Friday, July 28, 2006

July 27 Media Critique : Sheilding Israel

I’ve been waiting patiently for the latest Media Critique from 'HonestReporting'. Usually when Israels actions put it in the media spotlight, HR is there quickly to pressure news outlets to maintain an ‘Israel friendly’ perspective, via its' media critiques asking its' readers to bombard media outlets with complaint e-mails On this occasion it has been 11 days without anything significant. Why so long I wondered, then I came across this,

Shariv [media advisor to Ehud Olmert] said that Israelis have been interviewed by the foreign press four times as much as spokespeople for the Palestinians and Lebanese. As proof of Israel's success, he also cited a poll of Sky News viewers that found that 80 percent believe that Israel's attacks on Lebanon were justified.

"We have never had it so good," Meir said. "The hasbara effort is a well-oiled machine." (Jerusalem Post. July 17, 2006)

How true. HonestReporting finds itself without a great deal to do. Despite Israels obvious breaches of the Geneva Conventions by targeting civilian infrastructure, ambulances and killing UN peacekeepers, few news stories mention this explicitly and fewer still that these are War Crimes. But before they get too confident, there is some difference between successfully getting your point out and people actually believing it. In this case Israel might find that the images of devastated apartment buildings, dead children and blown-up ambulances are more than its’ “well-oiled” hasbara "machine" can cope with.

But it’s always worth having something to complain about. There are are a horde of loyal, if gullible, HonestRepoting readers who need to have their belief in pervausive anti-Israel media bias re-confirmed lest reality, as confirmed by the Israeli Prime Ministers' media advisor, starts to intrude on their carefully cultivated fantasies.


HonestReporting seems to believe that the media has made a,

automatic knee-jerk response that has accused Israel of deliberate murder.

I can't say I've seen any examples of this in news reports. Though Israeli claims of it being a 'mistake' are well reported. Perhaps that is why they fail to offer any examples.

HR then quotes a story from the Ottawa Citizen which is their example of more in-depth and considered response to the killings,

The words of a Canadian United Nations observer written just days before he was killed in an Israeli bombing of a UN post in Lebanon are evidence Hezbollah was using the post as a "shield" to fire rockets into Israel, says a former UN commander in Bosnia.

Those words, written in an e-mail dated just nine days ago….

So, the UN observer said the UN was used as a “shield”?

This is what he wrote,

The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters (sic) of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters (sic) from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but rather due to tactical necessity.

Hmmmm, where did the claim of a “shield” come from? It turns out they are not the words of the deceased in his email, but the opinion of a former UN Commander commenting on the email.

The Khaim area is a Hezbollah stronghold, so undoubtedly there are Hezbollah positions in the area. But the UN observer post has been there for decades, its position is known precisely. Responding to the suggestions that the Israeli fire may have been targeting nearby Hezbollah fighters, UN spokesman said,

At the time, there had been no Hezbollah activity reported in the area. So it was quite clear they were not going after other targets, that, for whatever reason, our position was being fired upon.

Quite an effort from HR – construct a straw man and then knock it down with an article that is just a little misleading. Now that’s a shield.


What evil has Hezbollah perpetrated now?

Wait for it – they have driven ambulances! The fiends. Hezbollah was allowing camera crews to film empty ambulances driving off with sirens blaring. It was an “orchestrated …media event”. They must be taking lessons from the Israelis.

I’m not sure why HR is complaining. Surely it better to have empty ambulances driving off into the distance shown on TV, than have the image of the ambulance bombed by Israel shown everywhere.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Media In and Outs

It’s time to take go back to the archives of HonestReporting to look at some of their past efforts at misleading, misquoting, misrepresenting and otherwise fabricating allegations of anti-Israel bias in the media.

This one from 2004 is on media coverage of the visit of Ghandi’s son to Israel by AFP and another article from the Guardian about Ghandhi and how his approached might work in the Middle East.

It takes just a few lines of ‘Palestinian Hunger Strikers - Modern Ghandi’s?’ before coming across the very first display of, what can only be described as, dishonesty. In this case, misleading representation of anothers’ views.

