Jonathan Cook: Publish it Not

By Jonathan Cook, – 26 Nov 2010
A shorter version of this article originally appeared in AMEU
The Link – Volume 43, Issue 5 / November – December 2010


Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook

Probably like many other journalists, at some point in my childhood I fell in love with the idea of the crusading, fearless reporter – unafraid of bullying figures of authority and always looking out for the little guy. This image was fed by the greatest of all myth-making movies about journalism: All the President’s Men, the glamorous coupling of Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the daring Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein who exposed the corruption of the Nixon presidency Watergate.

Life, of course, has proved to be less simple. Who is the bully and who the little guy? I, like more notable reporters who preceded me, would find that conundrum expressed most powerfully in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the mid-1990s, I arrived in Jerusalem for the first time – then as a tourist – with another potent Western myth at the front of my consciousness: that of Israel as “a light unto the nations”, the plucky underdog facing a menacing Arab world ranged against it. A series of later professional shocks as a freelance journalist reporting on Israel would shatter my assumptions about both Israel and courageous reporters.

These disillusioning experiences came in the early stages of the second intifada, the Palestinian uprising that began in late 2000. At the time I was often writing for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, first as a staff member based in the foreign department at its head office in London and then later as a freelance journalist in Nazareth. The Guardian has earnt an international reputation – including in Israel – as the Western newspaper most savagely critical of Israel’s actions. That may be true, but I quickly found that there were still very clear, and highly unusual, limitations on what could be written about Israel.

During my years at the Guardian, I had regularly travelled to the Middle East from where I dispatched a number of reports. Only when I offered articles about Israel itself or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict did I sense a reluctance, even a resistance, to publishing them. The standard of proof required to print anything critical of Israel, it became apparent to me, was far higher than with other countries.

Particularly problematic for the Guardian – as with other news media – was anything that questioned Israel’s claim to being a democracy or highlighted the contradictions between that claim and Israel’s Jewish self-definition. The Guardian’s most famous editor, C P Scott, who is still much revered at the paper, was an active and high-profile lobbyist for Jewish rights in what was then Palestine. He was also, as I was occasionally reminded by senior Guardian staff, instrumental in bringing about the Balfour Declaration – the British government’s commitment to the Zionist movement in 1917 to create a “national home” for the Jews in Palestine.

Thus, I was not entirely surprised that an account I submitted based on my investigations of an apparent shoot-to-kill policy by the Israeli police against its own Palestinian citizens at the start of the second intifada was sat on for months by the paper. Finally, after I made repeated queries, the features editor informed me that he could not run it because it was no longer “fresh”.

What surprised me more were the obstacles to getting stories into print about the worst excesses of the occupation. Was it that such incidents hinted – a little too much, as far as my editors were concerned – at the racist nature of the Jewish state in its dealings with Palestinians generally?

A report about the suspected use by Israel of a new experimental type of tear gas against schoolchildren near Bethlehem – and earlier in Gaza – was rejected. Eyewitness testimony I had collected from respected French doctors working in local hospitals who believed the gas was causing the children nerve damage – a suspicion shared by a leading international human rights organisation – was dismissed as “inadequate”. The foreign editor also told me he was concerned that no other journalists had reported the story – leading me to wonder for the first time in my career whether newspapers were actually interested in exclusives.

I also remember vividly arguing with the foreign desk about another story I offered on a new section of the wall Israel was starting to build in Jerusalem, on the sensitive site of the Mount of Olives, in time for Easter 2004. It would block a famous procession that had been held for hundreds of years by Christian pilgrims every Palm Sunday, following the route Jesus took on a donkey from the Biblical town of Bethany into Jerusalem. I was flabbergasted when an editor told me that it was of no interest. “Readers are tired of stories about the wall,” she said, apparently ignoring the fact that the story also raised troubling concerns about the protection of religious freedoms and Christian tradition in the Holy Land.

The most disturbing moment professionally, however, followed my investigation into the death of a United Nations worker, and British citizen, Iain Hook, in Jenin refugee camp at the hands of an Israeli sniper in 2002. As the only journalist to have actually gone to the UN compound in Jenin in the immediate aftermath of his death, I was able to piece together what had happened, speak to Palestinian witnesses and later got access to details of a suppressed UN report into the killing.

