Of the nine articles in Colford’s printout, two were published before Operation Cast Lead. Of the remaining seven, two were about Iran, one was about Pakistan, and one was about (yet another) new U.S. Mideast peace effort. Of the remaining three, one was written in 2012 and one was written in 2011. Both of these were harshly critical of Israel, and had nothing to do with Operation Cast Lead.
That leaves one article.
Thus, based upon the due diligence performed by AP’s director of media relations, there was only one AP article quoting Prof. Steinberg somewhat close to the relevant time period and which focused on Israel.
An August 6, 2009 article written from Gaza City by AP journalist Diaa Hidad, appeared in the Toronto Star. This article is all the AP’s Colford could plausibly point to as concrete proof that there was no ban on AP’s use of Steinberg and NGO-Monitor.
But that article, written nearly eight months after the conclusion of Cast Lead, does not focus on allegations of Israel as a human rights violator, nor does it rely upon the NGO watchdogs to provide insight into whether human rights organizations’ criticisms of Israel are valid or credible. The article, instead, is about the NGO Human Rights Watch issuing a report that Hamas may have committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead.
Steinberg is quoted in that article (in paragraph 20 of a 23 paragraph story) criticizing HRW for waiting until months after the operation to release information critical of Hamas, and only then having done so after already releasing two reports critical of Israel. This is hardly evidentiary proof that there was no ban on using Steinberg during the relevant time period for purposes of critiquing NGO’s attacks on Israel.
We are left with both claimants lacking unequivocal proof of their respective and contradictory contentions.
A SECOND FORMER AP REPORTER EXPERIENCED THE STEINBERG BAN FIRST-HAND
And that’s where Mark Lavie comes in.
Lavie was also an AP reporter who worked in the Jerusalem bureau during and after Operation Cast Lead. In fact, Lavie covered the Middle East as a journalist for more than 40 years. For more than a dozen of those years, Lavie was a reporter in the AP’s Jerusalem bureau. He later moved to the Cairo bureau where he had a front row seat for the “Arab Spring.” That experience was his last as a journalist, but it spawned his new profession as an author.
Lavie wrote “Broken Spring,” describing the failure of the Arab Spring. It also discusses the death of the Egyptian Jewish community. His update includes a chapter on exactly why it is impossible to obtain accurate news reporting from Gaza or just about anywhere else.
The Jewish Press asked Lavie whether he knew if there was an AP ban on quoting Prof. Gerald Steinberg around the time of Operation Cast Lead.
Lavie said he did.
He said he knew there was such a ban because, when he put a quote from Steinberg in one of his articles sometime in 2009, the AP Jerusalem bureau chief made him remove it. That editor then told him that AP reporters “can’t interview Steinberg as an expert because he is identified with the right wing.”
Subsequently it was made clear that NGO Monitor’s reports were not to be quoted, either, because it was pro-Israel or anti-Palestinian or right-wing, however it was put.
It doesn’t get any more unequivocal than that. Steinberg and NGO-Monitor were banned by the AP, at least according to a decades-long AP journalist.
Just to round out the equation, The Jewish Press also looked to see whether former Jerusalem bureau chief Steve Gutkin had made any public comments on the tempest-turned-tornado.