How jour­nal­ists project Is­rael’s crimes on to Pales­tini­ans

Arab News - - OPINION - Ramzy BaRoud | Spe­cial to aRaB NewS

When­ever Ne­tanyahu or the coun­try as a whole is in the dock, the na­tion’s me­dia im­me­di­ately fash­ions an Arab enemy to blame in a bid to some­how al­low Is­rael to main­tain its self-granted moral as­cen­dency.

IN an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in Al-Mon­i­tor with­out a sin­gle ver­i­fi­able ci­ta­tion, Is­raeli jour­nal­ist Shlomi El­dar last week went to un­prece­dented lengths to di­vert at­ten­tion from the cor­rup­tion in his coun­try. He re­ported com­ments from Pales­tinian jour­nal­ists — all speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity — who “ap­plauded” and “ad­mired” the Is­raeli me­dia's cov­er­age of the cor­rup­tion scan­dals sur­round­ing the coun­try's right-wing Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu.

El­dar's ap­proach is un­der­handed and jour­nal­is­ti­cally un­sound.

The Is­raeli me­dia, which has largely sup­ported Ne­tanyahu's dev­as­tat­ing wars on Gaza, con­tin­ues to re­lent­lessly de­fend the il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of Pales­tine and to serve as a shield for Is­rael's stained rep­u­ta­tion on the in­ter­na­tional stage. It is hardly praise­wor­thy, even if it does ar­guably pro­vide de­cent cov­er­age of the Ne­tanyahu in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

For an Is­raeli jour­nal­ist to hand­pick a few Pales­tini­ans who, al­legedly, praised the war crimes-apol­o­gist Is­raeli me­dia is a re­mark­able event that surely can­not be sat­is­fac­to­rily ad­dressed in anonymity. But, El­dar's jour­nal­ism aside, one would think that seek­ing Pales­tinian ad­mi­ra­tion for Is­rael's me­dia should be the least ur­gent ques­tion to ad­dress at this time. Oth­ers are far more press­ing, in­clud­ing: Is cor­rup­tion among Is­rael's po­lit­i­cal elite symp­to­matic of greater moral and other forms of cor­rup­tion that have af­flicted the en­tire so­ci­ety? And why is it that, while Ne­tanyahu is be­ing in­dicted for bribery, no Is­raeli of­fi­cial is ever in­dicted for war crimes against Pales­tini­ans?

In fact, well be­fore Ne­tanyahu's cor­rup­tion scan­dals in­cluded more se­ri­ous charges – for in­stance, quid pro quo deals in which his ad­vi­sors tried to ma­nip­u­late me­dia cov­er­age in his fa­vor and of­fered high-rank­ing po­si­tions in ex­change for fa­vors — it in­cluded bribes per­tain­ing to fancy cigars and ex­pen­sive drinks.

What Is­raelis are try­ing to tell us is that, de­spite all of its prob­lems, Is­rael is a good, trans­par­ent, law-abid­ing and demo­cratic so­ci­ety. This is pre­cisely why El­dar wrote his ar­ti­cle. The out­come was a fa­mil­iar act of in­tel­lec­tual hubris.

El­dar even cites a sup­posed for­mer Pales­tinian pris­oner, who told him that, while in jail, “we learned how the demo­cratic elec­tion process works in Is­rael. The pris­on­ers adopted the sys­tem in or­der to elect their lead­er­ship in a to­tally demo­cratic fash­ion, while en­sur­ing free­dom of choice.” Oth­ers cited their fa­vorite Is­raeli jour­nal­ist, some of whom have served and con­tinue to serve as mouth­pieces for of­fi­cial Is­raeli has­bara (pro­pa­ganda).

Many of Is­rael's friends in Western gov­ern­ments and cor­po­rate me­dia have also con­trib­uted to this op­por­tunis­tic style of jour­nal­ism. They come to the res­cue when times are hard, to find ways to praise Is­rael and to chas­tise Pales­tini­ans and Arabs, even if the lat­ter are not rel­e­vant to the dis­cus­sion what­so­ever.

Who could for­get US Se­na­tor John McCain's crit­i­cism of his coun­try's tor­ture of pris­on­ers at the height of the so-called “war on ter­ror?” His ra­tio­nale was that such a war can be won with­out tor­ture, be­cause Is­rael “doesn't tor­ture” and yet it is ca­pa­ble of com­bat­ing “Pales­tinian ter­ror­ism.”

