The self-declared mission of the Associated Press (AP) is to provide news “of the highest quality, reliability and objectivity with reports that are accurate, balanced and informed.” AP's code of ethics calls for “impartial treatment of issues.”
Why then does the wire service adopt the position of Hezbollah — a group designated by the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization — as fact?
Two Nov. 15, 2004 AP dispatches by Hussein Dakroub echoed Hezbollah's position, stating:
During the Israeli occupation, Hezbollah guerrillas fired Katyusha rockets into northern Israel in response to Israeli attacks on civilians in southern Lebanon ("Two rockets fired from Lebanon toward Israel; no casualties, security officials say" and "Two rockets fired from Lebanon toward Israel").
It is not as if AP reporter Hussein Dakroub didn't realize that this was a Hezbollah line, having reported in May 2001:
Hezbollah's message was perfectly clear, however. ''This weapon has created a 'balance of terror' on the border and protected our civilians against enemy attacks,'' Jaafar, 32, said of his Katyusha, borrowing a slogan of Hezbollah officials. ''It is a deterrent weapon which we will use if the enemy attacks civilians in Lebanon.'' (emphasis added)
To be objective, the AP should have made clear that the statement about Hezbollah using Katyusha rockets against Israel as a response to Israeli aggression on civilians was simply a Hezbollah claim. To be accurate, the news organization should have reported that Hezbollah has fired Katyushas into Israeli without any prior Israeli "attacks on civilians." To be balanced, it should have been made clear that the accusation put forth by Hezbollah, a group which seeks the destruction of Israel, is disputed.
Israel, for example, sees Katyusha attacks as a Hezbollah escalation in a cycle of violence initiated by Hezbollah itself.
By choosing to report only Hezbollah's rationalization for Katyusha attacks, the AP has, in effect, chosen sides in the dispute and ignored its obligation to be impartial.
Who responds to whom?
Many consider Israeli actions a response to Hezbollah provocations. For example, the Israeli daily Haaretz paraphrased U.S Secretary of State Colin Powell saying that a Hezbollah missile attack against Israel "had caused a need for Israel to respond with its air strikes . . .." The same article quoted an Israeli official explaining that "Israeli air force activity in south Lebanon was a purely defensive action and a message to Hezbollah that they cannot strike at Israel with impunity" ("U.S: Hezbollah 'deliberate action' led to Israeli response," 1/21/04).
Eyal Zisser, senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies and head of Middle Eastern degree studies at Tel Aviv University, explained how one violent exchange in 2002 clearly stemmed from Hezbollah provocations:
Hizbullah had stepped up its military operations against Israeli targets, both military and civilian, along the border, creating a situation that Israel could tolerate no longer (The Middle East Quarterly [link to http://www.meforum.org/article/499], Fall 2002).
AP's statement disproved by earlier AP reportsThe AP claim that Hezbollah fires rockets in response to Israeli attacks on civilians is also contradicted by reports at the time:
•A Nov. 9, 1992 AP report made clear that rockets launched against Israel were a response to an attack on Hezbollah terrorist trainees, not civilians:
On Sunday, Israeli warplanes destroyed a Hezbollah base in an east Lebanon village, killing four guerrillas and wounding six. The village . . . is in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley, where Hezbollah operates guerrilla training bases.
Hezbollah, retaliating for the air raid, unleashed seven Katyusha rockets that hit Israel's northern coastal town of Nahariya . . .. ("Israel Shells South Lebanon In New Cycle Of Violence").
•A Feb. 18, 1992 story noted that "[Katyusha] rockets were fired by Hezbollah guerrillas seeking to avenge the killing of their leader, Sheik Abbas Musawi..." (Allyn Fisher, "Second Day of Rocket, Artillery Attacks in Israel, Lebanon"). Here too, according to the AP report, the Katyusha rockets followed Israel's targeting of the terrorist organization's leader, not civilians.
•A Feb. 27, 1993 AP article reported that Katyusha attacks that day against Israel followed an Israeli helicopter strike on an empty house used by Hezbollah terrorists. No one was hurt. (Butros Wanna, "Katyusha Barrages Spark Duels In South Lebanon")
CAMERA has contacted AP’s foreign editor about the problem. Stay tuned!