The headlines in popular British newspapers, like the Evening Standard in London or Metro, and television stations including the BBC and Sky News, present a daily anti-Israel message, reinforced significantly by death statistics and pictures of dead children. This combination not only sells newspapers and makes it Israel-bashing a “trendy” pursuit, it has stimulated anti-Semitic acts across Europe, including inexcusable attacks on synagogues and normal citizens who happen to be Jewish and want to live in peace with their neighbours.
It is hard to understand the reasoning for the high level of unbalanced reporting other than the consideration of money. Their stories and dead baby pictures attract massive attention and boost the circulation of their publications or channels. It is likely that they are also being funded by either sympathisers to the Islamist cause or direct funding from countries like Qatar, Turkey or Iran and extremely wealthy Western donors in Europe, some of whom are from Arabic origin. Evidence exists for this via wikileaks and various online press. For example journalists at the Guardian were ordered to enhance the prominence of the Emir of Qatar in 2012 (Kelly McParland, National Post). My next blog will explore in depth the funding that leads to journalistic bias against Israel.
There are online media campaigns against Israel, likely funded by the above, such as the one on “Electronicintifada.net” publishes what it calls “news, commentary, analysis and reference material”, all of which are massively anti-Israel, but are presented in emotive and quasi-intellectual styles that deliberately warp the facts about Israel. The very use of the term “intifada” in its name suggests an information war on Israel. The two actual intifadas that occurred in 1989 and 1999 resulted in suicide bombs on buses and in cafes and the horrific deaths of many Israeli civilians and meant Israel were forced to create walls and borders between itself and the West Bank and Gaza.
The reality that Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East that fully supports diversity and human rights, except perhaps the newly recreated Kurdistan region, is completely ignored. The leadership of Hamas is laughing somewhere in its tunnel network, probably about the gullibility of the West as well as the media damage against Israel that allows it to continue its terrorist evil unchecked, leaving Gaza citizens above ground to take the brunt of the war.
Pressing Buttons in the Western Mind
The West, which has been fed on a diet of Hollywood movies and computer games for the last 20 years, and is fat and lazy from years of peace, does not understand war. It idealises and intellectualises “how things ought to be” rather than how things are based on evidence – probably because it is too complicated to examine the real evidence from both sides of a story. So Western readers in Europe and the USA tend to be easily manipulated by emotion-inducing articles and pictures. Many of us have forgotten how to question, debate and analyse information in order to arrive at our own opinion.
The easy emotional buttons for the media to press include:
1. The British and American affection for Fair Play – the message in the media about Israel as an aggressor against the cleverly invented concept of Palestinian innocents, reinforced by photographs of dead children and death statistics, all goes to stimulate the self-righteous indignance of Britons who should know better, but clearly do not have time to research the reality behind the conflict. Yes the death is awful and tragic, and Israel seriously does not want these deaths; but this is the wrong focus. The reality is that Israel is fighting for its life and its freedom in the face of attack from the whole Islamist terror network, spread through much of the world, whose spearhead is the terror group known as Hamas. The public opinion effect of this button being pressed is that a huge number of people have become anti-Israel without knowing why, putting Israel on the back foot, constantly having to reveal their military tactics and defend their actions in more detail than any army has ever done before.
2. The British and American desire to “help the underdog” – by presenting Gazans as a tiny part of “Palestine” who is weak against so called “Big, powerful Israel” facilitates this aspect of the British psyche. What is not published is the fact that Hamas is only the tip of a very much larger iceberg that links them to other terror groups, like I.S.I.S., Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram; backed by huge Islamist support gained through the Muslim Brotherhood and arch funders like Qatar, Turkey, Iran and wealthy supporters in Europe. It is clear that Israel is not just fighting “a tiny group of freedom fighters”. The view of apparent Palestinian authorities is often cited in Western news as facts – as if they can be sure that these clearly anti-Israel organisations will represent the truth effectively and are in possession of the full facts. In fact Israel is probably much more capable of presenting a true-er picture of the Gaza situation and events, because it has a very clear track record of analysing everything. It is well known for investigating its own soldiers and citizens, prosecuting them if they do the wrong thing. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have no history of doing this. Israel is honest about its mistakes even when this is to its detriment.
The real minority here are the Gazan citizens who have tried to protest against the violent Hamas regime but have been immediately executed by Hamas for their attempts. The only one who spoke out successfully in public, who escaped to America, is the son of a Hamas leader and co-founder, Hassan Yousef, who refused to become one of their violent militants. He has said publically, such as on CNN and in the New York Post, that “Hamas does not care about the lives of Palestinians, Israelis or Americans” and that the Hamas “consider dying for their ideology a way of worship”. He said in his book, Son of Hamas, that he was brainwashed as a child to give up everything for the terrorists’ cause. He had to lose everything to gain his freedom.
3. The British and American love for intellectual righteousness – the Hamas media guidelines (see my previous blog) are very clever in that they encourage the presentation of rational “arguments” and suitable use of words, to present a particular form of the truth that appeals to the Western intellect. These messages are often presented very professionally and as if they are truly and properly researched. Electronic Intifada, for example, frequently uses words like “genocide”, “Israel’s murderous machine” and “massacre” in relation to Israeli army actions and also, interestingly, against Egypt since they ousted the Muslim Brotherhood, known to be the political wing of Hamas and other terrorist groups. Electronic Intifada are clearly on the payroll of somebody, as their biased messages suggest, yet they accuse other journalists and intellectuals of having “either been conscripted or bought off” to defend Egyptian interests. It is an easy accusation to make when you dislike intellectual freedom or the message of another, and even more so if you are actually incorrect in your facts.
