Foregn journalist distaste for Israel is all the vogue

When journalists arrive in Israel, they are already convinced that Palestinian Arabs are involved in a moral struggle for independence and that Israelis exploit their power and military prowess to thwart this "noble" goal.

Dr. Alex Grobman

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There was a period in the Middle East, when American journalists and editorial writers favored Israel over the Arab states because Israel is an open society. Once reassessing Israel’s policies became in vogue, many editors and correspondents adopted a “neutral” and an “even handed” approach in their reporting. Israel no longer enjoyed “the benefit of the doubt.”

Those with “little or no ideological bent” relished in debunking “myths” about the Jewish state. In their quest for a new slant on the conflict, they found one. “Arabs biting Jews had long ceased to be news; but Jews biting Arabs—that was a story.” [1]


The New York Times’ “most important reporter in Gaza [Fares Akram] ….used the late Yasser Arafat as his profile photo on Facebook...
A number of years later The New York Times News Editor William Borders explained: “The whole point is that torture by Israel, a democratic ally of the United States, which gets huge support from this country, is news. Torture by Palestinians seems less surprising. Surely you don't consider the two authorities morally equivalent.” [2]             

Joyce Karam, the Washington bureau chief of Al-Hayat, one of the major daily pan-Arab newspapers, observed that there were no protests in Pakistan against the slaughter of 700 people in Syria on week-end, although there were anti-Israel protests in Pakistan against the Gaza war of 2014. “Syria is essentially Gaza x320 death toll, x30 number of refugees….” she said. When asked why this double standard, she answered, “Only reason I can think of is Muslim killing Muslim or Arab killing Arab seems more acceptable than Israel killing Arabs.” [3]

This change in attitude lead to Israel to being accused of “intransigence” for not giving up Judea and Samaria in the name of peace. “In abandoning the old policy of evenhandedness and embarking instead on a course of one-sided pressures on Israel, the United States is negotiating over the survival of Israel,’” warned Norman Podhoretz, an American neoconservative pundit and former editor of Commentary magazine. “For if the change in American policy is dictated by the need to assure an uninterrupted flow of oil from the Middle East to the United States and the other advanced industrial nations, there are no grounds for believing that it can succeed on the diplomatic channels. Given the intransigent determination of the Arabs to do away with a sovereign Jewish state in their midst, and given their belated discovery that the oil weapon is so potent an instrument for accomplishing this purpose, why would they stop using it after the first victory (the return of Israel to the 1967 boundaries) or even the second (the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank) were won?” [4]

This anti-Zionist mentality that has “taken root” in the West is based on the false and unproven assumption that Israelis and Palestinian Arabs are dissimilar people. Israelis “have agency, responsibility and choice, Palestinian [Arabs] do not.” The Palestinian Arabs are viewed as children and are rarely, if ever, held accountable for behaving immorally.  [5]

New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis openly acknowledged that Israel is being held to a higher standard, “Yes, there is a double standard. From its birth Israel asked to be judged as a light among the nations.” [6] This means that Israel is universally expected to conduct herself “differently (and better)” than her Arab neighbors,

Ze’ev  Chafets a former director of the Israel Government Press Office (GPO) during the administration of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, observes, and the Jewish state “is subjected to more exacting standards than those applied to other democracies at war.” How can Israel, a country under siege, be judged by the same criteria as America at peace? [7]

The implicit justification for this double standard is that Palestinian Arabs are a “driven people, dominated by circumstances and moved by emotions; qualities associated with the world of nature. Israelis are the opposite; masters of all circumstances, rational and calculating; qualities associated with the world of culture.” [8]

 Arabs have been also been portrayed as vulnerable and innocent victims who are not responsible for their plight while being abused by manipulative, callous Israelis who expropriate their land. [9]

Aside from absolving them from any barbaric behavior, this “pathology of paternalism,” does not address the Arabs viability as legitimate peace partners. Instead, the focus is diverted to the moral nature of the Jewish state. [10]

Another example of this double standard is that Western leaders, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon and President Barack Obama continually urge Israel to exercise "restraint," in order to avoid Palestinian Arab civilian casualties. It is well known that he IDF goes to "unprecedented lengths" to prevent civilian casualties, but this does not seem to matter. At the same time, a world leader would rarely ask President Obama or the West to exercise 'restraint' against ISIS.

