Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

Larry Derfner continued (October 2007)

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About Maurice Ostroff
October 14, 2007

Hi Larry,

I'm disappointed. In an earlier email you wrote that you enjoyed our exchanges of views, but now you refuse to answer some of my points. Am I unjustified in assuming that the reason is that it is inconvenient to actually address the issues?
 
Re Honest Reporting, CAMERA and the other right-wing "media watchdogs",  you ask me to show one instance in which they acknowledged any criticism of Israel or positive coverage of Arabs as being fair.  Why should anyone go out of the way to point out that someone is fair? If we expect the norm to be fair, surely it is not worthy of special mention? These organizations and I have our hands full exposing damaging misinformation and bias which should not be the norm.

Again, why do you expect me, or Camera or Honest Reporting to criticize Israel in order to earn our spurs with you? Your categorical statement that their view of the media is completely tilted to the pro-Israel, anti-Arab side, without making even a pretence of substantiating your allegation, is to say the least irresponsible. And then you ask me to disprove it. Making a wild allegation and then putting the onus on me to disprove it is an old, unacceptable debating trick. It is like alleging "your sister is a thief" even if you don't have a sister - and then demanding that you disprove it .

Camera, Honest Reporting, NGO Monitor and I are dedicated to countering the all too common insidious  bias which pervades the media.

You may regard it as a badge of honor to be a member of the elite bash-Israel club, but you don't need support from us. After all there are enough Larry Derfner's, Ilan Pappes and many many others who spend their time with magnifying glasses examining and distorting Israel's warts while very carefully avoiding any positive features. They certainly don't need any reinforcements.

Larry, I regret that we do not have you, with your undoubted writing ability as an ally in defending our embattled little media against the unequal onslaught of illegitimate misinformation and disinformation targeted against us.

Regards
Maurice


At 12/10/2007 15:53, you wrote:
Dear Maurice: I'm sorry, but I'm not going to answer all your points, in some cases because I think I addressed them either in my op-ed or in my letter to you, and in other cases because it would just take too long. But a couple of points - one, since you tell me you protested against IDF demolitions of Palestinian houses, I retract my description of you as a hardline right-winger. The other point is about Honest Reporting, CAMERA and the other right-wing "media watchdogs" - occasionally they get somerthing right, as when CAMERA pointed out, re God's Warriors, that Bush gave Israel the loan guarantees not because of pressure from the Israel lobby, but because Rabin came in and froze settlements. Another well-taken point by these sources came in last summer's war in Lebanon, when they caught the doctored Reuters photo. But I find that in general, they see anti-Israel or anti-Jewish bias in the media when it isn't there, and the only time they'll commend a news medium is when it makes Israel look good or when it makes the Arabs
look bad. If I'm wrong, please show me one instance in which CAMERA, Honest Reporting or any other Jewish "media watchdog" acknowledged any criticism of Israel or positive coverage of Arabs as being fair. Their view of the media is completely tilted to the pro-Israel, anti-Arab side. Again, if I'm wrong, show me an example. All the best, power to the mugwumps. Larry 
 

September 19, 2007

Dear Larry,
CNN's documentary "God's Warriors"

Thank you for your detailed reply. Because of your penchant for name-calling and your insistence on labeling me a right-winger, I have difficulty separating the substance of your arguments from the labels which add nothing to the debate,

If it is absolutely necessary to classify my outlook I would possibly regard myself as a mugwump i.e. "a person who is independent politically or who remains undecided or neutral". (Merriam-Webster dictionary).  In lighter vein, I sit on the fence with my mug on one side and my wump on the other. 

Rather than judge by who said it, I agree or disagree with an argument on its merit, irrespective of its source. And, believe it or not, I have even been known to agree with points raised by a journalist named Larry Derfner.

On the other hand, you seem to place every commentator into either a right or left wing box and reject outright, any statement from the right, no matter that it may contain an element of truth. But all communications from the left, wise and inaccurate alike, are treated with respect. Don't you think this attitude blinkers your vision and deprives you of opportunities to widen your horizons?

Let's start with your final paragraph in which you ask me to prove my credentials by naming one dispute between Israel and any Arab entity in which I think the Arabs were at least partially right and Israel was at least partially wrong. OK - there have been many but I quote three issues about which I wrote letters to the press, the IDF spokesperson and/or to the relevant minister: I disagreed vigorously with Israel's policy of demolishing Palestinian homes, the unilateral aspect of our disengagement from Gaza and the manner in which we treated the SLA.

Your claim that "the program paid much, much more attention to Israeli victims than to Palestinian victims" does not stand up to a close examination of transcripts.  You say I did not address your statement that the Israel program opened with a long section about a Hebron settler whose father was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist. I don't think it calls for a comment, as the episode does not in any way alter the program's message that extremist Islamic advocates of terror and all other devoutly religious people, including the moderate Moslem majority are equally dangerous.

You criticize me for not addressing your points that CNN praised the film "Obsession", that Amanpour did a documentary "In the Footsteps of Bin Laden"; and that CNN has not neglected the Islamic terror in the last six years. Need I explain that the reason I did not address them is that these points are completely irrelevant to an impartial assessment of this documentary?

I did not claim, "CNN is anti-Israel and pro-Arab". You put these words in my mouth. I did say that factually, in this program, Amanpour ignored contrary views of eminent international jurists as well as the persons who drafted resolution 242, when she categorically stated her opinion that all settlements are illegal.
 
You defend the introduction of the "Israel Lobby" although it has no relevance to a documentary about religious zealotry. And you failed to address my objection to the fact that it was not placed in the context of the general lobbying scene in Washington and the POWERFUL countervailing Arab lobby.

You stress in Caps, "AMANPOUR DOES NOT EQUATE MUSLIM TERRORISM WITH JEWISH TERRORISM AND CHRISTIAN TERRORISM". Here we disagree completely. She does equate them by giving them equal time without making any distinction between the different "warriors" and by stating on CNN's web site that as long as people believe that only their holy book [Koran, Torah or Bible] or only their holy word matters and is relevant, then there will be no solution.

It is interesting that you feel only very slightly annoyed at being quoted on a website that calls for divestment from Israel. In reply I can only say the obvious. If you are quoted in speaking the truth OK. But, and this is a big but, when our enemies use damaging statements made by you which are inaccurate or based on faulty reasoning, you ought to be contrite. Take for example your misleading statement, which has been quoted extensively; "Nobody and nothing in the world has an army of advocates, defenders, PR people, marketers, spin-meisters and image-polishers like Israel has". Just a little research proves that Israel's PR lags way behind that of our enemies.   It is bad enough accidentally kicking the ball into your own goal posts, but doing so deliberately is unforgivable.

I would very much like to know whether you agree that by equating fundamentalist violence with non-violent religious movements this widely promoted documentary diverts attention from the real threat of Jihad and whether you noticed that the entire series ignores the basic motivator of Islamic violence; the incitement to hatred emanating from state media and mosques, not only in Arab countries but even under the noses of European and British governments?

Will you not concede that the 6-hour documentary must be criticized for not finding time to mention the indoctrination of infants to become suicidal Warriors?

You also failed to address my question whether you really intend to discredit, without any effort to substantiate your serious allegations, the extensive research that Honest Reporting and CAMERA invest in their analyses of anti-Israel propaganda? And much more importantly, do you not believe it is essential to counter the continuing onslaught of Israel bashing?

Sincerely
Maurice

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