Supporting State Terrorism: The US Media on Israel & Palestine

The US Media Reports on Israel/Palestine from a Perspective that never Questions Israel

As I sit down to write my monthly column, it is now the third week of intensive Israeli bombing of the Gaza. A United Nations compound was recently hit, as have been a hospital, the Islamic University of Gaza and several neighborhoods. The civilian death toll in the Gaza had reached 700 by mid-January with no end in sight, as the Israeli bombing continues and Israeli tanks and troops have entered the Gaza.

Unfortunately, this is not the general picture that one would receive from the US news media. Probably more than any other foreign policy issue, the US media’s reporting on Israel/Palestine is extremely biased in favor of Israel. There are numerous reasons for this bias–reasons that I want to explore.

First, it is important to acknowledge the US government relations with Israel. Israel has been the number one recipient of US aid for nearly 30 years. On average, the US provides $3 billion annually to Israel in general aid and billions more in military aid. According to Frieda Berrigan with the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Project, in 2008 the US provided $22 billion in arms sales to Israel. According to the DC-based End the Occupation Campaign, many of the weapons that Israel is currently using to bomb Gaza were provided by the US. Some of those weapons are F 16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, and TOW, Hellfire, and Bunker Buster missiles. However, if one looks at the print and broadcast media they would be hard pressed to see a single word about US weapons going to Israel.

Second, the US diplomatic relationship with Israel is such that the US has been the only country in the world to consistently stand with Israel when the rest of the world condemns Israeli policy in Palestine. Whenever the United Nations passes a resolution condemning the Israeli occupation the US and maybe one other country will vote with Israel, so it is usually a vote of like 180 to 3 in the General Assembly and only the US blocks a vote against Israel in the UN Security Council. When was the last time you saw the US news media report on UN resolutions against Israel?

The US diplomatic support for Israel is so strong that is consistently receives bipartisan support. Very few politicians are willing to challenge the US support of Israel and those who have were targeted and lost re-election campaigns. Author and former Congressman Paul Findley has documented how politicians in the US are attacked for any criticism of Israel in his book They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby. Every US administration since Richard Nixon has been a staunch supporter of Israel and the new administration are not likely to change that trend. One of the first things Obama did once he sealed the Democratic nomination in June was to go to the largest Israel lobby group in the US (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – AIPAC) and assure them that he is committed to maintaining US support of Israel.

In early January, while the international community was overwhelmingly condemning the Israeli attacks against the Gaza, US politicians were voting to support Israel. The US Senate voted 80-0 in favor of “Israel’s right to defend itself” and the US House followed suit by voting 390 – 5. Even Liberal Democrats like Senator Carl Levin voted for the resolution, which is no surprise since he has been one of the largest recipients of Israel lobby money over the past twenty years.

Since the military and diplomatic policy is aligned with Israel, it is no surprise that US media coverage of Israel/Palestine overwhelmingly favors Israel. This favorable coverage is due to the fact that most US news agencies depend upon government officials as primary sources and is not inclined to challenge those positions for fear of losing access to these same sources.

Another major reason for the news bias in favor of Israel is that many reporters and news editors know that if they take a critical position against Israel that they will be pressured and possibly attacked by the US-based Israel lobby groups. These attacks will often include accusations of anti-Semitism and possibly even being labeled as Holocaust deniers. The claims of anti-Semitism against those that are critical of Israel are generally not well founded, but who in the journalistic field wants to risk being called anti-Semitic?

This fear of being labeled anti-Semitic even impacts the general public, which is one of the reasons for people to not participate in campaigns that challenge US policy towards Israel. When activists organized rallies against the Israeli bombing of the Gaza in early January some of those activists received hate mail. I also read the comment sections of the Grand Rapids Press and WZZM 13 after they posted stories about the rallies and most of the comments were not only pro-Israel, they accused the Arabs who organized the demonstrations of being supporters of terrorism. One commentator on the WZZM 13 site compared those who condemned Israel’s bombing on Gaza to supporters of Hitler and Pol Pot. The same person said that they hoped that the organizers of the rallies would be put on the US government terrorist watch list.

One additional area of US support for Israel comes from sectors of the Christian evangelical community. Many fundamentalist churches see unconditional US support for Israel as a biblical mandate and even necessary for the Second Coming of Jesus. One of the biggest proponents of this theological interpretation is Rev. John Hagee who is based in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee calls himself a Christian Zionist and devotes a weeklong revival every year to encourage people to support Israel no matter what. Hagee even thinks that Israel should go further with its military policy and advocated in 2006, when Israel was bombing Lebanon, that Israel should have just “dropped a nuclear bomb on that country.” An excellent book that chronicles the history of Christian Zionism is Allies for Armageddon: The Rise of Christian Zionism.

Lastly, the near unanimous media support for Israel is part of a larger cultural hatred of Arabs and Muslims. I highly recommend that people read the work of the late Edward Said (particularly Orientalism) and Culture and Imperialism and Jack Sheehan’s important book Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. The reality is that it is the norm in the US to see Arabs and Muslims in popular culture as terrorists. Whenever you see someone in the popular media wearing a kafia, a traditional scarf for Arabs, it is usually someone who is wielding a gun or burning a flag. These types of gross stereotypes and how the US news media reports on Israel/Palestine are part of what needs to be changed if the public perception of what is happening in the Middle East is ever to change.

Jeff Smith is a regular contributor to http://www.mediamouse.org and does workshops on media bias & racial stereotyping in the media.

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Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org

10 thoughts on “Supporting State Terrorism: The US Media on Israel & Palestine”

  1. It is amazing to me, that there is so much confusion over who the terrorists are. Hamas is a terrorist organization that condones and facilitates suicide bombings and will kill every Jew on the planet if they have the chance.

