The Foreign Press Association's Unlimited Bias
The Foreign Press Association (FPA), an organization representing hundreds of foreign journalists who work for various media outlets in Israel, is upset. What seems to be the problem? In their view, recent Israeli security measures in Jerusalem are preventing reporters from doing their jobs. The FPA's position, expressed in at least two statements during the past three weeks, came in response to Israeli security measures enforced in the city after Muslim terrorists murdered two police officers at the Temple Mount on July 14.
Earlier this week, the FPA, which has often served as a platform for airing anti-Israeli sentiments, went farther by filing a petition to Israel's High Court of Justice challenging the actions and behavior of the Israeli security forces toward journalists during Palestinian riots in protest against the installation of metal detectors and cameras at the entrances to the Temple Mount. The petition demanded that the Israeli security forces stop restricting journalists' entry to the Temple Mount compound. It also complained of verbal and physical abuse against journalists by the police.
The FPA protest should come as no surprise to those familiar with the anti-Israel agenda of its leadership. This organization has a long record of black-and-white thinking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- and somehow, the Israelis always come out in the wrong.
While the FPA is teeming with self-proclaimed "open-minded" journalists, their minds seem closed to facts surrounding Palestinian violence. Funny how enlightened folks -- generally ready to side with the underdog -- become suspiciously overcome by intellectual darkness when the underdog might be an Israel trying to manage Palestinian terror in the most humane manner possible.
Surprise or no surprise, the latest FPA onslaught against Israel serves as a reminder that many of the foreign journalists have no shame in advancing an anti-Israel agenda.
The journalists so distraught over Israel's recent security measures are the very ones who refuse to enter Syria out of fear of being beheaded by ISIS. These are the journalists who have stopped traveling to Iraq, fearing for their lives. Many of these journalists, particularly the women among them, will not report in Egypt, lest they be raped, let alone targeted by a terror group.
These journalists, when they travel to most Arab and Islamic countries, are assigned government "minders" who accompany them, openly and covertly, 24/7. They will wait in vain to receive a visa to enter Iran or Saudi Arabia -- or be made to wait and beg for months before receiving it.
What does one do, then, when one's journalistic options in the Middle East are constrained by a rather realistic fear for one's life? One stays where one feels safe -- in Israel.
It is no secret that Middle East correspondents prefer their residences and bureaus in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv than in Ramallah, Amman, Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran and Riyadh. In Israel, no matter what they write today, they will live to write again tomorrow.
Unlike with most of the Arab and Islamic countries, most journalists do not need advance permission to visit Israel. Any journalist -- or, more accurately, anyone even claiming to be a journalist -- can disembark at Ben Gurion Airport and start reporting.
How is this relevant?
The FPA's stance on the recent Israeli security measures in Jerusalem, which came in response to the murder of two police officers and violent Arab riots, reeks of hypocrisy and a severe misrepresentation of reality.
The first question that comes to mind in this regard: Would foreign journalists based in an Arab or Islamic country dare to go to the High Court of the land to challenge security measures and restrictions by the authorities there? The truth is that in nearly most of those countries, there is no such thing as a "Foreign Press Association." That is because Arab and Islamic dictatorships do not allow such organizations to operate in their countries.
The second question that comes to mind in light of the FPA's opposition to Israel's security measures is: What exactly are the foreign journalists demanding from Israel? That Israeli authorities allow them to run around freely while Palestinian rioters are hurling stones and firebombs at police officers? Are the journalists saying that Israelis have no right to safeguard their own lives? Or that people should allow themselves to be injured by stones and firebombs? Some have indeed by injured during the Palestinian riots.
The third question that begs an answer is: How was it that during the recent riots, the number of journalists covering the events often surpassed the number of rioters? This was the case many times in the Old City of Jerusalem, particularly at the Lion's Gate, where you would find two journalists for each Palestinian rioter.
Where did all these foreign -- and Palestinian -- journalists come from? Someone must have given them access to the scenes of the clashes between the rioters and security forces. The "someone" is Israeli authorities, who saw no reason to stop the reporters from doing their jobs.
The hypocrisy of the journalists reaches new heights when they are injured as they are covering the riots. You cannot go to the swimming pool and later complain that you do not know how you got wet. A journalist who stands in the line of fire is knowingly putting his or her life at risk.
You cannot stand among the rioters and then complain that you got hit by a rubber bullet or tear gas canister fired by a policeman. What do you expect the policeman to do? Not to defend himself because there is a journalist in the crowd?
Outrageously, the FPA is nearly stone-deaf when it comes to wrongdoing by Palestinians. Where is the outcry of the organization when a Palestinian journalist is arrested or assaulted by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or Hamas in the Gaza Strip? Where is the outcry over Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's recent decision to block more than 20 news websites?
But perhaps such fair-minded reporting would demand too much of the FPA's time: were it to follow assaults on public freedoms and the freedom of the media in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it would have to issue a statement of condemnation every two hours. Hardly a day passes without a Palestinian journalist or blogger or Facebook user being detained or beaten up for expressing his or her views.
The FPA and its members are well aware that Israel has been and remains a paradise for the foreign media in the Middle East. They also know that, unlike many of its Arab and Islamic neighbors, Israel does not have a policy of targeting journalists. If there were such a policy, most of the foreign journalists would not be in Israel in the first place.
Their rhetorical attacks on Israel are not only a sign of hypocrisy, but should also be seen as a policy of appeasement to Arabs and Muslims -- a ticket that gives you access to the Arab and Islamic countries. The more you prove that you are against Israel, the better are your chances of getting a visa to enter Iran or Saudi Arabia.
It is time for the FPA to change its name to the FHA -- the Foreign Hypocrites Association. At least in that one respect, then, it would be living up to its name.
Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.