In other words, there appears to be one standard when the West is fighting terror, and another criterion when Israel is combating terrorism. “Is Jewish or Israeli blood really somehow cheaper?” asked International Human Rights Lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky. [11]

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva even provided Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization PLO) and President of the Palestinian National Authority, an international forum to extol Palestinian Arab terrorism when it arranged a special session for him to speak.  The request could have been denied since the Palestinian Authority is not a member of the organization. But the UNHRC chose to convene the session. Thus, “The role of the Council in fanning the flames of conflict and assisting in the dissemination of lies is now well established,” commented Eviatar Manor, Israel’s Ambassador to the UNHRC. [12]

Acceptance of Arab Lies and Distortions

Jerusalem-based journalist Judy Lash Balint noticed that when journalists arrived in Israel, they were already convinced that Palestinian Arabs are involved in a moral struggle for independence and that Israelis exploit their power and military prowess to thwart this "noble" goal. They reached this conclusion based on their own experiences in their home countries “as standard-bearers for minority rights and other liberal causes, but also [later] as a result of their reliance on local assistance… in Israel.” [13]

Accepting the Arab lies and distortions is called the Arab narrative, is also a logical outcome of employing native Arabs who serve as English translators and drive reporters around Judea, Samaria and Gaza. These “fixers” as they are called, introduce reporters to the (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) functionaries and arrange interviews with those that will portray Israel as an oppressor. [14]

For the most part, the fixers are a very white-collar and well educated group. Many have refined their skills at the Media Institute in Birzeit University in Ramallah. Others receive instruction at seminars and conferences conducted at an NGO sponsored institution called the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) in Jerusalem funded by the U.S. Aid for International Development. Israelis could provide the same functions as Palestinian fixers, though the fixers are known to have special relationships with Arab leaders. No one questions are asked about how extensive these connections are or what compromises must be made to maintain this access.  [15]

Employing local Arabs became even more critical when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) closed areas to the media. Networks circumvented this policy, which proved virtually impossible to enforce in rural areas, by providing stringers and locals with home video cameras. By relinquishing personal supervision of the coverage, the journalists allowed only one party in the conflict to slant the way the news would be reported. The Arabs documented every military action they could find and then peddled the film for money.  Although cash was a prime motivator, the desire to advance the Palestinian Arab cause determined what was filmed and the nature of the presentation. [16]

Many news bureaus hired Palestinian Arabs as editors, who assisted in arranging meetings and translating articles and documents in Arabic into Hebrew or English. Editors are in position to influence significantly what is being used and transmitted. In other words, they are at the “mercy” of the editors who are considered experts on everything concerning Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and are expected to assess articles on the PA and whatever else the Palestinian Arabs do or say. [17]

Rather than hide these connections, the Palestinian Arabs used the relationships to enhance their attraction to their employers. Bureau chiefs were aware of their associations, but did not object as long as the stories continued to be written. [18]

Investigative journalist Richard Behar discovered that during the 2014 Israel-Hamas war, The New York Times’ “most important reporter in Gaza [Fares Akram] ….used the late Yasser Arafat as his profile photo on Facebook, and, in a second photo, praised the former Palestinian leader.” This would explain, Behar said, why the Times, viewed as the most reliable media outlet in the world, were less concerned than other members of the press corps about Hamas intimidating journalists. Parallel articles for Qatar’s Al Jazeera by this reporter “can only be pleasing to the terrorists,” Behar concluded. [19]

After an Israeli air strike killed his father and a relative at their small farm in Northern Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, Akram wrote “I am finding it hard to distinguish between what the Israelis call terrorists and the Israeli pilots and tank crews who are invading Gaza. What is the difference between the pilot who blew my father to pieces and the militant who fires a small rocket?” [20]

