Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Israel and its Cheerleading Media

Israeli attacks brought the death toll in Gaza to over 1300 Palestinians and the number of injured to 5300 Palestinians.

This war seems to be overwhelmingly supported by Israelis, all the Jewish political parties, and as I wish to expound on in more detail, by the media in Israel as well.

The recommendations of the State-appointed Winograd Commission (see summary interim and final reports), setup post-Lebanon War 2006 to investigate the shortcomings of that war, included that there be more political-military coordination and a prohibition of leaks. The media, in keeping with the recommendations of the Winograd Commission, and contrary to its role as the fourth estate that is supposed to place the government and those in power in check, is functioning as an overenthusiastic pom-pom queen of the State.

Keshev - The Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel that monitored the conduct of the Israeli media during the Gaza war has reported that the Israeli media in the first days of the war was "enthusiastic" and "self-righteous", with sparse criticism of military operations and reports on the deaths of Palestinian civilians buried in the newspaper. Arabs protesting the war and calling for an end to the killing were seen as disloyal and violent! See Keshev's December 2008 report here. However, Keshev writes that the media could be patted on the back for giving decent coverage, compared to coverage during the Lebanon war, to diplomatic options alongside military ones. See January 2009 report here.

Keshev's reporting focused on the early period of the war. So criticism of media coverage was very limited. They did not touch upon the issue that the very premise for going to war should have been challenged in the Israeli media - that this was indeed a war on Palestinians and their national liberation and not on the official pretexts offered by the State. Or that this was the single most brutal attack on Palestinians to date and should be a moral red-light for the State to ask itself where the hell it is headed. Or at the very least allow for adequate coverage of the deaths of civilians in Gaza, in keeping with the ethical codes of the media. These should have been the questions posed by the Israeli media on its front pages, not buried inside the newspaper, chiefly in opinion columns not considered 'real' news by most readers.

Of course, the attack on the media can be gauged by the State's approach to the media in general during this war - in the killing of five journalists; in targeting media stations in the Gaza Strip including Al-Aqsa Television, the al-Johar Tower housing 20 news organisations and the Ash-Shuruq Tower housing various news agencies including Reuters, NBC, Fox News, Sky News, Al-Arabiya and Abu Dhabi TV; in preventing foreign journalists from entering the Gaza Strip; through police attacks on Arab journalists operating within the Green Line; in the arrest and prosecution of Al-Alam TV's (Press TV) journalists for not informing the military censor before reporting live developments. See the International Federation of Journalists' (IFJ) press releases here (Jan 15), here (Jan 14) and here (Jan 12).

When the team clears the field, and the cheerleaders are left standing alone with exhausted pom-poms, it is sincerely hoped that they reflect on what exactly they have been cheering. Killing? Murder? Destruction? And for what ultimate good?

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