Monday, March 29, 2010

Reuters recycles broken boilerplate, tired canards

Dan Williams of Reuters picks up on an interview published by Maariv with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman where the latter notes that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had supported Israeli efforts to defeat Hamas in the Gaza war last year:
Over the past year, I witnessed (Abbas) at his best. In Operation Cast Lead, (he) called us personally, applied pressure and demanded that we topple Hamas and remove it from power," he told Israel's Maariv daily.
We have noted the same in previous posts citing an article which originally appeared in Time Magazine in February of 2009.  Thus, there is really nothing new in the recognition or report that Abbas sided with, and likely provided strategic support to, the Israelis in their battle against Hamas.

Williams constructs his story with a slew of tired canards and what we refer to as "broken boilerplate", that is material drawn from Reuters capacious word processing files on the Middle East conflict which is fundamentally flawed or biased.  For example, Williams writes:
Israel launched its three-week Gaza offensive on Dec. 27, 2008 with the stated aim of stopping rocket attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian factions. Such attacks have tapered off since, though there has been sporadic cross-border violence.
The Israeli effort to put an end to over 8,000 rocket and mortar attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza over many years is habitually characterized by Reuters as an "offensive" so as to portray Israel as the aggressor and reader skepticism of Israeli motives is further encouraged by cynically referring to the "stated aim" of the military operation.  Williams also suggests that the rocket attacks have "tapered off" with only "sporadic" violence since the war but as we have noted previously, there have actually been several hundred rocket and mortar attacks aimed at Israeli communities over the last year including one that killed a greenhouse worker just 10 days ago.

Williams repeats another popular Reuters canard:
The war's Palestinian toll -- 1,400 dead, mostly non-combatants, while Israel lost 10 troops and three civilians -- drew fierce censure abroad and stalled negotiations between Abbas and then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a centrist.
As we've noted each time Reuters publishes this rubbish, negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority actually went into hibernation months prior to the war following Abbas' refusal of Olmert's extraordinary peace offer, the Quartet's rejection of Abbas' demand for a Palestinian state on the 1949 Armistice Lines with its capital in Jerusalem, and imminent elections in Israel.

Finally, Williams blames Israel for the latest Palestinian obduracy:
Hopes of starting indirect talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas were dashed this month by the announcement of a new Jewish settlement project on occupied land where Palestinians seek a state. The project, slated for an area of the West Bank that Israel annexed to Jerusalem, also drew U.S. questions about Netanyahu's seriousness about peacemaking. That dispute remains unresolved.
The Palestinians of course, had agreed to enter into so-called proximity talks -- even after Israel had indicated that building would continue in and around Jerusalem -- and then reneged on their commitment following the Obama administration's public turnabout on the issue.  For Reuters however, the Palestinians are never accountable for their own actions.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Solomon vs Solomon

In January, we critiqued a story by Reuters correspondent Erika Solomon where she facilely assigns historical ownership of the Jaffa region of Israel to the Arabs, ignoring centuries of control under many other civilizations including of course, the Jews, who Solomon relegates to 20th century "settlers".  We noted that this is consistent with the Reuters/Arab narrative of Jews as modern Western interlopers "colonizing Arab land" in what is today Israel.  In our original post, we called attention to the archeological record which clearly demonstrates Jewish civilization and culture in the area predating any Arab presence by millennia.

In a new "feature" story, Solomon (one can only chuckle at the irony reflected in that surname) attempts to disparage archaeological digs in the Jerusalem area that continue to uncover evidence of the ancient Jewish Kingdoms:
Archaeologists in Jerusalem are competing to unearth artefacts[sic] pointing to the ancient city's Jewish past, which are used to justify Israel's claim to all of it as the indivisible capital of the modern Jewish state. But critics say some of "finds" are really just bending science to prove a "Biblical heritage" that is open to dispute.
Solomon quotes an Israeli archaeologist as suggesting that the excavations do not reflect "best practices" but no supporting evidence for this assertion is provided.  Indeed, even Hani Nur al-Din, a Palestinian Arab archaeologist interviewed by Solomon (the writer) does not refute the importance of the recent discovery of elaborately-designed fortifications dating to the era of Solomon (the King) as documented in the Old Testament.  The best that can be mustered is: 
The Bible should be put aside. It's not a history book.
(We wonder if al-Din and Solomon would say the same of the Qur'an).

