The Media’s War Against Israel: A Review

Stephen Karetzky and Peter E. Goldman, eds., The Media’s War Against Israel (Steimatzky, 1986)

It can be hard in the midst of an international political crisis to evaluate the media’s coverage. Events are happening haphazardly. Reporters are playing catch-up. Opinions may reflect partial information . . . which is why when time goes by it’s desirable to reflect on the media’s job, and to give it a score.

The authors of The Media’s War Against Israel published in 1986 had the benefit of four years after the events being discussed––i.e., Israel’s conflict with the PLO as it impacted neighboring countries. Stephen Karetzky and Peter Goldman took advantage of the time to assemble opinion pieces from several sources to complement Karetzky’s focused analysis of the New York Times and Peter Goodman’s “lessons learned” piece. Their conclusion is an indictment, as the title clearly states. The media didn’t just do a poor job; it engaged in a biased attack on Israel’s role in the events.

What events are we talking about? The primary issue was Israel’s foray in the summer of 1982 into Lebanon to root out the PLO, which had, with the help of the Soviet Union, amassed a huge arsenal of weapons with the intent of stepping up the guerilla war it had been waging against Israel. Complicating the events of that summer was the morass that was Lebanon at that time.

Created in 1943, Lebanon was weakened from the start by being divided almost equally between Christian Maronite and Muslim populations. Adding to that division was the conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims, but the primary disruptor of peace and tranquility was incursion in 1975 into southern Lebanon of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

That mixture erupted in a 7-year civil war, which among other consequences allowed Syria to insert its forces into Lebanon. The result was anarchy, lawlessness and thousands of casualties, a story largely unreported in the Western media. What got Israel involved?

Tired of incursions into Israel by the PLO, the Israeli government allied itself with the Phalangists––a Christian Maronite group––and invaded southern Lebanon in June 1982 with the goal of driving the PLO out of the country.

Israel’s goal was accomplished in four months. The PLO was dispersed after suffering heavy casualties. The PLO, however, won the public relations war by exploiting the Western media’s lack of understanding of the conflicts in the region. The coup de grace was the PLO’s blaming Israel for the massacre of residents of the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee communities by the Phalangists. (The media called these locations “camps,” but they were not tent cities. They were large communities replete with permanent housing and other structures.)

Let’s look at how the media covered these events. In the first paragraph of the foreword to The Media’s War Against Israel, Rael Jean Isaac writes “In reporting the war in Lebanon, the media behaved like a lynch mob, with print and TV reporters, columnists and cartoonists vying with each other in misstatement and calumny.”

Each piece in the book backs up Isaac’s assertion. Stephen Karetzky­––one of the editors––focused his analysis on three months of reporting by the New York Times prior to the war, detailing an anti-Israel bias even before the events of the summer took place. The book also reprints pieces published elsewhere:

  • Norman Podhoretz analyzes the media’s response in general to Israel’s foray into Lebanon.
  • Frank Gervasi adds insights from his first-hand visit to the region.
  • Ze’ev Chaftets examines the problems the Beirut press corps faced trying to provide unbiased reportage.
  • Rael Isaacs singles out Time Magazine’s adversarial approach to Israel, and
  • Edward Alexander dissects NBC’s antagonistic coverage.

A few of the most flagrant examples of bias are worth repeating

  • After his election as prime minister Time Magazine informed its readers that Menachen Begin’s last name “rhymes with Fagin”––the name of the villain of Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist.
  • Time Magazine totally made up a story claiming Ariel Sharon urged the Phalangists to attack Sabra and Shatila, and then refused to disavow the story when the author was proven to have lied.
  • President Reagan berated Prime Minister Begin personally when the caption to a UPI photo claimed a seven-month old child had been severely burned and lost both arms as a result of an Israeli bomb dropped on civilian housing. It turned out the child had not lost either arm nor had she suffered any burns, and her slight injuries were the result of a PLO shell.
  • NBC accepted the Red Crescent’s claim of 10,000 people slaughtered by Israel and 600,000 made homeless. The Red Crescent was hardly an objective organization, however, as it was run by Yasser Arafat’s brother. By the way, the Red Crescent’s homeless number exceeded the region’s total population.
  • Before investigating the cause, CBS accused Israel of intentionally killing two of its cameramen. After investigating it turned out the men were in a combat area and the tank that fired the missile was over a mile away.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of this entire affair, however, is the PLO’s success at neutering the foreign press corps that was stationed in Beirut. The PLO had asserted the authority to determine who would be allowed to report from Beirut and evidence suggests they were responsible for the deaths of eight journalists and explosions that put two independent Lebanese newspapers out of business. Worse, however, was the fact that some of the foreign press corps was decidedly pro-Palestinian and didn’t have to be persuaded to present the PLO as the victims of Israel’s aggression.

