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My Life As An AP Bureau Chief In Israel

The wall separating Israel from the West Bank

And the truth about bias

When I led coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the world’s largest news organization between 2004 and 2010, my colleagues and I knew we were writing about the globe’s most scrutinized story. But we tried to take it in stride. As long as we angered each side equally, we surmised, we were doing something right.

So when we were falsely accused of “erasing” a video of a young Palestinian boy getting shot by an Israeli soldier, we decided not to give it credence by responding. And when these past few days, a former colleague stated, again falsely, that we buried key stories that made Israel look good, among other transgressions, my initial reaction was the same. Just let it go.

But there was something different about this accusation. For one, it came from a reporter whom I hired personally in 2006 in the middle of a war. And from a person who I thought then and still think now is a good writer.

Matti Friedman’s allegations, in a story in the Jewish publication Tablet, have gone viral, with more than 70,000 Facebook shares as of this writing. Eloquently written, it has the air of a ‘tell-all’ piece from a former insider. The article has struck a chord among Jews, despite its dubious central theme: that anti-Semitism thrives, even among non-Muslim communities in the West and especially among journalists.

With Israel’s public image reeling from the recent war in Gaza – and Israel supporters everywhere eager to counter the widespread criticism of Israel – the story’s timing was perfect.

Unfortunately, the story was little more than well-written hogwash.

Matti’s message was that Jews today – like their oppressed ancestors – have once again become “the pool into which the world spits.” Criticism of Israel, he argued, is the latest manifestation of old-style anti-Semitism, which has focused attention on Israel rather than the world’s true villains. The key to understanding this “hostile obsession with the Jews,” he wrote, “is to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues.”

Matti didn’t mention names, but he was talking about me, and other leaders of the Associated Press bureau in Jerusalem. I’m no longer in that crowd. I left the AP nearly three years ago (to start the publication you’re reading now), which gives me something in common with Matti, who resigned around the same time I did. Both he and I can say whatever we want about those momentous years, without having to consult the AP or anyone else.

Matti’s article was essentially about bias – what he said was our bias against the Jewish state. If we are honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that bias, especially unconscious bias, is an inescapable part of the human condition. (The Nobel-prize winning Israeli-American psychologist Daniel Kahneman explained it elegantly in his book “Thinking Fast and Slow”, writing, “We are blind, and we are blind to our blindness.”)

It is true the conflict we covered can be framed in various ways: of downtrodden Palestinians facing off against powerful Israel, or of tiny Israel against the surrounding sea of 300 million Arabs. Often, I felt that attempting to “frame” it either way was not instructive. It was preferable to simply bear witness to what we saw unfolding before our eyes.

During my six-year tenure in Israel and the Palestinian territories, our staff was made up mostly of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims, with a smaller number of foreigners who belonged to neither or those two communities. Matti provided valuable, fair-minded input during those years, a voice that often helped ensure the Israeli viewpoint got a fair shake without belittling the other side. I was grateful for that, and for the other voices in the bureau who did the same for the Palestinians.

As bureau chief, I knew it was one of my key roles to fight bias in our reporting. Was this achieved all the time? I doubt it. But I know an honest attempt was made at all times. I always told our reporters not to deliver “milk toast” and to lay bare the raw passions of each side in all their glory, rather than trying to tone down the arguments. While fairness was of utmost importance, I told them, not every story had to be 50-50 (if you were reporting in 1930s Germany, I asked, would you be compelled to give half the space to the Jewish side and the other half to the Nazis?)

Matti states that the AP’s Jerusalem bureau – like all other major news operations based in Israel and the Palestinian territories – employs too many reporters because of this hostile obsession with the Jews. The truth is the story of Israel is that of a nation rising from the ashes of the worst genocide in human history, being attacked from all sides upon its inception. Depending on your point of view, it’s also a story about the persecuted becoming the persecutors. All of this, of course, is happening to the people of the Bible, the descendants of the Hebrew slaves who were led out of Egypt by Moses and from whose ranks emerged Jesus Christ. It’s as if a new chapter of the Bible is being written in our times. Whether you think the Bible is mythology or the word of God is beside the point. The point is we are all human beings who love a good story, and this one is particularly good.

