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Mort Zuckerman claims he toured the devastation in Gaza. Really?

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Uh-Oh. I think Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman just got caught in a bit of a lie, in answer to a question put to him Eleanor Clift on this week’s McLaughlin Group. The segment focused on Zuckerman’s visit this week to Israel, where he had accompanied New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on a whirlwind tour of embattled Israel as part of something called the New York State-Israel “Unity Mission.” Mort had just described the tour he and Cuomo had been given of a rather extensive tunnel that Hamas had built into Israeli territory, which he said reminded of something you might see in the New York City subway system. Clift then asked: “Did you tour any of the devastation in Gaza?’

If Zuckerman kept to Cuomo’s itinerary, he would not have seen such devastation, since Cuomo spent his entire 29.5 hours on the ground in Israel proper. Although Palestinian officials had extended an invitation for Cuomo to visit Palestinian territory in the West Bank, he declined to do so, and so far there has been no news that Zuckerman made his way into Gaza on his own. This would have required a lot of “fixing” on the ground and would have been something Zuckerman himself would have written about by now, or would have had the Daily News reporter who travelled with him write up.

The exchange between Clift and Zuckerman picks up at the 9 minute mark of this video.

Clift to Zuckerman: Did you tour any of the devastation in Gaza?”

Zuckerman to Clift: Yeah, I did.

It’s not entirely clear on the audio, but Clift seems to have then asked Zuckerman “When?” This would have been a reference to the much-noted pace of the Zuckerman-Cuomo “Unity Tour” and the reluctance to visit Palestinian territory, I guess, with the assumption that Zuckerman was talking about having personally witnessing this devastation–and not through a telescope or a satellite or a drone camera. But Zuckerman was moving on—fast, as fumferers tend to do— and launched very quickly into a spiel on how the “devastation” Clift was pressing him about was entirely the work of Hamas and its cynical use of civilian pawns.


Zuckerman, left, in blazer, during tour of tunnel near Gaza on unity tour with NY politicians, including Gov. Cuomo, last week

Bad enough for Zuckerman to have been Cuomo’s enabler in pandering to pro Israel money and votes and grooming his national profile by staging a dog and pony show in support of a country that is credibly accused of war crimes—lots of them–in its recent Gaza operations. But to lie that you’ve actually witnessed the physical aftermath of Israel’s onslaught when in fact you have not is kinda low—and an insult to the very brave men and women who risked their lives in Gaza to report the news during the month-long Israeli attacks there.

Foreign correspondents of Zuckerman’s vintage (post-Scoop, pre-internet) used to play fast and loose with datelines all the time, claiming they were in some difficult-to-get-to place and had seen something important when all that they had actually personally witnessed was the battle for position at the hotel bar. Maybe it’s just a function of generational lag—a macho “senior moment.” Then too, it could be jet lag; it’s hard to be clearheaded after seeing so much so fast, even if you haven’t really seen everything you say you’ve seen. Maybe Mort just misheard what Clift had asked.

But I suspect it’s just one more manifestation of the dishonesty that has long haunted the American discourse on Israel, the casual lying both by commission and omission that is as maddening as it is chronic.

This post first appeared on William McGowan’s site, Coloring the News, where he is currently focused on the US-Israel “special relationship” and the political and journalistic corruption of the Israel lobby.

William McGowan

William McGowan is the author of three books: Only Man Is Vile: The Tragedy of Sri Lanka (Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Coloring The News: How Political Correctness Has Corrupted American Journalism (Encounter Books, 2002) for which he won a National Press Club Award; and Gray Lady Down: The Decline and Fall of the New York Times. (Encounter Books, 2010). A former editor at the Washington Monthly, he has reported for Newsweek International and the BBC and has written for the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, the New Republic, Columbia Journalism Review and many other national publications. He lives in New York City and blogs at

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9 Responses

  1. just on August 18, 2014, 3:00 pm

    Great catch!!! “Uh- Oh” indeed.

    Sincere thanks for all that you do, William McGowan.

  2. philweiss on August 18, 2014, 3:19 pm

    I agree. This is an imposture, as if this man cares at all about Palestinian life. And notice the way he starts raging at Clift, and she says, she didn’t want a debate. But has he convinced her or any reasonable American?

  3. Bumblebye on August 18, 2014, 3:27 pm

    Before I read this – I’m listening to a Man Who Knows! Mads Gilbert on Hardtalk, very effectively batting away every Hasbara point Zeinab Baddawi can throw at him – only flub so far (and it’s nearly over) is referring to Peres as the ‘late’ President! Didn’t know he’d been in Beirut in 82 either.

    Very fast talking (the pair of them), so loads of info. This is a man who really knows the devastation, and knows exactly why how and who is the cause of it!

  4. Kay24 on August 18, 2014, 4:11 pm

    I love it when they lie and they are caught doing it. Lying about going to a devastated area, when you haven’t, is ugly, there are no excuses to say you made a mistake.
    Those who support the lies of the zionist, end up being liars too.

    They will NEVER dare to visit Gaza, these American slaves of Israel. How can they bring the wrath of Israel down on them, and they do not want to see the death and destruction the satan of the Middle East consistently bestows on helpless civilians.
    They do not want to see what our aid and weapons, that they are anxious to keep sending to Israel, can do.
    Mr. Pants on Fire Zuckerman.

    • Chu on August 19, 2014, 10:35 am

      I thought McLaughlin Group was a ‘debate’ format. All the remaining four could have challenged Zuckerman, although when it’s the media sacred cow in question they seem to gaze at their feet. What it comes down to is they are all afraid of being blacklisted. They all need this exposure for their careers to continue, so they remain quiet.