Thou­sands of Pales­tini­ans have been tor­tured, and hun­dreds killed un­der duress in Is­raeli pris­ons, the last of whom was Yaseen Omar on the day El­dar's ar­ti­cle was pub­lished. More­over, ac­cord­ing to the Pales­tinian Pris­on­ers' Club, 60 per­cent of Pales­tinian chil­dren ar­rested by Is­rael are also tor­tured.

If the Is­raeli me­dia was truly hon­est in its de­pic­tion of Ne­tanyahu's cor­rup­tion, it would have made a point of high­light­ing the ex­tent to which cor­rup­tion goes well be­yond the prime min­is­ter, his wife and a few close con­fi­dantes. But this would pierce through the en­tire le­gal, po­lit­i­cal and busi­ness es­tab­lish­ment, ren­der­ing the sys­tem it­self rot­ten and cor­rupt.

In­stead, the heart of the dis­cus­sion is re­lo­cated some­where else en­tirely. In El­dar's ar­ti­cle, for ex­am­ple, he quotes an anony­mous Pales­tinian, who speaks about how he and fel­low pris­on­ers “re­jected the po­lit­i­cal sys­tems of Arab states and opted for the one they had ab­sorbed from the ‘Is­raeli enemy'.”

This Is­raeli ob­ses­sion of di­vert­ing from the dis­cus­sion is an old tactic. When­ever Is­rael is in the dock for what­ever prob­lems it has in­vited upon it­self or oth­ers, it im­me­di­ately fash­ions an Arab enemy to beat down, chas­tise and blame. In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, some­how Is­rael main­tains the up­per hand and its self-granted moral as­cen­dency.

This is also why Is­raelis re­fer to their coun­try as “the only democ­racy in the Mid­dle East.” It is a de­fense mech­a­nism to di­vert from the fact that apartheid, racially-struc­tured po­lit­i­cal sys­tems are in­her­ently un­demo­cratic. Is­rael re­sorts to be­lit­tling its neigh­bors to con­firm its own self-worth.

When Is­rael fa­cil­i­tated and helped carry out the Sabra and Shatila mas­sacre in Le­banon in Septem­ber 1982, it used the same logic to de­fend it­self against me­dia out­rage. The thenIs­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Me­nachem Be­gin was quoted as say­ing: “Goyim kill goyim and they (the me­dia) blame the Jews.”

The bot­tom line is al­ways this: Is­rael is blame­less no mat­ter the hideous­ness of the act; it is su­pe­rior, more civ­i­lized, and, ac­cord­ing to El­dar's se­lec­tive re­port­ing, even Pales­tini­ans know it.

But where is the out­rage from El­dar and his Is­raeli me­dia cham­pi­ons as thou­sands of black men and women are be­ing caged by Is­raeli po­lice, ready for de­por­ta­tion, for com­mit­ting the mor­tal sin of dar­ing to es­cape war in their home coun­tries and seek­ing refuge in Is­rael? How about the mil­lions of be­sieged and sub­ju­gated Pales­tini­ans liv­ing a bit­ter ex­is­tence un­der an in­hu­mane mil­i­tary oc­cu­pa­tion?

Should the Is­raeli me­dia now be tar­get­ing the very le­gal and po­lit­i­cal struc­tures in their coun­try that make it OK to im­prison a whole na­tion in de­fi­ance of in­ter­na­tional and hu­man rights laws?

In some strange way, cor­rup­tion is one of the few things that is truly nor­mal about Is­rael, for it is a shared qual­ity with every sin­gle coun­try in the world. What is not nor­mal, and should never be nor­mal­ized, is that Is­rael is the only coun­try in the world that con­tin­ues to prac­tice apartheid, many years af­ter it was dis­banded in South Africa.

The Is­raeli me­dia would rather de­lay that dis­cus­sion in­def­i­nitely — a cow­ardly act that is nei­ther ad­mirable nor praise­wor­thy.

Ramzy Baroud is a jour­nal­ist, au­thor and edi­tor of Pales­tine Chron­i­cle. His lat­est book is “The Last Earth: A Pales­tinian Story” (Pluto Press, Lon­don, 2018). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Pales­tine Stud­ies from the Univer­sity of Ex­eter. His web­site is www. ramzy­baroud.net. Twit­ter: @Ramzy­Baroud

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