Israel claimed that the the sniper who shot Hook in the back believed the UN official was really a Palestinian militant holding a grenade, rather than a mobile phone, and that he was about to throw it at Israeli troops. My investigation, however, showed that the sniper’s account had to be lie. From his position on the top floor of a small apartment block overlooking the compound, the sniper could not have misidentified through his telescopic sights either the distinctive red-haired Hook or the phone. In any case, Hook would not have been able to throw anything from out of the compound because it was surrounded by a high concrete wall and a chainmail fence right up to the metal awning that covered the entire site. If Hook had thrown a grenade, it would have bounced right back at him – as the sniper, who had been positioned in the apartment for several hours, must have known.

When I offered the investigation to the Guardian’s foreign editor, he sounded worried. Again I was told, as if in admonition, that no other media had covered the story. But it seemed to me that this time even the foreign editor realised he was offering excuses rather than reasons for not publishing. As I argued my case, he agreed to publish a small article looking at the diplomatic fall-out from Hook’s killing, and the mounting pressure on the UN. He had bought me off.

Shortly afterwards I recruited Chris McGreal, the Guardian’s recently appointed Jerusalem bureau chief, to my struggle to get Hook’s story told. McGreal, the paper’s distinguished South Africa correspondent who covered the apartheid era, had quickly brought a much keener critical edge to the Guardian’s coverage of Israel – and, from what I saw, had battled hard for the privilege. He lobbied for the paper to print my article and personally took the project under his wing.

Eventually, the editors relented and reserved a page for my investigation. However, when the story was published, it was only half the promised length and had lost a map showing the improbabilities of Israel’s account of Hook’s killing. The foreign editors later claimed that they had been forced to accept at the very last moment a half-page ad for the page on which my investigation appeared. (I had worked for on the foreign desk for many years and struggle to remember any instance where an ad change was made close to deadline.) The editors had cut the second half of the story, the part that contained the evidence I had unearthed. They had printed my investigation without details of the investigation itself.

I was suffering similar setbacks with other mainstream media. The most significant was the International Herald Tribune, to which I was briefly able to contribute opinion pieces. This opportunity came chiefly through happenstance. The IHT was then owned jointly by the New York Times and Washington Post. Because neither paper was in a position to take full control, the IHT’s staff in Paris had an unusual degree of independence in deciding what to publish in addition to syndicated articles from the two parent companies. A senior editor in the comment section with whom I had worked years before recruited me to the opinion pages in 2002 and I enjoyed for the first time the opportunity to write freely in a mainstream newspaper.

However, a short time later, the Washington Post sold its share in the Tribune to the Times and a new comment editor was appointed. He had been Jerusalem bureau chief for the NYT in the late 1990s. Rumours suggested he had been eased out after Israel’s media lobby groups in the US took umbrage at his faintly critical reports. I feared he was an unlikely champion for my more outspoken commentaries – and so it proved.

As soon as he was installed, the same pressure groups – the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (Camera) and Honest Reporting – began lobbying against my articles whenever they were printed by the IHT. After one of my commentaries was published in 2003 suggesting, far from controversially, that the wall Israel was newly building in the West Bank was really a land grab from the Palestinians, my friend at the paper called in shock to say it had provoked “the largest postbag in our history”. (The Anti-Defamation League had published on its website a pro forma letter of complaint for its supporters.)

Finally, the paper felt compelled to devote a page to a selection of the letters of protest, all of which made the same objection to my use of the phrase “Palestinian homeland” to describe the territory that Palestinians had historically lived on. In addition, Camera submitted a complaint of several thousands words that listed 10 “errors” in my 600-word article. After I argued my case at length to the editors, it was agreed not to publish an apology. However, when my next commentary for the IHT was greeted in the same manner, my days writing for the paper were over.

My first three years as a freelance journalist based in Israel were a rapid lesson in the limits of the permissable in reporting and commenting on the conflict. As I began to gain a deeper understanding of the issues, and as I became a better reporter (according to everything I had been taught about the standards of “good professional journalism”), the less interest the mainstream media showed in my work. It became more and more difficult to place my reports in newspapers – to the point where I was spending more time arguing the case for a story with an editor (and then defending it afterwards), than I was researching and writing the story.

