We'll never have a clearer demonstration of the Israel Lobby's unwarranted influence over the U.S. media. Israel, backed and armed by the world's sole superpower, is committing atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza, an ethnic group, confined to a tiny strip of land, that Israel has attempted to starve into submission for over a year and a half. Defending the ethnic group is Hamas, an irregular force armed largely with makeshift weapons like rockets it manufactures from steel tubes and fertilizer.
Yet to hear America's newspaper of record tell the story, Israeli forces face a "war full of traps and trickery." According to a January 10 New York Times story by Steven Erlanger, Hamas, "with training from Iran and Hezbollah" (of course), has turned Gaza "into a deadly maze of tunnels, booby traps and sophisticated roadside bombs."
Ah, yes: all failed Middle East policies lead to Iran. It's funny how Iran, a country whose entire gross domestic product is less than what America has spent on its woebegone wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, can call all the shots in the region. Even more astounding is how, merely by showing an oppressed people how to dig tunnels and make weapons out of scrap materials, Iran can run rings around a global hegemon that spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined.
Maybe it helps that Hamas fighters are, as the NYT says, "Unwilling to take Israel’s bait and come into the open." That statement contains two glaring absurdities. First is the notion that guerilla fighters would dream of fighting "in the open" like a conventional army. Second is the inference that Israel's army had any expectation of catching Hamas out in the open. They know all about how guerillas fight from watching us shoot ourselves in the baby makers in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan. Erlanger makes a point of noting that "Hamas militants are fighting in civilian clothes; even the police have been ordered to take off their uniforms." Jesus, Larry and Curly. If Hamas fighters bothered to wear uniforms, they might as well simply huddle together in a parking lot, paint Day-Glo bulls' eyes on their chests, and slap neon signs on their backs that say "KILL ME!"
Erlanger relates grisly tales of Hamas's underhanded tactics; all of them sourced to anonymous "Israeli intelligence officials," "Israeli officials," and "Israelis." One such story appears at first blush to be an eyewitness account from an imbedded Israeli reporter, but on second reading it's clearly hearsay relayed from "Israeli soldiers." The NYT perfected this covert propaganda technique back in 2002, when Judith Miller and Michael R. Gordon cited unnamed "officials" more than twenty times to sell Dick Cheny's Nigergate hoax to an American public still reeling from the 9/11 attacks.
In one passage, Erlinger says that the name of the commander of an Israeli engineering unit "cannot be published under censorship rules." He's talking about Israeli censorship rules, which appear to be the keystone of the NYT's journalistic standards.
Erlanger makes sure we know what Israeli forces are doing to "minimize collateral damage," like warning civilians "by leaflets, loudspeakers and telephone calls to evacuate battle areas." Erlanger doesn't explain that even if Israelis send Palestinian civilians candy-grams, they won't have any place to evacuate to. Erlanger also writes about a "small-diameter smart bomb" the Israelis use to "minimize" damage in an urban area, and a missile that doesn’t explode at all, but he offers no word of explanation from the Israelis on why they found it necessary to fire bomb Gaza City with white phosphorous for several days before they attempted to enter the city.
Erlanger cites Israeli officials echoing the propaganda mantra that "Hamas is using civilians as human shields," which is a malevolently disingenuous way of describing what's really going on; Hamas is defending the Palestinian people on their home turf.
Ironically, though Erlanger lets Israeli officials accuse Hamas of hiding behind women and children and refusing to fight in the open, he also cites them describing how their troops move "only behind tanks and armored bulldozers, riding in armored personnel carriers, spending as little time in the open as possible."
You have to wonder how that one slipped past the unnamed Israeli censors.
In a 2002 article for The Nation, journalist Michael Massing says the "main obstacle" to U.S. media standing up to the influence of Israel Lobby groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is "fear." In The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, Professors John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard note: "The Lobby's perspective on Israel is widely reflected in the mainstream media because most American commentators are pro-Israel."
The professors quote the late Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley as saying, "Shamir, Sharon, Bibi—whatever those guys want is pretty much fine by me." Mearsheimer and Walt further cite the memoir of former New York Times executive editor Max Frankel who confesses that he "wrote most of our Middle East commentaries…from a pro-Israel perspective."
They also detail how the Israel Lobby influences news reporting through letter campaigns, boycotting, demonstrations, and pressure from Congress where, as journalist Ari Berman puts it, "unconditional support for Israel" is "an accepted cost of doing business."
The coverage of the Gaza monstrosity by Bill Kristol and the rest of the Big Brother Broadcast has been atrocious enough, but "mainstream" reporting, like the Erlanger article, has been little better. One has to reach to the "alternative" press to grasp the key truths about Israel's invasion of Gaza:
Hamas did not, as Condi Rice claims, stage an "illegal coup" in Gaza. It won political power in open elections in January 2006, at which time the Bush administration launched machinations to reverse the results of the election. Hamas did not violate the ceasefire; Israel violated it when it sent troops into Gaza in November 2008, and Hamas did not refuse to extend the ceasefire in December. Hamas offered to renew the peace agreement and Israel spurned the offer.
I doubt even George Orwell expected that a great western nation's information environment could become as utterly corrupted as America's is today. Here we are, almost a decade into the 21st century, proving the veracity of 18th satirist Voltaire's admonition that "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."