The fact is, Solomon's entire story is actually a straw man which seeks to undermine Jewish claims to Jerusalem by suggesting that the archaelogical finds are subject to interpretation and the Bible subject to dispute.  But the issue is not whether the Bible can be considered an immaculate historical archive but rather whether the archaeological record confirms the existence of an advanced Jewish civilization and city centuries before the arrival of Arab invaders.

On that count, there is no dispute.

UPDATE 3/28/2010: A reader notes that whereas Solomon invites skepticism for Israeli archaeological methods and objectives, she is silent on the long-standing wholesale destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount under the direction of the Waqf (Islamic Authority).  This, in the service of denying a historical Jewish connection to the site.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reuters revives debunked canards; parrots racist Arab propaganda

In a Q+A piece on Jerusalem, Reuters correspondent Tom Perry who has proven himself a serial liar, attempts to revive a canard that has been repeatedly debunked here and elsewhere in the media monitoring sphere but refuses to die in the Reuters anti-Israel playbook:
A visit by Israeli politician Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount, the holy site in the Old City that contains al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock and is known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, provided a spark that set off the second Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, in 2000.
For one of the most comprehensive rebuttals to this zombie fiction, we highly recommend Stephanie Gutmann's revealing look at media bias aimed at Israel, The Other War.  As we have simply noted in the past, even Palestinian officials have admitted that their war against Israel was planned months in advance of Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount.

Not content to parrot media libels, Perry also parrots the most vile and racist Arab propaganda:
Palestinians widely believe Israel aims to "Judaise" the city, pushing out Arabs and expanding the Jewish population and construction. That is a concern at the heart of anger that spilled into clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in and around the city this month.
Quite apart from the fact that Jerusalem is a city that was originally founded by Jews; is the site where Jews established their Kingdoms and sacred Temples; has been a homeland to Jews for the last three millennia; and where in the modern era, Jews have been the majority religio-ethnic group since the mid-19th century, it is quite amusing to see Perry parrot unsubstantiated Palestinian claims while attempting to rationalize their recidivist violence.  The facts speak for themselves: increasing its share from 26 percent to 34 percent of the total, the Palestinian Arab population in Jerusalem has nearly quadrupled since Israel liberated the city in 1967.  If Israel is trying to "push out" the Arabs, she is clearly doing a lousy job of it.  For Reuters however, facts always take a back seat to the mission of maligning Israel.

Source: The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies

Perry then tries to pull the wool over the eyes of readers:
Israelis, who controlled only West Jerusalem from their state's founding in 1948 to the 1967 war, are also moving into Palestinian areas in and around the walled Old City, which is in East Jerusalem. In some cases, settlers have secured court orders to evict Palestinians from homes, arguing their case using 19th-century Ottoman documents claiming Jewish ownership.
Of course, the (conveniently omitted) reason Israel controlled only the western part of Jerusalem was because under Jordanian command, the Arab Legion had ethnically cleansed all Jews from their homes in the eastern part of the city in 1948.  Thus, in many cases, Jews are only now recovering and returning to formerly Jewish-owned homes and areas the racists at Reuters refer to as "Palestinian".

Racism, thy name is Reuters

In another fallacious "FACTBOX" -- this on Jerusalem -- Reuters first glosses over history:
As Britain prepared to quit, the United Nations proposed international rule for the city in 1947 as a "corpus separatum". That proposal was overtaken by fighting that left Israel holding West Jerusalem in 1948 and Jordanian forces in East Jerusalem. Israel then took the rest in the Six Day War of 1967.
Ah yes, the proposal was "overtaken by fighting".  Correspondent Ori Lewis and his editor Alastair Macdonald appear to have no idea precisely how Israel ended up controlling the western portion of Jerusalem so perhaps a primer is in order.  Needless to say, the failure of five invading Arab armies to exterminate the nascent Jewish state might have had something to do with it.

Reuters then reverts to its constitutional racism:
After Israeli forces captured Arab East Jerusalem, including the Old City with its sacred sites, from Jordan in 1967, Israel annexed it and declared all of the city its "eternal and indivisible capital" -- a move not recognised internationally.
We have previously written about Reuters' racism.  The term "Arab East Jerusalem" originated after the Arab Legion ethnically cleansed the Jewish community from Jerusalem in 1948 -- a community which had existed for three millennia and represented the majority ethnic group from the 19th century.  Reuters willfully adopts the Arab name for the sector of the city, endorsing that act of ethnic cleansing and expunging Jewish history in Jerusalem prior to 1967.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Reuters

