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WorldNetDaily Undermines Olmert

Biased WND reporter Aaron Klein is portraying the Israeli incursion into Gaza negatively in order to attack Israel's prime minister.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 7/13/2006

Writers and commenters at WorldNetDaily have repeatedly warned that criticism of President Bush and the Iraq war would undermine the war on terror:

Melanie Morgan, in a June 23 column, attacked the "second-guessing by war critics or efforts by the anti-war crowd to undermine the missions our troops." David Limbaugh, in a June 13 column, bashed "Democrats undermining our war effort." Pat Boone is quoted in a May 22 article as saying that it's on Osama bin Laden's "wish list" that American entertainers "bash their president, denigrate him, make him seem like an idiot and a self-serving fool, and then have the media go along with it and promote it like crazy and try to undermine the whole war effort." Morgan, in a April 28 column, claimed that Washington Post reporter Dana Priest "undermine[d] America's fight against terrorism" by reporting on secret prisons operated by the CIA.

So why is WND and its Jerusalem reporter, Aaron Klein, doing the exact same thing to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert over Israel's incursion into Gaza?

The short answer: WND has been trying to undermine Olmert ever since he took office -- and well before. Klein has regularly attacked Olmert since he took over running the country after Ariel Sharon's stroke. Prior to the March parliamentary election, as ConWebWatch documented, Klein smeared Olmert and his Kadima party with mostly anonymous accusations of corruption while printing uncritically promoting one opponent, the Likud party and its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu. When Kadima received the most votes of any party (and Likud came in fifth), Klein was quick to dismiss it as a "minor election victory."

Having been foiled by the will of the Israeli people, WND revved up its Olmert attack machine. A couple weeks after the election, Klein tried a new approach: attacking Olmert from the left. An April 10 article claimed that "Twelve business groups control more than 60 percent of Israel's economy" and all of them have donated to Olmert and Kadima. Further, these companies are "using organizational methods that were abolished in the Western world in the 1930s." Another article two days later asserted that Olmert and Kadima "are tools for a select group of organizations and individuals who control most of Israel's economy and media." That's the kind of argument one usually reads in The Nation, not at free-market WND.

In early June, Klein went at it from another direction -- attacking the American branch of Kadima allegedly lifting parts of policy summaries from the Texas Democratic Party's website. First, Klein attacked Kadima's name, which wasn't even relevant to the issue at hand: "Some questions even have been raised as to the originality of the Kadima name. The main logo on the Texas site reads, 'Moving Texas Forward.' Kadima is the Hebrew word for 'Forward.'" But the Kadima name was chosen last November, and Klein offers no evidence that the party's name has any relation to the controversy he's writing about.

Then, Klein threw in some fact-free criticism of Kadima USA by Dov Hikind, a New York state assemblyman. Responding to a full-page New York Times ad, apparently placed by the head of Kadima USA, stating that "The American Jewish Community stands as one with the State of Israel and fully supports the Prime Minister's quest for peace," Klein quotes Hikind as calling the statement "[p]ure baloney," but no evidence to contradict the ad is offered. Klein described Hikind only as "an outspoken critic of Olmert's planned evacuation of Judea and Samaria," but it turns out he's a bit more than that. A 1999 Village Voice article described Hikind as "a combative disciple of Jewish Defense League capo Meir Kahane." And we know how Klein has previously whitewashed the Kahane movement's violent history.

Which brings us to the slightly longer answer of why Klein hates Olmert: Klein is a sympathizer of Israeli right-wingers such as the Kahane movement, to the point where he whitewashes their extremist, violent pasts and refuses to even admit that they are right-wingers. As ConWebWatch documented, Klein described an AWOL Israeli soldier who opened fire on a bus, killing four Arabs, as being "murdered" by a "mob of Palestinians" who had witnessed the massacre -- but he didn't see fit to describe the soldier's victims as being "murdered."

Then, following in the footsteps of his boss, WND editor Joseph Farah -- who famously promoted the discredited "Clinton body count" in order to smear the president -- Klein next attempted the blood-on-his-hands approach. Here's the lead of the original version of June 19 WND article by Klein:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other Israeli officials should be tried as accessories to murder for facilitating the transfer in recent days of a cache of American weapons to Force 17, the presidential guard units of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

That was it -- no "according to [insert aggrieved party here]," which violates most known journalistic precepts. Not until the eighth paragraph did Klein attribute this statement, to "the leadership of Manhigut Yehudit, a faction of the opposition Likud party." WND later edited the article to add "Some Israeli politicians charge..." at the beginning.

