In many newsrooms reporters depend on local experts, fellow reporters who are thought to have deep knowledge on a particular subject, be it economics, football, automobiles, or even the Middle East. If the expertise is real, the benefit to reporters and viewers is obvious. Unfortunately, just as obvious is what happens when the expertise is not real well-meaning reporters are led astray and gravely misinformed, as are viewers.
A case in point is CNN's local expert on the Middle East, Jim Clancy, who usually appears on CNN International. When a Middle East crisis hits, however, the Atlanta-based Clancy is likely to popup wherever there is a CNN logo.
Though Clancy is clearly immersed in Middle East issues, it seems that in his telling Israel can usually do no right and the Palestinians no wrong.
Here for example, on November 16
, is anchor Don Lemon introducing Clancy and extolling his expertise, followed by what can only be termed a Clancy anti-Israel tirade regarding the current fighting between Israel and Hamas:
LEMON: We are so lucky here at CNN to have someone like Jim Clancy who -- you have been covering this, what, since the 1980s?
JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Early '80s.
LEMON: He's right in the building with us. I thought it was interesting this morning you told me about Israel's tactics, the tactics they used in the past. Do you think they're viable now?
CLANCY: They're not working. It is obvious they're not working. What we have here is a situation where there was Sharon, Lieberman and now Netanyahu strategy. The strategy was give the Palestinians Gaza. There is no water there. They get all their water from Israel. It's salty in the summertime. Hang on to the West Bank. Just move back the guard towers in Gaza and control that area. At the same time, take negotiations off the table. And as we have seen during Mr. Netanyahu's stint as prime minister, Don, zero negotiations, real negotiations. So this is a strategy. The missiles are proving it is not going to work. They can go in again. But it is not going to accomplish anything. It just puts us back there. This is Cast Lead lite if you will right now.
In fact, every single one of Clancy's assertions here is false. Begin with what he terms the "Sharon, Lieberman and now Netanyahu strategy." What has Avigdor Lieberman got to do with it? He's never been Prime Minister presumably Clancy meant former Prime Minister Olmert, who followed Sharon and was Prime Minister the last time there was major fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Next is Clancy's fanciful claim that "there is no water" in Gaza. Really? According to a Palestinian Water Authority report published in March 2012 there are almost two hundred municipal wells in Gaza that supply domestic water:
2.1 Municipal Water Demand
There are 25 Municipalities responsible for providing domestic water through 192 wells distributed over the Gaza Strip municipal areas as shown in Figure 2.3; these wells provide water for both municipal and industrial uses. The Gaza strip water supply in the year 2010 was 172.4 MCM.
In addition, according to the report just "4.88 MCM [was] purchased from Mekorot [the Israeli water company] in 2010." So it is far from true that all of Gaza's water comes from Israel.
Besides the domestic supply from municipal wells, there are thousands of unsupervised agricultural wells that are draining and damaging the aquifer that Gaza depends on for water. Since Israel left Gaza the aquifer has been vastly overpumped by Palestinian farmers, causing the water table to drop and the water quality to deteriorate as seawater infiltrates.
These facts aside, it really doesn't take detailed reports from Israel or the Palestinians to know that there is water in Gaza in fact, water is the only reason that Gaza exists. If it weren't an oasis, it would be just like the desert that surrounds it. This is true today, just as it was true in Biblical times, when, for example, the famous story of Samson pulling down the temple of his captors played out in Gaza.
Furthermore, if as Clancy claims Israel really controls all the water that Gaza uses, wouldn't they just cut it off in response to the Hamas missile attacks? Has Clancy never wondered about that?
In any event, Clancy is once again totally wrong.
A few minutes later in the report Clancy repeats his claim that "there is no water in Gaza," adding that "All the water comes this way [pointing towards Israel], the Israelis tap it before it gets there."
Clancy is here confusing a propaganda charge, which refers not to the total water supply for Gaza, but only to water from what in Arabic is called Wadi Gaza. Now a wadi is a dry riverbed, which can intermittently run with water, usually during the winter if there is a good rainy season. The water that flows into Wadi Gaza mostly originates in Israel, where it is called the Besor Stream.
There are Palestinian charges that Israel collects this water before it can flow into Gaza, but Israel denies the charge, and it is in any event a relatively small amount of water compared to the supply from the Gaza aquifers.
Clancy's description of it as the sole source of Gaza's water is once again incorrect.
Finally, consider Clancy's charge that Israel took "negotiations off the table. And as we have seen during Mr. Netanyahu's stint as prime minister, Don, zero negotiations, real negotiations."
Of course, the reverse is true. It was Israel that agreed to a 10 month settlement freeze to try to draw the Palestinians to the negotiating table, and it was the Palestinians who refused. As reported by even the New York Times in May of 2011:
It was the Palestinians who walked out of the last round of peace negotiations last September after a partial Israeli moratorium on building in the settlements expired.
Clancy's charge that the Israeli strategy for dealing with the Hamas attacks is "obviously not working" is probably just as misguided as his other claims. If at the end of this round Israel gets an extended period of relative quiet from Gaza, that will be seen to be a success in Israel and in the region.
Unfortunately, this segment by Clancy is no aberration this is how he usually reports on the region. For example, from a few years ago here is Clancy on Israel's origins
One of the sticking points is that, as the Palestinians would contend, when you look at the refugees outside the borders, Israel was formed through ethnic cleansing.
Of course, contrary to Clancy, it was the Jews who were ethnically cleansed from surrounding Arab countries. Recall that the Jews accepted the UN Partition Resolution that would have created a state of Palestine next to the state of Israel in 1948. And had the Arabs and the Palestinians accepted that compromise, there would not have been a single Palestinian refugee. Instead the Arabs and the Palestinians launched a genocidal war against the Jews, violating the UN Res. 181 and the UN Charter, and when they failed to ethnically cleanse Israel out of existence, they instead ethnically cleansed their own countries by expelling their native Jews.
Jim Clancy seems incapable of reporting any story on Israel in a fair and accurate manner. CNN will continue to rely on him at their own peril and the peril of their viewers.