caves in to Israel over its references to illegal settlements
By Robert Fisk,
Middle East Correspondent
The Independent (UK)
3 September 2001
Just as the BBC last month ordered its reporters to use the phrase
"targeted killings'' for Israel's assassination of Palestinians,
CNN under constant attack from right-wing Jewish pro-settler
lobby groups has instructed its journalists to stop referring
to Gilo as a "Jewish settlement''. Instead, they must call
the settlement, built illegally on occupied Arab land outside Jerusalem,
"a Jewish neighbourhood".
Arabs have long protested over CNN's reporting of the Middle East
especially its pejorative use of the word "terrorist''
but they are likely to be outraged by this latest "softening"
of the station's reporting in Israel's favour. Some of the land
on which Gilo is built was taken from the Palestinians of Beit Jala
Gilo is Hebrew for Jala but no hint of this historical
background will be permitted on CNN. Israeli soldiers in Gilo have
been involved in nightly battles with Palestinian gunmen in Beit
The instruction from CNN's headquarters in Atlanta is straightforward.
"We refer to Gilo as 'a Jewish neighbourhood on the outskirts
of Jerusalem, built on land occupied by Israel in 1967','' the order
states. "We don't refer to it as a settlement.''
This extraordinary climbdown in favour of the Israelis follows
months of internal debate in CNN, which has been constantly criticised
by CNN Watch, honestreporting.com and other pro-Israeli pressure
groups in the United States which monitor all its reports on the
Many journalists at CNN headquarters are angered by the new instruction.
"There's a feeling by some people here that what we are doing
is searching for euphemisms for what is really happening,"
one of them told The Independent yesterday. "We've managed
to eliminate the word 'terrorism' we now talk about 'militants'
because we know that the word 'terrorist' is used by one side
or another to damage the other side. But now there's pressure on
us not to use the word 'settler' in any context but to just
refer to the settlers as 'Israelis'."
In the past, CNN used "terrorist" only about Arabs
the Israeli settler who murdered 29 Palestinians in a Hebron mosque
in 1994 was always called an "extremist" on CNN
and at one point described Arab protests at the illegal settlements
built by Jews on Palestinian land as "conflicting heritage"
However, by censoring the word "settlement" for Gilo,
CNN is perpetrating a lie. Gilo was illegally annexed by Israel
after the 1967 war not just "occupied" as CNN wishes
its viewers to believe and far from being a "neighbourhood
on the outskirts of Jerusalem", it was built on land which
Israel again illegally used to extend the boundaries
"There has been an intense internal debate over the use of
words," the CNN reporter said. "And sometimes we still
do use the word 'settlement' about Gilo. In fact, we don't necessarily
say all that stuff about 'occupied by Israel in 1967'. But we're
having problems. There are many small pro-settler Jewish groups
who're trying to win the war of words."
A CNN spokesman in Atlanta said last night: "We have no response
to make to you. We don't want to get into a discussion on this ...
In fact we'd rather not say anything about this at all."