In his article, Matti states that I personally suppressed stories that did not fit my narrative of Israel being bad, implying that I was a part of this worldwide media conspiracy against the Jews. It’s a large statement, and of course could only be true if I hated myself. The truth is I am not a self-hating Jew or any kind of Jew other than just a regular one.

There was a time years ago when the large media outlets avoided appointing Jewish people to lead news operations in Israel. Wouldn’t such a person be prone to taking the Israeli side? Or perhaps over-compensate by being too pro-Palestinian? Experience has shown those concerns were largely unfounded, and that Jewish bureau chiefs in Israel have been pretty much the same as anyone else. In my case, I have no doubt that my Jewishness gave me a keener appreciation of the Israeli cause. I also know that my intense feelings about Jewish persecution – and the fact that much of my own family was murdered in the Holocaust – made me even more sensitive to the plight of the weak, no matter who they were.

I was present in Pakistan when another Jew, Daniel Pearl, was murdered. I was chasing after an interview with the same militants who brutally ended his life, and at first I thought he was “lucky” when he beat me to them. I knew his fate could have been mine. I did not know Steven Sotloff, the Jewish journalist recently beheaded in Syria, but his personal story, too, was not unlike mine.

Yes, I have a strong Jewish identity. But what I believe in most is humanity.

One of my favourite memories of my time in Afghanistan is of a local AP colleague, a devout Muslim, driving around Taliban-ruled Kabul singing the Hebrew hymn “Shalom Aleichem.” I had taught it to him. In the morning, my children and I drink from ceramic mugs that were gifted to me by a Palestinian colleague in Gaza grateful that I secured him a hospital bed in Jerusalem when he suffered a medical crisis. The AP staff in Gaza and the West Bank all knew I was Jewish, and were all fiercely protective of me whenever I visited. Not unlike my colleague in Peshawar, Pakistan who helped me escape the clutches of the ISI when they detained me at the Afghan border, getting beat up for it in the process. One of my favourite Facebook messages is the one I receive every year from a former colleague in Gaza – no matter the situation on the ground – wishing me a Happy Passover.

I do not believe in suppressing good stories, and would never do so. Nor do I think Israel is bad.

If an article didn’t appear that Matti thought should have, it was not because it didn’t fit a pre-ordained narrative or because we had it in for Israel. Deciding which stories to pursue involves news judgment, and rare events are more newsworthy than common ones. Reporters do not write about all the houses that DON’T catch fire, and corruption in Sweden is more noteworthy than it is in Nigeria. (Though it must be stated that Matti’s assertion that the AP ignores Palestinian corruption and other aspects of Palestinian existence is untrue).

Matti stated that a female reporter in our bureau had access to maps showing the contours of a generous Israeli offer of a Palestinian state, but that the bureau’s leadership refused to run the story. The map he’s talking about was indeed shown by a Palestinian official to one of our reporters. It affirmed a longstanding Palestinian proposal for a land swap that had been part of the Geneva Initiative, and was old news.

During my years with the AP and other news organizations, I reported from some two dozen countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Colombia, Cuba and Israel. I have been threatened, shot at and shelled, and I have been present when colleagues were injured and killed. Were there times when we decided not to report a given fact because we thought it would endanger one of our reporters? Yes there were, and one of these incidents occurred when Matti was on the editing desk. But these events were extremely rare – perhaps only two or three times during my entire six-year stint in Israel/Palestine – and we withheld the information only after concluding that it would necessarily be traced to the reporter in question, thus jeopardizing his life.

Matti and I were in Israel at the same time covering the same news. I am grateful for the acknowledgment he gave me in The Aleppo Codex, the wonderful book he wrote on the stunning fate of one of history’s most important Hebrew manuscripts.

Of course I do question Matti’s belief that the international media is teeming with anti-Semitism. And I do wonder how a person with his intelligence and compassion can fail so completely to see the other side.

Except for one reference to an Israeli transportation service in the “occupied” West Bank, Matti’s 4,000-word story in Tablet did not mention the word “occupation.” That a sizeable percentage of the population making up the Holy Land live under Israeli military rule against their will did not merit a mention tells us something about the prevalence of bias.

