Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America

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Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
Interests Middle East
Wikipedia page Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America

Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) [1] is a Boston based powerful pro-Israel lobby group that tries to minimise criticism of Israel on US media. Founded by Charles Jacobs in the wake of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon it claims to be "a media-monitoring, research and membership organization devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East". According to its website, it "systematically monitors, documents, reviews and archives Middle East coverage" and its staffers "directly contact reporters, editors, producers and publishers concerning distorted or inaccurate coverage, offering factual information to refute errors". [2]

According to its Executive Director, what sets it apart from other media watch-dog groups is its "sizable paying, activist membership". [3]

Membership

According to its Executive Director, the organization has 55,000 paying members and "thousands of active letter writers". The range of media monitored by CAMERA includes "all major print and electronic media in the United States as well as professional journals, websites, encyclopedias, travel guides, and so forth". [4]

International office

In 2005, CAMERA established an office in Israel to monitor Israeli and international media. The organisation identified the British press as a particular area of concern, singling out The Independent and The Guardian for closer scrutiny. [5]

Activities

According to the late investigative journalist Robert Friedman, CAMERA was "created specifically to keep the U.S. press in line...At least in one case, it has assigned freelance reporters to dig into the personal lives of liberal journalists whose views deviate from the narrowest spectrum of pro-Israeli opinion. CAMERA, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the rest of the lobby don't want fairness, but bias in their favor. And they are prepared to use McCarthyite tactics, as well as the power and money of pro-Israel PACs, to get whatever Israel wants."(The Nation, June 6, 1987)

CAMERA's website has an extensive database of journalists that it has targeted over the years [6] (including many prominent Israelis) with most of the criticism bordering on the ridiculous. Ironically, the list also includes Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, one of the most pro-Israel journalists in the United States. In another one of its media alerts, it describes Israel's acclaimed historian Benny Morris as a "fabricator". [7] Its other targets include Robert Fisk, Israel Shahak, Edward Said, Norman Finkelstein, John Pilger, Ilan Pappe, Amira Hass and Gideon Levy. It has even gone as far to accuse Israel's prominent daily Ha'aretz of fueling "anti-Israel bias". [8]

The kind of inaccuracies that CAMERA claims to redress include substituting purported myths for real ones. The following quote from a CAMERA Student Fellow is instructive: "it true that Israel is not complying with U.N. resolution 242, requiring withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967? Not at all. The resolution does not actually specify particular territories or the extent of the withdrawal". [9] (emphasis added)

In a May 7, 2002 full-page ad in the New York Times, CAMERA criticized the media for their lack of understanding of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Palestinian violence was attributed not to the occupation or the atrocities of the occupying army, but instead to the "hate education" to which they are subjected. (The New York Observer, May 13, 2002)

Responding to CAMERA's criticisms of the "anti-Israel" bias in its Middle-East coverage, the Executive Editor and Publisher of the the New York Times attended a journalism forum at the University of California in 2002 and the editors of the right-wing New York Post noted with some consternation that the majority of the criticism that came their way was for exactly the opposite. (New York Post, November 22, 2002).

CAMERA demands nothing short of an absolute reflection of the Israeli government position in the media as at times it has even complained about giving too much airtime to critics within Israel's own government. Ted Koppel was taken to task for giving "twice the air time" to a whole group of critics on his Nightline as he did to the single supporter (The Washington Times, Oct 10, 1996).

Measuring success

The successes that CAMERA claims include campaigns targeting the New York Times, Reuters, Public Broadcasting Service, and National Public Radio. In the case of PBS, CAMERA claims to have generated "more letter-writing complaints than they had ever received on any subject". The organization also testified against the service in Congress, commenting later, "Eventually PBS had no choice but to concede its errors." CAMERA criticised NPR for its "very politically correct view of the world" and for putting a "very heavy emphasis on all politically fashionable subjects such as gay and feminine rights as well as Palestinian rights".[10]

Comment from columnist of targeted newspaper

A columnist for the New York Times, the Jewish reporter Frank Rich, commented critically on the campaigns of pro-Israel media watch groups (note: Rich does not name any one group, so it cannot be assumed that he is referring to CAMERA) as follows:

Just a partial list of those targeted by protesters for alleged pro-Palestinian bias includes, in addition to The Times and The Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee, "Nightline" — well, you get the idea. The list is so indiscriminate that the indictment seems the mirror image of the Palestinians' charge that their case has been distorted by the pro-Israeli slant of America's "Jewish controlled" media.[11]

Publications

CAMERA Media Report

The organization's main publication is the CAMERA Media Report, "a critique of bias and error that is sent to journalists, CAMERA members, libraries, synagogues, and Congress". CAMERA claims that its publications have even been seen in the Vice-President Cheney's office.

