Media Watch


In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article about improving relations between Israel and certain Islamic countries, Dion Nissenbaum, a Knight Ridder reporter, wrote: "The thaw may be reaping benefits for Israel, but it is not without risks for the Arab and Muslim leaders who have been buffeted by criticism in their own countries."

Nissenbaum considered it self-evident that improved relations with Israel was a threat to Arab leaders trying to bring their own nations into the 21st century. Their problem is not poverty, ignorance and Islamo-fascism. Israel is the problem. How is it that such a statement in a news story requires no "source." If this piece were labeled "opinion," there would be no need of a source. Here, it's necessary. But to the Inquirer, such a specious assertion is a fact.

This is not an exception. In coverage of the attacks on Amman hotels by Al Qaeda-linked terrorists, the Inquirer characterized the environment in which the attacks occurred.

In a Nov. 11 report by Michael Matza, the story described Jordan as "the most moderate Arab regime in the Middle East, a relative haven locked in a dangerous neighborhood among Israel, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia."

By listing Israel as a source of trouble along with the other countries mentioned, the Inquirer substituted an "axis of moral equivalence" for the real "axis of evil" that is the source of terror.

Iraq was the source of the bombers, who, as is their custom, took credit for the carnage.

Syria is a despotic dictatorship that has been a safe haven and transit route for foreign fighters murdering Iraqi civilians and coalition troops alike.

Saudi Arabia is the homeland of most of the Sept. 11 terrorists and the birthplace of master terrorist Osama Bin Laden. It is a major funding source for radical Islamists throughout the world.

"Moderate Jordan" joined the PLO, Yemen and the Sudan in 1990, supporting Saddam's Iraq in the first Gulf War.

By contrast, Israel came to Jordan's aid in 1970, when the Hashemite Kingdom was threatened by radical Palestinians and Syrian tanks. Israel has a formal peace agreement with Jordan and is effectively a de facto ally, not another dangerous neighbor.

Jordan is more threatened by the prospects of a radical Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza, and by Iranian nuclear weapons, than it is by democratic Israel. But neither Iran nor "Palestine" made it to the Inquirer's version of the "axis of evil."

What can account for such a decision? Can it be that reporters and editors have internalized years of subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, bias, too often trading truth for their view of balance?

After all, if those killing Israelis are not terrorists, according to the Inquirer (which prefers terms such as militants), then Israeli acts to restrain the killers such as checkpoints (which Jordan itself used after the Amman bombings) become "humiliations," not defensive measures.

Later in November, the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah initiated more violence on the Lebanese border. "Hezbollah guerrillas," the Inquirer wrote, "fired mortars and rockets at Israeli troops in a disputed border area."

These Arabs, the Inquirer explained, believe Israel should have abandoned Shebaa farms as part of the Lebanese withdrawal. Never mentioned was that the United Nations Security Council verified that Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon was complete and endorsed Israel's position.

On Nov. 23, the Security Council again faulted Hezbollah for starting the fighting. That, too, was not reported by the Inquirer, which, instead, in a headline, blamed an errant Israeli hang glider for subsequent renewed fighting.

This column was written by John Cohn, M.D., for the Israel Advocacy Task Force of the Israel Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.



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