How reality is distorted
How reality is distorted to serve an agenda
Jordan Times Jan 6, 2004 (Also published in the Hartford Courant)
By Mazin Qumsiyeh
The eminent British journalist Robert Fisk said that the last taboo subject in American mainstream media is the US government support of the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine. Indeed one wonders why European citizens and governments view with increasing alarm the increased atrocities against Palestinians in the occupied areas. This compares to the relative ease of continued funding of Israeli policies by our government to the tune of billions per year. The answer is clearly related to the organized and well-funded PR campaign to shield the American public from reality.
This PR campaign (called Hasbara in Hebrew) allows occupation and colonization to become invisible to the American public while dramatizing only one of the symptoms (th e violence against Israelis). According to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, only 4% of US networks to report that the violent events are actually taking place in an area illegally occupied by Israel in contravention to International law. The reporting transforms the illegal Jewish -only settlements/colonies built on Palestinian land into benign "Jewish neighborhoods" and makes Israel appear to be engaged in self defense while its
occupation army (4th strongest in the world) is busy murdering native people in their own lands, demolishing their homes, and destroying what is left of their economy and infrastructure.
There is also that profligate use of loaded words only when its suits Zionist programs. Words like terrorism and massacre are used when Israeli civilians are killed but never used when the far larger number of Palestinian civilians are purposely killed by Israeli army actions. And yes, purposely as documented by every single human rights organization from Amnesty International to Physicians for Human Rights to B’Tselem. The reporting frequently dehumanizes Palestinians (including the over 2700 victims killed in the past three years) while going to great length to humanize the Israelis and any Israelis killed. The practice of showing great empathy for Israelis while showing complete lack of empathy and outright hostility to the native Palestinians who have lost most of their lands. Six million of the 9 million Palestinians are now refugees or displaced people (some nominally Israeli citizens labeled by Israeli law as “present absentees”). The most flagrant violation is the lack of reporting on the gradual ethnic cleansing and the daily onslaught on Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps. Obscenely some media will report “renewed violence” after periods of “relative calm” when Israelis are killed ignoring the fact that it was nothing but calm for the Palestinians under occupation. Many repeatedly present the myth of Barak’s “generous offer” and “Arafat rejection” when they know that negotiations continued and the offer was nothing more than occupation and apartheid by other names.
These slick PR campaigns ensures that the US is presented as a neutral party trying to find a solution while ignoring the facts that our government paid $6 billion to fund Israeli policies in 2003 and vetoed countless UN security council resolutions that would have put the Israeli government to task for violating basic human rights. These rights include such basic things as the rights of people to live free from occupation and the right of refugees to return. The US even vetoes a resolution in the 1980s to support the Palestinian tax revolt (Palestinian non-violent refusal to pay taxes to fund Israeli military occupation).
A documentary from the Media Education Foundation released recently shows how the Israeli PR campaign used its failures in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon (when massacres were committed) to sharpen and organize itself into a formidable machine of propaganda. The pegs in this machine include the elite concentration of media power, connected political elites (now in the highest position of the US government), Israeli government press offices, American hired PR firms, Israeli consulates, and as a final filter, the so-called media watch groups. The last is the group tasked with harassment of journalists and papers where the tiny amount of "objectionable" material may slip through the matrix of filters. They include groups like "CAMERA" and "HonestReporting".
The result of this slick and well-funded machine is that cause and effect are reversed. The occupation, colonization, ethnic cleansing and its violence against a largely defenseless native population become identified as a response to native violence. More importantly, the taxpayers in America are prevented from seeing the role their government plays in fostering violence and mayhem in the Middle East. Fortunately, the internet now provides some method of reaching directly the public and hence with all these attempts at brainwashing, over 43% of Americans in a recent poll view Israel as a world threat. It is only a matter of time before the public demands their government stop arming an apartheid state.
The writer is a Palestinian American associate professor at Yale and co-founder of the Palestine Right to Return Coalition and AcademicsForJustice.org. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.
Note and Postscript
For information on the documentary I refer to in my article below, see