Allyn Fisher-Ilan of Reuters has an interesting eccentricity.  When reporting on a matter being considered by the Israeli Supreme/High Court or a ruling where the action taken by the Court comports with her own anti-Israel views, the Court is clearly identified in the story with Justices named and often quoted.  On the other hand, when the Supreme Court rules in favor of Israeli Jews, Fisher-Ilan does her best to demote the Court to a subordinate and typically anonymous status:
Sheikh Jarrah has become a flashpoint of tension in the city since last year when Israel evicted several families descended from Palestinian refugees after an Israeli court found for Jewish families claiming ownership of these properties.
Er, yes, that was a decision by the Israel Supreme Court.  As we have noted in the past, for Reuters correspondents, the law is an ass when it disagrees (with their Arabist sympathies).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Alistair Lyon and Joseph Goebbels best of friends?

Reuters hardcore propagandist and "special correspondent" Alistair Lyon pens a foul piece of moral equivalency attempting to associate in the minds of readers, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  Lyon's op-ed of over 800 words seeks to conflate both the political objectives and tactics of the two leaders by employing a host of logical fallacies and masking in euphemisms, Arab and Iranian designs for the destruction of Israel:
The hardline Israeli prime minister and the fiery Iranian president seem to feed each other rhetorical ammunition to whip up fears that bolster them in domestic politics and beyond.  Between them, they are stubbornly testing the limits of U.S. power in the Middle East and undermining the "new beginning" in relations between America and Muslims that President Barack Obama proposed in an eloquent Cairo speech nine months ago.  Netanyahu contends that Iran is seeking a nuclear bomb to fulfill Ahmadinejad's declared wish for Israel's destruction. Confronting it, he argues, eclipses the importance of U.S.-led attempts to revive peacemaking with Palestinians and Arabs.  For Ahmadinejad, who says Iran's nuclear ambitions are purely peaceful, any breakdown of U.S. mediation backs up his doctrine that armed resistance, not negotiations, is the only way to regain Israeli-occupied land, especially Jerusalem.  [bold ours]
One may wish to remind Lyon that the "hardline" Israeli Prime Minister was democratically elected and commands the highest level of popular support of any Israeli leader in years while the "fiery" Iranian President holds power following a rigged election and murderous oppression of his opposition.  Indeed, Netanyahu was asked to form the government mainly because the Israeli public -- from one end of the political spectrum to the other (with the possible exception of Akiva Eldar and the rest of the crew at Ha'aretz) -- does feel threatened by repeated Iranian calls for genocide of the Jews ("armed resistance" in Reuters parlance) backed by a nuclear weapons program.  And of course, it's not just Netanyahu that "contends" Iran is seeking the bomb; even the traditionally pussyfooting United Nations IAEA has indicated as much in its latest report.

In an effort to argue that Israel's prioritizing of the Iranian nuclear threat is throwing a spanner in the (Obama)works, Lyon suggests:
a flare-up over Jerusalem can only make it harder for Washington to canvas Arab support for tougher sanctions on Iran. 
No evidence is offered for this assertion; however, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, i.e., the Arab states are clearly just as intent on seeing sanctions enacted which will dissuade Iran from producing a bomb -- irrespective of what is occurring in Jerusalem.

Lyon then attempts once again to paint the Israeli Prime Minister and Iranian dictator with the same brush:
But a row over Jerusalem that fuels the wider confrontation between Iran and Israel may suit Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad.  It may help the Israeli leader keep his rightwing coalition afloat and boost his appeal to Israelis who fear Iran -- though many would be alarmed if his policies damage ties with America.
Lyon's argument is utterly daft as the Israeli government, dependent on US goodwill and military cooperation, clearly has nothing to gain by inviting a dispute with the Obama administration.  Moreover, even if Netanyahu's rightist coalition partners were to bolt from the government, a new coalition with the leftist Kadima party would support the same priorities of stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and maintaining a united Jerusalem.

Finally, Lyon concludes with this whopper:
Netanyahu has also proved unbending. His stonewalling of Obama's demand last year that Israel halt all settlement building, in the interests of peace, only confirmed for many Arabs that the United States would not stand up to Israel.
With his acquiescence to a Palestinian state and unilateral concession to freeze all settlement-building in Judea and Samaria (also, the "West Bank") for 10 months, Netanyahu has amply demonstrated his flexibility.  Even while Lyon demonstrates his mendacity.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Palestinians refuse peace talks; Reuters blames Israel

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been intransigent about entering into negotiations with Israel absent a complete halt in Jewish residential building anywhere outside of the 1949 Armistice Lines.  This, despite a commitment by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in November to freeze new building in Judea and Samaria (also, the "West Bank") for 10 months, a commitment originally hailed by US Secretary of State Clinton as "unprecedented".  120 days can be an eternity in the Middle East but some things never change.

