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Reading The Mail


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The Monitor usually answers letters and e-mails privately, but sometimes a public response seems more appropriate, as the following three queries illustrate.
Jack Weissman of Miami is curious about a case of possible plagiarism he ‘heard something about’ involving the hopelessly biased New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Deborah Sontag and ‘a British journalist with a Jewish-sounding name.’
‘Have you heard anything about this,’ Mr. Weissman asks, ‘and can it possibly be the nail in Sontag’s coffin we’ve all been waiting for?’
Yes, the Monitor is familiar with the incident to which Mr. Weissman refers, and no, unfortunately, it appears we can’t blame Sontag for this one – though the story does tell us something about the lockstep mentality of those who cover the Middle East for major Western news outlets.
As the website Honestreporting.com reported several weeks back, ‘Two notorious anti-Israel reporters gang[ed] up to cover the same piece of propaganda - and use[ed] nearly identical language in the process…. Deborah Sontag of The New York Times and Suzanne Goldenberg of the [London] Guardian both reported on the opening of a new exhibit in the West Bank town of Ramallah dedicated to the memories of 100 Palestinian ‘martyrs.’ Both reporters described the personal ‘totems’ exhibited – a sling-shot, a pair of jeans, a running shoe and other items - next to a photograph of the deceased.’
While the website notes that the use of the word ‘totem’ by both correspondents might have been nothing more than mere coincidence, the same can’t be said for the following nearly identical lines that appeared in their reports:
Sontag: ‘Israeli critics would say that the exhibit, ’100 Martyrs-100 Lives,’ glorifies death and encourages the cult of the shaheed, or martyr.’
Goldenberg: ‘Israeli critics would argue that the exhibit glorifies violent death and promotes a cult of martyrdom.’
Sontag’s article was published two days before Goldenberg’s, so any cribbing that occurred most likely came from Goldenberg. (‘Although,’ Honestreporting cautions, ‘we do not know when the reporters actually submitted the articles to their editors.’)
Goldenberg, whose stories rival Sontag’s for their consistently pro-Palestinian spin, has been drawing a fair amount of flak in recent months. A Jewish Telegraphic Agency report by Richard Allen Greene quoted a veteran British foreign correspondent who described Goldenberg as ‘extremely inexperienced, young, leftist, Jewish and overcompensating because she’s Jewish.’
On another subject, two letters received by the Monitor in the past few weeks concern the multi-part ‘Enemies List’ of anti-Israel journalists featured here quite some time ago. Linda Cole of Philadelphia wonders whether we might update the list in the near future, while Adam Fishman in Queens asks why someone like Deborah Sontag was never mentioned on the list.
The answer to Ms. Cole’s question is that the Monitor indeed intends to issue a revised Enemies List, probably by the end of June. Readers are invited to send in their nominations over the next few weeks.
The reason, Mr. Fishman, for Deborah Sontag’s absence from the original list was that she hadn’t yet achieved anywhere near the level of her current notoriety. Sontag’s been based in Jerusalem for just a few years, and at the time of the first ‘Enemies List’ her biases were not as out in the open.
In any event, even if Sontag had already emerged as the Israel-basher we’ve all come to know so well, there’s no guarantee she would have been included. The original list was heavily weighted to the broadcast side of journalism, and as a result many deserving newspaper reporters were left off.The revised version of the list will be more inclusive, and Sontag will most definitely be on it.
Sorry to ruin the suspense.
Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com
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About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press.


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