Most freelance journalists forced into this position would either have learnt to tailor their reporting to what was expected by the news desks or have headed off to another conflict zone. I stayed, and struggled on with writing, at first chiefly for the Arab media and then later as the author of three books.

Managing the war of spin

Despite the difficulties I experienced, it is probably easier to report critically about Israel than it ever has been – though I am using “easier” in a strictly relative sense. It is still fearsomely hard.

This new tentative openness from the media is in part a result of Israel’s recent diplomatic and strategic failures. It should be noted that I submitted my commentary about the land-grabbing wall to the IHT several times before it was finally published in May 2003. The paper’s change of mind came, it was clear to me, because President George W Bush had just given a speech in which for the first time he criticised the wall in much the same terms as I was.

Since the visible collapse of the peace process a decade ago at Camp David, Israel has been in the increasingly uncomfortable position of not only being but, more importantly, looking like the rejectionist party to the conflict. The impression that Israel has no interest in engaging in meaningful peace talks to create any kind of viable Palestinian state – and that it may even need to perpetuate its own version of the “war on terror” against the Palestinians to maintain its legitimacy – has grown with the almost complete cessation of Palestinian attacks, both the suicide bombers who were once dispatched from the West Bank and the Qassam rocket attacks from Gaza.

In order to justify continuing military assaults on the Palestinians in the occupied territories and its studious avoidance of real negotiations, Israel has had to invest an ever larger share of its energies in managing and controlling the narrators of the conflict – chiefly the Western news organisations and their local sources of information.

Although the “spin war” has been conducted on many fronts, it has one central goal: to limit criticism of Israel’s conduct and evidence of its oppression of the Palestinians in the international media and especially in the United States, where, as I had discovered, Israel’s lobbyists are at their most muscular. Israel needs to maintain its credibility in the US because that is the source of its strength. It depends on billions of dollars in aid and military hardware, almost blanket political support from Congress, the White House’s veto of critical resolutions at the United Nations, and Washington’s role as a dishonest broker in sponsoring intermittent talks propping up a peace process that in reality offers no hope of a just resolution. The occupation would end in short order without US financial, diplomatic and military support.

The chief target of Israel’s media war is the Western press corps, and especially the US media, which could threaten Israel’s improbable narratives and its power in Washington were American reporters to offer a fuller picture of what is taking place and their commentators a better assessment of why it is occurring. Israel therefore makes significant efforts, as we shall see, to put pressure on the journalists themselves. It also targets their news editors “back home” because they make appointments to the region, set the tone of the coverage, approve or veto story ideas, and edit and package the reports coming in from the field.

In the more open media environment of the past decade, however, Israel has also needed to act more aggressively against other types of narrators to ensure the dominance of its own narrative. It has sought to control and limit the scope of local information sources on which Western reporters rely, and delegitimise rival news platforms that could increase the pressure on the Western media to provide better-quality coverage.

Those most immediately in Israel’s sights – and in the greatest danger – are Palestinian journalists because they live and work in the areas Israel wants to remain unreported. They are best positioned to supply the Western media with the raw material needed to show Israel’s aggression towards the Palestinians, including its war crimes, and expose the subsequent cover-ups. Next come dissident Israeli journalists and human rights groups who investigate these same incidents and pose the added threat that they have greater credibility with the international community. And finally there are new problems posed by the growing number of freelance journalists like myself covering the conflict and a new breed of citizen journalists and bloggers created by the rise of the electronic media.

Each element of this web of threats to Israel’s narrative has required its own organised response and, as will become clear, Israel has lost no time in developing a mixture of sophisticated and blunt weapons to to use against the media.

That has been reflected in a drop in Israel’s ranking in recent surveys of press freedom. In a 2010 index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, Israel comes in at 86th place for its treatment of journalists inside its own borders. That puts it behind Lebanon, Albania, Nicaragua and Liberia. It was in 132th place – out of 178 countries – for its repression of journalists outside its own territory, chiefly in Palestinian areas. The two Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza were only a short distance behind in 150th place.