Several of the authors in this compendium touch on the subject of why the press corps was hostile to Israel. They point to the impact of the war in Vietnam on the Western media, after which the general narrative of international affairs presented the view that the U.S. and its allies were the oppressors and third world countries its victims. They also point out the practice of the TV networks showing selective footage that backed a biased interpretation of events.

Israel became the “fall guy” for the Western media’s new worldview. It had been viewed positively from 1948 until 1967 when it defeated Soviet backed Egypt and Syria as well as Jordan, which was fooled into joining the battle. After ’67, the media started labeling the PLO as protesters and demonstrators rather than terrorists despite the fact that they were engaged in acts of war against Israel.

The media also bought the PLO’s lie that they represented the oppressed residents the West Bank despite the fact the organization had been formed in 1964 when the West Bank was under Jordan’s control. As The Media’s War Against Israel conclusively documents, the media’s distorted coverage of the Lebanese war was just another sordid chapter in their failure to understand when they were being used and when the information they were being given was propaganda.

A feature of the media’s coverage during this period that deserves attention is the use of Holocaust imagery and terminology to criticize Israel’s role in these events. Both “genocide” and “holocaust” accompanied inflated casualty reports along with quotes from willing European critics such as Mitterrand, Papandreou and Kreisky. China and the Soviet Union both resorted to comparing Israel’s actions to Nazi Germany with regard to Shatila and Sabra, helping to cover up the fact that the USSR had been the primary source of weaponizing the PLO.

The use of Holocaust imagery against Israel is a particularly vile practice. It’s a low blow, akin using the word savage when describing the actions of a Native American or excusing a woman’s behavior due to her menstrual cycle.

Exposure of the media’s biased coverage of Zionism and Israel has been thoroughly documented in other studies. (See my review of Jerold Auerbach’s Print to Fit.) The excuse that coverage of the Holocaust was weak due to the media’s inability to confirm accusations or that a hesitancy to support the formation of a Jewish state by the New York Times was understandable as it threatened the assimilationist aims of some members of the American Jewish community fails to stand up when the record of The Times and other media falls short of their claims of objectivity and impartiality decade after decade. Sadly, biased reporting when contrary views are confined to small opinion journals sways public opinion.

One might ask why should we care about the media’s failures from more than thirty years ago. As one media critic points out in the book, the American people of the 1980s placed a lot of trust in the media. After the deluge of anti-Israeli stories and commentary by The Times, Time, Newsweek, the Networks, polls showed a marked decline in support for Israel. That might explain why some people in the 21st century are prone accept such lies as Israel is an apartheid state and intentionally kills civilians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace should not be the Goal. It can only be the Result.

We all pray for peace, but beyond our prayers, there is the practical truth that when peace is the goal, the result is often war, suffering, and death. The most obvious example is Neville Chamberlain’s giving away part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, proclaiming he had achieved “peace in our time.” Chamberlain’s trading lives for peace emboldened Hitler, and before it was all over sixty million were dead. The Oslo Agreement between Israel and the PLO is another example of a disastrous deal made for peace.

The Oslo Agreement is Israel’s nakba––the name the Palestinian militants give to the formation of the state of Israel. It means day of catastrophe.

In return for “peace,” Israel gave Yasser Arafat control over millions of Muslim Arabs, converting them overnight into Palestinians. Israel’s leaders naively thought Arafat would settle for the ability to rule over the so-called West Bank, but he did not. He accepted Israel’s giving him an arm and a leg, but getting those parts only motivated him continue his quest for the entire body, a goal that continues to drive his successors.

Why Peace Deals Fail

The reason seeking peace often results in the opposite is that people naively believe peace is the means to an end. As a result, they give up too much to achieve the appearance of peace, often sacrificing the substance. To claim one has achieved peace without providing for the security and well-being of your people is an invitation to nakba.

