Theres nothing the media hates so much as bias against blacks, homosexuals, or women, but these days bias against Israelis doesnt seem to faze them. The British press, as perhaps shouldnt be surprising, outstrips the U.S. media in the indecent glee of its knee-jerk Israel-bashing.
The New Statesman, for instance, recently ran a cover story entitled, A Kosher Conspiracy? featuring a gold star of David piercing the Union Jack. The article went on to imply that there was a Zionist (read Jewish) cabal, aimed at swaying the British press to the cause of Israel while slighting the Palestinians. Not long afterward, Barbara Amiel shocked the worldsave for British high societywith a column in her husbands newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. At a fete she attended, the ambassador of a major EU nation (later identified as Daniel Bernard, the French ambassador to London) described Israel as a shitty little country. For exposing the ambassador, Amiel came under fire from the media left. In a shocked tone, an Observer columnist gasped that she had betrayed the confidences of the dinner table, and an Observer colleague vengefully announced that Amiel was as welcome now in the chic salons of north London as a fatwa in a sauna.
But U.S. journos arent far behind their British counterparts in such consummate hypocrisy. Decrying the crime of 9/11, U.S. newspapers and networks vigorously backed the administrations military response in Afghanistan, but they met a similar attempt by Israel to go after Palestinian suicide bombers with rage or scorn. This despite the fact that those assassins had killed unarmed men, women, and childrenmost notoriously during a Seder service. Americans in sympathy with the Jewish state were subject to editorial scolding or snubbing.
CBS, for example, barely mentioned the recent pro-Israel rally in Washington, which drew more than 42,000 at a moments notice. Yet a pro-Palestinian protest, which grew out of a long-planned rally against the IMF and the World Bank, drew half as many attendees and more than twice as much air time.
The Washington Post announced the end of the Israeli incursion by stating that forces were withdrawing from two conquered West Bank towns. Conquering was never the aim of those troops. They ventured into the towns to arrest potential suicide bombers and strategists planning more atrocities against Israel.
CNN regularly described Palestinian terrorists as activists and disputed land as occupied territories, a PLO term. Rarely were there personal details about wounded and dead Israelis, usually described as settlers. Also unmentioned was the fact that more than 1,000 Israelis had been murdered since the Oslo Accords.
The New York Times preferred a moral equivalency approach to the conflict. Correspondent Joel Greenbergs dispatch, entitled, Two Girls, Divided by War, Joined in Carnage, described an adolescent Palestinian suicide bomber, Ayat Al Akras, and her American-born Israeli victim, Rachel Levy. The murderess and the murdered were only a year apart in age; they looked strikingly similar. The implication was clear: two lovely young adolescents were both victims of war. Apart from the monstrous equation of a stalker with her prey, the story omitted something: a third person died when Akras detonated her explosives. His name was Haim Smadar. He was the father of five. His last words, as he tried to stop Akras entering a supermarket, were, You are not coming in here. You and I will blow up here. He may have saved more than 30 lives. But the Times could not be bothered with such details.
And then there was the contribution of the ineffable Cornel West, who left Harvard with a parting shot. The Universitys president, Lawrence Summers, had the temerity to suggest that Prof. West might do Harvard a service if he concentrated a little harder on scholarship and a little less on recording rap songs. For this, West characterized his ex-boss as the Ariel Sharon of American higher education. Translation: it was a case of the tyrant vs. the blameless. Neither the Boston Globe, or the Times, which owns the Globe, saw fit to comment on the flagrant indecency of the remark.
Lately, such pernicious nonsense has been a regular feature of campus life. UCLAs newspaper, the Bruin, equated Iraq and Israel, whose leaders have been accused of ordering the deaths of innocent people. And the Rutgers Daily Targum quoted an Arab student who claimed that the Israeli government went into an all-female hospital and randomly selected 30 women, called them terrorists and executed them. Although every word of the accusation was false, her statement went unchallenged.
These undergraduate assertions may be discounted as the bleats of the puerile. However, Americans have a right to expect unemotional fact-finding from grownup journalists. Alas, in the matter of the Middle East, few have advanced beyond the sophomoric in insight or utterance.