Israel Report

June 2002         

CNN's Chain of Bias

by Toby Klein Greenwald - June 19, 2002
Perhaps you've already verbally cauterized the slanted reporting of CNN's Mike Hanna, Jerrold Kessel and that Arab woman who is their correspondent in Ramallah what's her name Rula Amin? You've sent e-mails to "Feedback" that produced only automated responses and you've shared your outrage with your e-mail lists.
And now the latest obscenity you're losing sleep over is Sheila Macvicar, who felt it essential to insert her description of the legal status of Gilo into a breaking news report of the mass murder of 19 children and adults by an Arab terrorist. And, of course, there's Ted Turner, who may be just a bison rancher at heart, but anyone with that much money is not as stupid as some would like to believe. What's more, his position in the media world makes him lethal.

Well, here's the rub. It's not about a particular correspondent, flawed background information, or a temporary slip of the tongue. And if you're actually lucky enough to get a boiler-plate excuse or clarification from the honchos in Atlanta, relax. It's just their way of putting a Band-Aid on a malignant melanoma. This is the reason why: CNN's anti-Israel bias in its approach to reporting on the Middle East is deeply ideological at all levels.

Here is the proof:

On the CNN Web site's bio page of Sheila Macvicar who on Tuesday reported from the scene of the Jerusalem suicide bus bombing that the bus left the "illegal settlement of Gilo" it says that she covered events in "Palestine." CNN has, in other words, precociously recognized the country of "Palestine" even before the US, the heavily stacked United Nations, and even some Arab governments have.

I asked CNN for an explanation. Even 48 hours was not long enough for it to come up with an answer. One thing is clear: At least two people at the network saw that bio Macvicar and the editor.
The CNN Web site also stated that day: "Gilo is located on West Bank land that Israel captured in the 1967 war. Israelis consider it a neighborhood within the city of Jerusalem; Palestinians consider it occupied territory that belongs to the nearby Arab town of Beit Jala."

I asked the network, "Why does CNN refer to Gilo as an illegal settlement? And if the explosion took place in the center of Jerusalem, why is it relevant where the bus began its round?" The answer to the first question was, "Our policy/language clearly states Gilo is land occupied by Israel in 1967." The answer to the second that it was "important to the context of the story."

Context? What context is relevant to blowing up a bus? As to the "illegality" of Gilo, here are the facts: Before World War II, the vacant land in the Gilo area was purchased by a group of young lawyers, including Dov Yosef, who later became one of David Ben Gurion's most important advisors and government ministers. When the land was taken back from the Jordanians in 1967, it was returned to its owners.

Even an article from Ha'aretz, written in December, 2000, and strongly sympathetic to the Palestinian viewpoint, paraphrases a Beit Jala resident as saying, "The national honor of Beit Jala is tainted by the sale of the lands. It is an open secret here that Jabra Hamis, a former mayor of Beit Jala, sold Israelis the land on which parts of the Gilo neighborhood were built."
Take a look at the site's section called "In Depth Special." The CNN profile on Arafat and the PLO makes him sound like a boyscout who was promoted to troop leader.

In that same section, CNN indicates that the mass Arab murder of Jewish civilians over the past 20 months is a result of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroll on the (holy to the Jews) Temple Mount. No mention of Arafat's rejection of peace at Camp David. No incitement. No schoolbooks that erase Israel from the maps, summer camps that coach kids in murder techniques, or films on official PA television encouraging young men to go for the 72 virgins.

The item titled "Status of Jerusalem" shows a photo of the Dome of the Rock mosque, and the caption reads: "Palestinians are suspicious of attempts to maintain an Israeli presence in territories occupied in 1967." The same caption appears again on a page called "Jewish Settlers and Palestinian State." The same photograph also appears headlining other sections. Any student of the media knows the impact achieved by showing one particular image repeatedly.

In the "slide show" on Israel, an inordinate number of photographs are on Moslems and Christians, disproportionate to the real population of this mostly Jewish country. And almost the only Jews shown are in black, haredi garb.

In a special CNN section called "Terrorism Q&A;," the countries highlighted as "hot spots" are: The Balkans, Indonesia, Burundi, Kashmir, Columbia. One has to dig to find the Palestinian Authority at all, and then, as in the "In Depth" section, Arafat is treated with kid gloves.

In this same section on terror, which links to the Council of Foreign Affairs Web site, who is listed first in the introduction? "The oldest terrorists were holy warriors who killed civilians. For instance, in first-century Palestine, Jewish Zealots would publicly slit the throats of Romans and their collaborators..." In answer to the question, "What are some examples of religious terrorist groups?" no mention is made of Arafat's Fatah, "Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, the Palestinian Sunni Muslim organization Hamas, the Lebanese Shiite group Hizbullah, the radical Jewish groups affiliated with the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, the Israeli extremists Baruch Goldstein...and Yigal Amir..."

