(March 15, 2023 / JNS) Have you ever seen those contortionists that can tie their bodies up in knots? They can put their legs behind their heads and twist their arms backward. Journalists covering Israel have become verbal contortionists by twisting words and images to fit their narrative. Much of the reporting was always subjective, but now respected journalists advocate abandoning objectivity.
As I’ve written before, reporters must keep Roget’s Thesaurus on one monitor while they write stories about the murder of Jews and counterterror operations on the other. For example, The New York Times wrote about Israeli troops going to arrest members of the Lions’ Den, the group responsible for many of the recent attacks on Israelis, under the headline: “At Least 10 Palestinians Killed During Israeli Raid in West Bank.” Never mind how this implies Israel launched an attack on innocent Palestinians, count the number of euphemisms for terror in the text:
- “planning imminent assaults”
- “armed Palestinian groups”
- “militant groups”
- “mass shooting … by the Palestinian in East Jerusalem”
- “armed resistance”
- “armed people”
Score that 11 euphemisms and 0 uses of “terror,” “terrorism” or “terrorist.”
The story said 60 Palestinians have been killed in the “occupied West Bank.” You don’t learn until paragraph 12 that 11 Israelis had been “killed by Palestinians.” You must read 18 paragraphs to learn that at least six of the 10 Palestinian dead were associated with the Lions’ Den, Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade or Palestinian Islamic Jihad (they all wanted to claim the terrorists as theirs).
Here’s how The Washington Post reported the story. The headline: “At least 11 Palestinians killed, 100 wounded in Israeli raid in the West Bank,” and the first paragraph said, “The operation, the deadliest such raid in years, left Nablus’s Old City riddled with bullets and was another escalation in counterterrorism tactics by Israel under its new far-right government.” That was the only reference to terror.
- “spate of deadly Palestinian attacks”
- “Palestinian armed groups”
- “hot spots for militancy against Israel”
- “Islamic Jihad, which rejects politics in favor of violent resistance to Israel”
- “lone-wolf Palestinian attacker”
It only took 14 paragraphs to mention the Israelis killed in “attacks” by Palestinians.
Compare these stories with the Times report on a U.S. operation headlined, “Senior ISIS Leader in Somalia Killed in U.S. Special Operations Raid.” It was not just a Somali. The man was “one of the terrorist group’s top financial operatives.” Another organization, Al Shabab, is described as “the terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda.” The Islamic State is referred to as a “terrorist organization.” The bionote for one of the authors says he covers “terrorism.”
The Post went to great lengths to produce a 3D model from a collection of videos to insinuate that Israeli soldiers intentionally shot unarmed Palestinians. They acknowledge that there is gunfire but insist that a person in the video who appears to be holding a gun and running towards the civilians was unarmed and did not fire. The Post, for example, shows IDF vehicles driving down the street unmolested when there is readily available footage of Palestinians pelting the vehicles with rocks.
In addition to the misleading nature of these videos, readers should wonder why such elaborate technologies seem to be used only to demonize Israel. Where are the videos of Palestinian terrorists? Oh, right, there aren’t any.
Eytan Gilboa and Lilac Sigan analyzed 361 items related to Israel published by the Times in 2022 and found that only 11% were positive. They concluded:
The world’s most influential newspaper has adopted a very critical approach to Israel and its relations with the Palestinians, and the predominantly negative coverage formed a twisted picture of events in Israel and around its borders. The Times presented Israel as stronger, more controlling, and a lot less vulnerable than it truly is and described its measured defensive responses to Palestinian terrorism as arbitrary and disproportional.
Foolishly, some of us still think of objectivity as a journalistic ideal. Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of the Post who now teaches journalism at Arizona State, wishes to disabuse us of that notion. In a counterintuitive column titled, “Newsrooms that move beyond ‘objectivity’ can build trust,” Downie writes, “increasingly, reporters, editors, and media critics argue that the concept of journalistic objectivity is a distortion of reality.” He admits that when he was the paper’s editor, he didn’t understand the meaning of the word “objectivity” and “didn’t consider it a standard for our newsroom.”
Readers of the Post wouldn’t be shocked.
Also unsurprising was that the former executive editor of the Associated Press said objectivity was not a standard for the wire service. Her excuse echoes a theme throughout the article: “That standard seems to be White, educated, fairly wealthy. … And when people don’t feel like they find themselves in news coverage, it’s because they don’t fit that definition.”
Like everything else in woke world, it’s all about race. Apparently, no white person can know the truth about anything.
Downie says news organizations should “strive not just for accuracy based on verifiable facts but also for truth.” I thought the purpose of assembling facts was to find the “truth.” No, everyone has their own truth based on their lived experience, like the student who accused Israel of genocide and was thanked by Vice President Kamala Harris for speaking her “truth.”
As Bret Stephens noted in his critique of Downie, “the standard of objectivity is of immense help to editors trying to keep reporters from putting their own spin on things or excluding people and arguments they dislike from coverage.”
This is necessary given the biases of so many journalists. For example, more than 500 journalists, including four from the Times and seven from the Post, signed an open letter on U.S. media coverage of “Palestine.” The letter is filled with inversions of historical facts, which makes their conclusions even more alarming. The signatories said they “failed our audiences with a narrative that obscures the most fundamental aspects of the story: Israel’s military occupation and its system of apartheid.” They are not just concerned with their audience; they also lament failing “the Palestinian people.” To correct this, they call on journalists “to recognize that obfuscating Israel’s oppression of Palestinians fails this industry’s own objectivity standards.”
I’m reminded of two quotes. “Facts are stubborn things,” observed John Adams, “and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it this way, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
Sadly, too many journalists covering the Middle East have an alternative view.
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby,” “Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”
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