Another biased reporter who worked for the Times was Abeer Ayyoub, a freelance journalist based in Gaza, whose highly critical articles on Israel and support for Hamas appeared in Al-Jazeera, Al-Monitor and Haaretz. Behar noted that during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, Rudoren hailed her as “wonderful fixer/journalist,” while Ayyoub was a consultant for virulent anti-Israel Human Rights Watch. Ayyoub publicly admitted she has been boycotting Israeli products for three years, while working for the Times. [21]

During Operation Protective Edge, Ayyoub wrote on a Facebook post on July 29 that when she was asked in an interview “why Palestinians in Gaza are not feeling angry because of Hamas using the building materials for their tunnels and not for building houses and schools. My answer was: why people in Israel [sic] won’t feel angry about Israeli government spending more money on enhancing its army instead of raising the level of education and health there? More importantly, why the U.S. wouldn’t save the money it supports the Israeli army with for sheltering its [America’s] thousands of homeless there in the U.S.”  [22] 

Matti Friedman, the former Jerusalem bureau reporter for the Associated Press, whose articles exposed the media’s bias against Israel, adds that “to make sense of most international journalism from Israel, it is important first to understand that the news tells us far less about Israel than about the people writing the news.” Drawing on his experiences between 2006 and 2011, he said “Journalistic decisions are made by people who exist in a particular social milieu….who adhere to a “certain uniformity of attitude, behavior, and even dress. These know each other, meet regularly, exchange information, and closely watch one another’s work.” This is why even though articles written and edited by different individuals on the same day by the largest news sources in the Middle East convey the same account of events. [23]

A key reason for this phenomena is the relationship between NGOs and journalists. Philip Gourevitch, a staff writer for The New Yorker, exposed “the ethical gray zone of ties between reporters and NGOs,” when he complained that “the total lack of regulation of N.G.O.s allows just about any freelancer to set up shop as a humanitarian. Too often the press represents humanitarians with unquestioning admiration.”  Why, he asks, should photojournalists and print reporters work for humanitarian agencies while waiting for new journalism assignments? Assisting corporations, political parties, or government agencies prepare and compose their official reports and official appeals would never be considered acceptable. NGO should be treated with the same critical scrutiny reserved for any industry. [24] 

This interaction between International non-Governmental Organizations, foreign activist’s and many agencies of the U.N, who are among the most dominant participants, exists in Israel and Judea and Samaria where they dispense billions of dollars and employ thousands of foreign and local personnel. They are quite visible in sections of East Jerusalem and their lavish expense accounts help sustain Ramallah. “They provide reporters with social circles, romantic partners, and alternative employment”—especially important given the dissolution of so many newspapers. [25] 

When he served in the press corps, Friedman and his colleagues did not investigate or criticize these people. “Transparency, often a watchword for journalists, is absent when it is their sources and friends coming under scrutiny. But simply claiming to being on the side of angels shouldn't be enough to be accepted without questions.” This is why Gerald Steinberg, founder of NGO Monitor, had been excluded from being interviewed by the AP. [26]  

For many foreign journalists, these people formed an informal bond. They included the foreign activists and international staffers from the U.N, the Western diplomatic corps, especially in East Jerusalem, foreign journalists, and a small number of Israeli human-rights activists who are Friedman notes, "A distaste for Israel has come to be something between an acceptable prejudice and a prerequisite for entry."chiefly financed by European governments, and Palestinian Arab staffers from the Palestinian Authority, the NGOs, and the U.N. They socialized at a number of places including Oriental courtyard of the American Colony hotel in East Jerusalem, or at parties held at the British Consulate’s rooftop pool. Practically all were transients who arrive from somewhere, reside in a distinctive subculture of expatriates, and then move on. [27]

In such an environment Friedman notes, "A distaste for Israel has come to be something between an acceptable prejudice and a prerequisite for entry." This is not about harboring a critical approach to Israeli policies or being critical of the Israeli government. It is “a belief that to some extent the Jews of Israel are a symbol of the world’s ills, particularly those connected to nationalism, militarism, colonialism, and racism—an idea quickly becoming one of the central elements of the ‘progressive’ Western zeitgeist, spreading from the European left to American college campuses and intellectuals, including journalists. In this social group, this sentiment is translated into editorial decisions made by individual reporters and editors covering Israel, and this, in turn, gives such thinking the means of mass self-replication.” [28]  

