LAT-Early
Monday, July 07, 2003
LAT Abuse of the Road Map

I leave a for a week and this is what comes out: (from HonestReporting)

--- Los Angeles Times: "Along with prisoner releases, the next important element in moving ahead with the 'road map' is the Palestinian demand that Israel withdraw from more of the West Bank."

Again, prisoner releases are not a part of the road map. And according to the road map, the PA's obligation to uproot terror is clearly "the next important element."
The Palestinians start making outrageous demands, and then Israel has failed to uphold the Road Map if it won't meet them. Absolutely nuts. Apparently the Road Map is whatever the Palestinians want it to be. 
Sunday, June 29, 2003
Truce Announcement Delayed:

The Palestinians have once again said they are delaying their announcement of a "truce" (actually, a "hudna," or "temporary ceasefire"). Yesterday, it was Sharon's fault for using a helicopter in an attempt to stop an imminent terror attack. And today? Is it Sharon's fault, again?

It never was Sharon's fault. The LAT creates a narrative from the events they see--and they make Sharon out as the bad guy, whenever possible. They invent motives, intent, and reasons for things when they really don't know what is going on. They could guess the reason the ceasefire announcement would be delayed is because that's just how things normally are over in Palestine, or they could attach a reason to it, namely Palestinian frustration with Sharon. This is bad journalism. But the LAT is not in the business of reporting news, it's in the business of constructing an anti-Israel narrative.

No matter what happens, Sharon will be blamed for it. You can count on that much. 
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Sharon takes a Pro-Active Stance...

...against the BBC (via LGF). Good for him. It is nothing short of anti-Semitic to falsely accuse Israelis of using nerve gas. Nazis once gassed Jews. Now Jews are accused of gassing Palestinians. Get it? Jews are Nazis. That's the obvious subtext of this accusation. It's clearly anti-Semitic. It demonizes Jews and minimizes the Holocaust (after all, how bad was the Holocaust if Jews are the new Nazis and they're doing it too?).

The Israelis were very smart to elect Sharon. This sort of thing is unprecendented in a democracy, but Sharon is still clearly in the right. Even the LAT isn't as bad as the BBC. 
Friday, June 27, 2003
Prediction Number Three:

If the ceasefire actually goes through, and Israel accepts it, the Times will report that Abbas is complying with the road map even if Hamas continues to build bombs and plans new attacks (whether it actually carries them out is irrelevant; just planning them is a violation of the road map) and Abbas does not use his security forces to stop them.

Remember, the road map calls for "Palestinians [to] declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere." Hamas is merely calling for a temporary ceasefire, which means even if it is not conducting attacks during the ceasefire, even if it is just planning them, the PA has a responsibility to dismantle it. If Hamas is building new bombs and rockets during the ceasefire period, the PA has a responsibility under the road map to dismantle them as a group. But don't expect the LAT to point this out any time soon.

Remember also that Israel has said it would like to provide specific information about Hamas activities to Abbas, so long as he will actually act on it--so Abbas will not be able to claim ignorance.

Update: (6/28 10:55am) The LAT published this today:
Many Israelis maintain that there can be no calm until the security forces strip the militants of their guns, lock their leaders in jail and put a stop to all incitement.

Leery Israeli officials fear that the cease-fire could merely give Hamas time to strengthen for an eventual revolt. They have asked the United States to monitor the Palestinians to make sure Hamas and the other factions are broken down and disarmed. Israel is expected to press Rice for guarantees that the militants will be disarmed.

"In and by itself, this does not substitute for the need to really fight terrorism," said Raanan Gissin, an advisor to Sharon. "There's no avoiding the need to dismantle the terror infrastructure, to take Hamas and outlaw it."
The LAT won't say this is all required by the road map (even though it very clearly is). Of course, this isn't good enough to satisfy the prediction, because it requires this to actually happen, not just be hypothetical. But I think my chances are pretty good.

Update: (6/29 12:01am) Ouch. Looks like I might not win this one after all:
The emerging truce has received a lukewarm response from Israel and the United States, who say that armed groups should be dismantled as required by the road map. Palestinian officials fear a crackdown could trigger a civil war and have opted instead for persuasion.
It was a badly-written prediction, I can now see, because journalists are not supposed to judge whether or not someone is complying with something--they are merely supposed to offer facts and quotes. It is not up to the LAT to tell its readers that the Palestinians are not complying with the road map--it is up to the Israeli government to make that one of its talking points. Of course, the Times never seems to have any trouble figuring out who is responsible for inflaming the situation, restarting the cycle of violence, or undermining the peace process, so this wasn't a completely terrible guess.

