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Media Analyses





UPDATED: AP Corrects: Blair Didn't Link Israel, Bombings


July 12 update follows.

July 10—In the aftermath of last week's terror attacks against London, the media's scapegoat-Israel tendency has again reared its head. Thus, the Associated Press, a leading wire service whose stories appear in newspapers across the globe, issued multiple stories yesterday and today reporting that British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave an interview on BBC Radio yesterday in which he discussed the "very deep roots" of terrorism and linked the attacks against his country to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For example, Matt Moore, reporting out of London, wrote yesterday:

"I think this type of terrorism has very deep roots," Blair said. "As well as dealing with the consequences of this–trying to protect ourselves as much as any civil society can–you have to try to pull it up by its roots."

That meant boosting understanding between people of different religions, helping people in the Middle East see a path to democracy and easing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, he said. ("Investigators search for clues, while families search for loved ones in London bomb blast")

And, today, Danielle Haas, reporting out of Jerusalem, repeated the allegation that Blair specifically identified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a "root cause" of last week's terror in London:

Israeli officials on Sunday rejected British Prime Minister Tony Blair's contention that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is one of the underlying causes of terrorism, saying the London bombings were part of a wider terrorist war on Western countries. . . .

"I think this type of terrorism has very deep roots. As well as dealing with the consequences of this–trying to protect ourselves as much as any civil society can–you have to try to pull it up by its roots," Blair said. He added that this meant boosting understanding between people of different religions, helping people in the Middle East see a path to democracy and easing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Blair had "touched reality and spoke strategically of the need to deal with the problems of this region" . . . ("Israeli officials reject Blair's linkage of London bombings to Mideast conflict")

Speaking of reality, the Associated Press got it entirely wrong. Nowhere in his interview yesterday did Blair mention Israel or the Palestinians. (That journalists still turn to Erekat–who in April 2002 falsely alleged that Israel entirely destroyed the Jenin refugee camp, buried untold numbers of Palestinians in mass graves, and said 500 Palestinians were killed when the number was closer to 50–is a topic for another article.) Blair's interview can be heard in its entirety here.

At close to 2 p.m. EST today, the AP picked up on the error and issued the following correction:

In a July 9 story about Prime Minister Tony Blair's comments on overcoming global terrorism, The Associated Press erroneously reported that he spoke of easing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Blair did not specifically mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his interview with the British Broadcasting Corp.

The correction does not refer to today’s error by Danielle Haas.

Though the AP deserves some credit for its partial correction, the fact that the misreporting occurred in the first place is a worrying symptom of the blame-Israel epidemic, which was earlier apparent in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks. For instance, in a particularly egregious example, an October 2001 CNN Headline News broadcast entitled “Behind the Headlines: Roots of Terror” implicated Israel as being at the root of all terror attacks perpetrated against the United States. The narrator opined:

It is impossible now to separate the taking of hostages in Iran, the bombing of barracks in Lebanon, the war with Iraq or even the current conflict in Afghanistan, from the question of Israel.

The AP has picked up where CNN left off nearly four years ago.

UPDATE: July 12, 2005

Ha'aretz Follies
One day after AP sent out its retraction, Ha’aretz, which describes itself as “Israel’s leading newspaper,” carried two Op-Eds which referred to the fictitious Blair statement supposedly on BBC as fact. First, in a column yesterday entitled “Blair’s responsibility,” Akiva Eldar writes:

In an interview he gave the BBC [Blair] suddenly turned Israel from a partner to a common fate to a partner in blame. He declared that “the solution cannot only be security measures," and put promotion of peace in the Middle East in second place on the list of deep-seated causes of terrorism, which we "must start to pull up by the roots."

Likewise, Danny Rubinstein writes:

Against this backdrop, there was a pervasive sense of satisfaction among members of the Palestinian leadership in the wake of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's announcement that the roots of terrorism must be dealt with, among them the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. . .  ("Some good in the London aftermath?" Emphasis added)

If AP can take responsibility for its erroneous report, will Ha'aretz do likewise?

 


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