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July 06, 1984 - Image 25

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-07-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

What should have been an intel-
lectual donnybrook turned into a po-
lite tete-a-tete at a recent meeting
between Washington correspondents
of Detroit's two major newspapers
and members of the Detroit Jewish
community.
Invited to discuss "The Media
and the Middle East," James
McCartney of the Detroit Free Press,
and his counterpart, Mary Leonard of
the Detroit News, made interesting
but perfunctory presentations. Even
during a question-and-answer
period, they provided what are the
standard and predictable defenses of
the media.
Planned by the Committee on
International Concerns of the Jewish
Community Council, the meeting
last week at Temple Emanu-El pro-
vided an opportunity to educate and
explain to the 175 people attending a
little about the media and why those
Jews who believe Israel has received
unfair media treatment "are wrong."
Roth reporters avoided the sub-
ject in their formal presentations. In-
stead, they offered political vignettes
on Mideast countries from observa-
tions formed during a recent trip
sponsored by the Georgetown Uni-
versity Center for Strategic Studies.
In the question-and-answer
period, when asked about the media's
role in covering the Middle East and
whether Israel has received fair
treatment, McCartney responded:
"It is my personal belief that Is-
rael has been dealt with fairly in the
media in this country to the extent
that any complicated issue is dealt
with fairly in this country."
His comment, of course, implies
that the media does not deal fairly
with any "complicated" issues. But it
is of little consolation that other is-
sues which are subject to press cover-
age may suffer similarly.
Leonard supported McCartney's
view of media coverage of Israel, add-
ing, "Many letters I receive are from
Arabs who find our coverage abso-
lutely biased in favor of Israel. They
ask the same questions from their
perspective."
Leonard is probably correct — as
McCartney also indicated — that
some of the criticism about the media
stems from emotionalism and the
special interest of American Jews in
Israel.
Nevertheless, there appears to
)
be sufficient evidence that the
American media have hardly been
even-handed when it comes to Israel
in the last few years. --
It would have been useful to hear-
McCartney and Leonard explain the
millions of words which have beep
written about the Lebanon War with
little elaboration on the front pages
about the objectives of the Peace for
Galilee operation or a history of that
war-torn country..
How many Americans'have been
informed that for some 15 years
northern Israel was at the mercy of
constant shelling from the PLO ;in
southern Lebanon?
It does not require acquiescence
with the war to at least inform .the
•public of the original cause on the
Leban6 War. Daily reports on war
casualties and the damage caused by
the Israeli Air Force do little to
enlighten the public about the'"com-
plicated issues" behind the
"Lebanese ,invasion."

,

edia de at
n Israel
fizzles

Two Washington correspondents
for Detroit's major dailieS provided
stock answers and few specifics
about Middle East coverage

BY BERL FALBAUM
Special to The Jewish News

.41

JAMES .McCARTNEY :
"7t is my personal belief
that Israel has been dealt
with fairly in the media in
this country ."

MARY LEONARD:
"Many letters I receive are
from Arabs• who find our
coverage absolutelY
biased in favor of Israel."

Similarly, the massive coverage
Indeed, one question addressed
of Sabra and. Shatilla certainly im-
to McCartney indirectly made that
plied to the world that Israel was not
point. He was asked if he visited
only morally guilty but actually per- - Hadassah Hospital, where Arabs are
petrated the killings. The moral cul-
given the same care received by
pability notwithstanding, the media
Jews. He answered that he had not,
to this day have not asked that the
but that he understood the implica-
actual murderers be called to justice.
tion of the question.
Paradoxically, a week after
There are 35 years of Hadassah
McCartney spoke, the Detroit Free
Hospital "examples" in Israel and if
Press published a front page story ---
the media understands the implica-
similar to many such stories which
tions, they have chosen to ignore
have appeared previously — about
them.
the alleged abuses by Israel in south-
Further evidence of selective re-
ern-Lebanon.
porting came when. McCartney said ,
This is not to suggest that such
that he was not certain that Syria
stories should not be reported.
might not collapse "because of the
rottenness of its regime." However,
Brit they need balance. Hardly a
word has • been written about oppres-
little bas been written about that
"rottenness" or that Syria is "occupy-
sion of Jews in Syria, of political mas-
ing" Lebanon as is Israel. Stories and
sacres in some Arab countries, or of
editorials on withdrawal from Leba-
Arab-Christian abuses in Lebanon.
non center on Israel and hardly men-
Accentuating negatives, even
tion Syria at all.
when they cover both sides, is a form
Sunday's Free Press story said a
of distortion. Little has been reported
Shiite leader and an Israeli army
by the mass media on how Arabs and
spokesman • made the following ob-
Jews have lived side-by-side in a
servation: When the Israelis came in
democracy (Israel), with both thriv-
1982, the Lebanese threw rice and
ing since 1948. But much has been
flowers at them. Now they throw
written about the alleged abuse by
bombs.
Israel of Arab civil rights in the coun-
,was an interesting notation
try. `. . . . ' .. 2. - . ...

Friday, July 6, -1984

from a media standpoint because
even at the beginning of the Lebanon
War, few if any press institutions —
the Wall Street Journal being a major
exception — reported this welcome,
at least in the same proportion as the
' media condemned the invasion.
The coverage of Israel seems to
be analogous to the reporting of the
Vietnam War. The American media
held this country to account for the
war with little criticism of North Vie-
tnam. When the United States fi-
nally pulled out, little was written
about the subsequent slaughter or
the maiming . of millions by "yellow
rain."
Interestingly, the views of
McCartney and Leonard differed
sharply from one of their colleagues,
Detroit News columnist George Can-
tor, who told The Jewish News in a
special interview last week that the
American media have been biased in
their reporting on Israel.
Ironically, Cantor, a Jew, fell
into the same media trap. He re-
cently wrote a column on the alleged
mistreatment by Israeli authorities
of Pheonix jeweler Michal Mansour.
He cited the incident as an example
of the consequences of violence. How-
ever, Victor Har-El, press counsel at
the Israeli Embassy in Washington,
denied the unsubstantiated account.
It seems more checking was in order,
Cantor's commendable moral insight
aside.
If the media have not been un-
fair, then some delineation of the
communication processes by
McCartney and Leonard could have
perhaps soothed a growing adversa-
rial relationship ,between Jevis and
the media.
The Detroit Jewish community
— as Jews elsewhere — have serious
misgivings about this country's
press, misgivings which need to be
addressed.
Said Dr. Arthur Feuer, who was
in the audience at the discussion:
"They absolutely did not cover
the subject. Maybe there was not
enough time. I expected more of a
round-table discussion. I found a vei-
led sympathy for the Arabs although
I may be wrong. I had a gut feeling
they were not sympathetic." --
His wife Regina added, "Maybe
it was their speaking style but they
appeared flippant. I was not happy
with the way they described things —
not to my satisfaction at least.
"Some of our friends who lived in
Israel left (the meeting). They could
not listen to their discussion."
Allan Gale, assistant director of
the Jewish Community Council, said i
the objective waste invite the writers
of Detroit's ,two major newspapers
who cover the Middle East.
"They are 500 miles away from
the community," said Gale, "and I
think it was good for them to meet. I
know Mary Leonard told me it was of .
value to her and I'm sure the same
thing was true of Jim McCartney.
"They are not really media
analysts . . . they are journalists.
They weren't controversial but then I
am not sure'they wanted to be."
Gale is probably right that
whatever dialogue took place was
healthy. But serious questions about
the press remain unanswered for the
Jewish community.

,

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