Google News and “Palestinian commandos”

February 04, 2004

CONTENTS

1. Google News and 'Palestinian commandos'
2. Editors in today's International Herald Tribune acknowledge but deny complaint of bias



[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach below a dispatch from HonestReporting.com concerning Google News, the portal which has recently become one of the most influential sources of world news.

SUMMARY

The Google search engine is now the most popular method in the world for finding information online, handling more than 200 million requests a day.

One of the websites that Google News consider a legitimate Mideast news source is "Jihad Unspun," whose articles appear prominently on searches for Israel-related topics on Google News.

Among articles from Jihad Unspun:

* "Zionist Intelligence Engineered Istanbul Blasts" (in reference to the recent suicide bombings at Istanbul synagogues).

* "Resistance Fighters Attack Zionist Vehicles" (i.e., terror attacks on Israeli civilian cars).

* "Zionist Chief of Staff Promises More Suffering for Palestinians."

* "Zionist Terrorist Forces Demolish More Palestinians Homes, Mosque."

* Other conspiracy theories presented on Jihad Unspun include the lie that 9/11 was a Zionist plot.

* All of Israel is referred to as "occupied territory" on Jihad Unspun and all Israelis are "settlers". For example, a report on the closing of the Sbarro pizzeria, site of a suicide bombing in western Jerusalem in August 2001, in which a number of Israeli children were murdered, reads:

"Owners of a Zionist restaurant in central occupied Jerusalem have failed to convince customers to frequent it anew. Clients deserted the 'Subaru' restaurant after a Palestinian commando blew himself up in it about three years ago, killing 17 settlers and wounding tens others."

* Jihad Unspun publishes the writings of the anti-Semite Edgar J. Steele, including an article with passages such as:

It wasn't Arabs who forged the Anne Frank "diary" - it was jews.
It wasn't Arabs who lied about gas chambers at Dachau and Auschwitz - it was jews.
It wasn't Arabs who demolished the World Trade Center - it was jews.
It wasn't Arabs who had Jesus Christ crucified - it was jews.

* The owner and publisher of Jihad Unspun is Khadija Abdul Qahaar, whose original name is Bev Kennedy. Ms Kennedy converted to Islam after 9/11.

HERALD TRIBUNE UPDATE

[This is an update to "As Edited by...'The Herald Tribune'" (January 28, 2004), and "Slightly improved coverage in NYT, IHT, Guardian" (February 2, 2004)]

Today, February 4, after running a letter titled "Reporting on Israel" that made reference to Evelyn Gordon's Jerusalem Post article, the International Herald Tribune published the following:

"The International Herald Tribune is edited in Paris on a schedule that is minimally six hours' ahead of the (New York) Times's. While time zones may affect our content, political considerations do not. Editors of the IHT never alter a story to make it more critical of Israel, nor indeed out of any political consideration. The differences between the versions published in the IHT and New York Times reflect no bias because no bias exists - The Editors."

Tom Gross adds: Predictably, the editors of the New York Times-owned IHT deny any bias, and while there is certainly less bias against Israel in the IHT than in many other papers in Europe and Asia, the editors make no refutation of Evelyn Gordon's specific examples of the differences between IHT and NYT copy in the same articles, differences made to Israel's detriment.

Since Evelyn Gordon's article was published and widely distributed on the Internet, the IHT has begun running photos that humanize the Israeli situation - such as the photo today of four smiling young non-haredi Israeli children (3 girls, one boy) at the kindergarten at Gush Katif in Gaza. In the accompanying article ("In Sharon's move, less concession for peace than preparation for failure") the word terrorist is used without quotes in both the second and penultimate paragraphs, in contrast to general IHT style when referring to Palestinian terrorists in recent years.

Photos in recent days are certainly different from the kind of photos referred to in my note of January 28, as well as such photos as the large photo that the IHT ran at the top of page 1 on January 17, 2004, of Hamas leader Sheik Yassin looking grandfatherly in a mosque next to a young boy. In the article accompanying that photo, the word militant was used instead of terrorist in reference to Hamas, even though Hamas had murdered four Israelis in a suicide bomb attack three days earlier.

