Peter Jennings is at it again, and apparently, he’s groomed ABC reporter Gillian Findlay in his journalistic image. Jennings, longtime anchor of World News Tonight, is known for a particularly sneering brand of anti-Israel bias (and for a brief courtship of Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi).
In the tumultuous weeks since Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, Jennings and Findlay, as well as others at ABC, have increasingly acted as advocates for the Palestinians. They have omitted reference to anti-Israel violence preceding the visit and to the drumbeat of Palestinian incitement and warmongering that fueled the initial mobs. Jennings blamed the violent eruption without qualification on Sharon’s "provocative visit to the holiest site in Jerusalem, coveted by Jews and Moslems." Findlay heatedly insisted the same.
Although in the first days of the crisis, Findlay’s reports included brief references to Palestinians employing guns against Israelis, reporting soon shifted to distorted focus on Israel’s weaponry. She repeatedly claimed "Israel attacked from the air again today," implying that the IAF was engaged in bombing runs or strafing of Arabs. In fact, helicopters were being used for precision strikes against snipers and gun emplacements.
Distorted references to Arabs and to Jewish settlers are familiar fare on the network. In a segment on Israeli Arab radicalization Findlay says, "Ever since the state of Israel was proclaimed on their land, Arabs who stayed in Israel have felt discriminated against." Although Jennings has long referred to the West Bank as Arab land, the network is breaking new ground, so to speak, in reporting that Israel itself was "proclaimed on (Arab) land."
An October 16 segment contained a particularly bald- faced distortion by Findlay. In a one-sided segment with Hanan Ashrawi, Nabil Shaath, and a Palestinian newspaper editor, the ABC reporter said the Palestinian people have a message, "and their message is simple. Seven years of talking with Israel have produced nothing." The reporter did not remind viewers that the Palestinians have actually made substantial gains, including acquiring land, an army, international legitimacy, governing authority over 97 percent of the populace, and control over virtually every aspect of their civic life. If economic hardships persist, no one at ABC pointed out the well-documented fiscal malfeasance of Arafat and his associates, the large-scale disappearance of hundreds of millions of dollars from Palestinian coffers, and the role of this corruption in Palestinian economic distress.
Finally, ABC’s coverage on October 12 of the lynching of two Israeli reservists who had taken a wrong turn into Ramallah and were murdered by a mob was striking in its deceptions and evasions. Jennings introduced his report with characteristic reticence to blame Palestinians directly. He meandered around the point, saying:
It has been another terrible day of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians. There was a particularly ugly incident in the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Forty-thousand people live there. This week they’re all angry at the Israelis. There was about to be another funeral. Thousands of young men had congregated. At least two Israeli army reservists were clearly in the wrong place. They were stopped and taken into a police station. That was not enough for their protection.
ABC broadcast the horrible images of the Israeli victims publicly brutalized and ABC producer Nasser Atta, an eye-witness, described the event in two brief sentences. Amazingly, ABC neglected to tell viewers that Atta was also himself a victim of the mob, his camera having been smashed by the rioters. He was roughed up like other journalists, with only an Italian cameraman escaping with the footage that shocked the world.
The rest of the segment on the Ramallah lynching focused on Israeli retaliation and Arab anger. Describing Israel’s strikes against PA positions, Findlay declared dramatically that "Again and again, the Israelis fired, hitting not one, but two police stations, a radio and TV transmitter, and Yasser Arafat’s presidential compound." (In fact, Arafat’s compound was not hit.) Predictably, however, Findlay failed to mention that the Israelis gave a three-hour warning of the attacks to enable evacuation and that, as a result, there were no Arab fatalities.
Appeared in the Jerusalem Post on this date.