- The Washington Times - Friday, April 19, 2002

News coverage from the Middle East has two distinct byproducts: charges of bias and some Bush bashing.

Conflicting, dramatic print and broadcast reports from Jenin and elsewhere have prompted both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian factions to accuse journalists of favoritism. Meanwhile, some news organizations are using Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's recent peace mission as convenient evidence that President Bush is on unsure footing.

Who is right, Israel or the Palestinians? While news content was subject to interpretation, interest groups lined up clearly behind each cause.

Almost 1,000 Los Angeles Times readers canceled their subscriptions Wednesday to protest the paper's "inaccurate, pro-Palestine reporting of the unrest in the Middle East," a reaction that has been fomenting for weeks, a local organizer said yesterday.

Some were particularly annoyed with "They Forced Me to Hate," an April 15 story that noted, "Israeli soldiers shot unarmed civilians, bulldozed people alive and blocked access to medical care," ending with a heartbreaking vision of a Palestinian toddler wandering alone in the ruins.

"If anyone 'made' the Palestinians hate the Israelis, it was their own leaders," countered one letter to the editor.

Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll insisted the paper's goal was "fair and complete" coverage and that "over time, careful readers of this newspaper will get a full, balanced account of these unsettling events."

The Times had other problems yesterday. Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan announced plans to start an alternative city newspaper this summer, heavy on local news and media commentary. The Republican mayor and the Times had been uneasy bedfellows during his two terms in office.

"This town needs a paper that's going to put our city more into perspective and show more respect for the city," Mr. Riordan told the Associated Press.

In the meantime, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Francisco Chronicle also were accused of recent pro-Palestinian bias, leaving one ombudsman to claim this week that newspapers had been "drawn into intense cross fire."

National Public Radio got flak from both sides, accused by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America of coverage "skewed" against Israel, and by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting of a pro-Israel bias.

It was all "a form of journalistic McCarthyism," NPR fired back.

Some focused on impending dangers regarding the big picture in the Middle East. The Christian Science Monitor said that outraged Arabs rallied around stories of Jenin, actually enhancing terrorist recruitment and prompting Osama bin Laden's reappearance on videotape in an effort to "remain center stage."

Mr. Powell's peace effort already has been dismissed by several news organizations. The British Broadcasting Corp. called it "fruitless" while a New York Times article described the effort as "apparent failure" yesterday, adding: "George W. Bush has had a bad week."

Another Times article said the president appeared "defensive," and noted, "Never once today did Mr. Bush repeat his call for Israel to pull out 'without delay,' a phrase his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said 11 days ago should be interpreted as 'now.'"

The White House "remains mired in a 'peace process' that is empty of content. We are back to a brutal and hopeless impasse," noted an L.A. Times commentary.

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