Sunday, April 20, 2008

This Week in Apartheid Propaganda

During the week of April 10–16, the state of Israel kicked up its U.S. taxpayer-funded terror campaign against the Palestinian people.

29 Palestinians—including 10 children and a journalist—were killed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in the Gaza Strip. Two of the victims were extra-judicially executed. On April 16 alone, 13 of the victims—including eight children, two brothers and a journalist—were killed in Juhor al-Dikvillage in the central Gaza Strip, and a farmer was killed in the northern Gaza Strip. For the week, 81 Palestinians, mostly civilians—including 41 children, three women and a journalist—were wounded. [1]

In that span, The Associated Press ratcheted up its own campaign of sorts—Israeli damage control—wherein some of the most blatant examples of unethical news reporting were used in an obvious effort to take the focus off Israel's crimes and marginalize the Palestinian resistance. This is nothing new to those familiar with the state-worshiping m.o. of corporate media and news agencies covering the Middle East.

Death of a Cameraman

An April 16, AP headline out of Gaza City reads: "Gaza fighting kills 20 Palestinians, including news cameraman." [2] The only thing is, it was actually Israeli aggression that killed 20 Palestinians, as the opening paragraph reveals:

Israel struck hard against targets in Gaza on Wednesday, killing at least 20 Palestinians in a day of heavy fighting that also saw three Israeli soldiers die in a Hamas ambush.

This is an example of a conniving headline. The absence of the word Israel or Israeli—along with the double mention of Israel's enemies (Gaza and Palestinians)—in the title of the report keeps the headline-perusing reader unaware of the Israeli role in all of it. A more appropriate title would be "3 Israelis, 20 Palestinians, news cameraman killed in Gaza," or "Israeli strikes kill 20 Palestinians, including news cameraman."

While this seems like a minor thing, it sets a zero-sum tone and frames the context from the start. So, if the reader decides not to read the body of the report, he goes away with the impression that the only candidates for culpability are Gaza and Palestinians. No-one else was involved. And even if the reader does read the report, then at the very least, he is unsure as to who murdered the cameraman.

From the same report:

Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana was killed while filming Israeli tank movements, apparently in an airstrike in the same area. Two bystanders also died. . . . Other cameramen who rushed to the scene said they saw the Reuters jeep on fire, and Shana's body lying next to it. They said that his jeep was marked "press" and that the cameraman was wearing an identifying flak jacket. As colleagues rushed toward Shana, another missile was fired, said Wissam Nassar, a photographer with the Maan news agency. "There was an airstrike. We were thrown back, myself and another person."

So according to AP, perhaps a fighter plane or a helicopter gunship not only fired at a clearly-marked press vehicle, killing the cameraman and two bystanders: it fired a second time, at or near the rescuers. (This is a common Israeli practice, btw.) But AP gives barely a hint at who fired the deadly shells. The word Israeli is selectively used throughout the report, so as not to allow the reader to draw a definite conclusion that Israel is at fault. Which wouldn't be so bad if not for the fact that Reuters and Ma'an news agencies published earlier accounts that make the origin of the deadly strike quite clear.

From Reuters:

Two youths passing by died in the same explosion that killed Shana, witnesses said. The cameraman had stepped from his car to film an Israeli tank dug in several hundred meters (yards) away.

Video from Shana's camera showed the tank opening fire. Two seconds after the shot raises dust around its gun, the tape goes blank -- seemingly at the moment Shana was hit. [3]

And from Ma'an:

A cameramen for the news agency Reuters was killed and five others wounded, including two journalists, when Israeli tanks fired at a bridge in Wadi Gaza, the valley in the central Gaza Strip. . . .

An eyewitness, journalist Yassir Qadih, said, "Reuters journalist Fadil Shana'a was killed while he was in a jeep which was clearly marked 'Press'. There was nobody around us except a group of children who we were going to film. There were no resistance groups in the area" he added. [4]

So those "bystanders" were children. And apparently, there was no reason for the press members to fear being hit by any crossfire—much less, be targeted by either side— because the fighting nearby had subsided, there were no Palestinian fighters around, and the press members were merely filming the aftermath from a safe distance (or so they thought).

AP cites both Reuters and Ma'an in their report; so why don't they cite the accounts of those Reuters and Ma'an staffers who were eye witnesses to the incident? Why not mention the authoritative and empirical camera footage of the murdered cameraman? It could be for the same reason they had to tell an outright falsehood about the frequency of such incidents.

