AP’s Disregard for Accuracy

Middle East coverage by the Associated Press has lately been fraught with errors. The wire service has understated the number of missile attacks launched from the Gaza Strip against Israeli targets, misrepresented Security Council Resolution 242, published an assertion that Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades don’t target civilians, and claimed Israel rejects the Fourth Geneva Convention.

CAMERA has alerted the AP to these substantive errors over a period of weeks, yet editors have stonewalled and no corrections have been issued. To the contrary, one error has been run and re-run by the AP, despite editors receiving documentation immediately alerting them to the false statement. The AP articles containing errors were published by USA Today, the Miami Herald, CBS.com, and numerous others.

Considering the influence of the AP, with 1700 member papers in the U.S., it is critical that the wire service heed the guidelines of their own Code of Ethics (the Associated Press Managing Editors Statement of Ethical Principles), which calls for the media to “acknowledge substantive errors and correct them promptly and prominently.”


Attacks Ignored

Numerous AP stories addressing rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinians against Israelis claim “there have been two deadly strikes, including [a] hit on the border town of Sderot that killed two children playing on the sidewalk.”

CAMERA informed AP that there have in fact been three deadly attacks, pointing out the June 28 slaying of Mordechai Yosepor and four year old Afik Zahavi in front of a nursery school; and the Sept. 24 attack that killed young Tiferet Tratner in her Neve Dekalim home (the articles do refer to the 10/29 killing of toddlers Dorit Benesay and Yuval Abeva). Yet even after being informed, AP continued to misrepresent the number of “deadly strikes.”

Resolution 242 Misrepresented

On Sept. 13, 2004, AP writer Abdullah Al-Shihri twice misrepresented Security Council Resolution 242 in his story “Gulf ministers urge Syria out of Lebanon.” Al-Shihri wrote:

But Lebanon’s Syrian-backed president, Emile Lahoud, resisted the call, saying Syrian troops are necessary and would not leave until Israel complies with past Security Council resolutions on withdrawing to 1967 pre-war borders and allowing the return of Palestinian refugees…

Arab nations long have accused Israel of avoiding its international obligations under U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for the return of Palestinian refugees and the restoration of 1967 pre-war borders. [emphasis added throughout]

As CAMERA has frequently pointed out, no Security Council resolution calls for a “withdrawal to 1967 pre-war borders.” Resolution 242, often incorrectly described as requiring a complete withdrawal from the disputed territories, does not specify the extent of the withdrawal.

The Resolution mentions that “the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” should include “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” The drafters of the resolution intentionally chose to omit the article “the” before “territores” to denote, according to the Resolution’s chief architect Britain’s Lord Caradon, that Israel was not required to return to the “undesirable and artificial” positions existing before the war. (For detailed information, please see New York Times ad and Camp David Backgrounder)

Many prominent news outlets have published forthright corrections when similarly distorting Resolution 242, including the Wall Street Journal (May 12, 2004), New York Times (Sept. 8, 2000) and the Boston Globe (May 28, 2003).

Hamas, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Declared Innocent

Another article replete with inaccurate information is William Kole’s Sept. 3 story entitled “From schoolchildren to buses, extremists increasingly aim at ‘soft targets.” As noted in the Sept. 7 CAMERA Alert (AP item- Pal. terrorists ‘shocked’ by killing of kids), the last five paragraphs of the article quote factually inaccurate statements by an Egyptian terrorism analyst who states, referring to the Beslan school hostage crisis, that “Palestinian militant groups are unlikely to follow that lead because it could detract from their aim to be seen as ‘resistance fighters, not terrorists.’ ”

This is clearly nonsense, considering Palestinian terrorists have already perpetrated attacks similar to the Russian school ordeal. On May 15, 1974, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorists attacked an Israeli school in Ma’alot, killing some students and holding the rest hostage. Eventually, 21 children were killed and at least 70 were injured. But, in another example of the AP ignoring attacks against Israeli children, this incident (and many more, including the recent plan to attack the ORT Alon highschool in Yokneam) was unmentioned.

In other deceptive quotes published without sufficient counterpoint, the reporter cited a Hamas official and an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades spokesman denying they target Israeli women and children. “Women and children are not a target for Hamas. They have never been a target . . .,” the Hamas quote read. The Martyrs Brigades spokesman was quoted saying “When there is an explosion and children are killed, we are sorry for this because this was a mistake, not on purpose.”

It is of course untrue that Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades do not target women and children. In but one example of Hamas targeting women and children, a Hamas member blew himself up on Bus 37 in Haifa shortly after school let out on March 5, 2003. This bus is on a school route, and was full of children. The bomber nonetheless detonated his bomb. Out of the 17 killed, nine were children, and eight were women.

In an example of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades killing children “on purpose,” they sent a suicide bomber who blew himself up on March 2, 2002 outside a Jerusalem synagogue while standing next to a group of mainly women and their young children. The majority of those killed were children, including: a 7 month-old; an 18 month-old; a 3 year-old; two 7 year-olds; a 12 year-old; and a 15 year-old. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades did not express regret for this incident.

Israel’s Acceptance of Fourth Geneva Convention Denied

Josef Federman’s August 24 article, “Israeli defense minister says withdrawal plans to be ready next month,” also contains a substantial factual error. The article refers to the Fourth Geneva Convention, stating:

Since capturing the two territories in the 1967 Mideast War, Israel has refused to accept the Geneva Accord. Israel says the convention doesn’t apply to the West Bank because it doesn’t belong to another country, and insists the dispute with the Palestinians be decided through negotiations.

The statement that “Israel has refused to accept the Geneva Accord” is not true.

Israel signed the Fourth Geneva Convention August 12, 1949 and ratified it on July 6, 1951. Since then, including after the 1967 war, Israel has not denounced the Convention (as permitted by article 158).

As articulated in 1971 by then Attorney General of Israel, Meir Shamgar, Israel voluntarily abides by the humanitarian provisions of the Convention in the West Bank and Gaza Strip despite pointing out that the Convention does not legally apply to these territories.

After repeatedly being contacted by CAMERA, AP Foreign Editor Debbie Seward gave assurances on three separate occasions that she would respond within a short time span. Unfortunately, she has not resonded or taken action to correct the growing list of errors.

Nor have other editors at AP responded to requests for attention to and action regarding the erroneous reports.

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