Archive | March, 2013

Exodus in the Media 2013

28 Mar

Posted on Times of Israel

With Passover in full swing, I’ve been thinking about how the Jewish actions in Egypt appeared quite harsh. The ten plagues devastated Egyptian society – land, sea and air – for an entire year. Talk about a “humanitarian crisis!”

So why does nobody ever think to criticize Moses (and God!) for inflicting such damage on the Egyptians?

The answer is that justice was clearly on the side of the Jews. They had been brutally victimized by Pharaoh – enslaved for 210 years, subjected to both torturous labor and mass infanticide. Before embarking on the plagues, Moses issued fair warnings to Pharaoh, and repeatedly offered a path toward peace and reconciliation.

Given that Pharaoh stubbornly rejected all appeals for a resolution, the Jewish response – although intense – was clearly defensive and justified. Indeed, 3,300 years later the majority of the civilized world uncritically accepts the Jews’ actions, as documented in the biblical book of Exodus.

What does this mean for us today?

Over the past 12 years of monitoring media coverage of the Mideast conflict – first as editor of HonestReporting, then as author of “David & Goliath” – I have documented a pervasive anti-Israel media bias: Whether the media’s frequent references to Israel’s prime minister as a “hardliner,” while Mahmoud Abbas is always a “moderate” (and according to the New York Times, even Hamas is “moderate”); or whether the media is accusing Israel of “war crimes” – while rocket and terror attacks from Gaza and Lebanon are presented as the brave work of “freedom fighters.”

This got me thinking: What if today’s media told the Passover story?

That’s the question my colleagues and I tried to answer in “Passover: Breaking News,” a new 2-minute parody that uses 21st century news websites to tell the Passover story.

We imagine CNN charging that “the Jewish lobby is orchestrating the plagues,” and how turning the Nile into blood has “triggered a grave humanitarian crisis.”

When the plague of locusts hits, we envision BBC reporting on the Jewish-Egyptian “cycle of violence,” with the United Nations holding an emergency session to condemn the Jews’ use of “excessive force.” On Al-Jazeera, the head of the U.N. Human Rights Council declares that the plagues are “sabotaging peace talks” and that the Jews “should go back to slavery, for the good of the rest of the world.”

“Passover: Breaking News” is also filled with many subtle spoofs of modern media: In the wake of the devastating plague of frogs, Oprah speaks of “five ways to find your inner frog.” A leading cardiologist warns of Pharaoh’s “hardening heart.” ESPN reports how the plague of darkness has interrupted the biggest chariot race of the year. As the Jews travel forth from Egypt, record-high bookings are reported for “Red Sea Getaways.” And God releases the Ten Commandments as a TED talk.

By juxtaposing the biblical story with today’s media, it highlights how absurd these media assaults tend to be. For just as the Jews 3,300 years ago were clearly justified in defending themselves from enemy attacks, so too today Israel must maintain confidence in the justice of our cause.


Media Myth: “Racist” Israel

21 Mar


Does racism against blacks exist in Israel?

That depends who you ask.

Ten years ago, Yityish “Titi” Aynaw was walking around barefoot in Ethiopia. She then made aliyah and today, the 21-year-old has served as an IDF officer, and was recently crowned Miss Israel.

This week, Titi will be having dinner alongside Barack Obama, sharing their common African heritage, and their common rise to success.

Yet the mainstream media would have you believe that Israel is a racist society that discriminates on the basis of skin color. Consider:

During the first months of his presidency, Obama enjoyed a 60 percent favorable rating among Israelis. Then, after harshly criticizing Israeli construction in Jerusalem, Obama’s popularity in Israel plummeted. The reason? According to Ethan Bronner of the New York Times, it had nothing to do with politics. Appearing on MSNBC’s Hardball (March 8, 2010), Bronner explained that Obama’s low popularity among Israelis was due to “racism.”

For viewers who may have missed it, host Chris Matthews helpfully added: “Because they see it as a black man.”

What a horrific distortion of the truth. Obviously, Obama was just as “black” during his period of huge popularity in Israel; the drop in support was purely a political, not racial, issue.

This “Israel is racist” fantasy was echoed by New York Times’ columnist Roger Cohen (March 15, 2010), who wrote that an Israeli cartoon which depicted “Obama cooking Netanyahu in a pot” was not a symbol of an Israeli politician in hot water, but rather the image of “a black man cooking a white man over an open fire.”

Genuine policy differences may exist, but why does the media shamefacedly interject racist hatred where none exists?

Granted, Ethiopian-Israelis experience some challenges in the form of social inequities, stereotypes, and integrating into Israeli society. But racism? Would “racist Israel” have airlifted tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews – marking the only time in history that blacks have been systematically moved from one country to another in freedom rather than in chains?

This week, when the first black Miss Israel dines with the first black U.S. President, the “let’s bash Israel” media will have a bit harder time concocting the imagery of Israelis as “racist.” But that won’t necessarily stop them from trying.

The New York Times’ Misnomer of “Non-violent” Palestinian Rock-throwers

17 Mar

pal-stonesThe great advocate of non-violent resistance, Mahatma Gandhi, never threw rocks.

Martin Luther King Jr. never threw rocks.

But according to the New York Times, Palestinians who throw rocks are following the “path of unarmed resistance.”

For its March 17 cover story (“Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?”), the Times’ Sunday magazine profiled the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh. But not until over 1,000 words into the story does reporter Ben Ehrenreich mention that the “unarmed” resisters routinely throw stones at Israelis. One of the Palestinians quoted explains that “I want to help my country and my village… I can just throw stones.” Another says, “We see stones as our message.”

When it comes to whitewashing Palestinian violence, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

In the West Bank town of Bilin, where Palestinian rioters regularly hurl rocks, Molotov cocktails and burning tires, 170 Israeli soldiers were injured during one 18-month period. So how did the Christian Science Monitor describe this violence? “Peaceful Palestinian Resistance is Paying Off” (February 11, 2010). The Los Angeles Times – under the front-page headline, “Palestinians Who See Nonviolence as Their Weapon” – described how Palestinian weapons consist of innocuous “bullhorn, banners, and a fierce belief” in “peaceful protest” (November 4, 2009). Incredibly, the Times suggests that 170 Israelis were injured after being overwhelmed by bullhorns and banners.

This same media mentality can spin even the most violent Palestinian groups as passive and calm. The Globe and Mail, Canada’s newspaper of record, bought into the false notion that Hamas – best known for perfecting the art of bus bombings, rocket fire and restaurant explosions – has evolved into “ethical,” “truthful,” “pragmatic” peaceniks who advocate “non-violent resistance.” (Patrick Martin, July 7, 2009; Orly Halpern, February 26, 2008)

If anyone had any doubt about whether rock-throwing was perhaps “peaceful,” the events of March 14, 2013 have proved otherwise. Rock-throwing Palestinians hit an Israeli bus, sending shards of glass into the driver’s eyes and causing the bus to go off the road.

As a truck swerved to avoid the bus, a car crashed and became trapped under the truck, resulting in serious injuries to a mother and her three children. One of them, 2-year-old daughter, Adele, is in life-threatening condition.

On a single evening last week, seven people were injured in 10 different rock-throwing attacks. One 10-month-old baby was severely injured by glass fragments to the face.

Over the years, dozens of Israeli civilians have been murdered and maimed by this “innocent” act of “resistance.”

Tragically, the more the media presents Palestinian violence as peaceful, the more Israel is stripped of its license to fight against them – endangering the very foundation of Israeli’s security.

This leaves just one question: Why does the media insist on covering all this up?