Following the "unhelpful" (Tony Blair) announcement of stage 3 of the 7 stages necessary to commence building in the religious community of Ramat Shlomo -- an announcement not a dot inconsistent with Israel's commitment to the US in November -- Reuters of course, blames Israel for the Palestinians balking at so-called proximity talks:
The latest obstacle to the peace talks came 10 days ago when Israel announced, during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, that it would build 1,600 new housing units in a part of Jerusalem that it captured in 1967 and annexed unilaterally. [italics ours]
The Palestinians had finally agreed to proximity talks prior to the brouhaha over Ramat Shlomo and then unilaterally and strategically reversed their decision after the Obama administration withdrew its applause for Israeli concessions.  For Reuters however, it is always Israel which creates obstacles.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reuters puts the "anal" in "analysis"

In a public relations piece on behalf of the Palestinian Arabs labeled and masquerading as "Analysis", Reuters correspondent Tom Perry warns of more violence ahead in the Middle East "unless the United States can instil confidence that it is serious about ending more than 60 years of conflict".

At every opportunity, Perry promotes and parrots the Palestinian line on the causes and effects of the conflict.  Along the way, he recycles several tendentious quotes and mendacious material which appeared in a similar piece he penned last November.

Perry writes:
Clashes this month indicate the rising tension between Palestinians and a right-wing Israeli government which has incensed Palestinians with moves they believe aim to deepen the Jewish state's control of the holy city and its hinterland.
Note the Palestinians are "incensed".  Elsewhere in the story, they are "angry", "frustrated", "have little faith", and "react" to Israel which, for its part, "provokes", "threatens to undermine", and is led by an "extreme right-wing government".

Nowhere in his "analysis", does Perry interview or quote Israelis who might have their own take on which side is doing the provoking and which side is reacting.  Nor does he convey Israeli skepticism of Palestinian motives when the latter stone Jewish worshipers, engage in mob violence, declare war because a 150-year-old Jerusalem synagogue (destroyed by the Arabs) is restored, and threaten Jews with genocide.

Perry does however, quote a Palestinian student:
"It [the US] is Israel's No. 1 ally," said one 20-year-old student, who took part in a protest at an Israeli checkpoint outside Ramallah this week in which seven Palestinians were wounded... "I expect that there will be a third Intifada," added the student, a member of Abbas's Fatah faction. He asked not to be named for fear of arrest over his role in the protest.  [italics ours]
That "protest" involved Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli border police, several of whom were also injured.  Might explain why the student fears arrest.

Perry also quotes Palestinian political "analyst" Hani al-Masri:
"The PA is working to delay an Intifada. If it wanted an Intifada, it would have started.  But it can't prevent it forever. What it is going on in Jerusalem accelerates the move towards an Intifada."
But Perry doesn't mention that al-Masri is on record as actually inciting for an intifada, including terrorism, which Perry masks behind the Arab euphemism "armed struggle" -- a violation of the Reuters Handbook.

Finally, Perry repeats a bald-faced lie for which he has become (in)famous on this site:
The Palestinian Authority, largely funded by Western governments, rules out violence on its part against Israel -- in contrast to the Intifada from 2000, when various forces loyal to Abbas's late predecessor Yasser Arafat fought Israel.
As documented, the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas has decidedly not ruled out violence against Israel, maintaining it as a strategic option when the time is right.

Keep swinging, Tom.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Error of omission

Reporting on the Israel Defense Force (IDF) decision to limit access to the villages of Bilin and Nilin so as to discourage violent protests against the Israeli security barrier, Reuters correspondents Dan Williams and Tom Perry quote Jonathan Pollak, "an Israeli who coordinates anti-barrier protests":
Protesters do not see this decree as legitimate, but it could be a sign of heightened pressure on the popular resistance than we've seen so far.
Readers would have a more complete and balanced perspective on the forces at work inciting violence in these villages if Williams and Perry were more forthcoming on Pollak's background:
Jonathan Pollak (1982-) is an Israeli anarchist and graphic designer who grew up in Tel Aviv and lives in Jaffa. Pollak was amongst the founders of the radical Israeli group Anarchists Against the Wall which is one of the most active and militant groups of the Israeli radical left. Previous to the formation of "Anarchists Against the Wall" Pollak lived for some time in a squatter community at Amsterdam and participated in sometimes wild demonstrations against globalization and against the Dutch Royal Family which eventually resulted in his being arrested and deported from the Netherlands... Pollak was one of the first Israelis to join Palestinians in the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
A little bit of information goes a long way.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Obfuscate and omit

