In the US, the Media is proudly referred to as the Fourth Estate because Journalism has been conceived as the unfettered voice of the people. Traditionally, it has successfully carried out its mission as a valuable counterweight to the power exercised by the Republic’s official institutions. Basic to our ability to think, know, make choices and govern is knowledge – the fruit of Academia and the Media; to me then Academia is, indeed, the Fifth Estate.
More recently, multinationals and corporations, special interests, PACS and SUPER-PACS, have succeeded in exerting undue influence on these fountains of knowledge, coloring views and perceptions, and in fact virtually shaping and brainwashing minds.
The media’s duty is to inform the public; but it is in academia where fundamental knowledge of the world, of science, philosophies, ideas and conceptions brew, and where minds are freely shaped. Consequently this greenhouse of knowledge has been targeted by the relentless propaganda machine. As concerns the Middle East, Campus Watch is an intrinsic cog of that machine; its objective is to prevent through harassment and intimidation free inquiry on the Israeli Palestinian problem. Under the able direction of Dr. Daniel Pipes, its founder, students are recruited to spy and report back the names of professors and teachers who deviate from unreserved support of Israel’s actions, policies and objectives. These names are then published, and their owners are labeled anti-Semitic teachers to be boycotted, and pressure is exerted to get them dismissed.
For-profit media is a business that provides news and entertainment at a nominal cost; its survival is primarily conditioned by its ability to sell ads and commercials. The need therefore to maintain harmonious relations with commercial clients, powerful interest groups and lobbies, is of particular financial importance -- indeed a sine-qua-non to profitability and survival. This imperative stands as the basic, constant threat to the true freedom of the press. Additionally, as a commercial establishment subject to the vagaries of the market place, a media can be bought and sold and the integrity of its expression can therefore fall prey to its owner’s ideology and biases; and there are, indeed, myriad ways of diffusing them as brainwashing ingredients.
In democratic countries where freedom of the press is cherished and guaranteed, it is definitely easier to express disagreement and criticism of public policy, than it is to stand up and refute the propaganda of interest groups or the taboos they maintain through blackmail. Yes fabricated taboos are created, setting red lines that inhibit criticism of policies, as well as egregious activities by a “pet” foreign nation. Among these Israel stands out.
Despite its pretense at secularism and because of its particular history, America’s worldview is indelibly shaped by Biblical and Evangelical considerations and interpretations. These represent natural and legal means for that nation and the pro-Zionist political and religious PACs -- both Evangelical and Jewish -- to shape American public opinion.
For nearly a century news from, and commentary about the Middle East, particularly as concerns the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have been diffused through the prism of AIPAC, the powerful Pro-Israeli umbrella that orchestrates the activities of a collection of Evangelical and Jewish pro-Zionist PACs. Predisposed and conditioned, people often innocently take the Israeli side; strong, biased reporting result in irrational emotions, impacting public and foreign policy and triggering hostile and even irrational violent foreign reactive violence.
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Public radio, and public TV, the main official publicly financed media have until recently demonstrated greater freedom and objectivity in reporting events from that region. Recently, however, congressional displeasure was expressed and public financing severely curtailed affecting their integrity.
The media, particularly in the US and in Anglo-Saxon countries has, as a result of the prevailing Weltanschauung, or from fear of consequences, been biased in favor of Israel. Jonathan Cook, a renowned, freelance British journalist specializing in and reporting from the Middle East confirmed it in a recent interview:
“Despite the Guardian’s international reputation as the Western newspaper most savagely critical of Israel’s actions, I quickly realized that there were, in fact, very clear, and highly unusual, limitations on what could be written about Israel.”
Yet Israel, despite that undeniable tilt, relentlessly complains, directly and through its agent, about the “unfair media criticism of Israel and prevailing anti-Semitism.”
The century old bias in news reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the equally automatic, pro-Israeli US bias in Foreign Policy have not served us well morally, diplomatically or geopolitically. It has, in fact, contributed to the rise of anti-Western feelings and provided justification for reactionary Islamism and extremist Jihadism to flourish and spread. Corollary, it has motivated insane anti-Western violence and terrorism and fanned sectarian suspicion, hatred and violence against native Christians and other minorities in the Muslim world, sadly accelerating de-Westernization and de-Christianization there.
For the sake therefore not only of truth and honesty in the media, but of national interest, a dire need exists for an independent, not-for-profit media unafraid of financial pressure and dedicated to a balanced approach in reporting and analyzing events in the Israel-Palestine situation. But “balance” can be tricky; for example, when Israel carries out severe aerial bombing with lethal civilian casualties, the media invariably reports it as a response to Palestinian terror attacks; reports concerning Israel bulldozing houses, uprooting olive groves and otherwise dispossessing Palestinians are cushioned or explained away as necessary to Israel’s security; and so are home searches at gun point in the deep of night. The violence and terror inherent in half a century of inhumane occupation is rarely mentioned as such, or as a leading cause of social disintegration, and insane self-immolation.
Indeed, violence by Palestinians is never related to the dehumanization resulting from the occupation or as retaliation to earlier Israeli violence; they are simply reported as terrorism. On the other hand, terrorizing violence by settlers is never reported as Israeli terrorism. So under the guise of balance the bias is surreptitiously perpetuated; and so is the unearned sympathy and support for Israel and the dehumanizing contempt for the Palestinians. When it comes to Israel the tendency is to forget all concepts of human rights and justice; and the requirement to abide by the rules of International Law suddenly evaporates. How sad it is for our Democracy!