4. The Western feelings about equality – many articles in the press reinforce the message that Israel is somehow anti-Arabic. Cheap shots like the incorrect use of the term “apartheid” and “Nazi-like” behaviour in relation to Israel, tries to rekindle associations in the Western mind that fought for genuine underdogs in the past. The fact is that Israel is probably the only country that appropriately supports diversity in the Middle East and Hamas is known to have killed Christians, gays, mentally ill people and pacifists in Gaza. Gaza and Palestine will never suffer these groups to exist under its aegis, now or in the future, without a significant regime change – one that would likely automatically treat Israelis with equal rights as well.
Western nations seem to have forgotten Israeli Arabs are treated the same way as any other Israeli citizen and have the same opportunities to stand for election or enter the army and public service. “Arab Israelis are citizens of Israel with equal rights”, states the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Well known MPs, like Dr. Ahmad Tibi and Miss Hanin Zoabi, are Arabic Israelis and are allowed freedom of speech, despite much of their words being against Israel. Arab Israelis have risen to high rank in the military, despite only being expected to serve voluntarily by the government. Among many examples is included Major General Hussein Fares, commander of Israel’s border police and Lieutenant Colonel Magdi Mazarib, a Bedouin. Salim Jurban is a permanent member of Israel’s Supreme Court.
Gay people, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people have equal rights in Israeli society and can serve in the army without any form of discrimination. In other Middle Eastern countries they are considered illegal and worse still are executed. According to Hamas there are no gays in Gaza. There are also no Christians because they ran into Israel in 2005 or Hamas either killed them or forced them to convert to Islam. These truths seem to be hidden from the Western press.
A hugely significant fact is that in Israel, women are given equal rights to men. They fight on the front line in battle, are successful pilots and businesspeople. Female entrepreneurs and scientists are leading lights in Israel’s technological industries.
Other countries in the Middle East are generally much more intolerant of any diversity.
5. Historical European anti-Semitism – The media has an unnatural over-emphasis on Israel and many of the marches in Europe, who have probably been instigated, at least initially, by Islamist extremist cells in European countries, have tried to sway the focus from anti-Israel messages to anti-Jewish messages, resulting in attacks on Synagogues and Jewish citizens in Belgium, France and Germany. An article by Dr. Ruchama Weiss and Rabbi Levi Brackman on 1st August states that 130 antisemitic incidents in the UK have been recorded since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge in early July. The British press seem to have kept quiet about this.
It is particularly extraordinary that the media does not give similar or greater attention to the atrocious killings of Christians by I.S.I.S. in Iraq or the starving of Palestinians and Syrians by the Syrian government in that afflicted country. These are very clearly war crimes, yet there is very little media attention given to them. The lack of Media attention to these atrocities and other situations like beheadings in Iran, human rights abuses in North Korea and the near genocidal tendencies of China, suggests that they are rapidly heading towards an anti-Semitic agenda. This is reinforced by significantly biased anti-Israel reporting based on a limited appreciation of the facts of the situation in Israel and the area now known as Palestine.
The Effect on the Media
The above button-pressing has resulted in a media that has formed several habits. For example, the evening Standard has a habit, such as in its letters page on 1st August 2014, of deliberately putting any pro-Israel letters at the very end and in smaller type, compared with those that reinforce anti-Israel rhetoric, which are positioned in more noticeable places.
Many journalists in Europe automatically take an anti-Israel stance, before considering other ways to present the issue. The only articles that are different seem to be by experts on the situation or letter-writers that understand a wider picture.
Emotions and the Media
In an article by Dr Liraz Margalit, a psychologist writing online at thenextweb.com, she explains that our emotional involvement in online media does not require extra effort to read social and emotional messages that we would normally do automatically when talking to a real person. Online interactions are much easier to control and we can infer emotion rather than understand it for real.
She writes that research has shown that observing others in a particular emotional state automatically triggers the representation of that state in the observer. So the media photos of dead children in Gaza and the injured in hospitals naturally creates similar feelings in us which we want to switch off. We then become angry with the inferred cause of the distress, which the media usually present as Israel. We do not have to worry about the complex detail of causality and who is telling the truth. The emotions are stronger than our will to make an effort to understand things more broadly.
Margalit also writes that humans understand and predict others intentions and actions because emotions make individuals feel, act and view the world in a similar fashion. In the West we like to assume that people in Gaza and Israel are thinking the same way as us. When they appear to react in ways that we would not do, we become disturbed. Our emotions look for something to blame for the incongruence and we try to stop it. The current Western ways of thinking no longer includes war. We have not had a war in the main part of Europe since the 1940’s, so the new media generation simply cannot comprehend war or warlike behaviour. They do not “compute” that Gazans are treated badly by Hamas because they are conditioned to believe that “Governments do not do that”. Our own governments have much subtler methods of population control. It is much easier to make a cause and effect relationship between Israel and Gazan deaths and then to hate Israel. It is the same with reading newspapers, where the emotional and interactive feedback is not present, so our brains have to infer a situation.
The press also find a focused story easy, particularly the journalists who have visited Gaza and relied on Hamas media “guides” to show them the “situation”. They were never showed the tunnels or the weapons hidden under hospitals and in mosques, so for them these did not exist. Of course it looks like Israel has been dropping bombs on civilian targets because the Journalists have only seen the air strikes and the dead and injured Gazans. These things are far easier to report.
It is actually likely that the Western peoples have been cheated by the press, who have in turn been cheated by those who have not shown them the true picture. The result has been that their habitual and ill-thought out, easily-generated reports have enabled many Europeans and Americans to buy in blindly to the anti Israel arguments presented by extremists.