October 1, 2014

Speaker Talks Anti-Israel Bias in Reporting on Middle East

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Yishai Goldflam — a member of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America — discussed media bias, specifically regarding events in the Middle East at a lecture in Anabel Taylor Hall Tuesday.

The public’s perception of political events in the Middle East and Israel is often distorted by media bias, according to Goldflam, who spoke during a lecture hosted by the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee. Goldflam said he believes that Israel received a large share of negative bias during last summer’s conflict.

“Israel [and the Middle East] is one of the most reported on topics, and I think it’s important to get the right picture or else it distorts the public’s opinion,” he said. “We don’t want to turn people into Israel-supporters, we’re just trying to correct the wrong facts in the news.”

Throughout his presentation, Goldflam showed the audience various news headlines about events in the Middle East. Sources for the headlines included The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, American Broadcasting Company and the British Broadcasting Company.

Goldflam said he believes that only the headline from the Los Angeles Times — which read “Hamas keeps up rocket attacks after Israel agrees to cease-fire” — did not show an “inherent anti-Israel bias.” He compared this to ABC’s “Israel resumes Gaza bombing campaign,” which he said is slanted against Israel in a way that creates “a [negative] chain reaction” on public opinion of Israel.

“Most people don’t read the entire article and get their information from the headlines,” he said.

Goldflam also said he believes that Western journalists were intimidated by the Palestinian militant group Hamas over the summer, reducing the quality of reporting on Gaza and accounting for some misinformation presented by news outlets.

“The world did not get all of the information until the [conflict] was over,” Goldflam said.

To support his claim, Goldflam showed the audience a video of a reporter working for the New Delhi Television Limited outlet reporting on Hamas firing missiles out of a densely populated civilian zone in the Gaza Strip.

“This report is being aired on [New Delhi Television Limited] and [is] published on ndtv.com after our team left the Gaza Strip,” the article states. “Hamas has not taken very kindly to any reporting of its rockets being fired.”

Goldflam added that Israel-related bias also comes from areas outside of Palestinian territories.

“A lot of the misinformation is com[ing] from Israel itself,” he said. “Some of it is due to translation issues, some of it is due to sloppy reporting and some of it [due to reporters] with agendas.”

Goldflam also gave the example from Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.

The original title of an article in Haaretz — “Most Israelis support an apartheid regime in Israel” — was later changed it to “Survey: Most Israeli Jews wouldn’t give Palestinians vote if West Bank was annexed,” after complaints that the title did not reflect the actual findings of the poll, he said.

Reut Baer ’17, the CAMERA fellow for Cornell, organized Goldflam’s lecture at the University.

Baer said she hoped Goldflam’s lecture would help reveal biases news organizations can have, in light of recent conflict in Israel and the Middle East.

“Especially after the events of this summer, students and faculty on campus need to be informed of the facts,” she said. “Just because it was in the news, doesn’t mean that is actually fact.”

Baer added she that had previously heard Goldflam give a talk in Boston.

“[I thought] he’d be a great addition to Cornell and [CIPAC],” she said.

Brandon Gold ’18 said he attended the event to learn about potential inaccuracies in the media.

“[I want] to see an organization that deals with bias in the media and to hear from someone who dedicated [his] time to locate inaccurate sources and to present and fix these inaccuracies,” he said. “One must be careful when reading the news.”

According to Goldflam, CAMERA promotes “accuracy and accountability” in the news about Israel and the Middle East by contacting news outlets that publish inaccurate information. CAMERA claims it does not have an official stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict, or the United States’ foreign policy in the Middle East, according to the organization.