Update: (7/7/03) I've just decided to count this one as a loss until I can prove it's true, I don't want to leave it hanging. 
My Prediction Was: The LAT will report that the Palestinians were getting close to a ceasefire until the Israeli helicopter attack disrupted things.

Oddly enough, the terrorist groups actually have appeared to have accepted the ceasefire anyway, but the prediction still holds.

Here's what the LAT published:
With Palestinian resistance groups reportedly on the verge of calling a cease-fire, Israeli soldiers steered their helicopters over a stretch of road in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday and fired a pair of rockets into the traffic. A taxi driver and a 22-year-old woman died in Israel's latest attack on Hamas, Palestinian sources said.

Palestinians called the airstrike a botched attempt to assassinate Hamas radical Mohammed Siam, who lost his leg but survived — one of more than a dozen Palestinian casualties in the attack on the militant group.

An Israeli security source said the target was a Hamas cell driving toward farmlands on the edge of the town of Khan Yunis with a stash of mortar shells meant for an attack on a nearby Israeli settlement.

The afternoon strike further muddied preparations for a Palestinian truce. Some Palestinian radicals said a cease-fire agreement had been reached and could be announced within hours; others said there was no such accord.
Look at that first sentence: the Israelis flew their helicopters over a road, fired into traffic, and killed two civilians. The bloodthirsty Israelis flew their helicopters over a civilian area and fired a pair of rockets* into the street, just to sabotage the peace plans. Nope, no bias there. The LAT is not even willing to assume that Israel was, indeed, targeting a terrorist in that traffic and was not just firing blindly into the street. Their "objective" description of the event is that Israelis flew over a civilian area and shot at it, killing people. The Times leaves it up to the Palestinians to mention Siam.

The afternoon strike further muddied preparations for a Palestinian truce. Some Palestinian radicals said a cease-fire agreement had been reached and could be announced within hours; others said there was no such accord
But the LAT assumes it knows exactly why the Palestinian militant groups have suddenly gone from being sure of a truce to being confused about it: of course, this is all Sharon's fault for the airstrike. Palestinian militant groups have been acting this way all along--they say they are not sure of a truce, some Palestinian announces there is a truce, then another one denies it, etc. They have been doing this kind of thing a lot for the past few weeks (the PA will announce there is a ceasefire soon, then take it back). And yet, the LAT says the reason the peace deal appears to be flimsy is not because deals with Hamas pretty much always appear to be flimsy--no, it's all Sharon's fault!

Note also that although the article does say Hamas sources vowed revenge, none of the people quoted say anything about this strike as having anything to do with why the status of the negotiations was not as coherent as it could be. The Palestinians aren't saying this Israeli strike undermined their ability to reach a ceasefire, only the LAT is.

The explosions occurred just as a flurry of reports were circulating of an immediate call to peace from militants. There was apparently no connection, although Wednesday's attack was the latest in a string of Israeli attempts at "targeted killings" of Palestinian militants as mediators are struggling to broker a truce.

Despite a desperate push to implement the U.S.-backed peace "road map," the blood of suicide bombings, army raids and gun battles has continued to stain these lands.
Maybe the LAT could ask the question: if Hamas is intent on agreeing to a ceasefire, why is it trying so hard to carry out attacks against Israel right now? Why are the Israeli airstrikes put in the context of peace negotiations, instead of the context of "Hamas is trying to carry out attacks against Israel and Israel is trying to stop them?" Like I wrote earlier, to Israel-haters, Israel is expected to accept Palestinian terror attacks during this time of "negotiation" between Hamas and the PA--and any defensive action by Israel is automatically categorized as a provocative attack on the peace process.

And just who is "desperate[ly]" trying to implement the road map? Certainly not the Palestinians. No important Palestinian has endorsed the part of the road map calling for "Palestinians [to] declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere." Hamas is merely calling for a temporary ceasefire, which means even if it is not conducting attacks during the ceasefire, even if it is just planning them, the PA has a responsibility to dismantle it. If Hamas is building new bombs and rockets during the ceasefire period, the PA has a responsibility under the road map to dismantle them as a group. But don't expect the LAT to point this out any time soon.

My score is now 2/2.

* Note that although "rocket" and "missile" have very similar meanings, the military generally uses the word "rocket" to mean an unguided/non-precision weapon and a "missile" is a precision weapon. The Army does not have "anti-aircraft rockets," it has "anti-aircraft missiles." Using the term "rocket" instead of "missile" makes it sound as if it was an unguided weapon that was fired randomly into traffic. At least for attack helicopters, "rockets" are unguided and "missiles" (such as the Hellfire, which is what was probably used) are guided. Of course, anyone who doesn't understand the distinction between the two words would not be affected, and anyone who did understand it would just be annoyed because they would know Israel uses guided missiles. This is just another example of a newspaper writer covering military affairs of which s/he is ignorant. This seems pretty quibbling, so I've moved it to the end. It is important, though, whether Israel used precision-guided weapons or whether it fired inaccurate rockets into a crowded civilian area. 
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
What the Heck Happened Today?

