Blinded in Gaza: The “Liberal” Media’s Seeing Eye Dogma

The barks of pro-Israel media “watchdog” groups like CAMERA (Committee for  Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), The Israel Project , and the meretriciously monikered website HonestReporting have  echoed the Israeli government’s talking points about the Israeli navy’s attack on half a dozen civilian ships bringing aid to Gaza,  in defiance of an Israeli blockade.

But if you’ve been looking to the so-called “liberal” media for more balanced coverage of the events as they’ve unfolded in the international waters off the Gaza coast, you’ve probably gotten the yip-yap of a pro-Israel poodle.

As usual, the “fool’s gold” standard, at the core of most news  coverage in the “no sooner done than said” era, begins (and too often ends) with the Associated Press.  AP entrusted it initial Gaza  report to Amy Teibel and Tia Goldenberg.  Teibel , who provides a a good deal of  AP’s Israel coverage, is  not on CAMERA’s list of journalists who arouse  its ire.    That’s not to say that Teibel is immune from scrutiny or censure by the “guardians of Israel,” some of it bordering on the bizarre.  Neverthless, her articles earn her an occasional whimper,  while some of her  AP colleagues  get a nasty snarl.

Teibel’s co-author, Tia Goldenberg, also isn’t on CAMERA’s journalistic hit list. Goldenberg  is a Canadian-born Israeli  and a former  intern  for the Canadian Jewish Congress.   More to the point, either unnoticed or deliberately ignored by most newspapers, is that Goldenberg  was reporting on the Gaza flotilla’s destruction from the Israeli warship INS Kidon.   Not much chance of Goldenberg screwing the pooch, at least not from an Israeli perspective.

Reuters coverage of the confrontation between Israeli forces and the Gaza convoy has been authored or co-authored by Jeffrey Heller,  currently the editor-in-charge  of Reuters’ Jerusalem bureau. It’s instructive to contrast the development throughout the day in Heller’s online Feed with the one released later in the day.

In his first Feed entry today, Heller had written:

Israeli commandos stormed a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships on Monday and more than 10 of the mostly international activists aboard were killed, provoking a diplomatic crisis and Palestinian charges of a “massacre.”

The violent end to a Turkish-backed attempt to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip by six ships carrying some 600 people and 10,000 tonnes of supplies raised an outcry across the Middle East and far beyond.

As the navy escorted the vessels into Israel’s port of Ashdod, accounts remained sketchy of the pre-dawn interception out in the Mediterranean, in which marines stormed aboard from dinghies and rappelled down from helicopters. Israel said “more than 10? activists died. Israeli media spoke of up to 19 dead…

But the most recent Reuters version as of this writing (1:06 am IST June 1), co-authored with Alastair Macdonald,  reads:

Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza on Monday and at least nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed, triggering a diplomatic crisis and an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council.

European nations, as well as the United Nations and Turkey, voiced shock and outrage at the bloody end to the international campaigners’ bid to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Boarding from dinghies and rappelling from helicopters, naval commandos stopped six ships, 700 people and 10,000 tons of supplies from reaching the Islamist-run Palestinian enclave — but bloody miscalculation left Israel isolated and condemned…

The “commandos” have become “marines.”   The ten “international activists” on board are now “pro-Palestinian activists.”  The Gaza-bound aid ships are downsized to “a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza.”  The consequences are muzzled too:  a diplomatic crisis and the accusation that a massacre has taken place” is parlayed into “a profound diplomatic crisis.”  And poor Israel is standing alone, “isolated and condemned,” on account of a mere “miscalculation.”

Heller isn’t on the list of journalists CAMERA disapproves of either.

CNN‘s coverage of the fate of the Gaza convoy  has had no bark and no bite.  Its latest  offering (as of this writing) begins with the  pretense of “he said/she said” balance but slips easily into Israeli talking points:

Israel insisted Monday that its soldiers were defending themselves when they fatally shot nine activists aboard a ship in international waters that was laden with humanitarian goods for Gaza.

Israel’s assertion was denied by one of the groups that sponsored the boat. The competing claims could not be independently verified.

“They deliberately attacked soldiers,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters at a photo op in Ottawa, Canada, with his Canadian counterpart…

Not surprising that CAMERA was pleased by most of the coverage by the mainstream media, noting with satisfaction that:

APReuters, CNN and the New York Times ran balanced stories, noting the participants are “pro-Palestinian activists,” that Israel is already assuring regular convoys of humanitarian supplies into Gaza and that Israel has additionally offered to transfer materials from the flotilla by land to Gaza. Some reported in detail the preparations in the Israeli city of Ashdod to house any possible detainees before returning them to their home countries.

This is not to say that media coverage of the recent  events in Gaza has been ideal from CAMERA’s point of view.  Hardly!  It has fallen short of  CAMERA standards of “objectivity” in several respects:

Missing from all coverage thus far is any indication of the radical nature of the organizations sponsoring the flotilla. To characterize them as “pro-Palestinian,” while accurate, hardly conveys adequately who they are and what they promote. The organizations include far-left individuals, such as members of the Communist Party in Sweden and members of the extremist International Solidarity Movement which advocates “armed struggle” against Israel as well as Islamist groups fronting for Hamas and with ties to the global jihad and Al Quaeda.

Furthermore, CAMERA insists, the flotilla’s sponsors are nothing but a bunch of lying “European and American radicals and pro-Hamas Muslims.”  Gaza doesn’t even need any aid:

Contrary to allegations of Free Gaza, there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Convoys of trucks continuously bring food, clothing, medicine and other essentials to the population.