HonestReporting provides a short excerpt from the Guardian story that looks very bad, in which it is claimed the journalist says that Gandhi,

would undoubtedly have appreciated the concept of jihad

This is the whole paragraph from HonestReporting,

Amid the wave of articles on Palestinian prisoners' hunger strikes, AFP indicates that Mahatma Gandhi's grandson visited Israel and will fast for one day in solidarity with the prisoners. The Guardian goes so far as to state that the elder Gandhi himself 'would undoubtedly have appreciated the concept of jihad' against Americans and Israelis. These prisoners, held for terror involvement, are thereby likened to the great figure of modern non-violent resistance.
Wow! That really is an amazing claim for the Guardian to make. But is that really the writers point? Is he trying to equate the hunger-strikers with Ghandi or that Ghandi would apprieciate jihad against Israel? Is this some terrible sop to these Palestinian prisoners because of the claimed European bias that favours Arabs?


This is the whole paragraph from the Guardian,
Gandhi was a Hindu but readily incorporated other ideas into his philosophy. Like many Muslims today, he would undoubtedly have appreciated jihad, self-sacrifice and martyrdom as concepts, though not the methods that often accompany them.
He didn't believe in killing people …..
So besides the simple fact that HonestReporting altered the Guardians words, they also created the opposite meaning to that in the original. On top of this, despite the reference being inserted in the middle of a paragraph that talks about the Palestinian hunger strikers, the Guardian story is nothing to do with this issue – it does not mention or refer to the Palestinian prisoners hunger strike at all. It is entirley about what role Ghandi's non-violent mode of resistence could or should play in the Middle East. The Guardian article certainly doesn't mention anywhere that Ghandhi would have "appreciated", "jihad against ...Israeli's". HonestReporting has taken two articles on different issues and creates the impression that they are discussing the same issue.

It is clear from other sections of the Guardian report that it is in fact being critical of the lack of non-violent strategies in the Middle East. Even the sub-heading shows this,
Gandhi's model of non-violent resistance has met with suspicion and repression in the Middle East, writes Brian Whitaker
or this,
Some, of course, would offer a different explanation: that Islam is an inherently bloodthirsty religion. This is a view that Bin Laden and his kind have done much to encourage
The Guardian story then finished with several tales of how Arab regimes have reacted in a violent and illegal manner against their citizens who have tried non-violent protests.

But HonestReporting spins all this as an example of pro-Arab bias!! Incredible.

This is not an example of bias by HonestReporting, but plain and simple fraud and crude propaganda.

Just another crock of shit that’s manna from heaven for those HonestReportings readers who are unable to think for themselves.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

July 16 Media Critique: "Israel Under Fire"

Rather than addressing specific allegations of media bias, this time HonestReporting takes aim at what it calls “myths” in current coverage of Israels attacks against Lebanon and counters with what it alleges are “facts”. Let’s take a look.

Myth 1: Israels response is disproportionate.

And the facts as HR would like it’s readers to believe,

The definition of a "disproportionate" response is a subjective one.

Perhaps we can ask the opinion of the International Committee of the Red Cross who have the role of monitoring compliance with the Geneva Conventions. Their "subjective" opinion on this is the one that counts,

Pierre Krähenbühl, the ICRC’s director of operations…….. added that “the high number of civilian casualties and the extent of damage to essential public infrastructure raise serious questions regarding respect for the principle of proportionality in the conduct of hostilities.” (ICRC Press Release, 19/7/2006).
The first casuality of war? HRs commitment to truth.

Israeli military operations in Lebanon are taking place in response to an unprovoked border attack which left 8 Israeli soldiers dead and two kidnapped by the Hezbollah.

Unprovoked is in the eye of the beholder it seems. Hizbollah claimed it was reacting to the Israeli attacks on Palestinians in Gaza. Perhaps the scores of dead civilians there may be regarded as some kind of provocation.

Any civilian casualties in a conflict are, of course, tragic and regrettable. Civilians on both sides are suffering. However, Israeli air strikes on Lebanon are not intended to kill civilians, unlike the hundreds of Hezbollah missiles that are targeted specifically at Israeli civilians who have been forced into bomb shelters for their own safety.

