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Jonathan Mark on the Media: National Media Puts Israel on Defensive

Jonathan Mark on the Media: National Media Puts Israel on Defensive

Associate Editor

Did this column say, just last week, that Israel was winning the media war? Maybe in Peoria and North Carolina, but now we’re seeing a scathing anti-Israel offensive in the national media, in Time, Newsweek, on The New York Times opinion pages, befitting, well, the anti-war camp in Tel Aviv – a camp that a column in Haaretz called “the surrender lobby.”
The case for Israel’s surrender is laid out as convincingly as did the Wicked Witch when she appeared in the hourglass, taunting Dorothy as the sand was running out. Dorothy didn’t stand a chance, did she?
An example of this was
an op-ed by Daoud Kuttab in The Washington Post (Dec. 30), “Has Israel’s Gaza Attack Revived Hamas?” Kuttab, a Palestinian who taught journalism at Princeton University, said Israel’s attack “appears to have given new life to the fledgling Islamic movement in Palestine.”
But in the years when Israel didn’t defend itself, Hamas won an election in Gaza, quite a revival, in part because Hamas was seen as standing up to Israel. It was Israel’s passivity, not self-defense that gave new life to radical Islam in Palestine.
Then there was Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristoff (Jan. 8), who wrote,
“Arab terrorism built support for right-wing Israeli politicians, who took harsh actions against Palestinians, who responded with more terrorism, and so on. Extremists on each side sustain the other, and the excessive Israeli ground assault in Gaza is likely to create more terrorists in the long run.”
Kristoff’s sequence has no relation to truth. The Israeli defense minister is not a “right-wing politician” but Ehud Barak, who as prime minister was willing to cede 98 percent of the West Bank for Palestinian state. Barak’s offer was rejected with a terrorist flourish that left 7,000 Israelis dead and wounded. A disproportionate response, indeed.
Then “right-wing” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon moved left, ordering the evacuation of every settlement in Gaza. The next prime minister was Ehud Olmert, who famously said in 2005, “We are tired of fighting; we are tired of being courageous; we are tired of winning; we are tired of defeating our enemies," hardly a right-wing manifesto.
That led to several thousand rockets.
And then there’s Kristoff’s warning that Israel’s invasion “is likely to create more terrorists in the long run.” Did the Allied invasion of Germany create more Nazis in the long run? Did Lincoln’s burning of Atlanta create more slave owners in the long run?
A strange phenomenon has transpired in which many Jews, even those most firmly on Israel’s side, have completely accepted the propaganda that Gaza rubble and Palestinians on stretchers are a negative reflection on Israel.
Back in 1945, Americans saw newsreels of Berlin in rubble and Germans on stretchers and concluded, with happiness, “Hey, we’re winning.” After all, that’s how you can tell who’s winning a war, by who is inflicting the most damage on whom. If anyone thinks Israel gets credit for giving Gaza tons of humanitarian aid (often stolen by Hamas) or by risking the lives of Jewish soldiers by warning when and where they’ll be attacking, there is no evidence of that. Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University, and most recently famous in the presidential campaign for his friendship and potential influence on Barack Obama, wrote on the Times op-ed page that Israel was only responsible for “war crimes,” no mention of humanitarian aid, no mention of Israel phoning ahead to warn Gaza civilians.
Clark Hoyt, public editor of The New York Times, writes (Jan. 11), writes that when readers seek more favorable coverage of Israel, they ask, “Why do you not print any articles on the suffering of the people in Israel?” These readers, says Hoyt, “are offended at so many pictures of Palestinian casualties.”
If I may suggest a happy answer, the imbalance is because Israel is winning. Gazans are finally suffering more than Israelis are. In 1945, Berlin was suffering more than Boston.
That was a good thing and in 1945 Americans knew it. If Israel ever lost a war the coverage of our suffering would be plentiful, unbearable. I prefer the imbalance. In the meantime, beware of staged massacres, of Victorian depictions of Gaza women and children as if women and children have not been suicide bombers, and beware of journalists who fear for Israel’s soul more than they fear for Jewish lives. Several of the better journalists have said that the media sometimes has an almost “pornographic” obsession with Israel’s loss of purity. When the coverage is pornographic, only a fool believes the screaming.
Nevertheless, as Nicholas Lemann, dean of the graduate school of journalism at
Columbia University, told Hoyt, “It isn’t just a war. It’s a media war. Public opinions outside the region are very important, and they’re shaped by the press coverage.”
Was anyone’s opinion shaped by Time’s cover story, “Can Israel Survive Its Assault On Gaza?”
Even Dorothy knows by now that when a national magazine asks a cover question about Israel’s future, the answer is always “no.”
Time’s Tim McGirk writes, “Israelis will have to choose between living with an independent Palestinian state or watching Jews become a minority in their own land,” Shmuel Rosner, blogging on the Commentary site (Jan. 9), responds, “False dilemma aside, Israelis have already made their choice,” with both the government and a Jewish majority favoring a two-state solution. “Could McGirk be genuinely oblivious of these facts?”
Time warns, “Israel eventually will have to pull back to the 1967 borders… no matter how loudly its ultra-religious parties protest. Only then will the Palestinians and the other Arab states agree to a durable peace.”
It is as if Israel never evacuated settlements in Sinai or Gaza, as if all Arabs are simply waiting with peace at the ready, as if the only Israeli doubt is Orthodox. As for Israel’s “ultra-religious” parties, when do we ever hear of “ultra-Islamic” parties? Who is more of an obstacle to peace, a chasid or Islamic Jihad?
Rosner quotes Hanoch Marmari, the former editor of Haaretz: “[The Israeli-Palestinian conflict] has created a real crisis of values for journalism. I believe I can compress the enormous volume of coverage and comment into four cardinal sins: obsessiveness, prejudice, condescension and ignorance.”
Time’s article, adds Rosner, “is guilty of them all.”
By the way, Newsweek’s coverage (Jan. 19), is every bit as condescending and ignorant.
The only solace is that Israel is winning and the suffering is disproportionate. If only it were more so.

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