Claims AP:

Despite near daily Israeli-Palestinian violence, casualties among journalists are rare. Only three others have been killed covering the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1992, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

But when you check AP's source (CPJ), you get this:

At least eight journalists have been killed in the West Bank and Gaza since 2001, and seven of them were killed in attacks by Israeli Defense Forces, according to CPJ research. [5]

And when you read the last page of the previously-cited, 3-page Reuters report, you get this:

Journalists have become casualties on numerous occasions in the Palestinian territories. Media watchdogs estimate that nine have been killed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 2000. [6]

Let's compare:

— AP cites a third-party (CPJ), saying four have been killed since 1992.

— CPJ's press release states that at least eight have been killed since 2001.

— Reuters cites a third-party, saying nine have been killed since 2000.

So, either AP is knowingly lying to its readers, or the editor committed an honest typo. Either way, the damage is done, just as is the case in the conniving headline, only worse. This time, the reader isn't afforded the courtesy of a further-elaborating body of text. That is, until a more accurate account arrives the next day, buried as a penultimate in an unrelated report that closes with a "so what" account of the latest victims of Israeli aggression:

Eight other journalists have been killed covering the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1992, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Also Thursday, Israeli troops killed two Palestinian militants in a raid in the West Bank town of Qabatiya. [7]

Now, AP is up to speed on the number killed. But it was not denoted as being a correction to the previous version: it was just tucked into an unrelated story as if no error was committed in the report from the day before. True, CPJ's records go back to 1992; but, nowhere on their website do they release a talley that draws on stats going back that far. As quoted above, CPJ'spress release goes back as far as 2001 because that's when the first of the last nine journalists' deaths occurred. There were no press deaths for nine years between 1992 and 2001. And while it's not a lie, AP's use of the longer 1992 span serves one purpose: Israeli damage-control.

AP has a troubling history of omitting authoritative sources and vital historical context when reporting on Israeli crimes. Deaths of Palestinians—especially children—at the hands of Israelis are grossly unreported; while the deaths of Israelis at the hands of Palestinians are grossly overreported. References to pertinent international law and human rights statistics are routinely ignored in favor of official Israeli sources. Sometimes, entire accounts of Israeli atrocities in the Palestinian Territories go unreported, to wit:

On Nov. 1, 2004, while we were in the Palestinian territories meeting with the AP bureau chief in the West Bank, he received a phone call from a correspondent. Israeli military forces occupying the area had just killed a 12-year-old Palestinian boy who had been throwing stones from approximately 300 meters away. A soldier had shot the boy in the throat with live ammunition. The bureau chief immediately phoned the bureau in Israel with all the details.

Later, back in the U.S., we looked up AP coverage of the killing of this child. We found no story. We did find an AP photo on the internet, but could not find a single American publication that had printed it – perhaps because there was no news story accompanying it. [8]


Third-world Existential Threat

Farther down the April 16 report, AP quotes a Hamas spokesperson's comments on the recent Israeli aggression. There, we see offensive journalism:



Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhrisaid the violence cast doubt on Egyptian cease-fire efforts. "There can be no discussion of a truce in the midst of thesecrimes," he said, threatening revenge against Israel.

Now, I personally don't agree with the spokesman's opinion: I believe reconciliation can be reached despite the ongoing violence. So at worst, he is guilty of rank pessimism. But that's not the point here.

Nowhere else in the report is there a mention of Mr. Abu Zuhri or his sentiments; yet, drawing from that short quote, the editor of the AP report personally asserts that Mr. Abu Zuhri is threatening revenge against Israel. This is a example of an editor or reporter injecting extraneous editorial content and basically acting as a war propagandist.

Farther down the report, near the bottom, AP inserts some rather rare-form Israeli propaganda typically used by pundits and reserved for the editorials:

Hamas, considered a terrorist group by Israel, the U.S. and European Union, is committed to Israel's destruction.

That's nothing short of hackneyed neocon talking point—a total inversion of reality that focuses on virtually irrelevant 1988 Hamas charter while ignoring the decades-long accumulation of facts-on-the-ground which reveal that Israel is not only dedicated to the destruction of the Palestinian people, but has successfully carried out a policy of ethnic cleansing against them.



And how does AP reason away the notion of Hamas being a serious existential threat to Israel, when the Palestinians have no standing army, no navy, no helicopters, no tanks, no aircraft, no steady flow of armaments? They are at the mercy of the Israeli occupiers, who control the flow of food, dry goods, human traffic, electricity, fuel, and humanitarian aid in and out of Gaza and the West Bank. So please explain, AP, how masked gunmen in their own backyards, using second-rate smuggled guns and homemade rockets, will destroy the fourth-ranked military superpower on earth that wields hundreds of nuclear weapons and the best ghetto-razing technology U.S. taxpayers can buy.

