Thursday, February 21, 2008

EVENHANDEDNESS about Palestine - not in US Media

Covering Palestine: How US Media Betrayed Its Public

Thursday February 21, 2008 10:23 by Hasan Afif El-Hasan -

Free media is an important institution in a democracy. The media in a
democratic society must be responsible for conveying the sort of facts and
analysis that is necessary for an informed perspective of the issues at
hand. The public that watches television, listens to radio and reads
newspapers and magazines depends on journalists to tell them the truth and
offer honest opinion as they see it. The media has a strong influence on
the public political thinking by ascribing social acceptance to some ideas
and rejection of others.

The media has the power of rearranging the priorities of the issues among
the public. It can focus on a subject that looks irrelevant at first
glance, and after frequent coverage, it can be elevated in importance in
the minds of the public. The US media was very effective in swaying public
opinion to support the government policies toward Iraq by provoking the
emotions of fear, anger, and patriotism prior to Iraq invasion. The media
provides the decision makers with issues that need to be addressed.
Bernard Cohen, an expert on governments in action, states that many
employees in the US State Department arrive early in their offices to read
New York Times to prepare for their reports about the issues of the day.
Since the outlook of the United States government and the American people
bears directly on whether a fair solution to the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict can be achieved, US news media that is the source of information
about the conflict is essential factor in the peace process. The US media
must have its share of the blame if a just peace is not
achieved.Unfortunately, in covering the Palestinian conflict, the US media
has betrayed the public trust and corrupted its own profession by
suppressing information for the sake of a political agenda biased against
the Palestinians. It failed to identify the Palestinians as dispossessed
and oppressed people not terrorists. The Palestinians are either living
under occupation or in refugee camps and a sizable minority treated as
second class citizens inside Israel. The media failed to identify Israel's
violations of the international laws in the occupied territories. It never
reported that the Israeli violence against the Palestinians exceeds
Palestinian violence against the Israelis by many folds. The International
Red Cross and human rights organizations have been deploring the daily
killing and detention of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank by the
Israeli incursions by land and air.

New York Times "incorporates a rejection of evenhandedness" in its
coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict according to the global
studies academics Howard Friel and Richard Falk. When human rights
organizations demand neither side to attack the other, and Israel fires
more than ten artillery high-explosive shells mostly on civilian targets
in Gaza for every home made Qassam rocket fired by Palestinian armed
groups that kill no Israelis, the Times condemns only one side, the
Palestinians. It accuses Hamas of playing the "provocateurs' game", thus
justifying killing and injuring hundreds of civilians including children,
and the Times did not criticize the US veto of the UN cease-fire
resolution that would stop the bloodshed.

How can a major paper in a self-proclaimed civilized society justify
killing 19 Palestinians including eight children and seven women and
wounding dozens when the Israeli military artillery shells struck a
residential area in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun? This massacre
was reported by Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz and other news
organizations on November 8, 2006, but similar incidents happen almost
daily in Gaza and the West Bank which is the home base of President Abbas.
The US news media never mentioned that Hamas had maintained a
sixteen-month cease-fire while Israel continued its incursion attacks on
the Palestinians and the media never even questioned the purpose of such
attacks. The media, however, calls any Palestinian use of force as
"terrorism", even if it is directed against military targets.

Ethan Bronner, deputy foreign editor of the Times and the main commentator
on the Arab-Israel conflict has endorsed in writing the notion of the
Zionist activist Allan Dershowitz that "evenhandedness" in the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict "should be abandoned as a matter of
principle". Dershowitz wrote in his book "the Case of Israel", "If the
United States were ever to become as even-handed as the international
community has been, it would surely encourage continuing aggression
against the Jewish state". The book that has been endorsed by Bronner
rejects the concept that Israeli Jews and Palestinians should have equal
rights within the territory of historical Palestine because according to
them Israel occupies more legal and moral status relative to the
Palestinians. Further more, Bronner agrees with Dershowitz that Noam
Chomsky's sympathy with the Palestinians in his book "The Faitful
Triangle" is a form of support for extremism simply because Chomsky as a
historian recognizes the Palestinians' right to have a state of their own
on 22 percent of their historic homeland. Recognition of any Palestinians'
rights has become extremism and even anti-Semitism in the US, thanks to
the media.

When Israel withdrew its military and dismantled its settlement in Gaza,
the US news media labeled it in so many articles as the end of Gaza
occupation and that the Palestinians should be grateful for such Israeli
painful concession. The news reporters and commentators did not explain to
their audience and readers that Gaza continues to be a big prison and its
inhabitants are still under occupation after the withdrawal. The Gazans
are doomed to live in poverty surrounded by the Israeli military machine
from the sea, the land and air, and if a group within the territory breaks
the rules laid down by Israel, the whole population will be subjected to
collective punishment. With the support of the US and the news media, the
Israeli military campaign in Gaza and the West Bank continues to kill and
wound Palestinians on daily basis. The US media does not refer to such
attacks and the act of border closures by Israel that leads to major
shortages of basic supplies, as a human rights violation according to
Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Article 33 explicitly forbids
"collective penalties" and punishment "for an offense he or she has not
personally committed" but the US media calls the starving of a nation and
denying their sick the medicine they need to stay alive, self-defense.

US media ignores reference to UN resolutions that apply to the conflict
and it does not mention incriminating facts against Israel presented by
the human rights organizations including those in Israel itself. The media
does not care to publish or quote people like the Israeli commentator
Amira Hass who dared to ask the researchers of Nazism and the Holocaust
and Soviet gulags "could it be that you [the researchers] side with
further expropriation of lands and the demolition of additional orchards,
for another settler neighborhood and another exclusively Jewish road? That
you all back the shelling and missile fire killing the old and the young
in the Gaza Strip?"

The media never challenged the Israel-US insistence on basing the peace
process exclusively on the gimmicks of 2003 Roadmap, rather than the
international laws as a reference. Disregarding the international laws on
the fundamental issues has transformed the peace talks into bargaining
process based on facts on the ground created by Israel illegally as an
occupying power according to international laws. UN General Assembly
Resolution 194 was the condition attached to Israel's admission to the UN
as a member. As an international law, it called upon Israel to allow
repatriation of those Palestinians who had fled or been expelled and
compensate those who choose to remain outside Israel. Israel has rejected
it to preserve its Jewish identity, President Bush declared his support to
the Israeli position and the US media never questioned its legality.

The fourth Geneva Convention calls for the protection of civilians during
war or under occupation. Article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention
prohibits an occupying power from establishing settlements occupied by its
nationals. And it prohibits population transfer that alters the character
of the occupied land. Israel ignored the Convention and established more
than 200 Jewish only settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem protected
by the Israeli military. The media does not explain that most of
Palestinian violence against the Israelis is triggered by the provocative
presence of these settlements. Occupying power is not permitted to alter
patterns of beneficial use of resources in the occupied land, but Israel
has diverted most of the water from aquifers under the West Bank for use
in Israel and the Jewish only settlements.Peace with justice will not be
achieved as long as the behavior of the parties to the conflict is not
appraised by the media equally based on the rules of the international
laws.-Born in Nablus, Palestine, Hasan Afif El-Hasan,Ph.D, is a political
analyst. He contributed this article to

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posted by u2r2h at 11:51 PM


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