No, media coverage of Israel is not the new face of global anti-Semitism. In every society I covered in my decades as a foreign correspondent, whistle blowers were dubbed traitors and defenders of the status quo were considered patriots. Matti seems to argue that Israel should be left alone because it’s not as bad as Bashar Assad or the Taliban. I believe there’s nothing wrong with giving voice to all those who believe the Jewish state can and should do better.

And I feel the same way about the Palestinians.

Matti writes, “If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate.”

During my time in the region, I worked hard to ensure the strength of AP’s coverage of the entire story, both in Israel and the territories. We upgraded our offices in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza City, and appointed a full-time senior staffer to oversee coverage of the Palestinian territories. Those moves continue to pay dividends, providing highly nuanced, well-researched insights into these areas (in recent weeks alone, the news agency ran stories on Palestinian nepotism, dissenting voices in Gaza, Hamas corruption and the arrest of a top Hamas official for financial misdeeds).

There’s no such thing as perfect balance and a complete lack of bias. Not when you’re dealing with human beings. But there is something called good faith, and I’m proud to say we had lots of it in Israel and Palestine. I say that in the spirit of fighting bias – not as a Jew, but as a journalist.

____

For a more detailed rebuttal of Matti Friedman’s two articles in Tablet, see here.

____

Steven Gutkin runs Goa Streets along with his wife Marisha Dutt

This Post Has 105 Comments

  1. Yitz

    Three points 1- Steven to make a comment like “persecuted becoming the persecutors” is grossly unacceptable – Israel is not persecuting anyone!!! To clearly allude that what the Nazis did to Jews sould be on the same line as Israel’s situation towards the Palestinians is sickening!! Israel has zero interest in controlling the lives of Palestinians and for that reason multiple Israeli governments have attempted to propose compromises including Begin’s autonomy, Rabin’s PA in areas A and B and even the right wing Bennet Plan all attempting to give the Palestinians self control of their lives without endangering Israel, Jordan or the PA. 2- There is no way to present a balanced picture when one side lets you write whatever you want and the other side threatens to evict you if you say any negativities. 3-Not once did the AP present all the well known legal opinions that Israel has the better claim to Judea and Samaria

  2. Isobel

    So America’s controlling access to Mexico from America puts Mexico under US occupation? And of course Egypt controls access to Gaza from its side, so does that make Egypt an occupier as well?

  3. Al

    Territory won in a defensive war is not considered occupied. Get it straight.

  4. Al

    Territory won in a defensive war is not considered occupied. Get it straight.

  5. Nona

    And Hafez Assad was a great humanitarian. Or so you’d think if you relied on the mainstream media outlets for information.

  6. Julian Mannino

    The reason the peace offer by Israel was a big story was because it was an offer by Israel and not the Palestinians. If Israel was accepting the Geneva Initiative and the Palestinians rejected that very generous offer that’s not news? You are either biased or incompetent.

  7. Andrew Grimm

    You mention that you hire Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims. Do you hire Israeli Muslims? If not, why not?

  8. Paul Nadler

    Mr Gutkin
    While i do not monitor specifically the news reports of AP coming from their Jerusalem desk, I do read and listen to the news from many different sources and have done so for many years. I consider myself better informed than most on Israeli news. Your response rings weakly against the hard facts on the ground. The fact is that the only story which is and has for many years been reported is that of the poor Palestinians, to use your own expression “…under Israeli military rule…” or the poor Gazans under Israeli siege. Seldom, if ever, does one see reported the reasons. Mr Friedman has reported statistics of the numbers of reporters covering stories on Israeli-Palestinian issues, and the numbers of stories. Almost without exception these stories were written with a pro-Palestinian bias. Your response was one of general denial suggesting that Mr. Friedman is a liar (i assume that you do not think him a fool). While I cannot either affirm or deny the truth of what either of you is saying, I do know what I read, and what I heard on the news. And with only rare exceptions, Mr. Friedman’s report rings true, while yours sounds like a feeble attempt to convince me that the king really is wearing clothes. Witness the recent war in Gaza: do you really believe that the media reported fairly on the events of this conflict? Since you state that you are no longer beholden to AP, you can now tell the truth. My own take on the matter is that the reporting on the Gaza war was just more of the same garbage which has been the essence of media reports for decades. Perhaps you are no longer responsible for what AP does any more, but when current news reporting isno different from what has been done for decades, it seems to me that your “fair” evaluation of your own actions is suspect. Perhaps you think that what went on during your tenure was fair. If so, you should carefully search your own conscience and try to rid your self of the normal human inclination to rationalize one’s own actions. If and when you do, I think you will decide that you have much more explaining to do, and especially as a journalist.