Strange. The opening paragraph, as noted above, clearly points out that Hizbollahs first strike was against military targets – the IDF.

How often will we hear of this lame defence- “not intended to kill civilians”. What exactly is intended when suburban offices and buildings are bombed by F-16 jets?

Israel has also been criticized for targeting Lebanese infrastructure such as the Beirut airport. However, it is also interesting to note what has not been targeted.
Oh please! And they call this a media critique?? This is lame, lazy and totally unconvincing apologetics. Yes, Israel committed war crimes, but please focus on the war crimes it didn’t commit. No one with a shred of credibility could seriously claim to be interested in “factual, impartial and fair reporting” after such a blatant call for partisan news reporting.

Myth 2: Hezbollah is an indigenous Lebanese ‘resistance’ organization.

HR then provides it’s version of the facts via its all-time favourite tactic – highly selective quoting. In this case it’s more of a case of selective editing. Quoting the Council on Foreign Relations, HR supplies most of the brief CFR information on Hizbollah, but leaves out these 2 very pertinent paragraphs that address the issue that HR claims is a myth,

Hezbollah was founded in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon...

Experts say Hezbollah is also a significant force in Lebanon’s politics and a major provider of social services, operating schools, hospitals, and agricultural services, for thousands of Lebanese Shiites. It also operates the al-Manar satellite television channel and broadcast station.

Just in case anyone didn’t get that – Hizbollah was founded in Lebanon in response to Israels 1982 invasion, ie. it was an armed resistance group formed in Lebanon, and continues to operate in Lebanon today providing social services, participating in elections and generally behaving in a very indigenous manner.

It’s a curious fact that pro-Israel advocates place such great store on attempting to discredit others by claiming that they are in some way alien to a particular location. Doubly curious given the history of Zionism.

Myth 3: Israel continues to occupy Lebanese land, specifically the Shebaa Farms area.

According to HR,

On May 24, 2000, Israel completed the unilateral withdrawal of all IDF forces from southern Lebanon, in accordance with Israeli government decisions and UN Security Council Resolution 425, ending an 18-year presence there……….. The United Nations views the Shebaa Farms area as Syrian territory. Therefore, UN Security Council Resolution 425 - which concerns Lebanon - does not require Israel to withdraw from this area.

A nicely deceptive slieght-of-hand. Israel has withdrawn from Lebanon, but not from the Shebaa Farms, which are considered to be Syrian by the UN, but not by Lebanon or Syria. So, Israel does occupy the Shebaa farms, just not the Lebanese Shebaa Farms. And this area is also covered by a UN Security Council Resolution requiring Israel to withdraw, which it has so far (after almost 40 years) failed to comply with. HonestReporting – as accurate and honest as ever!

Myth 4: Arab prisoners held in Israeli jails were kidnapped from Lebanese soil and should be released.

HR almost immediately confirms that this “myth” is in fact true,

Those prisoners held in Israeli jails captured during Israel's stay in southern Lebanon are, likewise, held for terrorist offences and due to the inherent risk that they will return to their previous activities.

HR simply defends this as reasonable.

Another stupendously appalling and mendacious effort from the team at HonestReporting, who are determined to give honesty a bad name.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

May 7 Media Critique: "Report Critical of BBC Mideast Coverage"

The focus here will be HonestReportings latest efforts, but occasionally I’ll go back to past ‘Media Critiques’ to highlight a particular tactic used by HonestReporting, or sometimes just for a laugh when we see what incredible distortions HonestReporting must perform to raise the spectre of media bias against Israel. This is one of former.

The May 7, 2006 ‘critique’ was in honour of the BBCs release of its investigation into the impartiality of its Israel-Palestine conflict coverage. HonestReportings main take was that the report recommended that the BBC use the term “terrorism”, which forms its byline. This has long been a major focus of HonestReporting.

And what is the heading of the HonestReporting story?- “Report Critical of BBC Mideast Coverage”.

