How and why Israel is pilloried by the world

In August of last year, former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman published an essay in Tablet titled “An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth”. In it he highlighted how, and why, news organizations get Israel so wrong.  It caused quite a stir.

On Jan 26 of this year, he delivered a speech at a British Israel Communications and Information Centre  dinner in London which expanded on the essay.

His speech is an absolute must-read. It is long but worth every minute you take to read it. What follows are some of the highlights and truths it contains.

Highlights

  • I gradually began to be aware of certain malfunctions in the coverage of the Israel story – recurring omissions, recurring inflations, decisions made according to considerations that were not journalistic but political
  • We sought to hint or say outright that Israeli soldiers were war criminals, and every detail supporting that portrayal was to be seized upon.
  • But an Israeli peace offer and its rejection by the Palestinians didn’t suit OUR story. The bureau chief ordered both reporters to ignore the Olmert offer,
  • Neo-Nazi rallies at Palestinian universities or in Palestinian cities are not -- I saw images of such rallies suppressed on more than one occasion. Jewish hatred of Arabs is a story. Arab hatred of Jews is not.
  • Our policy, for example, was not to mention the assertion in the Hamas founding charter that Jews were responsible for engineering both world wars and the Russian and French revolutions, despite the obvious insight this provides into the thinking of one of the most influential actors in the conflict.
  • 100 houses in a West Bank settlement are a story. 100 rockets smuggled into Gaza are not.
  • The Hamas military buildup amid and under the civilian population of Gaza is not a story. But Israeli military action responding to that threat – that is a story,
  • Israel’s responsibility for the deaths of civilians as a result – that’s a story. Hamas’s responsibility for those deaths is not
  • Israel’s flaws were dissected and magnified, while the flaws of its enemies were purposely erased.
  • Threats facing Israel were disregarded or even mocked as figments of the Israeli imagination,
  • A fictional image of Israel and of its enemies was manufactured, polished, and propagated to devastating effect by inflating certain details, ignoring others, and presenting the result as an accurate picture of reality.
  • The international press in Israel had become less an observer of the conflict than a player in it. It had moved away from careful explanation and toward a kind of political character assassination
  • Something toxic is driving this -  "Jews are troublemakers, a negative force in world events, and that if these people, as a collective, could somehow be made to vanish, we would all be better off".

Truths:

  • The occupation is not the conflict, which of course predates the occupation. It is a symptom of the conflict, a conflict that would remain even if the symptom were somehow solved.
  • An end to the occupation will create a power vacuum that will be filled, as all power vacuums in the region have been, not by the forces of democracy and modernity, which in our region range from weak to negligible, but by the powerful and ruthless, by the extremists
  • People observing this conflict from afar have been led to believe that Israel faces a simple choice between occupation and peace. That choice is fiction.
  • The Palestinian choice, it is said, is between Israeli occupation and an independent democracy. That choice, too, is fiction
  • The only group of people subject to a systematic boycott at present in the Western world is Jews, appearing now under the convenient euphemism “Israelis.”
  • The only country that has its own “apartheid week” on campuses is the Jewish country.
  • No one cares that, "The human costs of the Middle Eastern adventures of America and Britain in this century have been far higher, and far harder to explain, than anything Israel has ever done. They have involved occupations, and the violence they unleashed continues."
  • the fashionable disgust for Israel among many in the West is not liberal but is selective, disproportionate, and discriminatory
  • The cult’s priesthood can be found among the activists, NGO experts, and ideological journalists who have turned coverage of this conflict into a catalogue of Jewish moral failings,
  • Boycotts of Israel, and only of Israel, which are one of the cult’s most important practices, have significant support in the press, including among editors.
  • Sympathy for Israel’s predicament is highly unpopular in the relevant social circles, and is something to be avoided by anyone wishing to be invited to the right dinner parties, or to be promoted.
  • The events in Gaza this summer were portrayed not as a complicated war but as a massacre of innocents.
  • The Jew is the perennial scapegoat for all that is wrong with the world.
  • As the journalist Charles Maurras wrote, approvingly, in 1911: “Everything seems impossible, or frighteningly difficult, without the providential arrival of anti-Semitism, through which all things fall into place and are simplified.”
  • The global villain, as portrayed in newspapers and on TV, is none other than the Jewish soldier, or the Jewish settler. They are the heirs to the Jewish banker or Jewish commissar of the past.
  • The world isn't fixated on Israel despite everything else going on – but rather because of everything else going on.

