The Associated Press quickly responded to Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress by relaying partisan spin to “counter” the Israeli prime minister’s assertions.
AP’s Josef Federman, apparently in no mood to allow an Israeli politician to present Jerusalem’s view of the Middle East, penned an unprecedented “Fact Check” article seeking to impugn Netanyahu’s speech.
The wire service story reads more like the spin of a hired public relations specialist seeking to denigrate a political opponent and redirect the audience to a preferred message.
The “facts” that the AP and Federman are challenging are all obvious truths that cannot be denied, and so instead of actual fact checking and refutation, Federman engages in diversions, parrying with irrelevant statements that have no bearing on Netanyahu’s demonstrably correct statements. What statements does Federman attack?
1) Israel defends itself without the need of US troops.
Again, this cannot be denied, so Federman spins the issue to argue that despite the full civil rights given to Israel’s Arab minority, there is still discrimination in housing and the workplace. If the existence of discrimination is meant to refute the fact that Israel is a democracy, then there is no such thing as a democracy, including the U.S. and the U.K., where discrimination can be found as well.
4) The Palestinian economy is booming and has grown by more than 10 per cent per year.
Yet again, Federman cannot deny this indisputable fact and so he resorts to distracting with irrelevant information — Palestinian growth was fueled by foreign aid, it may not be sustainable unless Israel encourages the Palestinian private sector — which does nothing to refute Netanyahu’s assertion.
5) Israel cannot negotiate with a Palestinian version of Al Qaeda .
But with Israel, AP seems to apply a unique standard. As one concerned reader aptly noted in an email to CAMERA, “While this is listed as a fact check, it is exclusively editorial and simply raises political arguments. It does not posit alternative facts. It is a rebuttal oped with a misleading headline. This is a disgrace for the AP to run a story like this on its wires.”
Notably, there was no AP fact check of dubious assertions in Mahmoud Abbas’s recent New York Times Op-Ed. It does not appear that AP ever published a headlined fact check piece about any speech by Abbas, or anything Arafat before him said.
In short, this has the appearance of a new genre of article created for the sake of impugning Israel and raising doubts about facts the Israeli government considers important.
Making matters worse, the Fact Check itself could use some fact checking. The prime minister’s address “reflected the world view of Israel’s nationalistic right”? More like the broad center. As Yossi Klein Halevi recently noted in the Wall Street Journal, Netanyahu’s policy stances positioned him “within the centrist majority” of his country.
And despite Federman’s claim that the U.S. considers settlements “illegal,” no president has reversed Reagan’s explicit assertion that they are “not illegal.” (See details here.)