Israel News

A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto

January 11, 2002
Issue number 361

Quote for the week...

"The captain of the ship was the second in command of the Palestinian naval forces. Therefore, all of this feigned ignorance [by the PA] - the Hizbullah has no connection to this, the Iranians have no connection to this, the Palestinians have no connection to this - in the end they will blame us that we bought [the arms]." - Defense Minister, Ben-Eliezer, commenting on the denials of connection to the weapons ship. (Jerusalem Post Jan 7)

"When Dan Kurtzer was U.S. Ambassador to Egypt he never advised Mubarak to divert American aid from the purchase of weapons against Israel to helping Egypt's poor.  Kurtzer has confused between his role as ambassador and his being a Jewish Arabist - and he should be put in his place."   - Herut Chairman MK Michael Kleiner commenting on US Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer’s statement that Israel should take the money it is spending money on communities in Yesha and spend it on the disabled. (IMRA Jan 8)

Commentary...

Arafat's Ship of Death     Jerusalem Post     Editorial 

If ever there was a photo-opportunity demonstrating what is behind the hand that Yasser Arafat sometimes stretches out in peace, the tarmac full of captured weaponry displayed last night was it. The captured ship, the Karine-A, was reportedly purchased in October 2000 - just months after the end of the Camp David summit and at the same time Arafat was pledging his first cease-fire to Ehud Barak, Bill Clinton, Hosni Mubarak, and Kofi Annan at the Sharm e-Sheikh summit. Every time one thinks that Arafat's duplicity cannot be more apparent, he manages to reach new heights.

Arafat, as a diplomat might delicately point out, has a credibility problem.

His fingerprints are all over the ship, in the form of its Palestinian Authority ownership, the high-ranking PA commander who was the ship's captain, the large cost which could not be hidden, and the involvement of Arafat's right-hand man when it comes to smuggling operations. The idea suggested by an unnamed US official - that the ship was smuggling weapons to Hizbullah in Lebanon - is bizarre and shows how deeply denial can run.

The most obvious significance of this enormous weapons cache is that Arafat's real intention is not only to escalate terrorist attacks (over two tons of explosives were found on the ship) but to move beyond terrorism. As military leaders and analysts have pointed out, the only purpose of the relatively long range weaponry captured is to threaten Israeli population centers. Throughout the Oslo period until today, Arafat has been building a sizable army, in complete disregard for the personnel and weaponry limits imposed by the Oslo agreement.

The idea Arafat might be building his illegal army for defensive purposes does not wash. Arafat's simplest defense is not to attack Israel in the first place, in which case none of the closures and incursions into PA-controlled territory would be necessary. A much more plausible explanation - which Israel has no choice but to assume - is bucking for a pivotal role in general Arab war for Israel's destruction. Even dovish proponents of a Palestinian state agree it must be demilitarized and may not form alliances with Israel's enemies, such as Iran and Iraq. Now we see that Arafat is not bothering to wait until he has a state to violate both conditions.

There are a number of strategic lessons Israel and the international community should draw from the hand Arafat has revealed.

The first is it is irresponsible to rely on any commitments Arafat might make that a Palestinian state would be demilitarized, even commitments made in the context of a future peace agreement. It is naive to believe any future agreement will constrain Arafat's determination to arm himself to the teeth any more than Oslo did. In this arena, the experience with Saddam Hussein is instructive. For years, the international community operated under the assumption draconian international sanctions and inspections could keep Saddam from rearming. In the end Saddam - despite having much less international sympathy than Arafat - managed to free himself of most of his international shackles. The US and many other countries have accordingly come to the conclusion the only way to prevent Saddam from becoming a further menace to his neighbors is his removal from office. In the Palestinian case as well, Arafat has proven legal and diplomatic constraints are impotent in the face of a regime determined to militarize as much as possible. The Santorini and the Karine-A were intercepted, but Arafat has been smuggling arms through underground tunnels, in his own helicopter, and by any other means possible. Given the experience with Arafat, it is not surprising the possibility of a Palestinian state that does not threaten Israel is being called into question. Yet even if one does not go so far as to reject the idea of a Palestinian state in principle, it should be clear agreements alone are not sufficient to guarantee its demilitarization.