After Ted Turner, founder of CNN and vice chairman of AOL-Time Warner, equated Israel's attempts to defend itself as terrorism, the network's initial response to the public outcry was, "The views of Ted Turner are his alone and do not reflect those of the network." The vice chairman's remarks are no reflection on the slant of a media conglomerate?

As a journalist, I requested an explanation , so a CNN PR firm got back to me (after a long wait) with a full page response from Turner. An excerpt: "I believe the Israeli government has used excessive force to defend itself, but that is not the same as intentionally targeting and killing civilians with suicide bombers." The PR woman explained that it took a long time to get back with the answers to all my questions because the staff was busy "formulating" them.

I asked, "Does CNN provide its journalists with information regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? What are its sources and who edits the material ?" The CNN answer was vague, referring to people who were "experienced and knowledgeable," "from a range backgrounds" and, in addition, there was a "rigorous editorial checking procedure." The facts, ma'am. I asked for names. I got obfuscation.

NOW, CONSIDER the following publicly accessible information: In September 1997, Turner announced his historic gift of $1 billion over 10 years to the United Nations Foundation and we all know how friendly that organization is to Israel.
But Turner, it turns out, is not the end of the story.

Take AOL-Time Warner's chairman, Steve Chase. Mr. Chase, his bio tells us, was instrumental in founding This led to the founding of Network for Good, an online philanthropy portal, which leads one to think it's about charity. But among the "philanthropies" it encourages one to support is the left-wing activist movement "American Friends for Peace Now." And it gets better.

This ostensibly charitable organization includes a section called "Center for Defense Information: The World at War." On that page, written in January, 2001, you can read about conflicts throughout the world. Scroll down and you'll see a subtitle: "Israel-Palestine." The paragraph states: "The last effort to forge a durable peace collapsed in July, with devastating results. Almost as soon as the leaders returned to the Mideast, violence broke out. The new strife, called the Al-Aksa Intifada, has claimed well over 300 lives, almost all Palestinian." The last effort just "collapsed," like a natural disaster. Violence "broke out," like a case of the measles. No accountability here.

So I checked out the author of this report. His name is Colonel Daniel Smith, (Ret.) and he's chief of research for the Center for Defense Information in Washington. I read some of his articles.

He's soft on Iraq. He thinks that the Treaty of Rome establishing the International Criminal Court (according to which the 200,000 residents of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, and some Israeli soldiers, can be tried as war criminals) should be ratified. Most significant, in an article quoted from the The Weekly Defense Monitor, he severely chastises not only Israel, but the United States for it's ongoing support of Israel.

Concerning Camp David, Smith writes, "Failure at the negotiating table was followed by failure of trust, failure of patience, and failure of peace itself. In late September 2000, the Barak government authorized a visit by Ariel Sharon, accompanied by a large police escort, to Muslim religious sites and another massive police and military presence on September 29, a Friday, and therefore the Islamic holy day. Clashes were inevitable, and by mid-October the Al-Aksa Intifada was underway and spiraling out of control " Nowhere in his entire "analysis" is the word "terror" mentioned, at any point. Just "resistance."

So this is the chain: It begins with the AOL-Time Warner/CNN executives, whose "historical" experts and orientation are the likes of Colonel Smith. They in turn hire editors who offer news reports and "background" heavily slanted toward the Palestinian viewpoint. Their underlings hire the correspondents in the field. And that, folks, is what you're getting in your 24/7 news Sheila Macvicar.

Make no mistake. Going head to head with AOL-Time Warner is not like boycotting a company that doesn't recycle their paper towels. Their holdings include Home Box Office, Time Inc., Time Warner Cable, Warner Broadcasting, and Warner Music Group, among others.

I am reminded of the joke about the elderly Jewish man who preferred to read anti-Semitic newspapers to Jewish ones, because, he said, according to the former, "The Jews are controlling the media and running the world."

Being of the optimistic Jewish genre, I valiantly sought a ray of light in the CNN executive. The closest I came was the discovery that Ken Novack, a vice chairman at Turner's level, used to be a senior partner in a mostly Jewish Boston law firm that sponsored Israel National Biotechnology Week, and that Richard Parsons, the CEO of AOL-Time Warner, sits on the board of Estee Lauder. Maybe Ron can explain to Dick and Ken about integrity in journalism over lunch.

Meanwhile, don't bother with the Sheila Macvicar's or Rula Amin's, eager accomplices though they are. They are only the final links in a very well-healed and ugly chain of anti-Israel bias. Shouting about Macvicar is like admonishing the woman who refilled the toilet paper in the Goebbels' commode, while he was busy with his sergeants, master planning the lies that justified the evil of the Third Reich.

The writer is a journalist and the editor-in-chief of

©2002 - Jerusalem Post

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