Richard Miron, a former correspondent for the BBC in Israel and a UN official based in Jerusalem, concurred that “there is much that Matti Friedman writes that resonates, when he describes the disproportionate coverage that Israel receives, and the way that the foreign media has broadly speaking accepted a narrative of the conflict which prescribes given roles to Israel (as the guilty party) and the Palestinians (as the victims).” [29]

Miron argued that Israel should not be judged in comparison to other countries in the Middle East, but in relation to how other Western armies function under similar situations. Yet in analyzing media coverage of the war in 2014, it appeared they were holding Israel to a separate criterion. Civilian casualties in Gaza were often described as the result of calculated Israeli vindictiveness and massacre.  [30] 

Miron, who witnessed Western armies fighting in the Middle East, the Balkans and other parts of the world, said that in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, the media questioned the extent of civilian casualties, which were in the tens of thousands, but their response had been restrained by comparison to their aggressive investigation of the scope of deaths in Gaza.  [31]

That this conflict evokes such strong emotions among individuals who are completely removed in terms of personal history, involvement or location is fascinating Miron contends. Each new hostile act seems to elicit a progressively greater response in contrast to other conflicts where the longer the hostilities continue, the greater the indifference. Though hundreds of thousands of civilians have been murdered in the Middle East and elsewhere, and countless millions live under the most inhuman conditions, the international media is focused on Israel. In cities throughout the West, angry protests are directed against Israel, not the injustices against the death and destruction in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Sudan and other countries. [32] 

Miron concludes that the “Western media must account for itself and for its own conduct, including apparent omissions and failures in the reporting of the conflict. It must question where reporting may have ended and emoting began; if it held Israel to a standard apart from all others; and why it allowed Hamas a free pass in controlling the flow of information. Its coverage had consequences in fueling the passions (and hatred) of many on the streets of Paris, London and elsewhere toward Israel, and, by extension, toward Jews.” [33]

After witnessing another flagrant example of media bias, journalist Seth Mandel, said the only way to grasp “how major media outlets could behave so disreputably is to keep in mind a point I have made…before: perseverance of the Palestinian narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict depends entirely on the ignorance and dishonesty of the Western press.” [34]

When Dore Gold served as Israel’s ambassador at the U.N. in 1997, the Arab states organized an emergency special session of the General Assembly to discuss Israel’s construction of condominiums in Har Homa, in southern East Jerusalem. No similar emergency sessions had been convened when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan or Czechoslovakia, when Vietnam invaded Cambodia, or even when Turkey invaded Cyprus.  [35]

Footnotes: 

[1] Ze’ev Chafets, Double Vision: How America's Press Distorts Our View of the Middle East (New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1985),234-235, 268-269; Norman Podhoretz, “The Abandonment of Israel,” Commentary (February 1, 1992); Norman Podhoretz, “The Hate That Dare Not Speak Its Name,” Commentary (November, 1986); Norman Podhoretz, “J'Accuse,” Commentary (September 1, 1982); Norman Podhoretz, “What Is Anti-Semitism? An Open Letter to William F. Buckley, Jr.,” Commentary (February 1992); Norman Podhoretz, “A Certain Anxiety,” Commentary (August 1971); George W. Ball, “The Middle East: How to Save Israel in Spite of Herself,” Foreign Affairs (April 1977); George W. Ball and Douglas B. Ball, The Passionate Attachment: America's Involvement with Israel, 1947 to the Present (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1992); Stanley Hoffmann, “A New Policy for Israel,” Foreign Affairs (April 1975); Anthony Lewis, “Abroad At Home; Operation Peace,” The New York Times (June 7, 1982); Nicholas von Hoffman, “The perils of American policy,” The Spectator (June 10, 1977); Nicholas von Hoffman, “A Handy-Dandy Guide To U.S. Foreign Policy,”New York Observer (August 14, 2006) Nicholas von Hoffman, “Getting tough with Israel,” The Spectator (September 10, 1982); Nicholas von Hoffman, “Israel loses ground,” The Spectator (March 31, 1978); Nicholas von Hoffman, “Begin's Jewish critics,” The Spectator (November 13, 1982).