      I think the media in 2014, has been more kowtowing to the Pro-Israel line than they were in 2009 Cast Lead. The media seemed like they were cognizant of all the civilians casualties in 2014, but it was already witnessed in 2009. I fear Israel may see this as a success and every 4 years of so, we’ll see the Gaza Punic Wars. Because it was only recently said by the Israel (propaganda) minister that they want to turn Gaza into Ramallah.

      One thing that is coming clear, is that the Israel apologists, can’t apoligize for the actions of Israel any longer. Israel is showing the world what it’s final plan is.

      • seafoid on August 19, 2014, 10:54 am

        The media are kept in line by money- it’s not like the advertising situation is comfortable and the bots can twist management as they like but the big question is how the bringing into the open of Israel’s Endloesung for Gaza will play amongst the viewers and readers.
        Apartheid is forever. And that is very, very long.

        And Israeli society is being educated for apartheid.

  5. Les on August 18, 2014, 6:42 pm

    Israel Bars Amnesty, Human Rights Watch Workers from Gaza

    Published on Monday, August 18, 2014 by Haaretz

    by Amira Hass

    Israel has been refusing to allow employees of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to enter the Gaza Strip in order to conduct their own independent investigations into the fighting, using various bureaucratic excuses.

    Both human rights organizations have been trying to obtain permission from the Civil Administration to enter Gaza since July 7. Two different reasons have been cited for the refusals: The first is that the Erez border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip is closed and no entry permits are being granted until further notice; the second is neither group is registered with the Social Affairs Ministry as a humanitarian aid organization.

    In fact, Erez was open throughout most of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, which began on July 8. Among others, journalists, United Nations employees and Palestinians needing medical care or returning from abroad (with special permits), were allowed to pass through.

    The spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories told Haaretz yesterday that it was suggested to both groups that they submit a special request with the COGAT ombudsman, but that no such request had as yet been received. Human Rights Watch said it had only received the suggestion late last week. Amnesty said it had not heard of the suggestion at all.

    Both organizations had hoped to have researchers in the Strip during the fighting, accompanied by weapons and munitions experts with military backgrounds: Figures in the NGOs said there are no Palestinians in Gaza with the requisite professional military knowledge to independently evaluate claims being made by both the Palestinians and Israelis. While testimonies can be taken and cross-checked after the fact, physical evidence such as shell impact craters or traces from munitions is usually removed quickly.

    Both groups have in the past published reports critical of Hamas. Following Operation Cast Lead (2009) and Operation Pillar of Defense (2012) they documented incidents that raised allegations of war crimes by Israel. It should be noted that both groups conduct investigations in the West Bank and in Israel proper without any interference from the authorities.

    Human Right Watch investigators have been barred from entering Gaza via the Erez crossing since 2006, while Amnesty’s people have been barred since June 2012. Until the Morsi government in Egypt was brought down, they would enter Gaza from Egyptian territory through the Rafah crossing. On December 6, 2012, the international department of the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration (which is part of the Civil Administration) told Amnesty that it would no longer process its requests to enter the Strip because it only handles requests from groups registered as aid groups with either the Israel Foreign Ministry or the Social Affairs Ministry. The notice acknowledged that this was a change in policy and said the change had come “from a higher authority.”

    In subsequent discussions that Amnesty held with the Israeli authorities, it emerged that only UN agencies are registered with the Foreign Ministry. Yonatan Gher, Amnesty’s executive director in Israel, told Haaretz that the Foreign Ministry had specifically told his group that it couldn’t register with the ministry. As for the Social Affairs Ministry, the group explained that it doesn’t fall under the category of aid or humanitarian organizations that work regularly in the territories, and which register with that ministry to get work permits. Gher said that while he had gotten verbal promises from the Civil Administration that it would continue to accept Amnesty’s entrance requests, in recent weeks the only thing that had been raised is registering with the Social Affairs Ministry.

    Bill van Esveld, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said he was first told by the Civil Administration offices in Beit El that his requests to enter the Strip were not being handled because of the military situation, but the Coordination and Liaison Administration at the Erez crossing told him that his requests weren’t being handled because the organization wasn’t registered with the foreign or the social affairs ministries.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a response that he had no knowledge of the complaints by Human Rights Watch. Regarding Amnesty, Palmor said its people could not enter Gaza because it isn’t registered with the Social Affairs Ministry.

    “Entrance to the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing is permitted primarily to humanitarian and aid organizations, journalists, diplomats, and international political officials. This is government policy and the criteria that the government set. I am not aware of any effort to withhold entry permits or registration from Amnesty for any political reason. As noted, the organization, by its own admission, does not meet the criterion set [humanitarian aid].

    Amnesty has asked several European foreign ministries to raise the issue with Israeli diplomats and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. No response has been received as yet.

    COGAT’s written guidelines for the passage of foreigners through the Erez crossing, from September 2013, says employees of unrecognized (i.e., not registered with the Social Affairs Ministry) organization “may submit an exceptional request that will be considered in light of the prevailing policy based on the political-security situation.” In other words, the guidelines acknowledge the option of granting a permit to cross at Erez, if the authorities are interested in doing so.

  6. amigo on August 19, 2014, 5:40 am

    What do you get from a liar , except lies.

    Zuckerman represents all that is vile about zionism.

  7. Chu on August 19, 2014, 9:59 am

    It’s obvious he is lying. His tongue dried out and he choked up a few times, and continued to stutter. Obvious sign he was caught lying.

    Joan Rivers gets away with her racist crap at the airport – and no one holds her accountable. Mort Zuckerman isn’t any more accountable to some media standard? I’d say he’s more untouchable that Rivers.

    Israel is still the sacred cow to the media, and the actor/players in the media. They all look to Mort for taking the lead here, but Buchanan has some serious articles critical of Israel. Why does he remain mum?

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