CAMERA on Campus

CAMERA on Campus [12] is a publication of CAMERA that tries to monitor and silence criticism of Israel on the campuses of various American institutions. The organization also distributes "tens of thousands of copies" of the publication "three times per year to more than 400 campuses in North America". [13]

In 2005 CAMERA on Campus played a prominent role in the attack on MEALAC department at Columbia University, and even ran interviews with one of the chief crusaders, Prof. Alan Dershowitz of Harvard, [14] who himself was busy fending off accusations of plagiarising Joan Peter's 1984 hoax, From Time Immemorial [15] [16] and trying to suppress Norman Finkelstein's book in which the charge has been thoroughly documented.

Monographs published by CAMERA are distributed to "thousands of people among the public and elected officials".

CAMERA on AudioPort

In an interesting development, CAMERA has also managed to get a spot on the otherwise critical source of radical news Pacifica Radio's online feature AudioPort.

Student Fellowship Pilot Program

CAMERA also offers a Student Fellowship Pilot Program in which the fellows are taught to "counter campus media bias". The following account provides a good summation of the kind of education they receive:

We learned how to effectively respond to an inaccurate or unfair article about Israel with a letter-to-the-editor or an Op-Ed piece. Also, if an article contains a factual error, students should gather the information needed to document the error, and then press the editors for a correction. If bias is chronic at a particular paper, encourage university administrators to fund a new newspaper with higher editorial standards.
We also discussed strategies for dealing with anti-Israel professors. If a professor attempts to silence your views in the classroom, seek administrative assistance. If that fails, press for accountability by publicizing the problem. [17]

Principals

Executive Director: Andrea Levin



References

  1. CAMERA website
  2. CAMERA website
  3. Manfred Gerstenfeld, 'CAMERA: Fighting Distorted Media Coverage of Israel and the Middle East, (An Interview with Andrea Levin)', JCPA website, 1 June, 2005.
  4. Manfred Gerstenfeld, 'CAMERA: Fighting Distorted Media Coverage of Israel and the Middle East, (An Interview with Andrea Levin)', JCPA website, 1 June, 2005.
  5. Specific reference needed here. Related article pre-dating CAMERA's establishment of an office in Israel: 'Eric Rozenman, 'WASHINGTON POST-WATCH: Big News--But Only For the Post', CAMERA website, 21 October, 2004.
  6. 'Journalists', CAMERA website
  7. Alex Safian, 'NPR's Special Bias', CAMERA website, 30 September, 2002.
  8. Andrea Levin, 'Ha’aretz Fuels Anti-Israel Bias', CAMERA website, 6 August, 2001.
  9. Jacob Baime, 'CAMERA Fellows: A Cadre of Skilled Media Watchdogs', CAMERA website
  10. Andrea Levin, CAMERA: Fighting Distorted Media Coverage of Israel and the Middle East, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs website, PHAS, No. 33, 1 June 2005, acccessed 15 Dec 2009
  11. Frank Rich, The Booing of Wolfowitz, New York Times, 11 May 2009, accessed 15 Dec 2009
  12. 'For Students', CAMERA website
  13. Manfred Gerstenfeld, 'CAMERA: Fighting Distorted Media Coverage of Israel and the Middle East, (An Interview with Andrea Levin)', JCPA website, 1 June, 2005.
  14. 'Alan Dershowitz on Free Speech, Academic Freedom and Intimidation', CAMERA website, 31 March, 2005.
  15. 'Scholar Norman Finkelstein Calls Professor Alan Dershowitz’s New Book On Israel a “Hoax”', Democracy Now! website, 24 September, 2003.
  16. Alexander Cockburn, 'Will Lawrence Summers Take Action? Alan Dershowitz, Plagiarist?', CounterPunch website, 26 September, 2003.
  17. Jacob Baime, 'CAMERA Fellows: A Cadre of Skilled Media Watchdogs', CAMERA website