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MEDIA SPIN REMAINS IN SYNC WITH ISRAELI OCCUPATION


Norman Solomon

The

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

bloodshed.

In

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.

Soon

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.

Rarely

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.

Within

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.

As

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

self-determination.

While

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.

Beneath

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.

"Israel

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."

Of

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.

For

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.

The

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."

Occasionally,

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.

Numerous

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.

Like

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.

"Ask

not for whom the bell tolls."

Norman

Solomon is a syndicated columnist. His latest book is "The Habits of

Highly Deceptive Media."

 

 

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