Over the past three months, in one media forum after another, Matti Friedman, a former reporter in the Jerusalem bureau of The Associated Press, has eagerly offered himself as an authority on international coverage of Israel and the Palestinian territories, repeatedly referencing the AP. His arguments have been filled with distortions, half-truths and inaccuracies, both about the recent Gaza war and more distant events. His suggestion of AP bias against Israel is false. There's no "narrative" that says it is Israel that doesn't want peace; the story of this century-long conflict is more complicated than that.
In covering the Gaza war, the AP aimed, as always, to present a fair and accurate picture. Like other media covering this story, we dealt with numerous obstacles, including Hamas intimidation, Israeli military censorship, anti-media incitement on both sides of the border, Hamas rocket fire and intense Israeli airstrikes that made it dangerous and difficult to get around Gaza during the fighting.
Courageous AP staffers worked around the clock in Gaza, often at the risk of great personal harm. Intense Israeli airstrikes literally shook the high-rise building housing the AP’s office. Two AP employees were ultimately killed in Gaza, and a third critically wounded and maimed. Our body of work included images and stories about Hamas rocket fire from civilian areas, the suffering of the residents of southern Israel living under the threat of rocket, mortar and tunnel-based attacks, Hamas' summary executions of suspected collaborators, the fears of Gazans to criticize the group, Hamas' use of civilian areas for cover and the devastation wreaked on Gazan civilians by Israeli airstrikes and artillery attacks.
Regarding a few specific issues that Mr. Friedman has raised most recently:
_ The AP published numerous photos and TV footage of rockets being launched from Gaza City. AP's Josef Federman and Hamza Hendawi collaborated on an investigation into Hamas' use of civilian areas for rocket launches, comparing maps obtained from Israeli military intelligence to facts on the ground.
_ In the early days of the war, armed militants entered the AP's offices in Gaza to complain about a photo showing the location of a specific rocket launch. The AP immediately contacted Hamas, which insisted the men did not represent the group. The photo was not withdrawn and the men were never heard from again. Subsequent videos similarly showed rocket launches from within the urban area. Such intimidation is common in trouble spots. The AP does not report many interactions with militias, armies, thugs or governments. These incidents are part of the challenge of getting out the news -- and generally not themselves news.
_ The AP looked into the earlier Al-Quds University incident with the Nazi-like salute and the Jerusalem bureau worked together with the AP's Boston bureau to produce a story about Brandeis University severing its ties with the Palestinian university over the incident. It bears noting that the Palestinians deny the gesture is meant as a Nazi salute and it is used elsewhere in the region.
_ There was no "ban" on using Prof. Gerald Steinberg. He and his NGO Monitor group are cited in at least a half-dozen stories since the 2009 Gaza war.
_ The repeated allegation that AP suppressed the story and details of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's offer for a very significant Israeli pullout from the West Bank is also demonstrably false, as AP ran stories about it in the weeks after it was supposedly made. The very notion that a major news operation would put aside a credible scoop on the details to prevent Israel from looking generous is ludicrous.
It is misleading and disingenuous to selectively pick examples of our work to promote narrow viewpoints. The AP is proud of its staff on both sides of the border for producing a broad, independent and comprehensive report in such adverse conditions.
Director of Media Relations
The Associated Press