A commenter on my post “No Hate Zone,” blames the media for the majority of the unrest in the Middle East and the current stalemate in negotiations toward a peace settlement between Israel and Arab Palestinians.
There is no lack of blame to be leveled at the press in this as in other matters. Outgoing Government Press Office director Danny Seaman was recently interviewed by Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief David Horovitz, and let it all hang out. He made very clear, precise points about how the press fails to do its job accurately in Israel, including sending inexperienced journalists to the region (who have no grasp of the region’s politics, history, or society), ignoring true experts on crucial matters (such as the use of white phosphorous in war) or printing their opinions in the context of an article giving credence to accusations of improper use of the stuff in Operation Cast Lead, and repeatedly seeking out Arab sources that have lied to them in the past for new stories. This doesn’t include, of course, Israel’s own poor handling of the press or the Israeli press’s contribution to the confusion and antagonism of Israel in the news. One of his most salient points is that once an Israel-bashing story (like the Mohammed Al-Dura “shooting” in 2000, “reported” by France 2) is out, it’s well-nigh impossible to counter it, even if it’s utter fabrication and the facts prove otherwise. (Article here.)
But the sleaziness of the press is not the whole story. When I mentioned the continued incitement against Jews in mosques here and elsewhere in the world, the commenter had no response. When I mentioned the teaching of hatred and dehumanization of Jews in Palestinian and other Arab schools, and the textbook maps of a Middle East with no Israel at all, he had no answer.
And the truth is, there are some in the press who get it right, who see the bigger picture, and who can look with a cold, clear eye at what happens here. And they are not all Jews or Christians. Some are Arabs. Mudar Zahran’s articles about Israel and the Palestinian Arabs offer an interesting contrast to the perspective on Arab politics so often championed in the Western press. Not only does he challenge the received wisdom of the virtue of the underdog and the suffering of Arabs at the hands of a mighty and sadistic Israel, he also points out how responsibility for much of Palestinian Arab suffering can be laid at the feet of Arab politics and the very demonization of Israel carried out by the press, the Left, and the BSD movement which claim to care about the supposed plight of Palestinian Arabs. His article titles include “Arab politics; Palestinian suffering,” “Demonizing Israel is bad for the Palestinians,” “Israel, the good enemy,” and “Hizbullah: Hating Israel…and Palestinians.”
Khaled Abu Toameh is another Arab journalist who exercises his independence and freedom of speech, including in his most recent piece on “Fatah: The Message Remains No, No, and No,” in which he addresses PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s paralysis to make any kind of peace deal involving concessions following the most recent meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council. In the course of the meeting, it was resolved that the answer is
No to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state; no to any solution that calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders; no to the idea of a land swap between Israel and the Palestinians; no to any resuming peace talks with Israel unless construction in settlements and east Jerusalem is halted; no to understandings between Israel and the US regarding the future of the peace process; no to supplying Israel with US weapons; no to recognizing the Western Wall’s significance to Jews and not to a new Israeli law that requires a referendum before any withdrawal from Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
So it seems to me that the press is not entirely at fault; the Arab leadership bears most of the responsibility for refusing to participate in a productive peace process, instead placing obstacles and conditions before every step of the process, all the while having no intention of making or accepting any viable offers from the Israelis. What is clear to me (and this is from what I read in the press) is that the Palestinian Authority has lost interest in negotiation as a means to achieve its ends. With the failure of open war, terrorism, and negotiation to destroy the Jewish State, the next step in the PA’s sights is an externally imposed settlement which is certain to beat any deal they could get by compromising.
The press is a convenient whipping boy in this scenario. But the news consumer must remember at all times that the press is not here to give the reader or viewer the truth (despite Pravda’s suggestive name). It is to garner an audience to consume its media and to provide a market for its advertisers. This is a jaded, cynical view of the press, I grant you, but it’s not inaccurate. There are still some journalists who care about their craft and continue to preserve a shred of respectability for the profession. (I praise them whenever possible on this blog.) But most of the major news sources look for a sensational angle, eschew historical background to conflicts, and avoid whenever possible admitting to wrongdoing. And the only thing more irresponsible than to print this stuff is to believe it.
No, the situation is much more complicated than simply blaming the press, and the responsibility for the failure to create peace in the Middle East is spread much wider than the rubes with cameras and tape recorders.