The NY Times’ idea of democracy; the BBC’s idea of balance

March 19, 2004


1. The New York Times Forgets Israel is a Democracy
2. The BBC and 'Freedom Fighters'
3. Fresh Voices From The Arab World Reassess the General Policy of Blaming Israel for everything
4. The Financial Times and 'Militants'
5. The Financial Times and Majdanek Concentration Camp
6. The Guardian and Those Raping Israelis
7. The Guardian, the Madrid Bombings and Attacking Israel
8. Swedish Troops Shoot With Live Ammunition
9. Systematic Rape In The Sudan


[Note by Tom Gross]


Following a letter published in the New York Times-owned International Herald Tribune asking why New York Times articles published in the IHT kept referring to the fact that Iraq might become the first democracy in the Middle East, and after other similar complaints, the New York Times printed the following:

Correction, New York Times, March 14:

"An article last Sunday about attempts to create democracy in Iraq misstated the precedent in the Mideast. Iraq would become the region's second functioning democracy, after Israel, not its first."

The Backspin website adds: "The oversight would be understandable if this weren't a defining characteristic of the entire Mideast -- Israel, the region's pariah, perennial scapegoat, and (not coincidentally) only democracy. This was like a Mideast reporter forgetting that there's oil in the region."



Yesterday (March 18, 2004), the BBC's influential "Today" program debated an issue close to its heart: "In the aftermath of the Madrid bombings, we discuss the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist."

These were the two panelists chosen by the BBC to debate this subject:

Leila Khaled, the notorious PLO airplane hijacker and hostage-taker of the 1970s (whom the British government later secretly released from prison in a deal with the PLO in what has been described as one of the most shameful acts of appeasement since the Second World War), and IRA publicity head Danny Morrison.

Melanie Phillips adds: "This is the BBC's idea of balance -- two apologists for terror, in earnest discussion."



Jordan's Planning Minister said last week: "Many countries in the Arab world have used the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue as an excuse not to advance reforms in their own countries... you cannot wait until the Arab-Israeli conflict is solved before you start implementing the necessary reforms."

Khaled Jalabi says in Saudi Arabia's Al-Watan newspaper: "At first glance, it appears that Israel endured the humiliation of conducting negotiations with a faction and not a state, with the aim of freeing one individual in exchange for hundreds of prisoners... On a pure arithmetic reckoning, the meaning is that Israel viewed the three corpses and the one living man as being equivalent to any number of people... the moral is that, in Israel's view, the life of an Israeli, even one of Arab origin, is considered invaluable. In contrast, an Arab citizen can be thrown in prison for having surfed on the opposition's Web site... that shows how much a citizen's life is worth in the eyes of Arab regimes."



Yesterday, the influential Financial Times newspaper finally published the following letter:

Letters To The Editor:
Please explain this double standard
Financial Times
March 18, 2004

Sir, Can someone explain the double standard whereby the bombings in Spain were carried out by "terrorists", but suicide bombings in Israel are carried out by "militants"? (Reports, March 15.)

Leonard Klahr, London N3 3DT



The Financial Times has been inundated with such letters, but has not changed its policy in its news coverage of singling out suicide attacks against Israel as not being terror attacks, nor has it printed past letters criticizing this.

Here is an example of a letter by a subscriber to this email list, Paul Singer, which was not published by the Financial Times.

November 11, 2003
New York


Your correspondent Harvey Morris describes the terrorist groups who have been engaged in an onslaught against Israeli civilians as "Militant groups" ("Arafat triumphs as PA government is appointed," World News, page 4, November 10, 2003).

But in the articles directly above Mr. Morris's on the same page, your correspondent Mark Husband refers in his opening words to "the terrorist onslaught" that Saudi Arabia is suffering ("'Crusader' westerners and Arabian 'tyrants' placed in line of fire,") and your correspondent Roula Khalaf uses terms such as "terrorist suspects" to describe those responsible for bombs in Saudi Arabia ("Bombings step up the pressure on Saudi regime," World News, page 4, November 10, 2003).

It is bad enough that so much of your editorial and comment pages are taken up with Israel bashing articles, such as the piece by Philip Stephens, "The reality and rhetoric of America's unlearnt lessons," (Comment page, November 7, 2003).

