Coverage of Israeli-PA Troubles Is Biased, Some Say

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The CNN news network is under fire from Israelis and Americans who are protesting what they regard as a pro-Arab bias in its coverage of the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A small group of protestors gathered outside the Jerusalem CNN bureau this week to present a list of grievances as part of a continuing effort to combat what they see as the organization's media bias.

Calling themselves a "grassroots" group, they say they represent many more people around the world who are "fed-up" with what they see as anti-Israel reporting.

"[CNN] deliberately distorts the news ... It's not just slanted, it's totally distorted," charged historian and author Dr. Moshe Dann, one of those spearheading a campaign for more accurate reporting at CNN.

Last week for example when the bodies of two 14-year-old Israeli schoolboys were found stoned to death by terrorists, CNN reported simply that two "settlers" were found dead, he said.

CNN describes people involved in shooting attacks "activists," Dann said. "That is not accurate reporting. All we want is that CNN tell the truth [and not be] one-sided."

Shoshana Avigail Polin, who moved to Israel only a few months ago, described herself as someone who used to be a Palestinian sympathizer. Now she is one of the founders of CNN-Watch, a group with not-for-profit status in the U.S.

Polin said she receives on average of 200-300 emails a day from CNN viewers around the world who are disturbed by the Mideast coverage the news organization is giving.

She has had numerous correspondence with CNN executives in the U.S. and locally but while she received answers to her complaints, her grievances have remained largely un-addressed on a continuing basis.

In Atlanta, CNN executives were unavailable for comment on the complaints but the center there was well aware of the situation.

"CNN is an impartial news organization committed to providing accurate, balanced and fair reporting," said a prepared statement emailed to

"Any comment or criticism that suggests CNN has not met this standard is thoughtfully and thoroughly considered," the statement said.

"As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has escalated, people on all sides of the dispute have shared their concerns and suggestions regarding CNN's Mideast coverage. CNN welcomes their views and takes them seriously," it added.

Recently CNN's president of news gathering, Eason Jordan, and other top executives traveled to the Middle East and met with representatives of the Israeli and Palestinian governments, a CNN spokesman said in a telephone interview.

"Those kinds of meetings are ongoing," he said, adding that the Jerusalem bureau chief had indeed received the complaints of the protestors outside his office. That is all that CNN can ultimately do, he added.

Among the complaints listed in a statement to the press were "creating false moral equivalents" and "comparing PA and Israel casualties and deaths without distinguishing between perpetrator and victim."

"Unprovoked attacks by PA gunmen on Israeli civilians are equated with IDF [Israeli army] responses," it said.

"Palestinian suicide bombers, gunmen and terrorists are included in figures for Palestinian dead and wounded," it added.

Popular Israeli author, Naomi Ragen, who is also involved in the campaign, said that CNN was not the only offender.

"We picked CNN not because it's the worst but because they're the most influential," she said at the protest.

Ragen warned that CNN's reporting could lead to the loss of Israeli lives, because soldiers have become afraid to fire when their lives are in danger, for fear of bad publicity.

"We don't want anybody to be pro-Israel. We want them to be pro-truth."

According to media watchdog organizations, examples of CNN bias are well documented and plentiful.

Daniel Doron, head of a think tank called the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress, compiled a month-long analysis of CNN coverage, examining broadcasts as well as reportage on the company's website.

There was a repeated pattern of hiding Arab aggression and always blaming Israel, he said in a telephone interview.

In one particular report, Doron accuses the Jerusalem bureau chief, Mike Hannah, of misinforming the viewers. A video clip of an exploding firebomb thrown by rioting Palestinians is presented as Israeli soldiers having just thrown a concussion grenade into a crowd, he claimed.

Alex Safian of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), said in an interview CNN coverage was "extremely one-sided."

One report on CAMERA's website details the reporting of several news services, including CNN, on April 16-17, 2001.

"Anyone scanning headlines and skimming the first paragraphs of the numerous articles about Israel that appeared on April 16 and 17,would have assumed that Israel had launched unprovoked offensives on Palestinian and Syrian interests, much like Iraq, a decade ago, with its invasion of Kuwait," it said.

"Israeli steps up military action" and "Israel reoccupies Palestinian portions of Gaza" are the CNN headlines listed for that day. "All would lead the reader to conclude Israel must be declaring war upon benign, peace-loving peoples," CAMERA says.

"In fact, the period of April 14-16 saw an escalation in Arab violence against Israel, both by Hizballah which attacked in northern Israel, and by Palestinians who launched mortar attacks into Israel's Negev," it added.

Doron charged that the misreporting is a "pre-meditated" attempt to "create a certain view of the conflict."

"[In CNN's eyes] the underdog is always right. The West is always wrong. Israel is an outpost of the imperialist West," he said.