Israel and the mainstream media: tight bedfellows

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Tahir Mustafa

Safar 05, 1430 2009-02-01

Special Reports

by Tahir Mustafa (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 37, No. 12, Safar, 1430)

Wars are fought on several fronts of which the one in the media is just as important as the shooting war. While the outcome of a shooting war cannot be predicted with certainty despite careful planning and use of the most sophisticated weapons, the media war is often better controlled and managed, especially if the crimes are perpetrated by the US and its surrogateIsrael. Propaganda and, therefore, perception management are not designed specifically for one particular war but for the larger control of the masses. The purpose is to ensure that the masses are convinced of the “purity” of intentions of “our side” (the West) and the beastly nature of the “other” (non-West, especially Muslims). Shooting wars are messy affairs and when innocents get killed or are deliberately targeted, it is important to control public attitudes. After all, if the bad guys or their children are killed, it should not be viewed as a matter of great concern. They are, after all, the bad guys and “our side” — the West — represents everything that is good and pure.

The zionist onslaught on Ghazzah provides clear proof of this carefully-orchestrated plan. All discussion is framed around Israel’s need for “security”; there is never any mention of security for the Palestinians. This justifies any crime being perpetrated against Palestinian civilians. Since Israel launched its murderous assault on Ghazzah using US-supplied F-16 planes, Apache helicopters and long-range artillery, the immediate reason advanced was that Israel had the right to defend itself against Hamas rocket attacks. Western officials as well as media personnel repeated this Israeli propaganda to justify murderous attacks on defenseless civilians in Ghazzah. There has been no mention at all of whether the Palestinians have an equal right to live without fear of Israeli missile or F-16 strikes, nor the fact that Palestinians have been living under a brutal occupation for decades.

There are other subtle and not so subtle ways of perception management and manipulation. For instance, Israeli propaganda repeatedly alleged that its latest attacks on and bloodletting of Palestinians were caused by Hamas’s refusal to abide by the ceasefire agreement and firing of rockets into Israeli towns. Further, that Israel was left with “no choice” but to take action. This was eagerly taken up by Western officials in the US, Britain, Canada and France. An equally insidious refrain was that Hamas was responsible for all the “violence”; Palestinians were blamed for being under Israeli attack. The media also repeated these lies endlessly.

The reality is that Hamas had scrupulously adhered to the ceasefire agreement and was even willing to extend it by another six months. In fact, it had proposed a 10-year moratorium on violence provided Israel ended its blockade of Ghazzah and the West Bank and agreed to return to the 1967 borders. Israel would have none of it. But even the reason for Israel’s latest invasion and attack was based on a lie. It was not Hamas’s ineffective rockets that had killed a grand total of three Israelis in the last seven years, according to former US President Jimmy Carter (Washington Post, January 8) but Israel’s missile attack on Ghazzah on November 4 that killed six Palestinians that led Hamas to retaliate with its own rockets. Further, Israel had continued the siege of Ghazzah in clear violation of the ceasefire agreement.

Additional proof of Israeli crimes and the Western media’s acquiescence in them was provided by Amira Haas in the Israeli daily, Ha’aretz. Writing on December 28, she revealed that the plan to attack Ghazzah had been made six months ago, precisely at the time when Israel had just entered into the ceasefire agreement with Hamas. So the alleged Hamas rockets were just an excuse for its latest crimes. Even the Israeli withdrawal from Ghazzah in August 2005 was meant to turn the barren strip into a vast shooting gallery. Dov Weisglass, Ariel Sharon’s closest adviser at the time, candidly stated that the disengagement from Ghazzah was aimed at halting the peace process, not encouraging it and to put Palestinians under tremendous pressure. Another Sharon advisor, Arnon Soffer, elaborated on what that pressure would look like: “When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.” In February 2007, Israel’s deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai stated it even more bluntly: there will be a “holocaust” on Ghazzah. This criminal threat had to undergo numerous revisions even on the BBC website to soft peddle its impact on the rest of the world. The zionist-doting media would go to any lengths to protect the illegitimate regime.

There are other aspects as well that reveal the total media’s bias. For instance, Israel’s attacks on Ghazzah from the air and on the ground were referred to as “fighting”. This suggests that there are two armies, armed with comparable weapons fighting each other. The reality is that Israel is the most heavily armed State in the region. It bristles with F-16 planes, Apache attack helicopters, long range artillery, hundreds of pilotless drones, missiles, cluster and phosphorous bombs and Merkava tanks. The Palestinians only have small arms and a few homemade rockets. There is absolutely no comparison between the military hardware of the two sides. To call it fighting is a gross distortion of reality; it is Israel’s barbarous war on unarmed Palestinians.

When Israel murders Palestinians, many of them children and women, the media simply report them as “deaths” as if they occur naturally. Israelis are “killed”, obviously by Palestinian “terrorists” that are busy “instigating all the violence”. Israeli attacks on Palestinians are always described as “retaliations”. Who could fault that? If the Palestinians did not “provoke” the Israelis, there would be no “retaliation”. Even when Israel attacks schools, mosques, universities or hospitals, these are all presented as legitimate targets because the Palestinians use them for storing weapons or firing rockets from. The UN-run school that Israel deliberately targeted on January 6 that resulted in the murder of 46 Palestinian children was presented as a place from where Hamas had fired its rockets. This was the same school where the Israeli military had ordered Palestinian civilians to go to after forcing them to vacate their homes. The Israeli military then deliberately fired artillery shells at it. When Israel alleged that Palestinians had fired rockets from there, the Western media and politicians simply parroted this lie despite clear indications from the UN that this was not true. It took Christopher Gunness of the UN less than a day to openly declare that there were no rockets fired from the school. Many western media outlets simply ignored this information. When the overall policy is to find fault with Hamas and the Palestinians, then schools, mosques, universities and police stations all become part of “Hamas infrastructure” and therefore, legitimate targets.

On January 7, when Israel allowed limited UN supplies to enter Ghazzah, the major news story that day was Israel’s magnanimity. Who would allow such humanitarian help to its enemy? Only a “humane” Israel would do so to feed opponents that are bent on destroying it—“wiping it from the face of the earth”, in the official propaganda handouts. There has been little mention that Israel has no right to blockade Ghazzah; it has no right to occupy Palestine and that it has been in violation of International Law, International Humanitarian Law as well as at least 70 United Nations Security Council resolutions, the latest (UNSC resolution 1860) on January 8 that Israel contemptuously dismissed. The media’s focus was on Israel achieving its “objectives”.

Even the demands made of Hamas before Israel would accept a ceasefire are meant to cripple the resistance movement and force it to live in Ghazzah prison as caged animals to be fed at the discretion of Israel. “Hamas must not fire rockets at Israel”, “it must not use the tunnels to smuggle weapons” and it must live at the mercy of Israel. In other words, Israel has the right, indeed a duty to occupy other people’s land but they do not have the right to resist their occupiers. Perish the thought that Israel must not be armed with such lethal weapons that it has used in violations of all laws. It has even used phosphorus against civilians including children causing massive skin burns.

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