THE ISRAEL REPORTJanuary/February 2001
Truth and Fiction in the Middle Eastby Joseph Farah
Whenever I write about the Mideast, I am confronted by readers who are understandably skeptical of news and analysis so contrary to what they read, hear and see in much of the rest of the media establishment.
The January 2001 issue of Commentary magazine contains an article by an Italian journalist covering the Middle East who can understand my sense of frustration.
"The information coming out of Israel these days is heavily influenced by the political imagination of reporters and columnists and cameramen who have flocked to the scene from the four corners of the earth to cover this latest installment of violence in the ongoing Middle East conflict," writes Fiamma Nirenstein, who writes for the daily La Stampa and the weekly Panorama. "They tend -- they are expected -- to place those clashes within an agreed-upon framework: the framework, roughly, of David (the Palestinians) versus Goliath (the Israelis). It is only when they fail to follow this paradigm that they, their editors and their readers or viewers become confused."
Confused, I might add, by the facts.
"The culture of the press is almost entirely Left," she writes in an article translated from Italian. "These are people who feel the weakness of democratic values; who enjoy the frisson of sidling up to a threatening civilization that coddles them even while holding in disdain the system they represent."
In her blistering critique of her international colleagues in the press, Nirenstein makes a profound point: Even the most articulate and bold defenders of Israel seldom proclaim for newsmen that Israel has an absolute right to protect itself from violence directed at its citizens and soldiers. Yet, as she states so eloquently, "By contrast, Palestinian spokesmen like Hanan Ashrawi or Ziad abu Ziad or Saeb Erekat never miss an opportunity to begin their story from the top: This is our land, and ours alone, and the Jews who are occupying it are employing armed force against an unarmed people."
What's at the root of this media caricature?
Nirenstein has two more cogent observations:
"It is not just that we are talking about a profession, the world press, that is almost entirely uniform in its attitudes," she writes. "The truth is that Israel, as the Jewish state, is also the object of a contemporary form of anti-Semitism that is no less real for being masked or even unconscious. (Arab Holocaust-denial, more violent and vulgar than anything in the West, is rarely if ever touched on in the mainstream media.)
"And there is something else as well: looking into the heart of the Arab regimes, preeminently including that of the Palestinians themselves, is simply too disturbing. For what one is liable to find there are disproportionate measures of religious and/or political fanaticism, bullying, corruption, lies, manipulation and a carefully nurtured cult of victimhood that rationalizes every cruelty."
I don't think I've ever seen anyone else say it quite so well.
Could the press possibly be this blind, this biased, this manipulated?
That question reminds me of a little-known historical parallel that illustrates just how egregiously the press can and does ignore the truth -- even when it is there for anyone to see.
From 1903 through 1908, two young bicycle mechanics from Ohio repeatedly claimed to have built a flying machine. They demonstrated it over and over again to hundreds of people, obtained affidavits from prominent citizens who witnessed their efforts and even produced photographs of their invention at work.
Nevertheless, Orville and Wilbur Wright were dismissed as frauds and hoaxers in the Scientific American, the New York Herald and by the U.S. Army and many American scientists.
But as Richard Milton points out in his entertaining book, "Alternative Science," the real shocker is that even local newspapers in the Wrights' home town of Dayton ignored the story in their backyard for five years.
Despite the fact that witnesses repeatedly visited and wrote to the Dayton Daily News and Dayton Journal over those years asking about the young men in their flying machine, no reporters were dispatched. No photographers were assigned.
Asked in 1940 about his refusal to publish anything about the sensational accomplishments of the Wrights during those years, Dayton Daily News city editor Dan Kumler said: "We just didn't believe it. Of course, you remember that the Wrights at that time were terribly secretive."
When the interviewer pointed out that the Wrights were flying over an open field just outside of town for five years, Kumler grew more candid: "I guess the truth is we were just plain dumb."
I wonder what excuses the international press will have when the truth about their current heroes in the Middle East is no longer possible to conceal.
Joseph Farah is editor and chief executive officer of WorldNetDaily.com, and writes a daily column
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