Unfortunately, the harsh and narrow standards of hardline “pro-Israel” media watchdogs like CAMERA, while they may not fully succeed in  imposing all aspects of their agenda, have a stultifying effect not only on  journalists’ choice of terminology but how they view–and depict–the context of the various conflicts in the Middle East.

At this point, the progressive reader may be thinking that the way to avoid “indogtrination” is to entrust one’s news leash to one or more of the larger progressive media sites.

How about Alternet?  As of this morning, the only news coverage was  a  home page link to an early French Press Agency (Agence France-Presse–AFP) reproduced in full on  Raw Story, which was based exclusively on a not-particularly-informative Israeli  television report.

According to Israel’s private channel 10 television, Israeli marine commandos had opened fire after being attacked with axes and knives by a number of the passengers on board the aid ships, the television said, without giving the source of its information.

The station did not say whether the dead and injured were passengers or members of the Israeli navy.

Israel’s army radio said between 10 and 14 people had been killed in clashes which broke out after the passengers allegedly tried to grab weapons off the naval commandos who tried to storm one of the boats.

It was not clear whether the clashes were taking place on just one of the six boats making up the aid convoy, and the Israeli army had no immediate comment on the incident.

Shortly afterwards, the Israeli military censor ordered a block on all information regarding those injured or killed during the storming of the ship.

Raw Story also provides video footage courtesy of the Israel Defense Forces.

The main story featured on the Huffington Post home page for most of the day has been AP’s report, no byline for Teibel and Goldenberg.  To its credit, HP did interject a link to video footage  by Al Jazeera reporter Jamal Elshayyal, recorded while he was on board the aid ship Mavi Marmara. This afternoon an AP Analysis by Karin Laub and Matthew Lee, headlined High Seas Raid Deepens Israel’s Isolation, became Huffington Post’s lead story.  CAMERA, which has a litany of grievances against Laub,  isn’t going to like its first sentence, which Huffington Post included in in its own  headline for the piece, making it a  bit more juicy:

Israel’s bloody, bungled takeover of a Gaza-bound Turkish aid vessel is complicating U.S.-led Mideast peace efforts, deepening Israel’s international isolation and threatening to destroy the Jewish state’s ties with key regional ally Turkey.

The Daily Beast’s Cheat Sheet of “must reads”  is a teaser that provides a link to CNN’s coverage, complemented by IDF video footage.  More insightfully, Reza Aslan posted a new entry in his Daily Beast blog this afternoon headlined “An Israel Raid’s Deadly Toll.”

The well-known English proverb “every dog has his day” is rendered Kul kalb bi’gi yomo in Arabic, Kol kelev ba yomo in Hebrew.   Yizhar Be’er, writing on the Ir Amim website, points out that  “unlike the phrase’s English cousin, which rosily promises that even the lowest among us will have a day of good fortune,”  the  Semitic form of the proverb is more along the lines of (quoting the author of the Forward‘s On Language column) “Every scoundrel will receive his comeuppance.”  In other words, karma will eventually run over  dogma.

When it does, don’t expect to find it out much from the coverage from the “liberal” media.

Marsha B. Cohen

Marsha B. Cohen is an analyst specializing in Israeli-Iranian relations and US foreign policy towards Iran and Israel. Her articles have been published by PBS/Frontline's Tehran Bureau. IPS, Alternet, Payvand and Global Dialogue. She earned her PhD in International Relations from Florida International University, and her BA in Political Philosophy from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.



  1. On the big issues — war, corporate looting of the US Treasury, expansion of the police state domestically, etc. — the ‘liberal’ media (NYT, NPR, MSNBC) are really no different than the ‘conservative’ media (Fox, National Review, etc.). It’s like the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans: Different PR, same agenda.

  2. The Aldous Huxley novel was titled “Eyeless In Gaza.”

    One read it many, many years ago and has never bothered with it again.

    An old British friend, and flawless critic, used to say that this particular Huxley was a fine stylist but never found anything significant to write about, and should have simply taken up pornography.

  3. Look how Amy Teibel for the Associated Press reported this incident: “In other violence, Israeli hospital officials said an American woman lost her eye during a demonstration Monday in Jerusalem against the naval raid. Emily Henochowicz of Maryland was in intensive care after undergoing surgery, said hospital spokeswoman Yael Bossem-…Levy. Witnesses said Henochowicz, 21, was hit by a tear gas canister in the face while Palestinian youths were throwing rocks, although she was standing at a distance.”

    Who hit her? They don’t mention… Maybe those rock-throwing Palestinians?

    And then go to this report on the same incident (with photos), from the International Solidarity Movement:

    Excerpt: “…Emily is recovering at Hadassah Hospital after two surgeries Monday night. She lost her left eye, three metal plates were inserted into her head/face, and her jaw is wired shut. The bone surrounding her eye socket, cheekbone and jawbone are all fractured. Emily was standing peacefully during a demonstration at Qalandiya checkpoint Monday when Border Police fired a large number of tear gas canisters directly at the heads of Emily and another ISM activist…”

  4. It’s increasingly nauseating to see that the ‘liberal’ media and internet sites are as eager to cheerlead a bloody massacre as the Pubs and the Complicit Corporate Media.

  5. Can anyone comment on the coverage from so-called progressive TV commentators like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow? I saw Chris Matthews and he was horrendous–basically parroted the Israeli PR/BS line.

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