Louis Charbonneau of Reuters uses the occasion of a briefing by Michael Williams (UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon and formerly Ban Ki-moon's personal representative to the Palestine Liberation Organization) to mischaracterize the war between Israel and Lebanon in 2006 and the current state of belligerence between the parties:
Exchanges of threats between Israel and neighboring Lebanon "have generated concerns of a renewed confrontation," Michael Williams told reporters after briefing the 15-nation Security Council on compliance with resolution 1701, which called for an end to Israel's war against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.
Actually, UNSC Resolution 1701 has a slightly different take on ownership of the war: 
Expressing its utmost concern at the continuing escalation of hostilities in Lebanon and in Israel since Hizbollah’s attack on Israel on 12 July 2006, which has already caused hundreds of deaths and injuries on both sides, extensive damage to civilian infrastructure and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons
It's not until 13 paragraphs down in his story that Charbonneau graciously offers readers some background on the cause of the war and in inimitable Reuters' fashion, the presentation obfuscates the facts and is patently biased:
The 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah broke out after the group captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. Some 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, were killed and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, died.
As UNSC 1701 makes clear, the war did not simply "break out".  Hezbollah precipitated it when the group killed 8 Israeli soldiers and launched Katyusha rockets at Israeli border communities.  And note Charbonneau's cagey handling of the death count: Lebanese were "killed"; Israelis "died".  The latter apparently due to natural causes.

Charbonneau happily disseminates Arab propaganda:
Lebanese and Syrian officials have been accusing Israel of pushing for a new war in the Middle East against the backdrop of an Iranian nuclear program that Israel considers a threat to its very survival.
While failing to cite the many instances of overt and not-so-veiled threats against Israel coming from all quarters.

And the Reuters' correspondent parrots Iranian dissembling:
Iran rejects Israeli and Western allegations that its nuclear program is a covert plan to acquire an atomic weapons capability. The oil-producing nation says its nuclear ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity.
While failing to note the latest United Nations' IAEA finding that Iran is indeed pursuing a nuclear warhead.

Friday, March 12, 2010

When did Jeffrey Heller, Adam Entous and Tom Perry stop beating their wives?

In a "Q+A" about Israel's announcement to build additional homes in the religious community of Ramat Shlomo, Reuters correspondents Jeffrey Heller, Adam Entous and Tom Perry do their level best to cast suspicions and aspersions on Israel with loaded questions like:
Of course, what Israel is "really up to" is what its Prime Minister has stated plainly all along:
The Palestinians expect a complete halt to building; it is now clear that this will not happen," Netanyahu said, "Jerusalem is not a settlement and the building [there] will continue as normal.  (September, 2009)
So in fact, Israel has been true to her word and consistent in its application.  Though one would never know this reading reports of Palestinian feigned indignation or Reuters' scoffing "questions".

We do hope however, that the three correspondents mentioned above provide an answer to the question in our headline.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Selective amnesia, Part III

Continuing with our analysis of Reuters' mendacious "Timeline: Path to new Israel-Palestinian talks", we move into the last two decades of events Reuters considers key to understanding the history of the Middle East conflict.
1988 - After a year of Intifada (uprising), exiled PLO leader Yasser Arafat, widely acknowledged as speaking for Palestinians, renounces "terrorism" and accepts Israel's right to exist.
As is their custom when referring to Palestinian violence, writers for Reuters bracket the word terrorism in scarequotes so as to express their scorn for the notion that suicide bombings in Israeli restaurants and discotheques could reasonably be classed as, "the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes" (definition of terrorism from our desktop dictionary).  Reuters has no difficulty however, employing the term terrorism in unqualified fashion when citing references to Israeli actions.  This asymmetric handling betrays Reuters partisanship in the conflict and also represents a violation of the Reuters Handbook of Journalism.

