Strong Israeli dominance in the American media
I had originally intended to write a light and cheerful correspondent letter this time. But that will have to wait. The events in Gaza are so staggering, both because they are about life and death for so many, and also because here in the U.S. such strong feelings and interests in how the story is conveyed.
Speaking of humor, political satirist Jon Stewart had the war in Gaza as a theme in his Daily Show the other day. He referred ironically about the IDF practice of calling Palestinian families to warn them that soon will be bombed – so they get the chance to evacuate.
- Evacuate to where? Have you seen Gaza? Israel blocks the boundary here, Egypt closes the border here, are they supposed to start swimming?
Said Stewart, who has a Jewish father, pointing to a map. A few days later, a conservative ratio host Mark Levin responded in an interview on the conservative television channel Fox News. – Stewart is a clown, he’s not funny, was Levin’s preface.
If Hamas had the weapons Israel had, including nuclear weapons and others, Israel would cease to exist. If Israel wanted to, it could destroy the entire defense system, actually of Gaza in thirty minutes. But Israel does not, said Levin, which apparently was to prove how humane the country’s government is.
Reports were removed
The major television channels are cautious. The Israel lobby’s influence on U.S. media is enormous. But several of them have tried to convey the Palestinians’ suffering.
In the first few days, NBC had their award-winning Palestinian reporter Aymam Mohyeldin inside Gaza.
He is himself born in Rafah, near Gaza’s border with Egypt, and conveyed through close interviews civilian population’s heartbreaking suffering and despair.
But then, when on day four Palestinian children were killed by an Israeli bomb while they were playing on the beach, Ayman was taken off. Officially because NBC was concerned for his safety.
But they were no more concerned than that they sent a new reporter who took up where Ayman left off. Unofficially discussions within and outside the social media speculate that he had shown to much empathy for the Palestinians.
CNN brought in their senior reporter Jim Clancy, who said he had previously worked with Ayman Moyheldin. Ayman was very passionate, said Clancy.
Implying – he may not have enough distance in his reporting. But then he continued to say that being affected by the suffering of those you cover is inevitable, and that neither do Jews avoid being criticized for one-sided reporting.
It should be added that Ayman Moyheldin was sent back to Gaza to report for NBC, because the criticism was too overwhelming, and because NBC’s leadership failed to explain why he, who was from Gaza was less able to take care of his own safety than his colleague without his background.
Ayman is unique, because American media hardly ever uses Palestinian or Arab reporters to cover conflicts involving Israel. But also others are subject to criticism.
One of them is CNN’s Diana Magnay. She reported directly from the Israeli side of the border with Gaza, from the hills of Sderot, which has been the target of many of the Hamas rockets into Israel.
From there, she also had a good view of the Israeli bomb hits inside Gaza. But she was not alone, there were also many Israelis who came because they wanted to follow the macabre theater of war.
Following completion of the live broadcast she sent out one twitter message with the following text:
“Israelis on the hill above Sderot rejoicing bombs that land in Gaza. Threaten to destroy our car if I say one wrong word. Scum. “
Diana Magnay no longer covers Israel and Gaza. She was immediately moved to Moscow, where she of course is free to report critically about a political leadership that is currently totally demonized in the U.S. media.
Previously worked for the Jerusalem Post
CNN’s main correspondent in the area now is Wolf Blitzer, from Jerusalem. Blitzer is himself a Jew, born in Germany and has worked as a journalist for the Jerusalem Post and AIPAC, the powerful Jewish organization whose main task is to lobby the U.S. Congress.
Blitzer usually has its own daily political talk show on CNN. But now, he’s in Jerusalem, where he has interviewed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s defense minister and other senior Israelis. Again and again, they explain why it is necessary to destroy Hamas tunnels, and why it is necessary to hold on a little longer, civilian sufferings notwithstanding.
The moral responsibility for the suffering belongs to Hamas, because they use civilians as human shields. Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan, is occasionally heard from in Qatar, but Israeli voices are the overwhelming majority.
Another Palestinian, lawyer and former adviser to the PLO, Diana Butto, is also used occasionally. But on one occasion she went to great lengths to explain why Hamas fires rockets at Israel, which caused the TV reporter to interrupt with aggressive, critical questions to restore balance.
The clip is published onthe American Jewish sites as a warning, where the CNN anchor Jake Tapper gets praised for having put her in her place. I have yet to hear equally critical question from CNN’s regular commentators to Israel’s former U.S. ambassador, Michael Oren.
He does not believe Hamas will destroy Israel with rockets, but fears that “they could create a legal and international situation in which Israel can no longer defend themselves in a legitimate manner”, in other words that international opinion turns against Israel as a result of the large civilian casualties.
Overrepresented among media executives
It is no secret that Jewish capital and people with Jewish backgrounds are strongly overrepresented in the major U.S. media conglomerates. The biggest of them all, Disney Company, owns among other organizations ABC Television Network and is chaired by Robert Iger.
CNN Worldwide has Jeff Zucker who came from rival NBC, and CBS is led by Leslie Moonves.
The latter’s uncle was also David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister.
Jewish share of the U.S. population is about two percent, so there is no doubt that they are over-represented as owners and top managers in the media. Perhaps it is not so surprising that relatively few Palestinian voices are given access when Israel is attacked.
That said, there are clear Jewish voices that are critical to Israel in the American public sphere, especially in the written media.
Bernard Avishai was born in Canada’s Zionist environment and has since worked as a professor in both the U.S. and Israel.
In an article in last week’s The New Yorker, he describes Israel’s bombing of Gaza as a war crime. He refers to the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel’s military tacticians openly consider any home where a known Hamas member lives, as part of Hamas’ infrastructure, and thus legitimate targets.
The liberal Jewish organization J Street recently withdrew the support of a pro-Israeli demonstration in Boston, because it didn’t take into account the losses on both sides.
Moreover – the large liberal newspapers press now publishes more Israel-critical articles. Anne Barnard in The New York Times describes Gaza as an open prison, where the majority of residents are trapped, unable to seek refugee status outside.
Washington Post Wednesday had a large article describing how Israel will return to the practice of collective punishment against the families of Palestinian activists, because destroying homes is considered as an effective deterrent.
This form of collective punishment was officially abandoned in 2005, partly because the Israeli military said it created more Palestinian insurgents.
Now it happens again, but humanely. The families in Gaza, after all, get a telephone warning first, or a small bomb, if they do not have a phone.