A new report from a pro-Israeli media monitoring organization has accused a leading Irish newspaper of bias in its Israeli-Palestine coverage.
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has also said that the Irish Times is a “champion” of the Palestinian side in its Middle East coverage. The Irish Times is considered by many as the “paper of record” in Ireland.
CAMERA, which is based in the U.S., carried out a study of all articles in the Irish Times on Israel-Palestine, over a six-week period from December 2008 to January 2009, when Israel had launched a major bombardment of Gaza.
According to the World Health Organization, from December 27 to January 19, 1,366 Palestinians were killed in what the Israeli military called, “Operation Cast Lead.” During the same period, 14 Israelis lost their lives in the conflict.
The CAMERA study examined the reporting of three Irish Times journalists: Lara Marlow, Michael Jansen, and Mark Weiss, who together wrote 85 news articles on the conflict. Articles from other news sources, such as Reuters and the Guardian, were also included.
CAMERA concluded that “multiple instances of false information and unverifiable assertions leads one to question the overall veracity of the Irish Times' news content."
“Missing from the coverage was Hamas' anti-Israel and anti-Jewish agenda – its charter's anti-Semitic content, its rejection of a diplomatic end to the conflict, and its goal of seeking to replace a Jewish state with an Islamic caliphate,” the report says.
“Also missing was the context of Israel's complete withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 – and Hamas' decision to use the territory as a launching pad to attack Israeli civilians instead of building an infrastructure and economy to improve Palestinian lives there.”
The report reserves its harshest criticism for Lara Marlowe, a distinguished Irish Times reporter who is originally from California, and who was previously a reporter with Time Magazine.
She “departed from journalistic norms of accuracy, impartiality, and fairness,” CAMERA claims.
In one instance, the report says that Marlowe quoted an Israeli citizen, Anna Kutikov, as saying, "for those [the residents of Sderot, an Israeli town,] who remained, the bombing of Gaza was entertainment. All the teenagers went to Hagiva (the hill), because it was exciting; it was action. It is a bit boring here.”
CAMERA says that it contacted Kutikov who said that she told Marlow that the residents of the town were excited by the arrival of foreign reporters, and not by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
Marlowe told IrishCentral: "I stand by the quote from Anna Kutikov, which is verbatim from my notebook. The Irish Times published a photograph of Israeli teenagers smiling as they watched the bombardment from the hill."
Another Irish Times reporter, Michael Jansen, was described by CAMERA as “not quite as reckless as Marlowe in her disregard of journalistic standards," but called her reporting "similarly partisan with misleading statements and inaccurate information.”
In an email to IrishCentral, Jansen said: “The most important thing that must be said about coverage of the Gaza war is that Israel did not allow journalists into the Strip to do first hand reporting on the ground. Only journalists based in Gaza could do this and they were very few."
Jansen said that she saw a UN “warehouse smoking a week after it was gutted by Israeli phosphorus bombs.”
“I also saw al-Quds hospital which was burnt out on the same day and spoke to people who evacuated the patients and staff in ambulances. I visited the home of a man which was flattened by Israeli bombs – we picked up pieces of shell casings in the ruins."
The CAMERA report praised the coverage of the other Irish Times reporter, Mark Weiss, saying that he was the “only correspondent who reported responsibly and objectively.”
Jansen told IrishCentral: “That is to be expected. He was covering the story from the Israeli side. I was covering the story from the Palestinian side. I do not know if Mark Weiss left his desk to do coverage on the ground. I did. Lara did. I assume he is Israeli. Lara and I are both foreigners and do not have a nationalist stake in the story."
In a later email messge, Jansen added that Mark Weiss did report the overall story "objectively." (Weiss didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.)
Jansen also described CAMERA as “an arm of the Zionist right.”
In the Irish Times letters page during the war, the CAMERA report says, anti-Israeli letters outweighed pro-Israeli ones by 78 to 43.
Thirty-seven articles from other news sources were also unfair to Israeli, the report claims. “More than half the articles were devoted to unsubstantiated allegations against Israel, condemnation of Israel, or human interest stories highlighting the injuries or deaths of Palestinians caught up in the fighting,” it says.
CAMERA is a controversial organization. It describes itself as a “non-partisan organization," dedicated “to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East.”
It also says that it takes no position “with regard to American or Israeli political issues or with regard to ultimate solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict."
Its critics say, however, that it is part of the U.S. pro-Israeli lobby, dedicated neither to “accuracy” nor “balanced coverage” but instead focused on promoting the Israeli narrative in its conflict with Palestine.
Last year, it was involved in a controversy when five of its members were banned by Wikipedia from editing the on-line encyclopedia, after a campaign was uncovered in which CAMERA tried to recruit people to alter Wikipedia pages to appear more pro-Israeli.