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Eldad Tzioni

French Press Offers a Perfect Case Study in Anti-Israel Reporting

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Posted on January 27 2011 4:20 pm
Eldad Tzioni has blogged as The Elder of Ziyon since 2004.

One does not have to look hard to find anti-Israel bias in the wire services. In fact, once you know about the anti-Israel memes that the media uses, one has to look hard to avoid biased news articles.

Here is a case in point, from AFP. Just the first paragraph has enough bias and distortion to keep us busy for a while:

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Jewish settlers are to expand a housing scheme being built on the site of an historic east Jerusalem hotel which was razed by Israel sparking global anger, a city official said on Thursday.

Let’s start from the top.

“Jewish settlers:” While the term is technically accurate — after all, the original Zionists who built Tel Aviv were also considered “settlers” — nowadays it implies Jews who are living in the so-called “occupied territories” and who are doing something vaguely “illegal.” In other words, the term “settler” has turned into a pejorative term, and its use by a news source is never value-neutral.

A neutral, and accurate, term would be “Israeli Jews.”

“A housing scheme:” Why did AFP choose the word “scheme” rather than the word “plan”?

The answer is simple: “Scheme” connotes something underhanded, something vaguely immoral, something that people should be ashamed of. Put it together with the word “Jewish” and things start to really get juicy!

The truth is that there is nothing underhanded about the Shepherd Hotel. It was legally bought by a deeply Zionist Jew in the 1980s and the plan to allow Jews to live there has been publicly known for just as long. All the paperwork was completed and the project approved last March. The plan couldn’t have been more public.

An historic east Jerusalem hotel:” The Shepherd Hotel was built in the 1930s. In a land where one can stumble across thousand-year-old Crusader fortresses and even older mosques and synagogues, it might as well have been built yesterday. There is nothing “historic” about it.

Well, that’s not quite true. The building was originally built as a villa for the genocidal Mufti of Jerusalem, a man who helped Hitler implement the “Final Solution” to kill all of the world’s Jews. The Mufti was also behind the Arab riots of the 1920s and 1930s, which ended up being disastrous for the Arabs with thousands of casualties. He was one of the most evil people of the 20th century. Calling his former villa “historic” gives the Mufti far more honor than he deserves. Yet that is exactly how Palestinian Arabs are referring to it — and how AFP does, as well.

Which was razed by Israel sparking global anger:” From this paragraph, do you get the impression that the hotel has been used recently? In fact, it was an eyesore; stuck behind barbed wire, decaying and run down. Any city would want to destroy a building like that. The “global anger” came from people who do not want Jews to live in parts of Jerusalem.

In any other context, that attitude would be considered apartheid. In Israel, the world considers this “peaceful.”

(In addition, AFP makes a factual error: only the right side of the structure was razed, not the entire building. Shouldn’t a reporter know that?)

This bias that is so pronounced in just a single paragraph of a major news service story is hardly unusual. What makes it so insidious is that these memes are repeated so often, by so many different media outlets and politicians, that they have taken on the aura of truth. I do not believe that the AFP reporter and editors in this case are consciously thinking about choosing these phrases; the bias is so ingrained that they cannot even hope to notice it on their own. They honestly think that they are unbiased and that their words reflect the truth.

The cumulative effect of such unthinking bias is devastating. An entire generation has been raised without even a thought that the news media might not reflect the truth about Israel. This subconsciously turns much of today’s youth against Israel, and they don’t even realize that they have been denied the other side of the story.

Not that any of this would make AFP’s editors sleep any less soundly at night.

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