Sunday, January 10, 2010

In 2010 what's new, what's not

Following the holiday break, many of Reuters Middle East correspondents are back on the job so we thought we'd take a look at how they're approaching their subject in the New Year.  When it comes to reporting on Jewish settlements anywhere in Mandatory Palestine outside of the 1949 armistice lines, it's often Jeffrey Heller that does the writing.  As we've noted in the past, Heller appears to have a peculiar obsession with Jews living beyond the armistice lines (the reference to 1967 'borders" is a misnomer as the Arab states refused to recognize Israel or respect her original borders and the armistice lines simply denote the divide separating opposing armies at the point fighting halted).

In a story appearing on the Reuters website on Tuesday, Heller reports on Israel's plans to construct four apartment buildings in the eastern portion of Jerusalem.  Anywhere else in the world, such an announcement would barely merit a mention (see if you can locate a Reuters article on Indian construction in Kashmir) but when it comes to the Jewish state, it's often front page news so let's take a look at Reuters' handling of the story.  Heller writes:
Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They say Israeli settlements could thwart their hopes for a viable homeland.
The reference here to Jewish residences in the eastern part of Jerusalem (which Heller erroneously demarcates a separate city) as "settlements" is clearly intended to characterize them as interloping.  For example, Heller selectively cites history ("some 200,000 Israelis already live in East Jerusalem and nearby areas of the West Bank that Israel captured in a 1967 war") without mentioning that thousands of Jews lived in the city for centuries prior to being ethnically cleansed by the Arab Legion in the earlier 1948 war.  Heller's treatment leaves readers with the impression that the eastern portion of the city is by rights, Arab property, and that Israelis, i.e., Jews, have only recently (and illegally) settled there.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The photos above depict the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem prior to, and following ethnic cleansing by the Arab Legion.

The good news is that as compared to previous stories on the same general subject, Heller has made two material changes in his approach.  First, he has dropped use of the racist misnomer "Arab East Jerusalem" in favor of reference to the non-existent but neutral destination "East Jerusalem".  Secondly, consistent with the Reuters Handbook of Journalism, he has cited Israel's title for the disputed territories, Judea and Samaria.  We commend Heller and Reuters for these quality adjustments.

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