  9. Dan Verg

    No one indoctrinates their children to hate more than Israelis do. Israeli society is one of the most racist on the face of this planet, as their inhuman, brutal treatment of Arabs and especially African migrants clearly show. If you are truly disgusted by children being indoctrinated to hate, start with Israel.

  10. Dan Verg

    Ariel Sharon was a genocidal war criminal. His obituary should have been much harsher than the excerpts you provided.

  11. Dan Verg

    Under international law, if a foreign power controls the access to another land, that land is under its occupation. Gaza remains occupied by apartheid Israel, your hasbara talking points notwithstanding.

  12. Andrew Schonberger

    I saw the rebuttal from Steven Gutkin, who was proud of “equally angering both sides”. Here is the comment I posted to his Gia Streets website:

    ” Keeping equal distance between civilisation and backwardness makes you half backward. Making further efforts to find “balance” puts you squarely in the camp which produced ISIS, Boko Haram, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, to name but a few of the darlings of the “equidistant” media.

    I would grant one point: it’s not the media which drives western opinion. Those opinions, attitudes and values have been formed through a long historical process, onto which the reporter must add the information of the day. Such information must be expressed in a way which is meaningful to the audience, so it becomes embedded in the opinions and values already present. “

  13. Dave Linn

    It would be helpful to discussion particular points instead of purported approaches. Also, ending with a point of “occupation” when the occupation ended ten years ago is not only a disservice to your point, it refutes it.

  14. Jose Daor

    This is a great piece of writing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I can sense a high degree of honesty in the beliefs you express. However, if someone asked me, I would say the point of this article is to show that you are not biased, or at the very least you are equally biased because of your personal connection to both sides. In that, I find this article totally disappointing. The truth doesn’t have multiple sides. There are facts and then there are people’s opinions and people’s experience of the facts. If all you are doing is reporting on how people experience the facts, then you are never doing anything right.

  15. Andrew Schonberger

    Keeping equal distance between civilisation and backwardness makes you half backward. Making further efforts to find “balance” puts you squarely in the camp which produced ISIS, Boko Haram, Lybia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, to name but a few of the darlings of the “equidistant” media.
    I would grant one point: it’s not the media which drives western opinion. Those opinions, attitudes and values have been formed through a long historical process, onto which the reporter must add the information of the day. Such information must be expressed in a way which is meaningful to the audience, so it becomes embedded in the opinions and values already present.

  16. Richard Behar

    I’ve been a mainstream investigative reporter for three decades. I was also in Pakistan after 9-11 — for Fortune and CNN — on the same trail as Pearl (but why Steven Gutkin felt the need to bring it up in this piece is a mystery, except perhaps to establish some cred). Two weeks ago, I wrote a lengthy expose´ in Forbes about media bias during this recent Israel-Hamas war, and I critiqued AP as well as a host of our big Western media outlets. Matti Friedman’s article was seminal—one for the ages. Gutkin’s rebuttal cannot hold a candle to it. There is so much in Gutman’s story that could be chewed apart, but I’ll just mention two things.
    First, his line that “As long as we angered each side equally, we surmised, we were doing something right” (which, as I discovered, is the same line trotted out by New York Times staffers regarding their coverage of the conflict.) Wrong: It could also mean that the reporters are lazy, that they have no grasp of history or no interest in including that context in stories, or that they have no interest or ability in investigative reporting to sort our facts from fiction. Second, I’m blown away by his line, “Yes, I have a strong Jewish identity. But what I believe in most is humanity.” What on earth is he saying? Shall we get out the violins? Is he suggesting that reporters like Friedman (and perhaps myself and other critics, while we’re at it) do not put humanity at the top of our sense of identities? Spare me.

