The BBC, CNN and Chen Keinan

June 13, 2002

BBCWATCH.COM

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach three items concerning the BBC and CNN coverage of Israel:

1. An in-depth analysis of seven weeks of BBC coverage at the end of 2001 has been prepared by a London lawyer, Trevor Asserson, and his research assistant, Elisheva Mironi, an Israeli lawyer who has a Masters Degree in Human Rights Law. The full report can be read on www.bbcwatch.com.

For those who don't have time to read it in full, some examples:

When suicide bombers killed 26 Israeli civilians in attacks on Jerusalem and Haifa (December 1-2, 2001), the word 'terror' was used by the BBC ONLY when describing Israel's retaliatory attacks on Palestinian targets (in which hardly anyone was killed): BBC1 news, December 4, 22:00: "Terror overhead in Gaza today and panic below... Israel is pounding Gaza for a second day..."

The report finds that Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel, is treated with undisguised hostility. Vitriolic comment is passed off as fact or as unattributed quotation.

Examples include: "Ariel Sharon has a thick skin and is proud of it." An unattributed comment of this sort is out of place in a factual profile.

"He does not care who loves or hates him." This is an implausible statement about a democratically elected politician, who includes his principle political opponents in his Cabinet and who was voted to power on the basis of a huge swing in popular opinion.

By contrast, Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, is often treated as a noble, dignified and courageous statesman, when in fact, Arafat has ruled in a dictatorial manner, employing many separate police forces, and carrying out torture of detainees, arbitrary arrest, prolonged arbitrary detention, and so on.

"Arafat is, without question, the Palestinian's greatest asset".

"When backs were against the wall ... Arafat never lacked for personal courage".

"Mr Arafat has carried on his shoulders the burden of that struggle [for statehood]".

"His pathological refusal to share power or delegate responsibility has taken a toll on his health and is weakening popular support".

CNN DEBATE EUROPEAN MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE MIDDLE EAST

2. Last week, CNN international ran a half hour "Q & A" discussion program, debating "The European media coverage of the Middle East."

The guests were:
Xavier Solana, Foreign Affairs commissioner of the EU
Peter Beaumont, Foreign Affairs editor of the (London) Observer
David Horovitz, Editor, The Jerusalem Report
and myself

A transcript can be found at
http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0206/06/i_qaa.01.html

Please note there are two errors towards the end of the draft transcript on the CNN website.

(1) It should read "Horovitz", not "Beaumont" in the two paragraphs beginning:

BEAUMONT: Very much because the widespread feeling in Israel is that this intifada is not about occupation at all [ETC]

(2) The word "NOT" was omitted before "helpful or conducive" in the following paragraph:

"GROSS: Well, no one is saying that the entire European media or "The Observer" is anti-Semitic, but there are definitely elements of anti- Semitism that have now come out of the woodwork in the context of Middle East reporting, and it's a very dangerous development for Europe. And it does nothing to promote Middle East peace, in the sense that it puts Israelis up against the wall, feeling besieged, and mistrusting the international community in a way that is NOT helpful or conducive to them voting in Israeli governments that will make the necessary compromises to reach a final peace settlement."

CHEN KEINAN

3. Before the journalists' round table on the European media referred to in the CNN transcript above, CNN aired an interview with Chen Keinan, who lost both her infant daughter and her mother in the recent Petah Tikva ice cream parlor bombing. Keinan says:

"Maybe it's just my personal feeling, but a lot of my friends and I think a lot of Israeli people feel that because of the Holocaust 50 years ago, I understand that they [the Europeans] have a lot of guilt, and that guilt cannot be pent up. And they think that if they look at us in a magnifying glass they're so happy at everything we do oh, Jenin slaughtered. They didn't even check the facts. They want to put us under a magnifying glass because they want to take some of their guilt away, but it will never even up in 1,000 years. Please don't try."

The airing of Keinan's comments makes a welcome change from CNN's previous treatment of her, when CNN replaced an interview with her with an interview with the mother of the terrorist who carried out the murders of her daughter and mother. Please see the following story from Yediot Ahronot, Israel's highest selling daily paper.

-- Tom Gross



CHEN KEINAN: “CNN INTERVIEW ABOUT MY MURDERED DAUGHTER TURNED INTO A SHOW ABOUT THE TERRORIST’S MOTHER”

Chen Keina: CNN interview about my murdered daughter turned into a show about the terrorist's mother"
By Amalia Argaman-Barnea
Yediot Ahronot
June 3, 2002

The parents of the infant Sinai Keinan, who was murdered last week in the terror attack in Petah Tikva, were interviewed last week on CNN, and tearfully told the story of their loss.

When they later viewed the program, they said they were alarmed to see that instead of their story, only the mother of the terrorist who carried out the terror attack appeared on the program.

Last Friday Chen Keinan and her husband Lior were asked to be interviewed on the CNN program called "International Hour". This is a program that is broadcast in many countries all over the world. They were asked to talk about their feelings following the murder of their 14 month old infant daughter, Sinai, and Chen's mother, Ruti Peled, 56, who was also killed in the terror attack.

Chen, who speaks English well, and her husband Lior, already prepared at the hospital, very carefully, the message they wished to convey to the world, and "especially to the Europeans who give legitimacy to terror." Before the taped interview began, Chen was asked to speak, in a live broadcast, to an American broadcast of the network, and among other things, she said: "We love you. Help us as much as you can".

Afterwards the two went for a special interview. The journalist who interviewed them, asked Chen, among other things: "How do you feel"? And she responded with a question: "Do you have a mother? Do you have children"?

"Close your eyes for a minute and imagine that they were murdered in front of your eyes. Only then will you know in what hell I live". Her husband, Lior, showed the journalist the broken parts of Sinai's baby carriage, and all the members of the broadcast team shed tears.

"That same evening", related Chen painfully, "We sat down to watch the special interview with us, and instead, to our amazement, we got only the interview with the mother of the terrorist who carried out the terror attack in which my daughter and mother were murdered".

The terrorist's mother related during the interview, among other things, that before he left on his mission, she gave him her blessings.

"Only the day after were portions of my interview broadcast, in another program, with my statements having been edited", related Chen last night on the Israeli TV show, Documedia. She said that the special interview with her was not even broadcast. She expressed anger about the "unfair and unprofessional" treatment by CNN. Chen said that she expects that in wake of this, the Israeli Foreign Ministry would remove foreign journalists from Israel, as they serve the Palestinian public relations goals.

CNN had made no comment to make.


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