Saturday, May 28th | 28 Iyyar 5782

August 4, 2017 2:11 pm

UK Journalist Tweets Deceit About Israeli Reaction to Saeb Erekat’s Illness

avatar by Adam Levick


PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The consistent failure of British news outlets to inform their readers about the drumbeat of Palestinian incitement — and Palestinian support for violence — is one of the most vexing elements of their reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Despite incontrovertible evidence that is revealed continuously at sites such as Palestinian Media Watch showing PA political and religious leaders inciting extremism and violence (most recently over non-existent threats to Al-Aqsa Mosque), most journalists treat such reports as nothing more than Israeli “hasbara” — “claims.” And the media never cares to scrutinize the truth or falsehood of these important issues.

Conversely, many of these same journalists obsessively highlight every example purporting to show Israelis and Israeli leaders as far-right extremist proponents of violence against Palestinians — a double standard in coverage that grossly distorts news consumers’ understanding of the conflict.

The following tweet by Gregg Carlstrom, who contributes to the Times of London and the Economist, represents an example of this dynamic:

The quote was from a New York Times article by Isabel Kershner, about the illness of Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, who’s suffering from pulmonary fibrosis and in need of a lung transplant. He will most likely seek treatment from Israel or the US. Here’s the paragraph:

Many Israeli officials, people involved in the various rounds of failed negotiations and private citizens had called to wish him a speedy recovery and inquire if they could do anything to help, he said. But some of the messages aired on Israeli news sites were scathing, wishing Mr. Erekat a speedy death and mockingly decrying the possibility that he might be saved by the health system of the state he has disparaged….“A transplant? Forget it,” wrote one reader. “But cigarettes are on me.”

There were two elements of the paragraph that Carlstrom could have highlighted: the fact that many Israeli officials wished Erekat well and asked if they could help, or the fact that some “messages” aired on Israeli news sites “wished him a speedy death.” Carlstrom, of course, chose the latter.

However, if you open the link embedded in the Times article, you’ll see that the “messages” at “Israeli news sites” refers to the talk back section of Yedioth Ahronot — which is found beneath one article about Erekat’s health problems.

At the time of writing, there were 15 messages below the line. Our colleagues at Presspectiva (CAMERA’s Hebrew department) read all the comments, and it turns out that only one (number 6, שייתפגר כבר) wishes death to Erekat.

Of course, as anyone familiar with our work at UK Media Watch already knows, talk back sections at UK sites like the Guardian are often cesspools of hatred — in fact, there is often hate directed toward Jews beneath articles focusing on Israel.  Whilst in the early years of this blog, we often criticzed Guardian comment editors for not removing antisemitic comments (some threatening violence) sooner, we never contextualized the ubiquity of such vitriol and incitement as a commentary on the views of the British people as a whole.

Carlstrom’s egregiously misleading tweet, reinforcing the dominant far-left view that Israeli society is lurching dangerously “right,” is a perfect example of the bias and advocacy journalism that informs British media coverage of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

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