"Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News"
by Bernard Goldberg, published by Regnery Publishing, Inc.
Chapter 14, "Connecting the Dots...to Terrorism."
...Was what happened on September 11 a subversion of Islam, as pundits and journalists on network and cable TV told us over and over again? Or was it the results of an honest reading of the Koran? It's true, of course, that if taken too literally by uncritical minds, just about any holy book can lead to bad things. Still why are there no Christians suicide bombers, or Jewish suicide bombers, or Hindu suicide bombers, or Buddhist suicide bombers, but no apparent shortage of Muslim suicide bombers? If Islam is "a religion of peace" as so many people from President Bush on down were telling us (and, for what it's worth, I'm prepared to believe that it is), then what exactly is it in the Koran that so appeals to these Islamic fanatics? Don't look for that answer on the network news...
I understand that even to ask questions about a possible connection between Islam and violence is to tread into politically incorrect terrain. But it seems to me that the media need to go there anyway. And any network that can put thousands of stories on the air about sex and murder should be able to give us a few on the atmosphere that breeds religious zealotry. It might have helped us see what was coming on September 11.
In fact, I learned much more about the atmosphere that breeds suicide bombers from one short article in Commentary magazine than I have from watching twenty years of network television news. In its September 2001 issue (which came out before the attack on America), there was an article by Fiamma Nirenstein, an Italian Journalist based in Israel, entitled "How Suicide Bombers Are Made." In it, she tells about a "river of hatred" that runs through not just the most radical of Arab nations but also much of what we like to think of as the "moderate" Arab world.
She tells us about a series of articles that ran in the leading government-sponsored newspaper in Egypt, Al Ahram, about how Jews supposedly use the blood of Christians to make matzah for Passover. She tells us about a hit song in Cairo, Damascus, and the West Bank with the catchy title "I Hate Israel."
...Can you imagine if the big hit song in Israel was "I Hate Palestine" or "I Hate Arabs"? The New York Times would have put the story on page one and then run an editorial just to make sure we all got the message -- that the song is indecent and contributes to an atmosphere of hate. And since the Times sets the agenda for the networks, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, and Peter Jennings would have all fallen into line and run big stories on their evening newscasts, too, saying the exact same thing. A week later, Mike Wallace would have landed in Tel Aviv looking absolutely mortified that those Jews would do such a thing.
...It's true that not long after the twin towers of the World Trade Center came tumbling down, the networks showed us pictures of Palestinians in East Jerusalem honking their horns, firing their guns into the air, and generally having a good old time celebrating the death of so many Americans in New York and Washington. They cheered "God is great" while they handed out candy, which is a tradition in the Arab world when something good happens.
...But here the media -- apparently feeling squeamish about stories that put the "underdogs" in a bad light - keep us virtually in the dark. And it's not just little tidbits like "I Hate Israel" and articles about Jews taking Christian blood that I -- and almost all Americans -- knew nothing about.
...[T]hat kind of news makes liberal journalists uneasy. After all, these are the same people who bend over backwards to find "moral equivalence" between Palestinian terrorists who blow up discos in Tel Aviv filled with teenagers, on the one hand, and Israeli commandos who preemptively kill terrorist ringleaders before they send their suicide bombers into Israel on a mission to kill Jews, on the other.
On September 11, right after the networks showed us the pictures of Palestinians celebrating American deaths, they also showed us Yasser Arafat expressing his condolences and giving blood for the American victims. This, in its way, represented a kind of moral equivalence: while some Palestinians celebrate, the news anchors were suggesting, their leader does not; he is somber and, we're led to believe, absolutely shocked. But we could have done with a little less moral equivalence on the part of the press and a little more tough journalism. Someone should have asked the leader of Palestinian people if he understood that the cultures that he and other "moderate" Arab leaders preside over "carefully nurture and inculcate resentments and hatreds against American and the non-Arab world," as a Wall Street Journal editorial put it. And if that's asking too much of a field reporter covering a seemingly shaken and distraught Arafat in the wake of September 11, then an anchor back in New York should have wondered out loud about that very connection.
But to have asked such a question might have been viewed as anti-Arab (and therefore pro- Israeli), and reporters and anchors would rather be stoned by an angry mob in Ramallah than be seen in that light. So we didn't learn that day if Chairman Arafat quite understood his role in the celebration he so deplored. Nor did we get an explanation on the news about why there were not thousands of other Arabs in the streets -- on the West Bank or in Jerusalem or in the "moderate" Arab countries -- expressing their condolences. Was it because they were afraid to show support for American victims of terrorism? Or was it because they, like the Palestinians we saw with great big smiles, didn't feel that bad about what happened?
...None of this is an argument that the media are intentionally pro-Arab. Rather like the U.S. State Department, they are pro "moral equivalence." If they connect the dots with stories on the news about hit songs called "I Hate Israel" and all the rest, the Arab world will accuse the "Jewish-controlled" American media of being sympathetic to "Israeli oppression."
...But moral equivalence and the quest for evenhanded journalism should not stop the media from telling us more -- much more in my view -- about the kind of backwardness and hatred that is alive and well, not just in places like Kabul and Baghdad, but in "moderate" cities and villages all over the Arab world. Even if it means going against their liberal sensibilities and reporting that sometimes even the underdog can be evil
"We have to know how to say that the free press is a failure when it lies, and that it does lie," writes Nirenstein. "We have to say that all human rights are violated when a people is denied the right of self-defense, and that right is denied of Israel."
