Monday, August 31, 2009

Reuters: antisemitic or simply asinine?

We're returning to a Reuters AxisMundi post from July because it would be difficult to find a more breathtaking example of both the ignorance and conceit demonstrated by their Middle East correspondents.

In "Insulting the Intelligence", Douglas Hamilton patronizes readers by assuming the role of teacher who is going to demonstrate to his students the "rhetorical tricks" of disingenuousness and the straw man argument. Hamilton's teaching exhibit: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

Hamilton cites Netanyahu's reply to demands by the Obama administration that Israel halt construction of 20 apartments in eastern Jerusalem as an illustration of these "rhetorical tricks":

“We cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live and buy (homes) anywhere in Jerusalem... I can only imagine what would happen if someone would suggest Jews could not live in certain neighborhoods of New York, London, Paris or Rome. There would certainly be a great international outcry.”

Hamilton admits that discrimination against Jews, i.e., preventing them from building or living in these Western cities, would indeed be proof of antisemitism but that because Jerusalem is a disputed city claimed also by the Palestinian Arabs, such an injunction is perfectly acceptable. For Hamilton, Netanyahu is employing a straw man, and (because Hamilton presumes Netanyahu accepts his distinction between Jerusalem and London) is further guilty of being "disingenuous".

Of course, it is Hamilton who is actually being disingenuous or simply ignorant of the historical facts. As we replied in the comments section to Hamilton's post, at various times in the past, sovereignty over New York, London, Paris, and Rome was also in dispute. The same holds true with Prague, Toronto, Istanbul, Pittsburgh, and today, Belfast, Gibraltar, and Jerusalem.

Competing claims did not prevent the English, the French, the Czechs, or the Catholics from living or building in their cities while borders were tussled with. Competing claims have not compelled the UK government to block condominium construction for British pensioners in Gibraltar. And competing claims have not prevented Arab governments from spending hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize and encourage Palestinian Arab construction in Jerusalem.

Only the Jews it seems, are to be singled out for special treatment.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Reuters continues to advocate for evicted Palestinian squatters

Nearly a month ago, Palestinian Arab squatters were evicted from a home in Jerusalem pursuant to an order by the Israel High Court. The squatters had failed to pay rent for several years.

Advocating for the evicted family, Reuters runs a human interest story replete with classic propaganda tactics, errors of commission and errors of omission that have become a Reuters' hallmark in their Middle East reporting.

Interspersed with a heart-tugging tale of the Arab family eating dates and chicken soup on the sidewalk in front of the home from which they were evicted, are all of the usual rhetorical devices:

"Their stone house in Arab east Jerusalem, in a district of consulates and trendy restaurants, is now home to Jewish settlers, who moved in as they were being kicked out on Aug 2... Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 Middle East war, a move never recognized internationally."

As we have pointed out in the past, there is not today and never has been a city formally recognized as "East Jerusalem". This however, does not prevent Reuters writers and editors from repeatedly deploying this misleading convention in a transparent effort to bifurcate the city in the minds of readers and deny Israeli sovereignty over the whole. The term "Arab East Jerusalem" is moreover, both factually incorrect and racially loaded. Imagine the repercussions for example, if a reporter writing for the Chicago Tribune were to refer to the "Negroid Southside of Chicago" or the "Caucasian suburb of Wilmette".

In reality, Jerusalem is a single city with Jews composing over two-thirds of the total population and 42% of the population in the east. This latter number would likely be even greater had Jordan not ethnically cleansed thousands of Jews from the Old City (whose families had lived there for centuries) after invading in 1948. To describe Jews now living in this area as "settlers" with its obvious colonialist connotation is both intellectually dishonest and morally repugnant.

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, asserting a biblical claim to Jerusalem, has said Jews have a right to live anywhere in the city."

What Netanyahu has actually said, as in his speech at Bar Ilan University on June 14th 2009, is that the connection of the Jewish People to Jerusalem and the land of Israel has been in existence for more than 3,500 years. That claim is not only biblical but one that is fully supported by the archeological evidence (even as the Palestinian Arabs work to destroy that evidence).

"Israeli police who turned the family out of their home said they were acting on eviction orders issued by an Israeli court, which had upheld a settler organization's land ownership claim based on 19th-century documents."

Er, that would be the Israeli High Court which has just as frequently ruled in favor of Arab interests on matters involving property disputes -- even when Jews have been able to prove ownership of the property in question. As for the big, bad Israeli police, they have been known to ignore court orders to evict Arab squatters in the past when they thought it might provoke Arab riots.

"Settlers have moved into six other buildings. Armed men guard the stone houses where settlers have hoisted Israeli flags."

Replace "Israeli" with "Texas" above and one might think Reuters was describing a scene from The Alamo.

Coincidence, we're sure.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"We believe our post is accurate"

That was the definitively equivocal reply of Reuters' AxisMundi Jerusalem editor and Bureau Chief for Israel and the Palestinian territories, Alastair Macdonald, to a reader who had pointed out that Reuters' correspondent Erika Solomon did not have her facts straight when she claimed that Uri Davis was Jewish:

"The elections for Fatah’s sixth conference, which just ended in Bethlehem, had an unusual first: their first Jewish Israeli member elected to the 120-member Revolutionary Council."

