U.S. Ambassador Friedman Slams American Reporters for Critical Coverage of Gaza Deaths

Friedman says criticism of recent Palestinian death toll in the Strip is aimed mainly at ‘my friends in the United States and one Israeli newspaper I’ve been known to criticize here’ – a seeming reference to Haaretz

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks during a reception hosted by the Orthodox Union in Jerusalem ahead of the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018
\ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Monday accused the media of major bias against Israel in its coverage of the recent violence on the Gaza border, telling reporters to “keep your mouths shut until you figure it out.”

Speaking in Jerusalem, Friedman said his criticism was aimed mainly at “my friends in the United States and one Israeli newspaper I’ve been known to criticize here” – seemingly a reference to Haaretz, which the ambassador slammed in February after Gideon Levy published a piece criticizing him and his donation of an ambulance to a West Bank settlement.

Friedman claimed that most journalists covering the clashes in recent weeks had never bothered investigating whether Israel had other viable alternatives for defending its border besides using live fire.

“It seems to me that in a journalistic environment where nine out of 10 articles that are written about the Gaza conflict are critical of Israel, you would think that some journalists would take the time to go meet with experts and understand what could have been done differently before they criticize – and I just haven’t seen it,” he said.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 118 people have been killed in the protests since they began at the end of March, including over 60 on the day the U.S. Embassy was moved to Jerusalem last month. In his description of the protests, Friedman failed to note that many of the Palestinian participants were unarmed.

Friedman said that after investigating the issue himself – “Speaking to people in the military in the State of Israel, the United States and other countries whose confidentiality I’ll maintain” – he was convinced that Israel could not have used “less lethal means” to defend itself.

He said that most of the reporting of events on the Gaza border in recent weeks was "completely superficial" and "had no basis in fact."

“They fit a narrative, they fit an opinion, they fit an agenda – but it’s not reporting, because it’s not based on real hard factual analysis,” he said.

Friedman was speaking at a conference organized by The Media Line, an American news agency that covers the Middle East.

Responding to the criticism, Joe Federman, chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Israel, said, “I find it curious that an ambassador who repeatedly refuses requests to speak to the media is now criticizing the media. The international media is not a monolithic entity, and for him to generalize like this is simplistic, inaccurate and misinformed.

“We would welcome an opportunity to speak to him and show him how diverse the media are, and how we work hard to fairly present all sides in a complicated conflict,” Federman added.