Funding Anti-Israel Bias

Yesterday, the Jerusalem Post reported about Palestinian Media Watch’s allegation that the palestinian Ma’an News Agency – funded in part by the Netherlands and Denmark – promotes hatred of Israel.

Marcus and Crook monitored the Ma’an news agency’s Arabic and English news coverage of the last few terrorist attacks in Israel and found that it repeatedly honored murderers as “martyrs” and referred to areas of pre-1967 Israel as “occupied Palestine.”

They also found that stronger anti-Israel terminology was used in Ma’an’s Arabic Web site than in its English one.

“We find it surprising and unfortunate that the governments of the Netherlands and Denmark continue to fund this hate journalism without demanding a change,” Marcus and Crook wrote. “Hate incitement, including denial of Israel’s existence and glorifying terror, is universally accepted as a paramount cause of continued Palestinian terror. These governments, together with governments who have blindly funded Palestinian schoolbooks, bear direct moral responsibility for the continued hatred that is being ingrained into future Palestinian generations, and bear a moral responsibility for the terror and its victims.”

Here’s the Dutch response:

Frans Makken, the head of mission at the Dutch representative office in Ramallah, said such problems were rare at Ma’an and that his office would take steps to ensure that they did not reoccur.

“When this has come up before, we took it up with Ma’an,” Makken said. “It was just a mistake of words. It happens rarely, if ever. Our office is involved in connecting people. If there has been a slip-up, we will bring it up with them. They are young journalists and their translations are being improved all the time.”

Makken said this was only the second complaint his office had received in his three years in his post, the first being when the suicide bomber in a January 2007 terrorist attack was referred to as a “martyr.”

“[The usage of such words] was not on purpose,” Makken said. “It is something we are trying to avoid. The charter of the project [funding Ma’an] is to promote mutual understanding, which is the opposite of incitement. It is very far-fetched to say that Denmark and Holland are inciting terrorism.”

And here’s how Ma’an itself deals with the allegations:

“The PMW report cites two main discrepancies between Ma’an’s English and Arabic coverage: the use of the terms Shahid/Istishhadi and the characterization of some Israeli forces/areas/actions as being occupation.

The term Shahid, as translated in the Hans Wehr Dictionary of modern Arabic (page 572), may refer to one killed in action or a martyr. Istishhad is given to heroes or martyrs. The second term implies intent – one who engages in battle, for instance, rather than one who is simply victimized by it. In the Palestinian cultural/religious tradition, the martyrdom aspect is significantly different from the Judeo-Christian understanding. Those who die as martyrs may be defending their wives or their property, not necessarily engaging in the Western notion of a holy crusade. The PMW interpretation, while undoubtedly held by some religious individuals is not necessarily the general interpretation of these terms.

Our use of the occupation concept stems from international law and internationally-recognized boundaries. In simple terms, Israeli forces operating in Tel Aviv may be considered Israeli security forces, while those in Bethlehem are occupying forces. Tel Aviv falls on the Israeli side of the “Green Line”. Bethlehem does not. That distinction is the crux of our decision-making.

I think it’s fair to say that Ma’an is not promoting “mutual understanding” per the charter of the project funding them. Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will be familiar with their record of anti-Israel bias which goes well beyond the examples listed in the PMW report.

Because I am a giver, I will provide you with a stark example from today.

Israeli forces shot and killed a 35-year-old Palestinian farmer named Ra’fat Mansour and injured another Palestinian man during an ongoing attack on the area near the cemetery in the northern Gaza Strip, medics said.

Medical sources added that Mansour was dead when he arrived at Al-Awda hospital. The other man, Muhammad Mansour, is reported to be injured mildly.

Mansour is the second farmer, and the third unarmed Palestinian civilian to be killed by Israeli forces near Gaza’s border wall.

But there’s a slight problem with the report – it’s not true.

Palestinian medical officials said Saturday that a Gaza farmer was killed close to the territory’s fence with Israel.

While the officials said the man was killed an IDF tank shell, local residents told the Associated Press the farmer was killed after a rocket fired toward Israel by Palestinian gunmen fell short and hit him.

Spokespeople for terrorist groups did not immediately comment on the death on Saturday.

The IDF said that it was not aware of such an event, and only knew of an incident where an anti-tank missile was fired at troops patrolling near the border fence, who did not respond.

Even the palestinian Ramattan News Agency, which – like Ma’an – regularly reports falsehood against Israel, quoted witnesseses who verified this version of events.

Palestinian medics said that a Palestinian farmer was shot dead while another was injured by the Israeli army in eastern Jabalia refugee camp, northern Gaza strip.

Sources said that the farmer Rafat Mansour, 33, was hit by an Israeli projectile while he was working in his field near the border line with Israel.

Eyewitnesses said that Mansour was killed when a homemade Palestinian rocket hit him, after some Palestinian militants exchanged fire with the Israeli army.

In other words, Ma’an reported the incident as a clear case of Israeli killing a palestinian, despite the presence of witnesses who said otherwise. Something is being promoted here, and it is clearly not mutual understanding.

If I were Denmark and Holland, I would be asking some serious questions right about now.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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