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It was revealed that AP's Jerusalem bureau banned interviews with NGO-Monitor.

In a wide-ranging piece that covers mostly old ground in a new way and for a new audience, former Associated Press journalist Matti Friedman reveals one astonishing fact: the AP banned interviews of a well-informed, Jerusalem-based professor, Gerald Steinberg, and his monitoring organization, NGO-Monitor.

Professor Gerald Steinberg and his organization NGO-Monitor – work to expose the ideological bias and political agendas of the anti-Israel NGOs in Israel and the role they play in the conflict – the same anti-Israel NGOs that international reporters rely on for their news reporting.

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From the NGO-Monitor website:

NGO Monitor’s objective is to end the practice used by certain self-declared ‘humanitarian NGOs’ of exploiting the label ‘universal human rights values’ to promote politically and ideologically motivated agendas.

Steinberg and NGO-Monitor are the only ones in a region crawling with confirmed liars and terrorists whose views were verboten to the AP, Friedman wrote.

The gist of Friedman’s new piece in The Atlantic is that news about Israel is largely written through a specific, largely unstated but nearly inviolable prism of “blame Israel” and ignore Arab wrongdoing.

The Arab Israeli reporter Khaled abu Toameh has been writing and speaking about the problem for at least a decade. It was also the subject of Stephanie Gutmann’s The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy (Encounter, 2005).

But Friedman’s Nov. 30 article is important both because it was written by someone from within the mainstream media – it doesn’t get much more mainstream than the Associated Press – and because of the startling revelation regarding the absolute ban on AP reporting including information from or about either Gerald Steinberg or the organization he heads, NGO-Monitor.

Friedman covered the 2008-09 winter conflict in Gaza dubbed “Operation Cast Lead.”  He was struck by the fact that articles condemning Israeli in the harshest terms continued to circulate months after the conflict, and based upon statements made by human rights organizations. He wrote an article about that point, but AP editors killed it.

At the time, NGO-Monitor was seeking to counter information provided by what it presented as false claims that Israel had committed “war crimes.” Friedman was unable to make use of NGO-Monitor’s information. Why? He writes:

the bureau’s explicit orders to reporters were to never quote the group or its director, an American-born professor named Gerald Steinberg. In my time as an AP writer moving through the local conflict, with its myriad lunatics, bigots, and killers, the only person I ever saw subjected to an interview ban was this professor.

Steinberg is a professor of political science at Israel’s Bar Ilan University. Educated at Cornell University, UCBerkeley and MIT, Steinberg is the founder and president of NGO-Monitor. He is the author of numerous books and dozens of other publications.

The AP is the feeder for much of the world’s media about so much that happens across the globe. This is so because AP has a phalanx of reporters in 280 locations worldwide. It operates as the news distributor of the articles written by their reporters. Those articles are then run by media sites – up to 1,400 U.S. daily newspapers – which don’t have their own reporters in those regions.

If, as Friedman charges based upon first hand observation, AP story lines are predetermined and “news” articles are created around its central, agreed-upon premise, then virtually all news about every flash point across the globe becomes suspect. It also means that the AP, at least in its Jerusalem bureau, violated its own “AP News Values and Principles.”

The AP needs to answer the specific charge of whether its Jerusalem bureau staff was barred from speaking with NGO-Monitor’s Steinberg. If such a ban was in place and unless the AP can produce a reasonable explanation, then all media outlets which continue to rely on AP services come under its same dark cloud of suspicion.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. The Arab Israeli reporter Khaled abu Toameh has been writing and speaking about the problem for at least a decade. It was also the subject of Stephanie Gutmann’s The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy (Encounter, 2005).

    I'd locate the current problem, which has been around since the early 1920s with the British media baron and especially starting with the Times' Levy in 1929, with the use of hyperbole and cooperation with NGOs, etc., around the First Lebanese War and with the responses of David Bar-illan, Zev Chafets' Double Vision and especially AFSI's documentary as reported in the NYTimes:

    ''NBC in Lebanon,'' subtitled ''A Study in Media Misrepresentation,'' is a polemic; it stacks the deck, and sometimes it nearly collapses under its own sarcasm. At the same time, it raises significant questions about television journalism. It attempts to prove, and to a large extent does prove, that coverage by the ''NBC Nightly News'' of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 1982 was faulty. The one-hour documentary will be seen on National Jewish Television, carried by several cable systems, at 1 P.M. tomorrow.

    The burden of the documentary, produced by a group called Americans for a Safe Israel, is that NBC consistently favored the Palestine Liberation Organization and discriminated against Israel. From June 4 to Aug. 31, 1982, we are told, the ''NBC Nightly News'' devoted 600 minutes of air time to Lebanon, with less than 30 minutes of this reflecting the ''Israeli viewpoint,'' or the ''factual background of the war.''"