Reuters continues:
2003 - U.S. President George W. Bush sponsors the "road map to peace," binding both sides to curbing violence and Israel to halting Jewish settlement on occupied land.
The Road Map does not simply bind both sides to curbing violence.  It specifically stipulates that:
Palestinians declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere.
Rebuilt and refocused Palestinian Authority security apparatus begins sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. This includes commencing confiscation of illegal weapons and consolidation of security authority, free of association with terror and corruption. 
Needless to say, the Palestinians have failed or refused to comply with nearly all of the above.

Reuters then completely mischaracterizes the nature and outcome of negotiations between former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:
December 2008 - After year of desultory talking, Abbas quits negotiations when Olmert launches offensive on Hamas-run Gaza.
Apparently, Reuters correspondent Bernd Debusmann and Bureau Chief Alastair Macdonald were catching some winks when Olmert offered Abbas 97 percent of the West Bank (also, Judea and Samaria) during these "desultory" negotiations.  And talks effectively ended when Abbas refused the offer -- not as a result of the war in Gaza.

March 5 - Conscious of Palestinian public frustration, Abbas accuses Israel of trying to sabotage peace process by provoking protests at flashpoint Jerusalem mosque. Dozens hurt in clashes.
We examine Reuters distorted reporting and dissemination of Abbas' agitprop here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Selective amnesia, Part II

In yesterday's post, we noted how Reuters' omission of essential historical detail in its "Timeline: Path to new Israel-Palestinian talks" leaves readers misinformed while facilitating the lie that in 1948, Israel was left with 78 percent of the "land [Palestine Mandate]".

Moving along the Timeline, Reuters correspondent Bernd Debusmann and Bureau Chief Alastair Macdonald continue with the publication of outright falsehoods: 
1967 - In what it calls pre-emptive strikes on Arab states, Israeli forces seize rest of British-mandate Palestine, taking West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan and Gaza Strip from Egypt. Israel captures Golan Heights from Syria.
Israel did not (and did not claim to) preemptively attack Jordan, Syria, nor any of the other Arab states that contributed troops and arms to the Six-Day War in 1967.  Only the Egyptian air force was initially struck by Israel following Egypt's casus belli when it closed the Straits of Tiran, expelled UN peacekeeping forces from the Sinai Peninsula, and massed 1,000 tanks and nearly 100,000 soldiers on the Israeli border.  Jordan entered the war by shelling Jewish communities in Jerusalem, and Syria did the same -- along with air raids -- in northern Israel.

Having misrepresented the relative proportion of Palestine controlled by Israel in 1948, it is a short order for Debusmann and Macdonald to assert this bald-faced lie:
[In 1967] Israeli forces seize rest of British-mandate Palestine
Of course if Israel had "seized" the rest of British-mandate Palestine, she would have controlled all of Jordan!  Apparently, neither history nor geography is Reuters strong suit.

On to the modern era tomorrow...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Selective amnesia, Part I

In the right-hand column of our homepage, we highlight a quote from Sir Harold Evans, a brilliant British journalist with a long, distinguished career and former editor of The Sunday Times of London:
Propaganda is persuading people to make up their minds while withholding some of the facts from them.
Indeed, selective reporting is an indispensable component in the Propagandist's toolkit, enabling him or her to lead the reader to a conclusion that has been determined in advance by the writer.  By omitting or obscuring key information in a story that would otherwise facilitate a more complete understanding of events and independent analysis, the Propagandist hopes to drive us to adopt, in uncritical fashion, his point of view.

Take for example, the "Timeline", prepared by Reuters' correspondent Bernd Debusmann (with reporting by Bureau Chief Alastair Macdonald), covering important historical dates in the Arab-Israeli conflict:
Here are key dates on the path to this point:  
1897 - European Jews in Zionist movement declare goal of creating a Jewish state in Ottoman Turkish-ruled Palestine.
1917 - British forces take Palestine from collapsing Ottoman empire in World War One. British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour declares support for Jewish "national home" there.
1945 - Revelation of Nazi Holocaust and new Jewish migration to Palestine bolster Western support for creating Jewish state.
1948 - Britain quits and great powers recognize Israel as U.N. partition plan dissolves in war that leaves Jewish state on 78 percent of land and half of Palestine's Arabs as refugees.
While a 600-word primer cannot possibly do justice to a topic as complex as the Middle East conflict, Debusmann omits a vast reservoir of essential historical detail, the absence of which substantially distorts the record and gives lie to his event summary for 1948.

Although Zionism as an organized political movement arose in Europe in the 19th century, Debusmann makes no mention of the millions of Jews in diaspora -- including some 900,000 Jews living in Arab countries -- who for centuries, had longed for restoration of the ancient Jewish home in and around Jerusalem. Debusmann's note only of "European Jews" is in keeping with the Arab and Reuters narrative of Israel as a product of European colonialism.

