July 29, 2014

Middle East Media Sampler for February 23, 2012


Introduction

In the mid 90's I started a weekly news sheet that carried the unwieldy title "News and comment from Israel that you probably didn't read elsewhere." In the early days of the internet it wasn't difficult to find news stories that weren't covered by the major media about Israel. Each sheet carried about four stories a week from sources such as Arutz-7, IMRA, Shomron News Service and Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There was news that wasn't getting covered in the mainstream media and I wanted others to know about it.

Now more than fifteen years later, it still sometimes seems that news gathering resources are limited when it comes to certain stories.

1) Under-reported news – Blackout edition

In January, 2008, in response to rocket attacks from Gaza, Israel didn't allow fuel to be imported into Gaza. Ellen Knickmeyer of the Washington Post reported (as republished in the San Diego Union-Tribune):

Gaza's only power plant ceased operating in the Gaza Strip yesterday, plunging much of the territory of 1.5 million Palestinians into darkness and winter cold. Palestinian officials said a three-day-old Israeli blockade had exhausted the fuel needed to run the plant.

Two days later, The New York Times reported:

After widespread criticism of its decision to cut off supplies of industrial diesel oil required to run a power station that serves Gaza City and its hospitals, Israel resumed fuel shipments on Tuesday on what it said would be a temporary basis.

The European Union, which pays for the fuel, called the cutoff “collective punishment,” but Israeli officials said they were simply trying to convince Gazans of the need to stop militants from firing rockets into Israeli towns and farms.

Currently there's another blackout in Gaza, but neither the New York Times nor Washington Post have reported on it.

Last week Elder of Ziyon noted that Gaza was going to suffering from blackouts. Initially this was due to Egyptian actions and the refusal of Hamas to buy fuel from Israel. By following Palestinian sources, Elder of Ziyon was able to discern a reason why Hamas engineered this crisis. The question is why a blackout caused when Israel is trying to protect its citizens is news but when Hamas does it for its own cynical purposes it's not news.

2) Under-reported news – Abbas edition

This past summer the Knesset passed a bill opening up those who promote boycotts of Israel to litigation. Joel Greenberg of the Washington Post reported:

Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which is leading the planned court challenge, called it “a clear-cut freedom-of-speech case.” El-Ad said Israelis have used boycotts as a legitimate protest tool on a variety of issues, most recently to force a lowering of the price of cottage cheese. “Why should it be legal to boycott cottage cheese, but illegal to boycott the occupation?” he said.

Isabel Kershner of the New York Times reported:

Critics and civil rights groups denounced the new law as antidemocratic and a flagrant assault on the freedom of expression and protest. The law’s defenders said it was a necessary tool in Israel’s fight against what they called its global delegitimization.

One can argue that this law is counterproductive, but it was hardly an assault on Israel democracy as portrayed by its critics. There are similar laws in other countries and this law, like all others passed by the Knesset, is subject to review.

There is a real assault on liberty going on in the Middle East that hasn't been reported by either the New York Times or Washington Post. That is Mahmoud Abbas's continuing efforts to consolidate his power that has been followed by Challah Hu Akbar (both at Israelly Cool and his own blog).

At the end of January, Challah Hu Akbar noted the efforts Abbas was making life for his opponents difficult. This has continued as Abbas has cracked down on journalists who are critical of him too. Abbas's efforts are continuing but are entirely ignored by the mainstream media.

Again why is a law passed by the Knesset portrayed as an assault on democracy, but a very real assault on democracy, but carried out by Mahmoud Abbas, ignored?

Conclusion

In the mid 1990's there was perhaps an excuse not to be cognizant of alternative news sources. Now no such excuse exists. If a reporter is unaware of a story it is often because he or she chooses to be.

Often, bias against Israel in the media is seen in how news is reported. In these cases the bias is demonstrated by what is not reported.

About Daniel Goldstein

Daniel Goldstein is a media critic and recovering blogger. He has been critiquing media bias against Israel since his first letter to the editor in 1987.