Davis may have been born Jewish but as many sources have documented, he converted to Islam shortly before he married a Palestinian woman in 2008.

Rather than do the simple fact-checking one would expect from a Reuters' editor and Bureau Chief (which should have occurred prior to original publication) or correct Solomon's erroneous assertion after being rightly challenged, Macdonald responds equivocally:

"We believe our post is accurate. But for more detail on Davis’s complicated biography, we would direct readers to his Web site at"

We would prefer to characterize Davis' website autobiography as obscurantist but nowhere does he claim to be currently Jewish.

Beyond underscoring the editorial sloppiness at Reuters, Solomon's original mis-identification of Davis as Jewish and Macdonald's subsequent refusal to correct the error reflects an obvious attempt to enhance the propaganda value of the story. Clearly, it is more damaging to Israel and more flattering to the Palestinians if Fatah (which is committed to Israel's destruction) has elected an Israeli Jew to represent them rather than a Muslim who -- as Davis himself states -- was Jewish solely by the "accident of his birth".

It is also supremely ironic that while Davis refers to himself as a Palestinian, Fatah considers him a "non-Palestinian" because he is not Arab and was born Jewish. This tells us much about the Palestinian ethos on race and religion.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reuters blames Israel for talks impasse

As an illustration of the lengths to which Reuters will go to advocate for the Palestinian Arabs in the Middle East conflict, Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Keith Weir imply that Israel is to blame for the current suspension in negotiations with the Palestinians because the Netanyahu government will not "freeze settlement building":

"Israel has resisted U.S. President Barack Obama's calls to freeze settlement building in occupied territory so that peace talks may resume, a dispute that has led to a rare rift in the Jewish state's relations with its main backer."

In reality of course, Netanyahu has repeatedly offered unconditional peace talks with the Palestinians (as well as making substantial concessions) while PA President Mahmoud Abbas has steadfastly refused any talks until all of his conditions are met first.

For Reuters however, it is always Israel which is the intransigent.

Reuters revolves around Jewish "settlements"

In a piece for the Reuters blog AxisMundi Jerusalem, Erika Solomon argues that controversy over Jewish settlements is at the core of current discussions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and European leaders.  Solomon links to a Reuters article on its World news page by Allyn Fisher-Ilan which argues the same point.  Despite the contentious headlines, "Settlement Freeze Still the Hot Topic" and "Settlements Seen Clouding Netanyahu's Europe Trip", neither piece actually provides any evidence that Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (also the "West Bank") is the central item on the agenda at these meetings or an impediment to ("clouding") discussions.

It is clear however, that for these two Reuters' correspondents, Jewish settlements are the topic.  In a transparent appeal to authority for example, Fisher-Ilan cites a statement by the discredited group Peace Now that "more than 40,000 more homes [for Israelis] could be built under plans already ratified".  Solomon, who parrots the same claim in her piece, goes on to suggest that, "even touchier than the settlement issue in the West Bank has been settlement building in East Jerusalem".  Presumably to illustrate the sensitivity of the issue for all parties in the conflict, Solomon cites a previous Reuters story and video on the eviction of Arab squatters from homes in Jerusalem pursuant to an order by the Israeli High Court.  Solomon's earlier story never mentions the fact that these families were evicted for failing over several years to pay rent or that other Arab families living in Jewish-owned homes in Jerusalem who do pay rent have not been similarly evicted.

It is Solomon's reference however, to "East Jerusalem" that is most tendentious. There is of course, no city of "East Jerusalem" but Reuters correspondents consistently and guilefully deploy the fictitious term in their stories in an effort to demarcate this area as separate from the rest of the city and by implication, outside of the domain of the state of Israel. Fisher-Ilan extends the fiction even further by referring to the area as "Arab East Jerusalem". (Note that there is no corresponding reference to "Jewish West Jerusalem"). That the eastern portion of Jerusalem is home to the most sacred of Jewish antiquities and 42% Jewish by population despite widespread ethnic cleansing by Jordan between 1948 and 1967, is to this writer's knowledge, never discussed by Reuters.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Welcome to Reuters Middle East Watch

Thomson Reuters is the world's largest international multimedia news agency, providing investing news, world news, business news, technology news, headline news, small business news, news alerts, personal finance, stock market, and mutual funds information available on, video, mobile, and interactive television platforms. Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.
That's how Reuters describes itself at the bottom of its primary news website.   Ten years of careful analysis of Reuters' coverage of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs reveals a media titan that is certainly large, certainly powerful, but one that while purporting to be "fair", in fact, consistently slants its reporting in favor of one of the warring parties. 

At R-MEW, we will examine Reuters' stories on the Middle East conflict appearing on its news and information websites as well as its blog devoted to events in Israel and the Palestinian territories.  We will employ a variety of tested and respected analytical methods to expose in these stories, instances of bias, errors of commission, errors of omission, and the use of propaganda tactics intended to manipulate public opinion.  We will also show how the accounts of Reuters' correspondents are frequently at odds with the facts.