The goal of any negotiation between opposing parties must be security, not peace. Giving the PLO the ability to rule Territory A was a security disaster. It has led to the death and injury of hundreds of Arabs and Jews because it made it easy for the PLO to promote lone-wolf acts of terrorism while taking in millions of dollars of aid from the West. Giving financial aid to terrorists is just plain stupid. It has allowed the PLO to establish absolute control over its own population denying them freedom of thought in part by disseminating school books that teach hateful untruths about Jews and lies about the history of the region.

What the world needs now . . . is Identity and Freedom

No less person than the refusnik, Natan Sharansky, the only non-American to be honored with both the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, opposed the Oslo Agreement. Why? Sharansky was shocked to learn after being released from a Soviet prison that the West was abandoning “identity and freedom”––the values that brought down the Soviet Regime. “The liberal world . . . decided that the highest liberal value is peace,” Sharansky said at a recent event, “but that’s exactly what the communists were saying.”

Speaking of the downfall of the Soviet Union, Sharansky said “ . . . our victory showed the world how freedom and identity go together.” He believes people can only wage a successful fight against dictatorships when there is something more important to them than their physical survival. “It’s people’s identity, national identity, religious identity” that motivates them to rebel.

No matter what terms President Trump’s team proposes when they finally get around to presenting them, Israel must focus on long-term security, not peace. Its leaders must assume the Palestinian Authority will take any concession as permission to violate the terms of the agreement and to pursue its ultimate goal the destruction of a Jewish state.

Israel’s Unique Role

Natan Sharansky believes “Israel has an absolutely unique role [to play] in today’s world . . . to connect two basic desires of people and to keep them together. National identity and freedom.” To abandon that role would be a disaster not just for Israel and the Jewish people, but for the world.

 

The Israeli Solution, A Review, Part I: The Two-State Chimera*

Seminal, must read works exist in literature, philosophy, and political theory. For example, can one study the Cold War without having read George Kennan or discuss ethics without having read Rawls? In that vein, anyone who seeks to defend a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs to have read Caroline Glick’s The Israeli Solution (2013).

Since Glick’s book is fairly recent, you are forgiven if you haven’t heard of it or haven’t got around to reading it. My hope is that this review will convince you to remedy that lapse.

The first part of this review covers Glick’s analysis of the two-state solution; her alternative is the subject of part two.

In part one of The Israeli Solution, Glick, who is a senior correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, examines the history and politics of two-state solution, focusing primarily on the U.S. since America with its military and financial resources is, for better or for worse, the central outside player in the conflict.

Why does Glick call a two-state solution an illusion, a false-hope, a chimera? From Jimmy Carter on, American presidents have viewed solving the conflict as the key to peace in the entire region––from North Africa to the Fertile Crescent. “[M]ost American policy makers,” Glick writes, “share the view that the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River would remove the principle cause of the violent extremism that afflicts the Arab and the larger Islamic world.”

Glick disputes that thesis. Rather than consider the possibility that Arab leaders have concerns other than their hatred of Jews, American leaders have blindly sought to pressure Israel to swallow untenable peace terms thinking regional peace would ensue. Hopefully, that blinder has been removed from policy makers’ eyes by the rise of ISIS, the civil wars in Yemen and Syria, and the global spillover of the Shia-Sunni conflict, none of which stem from the lack of a Palestinian state.

A Ninety-Year Failure

The two-state solution was invented as a response to the unwillingness of Arab leaders to live along side Jews who had returned to their ancient homeland. It has been presented as the basis for peace plans nine different times over the past nine decades, each one a failure. Worse, unquestioned adherence to this “solution,” has “weakened the U.S. position in the Middle East.” Each time the U.S. has put its reputation and resources into a two-state plan the outcome has resulted in the region becoming “less stable, more violent, more radicalized, and more inimical to American values and interests.”

Why hasn’t the two-state solution worked?

The primary reason the two-state concept has failed is, as Glick states, that the “two-state formula is based on the proposition that the root cause of the Palestinian conflict is Israel’s unwillingness to surrender sufficient lands to the Palestinians, rather than the Palestinians’ rejection of Israel’s right to exist and their continued commitment to its destruction.”

Take, for example, Yasser Arafat’s walking away from extensive and foolhardy concessions forced upon Israeli leaders by Bill Clinton, including agreeing to shared sovereignty over Jerusalem. How did Arafat respond to Israel’s willingness to give him most of what he demanded? He launched a war of terror whose toll over two years exceeded seven hundred killed and four thousand wounded.