-- Tom Gross

 



FULL ARTICLE

JIHAD UNSPUN AND GOOGLE NEWS

Jihad unspun and Google news
By HonestReporting.com

The Google search engine is the most popular method in the world for finding information online, handling more than 200 million search requests a day. Building on their success, Google has now developed Google News (www.news.google.com), a portal that is quickly becoming one of the most influential sources of world news.

Here's how it works: Google News has accepted thousands of news sources for inclusion in a pool, which Google's computer continually scans by algorithm to group articles by topic. When the user types in a search word, such as 'Israel', Google News presents links to hundreds of relevant news stories on that topic. (Greater prominence is given to articles more recently released, and more popular online.)

But with the proliferation of vitriolic anti-Israel and anti-Semitic material on the web (the number of neo-Nazi websites in Germany, for example, has tripled in the past four years) and much of it deliberately disguised in 'news format', the question is: What does Google News consider a legitimate news source - as opposed to fiction or propaganda? The Google News website states only:

While the sources of the news vary in perspective and editorial approach, their selection for inclusion is done without regard to political viewpoint or ideology.

This goal to present a broad spectrum of viewpoints is praiseworthy, but HonestReporting is concerned with Google News' acceptance of one particular site - Jihad Unspun - as Mideast 'news', despite the site's record of blatantly distorting established facts, glorifying terror, and publishing highly defamatory anti-Semitic material. Jihad Unspun's articles appear prominently on searches for Israel-related topics on Google News. But click through, and this is what Jihad Unspun serves up:

Outrageous 'Zionist conspiracy theories', such as the canard that 9/11 was a sinister Zionist plot, as were the recent Istanbul bombings: 'Zionist Intelligence Engineered Istanbul Blasts'.

The authors generally refuse to call Israel by name, employing instead the terms 'Zionist forces' and 'Hebrew state'. Some examples:

'Resistance Fighters Attack Zionist Vehicles' (i.e., deadly terror attacks on Israeli civilian cars)
'Zionist Chief of Staff Promises More Suffering for Palestinians'
'Hebrew State Refuses British Involvement'
'Zionist Terrorist Forces Demolish More Palestinians Homes, Mosque'

All of Israel is referred to as 'occupied territory' and all Israelis are 'settlers'. For example, a report on the closing of the Sbarro's pizzeria, site of the horrific 2001 bombing, reads:

Owners of a Zionist restaurant in central occupied Jerusalem have failed to convince customers to frequent it anew. Clients deserted the 'Subaru' restaurant after a Palestinian commando blew himself up in it about three years ago, killing 17 settlers and wounding tens others.

The site publishes the writings of the rabidly anti-Semitic Edgar J. Steele, including an article with these passages:

It isn't Arabs rigging the US stock market and commodities futures markets - it is jews.
It wasn't Arabs who sent our military into Afghanistan and Iraq - it was jews
It wasn't Arabs who forged the Anne Frank "diary" - it was jews.
It wasn't Arabs who lied about gas chambers at Dachau and Auschwitz - it was jews.
It wasn't Arabs who demolished the World Trade Center - it was jews.
It wasn't Arabs who had Jesus Christ crucified - it was jews.

The owner and publisher of Jihad Unspun is Khadija Abdul Qahaar (a.k.a. Bev Kennedy), who converted to Islam after 9/11, became an advocate for its most radical fringe, then launched the website without any journalistic credentials.

While the site is duly protected by the First Amendment (we found no overt calls to murder), the material Jihad Unspun publishes does not meet a reasonable definition of 'news', but is rather anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda that masquerades as news. Google News recognizes this loophole in its system - in March of last year Google News responded to an email campaign protesting the inclusion of the radical Indymedia site (where the term 'Zionazis' was prevalent), and removed Indymedia from their service.

With the highly influential Google News still a work-in-progress (it remains in experimental 'beta' mode), HonestReporting encourages subscribers to write to Google News at news-feedback@google.com, encouraging the removal of Jihad Unspun from their list of legitimate news sites. Though the goal of providing a spectrum of news sources is laudable, hateful propaganda has no place on Google News.


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