    And, does this sound familiar?

    Consider, for example, the reports on civilian casualties during the early part of the invasion. On June 10, Roger Mudd, the ''NBC Nightly News'' co-anchor, said that 10,000 civilians had died. He attributed the figure to the Red Crescent, the Lebanese Red Cross. A few nights later, Tom Brokaw reported that Israel had been silent on the number of civilian deaths. Shortly after that, Jessica Savitch said the fighting had left 600,000 civilians without food or supplies.

    In fact, Israel, relying, it claimed, on actual body counts, had said that 460 civilians had died, and that the fighting had left 20,000 people homeless. The Israeli figure on the number of deaths may have been too low; truth can be a casualty in wartime. However, the unreported Israeli figure seems to have been more accurate than the figure put out by the Red Crescent. Newspaper accounts called it a wild exaggeration.

    Meanwhile, ''NBC in Lebanon'' notes that Yasir Arafat's brother was the head of the Palestinian Red Crescent. It also notes the unlikelihood of 600,000 people being left without food or supplies; fewer than that many people lived in the area of the fighting.

    NBC's alleged failures on the reporting of figures may be attributed to carelessness, or to the exigencies of putting together a nightly news broadcast. The documentary, however, raises a more serious charge when it accuses NBC correspondents of ignoring the reality of Beirut. We see NBC film clips of ruined buildings; we hear correspondents saying they were not military positions. The implication is that Israeli artillery fire was always indiscriminate.

    However, other journalists reported that the P.L.O. frequently used civilians as cover. David K. Shipler, The New York Times correspondent in Beirut then, reported that ''P.L.O. weapons and ammunition were placed strategically in densely populated civilian areas in the hope that this would either deter Israeli attack, or extract a price from Israel in world opinion for the killing of civilians.''

    And indeed, world opinion, moved at least in part by the television images, did not favor the Israelis. As early as June 16, in an NBC commentary, John Chancellor spoke about a ''feeling Israel was turning into a warrior state, using far more force than is necessary to solve its problems.''

    He also mentioned the ''problem with Israeli credibility.''

  2. AP ceased being a News medium years ago. It has been obvious in its agenda driven ‘news’ and editorial policy. This admission, from within AP, is overdue and welcome. They are complicit in incitement and therefore complicit in the resulting violence.

  3. AP ceased being a News medium years ago. It has been obvious in its agenda driven ‘news’ and editorial policy. This admission, from within AP, is overdue and welcome. They are complicit in incitement and therefore complicit in the resulting violence.

  4. when media hide from the truth they destroy
    truth.
    AP should be ashamed for its horrific bias and
    attempt to fabricate realities. "The entire organization
    is tainted and corrupt and unless they were to apologize and demonstrate
    how they would correct their errant ways, there is no reason for them to be in Israel and every Jew and friend of Israel should call their USA phones and lodge complaints every day-
    25,000 calls per day will perhaps wake them up!

  5. One of the main problems with the press today is that there are very few investigative reporters who are not attached to either AP or UPI. They either tow the line set by management, or are out of work. AP needs a shake up of its' management.

  6. The A.P has never liked Israel and the Jews.
    Their staffers are notorious bigots, some collaborate with Israel's enemies, a french photographer in the early 90's had to abruptly terminate his "assignment" due to "security" issues. Never returned.
    I knew many of their staffers over many years and they were not nice.
    They get pumped up by the Israeli lefties from the Haaretz and the other lefty organizations, that communicate, coordinate actions for the media in the West Bank, they know when to arrive to some corner, when their snapper pulls his long lens, the Arab kids begin to throw rocks on Israeli cars, the flacks leave the scene to go back to the office, the kids go elsewhere, it is all a show for the wire services and the occasional hungry freelancers. This Colford type from the A.P is some creature from the twilight zone, because I know it is so before he was able to say mummy, and many of my colleagues knew it and those who are still in this racket know it to be so. The fact is, the Israelis are sloppy, they do not pay attention to the foul play by the foreign press. They get away with a great deal, they treat the bureau that accredits the overseas press as some kind of a parking place for what in Israel they call a "Jobnik", people with no particular skills, well connected, ready to live of the tax payer, seldom taking the trouble to investigate, go out to see what happens investigate complaints about abusive reporting. To call them lazy is a compliment. Therefore the overseas grifters know that the Israelis are push-overs, they can do what they like. I am not in this sleazy racket any more, and I have to keep my identity private, I was on/off the scene in IL for over 40 years.

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