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Bias, Blood Libels, and the Media’s Race to the Bottom

If you are looking for a single headline that best sums up the state of American reporting on Israel, the Algemeiner has provided a good candidate: “TIME Magazine Retracts IDF Organ Theft Claim Following Criticism.” Do Jews kill gentile children to harvest their organs? It’s a question that has echoed throughout the ages, and was asked–and initially answered in the affirmative–by a major institution of American journalism in 2014. That question raises another one: Have the editors at Time magazine completely lost their minds?

The headline is great in part because it shows that Time removed the sick fabrication only “following criticism.” Was the criticism unexpected? But read past the headline, and it only gets worse for Time. Here’s the lede: “Time Magazine retracted a report on Sunday which claimed the Israeli army harvested dead Palestinians’ internal organs after a watchdog group accused the publication of propagating a ‘blood libel.’”

That’s putting it kindly. The watchdog group–HonestReporting–did not so much “accuse” Time of propagating a blood libel as point out that Time was obviously propagating a blood libel. Is there another term for Time’s medieval delusions?

What happened was the following: Time produced a video about the Israel Defense Forces. At one point in the video, the narrator says that the “IDF is not without controversy.” That’s because, according to the video, “in 2009 a Swedish report came out exposing some Israeli troops of selling organs of Palestinians who died in their custody.”

Of course, it did nothing of the sort. A Swedish report had not only not “exposed” such activity but the author of its blood libel said: “whether it’s true or not – I have no idea, I have no clue.” Time has flirted with turning Jewish stereotypes into “reporting” before–remember Karl Vick’s contention that the Jews were too rich and concerned with their money to care about peace with the Palestinians?–but never quite like this. Why Time magazine sees its role as the sewage treatment plant for the rotting refuse of anti-Jewish conspiracy theories is another question worth asking.

But also key here is the role of rumor–whether of the blood libel variety or simple unsubstantiated terrorist propaganda–in the West’s reporting on Israel’s conflict with Hamas. There is, in fact, real reporting being done. Just not by reporters.

For example, over at the popular Israel blog Israellycool, one of its primary contributors, Dan Smith, looked into the UN’s recently released report on damage to Gaza during the first month of Operation Protective Edge. Smith has used this “crisis atlas” to create interactive Google maps of the damage to compare with population maps and maps of terrorist targets in Gaza to create a picture of where the IDF is attacking and why. (He also repeats the crucial reminder that since so many Hamas rockets and mortars misfire, some of the damage is due not to Israeli strikes but to Hamas.)

I recommend reading Smith’s whole post, especially but not solely for the various maps. But Smith makes the following point about what the UN’s numbers–almost certainly exaggerating Israel’s culpability, it should be noted–reveal (emphasis in the original):

It now becomes very clear that most of the damage was caused to 5 locations right on the border with Israel. The rest of the Gaza Strip was, for the most part, undamaged. The main population areas of Gaza city, Jabaliya, Khan Yunes, Rafah and Deir el-Balah were disproportionately undamaged.

If we do a rough estimate of the damage area, it is once again clear the vast majority of the Gaza Strip was unscathed. With a fairly generous estimation that a damage point has a 25 meter radius – the footprint of a house, or the blast radius of a bomb – the total damage area of the 12,433 impacts was in the order of 15 KM2. The land area of the Gaza strip is 360 Km2. In other words, less than 5% of the land was affected.

It may not seem earth shattering, especially because it is unlikely to change many minds; the critics of Israel’s right to self-defense have never been particularly susceptible to facts. But it’s a glaring example of what the “official” media, the mainstream press, isn’t doing much of.

There isn’t nearly enough thoughtful analysis in the media or reporters willing to examine and question the assumptions and propaganda they’re fed by Hamas and its NGO allies, instead using reporters on the ground who worship Yasser Arafat. This is often the case when Israel is at war; in 2006, the Reuters practice of using photoshoppers masquerading as photographers led to the application of the term “fauxtography” to Reuters’ work in the Middle East.

But this lack of reporting appears to have spread to Time, and in a particularly offensive way. As hard as it is to believe, media coverage of Israel is actually deteriorating. The race to the bottom hasn’t stopped; it’s just gotten more crowded.



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7 Responses to “Bias, Blood Libels, and the Media’s Race to the Bottom”

  1. THOM SEATON says:

    Was not a full retraction- stated “Correction: The original version of this video cited a contested allegation in a 2009 Swedish newspaper report as fact. The allegation has been removed from the video.” Contested implies that accusation was denied, not that there was no basis.

  2. JOE MAHONEY says:

    Time Magazine has become a mere shadow. I shudder to like that it could go lower. The National Enquirer is becoming a credible news source compared to Time; how very, very sad.

  3. MARTIN GRAY says:

    In the original article published by the Swedish reporter who alleged the IDF was harvesting and selling body parts of dead prisoners, he admitted that he had no evidence that the allegations were true and no idea whether they were true or not. Some allegation. Gutter reporting by Jew hating slime balls at Time without the moral courage and integrity to admit they were reporting as fact unsubstantiated rumor made up out of whole cloth.

  4. MANUEL LAZEROV says:

    Remarkably, al Jazerra is more balanced. Unfortunately, American Jews will continue to subscribe to the NY Times , even though they and their families, as Jews, are being vilified. You’d think that the paper had a monopoly on the news,which , in this case, is fit to flush.

    • GERALD STERN says:

      Manuel, It’s impossible to comprehend why so many Jews continue to buy the NY Times garbage reporting, and also still remain staunch Obama-supporting leftists. So many seem to have downed the Kool-Aid. I wish they’d wake up.

      • MARC SALZBERGER says:

        It was NOT the New York Times, the daily newspaper, but TIME, the weekly news magazine, which flourished that blood libel.

  5. CLAUDE SALEM says:

    One reporter just put out an excellent piece on consistent patterns and failure of media management in enforcing their own professional standards.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/richardbehar/2014/08/21/the-media-intifada-bad-math-ugly-truths-about-new-york-times-in-israel-hamas-war/




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