Sounds like HonestReporting has scored a win. Or has it?

So, what is the nature of this critical report? What are the criticisms? Let’s start with the overall assessment of the BBC performance, according to the review there is,

  • little to suggest systematic or deliberate bias…….there was evidence of a commitment to be fair, accurate and impartial
  • the news reporting from location…is of high quality
  • outstanding examples of current affairs programmes…..

HonestReporting then highlights this excerpt,
gaps in coverage, analysis, context and perspective. There is also a failure to maintain consistently the BBC's own established editorial standards, including on language. There are shortcomings arising from the elusiveness of editorial planning, grip and oversight. In summary, the finding is that BBC coverage does not consistently constitute a full and fair account of the conflict but rather, in important respects, presents an incomplete and in that sense misleading picture.”.

A tantalizing finish to that paragraph. What is this misleading picture? HonestReporting doesn’t fill in this gap for it’s loyal band of brain-dead readers. But let me. The report lists a few of these gaps,

  • there was little reporting of the difficulties faced by Palestinians in their daily lives…
  • failure to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation…

Ah, so that’s the BBCs “misleading picture”! It doesn’t show viewers/listeners just much Palestinians suffer under Israels brutal occupation. If only HonestReporting would devote a little time to addressing that bit of media bias.

The exposure of the real bias in BBC coverage can only inspire this limp evasion from HonestReporting,
Of course, in a report of this size and scope, many parties are able to find positives and negatives, something reflected in the reaction of both the press and other interested parties”.

But not to be deterred or let down it’s baying mobs who have been primed to expect to feast on a smorgasbord of proven BBC anti-Israel bias, HonestReporting refers to a Times (UK) story on the reports release. The Times notes, as part of the reports criticisms, that Israelis get more ‘air-time’ than Palestinians do in BBC coverage. HonestReporting “is sure that this will be greeted with a healthy degree of skepticism by its readership”. Of course they will, as HonestReporting has been telling them for years of the BBCs unending bias against Israel, in complete defiance of the facts.

Hilariously, then HonestReporting adopts the classic ‘begging-the-question’ style of illogical debating. Again it quotes the Times,
as the Times points out, the ‘references to “identifiable shortcomings” surprised BBC News executives, who are more used to accusations that their coverage is routinely anti-Israel’”.

How mendacious can you get? BBC News executives are used to accusations of anti-Israel bias because HonestReporting goads it’s gullible readership into deluging the BBC with ill-founded complaints of bias, then uses the fact of such complaints to darkly hint that there must be some basis for accusations despite an independent investigation finding the very opposite of HonestReportings frequent claims.

This just demonstrates again, that despite HonestReportings claims to support “factual, impartial and fair reporting", it actually wants just the opposite. If it really did value honesty, this May 7 ‘critique’ would instead be titled, “Report Critical of BBC Mideast Coverage: Biased Against Palestinians.”

Fat chance.


Honest Reporting; This self-described media monitor labours mightily to expose the vast and unrelenting phenomenon of anti-Israeli bias in the media.

Honest Reporting claims that it demands “factual, impartial and fair reporting” and holds reporters and media organizations accountable against this noble sentiment. However, as we shall demonstrate, Honest Reporting hasn’t the slightest interest in any of these things. Its’ ‘Mission Statement’ tells us what it is really about – “to advocate for Israel”. Media bias is just a convenient vehicle to push their own pro-Israel no-matter-what advocacy. Their aim is to deluge reporters and media organizations with complaint emails when their news coverage doesn’t approach the demanded level of obsequiousness towards Israeli actions, or worse still, represents Palestinians as people with their own story to tell.

While one would think that any group with the audacity to call itself ‘Honest Reporting’ would be rather scrupulous regarding facts, Honest Reporting is anything but, regularly displaying a highly flexible approach to objective reality. Honest Reporting regularly misrepresents, misconstrues, or just plain gets it wrong (sometimes less generously called lying) in it’s so-called ‘Media Critiques’.

Which is a why a blog devoted to Honest Reporting can go by no other name than Dishonest Reporting ………………