Israel at war has most American Jews instinctively ducking for cover from the media, expecting the worst. However, the good news about this war, aside from Israel giving Hamas a bloody trip to the woodshed, is that the American media, by and large, is being far more supportive of Israel than most anyone could have imagined.
In fact, we had every reason to expect it. Contrary to the conventional Jewish “wisdom” that Israel is less loved than it used to be, and less loved when it unleashes its military, the most recent Gallup poll shows that American sympathy for Israel (versus the Palestinians) has soared from 37 percent in 1998 to 59 percent in the year that just ended, despite crushing two intifadas and a war in Lebanon. Sympathy for the Palestinians has remained stagnant, 15-17 percent over that same span.
When Israel undertook “disproportionate” military action, such as in 2006 against Hezbollah, American sympathies climbed to 59 percent. When Israel was most conciliatory, American sympathy fell from 64 percent in 1991 to 42 percent in 1993, the year of Oslo, and as low as 38 percent in the three years after that.
This war is playing beautifully in Peoria.
Peoria’s Journal-Star (Jan. 2) headlined: “Hard to blame Israel for taking on Hamas.”
THE WAR IN GAZA: The Media
As for Gaza’s civilian casualties, well, the Peoria editors say, “It’s worth remembering that [the] residents of Gaza elected a Hamas government, and … many embrace the terrorists among them. They’re learning now that there are consequences for that.”
In the heart of the South, the public editor of North Carolina’s second-largest paper, the Raleigh-based News & Observer wrote (Jan. 4) that with every escalation in Middle East violence, charges of the paper’s bias “also will escalate.” No, not from Jews, but “mostly from readers sympathetic to the Palestinians.”
Several pro-Palestinian writers complained to The News & Observer about what may have been this war’s most accurate headline: “To repay attacks, Israel hits Gaza Strip.”
“You can tell from the title that this article is going to be biased,” Ihab Asfari, a reader, wrote to the editor. “It gives the reader a justification for the Israeli attack before you even start to read the rest of the article.”
Even in Michigan, home to the largest Arab-American population, the editorial of the Detroit News (Dec. 31) headlined: “Hamas Has Invited Its Own Destruction.”
Over in Chicago, the Tribune editorial (Dec. 30) noted that “much of the world screamed in protest that Israel has overreacted. It makes you wonder what would have happened if there had been such international outrage … when the rocket attacks from Gaza began to escalate a few weeks ago? Or if there had been outrage when Hamas formally declared on Dec. 18 that it was ending the six-month truce with Israel?”
Across town, at the Chicago Sun-Times (Dec. 30) the editors headlined: “Hamas started fight, Israel has to finish it.”
Ted Vaden of the News & Observer, reviewed coverage from the Associated Press, The New York Times and McClatchy News Service, and found these news services provided “background on the cease-fire breakdown that led to Israel’s attacks (Hamas ended the cease-fire),” but offered limited coverage of the “suffering and pain inflicted on ordinary citizens.”
That is because Israel has banned foreign reporters from entering Gaza, something it didn’t do in Lebanon.
Howard Kurtz, in a Washington Post online chat (Jan. 5) said, “I don’t know why the ban isn’t more of an issue in the Western press, and why television correspondents don’t cite it more often.”
The ban might backfire as the ground war intensifies, since it means that most of the video being made available is from Arab media outlets already in Gaza, resulting, says Kurtz, in images that are “presumably selective and meant to portray the incursion in the harshest possible light.”
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Israel is not just keeping journalists out, but is breaking in — to Hamas broadcasts, according to reports. An Al-Aqsa radio broadcast (Jan. 3) was interrupted with a man’s voice speaking in Hebrew-accented Arabic: “Hamas leaders are lying to you and they are hiding in hospitals … Launching rockets puts civilians in danger.”
On Al-Aqsa television, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was calling on Palestinians to rise up against Israel (Jan. 2) when the picture was interrupted: “Hamas has misled you and abandoned you,” said a voice.
Aside from the high-tech tricks, “The blogosphere and new media are another war zone,” IDF Maj. Avital Leibovich told reporters. “We have to be relevant there.”
At the Poynter Institute’s site, Allen Abbey noted (Dec. 30) that Twitter and blogs coming out of Gaza have not been useful “in the sense of providing up-to-the-minute independent reports of specific details of specific events,” as they were in Mumbai. He suggests, “Gaza is too technically primitive and politically controlled to permit independent, journalistic blogging. And the extreme politicization of the situation here has blinded bloggers and Twitterers to the value of straightforward news reporting.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s New York consulate held a Twitter press conference. “The briefers were extremely well-informed,” wrote Abbey, “and kept peppering their answers with links to online content that backed up their positions.” The Israeli approach “to getting the message out is … a potentially brilliant idea. [It] is clear the Israeli government has ‘gotten’ social media.” The IDF also launched its own YouTube channel.
HonestReporting.com, a pro-Israel site, warns that we’re at that point in the war when Israel should expect to be accused of civilian “massacres,” as “Palestinians have scored PR victories in the cases of Mohammed al-Dura, the Jenin ‘massacre,’ the Gaza Beach incident, staged photos from the 2006 Lebanon War,” all of which were proved to be manufactured lies.
In all of the above cases, says Honest Reporting, “the media failed to verify Palestinian claims, placing ultimate trust in ‘Palestinian eyewitnesses’ or so-called ‘human rights’ organizations that are actually Palestinian advocacy groups.”
Hamas doesn’t have an army in uniform, so Slate (Dec. 30) wondered, how does anyone determine who is a civilian? The United Nations counts female victims and those under the age of 18, sometimes counting men not wearing police uniforms, or those whom other Gazans identify as civilian non-combatants.
Well, that’s hardly reliable. According to Yediot Ahronot, Hamas terrorists even masquerade as doctors and nurses while soldiering out of hospitals and maternity wards.
As for Gaza women being civilians, MEMRI.org (Middle East Media Research Institute) has posted a clip from Al-Aqsa TV (Dec. 30) in which three masked women, wearing explosives or holding rifles, promise to “turn my body parts into a fire that will burn the occupation soldiers. … There are thousands of martyrdom-seeking women like me, waiting for the occupier, in order to avenge these massacres. … We, the martyrdom-seeking women of Palestine, mothers as well as girls” — girls who will be counted as “children” if “massacred” — “are waiting impatiently for them to come. Allah willing, we will make them taste bitterness, if they move even an inch into our beloved Gaza…”
Such are the “civilians” that you will be asked to mourn.
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