  17. Alex Goren

    Steven Gutkin says it eloquently: “There is no such thing as perfect balance…” Matti Friedman may have been too critical of the AP but Gutkin doth protest too much; he is a perfectly chosen apologist for the AP. The specific details they spar about are insignificant. What matters is that the Israel story is over reported because it sell papers – or attracts TV viewers – and, particularly in the difficult times the media is experiencing today, this is what matters mostly for the bottom line. I don’t know whether the AP fully shares the guilt of most liberal Western media in reporting the Israel story but some facts are undeniable:
    1. One dead Palestinian seems to matter more than 100 raped and killed African women and murdered Syrians.
    2. No distinction is made between the African and Syrian victims – who are innocent – and the Palestinian victims, half of which were militant and most of whom have elected and support a government that aims at destroying Israel and killing all Jews.
    3. Also, not much importance seems to be given to the fact that Israel counter attacked, after being bombarded with hundreds of rockets aimed at its civilian population and after 3 civilians were kidnapped and brutally murdered. It appears that the USA is letting all Hell lose against ISIS for having brutally killed two Americans
    4. There were no reposts of dead militants, and journalists – probably AP ones as well – who witnessed rockets being shot from schools, hospitals and residential areas did not report this – a clear cut war crime – when reporting Palestinian casualties and flashing pictures of dead children, some of them recycled from the Syrian conflict.
    5. When referring to the Israeli occupation, no reference is made to the fact that Israel occupied Gaza and the West bank after being attacked by its Arab neighbors, in order to prevent further attacks.
    6. Neither is any mention made of the fact that until Palestinians started carrying out terrorist attacks in Israel, there was no wall, there were no excruciatingly slow check points, Israelis and Arabs traveled freely everywhere and a very large number of Palestinians worked in Israel.
    Yes! Most definitely there is bias in the press coverage. Reporting what is happening without putting it in context with why it is happening is, indeed, bias and it is lazy journalism as well. As for the anti-Semitism of Western press, I guess that it is not more pronounced than anti-Semitism in the West in general. Unfortunately, it is a reality we live with. It was, mostly, latent but now it is fortified by the millions of Muslims who live in Western countries.
    Much of what Motti Friedman writes may be hogwash but so is much of Steven Gutkin’s reply.

  18. Abe Bird

    It’s not follow the green line because it in Not a border line. Israel can’t and shouldn’t adopt the 48′ line because of terror. According to 242 resolution Israel shouldn’t withdrawal from all territories occupied.

  19. Abe Bird

    The story is not about “the persecuted becoming the persecutors” but about how the persecuted gained much power to defend themself and hit back their Arab persecutors, whether they are a strong coalition of Arab states or small but deadly violent terror groups. The matter is not their size or strength, but their ideology, will and their final solution for the conflict. The Arabs in Palestine don’t recognize the rights of the Jews to have their own national state in the land of Israel. Their aim is to ‘free’ the all land and Judenrein it by killing the Jews and create a new entity fitting their extreme aggressive Islamic ideals.

    It’s very impressive that most foreign correspondents didn’t reveal the truth of this well-known dogma that Palestinian leaders have repeatedly saying it openly today, even in English or with the small help of Memri you can watch it in Arabic! One doesn’t have to travel to Gaza at the newspaper expense, especially when ignoring the facts that surrounding him.

  20. Mark Rentn

    this is a nice story but does not address or even approach friedman’s exposure of media behavior in palestine.

    it becomes clear based on the tone of your article your approach to this conflict is far too personalized and involved. here are things the AP has yet to report, in spite of having a strong presence in Gaza:
    -ISIS demonstrations
    -Hamas executing protesters
    -Hamas classifying killed combatants as civilian
    -All casualty data is supplied by Palestinians, not verified by any third party
    -Every war Hamas has fought with Israel always involves the faking and exaggeration of civilian casualties – yet the media still has no problem accepting the data from these broken sources
    -massive corruption in the west bank and gaza
    -militarization of entire neighborhoods – tunnels, bunkers, amonimum nitrate in residential areas…all ignored. How can anyone make an informed opinion if consumers aren’t given context?
    -Do any of you guys speak Arabic? How dependent is AP on the local population for information?

