Studies show that many Americans incorrectly believe the Palestinians are the illegal settlers on their own land.
I long regarded Frank Rich a champion, whose fearless exposures of moral hypocrisy in our culture and the media rang true. My view changed after this New York Times columnist gave a talk at Cornell University.
Mr. Rich was asked about our media’s reporting in the Middle East and their unwavering presentation of Israel-as-victim. How is it that Americans are so poorly informed that a large fraction believes that the Palestinians are the illegal settlers in the Occupied Territories? Mr. Rich was asked why he, as a media critic, had remained silent on this biased coverage? Mr. Rich replied, “I’m Jewish.”
His candor is refreshing but what does he mean? Is Mr. Rich suggesting that being Jewish precludes criticizing Israel? Is he suggesting that Jewish American reporters, (and more insidiously, publishers) feel compelled to defend Israel? Where is professional responsibility to the American public?
My criticism extends beyond the failings of a single reporter. As studies have shown, many Americans believe that the Palestinians are the illegal settlers on their own land. How can we be so poorly informed? And why hasn’t the news media worked to correct this misconception?
The answer, some say, is that a conspiracy exists among mainstream media to sift and shape news to favor the Israeli government. Media’s fear, according to this belief, is that a truly informed American people would realize that the Israeli agenda and policies clash with US values and strategic interests.
I don’t believe this conspiracy theory. The pro-Israel bias, in my view, is particular to each newspaper, each TV network. Bias manifests itself in a Frank Rich silence, in a reporter’s sensitivity to his editor’s predilections, in a political cartoon first accepted by staff then rejected by an owner/publisher. Taken together, the public is deprived of fact and opinion. “This is the greatest story never told,” as Steve Lendman convincingly demonstrates in his expose of willful bias in the NY Times.
The BBC has taken seriously documented reports of a pro-Israel bias in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The BBC governors commissioned an independent study which concluded that an Israeli viewpoint did, indeed, dominate at the expense of Palestinian concerns. The commission proposed specific remedies to correct future reporting in the Mideast. This effort would never happen in the United States.
The honored role of the media in our democracy is to promote informed, public discussion on issues important to our country. “Informed” is the key word here. Full, objective information must be available to citizens to engage in meaningful debate. Mainstream media, by providing only one-sided reporting, suppresses open discussion of Israeli policies and their effect on our national interests.
We Americans are living with the consequences.