Exodus in the Media 2013

With Passover in full swing, I’ve been thinking about how the Jewish actions in Egypt appeared quite harsh. The ten plagues devastated Egyptian society – land, sea and air – for an entire year. Talk about a “humanitarian crisis!”

So why does nobody ever think to criticize Moses (and God!) for inflicting such damage on the Egyptians?

The answer is that justice was clearly on the side of the Jews. They had been brutally victimized by Pharaoh – enslaved for 210 years, subjected to both torturous labor and mass infanticide. Before embarking on the plagues, Moses issued fair warnings to Pharaoh, and repeatedly offered a path toward peace and reconciliation.

Given that Pharaoh stubbornly rejected all appeals for a resolution, the Jewish response – although intense – was clearly defensive and justified. Indeed, 3,300 years later the majority of the civilized world uncritically accepts the Jews’ actions, as documented in the biblical book of Exodus.

What does this mean for us today?

Over the past 12 years of monitoring media coverage of the Mideast conflict – first as editor of HonestReporting, then as author of “David & Goliath” – I have documented a pervasive anti-Israel media bias: Whether the media’s frequent references to Israel’s prime minister as a “hardliner,” while Mahmoud Abbas is always a “moderate” (and according to the New York Times, even Hamas is “moderate”); or whether the media is accusing Israel of “war crimes” – while rocket and terror attacks from Gaza and Lebanon are presented as the brave work of “freedom fighters.”

This got me thinking: What if today’s media told the Passover story?

That’s the question my colleagues and I tried to answer in “Passover: Breaking News,” a new 2-minute parody that uses 21st century news websites to tell the Passover story.

We imagine CNN charging that “the Jewish lobby is orchestrating the plagues,” and how turning the Nile into blood has “triggered a grave humanitarian crisis.”

When the plague of locusts hits, we envision BBC reporting on the Jewish-Egyptian “cycle of violence,” with the United Nations holding an emergency session to condemn the Jews’ use of “excessive force.” On Al-Jazeera, the head of the U.N. Human Rights Council declares that the plagues are “sabotaging peace talks” and that the Jews “should go back to slavery, for the good of the rest of the world.”

“Passover: Breaking News” is also filled with many subtle spoofs of modern media: In the wake of the devastating plague of frogs, Oprah speaks of “five ways to find your inner frog.” A leading cardiologist warns of Pharaoh’s “hardening heart.” ESPN reports how the plague of darkness has interrupted the biggest chariot race of the year. As the Jews travel forth from Egypt, record-high bookings are reported for “Red Sea Getaways.” And God releases the Ten Commandments as a TED talk.

By juxtaposing the biblical story with today’s media, it highlights how absurd these media assaults tend to be. For just as the Jews 3,300 years ago were clearly justified in defending themselves from enemy attacks, so too today Israel must maintain confidence in the justice of our cause.

About the Author
Shraga Simmons is a foremost expert on media bias relating to the Mideast conflict. He holds a degree in journalism from the University of Texas and served as the founding editor of His frontline experiences are chronicled in the acclaimed book, “David & Goliath: The Explosive Inside Story of Media Bias in the Mideast Conflict” (2012).