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December 04, 1987 - Image 54

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-12-04

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

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bjectivity in news
reporting is a little
like honesty in
income-tax preparation; even
when the intentions are the
best, subtle emotional
pressures and plain slop-
piness can produce errors.
The problem for Win
Meiselman, president of the
Washington-based Commit-
tee for Accuracy in Middle
East Reporting in America
(CAMERA), is the difficulty
in discerning where fallible
journalism leaves off, and in-
tentional distortion begins.
Because Meiselman is herself
involved in a controversy that
arouses strong passions, this
line is all the harder to see.
CAMERA was founded in
1982 to counter what
Meiselman saw as distorted
reporting about the war in
Lebanon. The effect of this
distortion, she said, was to
portray Israel in increasingly
harsh terms; stories un-
favorable to the Jerusalem
government were given front-
page treatment, she said, and
positive stories were ignored.
"The Lebanese incursion
seriously tarnished Israel's
image as a champion of
freedom and democracy. The
stories in the Washington Post
and on TV were so horren-
dous that they brought many
questions to mind."
In 1983, Meiselman formed
CAMERA to serve as a watch-
dog of American reporting on
the Middle East, and in par-
ticular, to keep track of the in-
fluential Washington Post, a
paper that is regularly at-
tacked by anti-Israel forces for
showing a Pro-Zionist bias.
Meiselman tiptoed around
the question of whether the
errors her group perceives
reflect an intentional anti-
Israel bias on the part of
mainstream papers. "I would
say that it's both sloppiness
and bias against Israel. There
is also a kind of bandwagon
effect; terrorists were chic
after Arafat was welcomed by
the UN. Propaganda wheels
from the Arab countries have
ground on, the US press has
picked up a lot of this."
She was more direct about
what she sees as a strong bias
in the media against the
Likud bloc in Israel. "There's
no subtlety about the fact
that the U.S. press supports
Peres, and Shamir is always
the heavy. The play that was
given to the proposed interna-
tional peace conference

painted a picture that essen-
tially said that this was the
route to peace, but the Israeli
government refuses, so
Shamir doesn't want peace."
Meiselman's group em-
phasizes what they see as fac-
tual errors in reporting about
Israel. "These are things that
shouldn't make it past the
editors. For example, there
was an article from
Jerusalem recently dealing
with one of the Arab leaders
on the West Bank, and how
his father was the Mufti Of
Jerusalem who had tried un-
successfully to set up links to
the Nazis in World War II. In
fact, he was VERY successful
in setting up those links."
In addition, the group is
concerned about what they

"I would say that
its both sloppiness
and bias against
Israel."

see as major omissions.
Meiselman points to the fact
that when newspapers run
stories about Israeli violence
against suspected terrorists
in the occupied territories,
they almost never give equal
coverage to the long history of
Arab violence against Jews.
Providing such background
on every story is not feasible,
according to Joseph Laitin,
the ombudsman for the
Washington Post. And many
of the errors that CAMERA
cites reflect the hard realities
of daily journalism. "There
are journalistic calls that
have to be made every day,
every hour," he said. "These
decisions are not always
correct — and they are not
going to please everybody in-
volved in controversial
issues."
Laitin said that he receives
similar complaints from Arab
groups about the Post's Mid-
dle East coverage. "I unders-
tand all the emotion of the
people involved in these
issues. I appreciate the emo-
tion. But the editors are pro-
fessionals who have to make
a huge number of decisions."
CAMERA's newsletter re-
veals another apparent goal
of the group — to warn the
pro-Israel community about
what they see as pernicious
Arab influence in American
politics. A recent issue includ-
ed an article reprinted from
an Arab-American organiza-
tion's publication. The story
lists —without comment —
campaign workers of Arab

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