Supporters of Israel frequently complain of anti-Israel bias in the mainstream media. Now, a veteran reporter who has been covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades has revealed the level of ignorance he’s encountered among some foreign correspondents deployed to region.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist who covers Arab affairs for the Jerusalem Post, wrote in an article for the Gatestone Institute about the “clueless” Western reporters who hadn’t even the slightest grasp of basic details of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
He cited the example of a Western correspondent who asked a Palestinian colleague of his to set up an interview with Yasser Arafat — only the former leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization and first Palestinian Authority president had been dead for years by then.
“Fresh out of journalism school and unknowledgeable about the Middle East, the journalist was apparently considered by his editors a fine candidate for covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Abu Toameh wrote.
A Palestinian man flies his national flag on the rooftop of a house as Jewish settlers are evacuated by Israeli security forces from two homes in the heart of the West Bank city of Hebron on January 22, 2016, the day after they entered the buildings sparking violent clashes over disputed ownership claims. (Photo: Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images)
Then there were the two Western reporters who recently asked to be escorted on a visit to Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. The only problem: Israel unilaterally withdrew military troops and evacuated Jewish settlers from Gaza in 2005, leaving a vacuum eventually filled by Hamas which now runs the seaside strip.
“No, this is not the opening line of a joke. These journalists were in Israel at the end of 2015, and they were deadly serious,” Abu Toameh wrote.
“You have to have some pity for them. These foreign colleagues were rookies who aimed to make an impression by traveling to a ‘dangerous’ place such as the Gaza Strip to report on the ‘settlers’ living there. Their request, however, did not take anyone, even my local colleagues, by surprise,” he added.
Some reporters have insisted to Abu Toameh that there once existed a Palestinian state before Israel’s founding in 1948 that had east Jerusalem as its capital.
The veteran reporter who speaks Arabic and Hebrew fluently observed, “Sadly, correspondents such as these are more the rule than the exception.”
Beyond ignorance, Abu Toameh described the sheer laziness he’s encountered, including “a particular clueless British reporter” who, claiming to be reporting from Gaza on the 2004 assassination of Hamas’s founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was actually filing his dispatches from “the bar of the American Colony Hotel,” a posh Jerusalem joint frequented by diplomats and foreign correspondents.
As for bias, Abu Toameh wrote:
[W]hen it comes to covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ignorance apparently is bliss. Misconceptions about what goes on here plague the international media. The binary good guy/bad guy designation tops the list. Someone has to be the good guy (the Palestinians are assigned that job) and someone has to be the bad guy (the Israelis get that one). And everything gets refracted through that prism.
Yet the problem is deeper still. Many Western journalists covering the Middle East do not feel the need to conceal their hatred for Israel and for Jews. But when it comes to the Palestinians, these journalists see no evil.
Abu Toameh had this advice to reporters arriving to cover the complex historical conflict.
“Western reporters, especially those who are ‘parachuted’ into the Middle East, would do well to remember that journalism in this region is not about being pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. Rather, it is about being ‘pro’ the truth, even when the truth runs straight up against what they would prefer to believe,” Abu Toameh advised reporters arriving to cover the complex historical conflict.
Read Abu Toameh’s full account at the Gatestone Institute.