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'Koran Rippings' and 'Cancer Juice' By: HonestReporting.com
HonestReporting.com | Tuesday, June 28, 2005

In the wake of Newsweek's now-retracted Guantanamo Bay Koran toilet abuse story, Palestinian prisoners have floated their own version to the western press.

On June 7, The Scotsman headlined: 'Israeli Soldiers 'Desecrated Koran During Riot''. Reports on this unfounded claim from Israel's Megiddo prison (including these Associated Press and Reuters versions) included a refutation from the Israeli Prisons Authority, but the media-fueled rumors were enough to spark violent protests and public burnings of American and Israeli flags in faraway Muslim communities.

And now, this:


This rehashing of an ancient anti-Semitic blood libel appeared prominently on GoogleNews.

Throughout the Arafat years, Palestinian spokespersons fed similar items to the western press, such as claims Israel deployed radioactive uranium against Palestinian protestors, and Suha Arafat's accusation in the presence of Hillary Clinton (pictured) that the IDF made 'extensive use of poisonous gas... which has led to an increase in cancer cases among women and children.'

A senior Israeli official said the cancer juice case reminds him of 'the same types of lies Yasser Arafat used to spread.' As documented in a JCPA report, those included accusations that Israel disseminated bubble gum that sterilized Palestinian girls and sent AIDS-infected prostitutes to infect Palestinian men.

We understand that Google uses an automated algorithm to filter news search results, but as HR has repeatedly indicated, this system is deeply flawed and lends itself to promulgating such absurd propaganda.

Comments to GoogleNews: news-feedback@google.com

UPDATE 6/20: Palestinian prisoners at Megiddo now admit they tore up the Quran copies themselves in an attempt to stir controversy.


At this week's high profile OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism in Cordoba, Spain, Sander Gerber of the U.S. delegation delivered a speech on 'Anti-Semitism and the media', citing HonestReporting as his first example of a non-governmental organization (NGO) that's committed to ensure responsible coverage of Israel and the Mideast conflict:

There are NGOs who enable aggregates of public opinion to speak out. For example, the NGO, HonestReporting, offers a grassroots collection of 120,000 readers who are committed to drawing attention to unbalanced stories a platform to speak...  For example, the London Times website had a photo of a woman wearing a headband emblazoned, "KILL JEWS." The photo was captioned simply: "A university student protests against the war in Iraq." After several letters, the Times apologized and corrected the caption.
That particular incident is documented on our website. Gerber emphasized why honest reporting matters:
Generally, in free democracies, an individual will form an opinion based on what he or she has seen and heard in the media. That presents a special challenge to the media to provide its audience with material that can serve as the basis for an informed opinion. The power of the media is such that slanted reporting can have an enormous impact on public opinion.
Indeed. View Sander Gerber's full speech from the OSCE conference here.


On Monday (June 13), BBC's 'On This Day' distorted the all-important content of UN Resolution 242, prompting HR subscriber Anat Tcherikover to write the BBC editor. Anat received a prompt response, and elicited a correction on the BBC website.

Anat's letter (view it here, with BBC's response) is a fine example of how to approach editors by e-mail. Note these effective techniques:

*Quick response within 24 hours of the article's posting on the news outlet's site.
*Factual tone - no name-calling or accusations.
*Use of own words - no cut-and-paste from an HR critique.
*Inclusion of the URL of the article in question. 
*Inclusion of the URL of the evidence brought to critique the article.
*Clear, succinct line of reasoning, with summary. Anat wrote: 'I hope you'll agree that taking the single sentence... out of context creates the false impression that demands were directed solely at Israel.'
*Requesting a specific response: 'For fairness, a correction would be appreciated.' 
*Respectful signoff, including one's title and address. 
*Keeping HR in the loop (via a 'cc' or forward), so we can share the problem/success with our broad readership.

Good work, Anat! For more tips, see HR's guide to effective media monitoring.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.

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