  21. Jed

    Mr Jon says “neither Assad or the Taliban are allies of the West… so they are held to higher standards”
    But the US and UK in wars with Iraq and Afghanistan killed more people than in the ENTIRE Arab-Israeli conflict. The West kills more people and more civilians in wars than Israel and yet you chose to ignore that bias.

  22. Amir

    I wander how many suiced bombing had been in the US.
    Maybe, all the americans have “hope”?

  23. SMKY

    “If this were an alternate historical reality, and the jewish inhabitants of israel/palestine had been living under occupation”
    Question: In 1948 the Arab forces occupied few Jewish villages, including the Jewish quarter of old Jerusalem which was inhabited by orthodox non-Zionist Jews. How many Jews were allow to remain in these places?
    (Hint : an integer number between -1 and 1).
    So your question is not real.

  24. SMKY

    “If this were an alternate historical reality, and the jewish inhabitants of israel/palestine had been living under occupation”
    Question: In 1948 the Arab forces occupied few Jewish villages, including the Jewish quarter of old Jerusalem which was inhabited by orthodox non-Zionist Jews. How many Jews were allow to remain in these places?
    (Hint : an integer number between -1 and 1).
    So your question is not real.

  25. Shimon Felix

    Sorry, but your protestations that you are not a self hating Jew, and that we are all biased, really do nothing to respond to Mr. Friedman’s long and detailed list of evidence of a clear anti Israel slant. You guys have swallowed the Palestinian narrative whole.

  26. Shimon Felix

    Sorry, but your protestations that you are not a self hating Jew, and that we are all biased, really do nothing to respond to Mr. Friedman’s long and detailed list of evidence of a clear anti Israel slant. You guys have swallowed the Palestinian narrative whole.

  27. Daniel

    Dear Steven,
    Unfortunately, you are still blind to your own bias.
    The bias in the Israel stories comes less from the fact of hatred towards Israel and more for automatic compassion to the presumed “underdog”.
    I have no doubt that you will have lots of anecdotal stories on how fair and balanced you were.
    However, the fact of the matter is that IF you really were there to the tell the real story then you would have talked about all the funds that are being funneled away from the Palestinian people by their leaders. How each and every “leader” becomes multi millionaire or Billionaire .

    How every opposing voice on the Palestinian side is being suppressed with death and imprisonment.

    How the populace is afraid to voice their true feelings

    How the insane hatred is brain washed into every Palestinian child from age 0 where he has no other choice but to blindly hate Jews and welcome death.

    These my friend are just the tip of the iceberg.

    Maybe, one day where you are further removed from the emotions you carry with you, you will be able to see how heavily you and your colleagues where leaning in favor of one side just so you will be able to sound like you are not taking sides.

  28. Todd Warnick

    Here’s where Gutkin gives himself away: “I told them, not every story had to be 50-50 (if you were reporting in 1930s Germany, I asked, would you be compelled to give half the space to the Jewish side and the other half to the Nazis?).” So in Gutkin’s mind the Israelis are the Nazis? Looks like Friedman’s got it pretty right to me.

  29. Rivka

    Agree 109% with Jon Yank below: you spend this entire piece on rhetoric and provide no concrete examples that disprove or cast doubt on Friedman’s assertions. There’s a lot of “would this really be the case if…” in your piece, but not one piece of evidence that what Friedman asserts in fact was not the case. I’m left knowing that you feel offended by his assertions and don’t believe them yourself – but you didn’t persuade me that his assertions are untrue.

  30. Anita Pinto

    I salute you Steve, not for what you write in your defense but for the courage and spirit you have shown as a journalist.You are truly a man of Faith. God Bless You for what you have done and what you do,

  31. tdbk

    Why did you choose to use an analogy regarding the Nazis as your explanation for why balanced reporting isn’t always reasonable? I’m thinking your defense here is a case of the lady protesting too much. Also, as others have pointed out, you don’t address some of Matti’s specific claims. Such as why the AP ran a death tally for every story out of Israel. Something not done vis-a-vis any other conflict. Also your explanation for the over representation of AP correspondents in Israel/ Palestine is disingenuous. There is no good explanation for it other than the world’s morbid obsession with Israel (and possibly that most journalists prefer to live in Israel than in other more important hot zones).