As with Iraq, the only guarantee of real peace is not agreements but the nature of the regime that signs them. Saying Arafat is irrelevant may be a somewhat useful description of how he should be treated, but it is not really true. Arafat has demonstrated he will never lead a state at peace with Israel. For anyone who supports the idea of a Palestinian state, whether it is led by Arafat or another dictator like him should not only be relevant, but critical. The primary message of Arafat's ship of death is it is not possible to trust any agreement with the Palestinian people so long as it is led by the current regime.   (Jerusalem Post Jan 7)

The Heroes Among Us    By Michael Freund

It must have looked like a scene from a Rambo movie. At 4 am last Thursday, deep in the heart of the Red Sea, dozens of Israeli naval commandos slid down ropes from helicopters flying overhead as their comrades aboard speedboats simultaneously converged on the Palestinian terrorist vessel. With precision and skill, they subdued the ship’s crew, placing its lethal cargo under Israeli control. After a brief but tense eight minutes, the danger to the people of Israel had passed.

On board Yasser Arafat’s Ship of Death, the Palestinians had enough firepower to wreak havoc on nearly all of Israel’s cities and industry. There were 62 122mm Katyusha rockets, each with a range of 20 kilometers - enough to hit almost any target in Tel Aviv from Palestinian-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria. That’s not all - there were also 1525 mortar rounds, 674 rocket-propelled grenades, 735 hand grenades, 311 anti-personnel mines and more than two tons of explosives - all of which was on its way to Gaza, all of it intended for one simple purpose: to kill as many Jews as possible.

Israel’s operation was heroic and breathtaking. It saved countless innocent lives. It was a classic example of counter-terrorism at its finest. But it was more than that - it was the kind of brash and daring action that serves as a potent reminder of just how special this country is.

Just a little over five decades ago, the parents and grandparents of Israel’s naval commandos fled the ovens of Europe and the pogroms of Tripoli and Baghdad, arriving as refugees in the nascent State of Israel. Within just a generation or two, they became Jewish warriors, growing up in freedom and willing to fight and die for it.

These soldiers, most of them too young to rent a car, were willing to put their lives at risk to protect the safety and well-being of the Land of Israel and its people. There is a lot one can say about the younger generation of Israelis - that they are materialistic, that they live on the edge, that perhaps they are somewhat out of touch with their religious and spiritual heritage. All  that may be true, but let’s give credit where it is due. These guys are heroes, plain and simple.

That they were able to identify a threat from afar is nothing new. Over the centuries, word often came in advance of impending assaults on Jewish communities and institutions. Just read the Abyss of Despair, Nathan Hanover’s moving 1653 chronicle of the massacres of Jews by the Ukrainian Cossacks, or Albert of Aix’s eyewitness account of the slaughter of the Jews of the Rhineland by the Crusaders in May-June 1096. With little or no ability to defend themselves, the Jews too often were at the mercy of their erstwhile protectors.

But as this latest operation clearly demonstrates, those days are over. The enemies of the Jewish people can no longer act with impunity. The long arm of Jewish justice will flex its muscles when necessary to save Jewish lives. And if it weren’t for that Jewish arm, ready to act at a moment’s notice, it is doubtful whether anyone else would bother to come to our aid.

The capture of Arafat’s cargo ship was greeted with pride and cheers throughout Israel, and rightly so. The entire episode proved once again that Arafat’s true aim is the destruction of Israel, but it also reminded us of an important distinction between Israelis and Palestinians: we glorify our young men for saving lives, while they exalt theirs for destroying them.