An early whistleblower

The basic principles of media management were developed early on by Israel, as Donald Neff, the Jerusalem bureau chief for Time magazine in the late 1970s, has described. In an article for The Link 15 years ago, he wrote about what he called his “epiphany” during three years covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, rather than a single revelation, his epiphany came as a series of insights that cumulatively undermined his belief in the Zionist narrative he had grown up accepting. His increasingly critical reporting set him in opposition to other foreign correspondents in Jerusalem and incurred the wrath of Israeli officials and lobbyists in the US. His Link essay is fascinating not least because of the continuing relevance of many of his experiences more than 30 years later.

One observation Neff makes, however, no longer applies to the current crop of foreign correspondents. He notes the difficulty he faced at the time of his posting in the 1970s in learning about the essentials of the conflict. In part, Neff suggests, he struggled to make sense of what he was witnessing because of a dearth of reliable information in English on Israel’s history and even more so on its then less than 10-year-old occupation. Without a proper context for understanding the conflict, he found himself vulnerable to the misinformation campaigns of Israeli officials, who claimed that the occupations of the West Bank and Gaza were entirely benevolent.

Neff admits he failed to heed the reports of the the United Nations, the one body regularly investigating and publicising the realities of the occupation. Like other foreign correspondents of the time, and those of today, Neff regarded the UN as a discredited organisation, chiefly because of successful smear campaigns by Israel. Neff paints a disconcerting picture that few Western readers could have appreciated at the time: of a press corps that, far from mastering the news agenda on Israel, largely abided by a part self-imposed, part Israeli-dictated news blackout.

Neff points to a series of episodes that contributed to his gradual awakening: a solitary critical report in a reputed British newspaper, the Sunday Times, highlighting the regular use of torture against Palestinians; the leaking to the Hebrew media of the 1976 Koenig report, in which senior officials laid out suggestions for how to rid the country of some of its Palestinian citizens; the role played by one Palestinian in Ramallah, Ramonda Tawil, who not only supplied him with stories but also paid for it with repeated arrests and abuse by Israel; and finally his investigation into an incident in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, in which Israeli soldiers viciously and without provocation attacked Palestinian youths, part of a larger rampage conducted by the army across the West Bank.

There was considerable fall-out from Neff’s increasingly informed reporting, and especially the Beit Jala story. His local bureau staff, all of them Israeli Jews, grew indignant at his coverage and, over the Beit Jala report, actually staged a mutiny. The Israeli media began a campaign of vilification against both him and Time, and Neff found Israelis, including sources, responded to him with a new hostility. Back in New York, resentment among some staff at the magazine increased, and Zionist lobby groups bombarded the office with complaints. Despite an unexpected investigation held at the instigation of the Israeli president, Ezer Weizman, that confirmed Neff’s account of the Beit Jala incident, his report was ignored by other foreign correspondents, including those at the New York Times, the US paper of record on which his own editors relied.

Emotionally and professionally exhausted by the experience, Neff left the region shortly afterwards. He concludes that he was “heart-broken and discouraged by the display of prejudice and unprofessional conduct of my colleagues covering the story, whom I had admired. Not only would they not have used the story if it had been up to them, but after Weizman’s confirmation some of them confided to me that they had known in their hearts from the beginning that the story was true. This amazing confession struck me as the worst example of bad journalism and ugly prejudice I could imagine. The experience left me highly skeptical about the wisdom of employing reporters in areas where they are partisans.”

Partisan reporters

As Neff suggests, there were few reporters of his independent nature in Jerusalem at that time. Both he and an earlier free spirit – Michael Adams of the Guardian newspaper – operated largely in a real-news vacuum that made their own reporting seem improbable to their news editors.

Adams, who covered the region during and immediately after the 1967 Six-Day war, recounts at length in his book Publish It Not his difficulties reporting on the brutalities committed against Palestinians in the newly occupied West Bank and Gaza. Already his colleagues were terming the occupation “the most enlightened in history”. Adams was finally forced out of his job when in 1968 he tried to bring to attention an ethnic cleansing campaign that had been carried out a short time earlier, under cover of the 1967 war. The Israeli army, he learnt, had expelled the inhabitants of three Palestinian villages near Jerusalem, razed their homes and then quietly annexed the territory to Israel. Today the villagers’ lands are a recreational area known as Canada Park, paid for by Canadian tax-payers, that is popular with ordinary Israelis and widely – and mistakenly – assumed to be part of Israel.

Like Neff, Adams was not only radicalised by his experiences but also began to question the motivations of other foreign correspondents. How could they see the same things and yet fail to report them?

