ADL Survey: Major U.S. Newspapers Continue to Support Israel
as Conflict Widens
New York, NY, December 14, 2000 Ö A new survey of
editorials from the nationís largest daily newspapers has found continuing
strong support and sympathy for Israelís position as the Palestinian uprising
gathers further momentum with more fighting and deadly terrorist attacks.
As a follow-up to an earlier survey, the Anti-Defamation
League (ADL) assessed 56 editorials from major U.S. newspapers during the
seven-week period October 16 through December 1. During this time of sustained
violence, 60 percent of the editorials expressed clear support for Israel while
criticizing Yasir Arafat and the Palestinians for orchestrating the violence.
The informal survey divided editorials into two categories: those supporting
Israel (34), and those reflecting some level of criticism against Israel or both
"Contrary to some prevailing assumptions about media
coverage of the Mideast crisis, newspapers in the United States by and large
support Israelís position in the conflict," said Glen A. Tobias, ADL
National Chairman, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "The false
depiction of this as a David-and-Goliath battle with Israeli defense forces
targeting innocent, unarmed civilians apparently doesnít hold weight with the
vast majority of American newspapers."
ADL historically has surveyed U.S. newspaper editorial
stances in the wake of important developments in the region. An earlier analysis
of 67 editorials, conducted in the weeks following the initial outbreak of
hostilities in late September, found 56 percent of editorials taking a strong
Pro-Israel commentaries appeared in many of the nationís
most widely read newspapers, including The Washington Post, St. Louis
Post-Dispatch, Boston Globe, Cleveland Plain Dealer, New
York Daily News, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Wall Street Journal and USA
Today. Half of the 34 pro-Israel editorials directly criticized Chairman
Arafat. For instance, in an editorial headlined "Unacceptable
Equilibrium," The Washington Post chided Arafat for using violence
as a bargaining chip. "The worst response to Mr. Arafatís provocations
would be to demand Israeli concessions to placate him. But the reality remains:
Mr. Arafat is cultivating violence while the Israelis are trying Ė however
imperfectly Ė to quell it." The Boston Herald struck a similar
chord: "Arafat needs to absorb the lesson that he is not going to get a
Palestinian state without Israeli cooperation, and violence makes that
cooperation impossible." On November 3, the Miami Herald made clear
its position with the banner headline: "We support Israel." The
Herald editorialized: "Arafat must rise to the moment and call for an
end to the Palestinian violence."
The remainder of the pro-Israel editorials framed their
arguments in a variety of ways Ė questioning the Arab commitment to the peace
process, exposing the threat of Palestinian terrorism, and assessing the role of
the United States, the United Nations, Ariel Sharon and others with a stake in
the conflict. On October 24, The Boston Globeís editorial page
called into question Chairman Arafatís goals. "If Arafatís intention
now is to employ the tactic of armed struggle with the aim of unilaterally
declaring an independent Palestinian state, his people will end up much worse
off than if he continued negotiating at Camp David," the editorial said.
"When the smoke clears, the world may remember the current calamities in
the Mideast as `Arafatís final blunderí."
Criticism of Israel or Both Sides
Twenty-two editorials expressed varying degrees of criticism
of Israel. These appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, The
Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun , Los Angeles Times, San
Francisco Chronicle, Houston Chronicle, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chicago
Tribune, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Orlando Sentinel and Boston Globe.
While expressing disappointment with Israeli leaders, many of
the editorials sought to balance their criticism with equally critical
statements about the Palestinians. "Barak and Arafat went to the summit
with chips on their shoulders and blood on their hands. Both are blaming the
other for the epidemic of violence," the San Francisco Chronicle
noted on October 17.
Others issued an imperative for both sides to work toward a
solution. An even-handed November 3 editorial in The New York Times stated: "Until
(a then-recent Israeli-Palestinian meeting), Israelis and Palestinians seemed to
be readying themselves for many more months of fighting. Palestinians spoke of a
war for independence. Israeli forces were preparing to shed restrictions that
now limit their attacks on Palestinian areas. Israel would enjoy enormous
firepower advantages in such a conflict. But the results could be devastating.
Ö There can be no satisfactory military solution to the conflict between
Israelis and Palestinians. A negotiated peace, however long it takes to achieve,
is the only realistic way out."
Several editorials were critical of Likud leader Ariel Sharon
and any role he might assume in a national emergency government. This theme was
highlighted in an editorial by the San Francisco Chronicle, which argued:
"By joining forces with the pugnacious Sharon, a man universally despised
in the Arab world, Barak might save his political skin but is likely to sound a
death knell for any hope of reviving peace talks." A handful of editorials
focused on Palestinian suffering. The Baltimore Sun asserted, "Both
peoples have been hurt by the strife, but the Palestinians suffer much moreÖ.
This goes far beyond the unequal death toll." On November 6, The Los
Angeles Times said, "The Palestinians have suffered far more" than
the Israelis, and that "if Israel responds by imposing separation, the
political and economic consequences would be catastrophic."
EDITORS NOTE: ADL continues to monitor media coverage of
the crisis in Israel, with regular updates in the special "Media
Watch" section of ADLís Web site. To speak with an expert on the crisis
in the Middle East, contact ADL Media Relations at (212) 885-7749.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.