AP’s Matti Friedman: Israeli citizen and former Israeli soldier

Associated Press Deconstructed – April 13, 2011

In the previous post, “‘Israeli army strikes Gaza after school bus hit’ – Deconstructed,” I examined the Israeli-centric wording and pattern of omissions in AP’s report on the recent violence in Gaza. At the end of the piece I noted:

“…the story was written and edited in Israel by Matti Friedman, a journalist who may have family ties to the Israeli military.”

 Tonight I was examining AP’s recent reports on Israel-Palestine and noted additional articles by Matti Friedman. Since they all seem to contain such distinctly pro-Israel bias I decided to look into Friedman more to see what I could learn about his/her background.

 It turns out that Friedman is male, grew up in Canada, and at the age of 16 won a “Bronfman Youth Fellowship” for an all-expense-paid five-week summer trip to Israel for Jewish high school students from North America to “encounter the land and people of Israel [and] study Judaism and major issues in contemporary Jewish life.”

The next year he moved to Israel, where he settled and has lived since 1995. And yes, he served in the Israeli military.

In fact, he edited an article for the Bronfman alumni magazine entitled “Military Service as a Formative Experience; Reflections from Bronfmanim,” in which he writes:

“Military service, with its trials, frustrations, and hard-won personal victories, is nearly always a formative experience for those who undergo it… The experience remains seared into the memory of the Amitim and Bronfman Fellows who have spent time in uniform, long after they return to civilian life.”

 Now Friedman works as a correspondent for AP’s control bureau for Israel-Palestine, where he writes news articles that are consistently Israeli-centric in their wording and focus and, especially, in which information they include and which facts they leave out. Perhaps it’s not surprising that he consistently mentions Israeli injuries and deaths while rarely mentioning Palestinian ones, even though the latter occur far more often.

 It may not be surprising human behavior, but it is unacceptable journalism.

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For more articles on journalists covering Israel-Palestine who have ties to the Israeli military see:

US Media and Israeli Military: All in the Family

Ethan Bronner’s Conflict With Impartiality

              How AP works

Since most newspapers don’t have their own reporters in Israel or the Palestinian Territories, they obtain their news on this region from wire services. AP is usually the only global wire service taken by U.S. newspapers.

Although AP is a cooperative, which means that it is “owned” by all the news organizations that use its news, in reality there is almost no oversight of its work. Editors around the country simply accept its reporting at face value.

The trouble is, however, that its reporting is consistently Israeli-centric.

The “control bureau” for the region, through which all news reports are funneled, is located in Israel. Its editors are living in Israel, their families are frequently Israeli, and quite often they themselves are Israeli citizens.

Even when an AP report carries a Palestinian dateline and even a Palestinian byline, in the large majority of cases the article was actually written in Israel, frequently by an Israeli editor.

A study of AP’s reporting found that it had reported on Israeli children’s deaths at a rate seven times greater than they reported on Palestinian children’s deaths – even though Palestinian children were killed first and in far greater numbers.

This blog will deconstruct AP’s daily reporting on Israel-Palestine: it will discuss its editors’ word choices, editorial decisions, and headlines. It will especially explore which “context” AP’s editors on this beat have chosen to include and which to ignore.

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