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April 20, 2016 5:17 pm

Media Watchdogs Blast ‘Salon’ for ‘Gross Misrepresentation’ of State Department Report on Israel

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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Salon staff writer Ben Norton. Photo: Facebook.

Salon staff writer Ben Norton. Photo: Facebook.

Two media-monitoring organizations expressed outrage against the current affairs website Salon on Wednesday for its description of the State Department’s latest report on Israel’s human rights record.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and HonestReporting — whose self-described purpose is “defending Israel from media bias” — railed against a piece that appeared Monday in the news outlet by political staff writer Ben Norton, titled: “US acknowledges Israel’s unlawful killings, excessive force, torture, discrimination against Palestinians.”

According to Norton, the State Department’s 2015 Country Report on Human Rights Practices “thoroughly details how the Israeli government discriminates against Palestinians in almost every aspect of society.”

He stated, as well, “The US also confirms that Israeli government forces are responsible for unlawful killings and the use of excessive force and torture against Palestinians,” and “The report documents Israel’s violent repression of Palestinian journalists and peaceful activists. It also addresses the hundreds of attacks on Palestinian civilians each year by extremist Israeli settlers, who are guaranteed almost complete impunity.”

According to CAMERA senior research analyst Steven Stotsky, this depiction is utterly inaccurate. “Norton grossly misrepresents the tone and content of the State Department report,” Stotsky told The Algemeiner. “His overall characterization of the report as showing comprehensive discrimination against Palestinians is a distorted reading of what is actually written, and his claim that the State Department ‘confirms’ that the Israeli government is responsible for unlawful killings and the use of excessive force and torture is nowhere to be found.”

Stotsky added, “In a series of articles evaluating Norton’s writings on Israel for Salon, CAMERA has documented a clear pattern of distortions and falsehoods that has the cumulative effect of a continuing diatribe against the Jewish state. In a recent piece, CAMERA demonstrated that the specific attacks Norton repeatedly levels against Israel closely match up with ‘Key Points’ published in a media advisory by the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Information Office.”

HonestReporting managing editor Simon Plosker was equally harsh in his critique. “Salon‘s writer appears to have taken a perverse pleasure in cherry-picking the State Department’s report in order to focus on Israel’s imperfections,” he told The Algemeiner. “While the State Department catalogs potential issues, it does so precisely because these are deviations from Israel’s strong democratic ideals and laws, which it includes in the report. Salon presents these deviations as the norm, to create an entirely decontextualized and false image of Israel as a serial human-rights abuser.”

The annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – according to the State Department website, “cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements. The U.S. Department of State submits reports on all countries receiving assistance and all United Nations member states to the U.S. Congress in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trade Act of 1974.”

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