The Associated Press’s 80-Year History of Collaborating with Anti-Semitic Tyrannies

According to a recent study—much of it confirmed by an internal report—the Associated Press (AP) made an agreement with the Nazi government to play by its rules in exchange for permission to continue reporting from Germany. Under the agreement, which remained in effect from the 1930s through America’s entry into the war in 1941, the AP fired its Berlin office’s Jewish employees, published propaganda photographs, and supplied images to the Nazis for their own use—including in an anti-Semitic tract titled The Jews of the USA. Today, Matti Friedman observes, the AP, which has defended its conduct in the Nazi period, continues to pursue similar policies in reporting from places like Gaza, Iran, and North Korea:

Western news organizations that maintain a presence in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, for example, make compromises in return for access and almost never tell readers what those compromises are. The result, in many cases, is something worse than no coverage—it’s something that looks like coverage but is actually misinformation, giving people the illusion that they know what’s going on instead of telling them outright that they’re getting information shaped by regimes trying to mislead them. . . .

The most relevant example from my own experience as an AP correspondent in Jerusalem between 2006 and 2011 is Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, and where the AP has a sub-bureau. From [the 2008 Israel-Hamas war] on, more or less, AP’s coverage from Gaza became a quiet collaboration with Hamas. Certain rules were made clear to the local staffers in Gaza, and those of us outside Gaza were warned not to put our Gazan staff at risk [of violent retribution]. Our coverage shifted accordingly, though we never informed our readers. Hamas military actions were left vague or ignored, while the effects of Israeli actions were reported at length, giving the impression of wanton Israeli aggression, just as Hamas wanted.

When a reporter wrote a story about Hamas censorship in the summer of 2014, editors shelved it. We were trading truth for access and providing an illusion of “coverage” that was actually propaganda—a kind all the more effective because it was not tagged “propaganda” but simply “Gaza City (AP).” You can show genuine footage of a house destroyed by an Israeli strike, but if you don’t show the Hamas fighters launching a rocket from the backyard, your report is a lie. . . .

The report on World War II is an opportunity to look again at the automatic bias in favor of “access,” and to ask if things might not be done differently. In the case of Gaza, for example, is the right choice really to have staffers inside, when their reporting can be controlled by Hamas? Or would it be more productive for the AP and others news organizations to report from outside Gaza while working sources on the inside and making use of external players (Egyptian intelligence, Israeli intelligence, Palestinian reporters in the West Bank) to give a more accurate picture of events?

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More about: History & Ideas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Media, Nazism, Totalitarianism

The Riots on the Gaza Border are Carefully Coordinated Attacks on Israel, and Should Be Treated as Such

Jan. 16 2019

On Friday, the weekly riots at the Gaza security fence resumed in full force: 13,000 people participated, and a Palestinian woman was apparently killed by Israeli gunfire. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) had established a commission of inquiry in May, not long after these riots began, “to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human-rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, . . . particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests that began on March 20, 2018.” In a report to the commission, Richard Kemp, a retired senior British officer, concludes, after investigating the situation at the Gaza border, that there is no evidence whatsoever of Israeli wrongdoing, and that the commission is operating under faulty assumptions:

The terms of [the commission’s] mandate are self-evidently biased against the state of Israel and the IDF. The context cited—“the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests”—make clear that the UNHRC either failed to understand what was happening on the ground or deliberately misrepresented the reality. In addition, the commission’s mandate terms the Gaza Strip “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” which it is not. . . .

[T]he so-called “civilian protests” in reality were, and continue to be, a deliberate military operation, orchestrated and controlled by Hamas, [a] terrorist group that has been waging an armed conflict against Israel for many years. Their intention was and remains to kill and wound IDF soldiers, to break through the border fence, to murder and maim innocent civilians, to destroy property, and to compel the IDF to take defensive action resulting in the death of Gaza civilians for exploitation in the international arena. [Israel’s] “military assaults” were not what was implied by this prejudicial mandate. They were in fact lawful, proportionate, and restrained defensive actions. . . .

Suggestions that these demonstrations are [protests] against Israeli policy toward the Gaza Strip are demonstrably false and easily refuted by cursory viewing of Hamas and other public statements made at the time of the events. . . . Further, it is clear that Hamas intended this violence to continue its long-standing strategy of creating and intensifying international outrage, vilification, isolation, and criminalization of the state of Israel and its officials. . . .

[T]he starkest indication that these events were entirely under Hamas control is the simple fact that, when it suited Hamas’s political interests, the [demonstrations] occurred and were of a violent nature, and when such actions did not serve Hamas’s interests, the border was quiet. As the most recent example of this, in November 2018, Qatar began to make large cash payments to Hamas in Gaza. The most recent payment of $15 million was handed over in December 2018. These payments are reportedly part of an agreement with Hamas to diminish violence along the Gaza border. [After] the first payment, the border violence [was] reduced [and the] demonstrations [became] far more restrained.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Laws of war, UNHRC