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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/19/17

The Price for Criticizing Israel

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Jaffa oranges are famous around the world. Actually, Jaffa is a Palestinian town taken by Israel. Jaffa oranges form part of the mythical history of modern Israel, the idea that the desert of Palestine would be made green by the arriving Jews, who would make the desert bloom. But the oranges and grapes were in fact grown by Palestinian farmers and the oranges had been exported to Europe since the eighteenth century. At one time, a rather melancholy name for the town of Jaffa used by its former inhabitants was "the place of sad oranges."

DB: I want to talk to you about Palestine and journalism. Maybe we could compare and contrast Mohammed Omer, on the one hand -- who is dodging bombs and trying to get food for his family as the drones are flying past his window, trying to get as best he can the truth from the ground -- compare Mohammed Omer with the people at CNBC and the BBC.

JP: Well, we know that most of mainstream journalism is simply an extension of the state. We've talked about the extraordinary McCarthy-like propaganda campaign that wants to blame everything including the weather on Russia. That happens because the media is the propaganda wing of the institutions that form power in the West.

The one that produces the most refined propaganda is the BBC. CNN and the others are just cruder versions. Any truth about Israel/Palestine or, more generally, the Middle East is not going to come from the mainstream media. Those of us who know this should rather stop beating our heads against a brick wall, asking why they don't tell the truth. That's not what they're there for.

An Israeli soldier prepares for a night attack inside Gaza as part of Operation Protective Edge, which killed more than 2,000 Gazans in 2014.
An Israeli soldier prepares for a night attack inside Gaza as part of Operation Protective Edge, which killed more than 2,000 Gazans in 2014.
(Image by (Israel Defense Forces photo))
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Fortunately, there are now many independent sources, such as your program. You mentioned Mohammed Omer. We saw how brilliant and objective his reporting was from Gaza during the last terrible attack in 2014. His own family was under attack, they had very little food and water and so on, but every day he would produce these concise reports of no more than maybe 800 words, together with his photographs that would tell you what was happening as he witnessed it. It was about how people were still leading their lives in the most extraordinary ways, despite all the grief and suffering.

In other words, he did what the official media in the West rarely does: He put faces and names on people, he described their lives. He has collected those pieces together in a book. And there have been other journalists, particularly Palestinian photographers and camera people, who have done similar work. They make me proud to be a journalist.

DB: I only bring up the corporate journalists because they sustain these kinds of conditions by not reporting them or misreporting them.

JP: From my own point of view, I find it unwatchable, unless I am either monitoring it or deconstructing it. It is their censorship by omission, by distortion, by demonology. General Petraeus once said he spent most of his time with the media because that mattered more than trying to defeat the Taliban.

The good news is that a lot of people don't believe it anymore. One of the elements in the rebellion rolling across Western societies is an anger with the media. This is certainly true in Britain. I've never known the media to be so popular a subject for debate. And it's being discussed with a great deal of resentment. Reporters find themselves now having to account for their actions. That's a new development.

Yesterday, The Guardian ran a rather defensive front-page article about journalists being called to account by the survivors of the terrible Grenfell Tower fire here in London. Well, that was emblematic of the media being called to account over a wide range of issues. People are becoming aware, they understand now. They're no longer simply consumers of this sort of nonsense.

Certainly, the power of the media remains. But one of my favorite stories is that, on the night that Jeremy Corbyn almost won the election here, there was a party at the Times newspaper, which of course is run by Rupert Murdoch. When the first results came in and it became clear that Labor was doing so well, Murdoch stormed out. That was a very symbolic moment because it meant that his media and the media like his no longer had the power to ensure that certain politicians were elected. Two days before the election, The Daily Mail devoted 13 pages to an attempted character assassination of Corbyn. It had no effect whatsoever.

DB: We just had on our show Arab Barghouti, the son of Mustafa Barghouti, who hasn't touched his father for two years. Mustafa Barghouti has been in prison for 15 years and just led a major hunger strike. Strong, articulate, he can't be silenced. Or you mentioned Dr. Mona El-Farra, a medical director on the ground who had a good part of her extended family wiped out in 2014. She is still ministering to the people and telling the truth to anyone who will listen. It's amazing.

JP: Yes, these are amazing people and it's quite inspiring to be in their company. Even amidst all the carnage in the world, they make you feel good about being human.

DB: Why do you think Nelson Mandela said Palestine is the greatest moral issue of our time?

JP: There is a lot to criticize about Mandela but one of the things that was interesting and admirable about Mandela was that he was loyal to those who had supported and given solidarity to the people in South Africa struggling for their freedom. Certainly, right through his time in prison he always stressed the importance of that solidarity. In other words, of people standing together. It was a rather old-fashioned internationalist view of struggle.

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Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)
 

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