Adams concludes that, in large part, Israel’s narrative was largely unchallenged in the Western media not because most of the foreign correspondents in Jerusalem were Jews but because they chose to identify closely with one side of the conflict through their commitment to the ideology of Zionism. In many cases that included taking Israeli citizenship, serving in the Israeli army as a reserve soldier, or sending their children into the army. In claiming citizenship under the Law of Return, which blatantly privileges the immigration rights of Jews over those of native Palestinians (the overwhelming majority of whom had been expelled from their homes by Israel), these reporters were themselves collaborating in the process of ethnic cleansing. How could they not thereby plunge themselves into the most consuming conflict of interest?

Both Neff and Adams suggest that the wilful blindness, or self-censorship, of most of the press corps ensured non-Zionist reporters could make no impact on the news agenda. Adams’ editor at the Guardian, who had already been subjected to intense lobbying campaigns against Adams by Israeli officials in the UK and the paper’s Jewish readers, therefore had every reason to find the article about the three ethnically cleansed villages implausible.

Adams writes: “It made it easier for the editor to believe that, if I had not actually invented the story, I must have at least left out of account some justifying factor; it was only some months later, when he sent another correspondent, who was not Jewish, out of Engand that the story was confirmed and at last published in the Guardian. By then, and as a direct result of the argument we had had over this episode, the editor had put an end to my connection with the Guardian by telling me that he would never again publish anything I wrote about the Middle East.”

Proving their Zionist credentials

Surprisingly, the preponderance of Jewish reporters in the Jerusalem press corps continues to this day, especially among the US contingent. Even a few of the Jewish reporters themselves regard this as problematic in a conflict where national and ethnic allegiances and pressures are so much to the fore. One American journalist speaking on condition of anonymity told me recently that it was common at Foreign Press Association gatherings in Israel to hear the “senior, agenda-setting, elite journalists” boasting to one another about their “Zionist” credentials, their service in the Israeli army or the loyal service of their children. (None of my sources, it should be noted, felt able to go on the record with such views, fearing it that it would be career suicide.)

He added: “I’m Jewish, married to an Israeli and like almost all Western journalists live in Jewish West Jerusalem. In my free time I hang out in cafes and bars with Jewish Israelis chatting in Hebrew. For the Jewish sabbath and Jewish holidays I often get together with a bunch of Western journalists. While it would be convenient to think otherwise, there is no question that this deep personal integration into Israeli society informs our overall understanding and coverage of the place in a way quite different from a journalist who lived in Ramallah or Gaza and whose personal life was more embedded in Palestinian society.”

His observations had been prompted by revelations earlier this year that Ethan Bronner, the New York Times’ bureau chief in Jerusalem, had a son serving in the Israeli army. The disclosure, which Bronner himself refused to confirm or deny when it first broke, briefly provoked a flood of complaints to the NYT’s head office. A column at the time by the paper’s public editor, Clark Hoyt, argued that Bronner had a conflict of interest and should be reassigned.

The paper’s editor, Bill Keller, vehemently disagreed: “So to prevent any appearance of bias, would you say we should not send Jewish reporters to Israel? If so, what about assigning Jewish reporters to countries hostile to Israel? What about reporters married to Jews? Married to Israelis? Married to Arabs? Married to evangelical Christians? … Ethical judgments that start from prejudice lead pretty quickly to absurdity, and pandering to zealots means cheating readers who genuinely seek to be informed.”

Keller, of course, wilfully ignored Hoyt’s point that it was not Bronner’s Jewishness that was the central issue; it was his emotional commitment to one side of the conflict through his son’s army service. His reporting was already under scrutiny even before the revelations about his son. Bronner had been widely criticised for his bias towards the Israeli government’s positions, including by the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

Also, Keller was writing as though Bronner was an isolated example of a potentially compromised reporter. The problem for the NYT and most of the rest of the US media, however, is that, far from being exceptional, it is the norm for them to assign a Jewish reporter to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My contact pointed out: “I can think of a dozen foreign bureau chiefs, responsible for covering both Israel and the Palestinians, who have served in the Israeli army, and another dozen who like Bronner have kids in the Israeli army.”