And yet, despite such heroics, the army routinely serves as a favorite target of the far left in this country. Certain journalists and politicians seem to thrive on hurling criticism and invective at Israel’s security forces, complaining about alleged infringements of human-rights and bemoaning them as a “tool of the occupation”. But what the critics have forgotten is that the very same army which they so brazenly condemn is the one which protects their freedom on a daily basis. The same officers and soldiers they harangue in newspaper columns and editorials are the people who risk life and limb to guarantee their right to free speech, however offensive or distasteful that speech may be.

I, for one, am grateful - grateful that we have an army to safeguard our borders, and grateful that we are blessed to have so many heroes among us. At synagogues across the land, the prayer for the welfare of the State of Israel took on new meaning this past Sabbath - “Our Father in Heaven, the Rock of Israel and its Redeemer… strengthen the hands of the defenders of our Holy Land”.

Amen to that.     (Jerusalem Post Jan 9)

It All Points to Arafat     By Michael Kelly

At 4:45 in the morning of Jan. 3, the 4,000-ton freighter Karine A was cruising in the Red Sea less than 300 miles from Israel. The Karine A's captain, Omar Akawi, an officer in Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority miniature navy, was asleep in his bunk, as was most of the 13-man crew. He heard a noise, he later told Israeli interrogators, and woke up to find himself staring at armed commandos of the Israeli navy.

In the holds of the Karine A the Israelis discovered more than 50 tons of military arms, including long-range Katyusha rockets, high explosives, anti-tank missiles, mortars, sniper rifles and mines. All of this -- reportedly between $10 million and $15 million of materiel -- was packed in 83 crates sealed in watertight plastic, ready for offloading in coastal waters.

Despite the personal publicity efforts of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the seizure of the Karine A made relatively little news. This was due in part to some confusion about for whom the arms of the Karine A were intended. The Israeli government claimed to have "unequivocal, clear and undeniable" proof that the Palestinian Authority was responsible for the smuggling. Palestinian Authority officials denied any involvement and suggested that the shipment had been intended for the Lebanese terrorist force Hezbollah. U.S. officials seemed at first to support that suggestion.

The picture by now has become a great deal clearer. The evidence is close to overwhelming that the Karine A mission was financed and organized at the highest levels of the Palestinian Authority, most likely sanctioned by Arafat himself -- and that Arafat allowed the mission to proceed after he called for cessation of all armed actions against Israel on Dec. 16.

Akawi said that he thought Arafat himself did not know of the mission. This seems more of a politic statement than a heartfelt one, given the amount of money involved and given that the men who commanded Akawi answered directly to Arafat.

Not surprisingly, Arafat supports the rogue operation theory. He reportedly tried to sell it to U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni that the whole thing was a renegade affair, not under his control. The Jerusalem Post said Zinni was "very unconvinced." Yes.    (Washington Post Jan 9)

Ship of Hate    By Naomi Ragen

Many of you have heard of the capture of Arafat's ship of hate filled with millions and millions of dollars worth of sophisticated Iranian arms that was speeding on its way to an unloading port in Gaza before being intercepted by our fantastic navy commandos.  As I sat watching the televised news coverage of Arik Sharon and Shaul Mofaz, our wonderful Army Chief of Staff, in Eilat where the ship docked, my eyes couldn't help focussing on the weapons that had been unloaded from the Karin A: several football feilds of long range missiles, katyushas, bombs, machine guns, artillery...All that ugly gleaming metal meant to destroy Jewish homes in the land of Israel, to put Jewish civilians all over the country into graves.

I thought of the years of negotiations with Arafat, the excuses of the left, the apologizes broadcast on Israeli news programs from "friendly, moderate" PLO spokesmen.

I saw the interview with the captain of the ship, who admitted the weapons were being brought to the PLO.  The rumours started about Hizbollah involvement, all fake.  Another attempt to whitewash the black treachery of that homocidal, genocidal maniac we Israelis had the catastrophic stupidity to allow into our country.

