You can call escalating tensions in Israel-Palestine by any name you want –Third Intifada, Wave of Violence, Tide of Terror, whatever – but what you can’t say is this: US media is reporting events in an even-handed manner.
Shocking, I know. Even less shocking to those who paid close attention to the US media’s coverage of 2014’s 51 Day War, also known as Operation Protective Edge.
The US media coverage of what many have dubbed the Third Intifada has, to this point, been so overwhelmingly pro-Israel biased, it’s as if CNN, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Fox News are operating as the media arm of both the Israeli Defense Force, and the Netanyahu government.
Like most journalists, the television in my home is set permanently to cable news. On a day Israeli settlers attacked three Palestinians and a foreign journalist in an olive plantation on the outskirts of Nablus, West Bank, CNN brought its viewers only news of a Palestinian who rammed his car into a Jerusalem bus stop and another who was shot dead by Israeli occupation forces at the Damascus Gate for allegedly carrying a knife.
In the case of the latter, CNN unquestioningly parroted the official Israel version of events; despite the fact an eyewitness video showing the deceased 15-year-old Palestinian male was shot when he was already down on the ground.
The rule for reporting the conflict seems to be: if it’s a Palestinian perpetrator, exaggerate his crime. If the perpetrator is an Israeli, the crime didn’t happen.
For CNN, this one-sided, pro-Israel bias is not an anomaly. Last year when Israel bombed and strafed Gaza for 51 days, resulting in more than 2,200 deaths, of which 75% were civilians, CNN brought on one Israeli spokesperson after the other. From Benjamin Netanyahu to Mark Regev; from Lt. Col. Peter Lerner to Alan Dershowitz; Americans were subjected to uninterrupted coverage of Israel’s version of events.
But while CNN often operates essentially as Israeli state media, outlets like the Wall Street Journal openly demonize the Palestinians. On Wednesday, the Rupert Murdoch owned business-centric newspaper published a piece titled “Palestine: the Psychotic Stage.” In the event you’re not quite sure where the journal went with that piece, it included a sub-heading: “the truth about why Palestinians have been seized by their present bloodlust.”
A number of media outlets have gone on to suggest the current Palestinian “bloodlust” has been spurred on by social media i.e. the lionization of Palestinian martyrs across Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook.
No one in America seems prepared to report the glaringly obvious, the actual reality: Palestinian rage is being spurred on by a violent Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a brutal blockade of Gaza, and the collective realization that Israel, under no circumstances, will ever allow a contiguous and autonomous Palestinian state.
The reality of occupation is reported nowhere – even in major outlets known for thrusting a subtle liberal bias. In the past month, The New York Times has covered the conflict in a sum total of 27 articles. “Dating back to September 10 there is almost no mention of Israeli military occupation, or of expanding Israeli control and settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, of Israel’s wall and checkpoints isolating East Jerusalem or of increasing poverty in East Jerusalem,” notes Pat Connors in this Mondoweiss post.
In other words, no context is given to the escalating violence. Americans are effectively fed a diet of pro-Israel hasbara – that effectively tells them Palestinians are predisposed to random acts of violence and Israel must do everything it must to protect itself.
Never mind the fact a near equal number of settler attacks on Palestinians have taken place, all of which are never reported on US television. Never mind the fact Israel is carrying out extrajudicial killings, effectively executing knife-carrying Palestinians instead of arresting them. (In July, a Jewish Israeli stabbed six at a gay pride march in Jerusalem. He was arrested. Not shot or killed) Never mind the fact video footage has captured Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed protestors. None of this is reported in the mainstream media.
Also absent in the coverage is Israel’s controversial “shoot-to-kill” policy. Last month, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament’ passed new laws allowing the IDF to use live ammunition against Palestinians who throw stones. Yes, stones.
“Until recently, police officers would open fire when their own lives were at risk” Netanyahu said. “From now on, they will be allowed to open fire – and they will know they have a right to do so – when anyone’s life is in danger.”
In the first month of Israel’s “shoot-to-kill” policy, 16 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and Gaza, and more than 1,000 bullet injuries have been reported.
In an article posted on Norman Finkelstein’s blog, two killings highlight the brutality and illegality of this new law. Two weeks ago, Israel snipers shot a 13-year-old schoolboy. “Abdul [Rahman Obeidallah] was shot dead on the 5th October, with a Ruger O.22 rifle, from some distance, in what the Israeli Army has called ‘an unintentional killing’. He was wearing his school uniform at the time. Another unidentified schoolboy was shot in the head at the same time and is currently in Beit Jala hospital. He also was wearing his school uniform,” notes Nobel Peace Laureate recipient Mairead Maguire.
While there is no question Palestinians are being incited to commit violence via online videos, the same can be said for Israelis too, but US media reports only the former and never the latter.
Last week, 19-year-old Palestinian male was shot dead after allegedly attacking an Israeli police officer in the Occupied West Bank. The next day, a video surfaced showing an Israeli tossing pork onto the deceased man’s face. “Here, see this? This is pig meat. Friends, just in case you don’t know it, they really love pig meat. … He should enjoy with his virgins, with the pig meat,” you can hear in the recording.
The video went viral. Also popular in today’s Israeli society are the “Death to Arabs” protests. “These “death to Arabs” rallies are a reflection of incitement from the top. It’s only a matter of time before another Palestinian is burned,” tweeted Rania Khalek, associate editor of Electronic Intifada, referring to the recent killing of a Palestinian baby by Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
When it comes to incitement, there’s enough blame to go round. But Americans are subjected to a narrative that ascribes all moral blame to the Palestinians.
The violence we are seeing today is not random, and it certainly didn’t emerge in a vacuum. The violence reflects the natural reaction to a brutal Israeli occupation; a disillusionment in the peace process; and Palestinian political impotency.
When the Palestinians have turned to violence in the past, the expansion of settlements continued. When the Palestinians shunned violence, the expansion of settlements continued, and in many ways, the occupation has become even more brutal since both the PLO and Hamas gave up suicide bombings in 2005.
Faced with this reality, and while attacks on civilians can never be justified, who can really be surprised by this latest uprising? No one. Unless that is you get your news from US media.