Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The media game: ‘Demonize Israel’. It’s easy to follow

Surely you’ve noticed that news media play a game. It’s called, ‘Demonize Israel’.

Actually, the media play two separate games: the ‘headline game’ and the ‘story game’. You can follow their games this way: look for news about Israel; find a headline (or a complete story) that puts Israel into a bad light; read it; then count how many reader comments bash the ‘Joos’.

Sometimes, the game gets complex. A news item can play both the 'headline' game and the 'story' game simultaneously.

Here are two stories which illustrate how this game works. The first item highlights the ‘headline game’. The second illustrates the ‘story game’.

Recently the Washington Post played both the headline and the story game (Ruth Eglash, “How did 8 Chinese tourists end up paying $4,390 at an Israeli hummus joint?”, washingtonpost, September 11, 2016). For this particular metaphoric knife-stab into Israel, the headline announced  that Chinese tourists in Israel supposedly got ‘ripped-off’ by an Israeli restaurant. The story itself tried to elaborate.

What does the headline word ‘Israeli’ tell you? It tells you, ‘Jews!’

This headline-story combination attempted to demonize a restaurant incident where eight Chinese tourists in Israel spent more than $4,000USD for a meal. The meal was at an Israeli hummus ‘joint’ (buying hummus isn’t like buying caviar; it’s cheap stuff). 

It’s not until the story’s fourth paragraph that you learn that the restaurant owner’s name is Jawdat Ibrahim. He’s not Jewish.

Mr Ibrahim (an Arab) owns a restaurant in an Israeli Arab town. The tourists in this story hadn’t eaten in a Jewish town. They ate in an Arab town in an Arab hummus joint. The word, ‘joint’ suggests a greasy eatery that may not even know what the word, ‘silverware’ means. This joint charged them $4,390USD.

There’s just one problem. This Arab eatery isn’t a ‘greasy spoon’. It isn’t a ‘joint’. It’s a famous restaurant (Wolfgang Georg Arlt, “No, Chinese Tourists Weren't Ripped Off In Israel”, forbes, September 14, 2016).

You also have to read past the third paragraph to learn that, when this story first aired, Israel’s Foreign Ministry immediately was so concerned that something outrageous had occurred that it launched a search for the Chinese tourists—to find out why they had paid so much for this meal. How’s that for tourist treatment in Israel?

 Second, the Arab who owned the restaurant told reporters that his prices for that meal were fair, given what the tourists ordered. He even provided the bill and added that, if the tourists had felt ripped off, why did they add a ten percent tip when they paid?

Was this really about an Israeli rip-off? Supposedly—but it wasn’t a Jewish Israeli rip-off; and it may not even have been a rip-off at all.

The headline and the part of story content most people would read before moving on (the first three paragraphs) just tried to make it look that way.

That's how many of these stories are written. You don't begin to get the true picture of what happened until deep enough into the story that most 'cruising' readers would miss.

For this story, Jewbashing reader comments were outnumbered by comments about the story’s author, Ruth Eglash. The best comment: “The sneering reference to this restaurant as a "hummus joint" is a pathetic attempt to once again turn something great about Israel into a negative by Ruthi Eglash, using the well-honed axe she keeps for her reporting from Israel…I have eaten at this restaurant, and one thin (sic) it certainly is not is "a hummus joint"…It is a top scale restaurant, with excellent food...and excellent service” (reader comment, Eglash, ibid). 

The second news story showed how the ‘story game’ alone works to demonize Israel. This story was by Imran Khan: “The politics of an accident in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”, aljazeera, September 11, 2016.

In this essay, a tragic incident was hijacked to bash Israel. In a ‘Palestinian’ town south of Bethlehem, a 6-year old girl was killed in the street in front of her house by a car driven by a ‘settler’—a Jew. Both Israeli and ‘Palestinian’ authorities said this was an accident (ibid). When the accident happened, the driver of the car stopped, got out and cried, ‘What did I do! What did I do’ (ibid). The family of the child said that a Jew—either the driver or another ‘settler’—was the person who called for medical help (ibid).

After stating these facts, the writer added that Jewish ‘settlements’ are [supposedly] illegal, Palestinians are ‘subject to [Israeli] military law’ and Israeli soldiers stood ‘a short distance’ from the house of the deceased child when the writer visited the family. He didn’t explain why any of this added information was relevant to the accident. He wrote only one additional item directly linked to the tragedy: the Jewish driver of the car will not ‘be brought to justice and will not face prosecution’.

But this wasn’t true. Israeli authorities are still investigating the incident, to see if prosecution is appropriate (ibid).

It didn't matter. The writer simply concluded that this lack of prosecution (against the driver) was “yet another example of life under occupation”.  

Wait a minute. Do we expect every driver involved in a fatal accident always to face prosecution? Is there ‘justice’ in such an accident only when a driver is prosecuted? More important for Israel, in this case above, was the lack of prosecution of the Jewish driver understandable only when it stands as a typical example of (harsh) life under Israeli ‘occupation’?

The answer to all three questions is, no. First, a driver involved in a fatal accident will not always face prosecution, especially when he acted responsibly immediately after the accident. A fatal accident does not, by definition, create a ‘prosecutable event’. Second, justice isn’t simply about arrest/prosecution. It’s primarily about finding the truth about what’s happened—and then applying applicable law fairly. Third, this story did nothing to explain how death-by-accident is ‘yet another example’ of harsh living under ‘occupation’.  

But the story did put Israel in a bad light—and that’s what counts in the ‘Demonize Israel’ game.

There were 292 comments on this story on the day I found it online. I didn’t read them all. But I’d say Jewbashers lost this one, too. Sample comments:

-I feel sorry for the little girl. But apparently al Jazeera is running out of Israel bashing articles if they made a whole article trying to demonize Israelis over a car accident.

- Articles like these intend to bring the anti-Semitic racists out for a chat.  Nowhere is there any indication the driver was at fault.  Good job Aljazeera.

- Hey…I surely will call an ambulance after ACCIDENTALLY hitting you. These settlers are EASTERN EUROPEAN savages, as if YOU did not know that.

Try your own hand at this game. See if you can spot the ‘headline Demonizers’ and the ’story Demonizers’. The exercise will add to your reading pleasure.

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