As regular readers of this blog know well, media bias is a “favourite” bugbear of mine. The outrageous injustice and unfairness of the mainstream media’s bias against Israel, expressed in tendentious stories, slanted reports, manipulation of facts and statistics, and – yes – even outright lies, is not only a problem for Israel’s image. It becomes literally a life and death issue for Israelis and Jews everywhere when the slanted reports lead to public outrage, violent anti-Israel and antisemitic demonstrations, which then persuade governments to impose sanctions, embargoes and boycotts on Israel. We have seen all these outcomes in recent weeks, from the demonstrations and pogroms to the UK’s review of arms exports to Israel to the US’s review of missile transfers to Israel to the UN’s perpetual slamming and condemnations of Israel in every forum.
Following are a couple of excellent articles on the subject which were published last week.
The first (from which I borrowed the title) is “The Media Intifada: Bad Math, Ugly Truths About New York Times In Israel-Hamas War” by Richard Behar in Forbes Magazine. The article is very long but really worth-while reading through to the end (but take your blood pressure pills first!). Here are some excerpts:
It’s a “media intifada,” notes Gary Weiss, an old colleague and one of the world’s top business investigative reporters. He is referring of course to the ongoing war in Gaza, where journalists working for American news outlets have, he says, “become part of the Hamas war machine.”
As more than a month has passed since Israel began its Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, it’s high time to dig through the carnage that many of my colleagues from major U.S. media outlets are leaving behind—especially the New York Times.
On August 11th, the normally Israel-averse Foreign Press Association in Israel conceded what those closely following the war coverage already knew: That Hamas has been intimidating foreign reporters. In a harsh statement, it condemned the terrorist group for “the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists in Gaza over the past month.”
This is hardly surprising, as who can expect a terrorist group to treat reporters nicely—except perhaps many reporters themselves? But what is surprising is that New York Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren undermined her own newspaper—quickly denouncing the FPA’s statement. She said in a tweet that she wasn’t aware of any such harassed reporters, even though she concedes she spent only one week in Gaza herself during the height of the conflict. In an email to the FPA, she said that the FPA’s statement could be “dangerous” to the “credibility” of the foreign press who are covering the conflict. “Every reporter I’ve met who was in Gaza during war says this Israeli/now FPA narrative of Hamas harassment is nonsense,” she tweeted. [Boldface type hers.]
Among other things, I’ve discovered that the Times’ most important reporter in Gaza for the past few years has used the late Yasser Arafat as his profile photo on Facebook, and, in a second photo, praised the former Palestinian leader. This suggests that the Times may have less to worry about in terms of Hamas intimidation than others in the press corps. Indeed, this Times reporter’s parallel pieces for Qatar’s Al Jazeera since the war began can only be pleasing to the terrorists.
Journalism ethics professors and historians take note: You are bearing witness, with few exceptions, to some of the most abysmal overseas reporting since Hearst’s New York Journal in 1898 got us into the Spanish-American War and Walter Duranty of the New York Times was ignoring Stalin’s crimes in the 1930s. “We’re not just talking bad journalism,” says Weiss. “We’re talking about journalism that functions as a tool of a terrorist organization, Hamas: breathlessly pushing its narrative, whether cowed by its threats, sympathetic to its cause, or simply ignorant.”
I raised the topic last week with Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York. “As someone who is a student of the media and a former journalist,” he says, “I find it bizarre — journalistically and morally – that after a month of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas, there were hardly any images shown in Western media of Hamas terrorists holding guns or Hamas terrorists engaged in hostile activities against Israel. It’s as if there’s only one side, and this could be a result of two reasons: Either journalists are looking for the easy story, the available story, what’s in front of their eyes. Or they’re being intimidated by Hamas. And I believe that what we’ve probably had is a combination of both.”
This epidemic of journalistic malpractice is contributing to the pain and loss of life that Palestinians in Gaza are suffering—as it helps to empower Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., the EU, Canada, Japan, Egypt and Jordan. (This designation is too often not-fit-to-print by the New York Times and other media outlets.) In turn, this no doubt helps spread oil on the rising and frightening anti-Semitism we’re seeing in Europe and elsewhere.