[2] In William Borders, “Dear Mr. Miller,” The New York Times (July 25, 1997) quoted “In Their Own Words The New York Times Replies to Critics, CAMERA (February 10, 1998).

[3] Jeffrey Goldberg, “Obsessing About Gaza, Ignoring Syria (and Most Everything Else),” The Atlantic (July 23, 2014).

[4] Podhoretz, “The Abandonment of Israel,” op.cit; Podhoretz, “The Hate That Dare Not Speak Its Name,” op.cit; Podhoretz, “J'Accuse,” op.cit; Podhoretz, “What Is Anti-Semitism? An Open Letter to William F. Buckley, Jr.,” Commentary (February 1992); Podhoretz, “A Certain Anxiety,” op.cit.

[5] Alan Johnson, “It's time to stop infantilising the Palestinians,” The Telegraph (June 21, 2014); Josh Benjamin, “The Pathology of Paternalism: Demanding Accountability,” The Times of Israel (June 18, 2014); Elhanan Miller, “Pro-kidnapping salute gains steam on Palestinian, Arab social media,”The Times of Israel (June 18, 2014); Aussie Dave, “More Palestinian Reactions To Kidnapping: The Most Disturbing Of All,” Israellycool (June 17, 2014); Stuart Winer “PA, Fatah cartoons gloat over teens’ kidnappings,” The Times of Israel (June 15, 2014); “Palestinians In Gaza And Lebanon Celebrate Jerusalem Synagogue Terror Attack,” Video Clip MEMRI #4609.

[6] Anthony Lewis, “At Home Abroad; The Consensus Cracks,” The New York Times (July 1, 1982).

[7] Chafets, op.cit. 310.

[8] Johnson, op.cit; for examples of this pathology see Gideon Levy, “Israelis can try, but they can't ignore the occupation,” Haaretz (June 15, 2014); Lahav Harkov, “Zoabi: Kidnappers are not terrorists, they're fighting occupation,” The Jerusalem Post (June 17, 2014); Amira Hass, “The inner syntax of Palestinian stone-throwing, Haaretz (April 3, 2013), Ben Cohen, “After Brutal Terror Attack, Dershowitz Rips CNN Anchor for ‘Parroting’ Hamas Claim That All Israelis Are Legitimate Targets” the Algemeiner (November 19, 2014).

[9] Stephen Karetzky, Ed. The Media's War Against Israel: The Full Expose No One Dared Publish (New York: Shapolsky Books, 1986),  35; Jodi Rudoren, “Border Crossings, “From Gaza to Israel: Reporter’s Notebook,’ The New York Times (February 17, 2015), Jodi Rudoren, Jodi Rudoren, “A Gaza Artist Creates 100 Square Feet of Beauty, And She’s Not Budging,” The New York Times (February 27, 2015); Ian S. Lustick, “Two-State Illusion,” The New York Times (September 14, 2013); Ian S. Lustick, Unsettled States, Disputed Lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank-Gaza (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1995).

[10] Benjamin, op.cit; Johnson, op.cit.

[11] Arsen Ostrovsky, “ISIS and Hamas: The Double Standard,” TheWorldPost (August 20, 2014).

[12] Rachel Ehrenfeld, “Palestinian Incitement Welcomed by UN Human Rights Council,” The American Center for Democracy (October 28, 2015); “News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (October 21 – 27, 2015),” The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (October 27, 2015).

[13] Judy Lash Balint, “Journalists describe constant Palestinian intimidation,” WorldNetDaily.com (2001); Chafets, op.cit; 264-273; Bernard Goldberg,BIAS (New York: Perennial, 2003), 205-212; Chafets, op.cit. 79-81; Joseph A. Vandello, Nadav P. Goldschmied and David A. R. Richards, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin  Volume 33 Number 12 (December 2007).

