Monday, June 21, 2010

Reuters' Macdonald pens his swan song; biased to the end

Psychologists who study cognition and learning tell us that the capacity to learn, to adapt, to change ones' view generally declines as we age.  By the time we're in our forties and fifties, many individuals unfortunately settle into a pattern of sclerotic thinking.  Perhaps this is what's afflicting recently dethroned Reuters Bureau Chief Alastair Macdonald.

In his swan song piece for the news agency, Macdonald pens a poignant tale of walls and broken bridges (both physical and metaphorical) between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs:
From the minefields of Israel's frontlines with Syria and Lebanon to the fortified fences around the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- much in this month's headlines -- to the walls, old and new, of Jerusalem, physical barriers shape the lives of the 12 million people cut off here in what was once called Palestine.
Yes, it was once called "Palestine" -- actually "Provincia Syria Palaestina", assigned that title by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 135 AD following the Bar Kochba revolt by the Jews.  This renaming, in a deliberate effort to blot out the Jewish connection to the land which had previously been known as "Provincia Judaea" -- and before that, simply "Judaea".  How ironic that two-thousand years later, another European employs his position as Regional Chief of the most powerful news agency in the world to attempt the same abrogation.

Characterizing the differences between Gaza and Israel, Macdonald writes:
Normally, these days, it's a peaceful place, teeming with wildlife, a brief buffer zone between Gaza, an Arab city going backwards on donkey carts and embargoed scarcities, and the neat farms, hi-tech factories and shopping malls of southern Israel.
Yes, we've noticed those "embargoed scarcities" in the shops.

Macdonald could of course, also compare the current state of Gaza, embargoed because it is under the rule of a totalitarian and openly genocidal regime, with that of Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank") where a more tolerant and ostensibly concordant regime (aided by Israeli and Western-trained Palestinian security forces) oversees some of those same neat farms and shopping malls.

Inside the Old City's gates, Ottoman-era Quarters -- Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian -- map communal rivalries still alive today. Small battlefields marked by razor wire, flags and hurled garbage show where Israelis are settling in Arab areas.
Macdonald refers to Israelis [Jews] "settling" in "Arab areas" with the connotation that this is provocative or somehow inequitable.  Reuters never seems to be able to explain to readers why Arab-majority neighborhoods should be expunged of Jews while Arabs are free to live in any predominantly Jewish city in Israel.  Those progressive European sensibilities appear to vanish where Jewish human and civil rights are involved.

Then comes the loaded language:
The most visible wall is the new one that snakes around greater Jerusalem -- protecting it, Israel says, from suicide bombers while cutting them off from their families, according to Palestinians.
They [the Palestinians] complain, too, that the barrier penning them into the West Bank is a frontier in one direction only. Half a million Israelis live there, in an archipelago of hilltop settlements, their red, pitched roofs an image of contrast to Arab villages.
Please Alastair, tell us with which side you personally sympathize; we simply can't tell from your use of metaphor.

Finally, in what appears to be a reference to our work and that of other watchers:
Yet there are images that stay with me of those who reach over the walls. I've seen it in the Reuters journalists I worked with. Their professionalism is blind to being Palestinian or Israeli, even if partisan critics from all sides question that.
Note that in not one of our nearly 300 posts criticizing Reuters pro-Palestinian bias and easily recognizable propaganda have we ever suggested that their correspondents' partisanship or lack of professionalism is a reflection of whether they are Palestinian or Israeli.  Indeed, it is often the bureau's Israeli reporters that are the worst offenders.

Macdonald seeks to defend his colleagues in the face of overwhelming evidence of bias based on imagined claims of ethnic or national chauvinism but the truth is, Reuters bias transcends the race or religion of the writer.  At its core, the bias is rooted in personal ideology and then institutionalized.  It represents a fatal transgression of the Reuters Trust Principles and the agency's Handbook of Journalism and as such, should be addressed at the highest levels promptly.

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