This, I thought comforting myself, will at least put an end to world debate on Arafat's true intentions. To my shock, I hear again the voices of the liars spreading their lies; and the media idiots dutifully parroting them. Arafat is now trying to find who is responsible, to punish them...Right.  That boat cost 15 million dollars.  Who, exactly, has a bank account with that kind of money, Mr. Arafat in the PLO besides you?

But what can you expect a liar caught red-handed to say? 

Arafat doesn't interest me.  But Americans and Europeans do.  Anyone that continues, after this, to insist that there exists something else but a state of war between Israel and the Palestinians under Arafat, is my enemy.  His deliberate blindness threatens my life.  His willingness to overlook this shipment puts him with the forces of evil that ordered them, and those planning to use them.  In this list, I include my fellow Israelis, those leftists still wandering around giving bad advice.

They too are my enemies.  And I will fight them in any legitimate way I can.   Those bombs may not have landed in my living room, thank G-d.  But they exploded in my consciousness.

There is no room for compromise.  No room for dialogue.No room to accommodate the Americans in the State Department No room to allow the Europeans to play their little  headgames with the facts.  No room for us to humor the media liars who downplay PLO responsibility by broadcasting the ludicrous lies of Arafat's spokesmen: "Ship? What ship? I don't know about any ship?"  No room for these Laurel and Hardy routines.  Not with my life. The lives of my children, my grandchildren, my countrymen.

Fifty years ago, some of us Jews couldn't conceive of gas chambers, of men that evil, the kind that incinerated little babies and their mothers.  Up until the doors of the Auschwitz, we couldn't believe it. Some fifty years later, the ship of hate and all its contents are spread out in front of our eyes showing us the true Palestinian agenda. Those who can't believe it, are suicidally stupid; I'm not interested in anything they think or what they want.

With this ship, the Palestinians have earned a state: A state of war between themselves and the Israeli people who so dreamed of living beside them in peace.

We Jews should now plan - and act - accordingly.(naomiragen.com Jan 8)

Dishonest Reporting 'Award' for 2001 By HonestReporting.com

We thank all the members of HonestReporting for sending recommendations for this year's Dishonest Reporting 'Award'. There were many candidates for the ignominious honor, and we distilled the list down to the worst offenders. HonestReporting took many factors into account: Was there a policy of deliberate bias? Did a reporter base reports on unreliable sources or no sources at all? Did the reporter or publication refuse to admit its errors? So now we regretfully present the Dishonest Reporting "Award" 2001. The "dishonorable mentions" (in alphabetical order) are followed by the bias champion.

Associated Press

In March 2001, a Palestinian sniper looked through the crosshairs of his scope and murdered Shalhevet Pass, a 10-month old Jewish baby in Hebron. AP's headline writers declared: "Jewish Toddler Dies In West Bank."  AP made no mention of who perpetrated the murder, and there is no indication of the ghastly nature of the crime. According to AP, the baby just "died" -- as if from natural causes or an accident. More accurately, Shalhevet Pass was murdered, shot, gunned down, or assassinated -- by a killer, gunman, terrorist, or sniper.

More AP bias appeared in June, following the heinous suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv disco. AP published the headline: "Explosion Kills Bomber in Tel Aviv." This was an early AP report, when the final death toll was not available, but at that point it was already known that there were scores of Israeli casualties. So why did AP downplay this bestial act as an "explosion," and focus on the suffering -- not of innocent teens -- but of the evil bomber?

In November, when a Palestinian terrorist sprayed machine-gun fire at a bus in Jerusalem, killing two teenagers and wounding 40, AP reported: "On Sunday, a Palestinian shooting attack on a bus in a disputed section of Jerusalem killed two teen-agers, one of them a U.S.-born settler." The American citizen, 16-year-old Shoshana Ben-Yishai, is described by AP as a "settler." But she was murdered in Jerusalem. To add insult to injury, another AP report refers to the heroic Israeli civilian who killed the terrorist as, you guessed it, "a West Bank settler."

