Growing up with parents for whom current events in Israel were always a major theme, attention was continuously given to the inconsistencies in media reporting concerning the country and its neighbors. Many of the literature I saw, it was often in print back then, highlighted media disinformation on the topic of Israel and Palestine, often from sources like The New York Times or other media outlets “of record”. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a reliable media watchdog that has successfully forced retractions, has a whole laundry list of the NYT’s inaccurate reporting on this topic, and a similar list by CNN. It gives me a sense of frustration to see however that many Jewish Americans, rather than focus more on the work of CAMERA and Honest Reporting that do fantastic research and rhetorical work, choose to devote their energies to organizations like the A&ADL, AIPAC, and even more odious ones like J Street that are primarily lobbying groups.
There is a rich variety of Israel advocates in the United States, and they include people of all different political, racial, and professional backgrounds. I personally am a big fan of Larry Elder, an author, radio host, and libertarian from Los Angeles who happens to be black. So why is it that in spite of their own personal or community successes, there seems to be an utter failure on the part of Israel advocates to counteract the media snow job? The answer is very simple: Rather than respond to the media smears against Israel or for that matter slants on topics like Brexit, US electoral politics and more, Jewish Americans, and specifically their “advocacy groups”, choose instead to be full participants in the pathetic enterprise of the dog whistle “Main Stream Media”.
Their excuse for this double standard is very simple and is the same one used for many Faustian bargains: “If you’re not at the dinner table, you’re on the menu”. The establishment among American Jews, and I really am referring to the upper crust that is involved in leading and donating to these organizations, simply believe that an amiable and cooperative relationship with a lying and corrupt media is necessary in the absence of an alternative.
Thanks to this type of behaviour, and let’s not pretend it’s limited to the Jewish community, corrupt and unscrupulous media outlets like CNN and the Washington Post continue to masquerade as credible outlets for news and current events. Furthermore, there happen to be plenty of people that will rail against unjust coverage of Israel issues by outlets like the NYT, CNN, and Washington Post, yet when it comes to other issues they have absolutely no problem using any of those as information sources. As if the same outlet that will lie or distort on some subjects suddenly acquires ethics and standards when the topic changes.
Let’s not beat around the bush: There is clearly a charmed class of well-educated, connected people within the Jewish community that are married to the corrupt media. Unfortunately, media outlets have a mutually symbiotic relationship with the entertainment industry. How else to explain an industry that routinely glorifies reporters, from All the President’s Men in 1976 about the Washington Post‘s Watergate affair expose to Spotlight in 2016 detailing the discovery of the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal in Boston? There’s no dispute that these are monumental accomplishments, yet in some cases this glorification of the profession crosses the line and acts to whitewash what is really going on. In 2015 Sony Pictures produced Truth, a documentary drama. This film very disingenuously portrayed CBS Anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford) and his news producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) as victims of a horrible injustice for their running of the Killian documents, a collection of forged typewritten papers purporting to show that George W. Bush was given preferential treatment in being allowed to enlist in the Texas Air National Guard. Regardless of whether that hypothesis was true or not, the real Mary Mapes and Dan Rather never were able to validate the authenticity of the Killian papers, and by 2007 they were both forced out of CBS.
I cited the above examples because this issue of media honesty should not be framed in the context of only electoral politics or one particular issue like the Israel-Palestine conflict. Yet the so-called “representative bodies” such as the A-ADL and AIPAC think that through cozy relations with an unethical media they will win the debate on their niche issues. The truth is that across the board establishment media, now called the “legacy” media in many corners of the spectrum, is actually losing its audience, and independent individual media is on the rise.
Recently AIPAC made the tremendous mistake of endorsing Senate Bill 702, a resolution that attempts to counteract a number of anti-Israel boycott activities on the international stage. Though not as restrictive as some of its pro-Palestine critics claim, the bill is at best useless, and at worst coercive. We do not require legal restrictions in order to bust the BDS movement’s bubble. The best counter to a boycott campaign is a private grassroots counter-effort to defy it by buying from the proscribed source. In such a manner, BDS has met failure after failure for years as economic links between Israel and the outside world have become only stronger.
If you’re asking what’s the best way to raise awareness for your favourite cause, and let’s use Israel as an example, I think that the answer is becoming self-evident. More people are tuning into independent media than ever before, and by then I mean blogs and video journals. Does this mean we don’t have to pay attention to the legacy media? No. But that’s whey there’s media watchdogs like CAMERA that can hold them accountable. There is no point in propping up the rotting corpse of this once-proud industry.