Major new study shows blatant anti-Israel agenda at the Financial Times

Robin Shepherd reports about Just Journalism's analysis of bias at Britain's Financial Times:

If you thought that the Financial Times was the kind of news outlet that remained above the fray in its coverage and commentary on Israel’s predicament in the Middle East, you’d be wrong. A new, in-depth study by the respected media monitoring group Just Journalism shows that this quintessentially establishment newspaper yields to nobody in its anti-Israeli bias and its wilful distortion of Middle Eastern realities.

At this stage in the proceedings I should offer full disclosure: I am an advisory board member of Just Journalism and key quotes from a letter sent in my name accompanying the report have been quoted in several world media outlets from the New Republic to the Jerusalem Post.

The key findings of the report, taken from the Executive Summary, are as follows:

1) The FT views Israel as primarily responsible for the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while downplaying other factors. In particular it places the role of settlement-building in the West Bank above any other single factor affecting the conflict. Settlement-building is referred to as ‘colonisation’ in nine editorials.

2) Other aggravating factors such as terrorism, disunity within Palestinian ranks and a failure to accept Israel as a Jewish state are downplayed. Neither of these last two are addressed as areas of legitimate concern for Israel; rather, both are viewed as ploys by Israel to ‘change the subject’.

3) The editorial coverage over the past year reflects a gradual shift away from the view that Iran’s nuclear intentions might be peaceful towards the conclusion at the end of 2009 that they are not.

4) The prospect of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities is referred to in five editorials; yet no Financial Times editorial in 2009 makes reference to the threatening rhetoric from Iran’s President Ahmadinejad against Israel.

5) The publication backed the Goldstone Report, which described the Israeli military operation as ‘a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population’. The Financial Times described Israel’s actions in Gaza as ‘disproportionate’ in four editorials.

6) Israeli political leaders are depicted as ‘irredentist’, ‘hawkish’, and ‘ultra-nationalist’. In contrast, Palestinian leaders are portrayed as ‘moderate’ and ‘conciliatory’, if corrupt.

7) Israel’s total military and civilian withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005 is not viewed as a meaningful Israeli concession, rather it is seen as inadequate at best, and a cynical ploy at worst.

8) The Arab world is portrayed as having made a substantial effort for peace in the broader Arab-Israeli conflict. The Saudi Peace Initiative of 2002 is touted in seven editorials and the newspaper expresses sympathy with the recent Arab refusal to meet Israeli concessions with Arab concessions.

9) Mixed attitudes towards the nature of Arab regimes are displayed. The newspaper attacks the West – the US in particular – for backing ‘an ossified order of … Arab strongmen’ typified by the Mubarak regime in Egypt; however, Saudi Arabia is spared harsh criticism, particularly regarding its human rights record.

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