Associated Press boasts some 8,500 client newspapers around the world. No other news agency wields so much clout. Therefore, no news agency bears as much responsibility for honest reporting.

CNN

Early in the Intifada, HonestReporting conducted a comprehensive study of CNN, analyzing all 133 lead articles in the Mideast section of CNN.com during October 2000, the first month of violence. In these 133 articles, CNN depicted Arabs in 128 photos, while Israelis were depicted in 60 photos. Photos are important in building reader sympathies with one side or the other, and on this case, CNN's bias was skewed more than double in favor of the Palestinians. In those same 133 CNN articles, 68 accusations by Arab spokespeople were allowed to stand unchallenged. By comparison, only 28 Israeli quotes were left unchallenged -- a CNN bias skewed more than double in favor of the Palestinians.

CNN bias during 2001 was typified by its coverage of a rally of 250,000 Israelis gathered outside the Old City walls in support of Jerusalem. The early edition of CNN devoted a paltry 5 sentences to the event. In the later edition, when many more details were available, the rally was not mentioned in the headline at all -- and CNN did not give details of the rally until paragraph #14. The later CNN article, published after all the speeches had been made, did not offer even one quote from any of the quarter-million attendees. The lone CNN quote came from Muslim Waqf Adnan Husseini, who called the rally "provocative." Were no Jews available for comment?! In the same article, CNN gravely diminished the Jewish connection. There was no mention of the Temple Mount as Judaism's holiest site, nor to Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people (as it has been for over 3,000 years -- 1,500 years before Islam ever existed). CNN's description: "The site is known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, the third-holiest site in the Islamic world." Further, in a bizarre reference, CNN says the site of the rally was: "Jaffa Gate, or Bab al-Khalil, the main western entrance to the walled city." "Jaffa Gate" is the standard reference in any encyclopedia, university textbook, diplomatic document, media style guide, or any other acceptable Western source. So why does CNN go out of its way -- particularly in the context of reporting a Jewish rally -- to dredge up Bab al-Khalil, an obscure Arabic reference?

Robert Fisk - The Independent (UK)

For more than two decades, Robert Fisk has used his correspondent card to proudly become a crusader for Arab and Palestinian causes. In the 1970s, Fisk reported from Beirut for the London Times. And now, writing for the Independent (UK), Fisk blames Israel for all the Palestinians' ills, and blames the West for all Muslim disgruntlement.

The day after the September 11 attacks, Fisk defied the civilized world and blamed Israel, America, and even the defeat of the Ottoman Empire for the WTC terrorist attack. Fisk proclaimed:  "...This is not the war of democracy versus terror that the world will be asked to believe in the coming days. It is also about American missiles smashing into Palestinian homes and US helicopters firing missiles into a Lebanese ambulance in 1996 and American shells crashing into a village called Qana and about a Lebanese militia paid and uniformed by America's Israeli ally hacking and raping and murdering their way through refugee camps." Fisk claimed that there would be an "immoral" attempt to "obscure the historical wrongs and the injustices that lie behind yesterday's firestorms."Even as Taliban supporters in Afghanistan beat him to a pulp last month, Fisk rationalized:  "I couldn't blame them for what they were doing. In fact, if I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk.

Fisk is overt in his anti-Israel crusade, and portrays any reporter not willing to criticize Israel as a coward: "Our gutlessness, our refusal to tell the truth, our fear of being slandered as 'anti-Semites' -- the most loathsome of libels against any journalist -- means that we are aiding and abetting terrible deeds in the Middle East.

Suzanne Goldenberg - The Guardian (UK)

Suzanne Goldenberg's coverage consistently whitewashed Palestinian terrorist activity and painted Israeli reaction as aggression. In February 2001, when a Palestinian driver plowed his bus into a bus stop, killing eight Israeli civilians, Goldenberg was quick to defend him: "Far from being... a dedicated terrorist," she wrote, he was a "man who has been taking medication for depression for two years... That Wednesday morning he added antihistamines and antibiotics to the pharmaceutical cocktail. Both can cause drowsiness, according to the pharmacist." This is even after the bus driver admitted to Israeli General Security Service investigators that the attack was intentional and premeditated.

