Media coverage of the Mideast violence has created a groundswell of protest in the Jewish community. Israel is largely portrayed as the aggressor, and events are frequently taken out of context, without presenting the very real threat to security that Israel faces.
CNN and BBC have been singled out for especially blatant bias toward the Palestinian side. Numerous articles have been written detailing these specific violations of objectively.
What is the source of this media bias? I believe there are three answers:
Reason #1 – Palestinian intimidation of journalists.
We expect journalists to maintain independence and objectivity -- and certainly not pledge "cooperation" with one side of an armed struggle. But in the current violence, journalists often weigh favorably toward the Palestinians because they are intimidated into doing so. This has been well-documented.
On October 18, a representative of Italian state television issued an apology in Arabic over the filming of the brutal lynching of two Israelis in Ramallah, and promised to cooperate more fully with the Palestinian Authority in the future.
By apologizing, the Italian journalist revealed that the Palestinian Authority indeed places guidelines on reporters, restricting their ability to objectively report the news. In the case of the Italian film crew, they had reportedly been receiving death threats.
British photographer Mark Seager told how he was "scared for my life" as he was punched in the face by a Palestinian and had his camera smashed to the floor -- when he tried to photograph scenes of the Ramallah lynching.
Aguirre Bertrand of France's TF1 says that Palestinian police took a tape of the Ramallah incident from his crew at gunpoint.
How can a journalist report honestly if his life is being threatened?
There are many more examples. BBC World Service reporter Paul Adams was recently assaulted by a Palestinian mob as he was covering an explosion in the Bethlehem headquarters of a Palestinian militia. The BBC chose not to cover the attack on its reporter, for fear of reprisals.
By contrast, Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East. No other country in the region allows photojournalists to film riots, wars or police actions within their borders. So by that fact alone, coverage gets skewed.
Reason #2 -- It's more exciting to root for the underdog.
In almost every competition -- military, political, business, or athletic -- there's not much excitement if the stronger side wins as expected. So Western society has made a habit of rooting for the underdog. Not only does it make the event more exciting, but it gives us hope that our own less-than-perfect lives can take a dramatic turnaround.
We all know the Biblical story of David, armed with only a slingshot, who slew the giant Goliath. That image was applied to the Israelis who repelled attempted annihilation by invading Arab armies in 1948 and 1967.
But now, with Israel's superior military might, and the Palestinians brandishing their slingshots on CNN, the world has reversed the labels. Israel has become Goliath.
This imagery sells newspapers and increases TV ratings. And in a world fed a steady diet of Super Bowls and Academy Awards, the moral truth is often less important than the thrill of an underdog victory.
Reason #3 -- The world applies a double-standard of morality to Israel.
Charles Krauthammer writes in The New Republic:
"It is plain that compared with the way its neighbors treat protestors, prisoners and opposition in general, Israel is a beacon of human rights. The salient words are Hama, a town where Syria dealt with an Islamic uprising by killing perhaps 20,000 people in two weeks and then paving the dead over; and Black September (1970), during which enlightened Jordan dealt with its Palestinian intifada by killing at least 2,500 Palestinians in ten days, a toll that the Israel intifada would need ten years to match."
So why does the world apply this double-standard?
Ever since Abraham first introduced to humanity the concept of monotheism, the Jewish people have become the torch-bearers of the moral message. The Ten Commandments codified the idea that you can't just live as you please; there is one God for all humanity who makes moral demands on human beings. Disseminating this message became the Jewish mission as a "Light Unto the Nations." And despite the fact that Jews were never more than a tiny fraction of the world's population, these ideas became the basis for the civilized world.
Why would anyone hate the Jewish message? Says Aldous Huxley in his book "Confessions of an Atheist":
"I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently, I assumed that it had none and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom."
Jews became a lightening rod for those opposed to the moral message. If Jews behaved well, they made those around them feel deficient. If they misbehaved, those around them felt relieved of the moral demands the Jews represented in history. So... many people (journalists among them) have a vested interest in portraying Jews in a negative light.
Hitler expressed it bluntly:
"Providence has ordained that I should be the greatest liberator of humanity. I am freeing man from the restraints of an intelligence that has taken charge, from the dirty and degrading self-mortifications of a false vision called conscience and morality, and from the demands of a freedom and personal independence which only a very few can bear."
For more on this topic, visit the "Why the Jews" online seminar, which explains the roots of anti-Semitism. (http://aish.com/seminars/whythejews/index.htm)