Israel’s Challenge, the Media’s Bias
By Juda EngelmayerWhat an irony there is occurring in Israel right now. Can any journalist worth the title not see it? Judging from the kinds of coverage we are treated to, my guess would be that the answer is no and that is the greatest irony.This week, Avigdor Lieberman joined Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s coalition, causing the Arab Knesset members and their supporters to lobby and protest against the move, complete with a full-scale PR campaign.That they would protest Lieberman’s ascendancy is not ironic. The Israel Beiteinu leader is, after all, highly controversial and perhaps even bigoted, and far to the right for their comfort or even for the comfort of many Jewish Israelis.
What is ironic is that the media fail to see something remarkable in this that they cannot see anywhere in the Arab Middle East: A religious and or political minority protesting with the full protection of the law against a political figure who now is also a government minister. If a Jew attempted to launch a similar protest, say, in Iran, about the only thing there would be to cover would be his execution. In Israel, not only may Israeli Arabs protest, they may vote, they may-and do-send their own representatives to the parliament, write and publish as they will, and a whole lot more.
Even the “enemy,” so to speak, meaning Palestinians in the territories, the so-called “occupied peoples,” have access to and have availed themselves of the Israeli legal system to protest actions they consider unfair-and they often win. Can anyone seriously say that even in “democratic” Baghdad a Jew would be afforded a similar opportunity?
And yet the media-and especially the liberals among them who really should know better-flock to the side of the autocrats and theocrats when Israel is involved. Israel, they proclaim at every opportunity, is the great violator of human rights in the Middle East.
Alas, that is not the only irony. The media seem to see nothing untoward about the criticisms of Lieberman coming from those very same autocrats and theocrats.
The Hamas terrorist-turned-Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haneya commented on an Israeli military action in Gaza by saying, “The massacre committed today… is a result of the Israeli government’s move to include a radical minister.” Did any journalist note the irony of that statement? A man who belongs to a terrorist organization that refuses to recognize Israel or to even accept its right to exist calls an Israeli minister a radical. (One has to wonder whether there is not another irony here: that Haniyeh indirectly acknowledged that the Israeli government itself is not radical.)
Then there is Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat, who said that “Lieberman’s idea of peace is an ethnically pure Jewish State indefinitely controlling Palestinian lives in the Middle East’s equivalent of the South-African Bantu.” As far as anyone knows, Erekat has never condemned, say, Saudi Arabia for its exclusionist policies. Consider how the U.S. State Department describes the Saudi approach to religious tolerance:
“…[Saudi] law requires that all citizens be Muslims. The Government does not provide legal recognition or protection for freedom of religion, and it is severely restricted in practice. The public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited.”
That Erekat maintains a double standard is not ironic-but that the media report his comments against Israel, yet never note that what he actually means is that only the Jews may not act this way, but Arabs may is ironic. Erekat, obviously, is not the only one with a double standard. The media have one, too, where Israel is concerned.
Even more remarkable is that this duplicitous behavior is tolerated and even lauded by so many of those whom we call “intellectuals,” people who routinely criticize Israel in the press and on the world stage, yet feel no queasiness in the pits of their stomach about ripping into the only state in the region that would allow them a free and unfettered forum to air those very views.
One can only assume that what really is going on here is not a concern for human rights and human dignity, but rather a campaign to de-legitimize Israel and then eliminate it.
To be sure, Israel must hold itself to a higher human standard for a whole lot of reasons. This is no excuse, however, for people who know better to ignore the realities of the Arab world. That they do is the height of hypocrisy and a sure sign of the moral decadence of the media and the intelligentsia.