Behar goes on to list numerous examples of the New York Times’, Al Jazeera’s, and the UK media’s slanted, not to say inaccurate, reporting.
Although by then I knew the answer, on August 3rd I asked Kobi Michael (the former Israeli strategic-affairs official) if he believes that Western reporters were seeing civilian centers—mosques, schools, hospitals—being used as shields, but not reporting it. “Are you kidding me?” he responded. “Do you have any doubt about it? It is a question of life or death most times, and biased journalists who don’t care about truth, motivated by hatred to Israel and sympathy to Hamas in other cases. In other cases, there are journalists who are looking for the touching story, for the title, for the excitement and—in these cases—the more the scenes are horrible and bloody the better.”
So what’s an American reader or viewer to conclude about all this? Perhaps to amp-up your satellite dish, and quickly learn a few foreign languages, if you want to closely follow this war.
There is so much more in this article, with detailed examples of every kind of bias from multiple international media sources. Just two more quotes from an article that I wish I could quote in full:
One thing I wish the Times had deemed worthy of sharing with its readers is an electrifying speech delivered by Florida Senator Marco Rubio on the Senate floor in late July.
“Please don’t tell me that this was caused by Israel,” Rubio implored a Palestinian official in Washington who had sent him a blistering letter. “In my time here in the Senate, I’ve had the opportunity to visit multiple countries. I have never met a people more desirous of peace than the people in Israel. But peace cannot mean your destruction. And that’s what they’re facing here… They [Hamas] are willing to sacrifice their own people to win a PR war. And I think it is absolutely outrageous that some in the press corps domestically, and most of the press corps internationally, is falling for this game. So please don’t tell me that both sides are to blame here.”
And the second, following on directly from the above:
Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher has noted the absurdity of constantly blaming Israel for its efforts to exist. ”What I find so ironic is that after World War II, everybody said, ‘I don’t understand the Jews. How could they have just gone to their slaughter like that?’” he told the Los Angeles-based Jewish Journal in 2012. “OK, and then when they fight back: ‘I don’t understand the Jews. Why can’t they just go to their slaughter?’ It’s like, ‘You know what? We did that once. It’s not gonna happen again. You’re just gonna have to get used to the fact that Jews now defend themselves…”
Read the whole thing. And weep.
An article on a similar theme appeared in the Washington Post by Richard Cohen – “Israel is held to an impossible standard“, in which he discusses the way Israel is demonised by expecting it to adhere to standards not applied to any other Western country, not to mention Third World countries. Some excerpts:
Israel was created by defeating five Arab nations and won three subsequent wars. Soon, extraordinary feats seemed ordinary.
In 1960, Israeli agents seized Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and brought him to Israel to stand trial.
n 1976, Israeli commandos flew 2,500 miles to Uganda to rescue 102 Israelis and other Jews taken off a hijacked airplane. Five Israeli commandos were wounded and the unit’s commander, Lt. Col. Jonathan Netanyahu, was killed. He was the current prime minister’s older brother.
Years ago, when Israel was fighting in Lebanon, I was shown aerial photos of a Beirut street that were so clear the license plates of parked cars could be read and matched with motor vehicle records. Israel knew who lived where.
All these impressive technological feats, all this bravery and derring-do, suggest a kind of perfection. They suggest, further, that what seems like war crimes must indeed be war crimes because Israel does not make mistakes.
Not only is this hardly true — a list of operations botched by the Mossad could fill the rest of this column — but it also veers into a kind of anti-Semitism. If the bombing of a school or hospital is not a mistake, then it must have been on purpose: Israel is the cold-hearted killer of children.
This is the gravamen of a column in the Independent, a British newspaper. The author is Mark Steel and, in a Swiftian sort of way, he calls Israel “the child murdering community.”
I am not sure if Steel’s column is an example of philo-Semitism — excessive admiration of Jews — or anti-Semitism, whose excesses run the other way. I see it as the latter. It assumes a maniacal willingness to kill children either on purpose or because they are in the way — collateral damage, as it is sometimes called. It gives mocking recognition to all the precautions Israel takes to avoid such casualties.
