CAMERA

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The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) is a powerful Boston-based lobby group that tries to curb criticism of Israel in U.S. media.

Founded by Charles Jacobs in the wake of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, CAMERA claims to be "a media-monitoring, research and membership organization devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East". According to its website, it "systematically monitors, documents, reviews and archives Middle East coverage" and its staffers "directly contact reporters, editors, producers and publishers concerning distorted or inaccurate coverage, offering factual information to refute errors." [1]

According to its Executive Director, what sets it apart from other media watch-dog groups is its "sizable paying, activist membership." [2]

CAMERA is widely regarded as a pro-Israeli lobby group that as put by Journalist and author Robert I. Friedman - "CAMERA, the A.D.L., AIPAC and the rest of the lobby don't want fairness, but bias in their favor. And they are prepared to use McCarthyite tactics, as well as the power and money of pro-Israel PACs, to get whatever Israel wants."[1]

Wikipedia campaign

In April 2008, the website Electronic Intifada published emails sent to a group of CAMERA members organized to impact the online encyclopedia Wikipedia's coverage of Israel and Palestine issues. Electronic Intifada claimed that in the emails, CAMERA Senior Research Analyst Gilead Ini stressed the effort should be secret, and counseled members to avoid "picking a user name that marks you as pro-Israel, or that lets people know your real name." Wikipedia, too, tells users: "You should strongly consider choosing a username that is not connected to you." He also instructed members to "always log in" under their user names, so that Wikipedia would not "record your computer's IP address."[2] While directing CAMERA members to certain articles on Israel and Palestine, Ini cautioned that new Wikipedia users should "avoid editing Israel-related articles for a short period of time," so as not to develop reputations as "one-topic editors." [3]

Ini has also publicly called on people to edit Wikipedia, suggesting that "is that if more fair-minded people participate in the Wikipedia experiment, the problems can be minimized."[4] Ini asserted in the Jewish Exponent that the initiative was meant to "offset" problems with Wikipedia's articles. "Convinced that directing more well-intentioned individuals to participate in the Wikipedia experiment could help offset the site’s problems," he wrote, "we sent a notice to our members calling for volunteers to learn about and edit Wikipedia’s often-skewed entries about the Middle East."[5] He charged Electronic Intifada with "disingenuously spinning [an online discussion forum] as a nefarious plot" in a letter to Harper's Magazine, and added that "CAMERA repeatedly urged all who read the forum to follow Wikipedia's guidelines, and continues to urge all who visit our website to work toward improving the flawed Wikipedia experiment."[6]

A long-time Wikipedia editor, "Zeq," joined the group and suggested that some CAMERA members "stay away from any Israel realted [sic] articles," until building up enough support to become nominated as administrators, who help resolve controversies. "We will go to war after we have build [sic] our army," Zeq wrote. After the emails were published, Zeq was banned from editing Wikipedia for one year, for -- in the words of one Wikipedian -- "recruit[ing] meatpuppets from off-wiki to push POV," a point of view. CAMERA responded by "temporarily or permanently" ending its Wikipedia email group, "in hopes that members' personal contact information will not be made public." [3]

Membership

According to its Executive Director, the organization has 55,000 paying members and "thousands of active letter writers". The range of media monitored by CAMERA includes "all major print and electronic media in the United States as well as professional journals, websites, encyclopedias, travel guides, and so forth." [3]

International office

In 2005, CAMERA established an office in Israel, to monitor Israeli and international media. The organization identified the British press as a particular area of concern, singling out The Independent and The Guardian for closer scrutiny.[citation needed]

Student Fellowship Pilot Program

CAMERA also offers a Student Fellowship Pilot Program in which the fellows are taught to "counter campus media bias". The following account provides a good summation of the kind of education they receive:

We learned how to effectively respond to an inaccurate or unfair article about Israel with a letter-to-the-editor or an Op-Ed piece. Also, if an article contains a factual error, students should gather the information needed to document the error, and then press the editors for a correction. If bias is chronic at a particular paper, encourage university administrators to fund a new newspaper with higher editorial standards.
We also discussed strategies for dealing with anti-Israel professors. If a professor attempts to silence your views in the classroom, seek administrative assistance. If that fails, press for accountability by publicizing the problem.[4]

Campaigns

CAMERA's website has an extensive database of journalists that it has focused on over the years [5] (including many prominent Israelis).

