Have the media distorted recent Israeli-Palestinian clashes? Supporters of Israel believe the answer is an emphatic yes, but the ADL’s Abe Foxman has repeatedly declared news coverage of the crisis to be essentially sound and entirely free of bias. His assertions are not only at odds with widespread opinion, but with the data as well. While much of the reporting has been accurate and professional, all too often influential outlets have made serious factual errors, tilted stories with an unbalanced array of interviewees, omitted Israel’s voice entirely, and excluded vital information.
CAMERA, for its part, has identified scores of seriously inaccurate or distorted news reports that have warranted redress. Some of these would presumably be of particular interest to the ADL. When the New York Times, for instance, did a rare story on anti-Jewish incitement (October 24) by the Palestinian Authority media, the reporter referred to a Moslem cleric’s speech broadcast on official PA television, but omitted entirely the virulent, hate-mongering passages. Among these:
Have no mercy on the Jews no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them. Wherever you are, kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them.
There were exhortations to “butcher” Jews and “humiliate” them. The Times quoted a brief, innocuous phrase, concealing the antisemitism and anti-Israel incitement and suggesting Israeli apprehensions are overwrought. Regrettably, Times readers have never been given a consistent, accurate and complete view of the alarming anti-Jewish indoctrination of Palestinians by PA media, schools, and officialdom.
In response to criticism of the cleric story, a senior editor declared that anti-Israel hate-mongering in the region is not, in the Times opinion, a “pivotal” issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict. One assumes the Anti-Defamation League agrees that Arab antisemitism is, indeed, a “pivotal” problem and its abatement, if not eradication, a sine qua non for real peace. Honest coverage of this core issue by the media might help reduce it; honest coverage of the realities at least makes clear what Israel faces in its search for security.
CAMERA has also documented serious malfeasance in coverage by National Public Radio, where, for example, on October 1, a reporter claimed Israel was using helicopters, tanks, and anti-tank missiles, “all directed at young kids with stones.” Israel has not “directed” such weaponry at “young kids with stones.” The day of the report no tank had fired a shot, the helicopters were being enlisted to save an Israeli bleeding to death from Palestinian gunfire in Nablus, and the anti-tank weapons were used against a building harboring Palestinian snipers.
On November 27, NPR reported that Israel had cut off food supplies to Gaza for more than a week; Israel has never cut off food, including in this case. One-sided segments presenting extreme anti-Israel views are also regular fare. On October 29, a guest speaker offered a long, uninterrupted, unchallenged monologue denouncing Israel as an apartheid, Jim Crow nation which should cease to exist as a sovereign Jewish state. When apprised of factual errors, NPR has refused to issue corrections, indicating a political agenda and indifference to getting the facts straight.
Thus it is mystifying that Foxman would categorically state, as he did in a Jewish Telegraphic Agency story, that faulty reporting may be guided by “sensationalism, a lack of perspective or ignorance,” but that journalistic bias does not exist! He said that “when we accuse… anyone… of bias, we are saying that they are coming together to decide or conspire to slant a story.” He continued: “That’s a very, very serious charge. It’s the opposite charge of Jews controlling the media or Hollywood. And that’s irresponsible.”
Mundane journalistic mistakes as well as deficiencies in news coverage related to meeting deadlines are one thing. But where problems of serious, repeated distortion, error, and omission exist, to ignore them is “irresponsible.” Nor is it true to suggest that criticism of the media implies a belief in media conspiracies against Israel – it does not – or that criticism of the media is the flip side of antisemitic canards about Jews controlling the media. Criticism of the media is a democratic right. Where repeated distortion and error rise to the level of bias, why excuse it and pretend it does not exist?
Appeared in the Jerusalem Post on this date