Then came the incursion by Israeli troops into the Gaza Strip in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants. You'd think Klein would be happy about this development; after all, he and WND have been vocal opponents of the "disengagement" process in which Israel relinquished control of Gaza. Klein penned numerous articles describing the opposition to disengagement by Israeli setters forced to relocate from Gaza (again, as we've noted, failing to note the extremist backgrounds of those settlers).

While doing little reporting on the incursion itself, Klein has been critical of it, for no other apparent reason than Olmert's role in leading it.

A June 29 "news analysis" by Klein essentially suggested that Olmert is pulling a "Wag the Dog" by staging the incursion to improve his low poll numbers:

In actuality, the Jewish state's response in Gaza thus far has been mostly a show. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has every reason politically to ensure things don't escalate.

Klein offered no solid evidence for any of this; all sources he cited are anonymous. Even the links to previous articles of his are mostly devoid of on-the-record sources. For instance, a June 24 article by Klein reported on a poll that claims "Seventy percent of Israelis oppose Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's planned withdrawal from Judea and Samaria" (better known as the West Bank). Klein described the poll only as being "commissioned by a local company and supervised by American strategist Arthur Finkelstein." What Klein doesn't report is that during the March 2006 parliamentary elections, Finkelstein worked for the Yisrael Beitenu party, which the UK paper the Telegraph described as an "ultra-nationalist" party that originally wanted to expel all Palestinians to Jordan. (Finkelstein is also a longtime U.S. conservative activist who married his gay partner last year -- a development unlikely to meet with approval from WND managing editor David Kupelian.) During the 2006 election, the party somewhat moderated its positions, conceding the inevitability of a Palestinian state, but only through "a population and territorial swap that gerrymanders Israeli Arabs into the Palestinian state," according to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The party is not a member of the Kadima-led ruling coalition. Klein himself reported in June 2004 that Yisrael Beitenu's leader, Avigdor Lieberman, "led the opposition to Sharon's plan to withdraw troops and all settlements from the Gaza Strip, and several settlements from the West Bank."

A "news" article by Klein the same day, however, appears to contradict his claim that the incursion was "mostly a show." In it, Klein made a big deal out of how "countries around the world have been urging restraint" in Israel's current incursion in Gaza, even though prime minister Ehud Olmert had assured that "the international community would understand and would support any Israeli action."

But Klein failed to note that Israel's military actions against Palestinians have regularly drawn criticism from other countries -- as WND itself has reported. For instance, a Nov. 23, 2000, WND article noted that "officials in the U.S. issued their harshest criticism yet of Israel's use of force" following a "helicopter gunship attack against Palestinian security offices in Gaza." How is the current incursion different from previous actions that have drawn international criticism? Klein never asks the question, let alone answers it.

Klein followed up with another "news analysis" on July 7 (largely repeating the June 29 analysis) in which he again insisted that "Israeli reoccupation of Gaza doesn't fit Olmert's political objectives" -- and again offers no on-the-record evidence to back up his claim.

Klein has also been focusing on rocket attacks by Palestinian militants over the actions of the Israeli military -- again, to attack Olmert. A boilerplate paragraph Klein first wrote in May and has repeated several times since: "Security analysts maintain publicity about terror groups' current missile capabilities in the territories could generate criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan to withdraw from most of Judea and Samaria." Again, those "security analysts" are anonymous.

(Why make a big deal out of Klein's anonymous sources? Because it appears to violate the stated standards of Joseph Farah, who wrote in 1999 that claims attributed to anonymous sources are "usually quotes made up out of whole cloth to help make the story read better." Of course, that was when an anonymous source criticized Farah; the standard may be different for people Farah doesn't like.)

Klein has even opened up another front in his anti-Olmert campaign, writing two articles -- on May 2 and July 10 -- featuring confidantes of Sharon who claim that Sharon didn't favor Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

Meanwhile, WND has been promoting Klein as some sort of Middle East expert despite his documented biases. A June 15 WND article announced the creation of the Galil Report, an "intelligence e-mail newsletter" authored by Klein as part of WND's subscription-only G2 Bulletin. WND claimed that the Galil Report will feature, among other things, "exclusive, behind-the-scenes information regarding the latest news and events in the Middle East, with particular emphasis on Israel and the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon" and "the latest developments and behind the scenes news related to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's planned withdrawal from the West Bank."

Can a "reporter" with such a obvious, biased agenda as the one Klein brings to the table really be trusted to sustain a subscription-only report with the reliability, fairness and insight one would expect to see in such a report? His clear animus toward Olmert suggests otherwise.

Just as WorldNetDaily, upon its founding, had as a goal regular attacks on the Clinton administration in an attempt to undermine it, so WND is now doing the same thing to Olmert. No word from Joseph Farah on why it's OK to undermine Clinton and Olmert, but not Bush.

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