Debusmann then leaps from 1917 to 1945, omitting the seminal event of 1922 when Britain reneged on the original terms of the Palestine Mandate (which had called for a Jewish national home and "close settlement of the land" by Jews) simultaneously lopping off 78 percent of the territory and handing it to the Hashemite Arabs as a gift for their support in the war against the Ottoman Empire while banning Jewish immigration there.  That territory -- Jordan today -- has a population which is over 60 percent Palestinian Arab and forbids Jews to reside or own land in the country.

Thus, Debusmann's event summary for 1948 suggesting that Israel retained the bulk of the land is mendacious; indeed it is the Palestinian Arabs who today reside on over 78 percent of the Palestine Mandate, in addition to those Arabs living in Israel.

Along the way to 1948, Debusmann conveniently forgets decades of violent Arab rejection of a Jewish sovereign including events which followed the British Peel Commission call in 1937 for partition of what remained of the Palestine Mandate and of course, the 1948 war which Debusmann refers to in a nondescript passive voice ("U.N. partition plan dissolves in war") making no mention of the declared aim by invading Arab armies to annihilate newborn Israel.

Absent these essential details, it is impossible for readers to fully appreciate the historical context of the conflict -- particularly unyielding Arab hostility to a Jewish state in the region -- and therefore to apprehend the "path to new Israel-Palestinian talks" advertised in Reuters' headline.  But of course, facilitating reader understanding is not Reuters' objective.

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.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Error of omission

The Thomson Reuters Foundation maintains a website called AlertNet which, according to the "About Us" section:
aims to keep relief professionals and the wider public up-to-date on humanitarian crises around the globe.
AlertNet content however, is often highly politicized and hundreds of NGOs are provided free and unfettered publishing rights on the site.  Reuters publishes its own stories here which ostensibly carry a humanitarian theme but frequently suffer from the same partisanship and systematic bias we identify in stories appearing on Reuters' main websites.

In a story with material drawn from an op-ed appearing in the International Herald Tribune, Reuters reports on comments by Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin about the situation in the Gaza strip following the war there last year:
Ireland's foreign minister on Friday called the Israeli blockade of Palestinian-ruled Gaza inhumane and unacceptable and he urged the European Union and other countries to increase pressure on Israel to end it.
Reuters commits a serious error of omission by failing to report that the "blockade" (actually a misnomer as thousands of tons of foodstuffs, fuel, medical supplies, and other humanitarian materials pass into Gaza weekly) is not one exercised by Israel alone, but also by Egypt.  By ignoring the Egyptian role in the selective embargo of, for example, metal products which can readily be adapted to war materiel (also not mentioned in the story), Reuters is perpetuating the pernicious myth that Israel is solely responsible for the dearth of certain building materials in Gaza.

Moreover, while Reuters is quick to quote Martin's characterization of the situation in Gaza as a "humanitarian crisis", the news agency fails to provide any balancing perspective.  For example, UN Middle East Envoy, Robert Serry, who visited Gaza just three weeks ago, declared:
There is no humanitarian problem in Gaza.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More Reuters errata and broken boilerplate

In a story about the Arab League agreeing to support "indirect" negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, Reuters digs into the broken boilerplate bin and comes up with:
[PA President] Abbas broke off talks with Israel to protest its offensive in Gaza launched in December 2008.
No.  As we have documented numerous times, negotiations had effectively ended months prior to the war in Gaza when Abbas refused then Israeli PM Ehud Olmert's offer of 97% of the "West Bank" (also, Judea and Samaria) for a comprehensive peace settlement; when the Palestinian Arabs were unable to coerce the Quartet to stipulate that a Palestinian state be set up on the 1949 Armistice Lines with Jerusalem as their capital; and due to imminent elections in Israel.  Abbas supported Israel's efforts in Gaza to rid the strip of Hamas:
At the start of Israel's offensive, one of Abbas' top aides said Hamas was "110 per cent" to blame for the Gaza attack — an unpopular, if not suicidal, stance among Palestinians, whose ire was directed at Israel. Even as the civilian death toll climbed, Abbas delayed several days before criticizing the Israeli offensive. In the West Bank, which Abbas controls by dint of the presence of the Israeli army, his security forces cracked down brutally on fellow Palestinians protesting the Israeli offensive. Palestinians ask why Abbas did not go to Gaza during the fighting to show solidarity with its residents, or organize blood or food help for Gaza's victims.
Reuters continues with more false assertions:
He [Abbas] has resisted U.S. and Israeli calls for a resumption of direct negotiations, saying Israel must first halt all Jewish settlement building on occupied lands where the Palestinians aim to establish a state.
No.  Abbas has insisted that Israel halt building on all land outside of the 1949 Armistice Lines including land which is and has been legally owned by Jews going back over eighty years.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Reuters sanitizes and censors antisemitic ravings of Dubai Police Chief

