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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Magazine, Volume One Nov-Dec 2023.
Western media and the Middle East by Percy Aaron.
“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed.
If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”
– Mark Twain
I was in my mid-teens when the 1967 Middle East crisis was reaching boiling point. The novels of Leon Uris had filled me with admiration for the spirit of the Jews and so, my sense of fairness was outraged that tiny Israel was surrounded by these big, bad nations and that more Arab states were sending regiments to assist their ‘blood brothers’. I went to the principal of my school and demanded that he send student volunteers to fight alongside the Israelis. I wanted my name first on the list. He looked at me in exasperation and said that I should worry about my poor grades and leave the fighting to the armies there. He must have realised that he had offended me because in a more mellow tone, added that any fighting would end quickly because both sides would soon run out of armaments.
Then the Six-Day War happened and the roles of David and Goliath were reversed. Later, brought up on a weekly diet of Time and Newsweek bias and gung-ho Hollywood garbage, I tended to see the world through the haze of American propaganda. But after Bangladesh, Chile and the Pentagon Papers, the scales fell from my eyes. As I learned to be more discerning in my reading, I felt cheated by the fact that all media organizations had a slant, determined by their governments in some states, or by the owners’ business interests in others. And the truth? Damn the truth.
When the war in Ukraine broke out last year, I was teaching a course on Bias in the Media at my school. Several of my colleagues and friends, mainly American and British couldn’t understand why India didn’t fall in line with the perspectives coming out of, mainly, Washington and London. The readings in the course were often too difficult for the students and since I wanted them to understand the concept of bias, I showed them how the western media was covering the conflict vis-à-vis news organizations in China, India and other countries that didn’t toe the western line. Very effectively, I got the message through. One student, sharper than the others, pointed out that in the west, people tend to believe most things they read, whereas in countries where the press was controlled by the government, people tend to disbelieve most things in print.
The Hamas attack on several Israeli targets has once again highlighted the bias in the Euro and Anglosphere.
CNN and the New York Times in particular, but even the BBC and the Guardian, are full of reports of individual Israeli victims. The coverage of the death and destruction being rained down on the people of Gaza, most of whom are non-combatants, is disproportionately less. The imbalance is probably similar to the number of casualties on either side. The life of a light-skinned Israeli appears to be more valuable than that of a brown-skinned Palestinian. A Semite in a yarmulke evokes more sympathy than a Semite (for that is what Palestinians are too) in a hijab.
“Israeli murderers are called commandos; Arab commandos are called terrorists.”
– George Carlin, American humorist
It’s a fact that even if these armchair ‘journalists’ did try to be even-handed, AIPAC and other pro-Israeli lobbies would destroy their careers completely. While most of us swallow our principles from time to time when we have to put food on the table, washing cars or dishes is surely more honorable than shutting our eyes to the carnage in Gaza. Reporting misinformation is as dishonest as not reporting the truth. In the present situation, willful omissions are as criminal as willful commissions.
Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one’
-A.J. Liebling in the New Yorker
If you think that the United States is a shining example of free speech, think again. The hypocrisy of U.S. president Biden, asking the Emir of Qatar to rein in Al Jazeera, whose reporters on the ground in Gaza are showing what overwhelming Israeli force is doing to the people and the city. Likely to inflame passions around the Arab world, the president said. But passions in the non-Arab world are being inflamed too, at the indiscriminate and disproportionate destruction. Witness the growing number of demonstrations around the world of people calling for a ceasefire, or the rising tide of anti-Semitism, in Europe especially.
In U.S. universities, supposedly beacons of free speech and questioning minds, students are being threatened and academics are being censured, or losing their jobs outright, just for calling for a ceasefire and an end to the killing. So, being critical of Israel is tantamount to being anti-Semitic. Nothing is said about the anti-Semitism towards the Palestinians. I admit that I am confused. How can a white European Jew, be more Semitic than a brown Palestinian one?
What the Nazis did to Lidice in Czechoslovakia, the Israelis are doing to northern Gaza.
The Guardian, quotes casualty figures from Gaza as coming from the ‘Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health’. Yes, of course, governments control their ministries. Would this newspaper refer to the Tory-controlled NHS? Friendly administrations such as Saudi Arabia, no matter how despotic, are governments; unfriendly ones are regimes.
Some historical facts to educate those at Fox, CNN, the New York Times, et al.
The Balfour Declaration was an undertaking by one people, to give away the land of a second people, to a third people. This wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last time, that Britain, that arch colonial master of divide and rule, was taking, or giving away things, that didn’t belong to it.
The Zionists pushed for a Jewish state as the only guarantee for their safety and security. The western powers, for various reasons, including guilt, acquiesced in the creation of Israel. To achieve this, the Palestinians who had lived on the land for centuries, were displaced to make way for Jews from other parts of the world but mainly from Eastern Europe. In other words, the Palestinians were made to pay the price for the Holocaust and European anti-Semitism.
Following its massive victory in the Six-Day War in June 1967, Israel annexed Arab lands in Egypt, Jordan and Syria. However, with the Camp David Accords, the Sinai was returned to Egypt. This did not happen in Jordan or Syria and these territories are often referred to as the Occupied Lands.
UN Resolution 242, which called for the return of all Arab lands seized in 1967 in exchange for firm guarantees of peace, is the most flouted UN resolution in the history of the world body. This was and is done in connivance with the United States.
In 2006, Hamas overwhelmingly won the elections in Gaza, certified as free and fair by Jimmy Carter and other international observers. But like it has always done with governments it does not approve of, the United States refused to recognize the victor. We can only wonder, how much different the situation in the Middle East might have been, had Hamas not been cast in the role of a pariah?
© Percy Aaron
Percy Aaron is an ESL teacher at Vientiane College in the Lao PDR and a freelance editor for a number of international organisations. He has had published a number of short stories, edited three books and was editor of Champa Holidays, the Lao Airlines in-flight magazine and Oh! – a Southeast Asia-centric travel and culture publication. As lead writer for the Lao Business Forum, he was also on the World Bank’s panel of editors. Before unleashing his ignorance on his students, he was an entrepreneur, a director with Omega and Swatch in their India operations and an architectural draughtsman. He has answers to most of the world’s problems and is the epitome of the ‘Argumentative Indian’. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org`