But on your news pages, the continuing double standards by your correspondents, and the editors on your foreign desk, do nothing to further the Financial Times's reputation as an impartial newspaper.

Yours sincerely,
Paul Singer

Tom Gross adds: Also yesterday (March 18 2004), the Financial Times ran an Editorial titled "On terror, we are all on the same side" but then went on to offer no sympathy to Israel, the country whose civilians have endured the greatest number of terror attacks, but instead criticized Ariel Sharon in the editorial (but not Yasser Arafat or Hamas).



On Monday October 6 2003, the editors of the Financial Times -- which chose that day not to publish on its front page any photo of the Haifa restaurant devastated in a suicide bomb the previous day, nor of any of the funerals of the many Israeli Jews and Arabs who died in that attack, nor of the 3 year-old-Israeli boy who remained in critical condition at a Haifa hospital -- printed a letter titled "Wall of shame" comparing Majdanek concentration camp with Israel's security fence (the word Holocaust being published by the Financial Times without a capital H, contrary to the generally accepted usage of the term.)



Yesterday (Thursday March 18, 2004), The Guardian ran a Comment piece titled "By any means necessary" by Ghada Karmi, in which (among other conspiracy theories and distortions she propagates), she writes: "For those who have forgotten or never understood what Zionism meant in practice... rape and massacre."

Ghada Karmi is research fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, at the University of Exeter, in England. (The University of Exeter is one of several British universities that receive substantial funding form the Saudi and other Arab governments.)



In fact, the Israeli-Palestinian is one of the few armed conflicts that has not been characterized by rape. For example, the UN coordinator in Sudan, where over 1 million Christians have been ethnically cleansed by Arab militias in recent months (as not covered by CNN, BBC, NPR, etc) today accused the Arab "government-backed" militias of carrying out "scorched earth policies, and systematic rape" against Black Sudanese Christians.



The morning after last Thursday's Madrid bombings, Europe's worst terrorist attack since Lockerbie, The Guardian's editorial waited only until its second paragraph to attack Israel:

"Life stopped in the winter drizzle of Madrid yesterday. Offices, shops and cafes emptied, as funeral candles were lit in moving scenes of solidarity... If cities across Europe were waking up to the fact that they were as much in the crosshairs of an attack on this scale, as New York or Washington were, the Israeli mass circulation Yedioth Ahronoth could not restrain itself: "Welcome to the real world", it declared unsubtlely.

"But which real world? The world in which neighbourhoods are razed, water supplies cut off, children shot, in thinly disguised acts of collective retribution? ..."

Tom Gross adds: Israel has not shot children in thinly disguised acts of collective retribution, as implied by The Guardian.

Andrew Sullivan writes:

"Notice how the Guardian instinctively, viscerally, blames the victim, Israel, for the terrorism that has plagued it for so long. For in the Guardian's view, the democracies are always wrong; and the terrorists always have a point. Alas, the measures the Guardian refers to are a few of the most extreme tactics that the Israeli government has deployed in an attempt to stop the constant stream of atrocities wrought upon the only democracy in the Middle East. They are not acts of indiscriminate "collective retribution"--nor, as the Guardian implies, deliberate attempts to kill children--but bids to stem the tide of murder flooding into Israel's streets and mass transportation systems.

"In Europe, there are no bad guys, even those who deliberately murdered almost 200 innocents and threaten to murder countless more. Ask yourself: If the Guardian cannot call these people "bad guys," then who qualifies? And if the leaders of democratic societies cannot qualify in this context as "good guys," then who qualifies? What we have here is complete moral nihilism in the face of unspeakable violence."



Yesterday, Swedish troops used life ammunition against Albanians in Kosovo - although it is difficult to tell this from the headlines or photographs in many papers today. Sweden has been one of the leading countries to denounce Israel for using "excessive force," as well as funding exhibits glorifying Palestinian suicide bombers (See dispatches on this list from January.)

There were few photos, if any, in today's newspapers of the churches burned down by "Albanian Moslems" in Kosovo yesterday, or of the Serb dead, let alone of the Sudan. Instead, the International Herald Tribune today again runs a large photo of Palestinians protesting Israel's separation barrier. A headline in the Independent (London) refers today to "Sharon's giant fence."

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.