CPB Office of the Ombudsman

Gaza, Israel and NewsHour

Joel Kaplan

December 3, 2012

The Nov. 22 NewsHour report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Gaza Strip generated about two dozen emails harshly critical of PBS and the NewsHour, charging that the two-part report was pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli and filled with errors of omission and commission.

As I do with all criticisms of the NewsHour, I forwarded those emails to Michael Getler, the PBS ombudsman, who received about 50 complaints himself. That is because the NewsHour falls under Mr. Getler's jurisdiction.

Mr. Getler weighed in with his assessment of the report and concluded that while the second segment of the report was poorly done, it did not demonstrate an intentional bias.

Mr. Getler's assessment can be found here:

http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/2012/11/the_newshour_wins_some_loses_one.html

Critics of the Nov. 22 report point out that the report from Gaza illustrated the death and destruction caused by the Israeli bombing while the report from Tel Aviv was simply a long-distance conversation with a freelance journalist that showed a normal day with no indication that Israel was also under attack.

If one takes the Nov. 22 NewsHour report as the only coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then charges of bias would have a great deal of validity.

However, Mr. Getler's conclusion that the NewsHour's Nov. 22 report did not indicate a systematic bias against Israel despite that day's poor coverage was "because I also watch the NewsHour almost every night and I had seen earlier segments on the fighting, including reports from Israel of the threat from and damage by rockets launched from Gaza, and a lengthy interview with the Israeli ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, among other clips presenting the Israeli view. I've made the point many times that news programs need to be judged on a continuum of coverage rather than on any one segment which self-interest groups can use as a hammer to try and make a larger point."

I think Mr. Getler makes some important points in his report, though I doubt it will ameliorate the anger from those who complained about the segment.

Here is a sample of those complaints:


I was appalled by your incredibly unbalanced coverage on November 22nd of the most recent attack by Hamas terrorists against the state of Israel. The coverage was replete with dramatic footage of the destruction in the Gaza Strip and emotional images of injured Gazan civilians. But of course there was not one single image of the destruction caused by the 1000s of rockets shot indiscriminately at the civilian population of Israel. The narrative that you were trying to portray was obvious---the Goliath state of Israel as the aggressor unleashing the power of the inhumane state against the indefensible citizens of Gaza. How about putting the story into context like Israel takes no pleasure in the injury or death of civilians but the Gazans relish in the death of civilian Israelis etc. etc. etc.

The reporting was faulty, flawed and biased and masquerades as journalism. I would expect to see a follow-up story on the nature of the terrorist organization known as Hamas.

You might as well be a propaganda arm of Hamas terrorists. Why would I donate a single dime to your PBS organization or its affiliates?

Mark P. Feinberg


On Thanksgiving evening, I watched PBS' NewsHour regarding the Israeli-Gaza conflict. The coverage in Gaza clearly showed the destruction and trauma inflicted on the civilians. And I found the story regarding a mother and her disabled son quite moving. But then the Israeli segment was completely different - it looked like no rockets were ever fired into civilian areas! I know this is not true: over 1,000 rockets were fired from Gaza into civilian Israel, wounding and killing many innocent people.

I find this extreme bias absolutely disgusting. The rockets fired from Gaza were PURPOSELY meant to harm civilians, while those from Israel targeted military operations only. And the Israeli government sent text and other messages to the Gazan population to stay clear of military targets.

Do you feel it is ethical to only show the destruction and personal stories from one side of a very complex conflict? Does PBS adhere to ethical journalistic standards when it fails to report that one side targets civilians while the other one takes measures to protect civilians?

PBS is now in violation of their obligation to provide balanced and objective reporting to the public. To balance the Thanksgiving story, PBS must run a segment on Hamas describing their policies and actions. The nation deserves to know that Hamas: is listed as a terrorist organization by the US and EU; has rejected calls for a two-state solution to the conflict; calls for the destruction of the Jewish state; and celebrates when innocent civilians are killed, to name a few.

Todd Goldblum


The PBS NewsHour of Nov. 22, 2012 that covered the effects of the Israeli-Gaza Conflict was flawed and unbalanced.

PBS's BIAS is showing.

You will lose my viewership if this continues.

Ruth Moss-Katsnelson


I do not understand why CPB feels this degree of hatred towards the Jewish people.

Possibly, if there were any Jews working for the organization, you would see that Jewish people are not the devils that you seem to believe they are, and you would not want to see the destruction of Israel, the state of the Jewish people.

Gary Bykoff


(Ombudsman's note: Mr. Bykoff's spurious and incendiary claim is false and has been false since the very early days of CPB's creation. One simply needs to look at listings of CPB employees and board members to see there is no truth to his accusation.)

PBS reporting of the Gaza conflict was abhorrently one sided-and prejudiced toward the Israeli people.

Mel Kalechstein


Your November 22nd PBS NewsHour report on Israel and Gaza was blatantly biased in favor of the Palestinians. You couldn't even bring yourself to acknowledge that Israeli civilians have absorbed 10,000 rockets from Gaza since 2005 when Israel handed it over free and clear to the Palestinians. There is plenty of footage available of Israelis fleeing to shelters with 10 seconds warning but that was of no interest to PBS. Your reporting of a subject I know a lot about is so biased that I have to conclude that I can't possibly trust anything you have to say about subjects that are unfamiliar to me. The public deserves, and is paying for, unbiased reporting. You delivered agitprop, as I will point out to my representatives in Congress.

Annette Weinshank

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