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Media coverage is increasingly anti-Israel

April 22, 2002

“He kept bleeding” was a large front-page headline in the April 3 Washington Post. The story was about a wounded Palestinian who died in Bethlehem after Israeli forces refused to let ambulances into the fire zone. The Israelis said snipers were still active. Also they may have been suspicious of the local ambulance corps after a belt of explosives was discovered under the stretcher of a 3-year-old boy.Maybe the Israelis were just being monsters, as the press increasingly seems to think. But the level of “he-kept-bleeding” and “they’ve-killed-my-wife” coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli war is quite high. Another Washington Post headline was “Father, son dead, family wonders why.” This is a very unusual way to cover combat, particularly when there are no neutral observers around to back up stories supplied by angry partisans.The British press is filled with this stuff, and the hostility to Israel is impossible to miss. American reporters are more professional, but focusing on highly emotional “they’ve killed my wife” coverage is dicey. It tells us nothing about what we need to know — whether the killing of civilians was incidental or intentional, massive or minor. After all, “they’ve killed my wife” journalism can be churned out after “collateral damage” in almost any battle in any war.

In contrast, I don’t see much emotional coverage of the Israeli civilians intentionally blown up by Palestinian bombers. Most attacks pass without any notice in the press. The coverage we do get is dry and matter-of-fact. In February, for instance, CNN’s Web site mentioned the “killing of two Israelis” by a suicide bomber. The bomber was identified, but there were no names of victims, no details about the horrific damage to other teens by flying nails embedded in the bomb, and not even a mention that one of the two dead was an American citizen.

Palestinian bombers, on the other hand, tend to get more vivid treatment, often with endearing photos and warm, human-interest touches. The New York Times reported that one bomber “raised doves and adored children,” though this adoration apparently did not extend to the children being bombed.

Part of the problem is that the attacks on Israeli civilians are too common to be considered news. Also some reporters think Israel should shut up about suicide bombers and just learn to live with the problem. A report on the ABC News Web site struck this note the other day, pointing out that suicide bombers are nothing new, and besides, “Terrorism experts also note that a society’s propensity to get rattled by suicide bomber attacks also contributes to the effectiveness of such attacks.” ABC said Sri Lanka has adjusted calmly to suicide attacks by the Black Tiger bombers.

Of course, Sri Lanka has suffered about 200 bombings. Israel, when you add in all the non-suicide bombings, shootings and so forth, has suffered many thousands of terror attacks. In the eight weeks ending April 7, the Israeli government reported 1,495 attacks. That’s 27 per day. It’s a staggering onslaught aimed at breaking the nation’s will to survive. Israel is supposed to adjust to this and not get rattled?

The media, meanwhile, haven’t been rattled by other stories that have spun out of the current Middle East crisis. The takeover of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlethem has not evoked much journalistic response, even though one Franciscan monk says the barricaded Palestinians grained entrance by shooting off the locks. Presumably if Christians took over a mosque in Mecca, coverage would be more intense.

The media have also given short shrift to the startling rise of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment in Europe and the apparent inability of the French government to do much about attacks on synagogues. Could rising anti-Israeli sentiment in Europe be partly driven by a fear of violence from its Muslim immigrant population? Don’t turn to the morning paper or the evening news for answers.

Another underreported topic is the new alliance on U.S. campuses between Muslim militants and conventional hate-America, hate-Israel lefties. The militants failed in their first attempt to silence a pro-Israel speaker (Daniel Pipes at the University of Washington). But they will get more skilled, particularly with the help of the lefties, who are experienced at this sort of thing.

Some odd attitudes are now on the loose among our media and our intelligentsia. Astonishingly, human-rights groups are calling for a divestment campaign against Israel like the one that targeted racist South Africa. Israel equals South Africa? Get serious. An open and democratic nation, Israel deserves our respect and honest coverage from our media.

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