These are the headlines from AP wire stories according to the Yahoo News page:

Israel Militants OK Three-Month Reprieve AP - Jun 25 4:33 PM
Militants Deny Truce on Israel Attacks AP - Jun 25 4:34 PM
Hamas Says Israeli Truce Deal Not Final AP - Jun 25 3:54 PM
Airstrike, Threats Undercut Mideast Truce AP - [approx. 3:30pm]
Hamas, Islamic Jihad Agree to Truce AP - Jun 25 11:42 AM
Hamas Set to OK Halt on Israeli Attacks AP - Jun 25 10:38 AM
Hamas Agrees to Halt Attacks on Israelis AP - Jun 25 10:35 AM
So what, exactly, happened?

A Fatah terrorist announced the Hamas/PIJ had agreed to a ceasefire.

Hamas denies this.

A Hamas team attempts to fire rockets at Israel. Israeli helicopters blow them up. If those rockets had been launched, that would not have been bad for the peace process, but the Israeli response threatens to undermine it. Of course, only Israel can undermine the peace process.

A terror attack was averted today:
Security forces averted a suicide bombing in Petah Tikva on Wednesday morning. After receiving a tip, they nabbed the suicide bomber and his helper in Kafr Kasim, and found bomb hidden in a bag. Its detonation left a one-meter-deep crater in the road.

Officials estimated that the bomb contained 12 to 15 kilograms of explosives and shrapnel.
The two terrorists are affiliated with Fatah's Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade in Nablus.
Note that this was not even a targeted assassination, it was a purely defensive attack against a group of men in the process of carrying out an attack on civilians.

I am not feeling very confident about this prediction, because it takes a very negative view of the Times' reporting. But hey, nobody ever got famous overestimating the media (OTOH, it's usually a bad kind of fame when you underestimate the media and... nevermind). But here it is anyway:

PUBLIC PREDICTION NUMBER TWO*:

The LAT will report that the Palestinians were getting close to a ceasefire until the Israeli helicopter attack disrupted things.

I think it would be best to keep my predictions short, so that's it. I've already shown above that this is an absurd thing to assert, but we will just have to see if the LAT goes ahead and does it anyway.

*not to be confused with "The Second Public Prediction" which I was not able to get a clear true/false answer because I put it on the premise that the LAT would report an obscure quote. It was a poorly-constructed prediction (but it did say that if the Times did not cover the quote, it would not count, so I have not counted it).

Update (6/27 5:10pm): I've evaluated the result of this prediction in this post
Sunday, June 22, 2003
The Hamas Talking Points Memo: There's this from the LA Times:
However, the group said Sunday evening that it was still weighing a possible cease-fire, which the Palestinian Authority has been trying to negotiate. One of Hamas' key demands is an end to the campaign of what it calls assassinations.
This is what appeared in an AFP story:
One of Hamas' main demands is that Israel halt its controversial policy of assassinations.
These are obviously the Hamas talking points. The LAT and AFP both got the memo. Of course, there is no mention that it is understood by Israel that no targeted killings would take place during a ceasefire. That is not a point of contention. Hamas and the PA are arguing about other things.

What Hamas really wants is for the assassinations to end before it agrees to a ceasefire; in other words, Hamas keeps bombing, and no one--not the PA or the IDF--tries to stop them. In fairy-tale-land, this is supposed to be a temporary time period during which Hamas works out a ceasefire agreement with the PA, and then stops bombing. Israel's assassination strikes supposedly undermine the Palestinian Authority's ability to bring Hamas to agree to a ceasefire. In fairy-tale-land, this time period of bus bombings and Israeli restraint is an integral part of the peace process, and will lead to cooperation, trust, and happiness. If only Sharon stays his hand, so the theory goes.

I don't remember reading in the Road Map anywhere about this time period. I don't see any of the proponents of the "Hamas Bombs Will Bring Peace" school of thought explaining how long this time period is supposed to last, or why Hamas would ever want to quit when the conditions are so favorable? Is Israel supposed to passively accept suicide bombings for a week? A month? How long? When would the people from the "Hamas Bombs Will Bring Peace" school of thought give up on attempts by the PA/Hamas to agree to a ceasefire? How long are they willing to wait while Hamas continues to carry out bombings?

