MEDIA SPIN REMAINS IN SYNC WITH ISRAELI OCCUPATION
formula for American media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is
simple: Report on the latest developments in the fragile "peace
process." Depict U.S. officials as honest brokers in the negotiations.
Emphasize the need for restraint and compromise instead of instability and
the world according to news media, the U.S. government is situated on high moral
ground -- in contrast to some of the intractable adversaries. "The conflict
that had been so elaborately dressed in the civilizing cloak of a peace effort
has been stripped to its barest essence: Jew against Arab, Arab against
Jew," a New York Times dispatch from Jerusalem declared as fierce clashes
in occupied territory neared the end of their second week.
afterwards, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright proclaimed: "The cycle of
violence has to be stopped." Such pronouncements from Washington get a lot
of respectful media play in our country.
do American journalists explore the ample reasons to believe that the United
States is part of the oft-decried cycle of violence. Nor, in the past couple of
weeks, has there been much media analysis of the fact that the violence was
overwhelmingly inflicted on Palestinian people.
days, several dozen Palestinians were killed by heavily armed men in uniform --
often described by CNN and other news outlets as "Israeli security
forces." Under the circumstances, it's a notably benign-sounding term for
an army that shoots down protesters.
for the rock-throwing Palestinians, I have never seen or heard a single American
news account describing them as "pro-democracy demonstrators." Yet
that would be an appropriate way to refer to people who -- after more than three
decades of living under occupation -- are in the streets to demand
Israeli soldiers and police, with their vastly superior firepower, do most of
the killing, Israel's public-relations engines keep whirling like well-oiled
tops. Days ago, tilted by the usual spin, American news stories highlighted the
specious ultimatums issued by Prime Minister Ehud Barak as he demanded that
Palestinians end the violence -- while uniformed Israelis under his authority
continued to kill them.
the Israeli "peace process" rhetoric echoed by American media, an
implicit message isn't hard to discern: If only Palestinians would stop
resisting the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, it would no longer be
necessary for Israeli forces to shoot them.
Extends Time For Peace," said the lead headline on the Oct. 10 front page
of USA Today. "Israel early today extended a deadline for Palestinians to
end rioting," the article began. At this rate, we may someday see a
headline that reads: "Israel Demands Palestinians Stop Attacking Bullets
With Their Bodies."
course, amid all the nifty Orwellian touches, the proper behavior of people
whose homeland remains under occupation has never quite been spelled out. But
U.S. media coverage has reflexively mimicked the themes coming out of the White
House and State Department. It all makes sense -- as long as we set aside basic
concepts of human rights -- as long as we refuse to acknowledge that without
justice there can be no real peace.
American journalists on mainstream career ladders, it's prudent to avoid making
a big deal about Israel's human rights violations, which persist without letup
in tandem with Israel's occupation of land it captured in the 1967 war. Many
pundits are fond of cloaking the occupiers in mantles of righteousness. And we
hear few questions raised about the fact that the occupiers enjoy the powerful
backing of the United States.
silence is usually deafening, even among journalists who write opinion columns
on a regular basis. The U.S. government's economic and military assistance to
Israel adds up to a few billion dollars per year. Among media professionals,
that aid is widely seen as an untouchable "third rail." To challenge
U.S. support for Israel is to invite a torrent of denunciations -- first and
foremost, the accusation of "anti-Semitism."
I've written columns criticizing U.S. media for strong pro-Israel bias in news
reporting and spectrums of commentary. Every time, I can count on a flurry of
angry letters that accuse me of being anti-Semitic. It's a timeworn, knee-jerk
tactic: Whenever someone makes a coherent critique of Israel's policies,
immediately go on the attack with charges of anti-Jewish bigotry.
American supporters of Israel resort to this tactic. Perhaps the difficulties of
defending the Israeli occupation on its merits have encouraged substitution of
the "anti-Semitic" epithet for reasoned debate.
quite a few other Jewish Americans, I'm appalled by what Israel is doing with
U.S. tax dollars. Meanwhile, as journalists go along to get along, they diminish
the humanity of us all.
not for whom the bell tolls."
Norman Solomon is a syndicated columnist. His latest book is "The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media."