Reuters reports today on comments by Dubai Chief of Police Dahi Khalfan about steps the UAE will be taking in the future to protect against possible assassination attempts by foreigners in the country:

Khalfan said dual passport holders with Israeli nationality would face extra security procedures in future and predicted the alleged hit team would have problems travelling outside Israel.

"In the future, those we suspect of carrying dual nationality (including Israeli) will be treated very carefully," he said. "If Israel and Mossad mistreated Europeans, we will not... Our treatment of Europeans will not be affected."
In a bit fuller detail, here are Khalfan's comments as reported in the Arab press (hat tip: Elder of Ziyon):
Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Commander in Chief of Dubai Police, said Israel is a rogue state, and that goes beyond international legitimacy and laws. Its leaders have sick mentalities, and they need psychologists, saying that its use of passports shows great arrogance and contempt for the world.
(Tamim said hat) the leaders of "Israel" have blood on their hands the blood of others throughout history, pointing out that the "Israeli" people are human beings like any other people who want to be loved and open to others but that the successive governments, the Governments of bloodshed and assassinations, and wars and the Governments of the occupation and aggression, are not interested in peace in the world at all.
He added that the vanity which haunts the "Israeli" mentality stems from the time of Pharaoh, and their hate comes up to this day and age.
He said that the entire world should study the mentality of the "Israeli" leaders throughout history. Their sick psyches needs to be analyzed by psychology professors, who need to examine why they launch crises, and why they brought on themselves hate from others, since the time of Moses, peace be upon him.
He said we will train our personnel in the passport of the forms and features of the Jewish people and their names, noting that no one can hide their features of Jewishness. He asked the appropriate departments to prepare nationality and residency sessions to familiarize the staff with [Jewish] forms and names, especially since most Jews hold dual passports [with Israel.]
  Sometimes, things get lost in translation.

Reuters adopts, disseminates Palestinian rhetoric

Reuters' Middle East bureau is so entrenched in the Palestinian camp and their correspondents apparently so captivated by the Arab narrative of events, that there is today, little to distinguish between Palestinian rhetoric and that of Reuters.

In a story appearing on its AxisMundi Jerusalem site, Reuters correspondent Erika Solomon -- who has been writing for the media giant for only a short while -- suggests that a third Palestinian intifada may be brewing.  Literally "shaking off", the Arab word "intifada" has become synonymous with the most heinous and bloody acts of savage violence directed at Jewish civilians including mass shootings, stonings, and suicide bombings:

Solomon quotes Palestinian columnist Hani al-Masri, who in a weekend op-ed, incites for another such terror war:
Masri argues that the Palestinian leadership needs “to begin preparing to lead the coming Intifada when the conditions become ripe, because when it happens it will not wait for permission from anyone.”  This is how Palestinian authorities can prevent popular anger from “turning inwards,” he says,  and instead direct it “toward the (Israeli) occupation, in an organised fashion, with specific and realistic political goals that have been agreed upon, or else it will slide into armed confrontation, in which Israel excels.” (Masri would not, however, rule out all forms of armed resistance if an Intifada were to break out).
Note Solomon's unequivocal adoption of the Arab euphemism "armed resistance" -- an Orwellian term if ever there was one -- to describe the kind of wanton murder Palestinians engaged in during the previous intifadas.  Though a clear violation of the Reuters Handbook of Journalism, the use of euphemisms that seek to conceal Arab depravity behind a thin veneer of political correctness is standard practice in Reuters' Middle East reporting.

Along the way, Solomon also employs the same logical fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this) we wrote about over the weekend to suggest that the second intifada was caused by Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount:   
Some are drawing parallels to flaring passions in Jerusalem’s Old City to events that sparked the second Palestinian Intifada–it broke out in 2000 after Ariel Sharon, then the Israeli opposition leader, visited al-Aqsa compound.
Further evidence of Reuters wholesale purchase, and due dissemination, of the Palestinian Arab narrative.