The NYT’s other Jerusalem correspondent, Isabel Kershner, is believed to be an Israeli citizen and is married to an Israeli. A recent predecessor of Bronner’s, Joel Greenberg, did reserve duty in the Israeli army while he was reporting for the paper, apparently a fact known by the editors but also not considered a conflict of interest. Most of the NYT’s correspondents in the past two decades appear to have been Jewish.

That, whatever Keller argues, should be a matter of profound concern to the paper and readers who expect fair coverage. Even putting aside the issue of the likely partisanship of Jewish reporters who identify with a self-declared Jewish state either by taking citizenship or by serving in the army, any paper ought to want to promote a diversity of backgrounds among its staff. How would the NYT credibly explain the decision to allow only Chinese-Americans to report on Tibet, or to appoint only Catholic Irish-Americans to cover Northern Ireland, or – for that matter – to allow only men to write about women’s issues?

But, more significantly, the NYT’s partisanship on Israel is not simply speculation; it is demonstrated in its reporting. Alison Weir of If Americans Knew, a US institute for disseminating information about the Middle East, has pointed out the systematic distortions in the paper’s coverage. Some notable examples are the fact that international reports on Israel’s human right abuses are covered at a rate 19 times lower than those documenting abuses by Palestinians; and Israeli children’s deaths are seven times more likely to be reported than Palestinian chldren’s. The Times, like other US media, reports endlessly on the plight of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held in Gaza, while rarely mentioning the 7,000 or so Palestinians – including many women and children, and hundreds who have never been charged – held in Israel’s prisons.

Keller goes on to comment about Bronner: “How those connections [to Israel] affect his innermost feelings about the country and its conflicts, I don’t know. I suspect they supply a measure of sophistication about Israel and its adversaries that someone with no connections would lack.” If true, why would the NYT not also want to make sure that it employed a Palestinian or an Arab-American in one of its two Jerusalem posts, or even have one of its two reporters based in the West Bank city of Ramallah? Would that not ensure that the Palestinian perspective was reported with an equal “measure of sophistication”?

There is the obvious danger that, in a situation where reporters self-select for the Jerusalem beat, it is precisely those who identify most closely with Israel and the Zionist movement’s goals who will be drawn there. But in practice it is the news organisations who ultimately make such selections, often after journalists put themselves forward. Why are they willing accomplices to this conflict of interest or, at the very least, so blind to it?

One factor to consider is the degree to which the senior staff of newspapers like the Times suffer from a similar partisanship. Both the paper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr, and its foreign editor, Susan Chira, are Jewish, with the latter believed to have family in Israel. This would be of little consequence of itself, except for the degree to which these senior executives’ behaviour fuels speculation on their own judgments about the conflict.

In October, for example, the Israeli media reported that Sulzberger, Keller and Chira had made a 24-hour stop in the region. Aside from the inevitable meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers, they appeared to have dedicated the rest of their time to a “PR tour” organised by the settlers’ council, Yesha, that included a visit to a college in Ariel that the Israeli government had recently declared the first university in the West Bank and to the Barkan industrial estate, a prime focus of the Palestinian boycott movement. The tour’s dubious purpose was to show the settlers’ guests how much Palestinians benefit from their presence in the West Bank. Was this really the best use these hectic executives could make of their day in the region?

But there exist more significant reasons why the media might prefer Jewish reporters in Jerusalem. One is that Israel defines even mild criticism of its policies as anti-Semitism, a charge to which the news media are still extremely sensitive. Having a Jewish journalist, or better still one who has demonstrated a commitment to Israel through his own or his child’s army service, offers some immunity from such accusations.

Another reason is the importance accorded by all news organisations to gaining access to the centres of power. In a self-declared Jewish state, as news editors understand, Jewish reporters, especially those conversant in the tribal language of Hebrew, will have a important advantage. This is what Keller is obliquely referring to when he talks of Jewish reporters covering the conflict with “sophistication” and being able to make “connections”. Keller, like other US editors, is not overly concerned that such connections come at a very high price. US news media are choosing to employ partisan reporters who are dependent on official Israeli sources of information for news in a system where the ultimate professional sin is to be accused of anti-Semitism. This is hardly an atmosphere in which fearless independence and truth-seeking are likely to flourish.


Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

A shorter version of this article originally appeared in AMEU
The Link – Volume 43, Issue 5 / November – December 2010

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