Hamas's charter states in so many words the mission of eliminating the Zionist enemy; it's a mission statement on their dedication to armed resistance against the illegal Israeli occupation. Under international law, Palestinian armed resistance is certainly more lawful than the IDF and settler aggression Israel calls self-defense. The charter states the intent of violently taking back all of Palestine, including that area currently called "Israel"—and the terminology used in the charter is certainly extreme in places—but to legitimize the notion that Hamas of today is "committed to Israel's destruction" is a dark irony and an dumb over-simplification which appeals to the emotional psyche of the reader and proactively distorts the balance of the report.

AP and corporate media never mention the stated goals of the Zionist movement—the foundation for the establishment of Israel. Those statements are as bad as anything Hamas leaders have uttered. AP and corporate media never stress that Hamas held a self-imposed truce with Israel from late 2004 to June 2006 when an Israeli gunboat killed 8 Palestinians picknicking on a Gaza beach. Hamas' military wing has also claimed responsibility for deadly attacks on Israeli militants and civilians since 2006. But in the same spane, Hamas has, on several occasions, expressed a willingness to revise the charter, recognize Israel along the internationally-recognized 1967 Green Line, and negotiate a resolution to the conflict. Their 2006 election manifesto omitted the original intent of taking all of historic Palestine by force. By demonizing only Hamas, and playing PR agent to the Israeli government in their reporting, AP does an injustice not only to the Palestinian people but to everyone reading the report.

Why does AP conceal the facts that show Hamas embracing diplomacy? Could it be the same reason they parrot Israeli press releases as fact when reporting that Israel and the U.S. are "committed to peace"?

When describing Israel's illegal aggression and intent, AP simply takes Israeli officials at their word when they say they are "rooting out terrorists," "conducting routine incursions," or "defending themselves against extremist militants bent on their destruction"; while Palestinians are always portrayed as the doers of unprecedented violence to which poor Israel must reluctantly respond. It's a total journalistic fraud and a sick joke on their readers and to U.S. taxpayers whose money is looted to the tune of billions every year to subsidize the neverending cycle of violence. But if AP's readers were to research the historical and contemporary records of the conflict from many sources, they will find that the Israeli occupation and expropriation of Palestinian land and resources is at the root of the conflict, and that the U.S. and Israeli governments have been the greatest rejectionists bent on the destruction of Palestine—not the other way around.

Unless Hamas trains their fighters on how to disarm nuclear bombs and somehow gets every nation in the Middle East and South Asia to join in the attack, one must conclude that the notion of a Palestinian faction of society taken as a serious threat to the existence of Israel is silly as silly gets. AP knows this, yet they continue to peddle this and other neocon-Likudnik talking points unfazed by reader complaints and well-sourced correction-requests.

Descriptive Double-standard

Another bit of tired state propaganda comes next:

Hamas seized control of Gaza last June from forces loyal to Abbas. Its control of the territory, along with near-daily fighting with Israel, has jeopardized Mideast peace efforts led by the United States.

Israel hopes to reach a peace agreement with Abbas' West Bank government by year's end, as both sides promised Bush last November. But Israel says it will not carry out any accord until Abbas regains control of Gaza.

This is nothing better than guilt-transference and reality-inversion. It's an example of the U.S. and Israeli governments speaking directly through a media mouthpiece and telling flat-out lies. It's also an example of cookie-cutter editing. The "Hamas takeover of Gaza" is a staple talking point recycled in every AP report on Israel-Palestine. You'll see it in several reports per day out of the region. In fact, the same day AP produced the report cited in footnote 2, they produced another one with the same line about Hamas, except this time, they added extraneous modifying phrases (my emphasis):

Hamas, a violent group committed to Israel's destruction, seized control of Gaza last June. Its continued control of the area, along with the near-daily fighting with Israel, has jeopardized Mideast peace efforts.

Israel hopes to reach a peace agreement with the moderate West Bank government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by the end of the year. But it says it will not carry out any accord until Abbas regains control of Gaza. [9]

Think that's something? Search for phrases like "committed to Israel's destruction, AP" and "violent, hamas, takeover, AP" and "moderate, Abbas, AP" on Google and see how many documents come up. A lot. Now, pick a few of them and scan through the body of each, looking for paragraphs mentioning Israel, the IDF, or Israeli leaders. What adjectives are inserted before those words? That's right: there are usually no adjectives there. That's the descriptive double-standard.