Somebody on a European radio program said that after the diffusion of the images of Muhammed al Dura, Europe could finally forget the famous picture of the boy in the Warsaw ghetto with his hands raised. The meaning of this statement, often repeated in other forms, is obliteration of the Holocaust through the overlapping of Israel and Nazism, namely racism, genocide, ruthless elimination of civilians, women and children, an utterly unwarranted eruption of cruelty and the most brutal instincts. It means pretending to believe blindly, without investigation, the Palestinian version of a highly disputed episode and of many, many others; it means taking for granted the "atrocities" that the Palestinian spokespersons always talk about, and ignoring every proof or fact that doesn't serve this position...
“As a journalist, I must mention the significant contribution of the mass media to this new anti-Semitism. Since the beginning of the Intifada, freedom fighter journalists, grown in the Guevara and Fedayeen campus, have given the Israeli-Palestinian conflict some of the most biased coverage in the history of journalism. Here are the main problems that lead to distorted reporting of the Intifada:
1) Lack of historic depth in attributing responsibility for its outbreak. In other words, failure to repeat the story of the Israeli offer of a Palestinian state and of Arafat's refusal which, in essence, is a refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, and which continues the almost 70-year old Arab rejection of partition of the land of Israel between Arabs and Jews as recommended by the British in 1936, decided by the UN in 1947 and always accepted by the Jewish representatives.
2) Failure, right from the very first clashes at the checkpoints, to assign responsibility for the first deaths to the fact that, unlike in the first Intifada, in the second the IDF faced armed fighters hiding in the midst of the unarmed crowd.
3) Failure to recognize the enormous influence of the cultural pressure on the Palestinians from the systematic education in Palestinian schools and mass media, vilifying Jews and Israelis and idealizing terrorist acts of murder and mayhem.
4) Describing the death of Palestinian children without identifying the circumstances in which they occurred. The equating of civilian losses of Israelis with those of the Palestinians, as if terrorism and war against it were the same thing, and as if intentional killing was the same as a deplored consequence of a difficult and new type of fight.
5) Using Palestinian sources to certify events, as if Palestinian sources were the most reliable. I am thinking of Jenin, of the unconfirmed reports that passed to printed pages or TV screens as absolute truth. In contrast, Israeli sources, which are very often reliable, are seen as subservient, prejudiced and unworthy of attention, despite the country's aggressive, free and open journalism, and the equally determined criticism of government policies by opposition parties, conscience objectors, commentators and journalists.
6) Manipulation of the order in which the news are given and of the news itself. The headlines give the number of Palestinians killed or wounded in most articles, at least in Europe, before describing the gunfights and their causes, and linger on the age and family stories of the terrorists. The purposes of the IDF actions, such as capturing terrorists, destroying arms factories or hiding places and bases for attacks against Israel, are rarely mentioned. On the contrary, Israel's operations are often described as completely uncalled for, bizarre, wicked and useless.
7) Manipulation of language, taking advantage of the great confusion about the definition of "terrorism" and "terrorist." This too is an old issue, connected to the concept of freedom fighter, so dear to my generation.
A few days ago, at a checkpoint, I was doing some interviews. It soon became clear to me that the use of the word "terrorist" sounded to each one of my Palestinian interlocutors a capital political and semantic sin. The press has learned this very well: the occupation is the cause of everything, terrorism is called resistance and does not exist per se. Terrorists who kill women and children are called militants, or fighters. An act of terrorism is often "a fire clash," even when only babies and old men are shot inside their cars on a highway. It is also interesting to note that a young shahid is a cause of deep pride for the Palestinian struggle, but if you ask how a child of twelve can be sent to die and why young children are indoctrinated to do such acts, the answer is: "Come on, a child can't be a terrorist. How can you call a 12 year old boy a terrorist?"
This is perhaps the most crucial point: Given the fact that there is a ferocious debate on the definition of terrorism, it is widely accepted that terrorism is a way of fighting. This is a semantic and substantial gift of the new anti-Semitism, where it is natural for a Jew to be dead. Namely, intentionally targeting civilians to cause fear and disrupt the morale of Israel is not a moral sin. It doesn't raise world indignation, and if it does, it hides in its folds some or much sympathy for the terrorist aggressor. What the European press fails to or doesn't want to understand is that terror is a condemnable and forbidden way of fighting, regardless of the specific political goal it tries to achieve.
8) The media have promoted the extravagant concept that the settlers, including women and children, are not real human beings.
They present settlers as pawns in a dangerous game they choose to play. Their deaths are almost natural and logical events. In a way, they asked for it.
On the other hand, when a Hamas commander is killed, even though he obviously "asked for it," an ethical, philosophical debate arises on the perfidy of extra-judicial death sentences. This would certainly be a licit debate, were it not for the grotesque double standard on which worldwide press bases it.
9) Not to go overlooked is that censorship and corruption within the PA and the physical elimination of its political enemies is hardly ever covered.
Fiamma Nirenstein, veteran Italian journalist and Jerusalem correspondent for the daily La Stampa,
United Nations resolutions on Israel
Statement by US Ambassador
An open letter to the Palestinians
Mourning the dove of peace
Israel’s peculiar position
It’s those Jews again!