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Western media and Israel-Palestine conflict

Twelve years ago, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion at the request of the United Nations General Assembly on the legality of the wall Israel has constructed in the West Bank. The ICJ affirmed that all of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are “occupied Palestinian territory”, and that Israel’s wall, as well as its settlements, violate the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The ICJ’s ruling helps to underscore the prejudicial nature of the discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Western mainstream media—and particularly in the US. The media never fail to elevate Israel’s policy aims to the same level of legitimacy as international law. For example, we can frequently read in the New York Times, the Washington Post, et al, that East Jerusalem or areas where Israeli settlements are located are “disputed” territory—thus placing equal weight to Israel’s position as the entire rest of the planet, which recognises Israel’s settlements as illegal and East Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territory.

Needless to say, this is not balanced journalism, but extremely prejudicial to the rights of the Palestinians living under foreign military occupation. When the illegality of the settlements is alluded to by the mainstream media (all too infrequently), they typically obscure it by saying something like: “Most countries do not recognise the legitimacy of Israel’s settlements.” This leaves readers with the impression that the matter is controversial, that there is debate about it within the international community, that there are two legitimate points of view. It affords validity to Israel’s position when it has none.

Translated from newspeak, what that means is that every single government on planet Earth other than Israel itself recognises the settlements as a violation of international law. The media bend over backwards to accommodate and attempt to legitimise Israel’s criminal policies. How can the media get away with such outrageously biased reporting? Furthermore, why is the US mainstream media so prejudiced against the rights of the Palestinians? The answer is simple:  the policy of the US government is one of unconditionally supporting Israel’s violations of international law and the human rights of the Palestinian people.

While the US has long sought to characterise itself as an “honest broker” between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the truth is scarcely concealed beneath the thin veil of rhetoric. The US supports Israel’s violations of international law financially, militarily, and diplomatically. Military aid to Israel tops $3 billion annually, which aid serves in part as a US taxpayer subsidy for the arms industry as Israel invests in US military technology and hardware. US-supplied arms are routinely used by Israel to commit war crimes, such as its
deliberate targeting of schools and hospitals in Gaza under the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) “Dahiya Doctrine”, a reference to the levelling of the Dahiya district of Beirut during Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon and a policy designed to use intentionally disproportionate force in order to punish the civilian population. This policy was implemented during Israel’s military assaults on Gaza in 2008-09 (“Operation Cast Lead”), 2012 (“Operation Pillar of Defense”), and 2014 (“Operation Protective Edge”).

The world superpower also uses its weight to protect Israel from censure for its perpetual violations of international law, acting to prevent Israeli officials from being held accountable for their crimes. For example, in the aftermath of “Operation Cast Lead”, the US sought to bury the report of

a UN fact-finding mission (the so-called “Goldstone Report”) that found both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes.

The US’s goal was to ensure that the report’s recommendations were not implemented, particularly the recommendation to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court (ICC) absent credible investigations by the Israeli government and Hamas governing authority into allegations of war crimes, which never occurred (the IDF’s self-investigations, needless to say, were rightfully recognised by the international community as a whitewash).

For another example, in February 2011, the Obama administration, its own rhetorical opposition to Israel’s settlements notwithstanding, went so far as to veto an uncontroversial UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for its continued expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The mainstream media in the US serve the role of manufacturing consent for government policy, with the intelligentsia acting as high priests of the state religion, as dissident American intellectual Noam Chomsky has described it. As before the US’s illegal war on Iraq (among countless other examples), the media mindlessly parrot government propaganda.

It is axiomatic among academics and journalists who have a voice in the mainstream that, while the US government might sometimes make “mistakes”, it only ever acts out of benevolent intent. Voices that don’t subscribe to this belief system are excluded from the discussion. “There is indeed something truly religious,” as Chomsky has observed, “in the fervor with which responsible American intellectuals have sought to deny plain fact and to secure their dogmas concerning American benevolence, the contemporary version of the ‘civilising mission.’”

Far from serving the role of properly informing the public in order for Americans and the global populace to be able to make objective judgements about world affairs, the media serve to indoctrinate the world in narratives about the Palestine conflict that fundamentally obscure its true nature.

This extends to the media’s reporting on the conflict’s origins. There are a great many things that “everyone knows” about the conflict that in fact have no basis in reality. For example, it is a widely believed myth that the UN created Israel or otherwise conferred legal authority to the Zionist leadership for the unilateral declaration of the existence of their “Jewish state” on May 14, 1948. This claim is absolutely false. Moreover, the UN plan to partition Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states called for expropriating land belonging to Arabs in order to redistribute it to Jews.

The representatives of member countries who drafted this plan recognised that this prejudiced the rights of the majority inhabitants, but the Arabs’ rights were simply of no consideration to policymakers still operating within a framework of racist colonialism, and so they premised their plan upon the explicit rejection of the right of the Arab majority to self-determination (notwithstanding how this violated the very UN Charter under whose authority they were ostensibly operating). Needless to say, such minor details as this are never reported when the media fill the public in on the conflict’s origins.

Global Politics



DPP Botswana

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