< link rel="DCTERMS.isreplacedby" href="http://bokertov.typepad.com/ btb/" >

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Media plagued by Mideast Relativism: Objective reality distorted in favor of the Palestinian regime

Dear HonestReporting Subscriber,

Media coverage of the Mideast conflict is plagued not only by specific episodes of bias, but also by a dangerous set of more subtle, underlying assumptions. To the typical Westerner, the media has generated the following desert mirage:

In this small stretch of arid land dwell two stubborn peoples, led by two even more stubborn elected leaders, and locked in a seemingly endless cycle of tit-for-tat violence. If only the two inflexible sides could be convinced to lay down arms and settle border differences, they could co-exist and the world could put this matter behind us.

The problem is that this depiction ignores what Western observers now recognize, after years of Palestinian violence, to lie at the heart of the conflict - a deep political and cultural clash between a free, Western democracy on the one hand, and a dictatorial thugocracy, fueled by radical Islam, on the other. As Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Bret Stephens recently stated: "The principal problem in the Middle East is not the unsettled status of our borders. It is the unsettling nature of Arab regimes - and of the bellicosity, fanaticism, and resentments to which they give rise."

In their overarching effort to "remain neutral," the media have settled into a pattern of distorting this objective reality - simultaneously beating Israel over the head with Israel's own organs of democracy, while granting "democratic" legitimacy to a corrupt and dictatorial Palestinian regime. For example, Associated Press recently quoted Yassir Arafat defending his ongoing rule:
"(Bush) has to remember that he had been elected by the Americans and he is representing the Americans, and I have been elected by the Palestinians and I am representing the Palestinians."
The democratic equivalency claimed by Arafat is absurd, yet AP supplies no qualifying statement such as "Arafat was elected with no legitimate opposition, and his term of office expired years ago."

By allowing such a statement to pass without comment, AP flattens key political-cultural differences, and distorts objective reality in favor of the Palestinian regime.

* * *

The Israeli Supreme Court

On September 30, an Israeli court sentenced three Israeli men to extended prison terms for plotting to bomb a Palestinian school. Newspaper editors and ombudsmen have written scores of articles to justify their refusal to call Palestinian suicide bombers "terrorists" ¯ yet news outlets such as AFP and BBC were quick to label the convicted Israelis a "terrorist network."

Striking in its absence was any contrast between Israel's system of justice for controlling extremists, and the utter lack of internal prosecution on the Palestinian side.

By skewing coverage of matters central to democratic process, the media give the impression of a level playing field. Far from achieving "media objectivity," this instead projects a distorted image of the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - a conflict of political cultures to which Western media consumers are increasingly left in the dark.