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January 12, 2016 7:47 am

The Associated Press Has a Clear and Dangerous Anti-Israel Bias

avatar by Manfred Gerstenfeld

Email a copy of "The Associated Press Has a Clear and Dangerous Anti-Israel Bias" to a friend
Israeli ZAKA volunteers at the scene of a stabbing attack in Hebron. Photo: Courtesy ZAKA.

Israeli ZAKA volunteers at the scene of a stabbing attack in Hebron. Photo: Courtesy ZAKA.

The ability to manipulate language is crucial if a journalist wants to transmit a biased message. Apparently, Associated Press journalists have both the ability to manipulate language and guidelines that are driving them to do so. The AP seemingly believes that Palestinians can never be terrorists, regardless of how many Israeli soldiers and civilians they kill or attempt to kill.

One wonders whether journalists new to the AP’s Israel office get an introductory session where they are told that they must not make use of the words “Palestinian terrorists.” It seems, however, that the AP will let its reporters quote an Israeli official saying that a perpetrator of a terror attack is a “terrorist” — so long as the journalist does not use such incendiary terminology himself.  The same goes for terms such as “Palestinian attackers” and “assailants.”

Perhaps newcomers are also offered a convenient list of AP-approved synonyms for describing murderous activities by Palestinians that sidestep what the terrorists actually do: murder others, particularly civilians, out of ideological motives. Thus the Palestinian killer of Israelis becomes, in the agency’s jargon, a Palestinian extremist, militant, gunman, lone wolf or rebel. The United States considers Hamas and Hezbollah to be terrorist groups. They are on the list of foreign terror organizations prepared by the US Department of State, as well as the governments of France, Canada and Australia. The EU considers both to be terrorist organizations as well. Despite this official categorization, the AP commonly refers to Hamas and Hezbollah as “militant” organizations.

One might wrongly assume that the AP believes it is impossible for Muslim murderers to be terrorists. Yet when spouses Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik shot 14 civilians dead in San Bernardino, California, on December 2, 2015, apparently without the direct support of any organization, the AP showed no such restraint.  It described them as terrorists, without quotation marks. It did not term them “gunmen” or “lone wolves.”

AP reporters covering members of the Pakistan-based Muslim terror group that carried out the 2006 Mumbai attacks, killing more than 160 people, also described them unequivocally as terrorists, again without quotation marks. The AP also used this term for the ISIS-backed terrorists who perpetrated a series of attacks in Paris in November 2015 that killed 130 people. Even Richard Reid, the Muslim “Shoe Bomber” who was caught before he managed to commit an intended act of terror on a 2001 flight, was described as a “terrorist plotter,” without quotation marks, by the AP.

The large international news agencies are a major source of information abroad concerning Israel. Their bulletins are used by many media channels worldwide, and when this information is disproportionally and incorrectly negative about Israel, the impact of that negativity has far-reaching consequences on a global level. It is therefore hugely important to expose double standards in their reporting.

There is much more to say about the special set of semantics that the AP uses in anything to do with Israel. In 2001, 16-year-old Shoshana Ben-Yishai was murdered in a random Palestinian terrorist attack in Jerusalem. With complete irrelevance to the attack, the AP described the victim as a “settler,” because she lived in Beitar Illit, roughly one mile away from the Green Line. Furthermore, the AP went on to describe the Israeli civilian who shot and killed Ben-Yishai’s terrorist murderer as a “West Bank settler,” again information totally irrelevant to the attack itself — which took place in Israel’s capital. HonestReporting rightly noted that “labeling Israelis as anything less than “civilians” suggests that they are combatants, and helps legitimize Palestinian attacks against them.”

Manipulating headlines is another well-known technique used to distort news reporting. At the height of the Second Intifada in 2002, the AP reported on two incidents involving Palestinian terrorists on the same day. In one incident, a Palestinian terrorist opened fire at random in downtown Jerusalem, wounding eight Israelis. That same day, Israel uncovered a Hamas bomb factory in the West Bank and killed the four terrorists who operated it. The AP headline for that day was “Israel Kills 4, Palestinian Wounds 8.” In another incident several days later, a Palestinian terrorist used a stolen car to run over police, soldiers and pedestrians before being shot. The AP headline for this incident: “Palestinian shot dead in Tel Aviv.”

In view of the many bulletins the AP puts out about events concerning Israel and the way it influences worldwide perception of Israel’s actions, a detailed study is needed to investigate the AP’s editorial policies in far more depth than has been done to date. Former AP journalist Matti Freedman published inside information that indicated a structural prejudice against Israel in the agency. A major media outlet with bias against Israel should be analyzed by the Israeli authorities like any other hostile force.

One can only wonder what would happen if exposure of the AP was moved up to the government level. How would the AP react if the Israeli government spokesperson opened every press conference with a list of the biased semantics and headlines used by AP since the previous press conference? How many times would such public and detailed exposure be needed before the AP headquarters realized that its manipulations were now transparent and must be discontinued in order to maintain any journalistic credibility?