  32. Philip L

    ….”the wall separating between Israel and Palestine? or is it the wall to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israel?”
    It is neither. It does not follow the green line. It is an annexation wall.
    Suicide bombing is the last resort of those without hope.

  33. John William

    If this were an alternate historical reality, and the jewish inhabitants of israel/palestine had been living under occupation for almost half a century and if a good deal – or even a majority of the media stories were about the plight of the jewish people under arab occupation, do you really (honestly) believe there would be the same accusations of media bias? Do you really think there would be the same support or at least inaction as the arabs continued to take land and control almost every aspect of jewish lives? Personally, I doubt it.

  34. Matan

    Just a small example of western media bias:

    Compare The Guardian’s obituaries for Ariel Sharon and Hafez al-Assad (both can be easily Googled). The Guardian dedicates a long paragraph in Sharon’s obituary to the Sabra and Shatila massacre of ~1,000 Palestinians by Lebanese Christian militants who were allies of Israel. A few words are used to mention that it was Lebanese militants who committed this massacre and the rest of the paragraph is dedicated to establishing Sharon’s responsibility and guilt, and to the aftermath of the events. It is also worth quoting the second paragraph in Sharon’s obituary:
    “As a military officer and general, Sharon had courted international controversy by his battlefield belligerence. Historians blamed him for instigating unnecessary wars; foes accused him of targeting civilians. A considerable number wanted him tried as a war criminal for allegedly abetting atrocities against Palestinians in Beirut in 1982.”

    Now let’s see Assad’s Obituary. This is the last paragraph, summarizing the man’s life: “Assad displayed two principal traits. The first was an exceptional degree of political foresight; the second was a foxy fighting instinct when driven to the wall, as he was by the Muslim Brothers at Hama in 1982 or by the Israelis in Lebanon a year later. On both occasions, he proved he could fight as dirty as anyone.”. Did you notice the mention of Hama, 1982? That’s when Assad massacred tens of thousands of civilians in retaliation for an uprising against him. The details of this event are not mentioned in his obituary. The author didn’t think this massacre says something about Assad’s character or morality. Only that it shows his “foxy fighting instincts”. Possibly the most negative assessment in Assad’s obituary is a remark on the Israeli government “When the hardline Menachem Begin came to power in Israel in 1977, Assad faced a militant Likud determined to create a “greater Israel”. Quite an absurd remark, considering that in 1979 that government gave up the majority of Israeli territory at the time, evicted towns and abandoned oil wells for peace.

    So what do we have?
    Israeli general and Prime Minister had it in his power to stop a massacre? (which is true for figures such as Roosevelt and Churchill) – warmongerer, belligerent, targeting civilians.
    A Syrian dictator murdering tens of thousands of his own civilians (the details of the event are not worth mentioning)? – has foxy fighting instincts.

    In my opinion, this example shows both a bias against Israel, and the bigotry of low expectations against Arabs, whose brutality and murdering are treated nonchalantly in the west.

  35. Mark

    From reading Matti’s article, I did not infer that Bashar Assad is worse and therefore Israel should be left alone. Rather, his point was that what Bashar Assad and all the other tyrants were doing is far worse and yet they receive far less media attention. Matti’s article was about AP’s obsessive infatuation with everything little thing that Israel does wrong. For instance, how many AP stories have you seen about how Hamass’ use of human shields? Its not a question on whether AP reports on Bashar Assad or not, its a question of the sheer volume of attention that Israel gets.

  36. Bill Browning

    This is an amazing debate, one that comes at a time when most Americans believe that Jews control all media, with the exception of Fox, of course. Ex-AP reporter asserts anti-Israeli bias in news reporting by The Associated Press. I guess Matti Friedman does not know that The AP is a cooperative funded by two thousand American news papers and some 7000 radio and television stations, most serving middle America. If that audience detected an anti-Israeli bias in AP reporting from the Middle East, few of those establishments would remain AP members. Full disclosure, I have a media background, the AP and all the major networks and CNN have been clients. My wife of 20 years spent 4 decades with ABC as a news writer/producer. She’s Jewish with family in Israel. Her cousin commanded the Israeli battalion that captured the west bank of the Suez in June 1967. No anti-Israeli bias there, nor with any of her colleagues. Nor any self-loathing Jews. Israel and Matti Friedman should understand, you cannot have it both ways.

