Pro-Israel Media Bias: It’s As Easy As ABC
Reporting from Bizarro World, the ABC anchor tells us Israel is the perpetual victim
Poor Diane Sawyer – recently kicked upstairs by ABC News, she started off her Wednesday report on the Israeli assault on Gaza by giving us the Bizarro World version of the latest news. In a conflict where as of this moment 86 Palestinians have been killed – nearly all civilians, mostly women and children – and as many as 1,000 wounded, with exactly zero casualties in Israel, Sawyer directed our attention to "the rockets raining down on Israel" – while on the screen we saw Israeli jets pounding Gaza. Pointing to a still photo clearly of Palestinians dragging a mattress through the rubble, she described it as "an Israeli family trying to salvage what they can."
In Bizarro World – where up is down, black is white, and truth is falsehood – this makes perfect sense. And it kind of does in our world, too, on at least two levels.
ABC later acknowledged the "error," but one wonders: a lie, once in circulation and widely accepted, is hard to refute, no matter how many "corrections" are issued. Lots of people still think Saddam Hussein organized the 9/11 attacks, and they don’t all work at the Weekly Standard. War propaganda, which is largely dependent on visual images larded with shock value, is not especially subtle. The idea is to bypass the rational mind and appeal directly to the target’s emotions.
On another level, as Peter Hart over at FAIR put it, "ABC’s error should be seen less as a simple mistake, and more as a reflection of a worldview." It’s an intriguing idea – intriguing because we aren’t told exactly what worldview. Or whose worldview. Hart vaguely describes this unidentified bias as being a sin of "the corporate media," but what does this really mean? All media is "corporate" in the sense that it consists of groups of people working to bring you the news and somehow making money at it – or, in our case, as in the case of all non-neocon nonprofits, generating some income albeit barely breaking even. So what does being "corporate" – assuming this means "for profit" – have to do with being unabashedly pro-Israel?
It isn’t just the "corporate" media that’s part of the hasbara echo chamber: as Max Blumenthal points out, former Israeli prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg has been the only guest to address the current conflict on the Charlie Rose Show – Public Television’s toniest talkfest.
So if it’s not a capitalist conspiracy, then what accounts for the all-pervasive pro-Israeli bias of the American media, which starts out every account of events on the ground with images of Israeli victimhood, downplaying or outright ignoring the suffering of the Palestinians, which is a hundred times greater? And how do we explain Sawyer’s "error" in this context?
The Zionist project is a settler colony: that is, a foreign invasion, in this case one launched not by another nation-state but by a movement that was international in scope from the very beginning.
Starting out as a tiny minority within the Jewish communities of many nations, the Zionist organizations gradually became dominant through sheer hard work: endless proselytizing, fundraising, and organizing on a global scale. Their task was twofold: first, to convince their own people it was necessary to establish a state in Palestine, and secondly to enlist the help of the political classes of Europe – and not just the West. In the beginning, the Soviet bloc was the biggest ally of the nascent Jewish state. Andrei Gromyko rose to defend them in the United Nations, and the Zionist militias got much of their weaponry from Soviet bloc countries.
This changed when Uncle Joe Stalin decided that Zionism, rather than being a legitimate "national liberation" movement, was in reality a plot against the Soviet Union. The problem was that the initially pro-Zionist stance of Communist parties around the world, including those in power, had encouraged so many Jews to emigrate to Palestine that the socialist countries were experiencing a brain drain and paying a high economic price. Communist officials were startled to discover that so many people wanted out of their "workers’ paradise." It was time to change the party line – by 180 degrees.
Stalin ordered a series of show trials of top Communist party officials, including the head of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, which "exposed" a "Trotskyite-bourgeois nationalist-Titoist-Zionist" conspiracy to seize power in Soviet bloc countries. The majority of the defendants were of Jewish origin. The explicitly anti-Semitic rhetoric coming out of these theatrical productions reached a Hitlerian crescendo with the infamous "Doctor’s Plot," in which Jewish defendants were portrayed in terms right out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Ironically, this played into the hands of the Zionists, who already had their state – thanks, in large part, to weapons sales from the Soviet bloc arsenal – and who now had to convince Jews worldwide to emigrate to Israel. The anti-Semitic campaign of Stalin’s later years did much to make the Zionists’ case for them, underscoring the alleged need Jews had for a sanctuary, i.e. a state of their own.
The Soviet turnaround also forced them to turn their attention to a much wealthier and more powerful potential ally – the political elites of the West. The British-initiated Balfour Declaration prefigured a relationship with the Western powers that can only be characterized as symbiotic – an increasingly intimate "special relationship" that only got more special with the onset of the cold war. Faced with the Soviet-backed regimes of the Arab states on every side, the Israelis became a US outpost, supported economically by the Diaspora and militarily by the US and its allies.
