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Press ReleaseIsrael/Middle East
RULE
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 sides (22).

"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 stance.

Pro-Israel Editorials

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.


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