Media watchdog organization HonestReporting, which monitors anti-Israel bias in the media, has announced the recipients of its 2015 Dishonest Reporting Awards. The Dishonest Reporting Awards are bestowed upon the year’s top eight worst offenders against journalistic integrity and professional standards when it comes to reporting about Israel.
Among this year’s winners are left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz and Britain’s Daily Mail. Also listed are the New York Times, reporter Brian Williams, and MSNBC.
The first award on HonestReporting’s list concerns the libelous charge that Israel annually floods Gaza by opening southern dams. The allegation appeared in such media outlets as AFP, al-Jazeera, Russia Today, and the Daily Mail.
Sources credited for this story included the chief of the Gaza Strip’s Hamas-run civil defense agency, Brigadier General Said Al-Saudi. Russia Today wrote in its article that “Almost every year without prior notice, Israel opens the floodgates to their dams in the direction of Gaza to discharge massive quantities of excessive water that accumulated during heavy rains or snowfall in the Naqab region.”
The only problem with this story, HonestReporting points out, is that there are no dams in southern Israel. Gaza’s flooding was due to heavy rains and poor drainage. When the truth came out, AFP removed its video of the story, and Al Jazeera retracted its article and even issued an apology.
However, the Daily Mail republished the story even after it had been proved false. After HonestReporting contacted the paper to point out its mistake, the Daily Mail eventually conceded that the story was untrue and printed a clarification – a month after the original story had been posted.
Left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz received its Dishonest Reporting award for “Worst Abuse of Anonymous Sources”. HonestReporting wrote that Haaretz blatantly violated ethical guidelines adopted by the journalism industry in order to run a story about sources in Washington expressing “dismay” that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to approve of the Iran nuclear deal.
The ethical guidelines demand that reports must include at least one identified source, and that care must be given when quoting an anonymous source’s opinions, rather than facts.
According to HonestReporting, Haaretz violated both guidelines when it ran a story citing “senior [Obama] administration officials” who said that Netanyahu “would reject any deal”. The officials, according to Haaretz, “expressed both dismay and disappointment at the fact that Netanyahu and other Israeli opponents of the Iran deal did not find anything positive in the Vienna agreement – even though many Israeli positions had been incorporated in the final document.”
The New York Times received its Dishonest Reporting award over an inflammatory article it published in October questioning whether the Temple Mount was actually the historical location of two ancient Jewish temples.
Entitled, “Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place”, the article landed in the midst of a wave of terror in Israel which Arab leaders tied to frustrations and anger over perceived changes in the status quo on the Temple Mount. The article fit perfectly into an Arab narrative which denied a historical Jewish presence on the Mount and sparked a fury of backlash. One of the historians quoted in the original article even wrote a letter to the Times complaining that her words had been taken out of context and stating categorically that the Temples had, in fact, stood on the Temple Mount.
Eventually, the New York Times was forced to issue an editorial statement which admitted that the article, as originally worded, was factually incorrect, and that no “credible historian” would deny either the existence or the location of the Jewish Temples.
The last Dishonest Reporting award went to MSNBC for airing a map of Israel which grossly misrepresented the “Palestinian loss of land” since 1946. The network aired an apology a week later acknowledging that the maps were misleading.