Israel: the Canary in the Coal Mines
October 9, 2006
I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the holocaust will be upon us. (Eric Hoffer, Israel’s Peculiar Position,” LA Times, May 26,1968)
Our position on the Middle East is clear. We want the root of tensions to be removed . During these 60 years what was the root of massacres, crimes and conflicts? The solution is clear and nothing has changed. ( Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Tehran, August 29, 2006)
The recent 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah and its aftermath have spawned a wealth of commentary and reportage as contraditory and confusing as any that has come from that part of the world.
News Without Context
It should not go unnoticed that nearly all of the reporting and commentary have been preoccupied with tactics, that is, with the how of things, the details of numbers, weaponry, who is winning, or losing, and especially with the spectacular - notably the live television broadcasts of bombings, riots, massive demonstrations, and that sort of things. The more violence, the more telegenic.
The result is that the news is presented without context and a grasp of the historic background. Instead of acquiring true insight and real knowledge, many just develop opinions on the basis of the latest information provided by the most persuasive presenters, and especially by the graphic pictures shown on television and now on the Internet.
Related to the foregoing is that many tend towards opinions that are safe and uncontroversial, which is the attitude that has given rise to the current epidemic of political correctness. This outlook arises from a desire to believe what is generally accepted within the thinking elites in the academy, the media, the political Left, and the entertainment industry.
Practically, this means that belief in secularism (there is no God), moral relativism (there is no truth), and tolerance (multiculturalism) has become the new orthodoxy embraced by every right thinking, rational person. The mainstream media play a key role in fostering the worldview shaped by this mindset.
Israel’s Precarious Position
All of this has a profound effect on the prevailing opinion about the state of Israel in the midst of a hostile Arab/Muslim world. From its very beginning, Israel’s existence has been bitterly opposed and fought by its Arab neighbours. That conflict is not only a political contest over land between Israel and the Arab world, but it is also a conflict of Jews versus Muslims.
There is reason to believe that this seemingly intractable war against Israel is a microcosm of the war declared by radical Islamists on all infidels. In other words, Israel’s fight is ours too. The leading fatwa proclaimers have cast their net wide, condemning not only the two Satans, but the entire non-Muslim world. Ahmadinejad has given voice to this ambition again and again, as he did in this prediction: “Allah willing Islam will conquer all the mountain tops of the world.”
The socalled peace negotiations have gone nowhere because one side is not interested in peace but in the destruction of Israel. That became clear for all to see when Yasser Arafat walked away from an offer that gave him nearly everything he had demanded. Instead, he unleashed the reign of terror that killed hundreds of innocent Israeli (and Palestinian) men, women and children, all the while deepening the misery and hopelessness of the Palestinian people.
The mainstream world press has contributed to the idea that Israel is the cause of the ongoing violence and the bully “occupier”of a dispossessed people. The press and the schools in the Arab world are conducting an intensive campagn to poison the minds, beginning with children at a very young age, by peddling the most outlandish lies about the Jewish people. Suicide bombers of Israeli citizens are hailed as heroic martyrs assured of a privileged place in heaven.
The upshot is not only that Israel is demonized in the Arab world but that even in the free West public opinion has turned against Israel. Now there exists a widely held perception that Israel and the U.S., as the one nation that has stood with Israel, are a major threat to peace. Following are a few blatant instances of media bias that could be multiplied many times.
The Pliant Media
The Jenin “massacre”. In April 2002 the Israeli military was determined to destroy the Palestinian haven of terrorists and suicide bombers imbedded in the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin. Immediately the British and other major news outlets were filled with horror stories of wanton destruction and the indiscrimate murder by Israeli soldiers of hundreds of innocent civilians. The Guardian’s editorial on April 17, 2002 likened Israel’s action in Jenin to the 9/11 attack on the U.S. The same paper carried this headline on May 6: “How the Jenin Battle Became a Massacre.” The mighty BBC trumpeted the same charges. However, none of these reports were verified. When the smoke of the media’s smear campaign lifted, it was revealed that 56 people had been killed, mostly in bitter house-to-house fighting, 23 of whom were Israeli soldiers. (That number included 13 who were drawn into a ambush by women who pretended to plead for help from the soldiers.) But the damage in demonizing Israel had been done.
Tuvia Grossman. His picture appeared in the New York Times on September 30, 2000, bloodied and scared with a club-wielding Israeli policeman hovering over him. Another young Palestinian victim of Israeli brutality. That’s what the caption said below the picture that was flashed across the world. In fact, he was a 20-year old Jewish student from Chicago studying in Jerusalem. If the policeman had not intervened, Grossman would have been killed by a mob of some 40 Palestinian thugs. He spent ten days in a Jerusalem hospital, then returned to Chicago where he was confined to a wheel chair for five months.The photographer who snapped the picture obviously was not interested in the truth, nor was the photo editor of the Times. The Times apologized at the insistence of Grossman’s father, but no apology can undo the harm done to Israel’s reputation.