    Israel is an energetic democracy with a vibrant press. Israel is a free country that abides by the rule of law. By contrast, if a writer were to go to Gaza or Iran, for instance, and start writing bad words, he might wind up on the news, dead.

    Israel allows Christians and Arab Muslims to worship freely, while Hamas wants to see us all at the bottom of the sea. Hamas, supported by Iran, is clear about their goals: they want to wipe out Israel completely, utterly, with finality. But it’s not just Israel that Hamas wants to kill; they want to kill all Jews everywhere. Complete genocide

  2. James, I appreciate you response to my posting, but I must say you make some claims that are completely unfounded. What sources can you cite to support a claim that Hamas wants to kill all Jews? I also want to point out that I am not a supporter of Hamas and their use of violence either, but since the US provides billions of dollars in military aid to Israel and not Hamas, that is why I am critical of Israel policies. The human rights abuses of Israel are well documented and they have killed far more Palestinian civilians compared to how many Israeli civilians Hamas has killed. A good source for this aret his Jewish human rights website http://www.btselem.org/English/index.asp and this Palestinian site http://www.pchrgaza.org/.

  3. “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim).

    source:Hamas Charter ,Article Seven.

    http://www.acpr.org.il/resources/hamascharter.html

    http://www.mideastweb.org/hamas.htm

  4. Thanks for your courage to publish this essay in face of so much media bias in the US. You might check out USMediaandIsrael.com that reinforces some of your points.

  5. The confusion is not over terrorism, but that human rights is not applied to state terrorism (i.e. to be clear the terror applied by nation-states). Whether it was the U.S. in Abu Ghraib or the secret bombing of Cambodia, China in Tibet or any other nation. The onus is on us to ensure that all parties are acting in accordance to international law and international observers have noted that the State of Israel willfully provoked Gaza into a counter-attack, the media generally does not report this and Israel is effectively given international free-rein to act atrociously and brutally in order to continue their genocidal actions and war crimes.

    As far as I understand Israeli laws and laws and jurisprudence has ruled that Israel is a state of its Jewish people and does not guarantee rights for the non-Jewish and/or certainly makes clear that the Muslim citizen would always be a second-class citizen at best.

  6. Only liberals can back folks who send suicide bombers into Israeli school buses, shopping malls, and restaurants

  7. I feel like the reactions Israel has taken in it’s history are quite unique. It is very easy to say that Israel is acting inhumanely, because we are not in their situation. The stakes are very high for them because of their size. Many of their actions are a result of a long drawn out conflict in which the nations around them have continually tried to eradicate the jewish population. If you feel these claims are unfounded I don’t think you’ve been hearing all the information out there.

    If Palestine and the other muslim nations were to stop attacking Israel, there should be no doubt in any rational person’s mind that the violence would stop. I think it’s very sad how the muslim population has reacted since Israel’s creation.

  8. In response to James’ comment that “Only liberals can back folks who send suicide bombers into Israeli school buses, shopping malls, and restaurants” I would have to say that no where in my original article do I condone or support suicide bombers as a tactic. It is a typical response from defenders of Israel when you criticize Israeli policy that you must be a supporter of Palestinian suicide bombers. This is of course ridiculous and distracts readers from the point that I was making which was that the US news reporting in biased in favor of Israel. When do you see news coverage in the US that is sympathetic to suicide bombers? You don’t, suicide bombers are always condemned, but the flip side of that is that US support of Israeli attacks against civilians in Palestine does not get condemned and is often reported as ab act of self-defense on the part of Israel. Secondly, “liberals” are also generally supporters of Israel, if by liberal you mean the Carter, Clinton and now the Obama administrations. They all have supported Israel just as zealously as Republican administrations, so the liberal/conservative argument just doesn’t work here.

    In response to Brian’s comments I would have to say that he needs to revisit some history. Israel was founded by taking Palestinian land – see Israeli writer Ilan Pappe’s “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.” What Pappe points out, as does Chomsky, Cook, Said, Aruri and many other authors is that Israel has been committed to expanding their territory since its beginning in 1948. Arab nations have been at odds with Israel because of its occupations of the Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights or Israel’s attacked against countries like Lebanon in 1982 or in 2006. If Israel wants to stop suicide bombers from attacking them then Israel needs to follow the principles of International Law and end their occupation of Palestinian land, a position that virtually every nation in the world supports except the US and Israel.

  9. Speaking of terrorism:

    George W. Bush committed hate crimes of epic proportions and with the stench of terrorism (indicated in my blog).

    George W. Bush did in fact commit innumerable hate crimes.

    And I do solemnly swear by Almighty God that George W. Bush committed other hate crimes of epic proportions and with the stench of terrorism which I am not at liberty to mention.

    Many people know what Bush did.

    And many people will know what Bush did—even to the end of the world.

    Bush was absolute evil.

    Bush is now like a fugitive from justice.

    Bush is a psychological prisoner.

    Bush has a lot to worry about.

    Bush can technically be prosecuted for hate crimes at any time.

    In any case, Bush will go down in history in infamy.

    Submitted by Andrew Yu-Jen Wang

    B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996

    Messiah College, Grantham, PA

    Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

    “GEORGE W. BUSH IS THE WORST PRESIDENT IN U.S. HISTORY” BLOG OF ANDREW YU-JEN WANG

    ______________________

    I am not sure where I had read it before, but anyway, it is a linguistically excellent statement, and it goes kind of like this: “If only it were possible to ban invention that bottled up memory so it never got stale and faded.” Oh wait—off of the top of my head—I think the quotation came from my Lower Merion High School yearbook.

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