Friday, August 1, 2014

American media's new pro-Israel bias: the same party line at the wrong time Evolving conversations on the ground demand probing questions on-air; So why does TV news look like a Netanyahu ad?

    Friday, August 01, 2014   No comments

Here are a few questions you won’t hear asked of the parade of Israeli officials crossing US television screens during the current crisis in Gaza:
  • What would you do if a foreign country was occupying your land?
  • What does it mean that Israeli cabinet ministers deny Palestine’s right to exist?
  • What should we make of a prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who as opposition leader in the 1990s addressed a rally under a banner reading “Death to Arafat” a year after the Palestinian leader signed a peace accord with Israel?
These are contentious questions, to be sure, and with complicated answers. But they are relevant to understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today. They also parallel the issues routinely raised by American journalists with Palestinian officials, pressing to consider how the US would react if it were under rocket fire from Mexico, to explain why Hamas won’t recognise Israel and to repudiate Palestinian anti-Semitism.
But it’s a feature of much mainstream journalism in the US, not just an issue of coverage during the last three weeks of the Gaza crisis, that while one set of questions gets asked all the time, the other is heard hardly at all.
In years of reporting from and about Israel, I’ve followed the frequently robust debate in its press about whether Netanyahu really wants a peace deal, about the growing power of right-wing members inside the Israeli cabinet opposed to a Palestinian state, about the creeping air of permanence to the occupation.
So it has been all the more striking to discover a far narrower discourse in Washington and the notoriously pro-Israel mainstream media in the US at a time when difficult questions are more important than ever. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, and a crop of foreign leaders have ratcheted up warnings that the door for the two-state solution is closing, in no small part because of Israel’s actions. But still the difficult questions go unasked.
Take Netanyahu’s appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. The host, Bob Schieffer, permitted the Israeli leader to make a lengthy case for the his military’s ground attack, guiding him along with one sympathetic question after another. Finally, after describing Netanyahu’s position as “very understandable”, Schieffer asked about dead Palestinian civilians – but only to wonder if they presented a public relations problem in “the battle for world opinion”.

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