The Qana fraud. Hezbollah has been hiding its fighters and rocket launchers among the civilian population in Lebanon - which is considered a war crime. Thereby it accomplishes two things that make excellent propaganda footage. It knows that Israel seeks to minimize civilian casualties and will hold back in its efforts to destroy Hezbollah strongholds and weaponry. But when civilians are killed, as they inevitably will, Hezbollah can then accuse Israel of war crimes. This charade played itself out after Israel destroyed a complex in Qana on July 30 in which even some children died. But it was found that the pictures of the dead, some of whom were imported from elsewhere, were manipulated for maximum effect. Reuters dismissed the photographer responsible for this fraud, but the haters of Israel will continue to believe the doctored photos.
Stolen money. Israel’s military response to Hezbollah’s rocket attacks and the capture of two Israeli soldiers has been disastrous for the Lebonese. But Hezbollah now poses as the caring provider for the displaced victims of the war. They are distributing thousands of dollars in American currency to all whose houses and other belongings were destroyed, making sure that television photos of their “generosity” are broadcast all over the world. Hezbollah’s fighters are indeed master propagandists, and more. Some who have had a careful look at the distributed funds insist that they are counterfeit. (See David Frum, “Counterfeit News,” National Post, August 26, 2006.) How fitting that a terrorist organization pretends to help the victims of its own recklessness by doling out fake money. How bitterly ironic that even in this sham humanitarian action Hezbollah relies on, while degrading, the financial resources of the country it despises.
Funneling the news. That Hezbollah manipulates the news is bad enough. What is worse is that many Western journalists are complicit in this fraud. They report the information provided to them without asking the hard questions. Nic Robertson, a CNN correspondent, has admitted that Hezbollah controls all access to information and carefully chaperones all journalists. He said that stories about Lebanon should be read with “more than a grain of salt.” But none of the journalists permitted into Hezbollah territory have accompanied their reports with that warning.
Mike Wallace’s infamous interview. Wallace has earned a reputation as a hard-nosed interviewer on CBS’s 60-Minutes. But when he interviewed the Iranian president. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on August 8 his approach was one of deference and admiration. This is the man who wants to wipe Israel off the map and recently addressed a frenzied crowd shouting “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.” He heads a country that has lied about its nuclear program, has killed and imprisoned thousands of its own people, supports the Iraqi killers of American soldiers, while funding and enabling Hezbollah to kill and terrorize Israeli citizens. None of these facts were pressed by Wallace, and the two men got along fine, even engaged in some bantering.
The tough interviewer who would have roasted his own President Bush gushed that he was much impressed by Ahmadinejad. This is despite the fact that Ahmadinejad had humiliated Wallace by keeping him waiting in a Tehran hotel for almost a week before he was allowed into the presence of this imperial president. Wallace found Ahmadinejad to be interesting and more rational than he had expected. What comes to mind is this question: Whose side is Wallace really on?
A long-standing bias. The mainstream media prides itself on its impartiality. The truth is that its bias runs deep, and it seems that an extreme form of contempt for their own country comes naturally to journalists and commentators. They have shown a special attraction to the tyrants on the Left, and more recently for those who spew their hatred of the U. S. and Israel in the name of radical Islam. These enablers of tyrants are following in the footsteps of Walter Duranty, an admirer of Stalin in the 1930s, and Herbert Matthews whose favourable reporting on the young Castro helped to provide a cloak of respectability for another Stalinist Gulag.
An honest admission. Dan Rather, the retired CBS anchor ended his career in embarrassment when he used a fraudulent document to reflect badly on President Bush’s military service record. To his credit, Rather recently admitted to serious, systemic flaws in the way the major networks report the news. In an interview with Bill O’Reilly he conceded that what is missing in most televised war coverage is “context, perspective, background, history, and analysis.” When asked whether some American networks “give moral equivalency to Hezbollah “ in their reporting on the war in Lebanon, he responded:
I agree it happens. And I agree it’s a problem. It’s a problem that those of us in journalism have been reluctant to address. I do not exclude myself from this criticism. Reluctant to address that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.
Radical Islam has declared war on the free West, but the West is internally so divided that it cannot agree on the real meaning of that declaration.That disagreement has now reached a point where many influential shapers of public opinion treat terrorists as people who are fighting for a righteous cause.
Similarly, tyrants who cruelly enslave their own people and threaten to unleash a nuclear holocaust on the one democratic and civilized nation in the Middle East are treated as responsible, even respectable members of the international community.
I believe that this amounts to deliberate blindness toward an ugly reality. Unless such blindness is cured, I fear that Eric Hoffers’ premonition mentioned at the beginning of this article may yet be realized.
The good news is that such a cure is available.But that will require, among other things, that the press become a reliable source of information rather than a propagandist for the Stalins and Hitlers of this confused and violent age.