It should go without saying that the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation is a complicated issue with many facets. Many of the elements in the conflict go back as far as the mid-1930s and are layered one on another with in between outbreaks of warfare and failed efforts to achieve a settlement if not peace. Neither the reader, nor alas! the reporter, usually has patience for the background.
It could be argued, and is in those leftwing circles in Europe and the U.S. increasingly allied with what the Palestinian cause, that the Israeli presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is in itself a form of violence. No one should ignore constant interplay between the superior Israeli military power which maintains its presence there and the Palestinian population. Nor should anyone minimize the well kept secret that some Palestinians are glad of the security these Israelis forces offer, looking at the descent into chaos in nearby Arab Moslem countries.
But the outbreak of stabbing attacks from the Jewish High Holidays last fall, often against civilians and including occasional Arabs who stumble into these episodes, are a terrorist act perpetrated by the Palestinians. The very fact that much too often the knife-wielders are adolescents, schooled from infancy in hatred against Jews in schools often under UN sponsorship, is as reprehensible as the acts themselves.
The Israelis often are accused by their critics, including sympathizers with the Palestinians cause, of using “excessive force”. The statistics, on the face of it, might be used to prove the accusation since Palestinian attackers killed far exceed the Israeli victims. But, as the Israelis are wont to point out to a largely deaf audience, self defense in such difficult situations cannot always result minimal hurt.
But presenting these episodes in the media by identifying the Palestinian dead as victims – as is done often in the international media – without reference or emphasis on the attacks is a distortion.
Britain’s leftwing The Guardian newspaper, which has taken off where the implosion of the Soviet Union left off, recently ran a not atypical headline “Palestinian shot dead at Damascus gate in Jerusalem after stabbing Israeli guard”. The severe wound that the assailant inflicted on an Israeli border policeman was only mentioned in a text, borrowed from the French News Agency [AFP]. A similar piece in The London Daily Mail, albeit at greater length, was headed: “Jerusalem’s streets run red with blood: Israeli police shoot dead man who stabbed border guard at Damascus Gate — the 99th Palestinian to die in latest wave of violence.” The Mail’s actual coverage, however, was borrowed from the AFP story, a source incidentally often noted for more subtlety than its Anglophone competitors.
It is probably too much to expect that these same newspapers would accompany their stories with more sophisticated reporting of the current situation between Israelis and their Arab citizens and neighbors. Pres. Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry are determinedly continuing the pretense that there is “a negotiating process” underway. There is not. The Palestinian side is rent with a bitter rivalry between the weakening secular Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO] and the Islamicist Hamas. That a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza leveraged the terrorist Hamas into power there, and which is now seeking to usurp the PLO on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem is rarely even hinted in the media.
So now our colleagues in the media are adding to the impasse with a twisted version of most recent events. “You’d be hard pressed to find an example of terror in the world – outside of Israel – where mainstream media outlets prioritize the fate of the perpetrators over that of their victims,” said watchdog UK Media Watch.
It’s time the media stopped adding to another already precarious Middle East imbroglio.