Salon.com bills itself as an alternative news source. But If you're looking for original or inspired journalism, Salon is certainly not the place to find it. The internet magazine regularly publishes screeds against the Jewish state, which consist of endlessly recycled anti-Israel tropes of the sort promoted by PLO and Hamas, authored by Salon's political correspondent, Ben Norton, or Stanford English Professor David Palumbo-Liu. With the underlying message that Israel deserves to be ostracized as a uniquely offending vestige of European colonialism with no legitimacy, the articles read like dull, stock propaganda tracts rather than any sort of exciting, new or maverick journalism.
For example, last week, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was taken to task after charging Israel with using "excessive force" against Palestinians and erroneously claiming that 10,000 Palestinian civilians perished in Gaza during the hostilities between Israel and Hamas in 2014. While refusing to back down on his criticism of Israel, Sanders subsequently backtracked on the number of Palestinian civilians killed, reducing it to 2,000, but even this "corrected" figure was off base. According to the most recent accounting of the 2014 conflict, 55 percent of the Palestinian fatalities were combatants, which means that Sanders was still inflating the actual number of Palestinian civilians killed.
Still, most of the media was pacified by Sanders' correction and was ready to move on. But not Salon. Ben Norton defended Sanders' denunciation of Israel, and used it as a springboard to rehash hackneyed anti-Israel propaganda points, while slamming media outlets that criticized Sanders' errors.
The April 9, 2016 piece, "Ignore the smears: Bernie Sanders is right about Israel's heinous atrocities in Gaza, he just got the numbers wrong" served up the same baseless canards that have become the hallmark of Norton's writing. His formulaic approach of parroting the same PLO talking points -- for example that the root of the conflict is the "occupation" and "settlements"-- raises the question of whether he is taking his marching orders from the PLO's information office.
Uncompromising Arab rejection of Israel and the terrorism spawned by a culture infused with hatred toward Jews have no place in Norton's uninspired narrative. To the extent that Norton makes a pretense of tethering his scathing attacks on Israel to "facts," he relies upon invented "statistics" from Hamas-aligned entities in Gaza, funneled through the anti-Israel obsessed UN Human Rights Commission. He writes, "Approximately 66 percent of Palestinians killed by Israelis were civilians, whereas just 8 percent of Israelis killed by Palestinians were civilians."
Norton's facts are both wrong and missing crucial context. Hamas fabricated the high proportion of Palestinian civilians, feeding this information to sympathetic sources to promote to the media. But upon further scrutiny of the details and circumstances of the fatalities provided by the Palestinians, it becomes evident that the majority of those killed by the Israelis were young male combatants.
Norton also conceals the fact that Hamas intentionally endangers civilians by using them as human shields. Terrorists and/or their explosives are intentionally situated in or near civilian structures, like schools and hospitals, to maximize civilian deaths, which are then used for propaganda purposes. Furthermore, investigations of several incidents revealed that some civilian casualties blamed on Israeli missile strikes were actually the result of misfired Hamas rockets. Is the political journalist really ignorant of this or is it deliberate attempt to hide the facts?
David Palumbo-Liu's writings on Israel demonstrate a similar doctrinaire anti-Zionist zealotry, as he echoes the words of the PLO. In an April 11, 2016 entitled, "Brutal, ugly illegal: 9 things you need to know about the Israeli occupation of Palestine," Palumbo-Liu presents a template of Israeli transgressions in the form of a lesson plan that appears to be drawn directly from the PLO's November 2015 talking points to reporters:
The Occupation is illegal
It violates human rights and Israel acts with impunity
It's the only ongoing project of colonization in the world
It's killing people quickly, in attacks such as the one mounted in the summer of 2014
It's killing people slowly too.
It's especially harmful to children and young people.
Many organizations, religious groups and individuals have withdrawn support of the Occupation by divesting and boycotting.
You're supporting it financially and politically.
It is part and parcel of a tripartite of wrongs done to the Palestinians.
The professor's enthusiastic promotion of propaganda points so easily contradicted by the preponderance of evidence and historical scholarship reflects poorly on his scholarly mien. Pity his students. To address just a few of his points:
The "Occupation" is not considered illegal by many well-respected international jurists. This was reinforced in October, 2015, when the New York Times published a correction to an article making that false claim.
Israel goes to great lengths to ensure that its military operations satisfy stringent legal requirements. The Israeli military operates according to strict rules of engagement. Any allegations of rights violations are investigated. This last fact is attested to by delegations of senior military officials and government representatives from Europe and the United States who commended Israel for "scrupulous adherence to laws" of warfare.
The charge that Israel is a colonization project is a gross mis-characterization of history. Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, recognized as such by the United Nations and by most free nations in the world.
Palumbo-Liu wildly exaggerates the magnitude of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while evidencing a disturbing lack of concern for the immense suffering of those trapped in much graver circumstances. Even within the context of the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is small potatoes. The Syrian conflict next door to Israel has claimed 300,000 lives in five years. That figure is more than ten times the total fatalities resulting from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the last hundred years. Disproportionate coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict distorts Western perceptions. In reality, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is among the lowest intensity conflicts on the planet when statistics of loss of life and deprivation are compared.
Palumbo-Liu limits his discourse to wrongs allegedly done to the Palestinians. He entirely ignores the repeated rejection by the Palestinian leadership of the United Nations Partition Resolution in 1947, Israeli peace offers in 2000 and 2008 that would have given nearly the entire West Bank to the Palestinians and the unceasing incitement to hatred and violence against Israel that hardens Palestinian hearts and guarantees only more conflict.
Not surprisingly, Palumbo-Liu's recommended list of readings includes only those organizations that demonize the Jewish state. Even after he was admonished and forced to remove from his reading list articles from one such organization, If Only Americans Knew, which traffics in explicit anti-Semitist conspiracy theories, he continued to praise the organization.
Is Salon.com a Mouthpiece for the Palestine Liberation Organization ?
Both Palumbo-Liu and Ben Norton parrot the talking points set out in the Palestinian Liberation Organization's Nov. 5, 2015 media advisory "Key Points to Remember When Reporting on Occupied Palestine." These are itemized as follows:
Israel occupies the State of Palestine
The main issue is the Israeli occupation
Palestinian recognition of Israel was met with more colonization
For Israel, forcible displacement and colonization are an official policy, not the two-state solution.
East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Occupied State of Palestine.
Israeli settlements in Occupied East Jerusalem are as illegal as settlements in the rest of the Occupied State of Palestine
The Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound is under Israeli Occupation just as the rest of East Jerusalem.
International protection is a right for the Palestinian people.
International law, UN resolutions and agreements were made to be implemented, not to be "negotiated upon."
It is quite clear that Salon's objective in offering an "alternate news source" is not to inform its readers but to indoctrinate them.
The question is why does Salon bow to the dictates of the PLO by becoming its mouthpiece and dutifully echoing its key talking points? By eschewing journalistic standards of seriously examining the facts and thoughtfully considering arguments from both sides of the conflicts, the magazine editors reveal their extraordinarily low opinion of the caliber of Salon's readership.