Saturday, March 6, 2010

Macdonald, the Propagandist

Reuters Bureau Chief (Propagandist) Alastair Macdonald pens a piece on violence in Jerusalem yesterday which serves as a textbook study in media bias and distortion.  Following a brief lede describing the confrontation, Macdonald immediately offers space to broadcast Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' agitprop:
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of trying to wreck peace efforts and of risking a "war of religion" across the Middle East by police "provocation" at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest spot in Islam, which stands on ground also revered by Jews as the site of their biblical Temple.

The Palestinians of course, regularly hurl this type of hyperbolic rhetoric and Reuters dutifully disseminates it as if it were news.  No balance is provided with say, a quote from an Israeli official noting that the incident was initiated by Palestinians stoning Jewish worshipers at the adjacent Western Wall, a Jewish shrine.

Indeed, Macdonald has a long sorry history of dismissing Arab violence and showing deference for Muslim shrines ("the third holiest spot in Islam") while downplaying the significance of Jewish holy sites.  The ground under and around the mosque is called the Temple Mount and is not simply "revered" by Jews, it is Judaism's holiest shrine.

Macdonald then steers into a non sequitur:
Separately, six Palestinian family members were killed in a car collision with an Israeli military vehicle in the occupied West Bank on Friday, Palestinian police and the Israeli army said, in an incident likely to anger Palestinians [italics, ours].
The Palestinians are so predictable and have Macdonald so well-heeled that he no longer waits to report the news but conveniently divines for us, hostile Palestinian reaction to a traffic accident.

Returning to the headlined story, it is not until the 7th paragraph down that Macdonald finally gets around to reporting that a Reuters journalist at the scene of the confrontation in Jerusalem witnessed the incipient violence:
A Reuters journalist at the al-Aqsa mosque compound, which also houses the landmark, gilded Dome of the Rock and is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, said violence began after weekly prayers when youths holding a protest against Israel threw rocks at police who had entered the walled area.
Yet even this is a distortion, for Macdonald fails to disclose that police entered the area precisely because, as noted, Arab "youths" began throwing rocks at Jews worshiping at the Western Wall below.  The ensuing violence between Arabs and Israeli police -- which Reuters admits was initiated by the Arabs -- was secondary to the original Arab assault on Jewish congregants.

Macdonald then runs interference for Abbas:
In an unusually strongly worded statement, Abbas, who is mindful of local criticism of his decision to restart negotiations, said, "The occupation forces are crossing all red lines in an attempt to block the resumption of peace talks."
"Unusually strongly worded statement"?  As noted above, this type of inflammatory rhetoric is standard fare for Abbas.

Macdonald finishes with an ahistorical citation:
Palestinian negotiators say they want to use the four months to narrow gaps on core issues in the six-decade-old conflict, which has eluded resolution despite 20 years of talks.
Although Macdonald wishes readers to view the conflict as originating with creation of the state of Israel in 1948 (the Palestinian "nakba" narrative), he well understands that the roots of the fighting between Arab Muslims and Jews extend back centuries.  Even in the modern era, those Arabs living in the Palestine Mandate formally rejected a two-state solution and Jewish sovereignty as early as 1937.

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