[14] Stephanie Gutmann, The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians And The Struggle For Media Supremacy (San Francisco, California: Encounter Books, 2005), 209-212; Ron Schleifer, Psychological Warfare in the Intifada (Portland, Oregon: Sussex University Press,2006), 94; for an example of how an Arab “fixer” changed what Fox reporter Jennifer Griffin saw and reported, please see Vered Levy-Barzilai, “Out-foxing CNN,” Haaretz (July 3, 2002).

[15] Gutmann, op.cit. 209-212; Ron Schleifer, op.cit. 94.

[16] Schleifer, op.cit.94; Jim Lederman, Battle Lines: The American Media and the Intifada (New York: Henry Holt, 1992), 133-134.

[17] Gutmann, op.cit.210-211.

[18] Schleifer, op.cit.94.

[19] Richard Behar, “The Media Intifada: Bad Math, Ugly Truths About New York Times In Israel-Hamas War,” Forbes (August 21, 2014); Fares Akram, “'The smell of death was everywhere,'” Al-Jazeera (July 21, 2014);Fares Akram, “Israeli bombs kill 100 Gazans in single day,” Al-Jazeera (July 30, 2014); Fares Akram, Short-lived truce gives Gazans respite,” Al-Jazeera (August 1, 2014); Fares Akram, “North Gaza families reluctant to return home,” Al-Jazeera (August 3, 2014).

[20] Fares Akram, “Gaza: The death and life of my father,” The Independent (January 5, 2009); “Analysis: I Don’t Trust the AP’s Report on Civilian Deaths in Gaza and Neither Should You,” the Algemeiner (February 14, 2015).

[21] Behar, op.cit; “Ken Roth’s Immoral Anti-Israel Obsession and the Gaza War,” NGO Monitor (September 4, 2014); Abeer Ayyoub, "Everyone Here Is a Target," What It's Like Living Under Attack in Gaza,” World. Mic (July 14, 2014); Abeer Ayyoub, “Cringing and scrounging in the dark amid Gaza's hell,” The New York Daily News, (July 16, 2014); Abeer Ayyoub, “In escalations of violence, Gazans pay the price,”+972 (March 14, 2014).

[22] Abeer Ayyoub, Facebook (July 29, 2014) https://www.facebook.com/abeer.ayyoub/posts/702339556505894.

[23] Matti Friedman, “What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel,” The Atlantic (November 30, 2014); Matti Friedman, “Ongoing Controversy Around ‘The Most Important Story on Earth,’” Tablet (September 16, 2014).

[24] Philip Gourevitch, “The Moral Hazards of Humanitarian Aid: What Is to Be Done?” The New Yorker (November 3, 2014).

[25] Friedman, “What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel,” op.cit.

[26] Ibid; “The accusation was denied by AP in an article by Paul Colford “AP statement on Mideast coverage,” (December 1, 2014), but confirmed by Lori Lowenthal Marcus, "AP Disses 'Whistleblower' But a New Whistle Blows," The Jewish Press (December 3, 2014.)

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Richard Miron, “Looking back at Gaza,” foreigndaze (August 27, 2014); Richard Miron, “Fear and Loathing – the fight for sanity in the Middle East and beyond,” foreigndaze (July 16, 2014); “AP statement on Mideast coverage,” ap.org (December 1, 2014).

[30] Miron, “Looking back at Gaza,” op.cit.

[31]Ibid.

[32]Richard Miron, “Fear and Loathing – the fight for sanity in the Middle East and beyond,” foreigndaze (July 16, 2014).

[33]Richard Miron, “Media Self-reflection on Gaza War Coverage Is Necessary, but Unlikely,” Haaretz (September 1, 2014).

[34] Seth Mandel, “A Case Study in Media Bias: Today’s Jerusalem Terror Attack,” Commentary (October 10, 2014).

[35] Manfred Gerstenfeld, “The world blames Israel,” Ynet (March 3, 2011); Ostrovsky, “ISIS and Hamas: The Double Standard,” op.cit.




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