‘Financial Times sees Israel as main cause of ME problems'

Study shows business paper downplays factors integral to conflict, such as terrorism and split between Hamas, Fatah.

February 2, 2010 23:02
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The Financial Times.

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LONDON – The Financial Times views Israel as the key cause of problems in the Middle East, according to a study published by a London-based media monitoring organization this week.

A study published by Just Journalism accuses the international business newspaper’s editorial coverage of ignoring the Iranian threat, downplaying other issues and viewing Israel as primarily responsible for the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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The report, titled “Financial Times 2009: A year of Middle East editorials,” analyzed 121 editorials from the paper’s hard copy and Web site published in 2009.

The FT placed the role of settlement-building in the West Bank “above any other single factor affecting the conflict” and referred to settlement-building as “colonization” in nine editorials.

The FT is also accused of downplaying factors integral to the conflict such as terrorism and the political split between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank. Israeli political leaders are depicted as “irredentist,” “hawkish” and “ultra-nationalist,” while Palestinian leaders are portrayed as “moderate” and “conciliatory.”

“This report demonstrates that the FT has repeatedly disregarded salient facts when it comes to the Middle East and disproportionately blames Israel for the region’s woes,” said Robin Shepherd – Just Journalism advisory board member, author of A State Beyond the Pale: Europe’s Problem with Israel and director of international affairs at the Cambridge, England-based Henry Jackson Society think tank.

“For a paper that prides itself on its high standards as an opinion-forming publication, it is regretful that much of the broader argumentation and wider context is being omitted.”

According to the study, threats against Israel’s existence by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were ignored in the FT’s editorials, while speculation of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities was referred to on numerous occasions.

“The sidelining of Ahmadinejad’s public threats against Israel in its discussion of Iran-Israel relations indicates a narrow approach in which Israel is usually viewed as an instigator of aggression but not a victim of it,” Shepherd said.

“It was a surprise to see how sympathetic the FT was towards despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia, given that its criticism of Israel was so harsh. These findings may surprise the FT’s readers, who tend to regard the FT as relatively apolitical compared to the other broadsheets,” he added.

The FT declined to comment on the findings of the report.

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