Tuesday, January 6, 2009

AP's Outrage

"AP Expresses Outrage Over Israeli Tyranny!


But Only As It Prevents AP from ’Covering’ Gaza

From a January 3, Associated Press report titled “Israel keeps ban on foreign journalists in Gaza”:

“We call on the Israeli government to immediately honor the will of the court and allow foreign journalists access to Gaza,” the Foreign Press Association said in a statement. “The authorities’ position that there was not enough time to coordinate and allow the journalists to enter does not seem reasonable.” [1]

The Associated Press report carrying the above statement didn’t mention it this time around; but Steve Gutkin, AP’s W. Jerusalem bureau chief, is also the chairman of the Foreign Press Association. Just as any new batch of news stories does not make the AP wire without his approval, any major statement made by the FPA likely won’t hit the public without his oversight. So, you can safely surmise that those words are his sentiment, and therefore the sentiment of the W. Jerusalem bureau, and thus that of AP’s. But just to be sure, behold Gutkin’s late-November expression of outrage at Israeli authorities on the same issue:

We believe the current denial of access amounts to a serious violation of freedom of the press, and runs counter to Israel’s own claims that it is a democracy that respects media liberties,” said the association’s chairman, Steven Gutkin, who also serves as Associated Press bureau chief in Jerusalem. [2]

Gutkin has good reason to be upset: he has only a few full-time news-gatherers in Gaza due to the Israeli authorities’ refusal to lift the ban which, to him, “does not seem reasonable” — a conclusion with which any “reasonable” person will concur. Gutkin is rightfully outraged that his editors are not able to do their normal job of covering events in Gaza at the scale and pace they are accustomed to, for the demands of AP’s newspaper, TV, and internet media member outlets.

But this is not the same as being outraged because the whole story can not be told by their conscientious, objective, truth-to-power editors back at the bureau. Far from it. In fact, as the balance of this writing will argue, it is practically the opposite.

Simply put, you will never see an AP news report out of Gutkin’s bureau carrying an editorial statement even approaching the state-checking level of the ones made in his capacity as FPA chairman.

This puts a root-level contradiction to Gutkin’s feigned concern over journalistic integrity and freedom of the press, and “runs counter to [AP's] own claims.”

Earth-shaking double standard

The FPA statement is a public one; so are AP news reports. Both are compiled and edited with the ultimate approval of the same AP news editor. So, why does one draw a conclusion against the immoral actions of the state while the other simply reports that state’s immoral actions against its subjects without expressing similar indignation? How can Gutkin be so adamantly vocal in his moral umbrage over a perceived injustice done to him and his fellow journalists by the state, while showing none of the same for the irrefutably well-documented injustices being done to the Palestinians in Gaza (and the West Bank) by the same state?

If you are up in arms about your inability to do your job in a given territory due to the restrictions placed on you by the state exercising dominion over said territory — while at the same time, drawing no morally- or legally-grounded conclusion from the denial of the natural (and legislated) rights to life, liberty, property, pursuit of happiness, and self-determination to the inhabitants of said territory by the same state — then how can you look at yourself in the mirror after then speaking of “liberties”? Should not the kettle-black irony, nor the flame-hot hypocrisy, send a decent, honest, “reasonable” person through a period of excruciating introversion?

And what does this say about Gutkin’s idea of what constitutes journalism? Is the title befitting? How can he represent a news organization that boasts being the most trusted, most sought-after, most professional, “independent source of news and information in the world”? How can AP be taken seriously at its word, by anyone, anyway?

AP vs. Journalism

To be fair, Mr. Gutkin should be commended here for pointing out contradictions in what is preached by the state, compared to what the state ultimately does. For a news editor to say, in no uncertain terms, that a state’s action ”runs counter to [that state's] own claims” is an act of integrity.

Unfortunately, that integrity ends where his and his fellow AP editors’ journalistic standards begin. [3]

— A journalist with integrity will dig for the truth come what may, and will not allow the state to simply explain away, without editorial pause, its violations of its citizens’ (subjects’) natural rights, or the laws of war ratified by same state. He will pry into the daily doings of the state, its officials, and their cronies and agents of special interest, so that the people purportedly served and defended by same governments will have a sense of what those governments are doing in their names.

