Reuters chief slams US Ambassador for desecrating 'Nakba Day'

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman set to arrive in Israel next week, draws criticism from Reuters bureau chief for 'insensitivity'.

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David Rosenberg, | updated: 17:31

Reuters bureau chief Luke Baker
Reuters bureau chief Luke Baker
Flash90

Newly-appointed US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is set to arrive in Israel next Monday, beginning his service in the Jewish state a week ahead of President Trump’s first visit to Israel since taking office in January.

On Tuesday, a Twitter account in Friedman’s name confirmed that he would be heading to Israel on May 15th.

“I am arriving in Israel on May 15 to represent the United States as Ambassador to Israel. I hope to work out of Jerusalem very soon!”

The post, which was retweeted by Israel’s Foreign Ministry, appears to be fraudulent and the account fake.

The faux Friedman announcement drew consternation, from at least one senior journalist, who criticized the timing of Friedman’s departure for Israel.

Luke Baker, Israel bureau chief for Reuters, expressed disapproval that Friedman would be beginning his service in the US Embassy in Israel on May 15th, coinciding with “Nakba Day”.

Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe” is the term used by Arab opponents of the existence of a Jewish state to describe the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Declared by arch-terrorist and mass-murderer Yasser Arafat in 1998, Nakba Day is marked each year with condemnation of the establishment of Israel and accusations of wrongdoing during Israel’s War of Independence, when the nascent Jewish state was invaded by its Arab neighbors.

More than 7,000 Jews, or more than one percent of the total Jewish population in Israel at the time, were killed during the struggle for Israel's independence, from the onset of violence following the UK’s November 1947 declaration it would withdraw from the Mandate of Palestine through the end of the war in 1949.

Nakba Day, held on May 15th, the day after Israel declared independence (according to the Gregorian calendar), has been condemned by the Knesset, which voted to empower the Finance Ministry to strip organizations participating in Nakba Day events.

Nevertheless, on Tuesday Baker hit Friedman over the timing of his arrival, saying it ignored “the tragedy” suffered by Arabs “at Israel’s founding”.

“U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, will arrive on Nakba Day, when Palestinians mark the tragedy they suffered at Israel's founding.”

Baker later deleted the tweet from his account, following criticism from Israel’s Consul General in New York, Dani Dayan, who slammed Baker’s comment as “one of the most outrageous tweets ever by the bureau chief of a major news org.”

“On May 15 Israel was founded. No better day to arrive,” Dayan added.

After deleting the original tweet, Baker apologized for the phrasing of his comment.

“I deleted my tweet after realizing my phrasing could be misconstrued. I dropped the attribution unintentionally. Apologies.”

Dayan wrote on Twitter that he accepted Baker's apology, and claim that no malice was intended.

Baker has a history of apparent hostility towards the Jewish state, slamming what he termed the “idiocy” of Israel’s security establishment, and blasting an invitation to speak at a Knesset hearing on media bias as a “witch-hunt”.

Nor has his bias been confined to his private Twitter feed or off the record comments. Baker’s reporting in Reuters often emphasizes Israeli responses to terror attacks, rather than the attacks themselves.

For example, instead of emphasizing the stabbing attack by an Arab terrorist which left three wounded on April 1st, an article by Baker highlighted the death of the terrorist during the attack – and declined to identify him as such, calling him instead a “Palestinian”.

“Israeli police kill Palestinian who stabbed three in Jerusalem,” read the headline.

Yet Baker not only denied any bias in his own writing, he went so far as to claim that there is no problem of anti-Israel bias whatsoever in the foreign media.

“I clearly don’t think the foreign press is biased,” Baker told a Knesset hearing in 2016. “I don’t think anyone is denying there have been errors, problems from time to time. Sometimes it’s been harder to correct them than others.”

Foreign reports, he argued, had succeeded in producing a “huge amount of coverage with very few factual errors. I fail to see the media has something to answer in terms of systemic bias.”

In December 2017, media watchdog organization Honest Reporting named Baker first runner-up for Most Distrusted Reporter of 2016.

Luke Baker's tweet Twitter/Screenshot







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