GOOD MORNING! Did you ever suspect that the media may be biased against Israel? However, did you think that perhaps you're over-reacting because just like everything looks like a nail to a carpenter, everything looks like anti-Semitism to a Jew? To point, the classic story of the stutterer who wasn't hired as an announcer at a radio station because "th-ey-ey are are are anti-se-se-meh-tic!"
For example, do you remember the NY Times photo of the Israeli soldier, club high in the air, with a bleeding young man at his feet? The caption read, "An Israeli policeman and a Palestinian on the Temple Mount." They only made 3 mistakes in the caption: 1) It was an Israeli soldier. 2) It was a Jewish young man who was brutally beaten and barely escaped with his life from an Arab lynch mob. 3) It wasn't on the Temple Mount (there was a gas station sign behind the soldier -- and the one thing that both Arabs and Jews ... and perhaps even the NY Times ... can agree upon is that there is not a gas station on the Temple Mount!
Mark Twain once said, "If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're misinformed." Is media bias against Israel just a matter of sloppy journalism -- or is something really going on?
There is an old Jewish saying that "If one person calls you a donkey, ignore him. If two people call you a donkey -- buy a saddle!" I think that more than one person has called the NY Times and the media a donkey...
Recently, one of the foremost experts on media and media bias, Shraga Simmons, published a truly insightful book, David & Goliath (www.DavidAndGoliathBook.com). The author was the founding editor of HonestReporting.com, a media bias watchdog group. This book sets forth fact after fact of media bias in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The 450 page, well-documented (2,000 footnotes!) book is a fascinating page turner with the inside scoop on the stories that have irritated you over the years -- the "Massacre" in Jenin, Gaza War and "Excessive Force," CNN, faked photography, staged videos...
Two examples of media bias:
1) It is striking that when President Obama's popularity dropped in Israel after a dispute over Israeli construction in Jerusalem, Ethan Bronner of the New York Times opined that it had nothing to do with politics. Appearing on MSNBC's Hardball, Bronner explained that Obama's low popularity among Israelis was due to "racism." For viewers who may have missed it, host Chris Matthews added: "Because they see him as a black man." These journalists forget that "racist Israel" has granted asylum to black Muslims fleeing the war in Sudan, and that "racist Israel" airlifted tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews.
2) When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the genocidal threat that "Israel must be wiped off the map," the New York Times cleverly re-translated the original Farsi into the far milder wish that Israel should "vanish from the pages of time." The New York Times chose to ignore the fact that the Iranian government has erected billboards in Teheran with the phrase "Israel should be wiped out of the face of the world" in plain English. Reuters spins his declaration as "Ahmadinejad has repeatedly forecast the imminent disappearance of the Jewish state" -- making it sound like a weather report rather than a call for genocide!
What can you do about media bias? The best way to fight media bias is to create an awareness of it and aim to get the media to tell the impartial truth. 1) Put yourself in the journalist's shoes. The media is more responsive to constructive criticism than to pressure. Don't demand that they adopt your viewpoint, rather insist on accurate and impartial reporting. Be respectful and praise good reporting. 2) Mobilize a monitoring group -- perhaps join the over 100,000 members of HonestReporting.com which monitors media bias, sends out articles with analysis, suggested letters of response and email addresses of writers, editors and publishers. 3) Pick your battle. Refrain from nitpicking. Focus on one key idea like labeling suicide bombers as "terrorists." 4) Meet face to face with reporters and editors to establish a relationship. 5) Take the protest public -- if the media agency ignores your reasoned criticism and continues to be biased and belligerent. (Read pages 426-429 in David & Goliath.)
Why is the media biased? Writes Simmons:
1) "Underdogma." In 1948 the Jews were the underdog -- a ragtag bunch of Holocaust survivors and kibbutz farmers fending off 7 invading Arab armies. After the Six Day War the Palestinians had become the "slingshot-wielding David" against the mighty tanks of the Israeli Goliath. Support for the underdog is built into the American psyche. Studies show that when given a choice, people root for the underdog to win 81% of the time.
2) Intimidation. This atmosphere of threats and intimidation leads to self-censorship: A journalist carefully omits negative information about Palestinians that could endanger his future access or even his life. Any journalist not "respecting the rules" puts his life in danger, as dozens of Western journalists – from Fox News, BBC and Newsweek – have discovered when they were kidnapped in recent years by armed Palestinian factions.
Then again, there is probably some truth to the old adage, "That just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean you don't have enemies." Just because Israel is a Jewish state doesn't mean that there aren't anti-Semites in the media... Get a copy of David & Goliath -- the Wall Street Journal says it is of "crucial importance for the future of the Middle East." The book creates an airtight case for Israel.
Torah Portion of the Week
The Jewish people received the Torah on Mt. Sinai and were ready to enter the land of Israel. There was a consensus of opinion amongst the people that we should send spies to see if it was feasible to conquer the Land. Moshe knew that the Almighty's promise to give the Land included a guarantee to conquer it. However, one of the principles of life which we learn from this portion is: the Almighty allows each of us the free will to go in the direction we choose. Even though one man and the Almighty is a majority, Moshe -- by Divine decree -- sent out the princes of the tribes (men of the highest caliber) to spy out the land.
Twelve spies were sent. Ten came back with a report of strong fortifications and giants; they rallied the people against going up to the Land. Joshua ben Nun and Calev ben Yefunah (Moshe's brother-in-law) tried to stem the rebellion, but did not succeed. The Almighty decreed 40 years of wandering in the desert, one year for each day they spied in the land of Israel. This happened on the 9th of Av, a date noted throughout Jewish history for tragedy -- the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain amongst them.
* * *
This week's Torah portion tells the story of the Spies' report regarding the land of Israel. What they saw was good, so what caused this negative report?
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 104b) finds the answer in the biblical book of Lamentations. The first chapter in the form of an acrostic, with each successive verse beginning with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. There is one exception, however: The verse beginning with the letter "pey" precedes the verse starting with the letter "ayin," reversing their alphabetical order.
"Pey" is spelled the same as the Hebrew word for "mouth," and "ayin" means "eye." The alphabetical order is reversed, explains the Talmud, because the Spies sinned by preceding their mouths to their eyes -- reporting things they didn't actually see. They decided what they wanted to say and then looked for the "evidence" to support their agenda. The lesson is clear for us: to report honestly what we see without having an agenda.
CANDLE LIGHTING - June 15
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
A wise man hears one word and understands two
-- Yiddish Proverb
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