It's "Israeli soldiers (troops)" and never "masochistic Israeli militants dedicated to Palestine's ethnic cleansing." The same is true for mentions of U.S. government entities: it's simply "President George Bush" and never "fast and loose President George Bush" or "preemptively-warring Bush." U.S., Israeli, and allied entities are never modified beyond a benign personality trait, like "eccentric," "radical," "hard-line," etc., and it is a rare occurance. Adjectives like "violent," "extremist," "Islamist," and "terrorist" all strike a darker, more emotional and anxious chord; they are reserved for those individuals and groups relegated to the marginalization bin.

Is it just a coincidence that neocon-Likudnik foreign policy aligns perfectly with the way AP casts the neocon-Likudniks' enemies?

And are we not supposed to believe that the Israeli "Defense" Forces and Zionist squatters are also "violent"? The Palestinian-to-Israeli death ratio is something like 30–1 since Hamas won the elections back in January '06. Apparently, according to AP and corporate media, F-16 airstrikes into crowded civilian neighborhoods aren't "violent" if you're one of God's chosen terrorists.




But the use of the descriptive double-standard and other propaganda techniques has been a common theme for years in corporate media reporting of Israeli-Palestinian issues. Whenever the IDF suffers casualties at the hands of Palestinian fighters, it's an "ambush" or "terrorist attack"; whereas, when many Palestinians and zero Israelis are killed and injured, it's called a "clash"; when no Israelis die for a period of time, it's called "relative calm." This is a fraud. If they were clashes, then it is implied that both sides squared off and returned fire; in which case, Israeli fighters would suffer some casualties. The word relative in "relative calm" really means "zeroed-out at Israeli losses."

And about that Hamas seizure of Gaza and the peace efforts they're always ruining...

In reality, it has been the United States and Israel who have "jeopardized peace efforts." U.S., Israeli, Jordanian, and Egyptian state entities funded, armed, and trained Fatah militants as part of a neocon-Likudnik plan to overthrow Hamas. The plan failed because Hamas caught wind of it months in advance. The budding story was first reported in January 2007 (about a year after the plan's conception) by Conflicts Forum. And all this time, the evidence of the plot has been readily available for consumption by mainstream news outlets, but they have ignored it. Instead, news agencies and corporate media outlets have chosen to flood the Internet, newspapers, and periodicals with the falsehood about Hamas being the coup-conspirators, and the double-standard casting them as peace-saboteurs.

This is especially unforgivable considering that the conspiracy has been reportedmore than once by another international news agency—Inter Press News Service (IPS)—beginning in August 2007. Though it was more than a year belated, even the mainstream publication Vanity Fair published a lengthy write-up of the whole affair for their April 2008 issue, using official sources and documents from all parties involved, as well as third-party testimonies. No solid refutation of Vanity Fair's or Conflict Forum's reportage has been offered by any of the parties allegedly involved in the plan, except a brief, blunt White House denial accusing the Vanity Fair author of fabrication. So, there is no excuse for AP and corporate media to ignore the evidence, except to save face for members of state whose turncoat conspiracy turned out to be an embarrassing failure.

Who Calls the Tune?

AP doesn't just sell press reports to corporate media and others: it peddles U.S. and Israeli policy to the world. It is unrivaled in its ability to mold public opinion on a global scale: they report from more locations and put out more wire reports per day than any other agency in the world. AP's homepage, under "Facts & Figures," states: "On any given day, more than half the world's population sees news from AP." This helps to explain why the people of the United States and the world are generally apathetic or pro-Israel toward the U.S.-sanctioned prison-camp conditions for Palestinians under Israeli occupation. AP and corporate media are acting as the Ministry of Propaganda for the U.S. and Israeli regimes by manipulating public opinion in their favor.

And while its homepage says AP doesn't operate for profit, the whole operation is run by editors, publishers, and CEOs of mainstream corporate media, who themselves are driven by profits. Those corporate media members of the AP Board of Directors are also on the receiving end of the AP news wire, as editors and producers at outlets like CNN or the New York Times; so if they want to keep their corporate sponsors and their special government contracts and such (see next 'graph), they must make sure those news reports are edited down to talking points favoring the corporatist and militarist policies of the state and its friends in the fascism who are, of course, also the corporate sponsors of the mainstream news media that subscribe to the AP news wire.