— A dutiful journalist is not one who simply parrots official statements or press releases blaming the victims and explaining away arguably- or unquestionably-immoral and illicit policies and actions, then leave it at that in order to maintain privileged access to (a.k.a., “protect”) same official sources. [4]

— An honest journalist does not, as a matter of course, refer to one side as soldiers or troops, and the other as gunmen or militants — especially when the soldiers are the illegal occupiers and perpetual aggressors and the “gunmen” are defending their people and land. He will boldly and accurately refer to the “gunmen” as “resistance” or he will use like terms for both sides. [5]

— An honest journalist will not, as a matter of course, use religious, ethnic, and other sensationalistic or inflammatory modifiers for one side, while simply referring to the other as “Israel, United States, Israeli Army, etc. That is state-worship, not state-checking, and certainly not “objective” journalism. [6]

— An honest journalist will not only present arguments from two extreme antagonists in order to contrive some ”balance” or “objectivity”; he will tell the reader what independent and authoritative third-party sources have to say. And he will not, as a matter of course, present their words as merely “claims” or “assertions,” then turn around and matter-of-factly give the last rejoinder to the state. [7]

— A journalist with integrity doesn’t report the U.S.-subsidized Israeli invasion of Gaza as if every reader is hanging on every word of their dear leaders in D.C. and Tel Aviv — as though we’re all Israeli and U.S. nationalists and armchair IDF generals. [8]

— An honest journalist doesn’t, as a matter of course, mention military and financial Iranian and Syrian support for Hamas and Hezbollah as if it is unprecedentedly bad, while omitting the thousand-fold and decades-long U.S. support for Israel — military and financial “aid” that has subsidized the belligerent occupations of Palestine, S. Lebanon, and the Syrian Golan Heights.

— A journalist won’t parrot real but superficial (and disingenuous if not fraudulent) Israeli grievances about Palestinian rocket fire into Israel, while omitting any mention of the Palestinians’ most-legitimate, most root-level, and historically unprecedented grievance: the 41½-year, belligerent Israel occupation and dispossession of Palestinian land (a reality that even George Bush won’t deny). The same journalist will not conceal the moral and legal status of the U.S.-Israeli-Egyptian strangulation of Gaza — the Palestinian grievance more immediately relevant to the current “conflict.”

— An honest journalist will not tell readers, ad nauseum, about a “violent, bloody, hostile takeover” of Gaza by Hamas, while omitting the corroborated and verifiable reports of an anti-Hamas, U.S.-Israeli-Fatah coup conceived at least 18 months before the so-called takeover.

— An honest journalist will not tell readers that Israel’s 2006 invasion and carpet-bombing of Lebanon was simply a spur-of-the-moment reaction to a Hezbollah “cross-border raid,” in the attempt to contrast it with the current, more well-planned invasion and carpet-bombing of Gaza. [9]

— A journalist doesn’t refuse, for years, to correct a hideous mistranslation of a world leader’s brash statement — especially when that mistranslation has been used by that leader’s enemies to place economically-crippling sanctions on the people of said leader’s nation and to foment what may well produce a nuclear holocaust.

— A journalist with integrity doesn’t rely on monologues from organizations such as the govt.-subsidized SITE, the pro-Israeli and Orwellianly hyper-interventionist Carnegie Endowment for International Peace [sic], and other neocon- and Zionist-run organizations like MEMRI, as expert sources, in the effort to tell readers that only Muslims, Arabs, and “Al-Qaeda” are protesting the Israeli carpet-bombing and invasion of Gaza. [10]

— A conscientious journalist is not afraid to state, as fact, the limitations on government power, e.g., those explicitly written into the U.S. Constitution. If he is worth the paper his words are printed on, he will at least say, “Bombing places of worship is a war crime according to the Geneva Protocols. Israel denies intentionally targeting civilians in this manner, claiming the mosques were used as military bases. But the IDF has so far bombed 11 mosques in Gaza, resulting in the deaths of …”

This is known as digging the truth; it’s where the editor-journalist’s reporting tells the reader, suggestively or overtly, that ”we believe” the state’s actions “run counter to [the state's] own claims.”


With very few exceptions — e.g., McClatchy’s investigative reporters Warren Strobel, Jonathan Landay, Dion Nissenbaum, et al. — the editorial and journalistic track record of The Associated Press falls well-short of fulfilling those “reasonable” expectations.

Therefore, any expression of outrage originating from its W. Jerusalem bureau about Israeli injustices done unto them will ring hollow and on the deaf ears of the growing number of Americans who are realizing that the same standard does not apply for the sake of the U.S. and Israeli governments’ ultimate victims.