Sunday, May 2, 2010

Biased Associated Press Article: Mideast talks get Arab OK

PRIMER has begun analyzing all articles relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict on a separate blog Eye On The Hartford Courant. This Associated Press article, which appeared in many other papers with slight variations, is the first to be analyzed on Eye On The Hartford Courant. We include most of that analysis here.

The article is available on The Courant's web site. The published version ends with the paragraph "On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the talks would resume, and U.S. envoy George Mitchell is expected back in the region soon." The version on the web site contains a few more paragraphs.

The article mostly reported on the Arab League endorsement of indirect talks between the Palestinian Arabs and Israel, but included the opinions of the writer, Hadeel Al-Shalchi, although the writer was not given a byline in The Hartford Courant. (The same article appeared with his byline elsewhere.)

Some of the opinions were innocuous and merely a breech of the separation of news and commentary in responsible journalism while others repeated the Arab position.

Lack of Balance: The article presented the opinions of several Arabs, including Mahmoud Abbas and Amr Moussa, but did not include the opinion of a single Israeli. (The version in The Waterbury Republican-American also quoted Hanan Ashrawi.)

Opinion: The first sentence in the article reads "Arab nations Saturday endorsed indirect peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis, a move that likely paves the way for the start of long-stalled U.S.-brokered negotiations."

This inappropriately presents the author's opinion regarding a possible consequence of the Arab League endorsement.

Omission, Lack of Balance: The second paragraph refers to negotiations breaking down "amid Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip" but omits the context of that offensive, eight years of Kassam rockets launched at Israeli civilians by Arab terrorists in Gaza.

The entire article omits the most crucial fact, that it has been the Palestinian Arabs who have adamantly refused to negotiate.

Omission, Inaccuracies: The third paragraph is misleading and arguably incorrect. It reads "The green light from Arab foreign ministers comes after a first attempt to get indirect talks going collapsed in March when Israel announced a new Jewish housing project in east Jerusalem."

The attempt in March certainly did collapse, but that wasn't the first attempt. Both Israel and the United States have been attempted to get talks restarted constantly, but the Palestinian Arabs have foiled every attempt.

Inaccuracies, Opinion: The article also implies the collapse was caused by announcement about future construction in Jerusalem, again inappropriately inserting an opinion in a news article, while falsely referring to the housing as being in "east Jerusalem;" the planned housing, a routine addition to an existing neighborhood, is actually in northern Jerusalem.

Omission, Opinion, Lack of Balance: The following paragraph also inappropriately included the writer's opinion in saying "The Israeli decision enraged Palestinians," while one-sidedly stating the Palestinian Arabs claim the area "as a future capital" while omitting any reference to Israeli claims.

Omission, Opinion, Lack of Balance: The next two paragraphs also inappropriately inject the writer's opinions and in writing "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has signaled that he is willing to resume negotiations" the writer also omits the numerous statements by Abbas that he will not negotiate unless Israel meets preconditions and his continued refusal to negotiate directly.

Opinion, Lack of Balance: The paragraph "Arab League chief Amr Moussa stressed Saturday that the league would be keeping a close eye on the talks and said there will be no transition from indirect to direct negotiations. Arabs want a total freeze in settlement building before returning to direct talks" again injects the writer's opinion while also being self-contradictory, one the one hand reporting Moussa saying there will not be direct negotiations while in the following paragraph implying otherwise, providing Israel complies with the precondition of freezing building in and of Jewish communities in the disputed territory along with its capital.

We close with a personal opinion:

It is highly unlikely the Palestinian Arabs will agree to serious, direct negotiations. It is far more likely they will find yet another pretext for breaking off talks and then try to get the world to blame Israel.

If Abbas does not torpedo the talks in the next four months, they will reach a critical moment in September, when the Israeli freeze on construction in the disputed territories ends.

The Obama Administration will almost certainly pressure Israel to extend the freeze and Abbas will torpedo the talks if Israel doesn't cave in.

At that point, the Obama Administration will be faced with a choice: Continue repeating the mistakes which have rewarded the Palestinian Arabs for their extremism, rejectionism and refusal to even negotiate directly with Israel, or finally become an honest broker, give Abbas the White House phone number and tell him to call if he's ever ready to enter serious, direct negotiations with Israel, including obvious compromises on the part of the Palestinian Arabs such as abandoning their ludicrous demands for a "right-of-return" and making Jerusalem a divided city.

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