Middle East? Of course not. Such moral equivocation would be unthinkable with any ally or Western country except Israel. Similarly, would Secretary of State John Kerry ever suggest that the Islamic State is somehow motivated by French policies (whether banning Muslim headscarves at public schools or fighting Islamists in Mali)? Obviously not. Yet Kerry did just that sort of thing with Israel when he suggested that the Islamic State is driven by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

And the media’s anti-Israel bias is well known but became even more obvious when they couldn’t get a simple story about vehicular terrorism against Israelis correct. Compare how The Guardian writes accurate headlines when France or Canada suffers an Islamist car attack but not when Israel does. Consider all of the justifiable news coverage and outrage over the 2013 Boston bombings, and imagine if one of those happened every week. Would anyone dare suggest that the US make peace with any Islamists demanding changes to US policy? And yet Israel had such bomb attacks almost every week of 2002 and was invariably asked to restrain itself and make concessions to the very people bombing them (as happened again last summer, when Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israel). As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has ruefully observed, “There is a standard for dictatorships, there is a standard for democracies, and there is still a third standard for the democracy called Israel.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

Contents                                                                                    

 

On Topic

 

The Conflict and the Coverage: Margaret Sullivan, New York Times, Nov. 22, 2014—This is the column I never wanted to write.

The Ideological Roots of Media Bias Against Israel: Matti Friedman, Fathom Journal, Autumn, 2014 —One night several years ago, I came out of Bethlehem after a reporting assignment and crossed through the Israeli military checkpoint between that city and its neighbour, Jerusalem, where I live.

British News Networks' Shameful Treatment of the Holocaust: Alina D. Sharon, JNS, Jan. 29, 2014—In case anyone still has any doubts with regard to the opinion of British news networks such as the BBC on Jews and Jewish issues, two videos that emerged this week with regard to Tuesday's International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz paint a grim picture.

The New York Times Rescues the Palestinians Again: Moshe Phillips & Benyamin Korn, Algemeiner, Jan. 12, 2014—Lest anyone think, even for a moment, that there is even the slightest link between Islamic terror against Jews in Paris and Islamic terror against Jews in Jerusalem, the New York Times has rushed in to disabuse us of that notion.

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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