Incredibly, Goldenberg has won several journalism awards this year from British institutions. The London Press Club said her coverage was a display of "courageous and objective journalism." At another award ceremony, Goldenberg was lauded: "This journalist has been subjected to a campaign of vilification" -- in reference to criticism levied by HonestReporting.

The Guardian waged its own campaign of vilification against Israelis. In February 2001, in reference to Ariel Sharon's visit to the Western Wall (the standard Israeli custom after all elections), The Guardian carried the headline, "Sharon Twists Knife in Muslim Wounds." The Guardian also ran a cartoon that obscenely depicted Sharon's bloody handprints on the Western Wall. The cartoon desecrated the holiest Jewish site and encroached on brash anti-Semitism. In February 2001, the Guardian published an editorial column entitled "Media Manipulators," chronicling HonestReporting's criticism of the Guardian. Yet the Guardian ignored the message and attacked the messenger -- calling HonestReporting e-mails "bizarre... inconvenient... scary... harassment," and referred to some HonestReporting members as "shadowy... extremists."

The Guardian outdid itself in January 2001 when it ran an opinion piece entitled, "Israel Simply Has No Right To Exist." With such blatant anti-Israel bias, what else is there to say

Joshua Hammer - Newsweek

In May 2001, Newsweek's bureau chief in Israel, Joshua Hammer and his photographer, conducted an interview with Palestinian leaders in Gaza. As the interview was completed, the Palestinians informed Hammer and the photographer they were being held captive. After four hours, they were released. One would expect a kidnap victim to be traumatized and angry. But Hammer had only compliments for his Palestinian captors, as described in Newsweek: "...Hammer says he never feared his captors would hurt him or Knight. 'They never threatened us or pointed their guns at us,' Hammer says. 'They actually fed us one of the best meals I've eaten in Gaza.'"

In another report, Hammer wrote that most "Palestinians have given up hope of real political progress" as long as Sharon is in power. He questions if the Palestinians have the patience to wait for a "more moderate Israeli leader." The fact is that Palestinians have already rejected far-reaching compromises offered by "a more moderate leader," Ehud Barak.

In December, Newsweek presented "A Tale of Two Enemies," a side-by-side comparison of Arafat and Sharon. Arafat is described glowingly as a "revolutionary," a "civil engineer," and a trailblazing diplomat who was the first to be accorded special status at the United Nations. Yet nowhere is Arafat described as a founder of a terrorist organization, nor is there any mention of his connection to terror acts.

Chris Hedges - Harpers

In the October edition of Harpers, Chris Hedges wrote his sensationalized "Gaza Diary: Scenes from the Palestinian Uprising." The entire article is a diatribe against Israel without any response by Israeli spokesmen. The climax is a section in which Hedges accuses Israeli soldiers in Gaza of goading Palestinian children to their death: "I have never before watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport."  Hedges offers no corroborating evidence -- no photos, no videos, no outside verification. Hedges never even saw or heard the shots of the alleged crime. He wrote that the Palestinian youth "descend out of sight behind a sandbank in front of me. There are no sounds of gunfire. The soldiers shoot with silencers." In preparing his slander, Hedges apparently was unaware that silencers do not exist in the Israeli arsenal, and it is difficult -- if not impossible -- to outfit an M-16 high velocity rifle with a silencer. Hedges apparently confused "silencers" with canisters of rubber projectiles -- a non-lethal alternative used by the IDF soldiers on the end of their M-16s.