But it wasn’t an easy road for them to take: it wasn’t their first choice, in any event, but they had to make do. The ambivalence was mutual, after all: back then, Zionism was still a liberal cause, due in part to the dominance of the Labor Zionist movement in Israel and in the Zionist organizations internationally. The Eisenhower administration tried to be evenhanded in the ongoing conflicts between Israel and its neighbors, and openly supported the Arabs in several cases. And conservative Republicans of that era, as I pointed out at the first National Conference to Reassess the US-Israel "Special Relationship," were inclined to be pro-Palestinian.
As a settler colony, the Israeli state has always been dependent on life support from abroad, which means it must direct its resources in that direction. When the Soviets turned on Tel Aviv and sided with the Arabs, the Israeli turned their sights westward – with a vengeance.
The enormous influence of Israel’s lobby in the US is hardly a secret – nor is it evidence of a conspiracy. There is nothing secret about it: the lobby openly seeks to influence the political class in Israel’s favor, and routinely intervenes in cases where the media is insufficiently sensitive to Israeli concerns. The resources at its disposal are substantial: major donors to the two political parties make no secret of the fact that a candidate’s stance on Israel is the standard by which all are to be judged. A whole network of interrelated pro-Israel organizations acts with some degree of coordination to advance Israel’s agenda in the corridors of power. Government, the media, and the general population are all targeted by specialized units, and their links to the Israeli intelligence apparatus are all too apparent. This is how a settler colony survives.
Yet this method of survival can work only for so long. The patron and the patronized soon tire of each other’s constant demands, and as the latter becomes more independent and aware of its own destiny a conflict of interests emerges. The US relationship with Israel has been under considerable strain over a number of issues, and this has little to do with the current administration in Washington: the same conflicts would’ve arisen if a Republican were in the White House. Indeed, these tensions became all too visible in the latter days of George W. Bush’s second term.
The growing US-Israeli conflict, which would’ve been kept under wraps not so long ago, augurs a new phase in the development of the Zionist project: a clean break from past policies determined by Israel’s dependence on outside assistance and the assertion of a Greater Israel – not only geographically but psychologically as well.
Indeed, this scenario was presented in great detail in a report issued by a 1998 study group headed by Richard Perle in collaboration with a group of neoconservatives, entitled: "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for the Realm." The assembled neocons reported to then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it was necessary to 1) break free of dependence on the US, and 2) that this would only be possible if Israel succeeded in neutralizing or even eliminating neighboring enemies and aspired to become the dominant regional power in its own right.
The US invasion of Iraq – and the breakup of Syria – largely accomplished this initial task, and the displays of military might occasioned by the present conflict demonstrate, in action, Israel’s growing willingness to defy Washington. Indeed, with the US withdrawal from Iraq, the pending withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the general unwillingness of the US to intervene in the region, Israel is clearly displacing the US as the regional hegemon.
This has been the goal all along. In the end, the myth of the "special relationship" has been upended by the reality that all nation-states are inherently rivalrous, just as all criminal gangs are ultimately competing against each other for territory and loot. During the cold war, US-Israeli rivalry was muted by the demands of the anti-Soviet alliance. Yet tensions persisted and sometimes rose to the surface – like when their extensive espionage operations against the US were revealed, e.g. the Jonathan Pollard case.
As Israel grew stronger, and the rivalry could no longer be completely suppressed, the survival mechanisms of a settler colony – propaganda, influence-buying, and what can fairly be called political espionage – came in handy. As Israeli foreign policy has gotten more aggressive, and its policy toward the Palestinians ever harsher, they have had to call in all their chits and deploy all their resources in order to maintain the myth of Israeli victimhood at the hands of the Arabs.
Yet there comes a point when the myth and the reality are so dissonant that the result is what happened with Diane Sawyer’s "error": as Israeli jets rained death on Gaza, the Sawyerian mind transmuted the image into its exact opposite, and – presto change-o! – those Palestinians dragging a mattress across the rubble became Israelis.
Even as a nuclear-armed Israeli Sparta arises from the ashes of a war-torn region, the only intact state with the military power to take on anyone in the neighborhood– including the United States – the illusion of Israeli victimhood must be maintained for propaganda purposes.
Yet it won’t be necessary for long: phase two of the Zionist project is fast coalescing into the Greater Israel of Theodore Herzl’s dream – a militarized ethno-theocracy with an aggressively expansionist foreign policy agenda – and at this point there is little Washington can or will do about it.
As George W. Bush once put it: "Mission accomplished!"
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.
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