I read an article in the New York Times the other day about the “aggressive” Israeli crackdown in the West Bank. IDF soldiers “ransacked” peace activists’ headquarters and engaged in “collective punishment” against the Palestinian people in response to the “disappearance” of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers. Of course, the article scarcely mentioned the teenagers, the kidnapping, or the ongoing search. Instead, it carefully painted the Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials that Israel arrested as random Palestinian civilians, as though Israel were punishing the people of the West Bank instead of targeting individuals responsible for countless attacks against Israeli civilians. It accused Prime Minister Netanyahu of using the kidnappings as an excuse to derail peace efforts, as though the kidnappings were not an anti-peace move in and of themselves, as though Israel (and not Hamas) were the one constantly spurning any move toward peace, and as though Mr. Netanyahu could not possibly have any genuine interest in bringing home Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach, even after the still-fresh national trauma of Gilad Shalit’s imprisonment. This blog post is meant to explain how the American media isn’t just being unfair in these falsifications and omissions; it is becoming Hamas’s Partner for War, effectively making terrorist activities easier to carry out.
In my estimation, the majority of Americans enjoy a simple “David and Goliath” story. We like to see the underdog rise to a heroic victory against a powerful oppressor. We like the story to be black and white. It’s easy if we can unhesitatingly hate Goliath and love David.
In the American media, Hamas is almost always the “David,” and our newspapers do their best to sugarcoat its actions (at Israel’s expense). By feeding us the black and white narrative that we naturally crave, they keep their customer bases satisfied, and thus their cash flows steady. That is why, in 2010, American papers carefully selected and cropped photographs of the violence on a Turkish flotilla ship, the Mavi Marmara, so that the knives and pistols held by “activists” were not visible and only the Israeli soldiers appeared to be armed. It is also why, in 2012, those same papers ignored the days of intense rocket fire from Gaza immediately preceding Operation Pillar of Defense, as well as Mr. Netanyahu’s specific warning that if that rocket fire continued, Israel would assassinate the Hamas officials responsible. Thus the American audience could easily allow themselves to believe that the escalation began with Israel’s assassination of Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari rather than with Jabari’s earlier orders to attack Israeli civilians. It is why the occasional accidental death of a rock-throwing Palestinian rioter makes headlines for days, while the frequent deliberate attacks on Israeli civilians in their homes are hardly, if ever, mentioned.
Incidentally, media bias is more than basic injustice. The media is a Partner for War because these constant manipulations of reality have a very real impact on Hamas’ and Israel’s activities. For example, the New York Times’ attack on the Israeli arrests of Hamas extremists over the past few days will influence many Americans to oppose that move, and to speak out against it, so that Mr. Netanyahu may hesitate to order similar arrests in the future. Although Hamas is blatantly and proudly a terrorist organization, and Israel has a very real need to defend itself from its most dangerous members, Mr. Netanyahu will still have to factor his American public image into his thinking before he takes further steps.
Hamas, on the other hand, has no cause for concern, because the American media will twist and omit the facts to portray Hamas positively no matter what the organization does. For example, American news sources utterly buried the pamphlet that Hamas published only a few months ago giving concrete directions and tips for kidnapping Israeli civilians, and even now, when Hamas has actually carried out the kidnappings, the New York Times uses the word “disappearances” so that Hamas is allowed, yet again, to evade the public eye.
Meanwhile, Hamas is able to garner support among the Palestinian people because its long-held ideas of bypassing peace negotiations seem plausible with the high level of support from the international community for unilateral Palestinian statehood, support that is yet another outgrowth of the biased American and Western media (I have been referring mostly to American media in this blog post because I am American and follow American news sources, but European and other Western media are often equally, if not more, guilty of dangerous media bias). And as many Palestinians are led to believe that peace is unnecessary (and wrong), as many Israelis are led to feel more and more isolated, making sacrificing for peace more and more difficult.
In these ways, both Israeli security and the idea of a two-state solution are jeopardized by American media bias. It’s more than just inaccuracy. It provides the tools that Hamas needs to wage an unrestrained war against the Israeli people.
We, the American people, have communicated to our news sources that we will tolerate their falsehoods. We have essentially begged to be manipulated, and we have greedily adopted the lies and twisted truths that our media have fed to us in response.
I implore my fellow Americans to recognize that what our news sources are doing is not only wrong but also practically harmful, and to notice and protest bias when we see it. I also implore those news sources to change their ways, to understand their influence, and to value life and peace over their own financial interests.
I will send this article to American news sources, although none is likely to publish it. I ask my readers to do the same: not only to share this article with your American friends but also to call attention to biases and to fight against them however you can. Hopefully, if we speak out together, we can reform the American media so that it is no longer a Partner for War.
Thank you to my long-time girlfriend and inspiration, Ariel, for giving me the idea for this blog post, for helping me get this blog in the first place, and for being my everything.