I have long been a defender of the general media to pro-Israel supporters who believe the press – from the New York Times to the television networks – is biased against Israel. But I’m having a harder time of it these days.
I have tried, over the years, to suggest that our community tends to be less than objective in our assessment of Mideast coverage, that we engage too much in conspiracy theories about media motives when it comes to Israel, and that critics should consider that most Americans consistently favor Israel – even though they get their foreign policy news from the same media said to be anti-Jerusalem.
But a report in the New York Times last week on the terrorist raid that killed four Israeli civilians was disturbing in that its lead paragraph framed the attack as proof of the contentiousness of the Jewish settlements for the renewed peace talks. What about the murderous acts of Palestinian terrorists as an obstacle to peace?
And, far worse, this week’s cover, and cover story, in Time magazine were simply indefensible.
The Time cover depicts a Jewish star made of flowers, with the headline: “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.”
The story, by correspondent Karl Vick, has a narrow focus, concentrating mostly on satisfied Tel Aviv residents who are living well and enjoying life despite the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. The story tells us that polls show Israelis, asked to name the country’s “most urgent problem,” list education, crime, national security and poverty ahead of the matzav, or situation, Israelis’ shorthand for the Palestinian issue.
Little explanation is given as to why Israelis have come to believe after more than six decades of hostility from the Arab world, and 15 years of failed negotiations with the Palestinians, that the current talks may not lead to nirvana.
While depicted as money-obsessed and cavalier about their neighbors, Israelis in fact have displayed remarkable resilience, pragmatism and faith in themselves.
Attacked by suicide bombers on an almost daily basis a decade ago, they didn’t flee. They didn’t panic. And they didn’t teach their children to hate, or to martyr themselves. Instead they took security precautions (namely, building a separation fence/wall, which has proved successful) and went about their business as best they could under horrific circumstances.
For this, and for carving out productive lives in the face of so many who would destroy them, they are portrayed as uncaring.
Time’s story does not address the attitudes of Palestinians toward Israel, or Jews, though Palestinian clerics, educators and politicians demonize Zionists and Jews everywhere so regularly that it is not considered newsworthy.
Nor does the story note that even if Bibi Netanyahu made peace with Mahmoud Abbas tomorrow, Hamas still controls Gaza and 1.5 million Palestinians. And the terror group is committed to Israel’s destruction and has designs on the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority.
Israel cares very much about peace, and it takes risks every day to prove it. Netanyahu, not Abbas, has been calling for direct negotiations and expressing willingness to compromise. But in the man-bites-dog definition of news, Time devotes its cover to a warped take on reality.
Fortunately, most Americans know, whether they read the story or not, that it is misleading at best, and perhaps intentionally so.