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  • 7/29/2019 Watchdogs on the Media Battlefield


    The Jerusalem reporTebruary 25, 201318













  • 7/29/2019 Watchdogs on the Media Battlefield


    The Jerusalem reporTebruary 25, 2013 19



  • 7/29/2019 Watchdogs on the Media Battlefield


    The Jerusalem reporTebruary 25, 201320


    Adam Levick requires for his job is a laptop and a touch of masochism. He employs

    both to peruse The Guardian, one of Brit-ains so-called progressive dailies, and itspopular online spinoff, Comment is Free,or CiF. Levick is managing editor of CiFWatch, which monitors bias against Israel inthe two publications. He doesnt have to look

    too hard.The Guardian is well known for its hostil-

    ity towards Israel, and, despite perfunctoryprotestations of balance, wears its anti-Zion-ism bias proudly on its sleeve. The newspa-per has eulogized Palestinian terrorists, and

    CiF has posted attering comments aboutunabashed Jew-haters like Israeli-born saxo-phonist/conspiracy theorist Gilad Atzmonand Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

    In The Guardian and especially on CiF,

    Israel is the subject of rebuke and moral op-probrium quite out of proportion to any othercountry, Levick, a Philadelphia native, whonow lives in Jerusalem, tells The JerusalemReport. Their criticisms of Israel containclassic anti-Semitic tropes about the danger

    of Jewish power, the old charge of dual loy-alties, and sometimes even the insidious sug-gestion that Jews are inherently racist.

    Exhibit A on that last score: Israels deci-sion in September 2011 to release more than

    1,000 Palestinian prisoners, many of themconvicted murders, in exchange for kid-napped Israel Defense Forces soldier GiladShalit is simply an indication, opined TheGuardian columnist Deborah Orr, of howinured the world has become to the obscene

    idea that Israeli lives are more importantthan Palestinian lives.

    Her reasoning: The disproportionate num-ber of Palestinians released in return for asingle Israeli soldier tacitly acknowledges

    what so many Zionists believe that the livesof the chosen are of hugely greater conse-quence than those of their unfortunate neigh-bors. A fact the journalist described by heremployer as one of Britains leading socialand political commentators conveniently

    overlooked is that Hamas, not Israel, had in-sisted on the terms of the prisoner swap.

    Orr resorted to the anti-Semitic cho-sen people canard, Levick says. It wasatrocious.

    Faced by an outcry, the journalist issued anapology. Writing in the passive voice of art-ful evasion favored by bureaucrats and poli-ticians the world over, she noted, My wordswere badly chosen and poorly used. Shethen went on to lament the problematic

    circumstances of Israels creation in 1948,before implicitly chiding Israelis for not be-ing more open to criticism.

    The editors of CiF and The Guardian didnot respond to The Reports repeated re-quests for comment. In a recent column,

    however, readers editor Chis Elliott ac-knowledged the use of anti-Semitic termi-nology in certain Guardian articles. These

    included, he wrote, references to Israel/US global domination and the term slav-ish to describe the US relationship with Is-

    rael. Journalists, the editor added, have tobe aware that some examples involve codedreferences. They need to ask themselves, forexample, if the word Zionist is being used asa synonym for Jew.

    Bias against the Jewish state, say pro-Israelmedia watchdogs, comes in several forms from purposeful slants to selective omis-sions, from subtle verbal cues to outrighthostility.Purposeful Slant: In its online country

    proles during the run-up to the LondonOlympics, the BBC failed to list any city

    as Israels capital, yet declared East Jeru-salem to be the capital of Palestine. TheBBCs culture of political over-correctnessoften hampers impartial reporting on Israel,

    says Hadar Sela, a British-born Israeli whoruns the BBC Watch blog, adding, The or-ganizations Editorial Guidelines prescribethat BBC journalists cannot describe Hamas

    as a terrorist organization or a bus bombing

    as a terror attack in the name of avoidingvalue judgments.

    Selective omission: Foreign reporters rou-tinely cite Israels occupation of Gaza,even though Israel unilaterally withdrewfrom the territory in 2005, uprooting all its

    settlements in the process. Often the BBComits relevant context that would help to ac-curately present Israels case, says SimonPlosker, the Jerusalem-based managing edi-tor of the inuential media watchdog, Honest

    Reporting. That matters because the Britishmedia has a global inuence far beyond its

    size, adds the British Jew, who moved toIsrael in 2005.