Clinton devoted the last months of his presidency to trying to get the two sides to reach a final settlement at the expense of greater problems. Yet he failed to understand that Arafat never intended to sign an agreement that left the state of Israel in existence and only engaged in negotiations to strengthen his position at home and weaken international support for Israel.

Arab Anti-Zionism and World Politics

In Part I of The Israeli Solution, Glick reviews the careers of two men who played key roles in developing the notion of a Palestinian people as well as leading attempts to prevent the formation of a Jewish state (Haj Amin el-Husseini) and once formed to prevent that state from surviving (Yasser Arafat). Husseini allied himself with Adolph Hitler and spent the war aiding the Nazi plan to annihilate the Jewish people. No less heinous in his aims, Arafat turned to political warfare to cover up the terrorist campaigns he launched against Israel and its population.

To further his aims, Arafat turned to the Soviet Union, joining in their effort to weaken the U.S. internationally by defining the U.S. as a supporter of racist colonialism exemplified by the Jewish state. To label Jews the oppressor, Arafat and the U.S.S.R. sought to deny the fact that today’s Jewish population descended from the Jews of the Bible and reframe the historical and archeological record to undermine Jews’ claim to be returning to their homeland.

American leaders unfortunately overlooked Arafat’s role in field training would-be terrorists, including Nicaragua’s Sandinistas, Germany’s Red Army faction, the IRA, and Ayatollah Khomeini’s Revolutionary Guard. Arafat’s techniques included airplane hijacking, bombings, ground assaults, assassinations, and even surface-to-air missile attacks against jetliners.

Ironically, throughout most of his career Arafat paid little attention to the Arab refugees of the 1948 war or to those living under Israeli control in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights, and Gaza. Only after local protests erupted in those regions in the 1980s did he see the possibility of using Palestinians in his war against Israel. Sadly, the U.S. helped finance that war and even trained Palestinian Authority soldiers some of whom used their new weapons to attack Israeli civilians.

The Moderate Palestinian Leader

No discussion of the two-state solution would be complete without focusing on Arafat’s successor, current Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Some have tried to paint Abbas as a moderate and a man with whom a peace settlement can be reached. Glick destroys that chimera as well, showing Abbas to be cut from Arafat’s mold as a man skilled in the use of diplomacy on behalf of his ultimate goal, which is to destroy Israel as a Jewish state. Abbas has waged war through the international press, the U.N., and NGO’s––while refusing to negotiate directly with Israel’s representatives. As an example of how little interested he is in a two-state solution, Abbas spat in the face of logic by petitioning the U.N. to create a Palestinian state along the very boundaries his predecessors rejected in 1947.

Amazingly, the U.S. has continued to put their faith in and finance Mahmoud Abbas despite his forming a political alliance with Hamas and despite Hamas’ having thrown the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza and killed or jailed many of its operatives.

As an aside, it is important to understand what distinguishes Hamas from the PLO/Fatah. While Arafat and his mentor Husseini were Arab nationalists first and Muslims second, the founders of Hamas are Muslims first and foremost. To them, Israel stands in the way of the establishment of Allah’s kingdom on earth, and like all infidel nations, including the United States, it must be eradicated.

U.S. Interests and the Two-State Solution

Unfortunately, many Americans believe the U.S. support for Israel is largely a function of sympathy based on the destruction of European Jewry. As a result, they overlook the extent to which Israel advances and protects U.S. interests in the region. Further, they fail to consider the consequences were Israel to be forced to retreat to indefensible boundaries by ceding all or most of the West Bank to the Palestinians.

An Israel reduced to pre-1967 borders would be vulnerable to being destroyed by jihadist militants attacking from Gaza and the hills of Judea. That would result in the U.S. being drawn into the conflict at who knows how large a cost in dollars and lives. Further, Israel would no longer represent the one stable, self-sufficient non-expansionist democracy in the region.

By giving in to those who use terrorism to advance their aims, the U.S., were it to force Israel to give up Judea and Samaria, would be sending a message to jihadists across the globe that the U.S. will not stand up to terrorism and will not protect its allies when push comes to shove.

For all those reasons, the U.S. must abandon support for the two-state solution. But what policy should it support in its place? That’s the subject of part two of my review essay as I examine Caroline Glick’s alternative.

* Because I read The Israeli Solution in digital format I cannot cite page numbers to the print edition.