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  • Yeshayahu Hollander

    An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth
    A former AP correspondent explains how and why reporters get Israel so wrong, and why it matters
    By Matti Friedman|August 26, 2014 12:00 AM

    [and see


    An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth
    A former AP correspondent explains how and why reporters get Israel so wrong, and why it matters
    By Matti Friedman|August 26, 2014 12:00 AM

    and see

  • Abigail Hirsch

    I love Manfred Gerstenfeld. He is so well informed and always has a suggestion re how to deal these offenders.

    Bravo, Now lets get going.

  • There are other news media. Throug them out of Israel because they are anti semites and many live very comfortable with the security Israel provides. just like the UN many of them speak against the USA but live well in this country.

  • Paul Leslie

    There is no question that there is a degree of bias within the higher echelons of the AP where coverage of Israeli relations with Palestinian Arabs is concerned and this seems to have got worse over the years – as illustrated by the authoritative testimony of former staffer Matt Friedman.

    Taking all this into account, however, not only are other press agencies like AFP far worse, but the AP has several serious-minded and honest journalists and some of these still contribute illuminating and fair-minded articles about the Israel Arab conflict. Dr. Gerstenfeld’s attack on the AP is therefore somewhat excessive.

    Regarding the frequent reluctance to use the term “terrorist” to refer to Palestinian murderers and attempted murderers, this is also generally the case in much of the Israeli media – including the Times of Israel and the Jerusalem, not usually given to anti-Zionist propaganda. Because of this state of affairs, I think that it is often not worth protesting, except in cases of clears double standards where the word is used in connection with outrages against other countries’ citizens, but not when Israelis are victims of these.

    P.S. In one of its French language reports, “Pleins feux sur le jihad mondial”,, the highly respected Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (sic) uses the word “activists” in referring to would-be jihadis.

  • Robert Davis

    Israel’s arch stupid “leaders” should use a special language too in order to approve ap in Israel andf as long as those infamous journalists do not use the word terrorist their rags should NOT be approved for editing.Igf the PM does not comply and keeps refusing to defend Israel’sz interests in particular by claiming Israel’s sovereignty over all of Western Palestine he should be replaced by a rightwing PM.

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    To maintain any journalistic credibility, the Associated Press needs to revamp its approach to drawing up headlines in addition to content on Israeli issues. There needs to be truth, fact, uniformity, relevance, honesty, probity, fairness, and prudence in presenting the actual, real factual events in the news. Anything less than complete integrity in the presentation of issues regarding Israel should be discounted as sensationalist reporting.

  • Josephine Bacon

    AP journalists and all other foreign news bureaux employees all talk to each other, drink at the same water holes, etc., and are all no doubt influenced by the strong anti-Israel bias of the BBC’s news bureau in Jerusalem, a bureau which covers the entire Middle East, incidentally, even Iran, since Israel is the only safe place from which to broadcast! Ironic, isn’t it?

  • Sven

    I seem to recall that the AP belongs to Kuwait or Kuwaitis. This shouldn’t be hard to check out and would explain what the article reports.

  • Holy Shirt

    The two western nations most blocking the reborn Islamic caliphate are Torah-based United States and Jewish State.
    Mainstream media’s turn to the Far Left is no accident.
    If you think William Randolph Hearst’s crazy socialist revolutionary heiress, Patricia, just rode off into the sunset after her family bribed her way out of a trial for bank robbery, your ability to think critically is so limited you would buy Saddam Hussein, Bashir Assad and Barack Obama are Christians; and Vladmir Putin and Pope Francis are Jewish. Ever expanding the empire as older relatives died off, UPI’s submission to AP left a single owner press union vacillating between Uneeda Pressmore Irrational and Afullcourt Press.

  • Gary Dalin

    AP’s credentials as press should be pulled in Israel. Rather, it should be labeled a propaganda org. And banned. It will send a message the the Telegraph and NYT et al.

  • Keith

    I agree with these observations. I believe your arguments would be even stronger if you were able to cite more recent examples like the horrid reporting from 2001 and 2002

  • reuven

    The AP office in Israel should be closed. Netanyahu is a useless politician

  • Andria Switzer

    What a great idea-so start now, someone who can read hebrew as well as English and Arabic would be best, and document the bias, the semantics. Get the government to name the journalist and the paper or news service that demonstrates bias. Its long overdue. Everyone knows too many journalists sit in Israel and “create news” but don’t report it.

  • the Golum

    JUst more blatant Anti-Semitism and anti Israel by the Media…yet the Jews are still accused of owning all the media!!!

  • Paul la Demain

    The time has come for Israel’s news media to take off their gloves and take an open and explicit stand against Reuters and the A/P for the reasons stated. One need not be a Jew to grasp the purpose of Reuters and the A/P. Begin by naming the agency that directs the bias and the names of the guilty agent provocateurs. Tell them what to do. Don’t say pretty-please. Tell these failed human beings to stop sowing the seeds for WWIII because their blood will fill the streets along with the blood of the innocent women and children these despicable “journalists” are truing to get killed. Name these despicables. Shame them. Ridicule them.


    Well spoken. As was once said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” You’ve shown how true that is.