Lee Hockstader - The Washington Post

In July 2001, Hockstader presented a shocking 1,300-word defense of Aziz Salha, the Palestinian who proudly waved his bloody hands out of the window of a Ramallah police station after the brutal lynching of two Israelis. Hockstader provided a sympathetic psychoanalysis of the murderer: "The young man was very ill when he was a baby, he stuttered, he was shy... maybe it really wasn't him photographed in the window... people's emotions were boiling over because of Palestinians teens shot by Israeli soldiers... Israel's settlements and occupation were on Salha's mind... he was a calm, good-natured and athletic kid..."

In August, Hockstader filed "Palestinians Find Heroes in Hamas," a profile of the terrorist organization that dispatches suicide bombers against Israeli targets. Hockstader paints the organization in moderate shades:  "The group's goal is an independent homeland in at least the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- and, Israelis fear, on the territory of the Jewish state." But Hockstader has been around long enough to know that the destruction of Israel is one of Hamas' main tenets and not just a figment of "Israeli fears." The Hamas covenant clearly states, "There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad." The U.S. State Department's annual terrorism report defines Hamas' goal as "establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel."

Dishonorable mention goes to Washington Post ombudsman Mike Getler, who in March 2001, unhappy by the flood of HonestReporting e-mails, complained at having been "smeared by your robot-like members [who] responded in knee-jerk fashion."

Reuters

Reuters set new standards of inappropriate "even-handedness," by refusing to refer to Palestinian suicide bombers -- or even the September 11 attackers -- as "terrorists." Steven Jukes, Reuters' global head of news, said: "We all know that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter and that Reuters upholds the principle that we do not use the word terrorist... To be frank, it adds little to call the attack on the World Trade Center a terrorist attack."

Even-handedness characterized Reuters coverage throughout the year. In April, a Reuters report on the 1948 War of Independence stated: "Palestinians mark the birth of Israel on May 15, 1948, as their 'Nakba' or catastrophe, which led to the loss of 78 percent of historic Palestine. Some 700,000 Palestinians left or were forced to flee their homes in the fighting that accompanied the declaration of the Jewish state." Reuters made no mention of the fact that Israel was invaded by 5 Arab armies, and no mention that Israel lost key parcels of land including the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem and towns in Gaza and the West Bank. And Reuters made no mention of the 650,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries who similarly "left or were forced to flee their homes."

Reuters' Israel correspondent Christine Hauser delivered her own unique form of "even-handed" bias. In a report on Israel actions in the Arab town of Beit Jala, Hauser ignored the fact that Israeli troops were responding to Palestinian salvoes and snipers shooting at Gilo. Hauser mimicked the Palestinian line, saying that "Gilo is a settlement," without presenting the other view of Gilo as a mainstream Jewish neighborhood within Jerusalem's municipal boundaries. According to Hauser, the Palestinians were "fighting for an end to Jewish settlements and the Israeli occupation." In the same report, Hauser exhibited either ignorance or propaganda when she wrote: "All of the [Beit Jala residents] have ashtrays brimming with collected spent bullet casings." Sorry, Christine. Spent bullet casings are found at the point of origin of the shooting, not at the target.

In December, when terrorists attacked a busload of Israeli civilians near Emmanuel, killing 10, Reuters offered justification for the murder spree: "Most of the Israeli dead were settlers, whom [Palestinian] militants consider targets as occupiers of Palestinian land."

Deborah Sontag - The New York Times

Deborah Sontag thankfully left Israel in July, but before leaving she took a parting shot at Israel in a front-page, 6,000-word tome entitled, "Quest for Mideast Peace: How and Why It Failed." Sontag took great pains to defend Yasser Arafat: "[M]any diplomats and officials believe that the dynamic was far more complex and that Mr. Arafat does not bear sole responsibility for the breakdown of the peace effort."Sontag's article has many serious flaws, but one stands out as particularly glaring and biased: She quoted extensively from various Palestinian and American negotiators, but totally ignored the comments made one week earlier in a major policy address by Israel's chief negotiator, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who outlined Arafat's culpability.

