Friday, October 23, 2009

Reuters on trial for aggravated bias in the first degree

Reuters "special correspondent" Alistair Lyon offers us his "analysis" on why President Obama's efforts to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians has floundered. Lyon's editorial (Reuters would be less subject to opprobrium if it labeled its opinion pieces as what they really are) is riddled with falsehoods, unsupported assertions, errors of omission, cheap propaganda tactics, and egregious bias.

Exhibit I:

Skeptics point to a rightwing Israeli cabinet more focused on threats from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas than on making peace with Palestinians mired in rivalry between Islamist militants ruling the Gaza Strip and their Fatah foes in the West Bank.

How facile and convenient to have anonymous "skeptics" blame Israel for failing to engage the Palestinians in peacemaking. Much more difficult to abide by the Reuters Handbook of Journalism which affirms:

Good analysis is supported by the established facts or available data and rests on the use of named sources and the writer’s expertise.

Exhibit II:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has, with evident distaste, bowed to U.S. pressure to talk of negotiating the creation of a Palestinian state, but only if it is demilitarized and if Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinians see this demand as prejudicing the claims to return or compensation of refugees displaced in the 1948 war over Israel's creation, and as undermining the status of Israeli Arabs who make up a fifth of its population.

Note how Netanyahu is characterized as begrudging and unwilling to compromise except under duress; his negotiating position left to twist in the wind. There is no explanation for example, of why Netanyahu considers it important that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, i.e., to permanently end the conflict on the basis of two states for two peoples -- a Jewish state and a Palestinian Arab state. By contrast, Palestinian rejection of Netanyahu's position is presented uncritically and indeed, rationalized on their behalf.

Exhibit III:

They, [the Palestinians] and many Arabs, are also aggrieved that Obama now asks only for Israeli restraint on expanding settlements, which are illegal under international law and threaten the viability of any Palestinian state, instead of the freeze he earlier sought.

Lyon's first assertion with respect to the legality of settlements is unsupported and actually false. His second assertion (settlements "threaten the viability of any Palestinian state") is also unsupported and in view of the fact that built-up settlements comprise less than 2% of the disputed territories, utterly ludicrous.

Exhibit IV:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose credibility has been strained by his own policy zigzags and vulnerability to U.S. pressure, rules out renewed negotiations before an Israeli settlement freeze, as mandated in a 2003 U.S.-backed peace plan.

Lyon omits any mention of Palestinian obligations in the same plan.

Exhibit V:

The Israeli government doesn't really want a settlement on the basis that most of the international community could support, let alone the Palestinians.

That's a quote from James Dobbins, director of the Center for International Security and Defense Policy at the RAND Corporation. What Lyon doesn't tell us is that Dobbins also signed a letter to President Bush in 2007 calling for "genuine dialogue" with the terrorist group Hamas. An unbiased source, we're certain.

Exhibit VI:

That goal [peace] has eluded several U.S. presidents and countless other mediators, even though conventional wisdom holds that the inevitable outlines of a two-state solution are now well-known.

Lyon goes from quoting anonymous "skeptics" earlier to "conventional wisdom" here. As a journalist, he's on a very slippery slope and sliding fast.

All in all, a transparent piece of one-sided propaganda masquerading as independent analysis.

Guilty as charged.

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