In August of last year, former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman published an essay in Tablet titled “An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth”. In it he highlighted how, and why, news organizations get Israel so wrong.  It caused quite a stir.

On Jan 26 of this year, he delivered a speech at a British Israel Communications and Information Centre  dinner in London which expanded on the essay.

His speech is an absolute must-read. It is long but worth every minute you take to read it. What follows are some of the highlights and truths it contains.

Highlights

  • I gradually began to be aware of certain malfunctions in the coverage of the Israel story – recurring omissions, recurring inflations, decisions made according to considerations that were not journalistic but political
  • We sought to hint or say outright that Israeli soldiers were war criminals, and every detail supporting that portrayal was to be seized upon.
  • But an Israeli peace offer and its rejection by the Palestinians didn’t suit OUR story. The bureau chief ordered both reporters to ignore the Olmert offer,
  • Neo-Nazi rallies at Palestinian universities or in Palestinian cities are not -- I saw images of such rallies suppressed on more than one occasion. Jewish hatred of Arabs is a story. Arab hatred of Jews is not.
  • Our policy, for example, was not to mention the assertion in the Hamas founding charter that Jews were responsible for engineering both world wars and the Russian and French revolutions, despite the obvious insight this provides into the thinking of one of the most influential actors in the conflict.
  • 100 houses in a West Bank settlement are a story. 100 rockets smuggled into Gaza are not.
  • The Hamas military buildup amid and under the civilian population of Gaza is not a story. But Israeli military action responding to that threat – that is a story,
  • Israel’s responsibility for the deaths of civilians as a result – that’s a story. Hamas’s responsibility for those deaths is not
  • Israel’s flaws were dissected and magnified, while the flaws of its enemies were purposely erased.
  • Threats facing Israel were disregarded or even mocked as figments of the Israeli imagination,
  • A fictional image of Israel and of its enemies was manufactured, polished, and propagated to devastating effect by inflating certain details, ignoring others, and presenting the result as an accurate picture of reality.
  • The international press in Israel had become less an observer of the conflict than a player in it. It had moved away from careful explanation and toward a kind of political character assassination
  • Something toxic is driving this -  "Jews are troublemakers, a negative force in world events, and that if these people, as a collective, could somehow be made to vanish, we would all be better off".

Truths:

  • The occupation is not the conflict, which of course predates the occupation. It is a symptom of the conflict, a conflict that would remain even if the symptom were somehow solved.
  • An end to the occupation will create a power vacuum that will be filled, as all power vacuums in the region have been, not by the forces of democracy and modernity, which in our region range from weak to negligible, but by the powerful and ruthless, by the extremists
  • People observing this conflict from afar have been led to believe that Israel faces a simple choice between occupation and peace. That choice is fiction.
  • The Palestinian choice, it is said, is between Israeli occupation and an independent democracy. That choice, too, is fiction
  • The only group of people subject to a systematic boycott at present in the Western world is Jews, appearing now under the convenient euphemism “Israelis.”
  • The only country that has its own “apartheid week” on campuses is the Jewish country.
  • No one cares that, "The human costs of the Middle Eastern adventures of America and Britain in this century have been far higher, and far harder to explain, than anything Israel has ever done. They have involved occupations, and the violence they unleashed continues."
  • the fashionable disgust for Israel among many in the West is not liberal but is selective, disproportionate, and discriminatory
  • The cult’s priesthood can be found among the activists, NGO experts, and ideological journalists who have turned coverage of this conflict into a catalogue of Jewish moral failings,
  • Boycotts of Israel, and only of Israel, which are one of the cult’s most important practices, have significant support in the press, including among editors.
  • Sympathy for Israel’s predicament is highly unpopular in the relevant social circles, and is something to be avoided by anyone wishing to be invited to the right dinner parties, or to be promoted.
  • The events in Gaza this summer were portrayed not as a complicated war but as a massacre of innocents.
  • The Jew is the perennial scapegoat for all that is wrong with the world.
  • As the journalist Charles Maurras wrote, approvingly, in 1911: “Everything seems impossible, or frighteningly difficult, without the providential arrival of anti-Semitism, through which all things fall into place and are simplified.”
  • The global villain, as portrayed in newspapers and on TV, is none other than the Jewish soldier, or the Jewish settler. They are the heirs to the Jewish banker or Jewish commissar of the past.
  • The world isn't fixated on Israel despite everything else going on – but rather because of everything else going on.