AP Coverage: Abandon All Hope of Fairness, Ye Who Enter There
By Barry Rubin
In recent weeks, I have written that the AP has become more balanced and a number of articles could be used to show that trend. At the same time, though, there are common themes which continue—sometimes subtle, sometimes blaring and glaring—to be ridiculously biased. Sometimes they are a few lines or even words in an article; at other times, the pieces read like propaganda tracts.
Alas, such is the case of the article I am about to discuss. But I want to introduce it before telling you AP’s title for it. The January 25, 2009, article supposedly deals with how children in the Gaza Strip are reacting to war, violence, and instability.
Now, are you ready for AP’s title? Here it is:
Israeli war against Hamas scars Gaza’s children by Karin Laub.
Yahoo shows 124,000 mentions of this article. Think of that. 124,000 different reprints of this article. Here’s one: <http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=6727236>.
Now if I were to stop here, this is a clear example of the abandonment of journalistic standards. After all, the headline could easily have been: War Scars Gaza’s Children. Or even, if they wanted to do so: Israel-Hamas War Scars Gaza’s Children or, if they were really honest: Hama’s Attacks and Israel’s Retaliation Scar Gaza’s Children.
But right here, an editor should have looked at this title, seen it as absurdly biased and changed it. I’d like to think that 10 or 20 or 30 years ago that would have happened.
We know, however, what the article would say: Israel is terrible because by going to war it is hurting all these children. Bad Israel! Down with Israel. Israeli War Criminal Aggressive Haters.
Yet if it had not been for Hamas’s continually attacking Israel and then rejecting the ceasefire, there would be no war.
Beyond that, there would be no sanctions.
And, beyond that, what about children being subjected to Islamist law, indoctrination to become terrorists, systematic hatred being taught toward Jews and Christians?
Even if there had been a war, how about Hamas using civilians as human shields? How about it calling up young children to shield Hamas soldiers? To stand in a schoolyard right next to a mortar firing at Israel?
Doesn’t all this scar children? The war has ended, doesn’t the leadership of Hamas continue to scar children and intensify the damage? Won’t there be another war—it is absolutely predictable—within two years?
None of this penetrates the AP’s—and here’s a terrible contemporary word—“narrative.” There was a time when newspaper articles didn’t have a “narrative,” they had reporting.
Of course, the lead is intended to elicit certain emotions from the reader:
“JEBALIYA, Gaza Strip – Surrounded by mountains of rubble that were once their homes, two dozen children sat on a rainbow-colored blanket and drew with crayons.
They quickly filled the pages passed around by trauma counselors with pictures of Israeli tanks, dead bodies and Palestinians firing assault rifles , scenes they saw when Israel’s war on Hamas came into their neighborhood.”
Certainly, these are logical things to draw but remember this is also the indoctrination of Hamas that has been going on for two years. If there had been no war, they would be drawing the same things, not to mention the glories of being a suicide bomber and killing the Jews—oh, excuse me, Israelis (but they usually do say Jews, don’t they?
And who is quoted? Palestinian—Hamas supporting?—psychologists and an UNRWA official who never criticizes Hamas.
There is not one word—not one word!—in the article about any of the points being raised above.
It is all about Palestinians and children being victims of Israel, not of Hamas, not of Hamas’s policies.
Does one feel sorry for these children? Of course. But the issue is why one feels sorry for him and to what one attributes their problems and sufferings.
We have reached the point where we don’t have to cope with articles biased against Israel: 80-20, 70-30, 60-40. Rather, the articles are 100 percent anti-Israel. Nothing to balance, not even the merest pretense for show. Not a single sentence from an Israeli psychologist; not some passing mention of Hamas’s responsibility.
And this is what is scary: the journalist has no fear of being punished professionally for violating what used to be called journalistic ethics. The editor has no desire to change anything, and no fear of paying a price for it.
What is the difference between the text below and a Hamas press release? And what is its similarity to proper journalism? Everything in the first case; nothing in the second case.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center in Herzliya, Israel, and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His books include The Truth About Syria; The Tragedy of the Middle East; and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East.