In one of its media alerts, CAMERA describes Israel's acclaimed historian Benny Morris as a "fabricator." [6]. Its other targets include Robert Fisk, Israel Shahak, Edward Said, Norman Finkelstein, John Pilger, Ilan Pappe, Amira Hass and Gideon Levy, and has even accused Israel's prominent daily Ha'aretz of fueling "anti-Israel bias." [7]

The following quote from a CAMERA Student Fellow is instructive: "Is it true that Israel is not complying with U.N. resolution 242, requiring withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967? Not at all. The resolution does not actually specify particular territories or the extent of the withdrawal". [8] (emphasis added)

In a May 7, 2002, full-page ad in the New York Times, CAMERA criticized the media for their lack of understanding of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Palestinian violence was attributed not to the occupation or alleged atrocities of the occupying army, but instead to the "hate education" in Palestinian society. [7]

Responding to CAMERA's criticisms of the "anti-Israel" bias in its Middle-East coverage, the Executive Editor and Publisher of the the New York Times attended a journalism forum at the University of California in 2002. The editors of the right-wing New York Post noted with some consternation that the majority of the criticism that came their way was for exactly the opposite. (New York Post, November 22, 2002)

Ted Koppel has been taken to task for giving "twice the air time" to a whole group of critics on his Nightline as he did to the single supporter (The Washington Times, Oct 10, 1996).

Measuring success

The successes that CAMERA claims include the New York Times, Reuters, Public Broadcasting Service, and National Public Radio. In the case of PBS, CAMERA claims to have generated "more letter-writing complaints than they had ever received on any subject." The organization also testified against the service in Congress.[citation needed]

In an interview, CAMERA's executive director Andrea Levin was asked about her view of NPR. "We do not track them closely on any subject except ours. I can only reply in an impressionistic way. It seems that their consistent thematic line is one that represents a very politically correct view of the world. This means being highly critical of the United States and U.S. intervention in Iraq. They put a very heavy emphasis on all politically fashionable subjects such as gay and feminine rights as well as Palestinian rights," she said. [9]

Publications

CAMERA Media Report

The organization's main publication is the CAMERA Media Report "a critique of bias and error that is sent to journalists, CAMERA members, libraries, synagogues, and Congress". CAMERA claims that its publications have even been seen in the Vice-President Cheney's office.[citation needed]

CAMERA on Campus

CAMERA on Campus is a publication of CAMERA that tries to monitor perceived inaccuracies about Israel on the campuses of various American institutions. The organization also distributes "tens of thousands of copies" of the publication "three times per year to more than 400 campuses in North America". [10]

In 2005 CAMERA on Campus played a prominent role in the campaign to publicize perceived abuses by the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) department at Columbia University, and even ran interviews with one of the chief crusaders, Prof. Alan Dershowitz of Harvard [11], who himself was busy fending off accusations of plagiarizing Joan Peter's 1984 hoax From Time Immemorial [12][13], and trying to suppress Norman Finkelstein's book in which the charge has been thoroughly documented.[14]

Monographs published by CAMERA are distributed to "thousands of people among the public and elected officials".

CAMERA on AudioPort

In an interesting development, CAMERA has also managed to get a spot on the otherwise critical source of radical news Pacifica Radio's online feature AudioPort.[citation needed]

Staff

Contact details

CAMERA
P.O. Box 35040
Boston, MA 02135-0001
Tel: (617) 789-3672
Fax: (617) 787-7853
Email: feedback AT camera.org
Website: http://www.camera.org

External links

References

  1. Robert I. Friedman, "The lobby: Jewish political power and American foreign policy", The Nation, June 6, 1987, page 244.
  2. Wikipedia login page
  3. 3.0 3.1 "EI exclusive: a pro-Israel group's plan to rewrite history on Wikipedia," Electronic Intifada, April 21, 2008.
  4. "How and Why to Edit Wikipedia," Gilead Ini, camera.org, 5/3/08.
  5. "Wikipedia: World Wide Web's Wild, Wild West of Inaccuracy," Gilead Ini, Jewish Exponent, June 12, 2008.
  6. "CAMERA Letter in Harper's Magazine About Wikipedia Issues," 8/14/2008.
  7. The New York Observer, May 13, 2002.

Sympathetic

Critical

  • FAIR: Region: Middle East Hyperlinked list of items headed CounterSpin, Media Advisory, Activism Update, Extra!
  • In the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs — an organization that CAMERA claims "promotes a virulently anti-Israel position" — Mitchell Kaidy writes that "CAMERA depicts Middle East issues in black and white, with no gray areas of doubts or complexity. According to CAMERA, Muslims are the villains, because they are Muslim; they hate Jews because they are Jewish. Have historians therefore been consistently wrong in concluding that Islam, which honors many Hebrew prophets, has been more tolerant of Jews than Christians have been? CAMERA thinks so."CAMERA and FLAME: Pressuring U.S. Media