  37. walter

    We both know how many lies the world press “MAKE” at gaza ,you know;so is easy to believe to Matti and more easy because he wasn’t the only one speaking about whats happening to journalist there .

  38. Joseph Skibell

    Occupation? Not since 2005 in Gaza, and yet …

  39. Pavel

    Its a very detailed answer to Matti`s article. However, Steven Gutkin ignores a very important statement “Where is a critic/coverage of Palestinians?”. We see tons of critic articles about Israel, everything is bad, The Knesset, Bibi, IDF, settlements, religious and etc. However, can you remind a couple of examples about Palestinians? How about their prosecution system? What about elections? Whats going on with corruption within PA police? From my point of view that was the main point of Matti`s article, a lack of coverage of Palestinians as a country-to-be. I would love to read an article about drunk drivers, drugs problem, freedom of speech, do they have those problems? Overall, Steve, you are not self-hating Jew and I dont think this article was against you.

  40. Al Sheeber

    Good to qualify: My life as a Lefty in the Antisemitic A.P Bureau!
    In case you need a reminder, it was hostile to Israel before you were born!

  41. Signal R

    Just the image you have posted refutes your entire writing – the wall separating between Israel and Palestine? or is it the wall to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israel? I guess that being a self hating Jew does pay off. However, you did manage to ignore the facts – the number of reporters, the biased reports, the failure to address corruption and terror from the Palestinian side. Still think you are balanced??

  42. Hamza Hendawi

    Very nicely written, Steve. You make some rally good points.

  43. Hillel Gazit

    Matti claimed in his article:
    “It is not coincidence that the few journalists who have documented Hamas fighters and rocket launches in civilian areas this summer were generally not, as you might expect, from the large news organizations with big and permanent Gaza operations. They were mostly scrappy, peripheral, and newly arrived players—a Finn, an Indian crew, a few others. These poor souls didn’t get the memo.”

    I’d like to hear your explanation.
    Either deny Matti’s claim, with some links to stories by AP, or explain why did the “scrappy, peripheral, and newly arrived players” documented “Hamas fighters and rocket launches in civilian areas” but the AP missed that very story.

    Explain or deny the facts before commenting on the facts.

  44. Mr Jon

    We are indeed blind and blind to our blindness. That sounds almost Biblical and perhaps it is? Maybe some sort of content analysis or participant observation study in AP offices might shed some light on any possible bias? Maybe this is the perfect Gordian Knot of tribal alliances.
    Over the last few months I’ve heard the rough idea that “Israel should be left alone because it’s not as bad as Bashar Assad or the Taliban” expressed quite a bit. To which one would probably say a) two wrongs don’t make a right, even when one is considerably less bloody b) neither Assad or the Taliban are allies of the West (well, not yet anyway), so they are held to higher standards (which is no bad thing).
    Good article anyway.

  45. Victor Rangel-Ribeiro

    Excellent article, Steve. Both as a former reporter and editorial writer, I appreciate the delicate balance that must be maintained in political coverage, whether dealing with Indo-Pakistani issues or the situation in Israel and Palestine. I live in a New Jersey community that is more than 90 percent Jewish, and I do have some friends who share Matti’s point of view. Most of the intellectuals I deal with, however, would agree with you that the military occupation of Palestinian territory does not help in the pursuit of peace, and yes, Israel can and should be better, as should Palestine. Fortunately, there are Jewish thinkers in Israel who also agree, and perhaps in time heir point of view will prevail.

  46. lisaK

    Tough decisions you made with clear mind and conscience, steve. No reason at all you can’t hold your head up high and sleep well at night.

  47. averygosh

    Thank you. Wonderful insight, wonderful writing, wonderful journalism

  48. Jon Yank

    This is nice writing, I just don’t think it nearly addresses nor refutes anything Matti wrote, at all. It attempts to explain away, to misdirect, but not to directly address. It fails to sway me.

  49. joe oppenheimer

    Thank you for your reply. I asked our son Evan Berland to ‘check’ the Matti Friedman piece, and he gave us your URL. It is important to maintain some degree of objectivity in these most controversial news events and you helped achieve that.

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