by Ray Hanania
May 19, 2013 (TSR) – The Newseum was established in Washington DC to “educate the public about the value of a free press in a free society.” But this week, it became an example of how Western journalism is manipulated, unprincipled and often driven by racism.
Last year, 88 journalists were killed covering conflicts around the world. The Newseum was planning to honor them as “Fallen Heroes.” But when two of the names turned out to be Palestinians killed by Israel, the Israeli lobby sprang into action while most Arabs remained asleep at the wheel.
The two reporters dropped from the Newseum’s “Fallen Heroes” of journalism honors are Mahmoud Al-Kumi and Hussam Salama. They were killed while covering Israeli attacks against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Nov. 20, 2012. One of the groups that demanded that their names be removed is the ironically named “Anti-Defamation League” (ADL), which engages in more defamation of Arabs than many other groups.
Rather than stand up to this Western media bias, many Arab media institutions are embracing Western media, and hiring their teachers, instructors and current and former journalists to help them develop media operations in the Arab world. Adding insult to injury, the Newseum had two journalists, including one who is a Muslim, write the story about the dedication never mentioning the controversy.
Israel manages media coverage as ruthlessly as its occupation. The Israelis control and restrict who covers what in the conflict. This forces most Western media to get their stories through Israel’s tight media net. Stories are either written by pro-Israel activists, or by journalists who are Israeli or Jewish and have a political bias. In many cases, they rely on press releases issued by the Israeli government.
Al-Kumi and Salama were Palestinian journalists working outside of this Israeli media stranglehold in the Gaza Strip, something Israel vigorously discourages. They were covering Israel’s bombardment of civilians at Al-Shifaa Hospital in Central Gaza when the car they were driving was destroyed by Israeli-fired missiles. Their car was clearly marked with “TV” on its roof. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) defended the killings calling the two men “terrorists” simply because they were working the Hamas side of the fighting. Who would dare to challenge them? The American media rarely reports on stories when Israel kills American citizens.
The IDF killed 34 American sailors on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967. They killed activist Rachel Corrie on March 16, 2003, and they shot at point-blank range Furkan Dogan while assaulting the Mavi Marmara ship on May 31, 2010. Most Western media described Furkan as being Turkish, but he was an American citizen.
Al-Kumi and Salama were cameramen for Al-Quds TV, which was controlled by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But that is like saying that journalists accredited by Israel are working for the IDF. Well, maybe they are. Most Western reporters start with a foundation of pro-Israel bias based on years of pro-Israel nurturing, making it even easier for Israel to manipulate this tightly controlled setting. Writer Alison Weir recently observed that the Arab-Israeli conflict is covered “most of the time by journalists with legal, familial or emotional ties to Israel. A great many are Israeli citizens (though this is almost never disclosed) or married to Israelis, their children also being Israeli.”
In many cases though, these pro-Israel “journalists” are conditioned and they censor themselves. They know what the IDF likes and dislikes.
Some might argue that Al-Kumi and Salama are no different than Wolf Blitzer, the former Israeli spokesman who is the face of CNN. Blitzer is considered extremely pro-Israel but presents the Arab-Israeli conflict with faux objectivity; he’ll never seriously criticize Israeli actions but does politely interview pro-Arab guests as long as they are not too anti-Israel.
Combine that with talent and you have a very skewered media coverage that selectively decides what is and what isn’t news. Criticism of Israel is soft-balled. Criticism of the Palestinians and especially Hamas is augmented to 9/11 levels.
Blitzer is the “best” of the media covering the Middle East. Reporters at FOX News, on the other side of the political spectrum, don’t even try to be objective. FOX News joined the ADL in lobbying the Newseum to remove Al-Kumi and Salama from the “Fallen Heroes” list. The Israelis get away with this because most of the Arab media and its institutions are in disarray. The journalism programs at many Arab universities are taught by journalists trained in the pro-Israel West.
Arabs prefer activism to journalism. Activism suits their emotional nature while journalism demands that emotions be placed in check and that no matter what the story, the facts are more important than the cause. They act as literary “jihadists” who condemn the murder of Palestinian civilians but remain silent on the murder of Israeli civilians.
The Arab media is also bi-polar. Arab world journalists rarely work with American Arab journalists. There is a disdain for American Arabs by many Arab journalists. The various Arab world press guilds are either political or lack journalism verve. So here is the lead paragraph of this sad story, folks: Israel murdered two Palestinian journalists simply because they were working in an area controlled by Hamas. The Western media won’t report it the way it should be reported. The Society of Professional Journalists and other media guilds don’t care. And the Arab world media is incapable of dealing with it.
Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, a freelance media analyst and political consultant specializing in Middle East issues and events, and mainstream American politics. Hanania writes several columns and provides commentary for broadcast media. Hanania’s columns on the Middle East have been published by YnetNews.com, the English language website of Israel’s largest Hebrew Newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth, the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, the Saudi Arabia Arab News, al-Quds Newspaper, as Sharq al-Awsat, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, NEWSWEEK, the New York Daily News, Newsday and the Orlando Sentinal. Hanania also provides video-blog commentaries for “The Listening Post” on Al-Jazeera English. Hanania is also a recognized Arab-American historian and the author of eight books including the humor books “I’m Glad I Look Like a Terrorist: Growing Up Arab in America” and “Talking to Israelis”. He is an activist for peace between Palestinians and Israelis speaking out against terrorism, violence, extremism, and religious fanaticism. He strongly supports and advocates for peace based on non-violence and compromise between Israel and Palestine. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com or follow him on Twitter @RayHanania.
This article was first published in Saudi Gazette.