    Such complaints against the BBC havebeen voiced for years. In 2004, senior BBC

    news editor Malcolm Balen was even taskedwith investigating the BBCs reporting fromthe Middle East over persistent allegationsof anti-Israeli bias. His reports ndings arerumored to be damning of the corporation,and the BBC has fought against their release.

    Subtle verbal cues: Members of Fatah orHamas known for their past involvement interrorism and openly genocidal anti-Semiticviews are often labeled moderate as longas they pay lip service to the peace pro-

    cess. Meanwhile, Israelis who insist onreciprocal concessions from Palestinians inthe land-for-peace scheme may end up beinglabeled right-wing.

    The common media labels include Ne-tanyahu is hawkish, Abbas is a moderate,

    Settlers are all religious fanatics, Pales-tinians just want to harvest their olives inpeace, a prolic American Jewish bloggerwho goes by the pseudonym Elder of Ziyontells The Report.

    Outright hostility: In a discussion ahead

    of the US presidential elections last year on


    MaNy baTTleS, I leT

    uNOuGHT, wOuld leadTO a ar wOrSe SITuaTION

    Or ISraelS IMaGe IN THe

    MedIa. we CaNT leT THaT


  • 7/29/2019 Watchdogs on the Media Battlefield


    21The Jerusalem reporTebruary 25, 2013

    Irelands TV3 channel, presenter VincentBrowne opined, Israel is the cancer in for-eign affairs. It polarizes the Islamic com-munity of the world against the rest of the

    world. That statement, Honest ReportingsPlosker points out, has put the Irish broad-caster on a par with Iranian President Mah-moud Ahmadinejad, who has labeled theJewish state a cancerous tumor. Browne

    later apologized for his infelicitous use ofthe word [cancer], before citing, like TheGuardians Orr, the injustice [of Israelscreation] at the center of the conict.

    To most Israelis, the second intifada broke

    out as follows: Then-Prime Minister EhudBarak offered historic concessions to Pales-tinian leader Yasser Arafat during the CampDavid 2 negotiations of July 2000 to end theconict. After some dithering, Arafat re-jected them, returned home and launched abloody uprising against Israel.

    The inTernATionAl media, however, asis their wont, had a different spin on causeand effect: After the failed negotiations, dis-gruntled Palestinians started rioting, where-upon Israel began responding with brutal

    force.The dichotomy between reality and media

    coverage proved the tipping point for ShragaSimmons, an American-born Israeli jour-nalist. He set up an email alert team whose

    members would notify one another of in-stances of biased news coverage and re offletters to editors, demanding corrections.The grassroots activism soon mushroomedinto a professionally run nonprot organi-zation. Today, Honest Reporting has some

    150,000 subscribers worldwide. Headquar-tered in Jerusalem, the media watchdog op-erates ofces in the United States, the UnitedKingdom and Canada.

    The start of the second intifada, withthe ensuing lopsided media coverage, was

    also a turning point for Levick, a political

    science graduate of Temple University inPhiladelphia. It caused me to drop my Oslodelusions that the Israeli-Palestinian conictwas largely about territory, he recalls. I re-

    alized that Israel was in a war of survival.He began writing letters to editors in de-

    fense of Israel, and went on to work for theAnti-Defamation League, where he scoured

    progressive journals and blogs for anti-Se-mitic content. In 2009, he moved to Israel,and was appointed editor of CiF Watch ayear later, dedicating himself full time eversince to combating bias in The Guardianand its online mouthpiece.

    Last December, without warning or ex-planation, CiFs administrators deletedLevicks account and erased all his postsin the talkback section of the site, in which,

    he says, he strove to set the record straightabout Israel. They banned me, a Zionist

    Jew, from their talkback section, even asradical Islamists like Raed Salah [a leaderof Israels Islamic Movement] and Hamasleaders are afforded above-the-line plat-forms [for full-length essays] despite pro-

    moting extreme anti-Semitism, he fumes,

    branding the ban petty and vindictive.Undeterred, Levick maintains his mission

    on his blog. His aim, he says, is to demandnot only balance but also an accurate reec-tion of the facts. The disinformation propa-

    gated daily about Israel in [some] foreignmedia outlets is astonishing, Levick says.Its our job to make sure that theyre heldaccountable and the truth about the MiddleEast is told.

    Easier said than done: A hatchet job onPage 1 carries far more weight than a subse-quent brief correction at the bottom of Page13 if any editorial mea culpa is forthcom-

    ing at all. A