It is not a child-murdering community, although Syria, next door, most certainly is. I await Steel’s clever column on the Bashar al-Assad regime’s purposeful gassing of civilians, including children.
Richard Cohen could have written a similar article about any number of British – or American, French, German and Spanish – reporters. Their bias, their smugness, their self-righteous moral superiority at Israel’s presumed crimes are sickening.
Interestingly, anti-Western extreme liberal attitudes represented by the anti-Israel media bias is coming to back to bite the West on their tuchus. The wonderful Douglas Murray writes in the Gatestone Institute about ISIS which, according to prevailing attitudes in the chatterati of Britain is “Just a Bit More Beheading than we are used to“:
Who is surprised? That is one question I have most wanted to know since the video was released of the murder of American journalist James Foley. The politicians keep expressing it. And interviewers have kept asking people whether they feel it. But who can honestly say that he was surprised to learn that the murderer of the American journalist turned out to be a “British” man?
Did anyone really still think that a British Islamist would not be capable of doing this? Why wouldn’t he do it in Iraq or Syria if his allies had already done it in London? After all, it was only last year that two other Islamists beheaded one of our own soldiers – Drummer Lee Rigby – in broad daylight in London. And it is only twelve years since another Londoner – Omar Sheikh – arranged the abduction and decapitation of another American journalist, Daniel Pearl.
The question, as written here before, is not how sorry any one political leader feels about such savagery, but what they are going to do about it.
Atrocity after atrocity is perpetrated by Muslims radicalized in the UK, and the debate over what to do about it remains bizarrely circumscribed and ineffectual. Surely somewhere in the conversation and response should be the expression of a desire for a strategy against ISIS which has at its base the utter eradication of the group — wholesale battlefield victory against them, killing their members and leadership in their entirety. Would that not be a desirable objective? I have yet to hear a mainstream politician suggest this or even talk in these terms. Indeed, there has been debate in the UK press suggesting we should hope that some of these ISIS killers come back to Britain, realize that jihad was all a phase and then head off to university for the start of a new term.
Even more concerning was a young woman from Nottingham who spent as much time as possible talking about the “alienation” and “rejection” which a lot of young Muslims feel. It was repeatedly pointed out to her that there isn’t a young person of any religion or background who does not feel alienation at some point. The vital question then, is not just whether such a sense of grievance is justified, but whether there are people seeking to manipulate and then play into such grievances and what extremes some individuals might urge vulnerable minds to as a result. A snapshot of my fellow guest’s own thinking was available in her own condemnation of the murder. The beheading of James Foley was terrible, she stressed, because among other things “we don’t know what [his] views were.”
Here again a little peep-hole into a mainstream and radical world view becomes possible. What if James Foley had not been — as he appears to have been — a man with a deep desire to bring out the terrible stories and sufferings of the region, but someone who was ambivalent to them? What if he had been the most pro-intervention bomb-them-all-to-hell right-winger? Or a member of the Republican Party? What if he had been a Zionist? Or a Jew?
There are poisonous attitudes and lies going around unmolested in this country. And they are one of the causes of the repeated international shame that is coming down upon us. These ideas — hatred and suspicion of the actions of Britain, America, Israel and our other liberal, democratic allies — act as the background music to radicalization. This music plays to exactly the sort of people who are going out to fight with ISIS and exactly the sort of people who think that although they might condemn a beheading in this circumstance, it isn’t always a cut-and-dry issue.
As Murray is essentially saying, what goes around comes around. What starts with the Jews – antisemitic and/or anti-Israel bias – comes back to haunt the West with extreme Muslim radicalization, finally ending up with the horror of ISIS and the West’s squirming with the realization that they are going to have to deal with it. That is going to take the kind of violence which will make Israel’s conflict with Hamas look like child’s play.
If it weren’t such a terribly dangerous situation I would be sitting back to enjoy my cup of schadenfreude with my morning coffee.