In April, Sontag portrayed 10-moth-old Shalhevet Pass, murdered by a Palestinian sniper, as a despised settler: "Many Israelis have long considered the Hebron settlers to be extremists, living in a world apart. But they rallied behind the community after Shalhevet was killed; newspaper headlines referred to the killing of an Israeli baby and not a "settler baby." Sontag made the outrageous implication that Jews might normally disregard the ruthless murder of another Jew, simply because they don't share the same political views. Is the average Israeli so cold-hearted? No. But perhaps Sontag is.

In February 2001, Sontag and the Guardian's Goldenberg engaged in classic "pack journalism" by filing nearly identical stories about a Ramallah "martyrs" museum. Both Sontag and Goldenberg used the uncommon word "totem" and then delivered this identical (plagiarized?) one-two bias punch, using the "critics would say" technique of assigning words to a hypothetical Israeli -- had the reporters bothered to ask. Sontag: "Israeli critics would say that the exhibit, '100 Martyrs - 100 Lives,' glorifies death and encourages the cult of the shaheed, or martyr." Goldenberg: "Israeli critics would argue that the exhibit glorifies violent death, and promotes a cult of martyrdom."

The Winner: BBC - British Broadcasting Corporation

The ignoble winner of the Dishonest Reporting "Award" 2001 is the BBC, for consistently demonstrating fierce anti-Israel bias.

In May 2001, BBC fabricated a film clip in an attempt to show Israeli brutality. When Israelis struck a Palestinian base in Gaza, there were no pictures of victims -- since Israel struck at empty buildings. But BBC editors inserted a film clip of Israeli victims of Palestinian terror arriving at an Israeli hospital, to suggest that these were victims of Israeli attack. The newsreader in London, a former BBC correspondent in Israel herself, ended the segment with "These are the pictures from Gaza."

In June 2001, BBC's flagship "Panorama" program tried to portray Ariel Sharon as a war criminal, in connection with the Lebanese Christian massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatilla in 1982. An Israeli commission of inquiry decided that Sharon was not responsible for any direct involvement, but BBC asked: "In the light of developments in international war crimes prosecutions... [should] the evidence lead to indictments for what happened in the camps." Much of BBC's case rested on the view of War Crimes Judge Richard Goldstone, who subsequently accused the BBC of badly distorting the context of his words: "I agreed to speak to [the BBC] as an expert on the law in general, on command responsibility, but I said I would not in any way comment on any liability, criminal or civil, of Ariel Sharon and I didn't do so. I haven't yet seen the program, but if it comes across that way it's incorrect... I certainly didn't comment on the responsibility of Sharon." (Jerusalem Post)

Further, BBC's duplicity in handling the Israeli-Arab conflict was evident in its refusal to label Palestinian atrocities against Israeli civilians as "terrorism." In correspondence with us, BBC admitted to a double standard, saying: "It has long been the policy of the [BBC] domestic service to refer to terrorists in Northern Ireland of any religious persuasion as [terrorists], but the policy of the World Service is not to refer to anyone in those terms."

BBC's coverage was so outrageous that it came under attack by a leading British politician, Duncan Smith, head of the Tory party. "Surely it is time that our national broadcasters, not just, but including the BBC, stopped describing Hamas and Jihad with such euphemisms as radical and militant," Smith declared. "Let us call things what they are: they are terrorist organizations. Such fudging of what Hamas or Islamic Jihad are confers some sort of legitimacy on people who are terrorists."

BBC's bias is perhaps summed up best by one of its own employees, Fayad Abu Shamala, the BBC correspondent in Gaza for the past 10 years. Speaking at a Hamas rally on May 6, 2001, he declared: "Journalists and media organizations [are] waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people." In the face of this blatant violation of journalistic ethics, BBC mustered a pathetic response: "Fayad's remarks were made in a private capacity. His reports have always matched the best standards of balance required by the BBC."

If that is the standards of balance required by the BBC, then there is no doubt: BCC has justly earned the Dishonest Reporting "Award" 2001.   (HonestReporting.com Jan 7)


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