I don't see the LAT mentioning that the Hamas charter itself calls for the destruction of Israel, Hamas spokesmen have said recently that "the word cease-fire is not in our dictionary" and "Cease-fire means surrender to occupation." When they say they are open to a ceasefire, those quotes get printed. When they say they are against it, their words are quickly forgotten. No, what the LAT wants to dwell on is Hamas' demand to end the assassinations. But let's get to the real point: aside from that "key [demand]," what else does Hamas want? According to the NYT:
But Hamas has always rejected peace talks with Israel, and said its demands for a cease-fire included a halt to Israel's targeted killings, the release of Palestinian prisoners and a troop withdrawal from Gaza.
If all Hamas wanted was a ceasefire, it could have had one. What it wants is a get-out-of-jail free card for all of its captured terrorists, so they can go back to work. What are Hamas' other demands? Why isn't Hamas more public about the exact conditions under which it would accept a ceasefire? Of course, the answer is that it is stalling and does not want a cease fire.

The LAT would rather highlight Hamas' reasonable demand for an end to assassinations during a ceasefire--a demand Israel has basically agreed to--instead of the unreasonable demands that are hindering the negotiation process. When she writes that that is the key demand, Laura King makes the situation out as if Hamas wants a ceasefire but Sharon is bent on assassinating them no matter what, even at the cost of peace. That's twisted to the point of dishonesty. The article in question follows rules 3, 5, 6, 7, and 8, among others. This is not news, it's doctrinaire propaganda.

Update (6/25 4:30pm):

Some of you might not have believed me when I said
What Hamas really wants is for the assassinations to end before it agrees to a ceasefire; in other words, Hamas keeps bombing, and no one--not the PA or the IDF--tries to stop them. In fairy-tale-land, this is supposed to be a temporary time period during which Hamas works out a ceasefire agreement with the PA, and then stops bombing. Israel's assassination strikes supposedly undermine the Palestinian Authority's ability to bring Hamas to agree to a ceasefire. In fairy-tale-land, this time period of bus bombings and Israeli restraint is an integral part of the peace process, and will lead to cooperation, trust, and happiness. If only Sharon stays his hand, so the theory goes.
But this is exactly what a PA man said today:
"We still haven't received any American guarantees or replies from Israel, which is continuing to avoid holding another round of security meetings with the Palestinian Authority," said Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a senior adviser to PA Chairman Yasser Arafat.

"In any case, efforts to reach a cease-fire are facing huge problems because of the ongoing Israeli policy of assassinations and [military] escalation," he said, adding that the PA is awaiting assurances from the US that Israel would stop its military escalation.
In other words, the Palestinians want Israel to stop the campaign of assassinations before they stop carrying out suicide bombings--which they tried to do again today
Friday, June 20, 2003
Not Much to Say: It's hard to make specific predictions when so many things are happening at once. (it was very, very easy with the bus bombing because it took place almost in a vacuum, with just one other event nearby).

Once the "cycle" of violence has started, the media stop caring about who started it, so they've finally stopped blaming Sharon (for the most part). One of the easiest things to predict is how reporters will blame Israel for things.

The bias now is to portray Palestinian peace initiatives in the best possible light. A temporary ceasefire with Hamas just means Hamas has time to organize, recruit, and build new bombs. Hamas will never agree to a ceasefire if it means the Palestinian Authority will actually crack down on them. Hamas will violate any ceasefire it agrees to. And of course, it will not be reported that a ceasefire with Hamas would violate Abbas' responsibilities under the road map.

And, as much as I hate to admit it, the LAT's coverage has not been so bad over the past few days. This especially stands out in my mind as noteworthy:
On Tuesday, at close to midnight on a lonely stretch of toll road that runs inside Israel proper but skirts the West Bank, a gunman fired from close range at a car carrying the Leibowitz family home from a bar mitzvah in Jerusalem. Noam, 7, riding in the back seat, was fatally hit; her 3-year-old sister, Shira, was wounded.
...
This was an example of the kind of low-level violence that many Israelis fear will persist during the quest for a peace accord, even if Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is able to negotiate a temporary truce with militant groups such as Hamas.
I hope this is a permanent trend towards better coverage of this issue.

I will continue to follow their coverage and I might make predictions in the future, but if things get better I won't be posting so often. 
CURRENT SCORE: 2/3
1 2 3

LAT REPORTERS' HANDBOOK
Link to Rules: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

I predict what will appear in the Los Angeles Times' Israel/Palestine coverage before it is actually published. This is a study in whether I can regularly predict media bias (and quantify it in an objective manner)

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