And when you consider that a few corporate conglomerates (a.k.a., "clusterfucks") own almost every corporation of measurable size and influence in the United States—and that each conglomerate owns at least one TV media corporation, several film production and book-publishing companies, and countless newspapers and periodicals—you begin to realize just who controls the message and why that message has been so easily delivered as a monologue of state-worship and corporate whoredom.

U.S. politicians, think-tankers, and high-level media personnel on the Boards of Directors of those corporations make sure the "defense" contractors owned by said conglomerates get the sweetest tax breaks and no-bid (no-competition/exclusive) contracts for work in Iraq, Afghanistan, and who-knows-where-else. This incestuous monstrosity of malfeasance is known by many names: the Military-Industrial-Media Complex, corporatocracy, fascistic militarism, etc. (Go here for a simple breakdown of how it works.)

And just in case anybody gets any bright ideas, aggressive pressure groups make sure the news is edited using only approved language and content, at all levels of news dissemination. This is especially prevalent in coverage of Israeli-Palestinian news. Journalists and editors are basically told what to write; if they don't write what they're told, they're harassed and threatened until they do, or until they resign or are fired.

These pressure groups are numerous, well-organized, and well-funded, and they exert their influence at all levels of news dissemination. Major ones include CAMERA and The Israel Project; they are basically the PR wing of the greater "Israel Lobby." Another wing of the Lobby—the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—owns an infamous reputation of buying and coercing U.S. politicians into supporting unAmerican and self-destructive measures and policies put forward by hawkish factions of the Israeli government. They are so aggressive and carelessly unethical in their approach that, on several occasions, they have been caught passing U.S. nuclear secrets and other classified intelligence to Israel. And while AIPAC claims that they are lobbying on behalf of Israeli and American Jews and Jews everywhere, the policies they champion have been anything but good for Jews. AIPAC represents fringe minority Jewish sentiment—that of the Israeli Likudniks and Zionist settlers in the West Bank who advocate permanent war, occupation, colonial expansion, land and and resource expropriation—which has lent itself to the constant state of threat of Palestinian attacks experienced by Israelis, as well as the negative image of Jews the world over.

The worst part in all this is that U.S. citizens are being extorted to subsidize it all—the Israeli occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the oppression exacted upon the people of other nations that are ruled by neocon-Likudnik puppet regimes, and the media "coverage" of it all. U.S. taxpayers are looted for billions of dollars every year to subsidize the apartheid, ethnic cleansings, the U.S.-induced civil wars, and other illegal and self-destructive policies and measures. Every time we purchase a product or service from a corporate sponsor of the major TV networks or daily newspapers, we contribute to the endless cycle of tyranny and death and disinformation.

Without compliant mainstream media and think-tanks covering their every act and peddling their illicit policies, intervention-profiteers within the U.S. and Israeli governments would be the marginalized ones, because they would be widely seen as the war criminals they truly are. But because the corporations that sponsor the news own almost every brand name, and because Israel enjoys a practically indomitable PR campaign that manifests everywhere the issues are discussed, boycotts are mostly ineffective. That's why exposing the corporate media disinformation is so vital; it's as important as exposing corrupt politicians.

People need to know what is really going on in their names. The best thing to do is to get your information from a wide variety of more independent and reliable news media, news agencies, and private humanitarian groups. Knowledge is power. My advice: Ignore the major U.S. dailies, like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the War State Journal, et al. Mostly, what you get from them is state-worshiping agitprop. Only seek news from those crooks if you have no alternative source.

I've found the following sources to be very helpful, though you should still tread with caution. On any given day, any of these sources will run stories that are shamefully biased toward the U.S. and Israeli governments; but overall, they have been fair and trustworthy sources of news and analysis:

News Agencies: IPS, AFP, Ma’an, XinHua, AINA, Thomson Reuters*
Print/Internet News: CBC, The Independent, The Guardian, The Christian Science Monitor, Asia Times, Ha'aretz, Al-Jazeera.net, Yahoo! News, Google News
Periodicals & Newsletters: Information Clearing House, Lew Rockwell, MWC News, Cursor, The American Conservative, The Raw Story, WhatReallyHappened, AntiWar.com, Muckraker Report, Al-Jazeera.com, Al-Ahram Weekly
TV/Internet Streaming: The Real News Network, CBC, LinkTV MOSAIC, Democracy Now!
Humanitarian: B'Tselem, PCHR, Friends of Lebanon, ICAHD, Jewish Voice for Peace, Palestine Monitor, Gush Shalom

* Reuters news agency has historically been a toss-up, but usually fairer than (or at least, not seemingly as beholden to corrupt state power as) The Associated Press.

[1] pchrgaza.org/files/W_report/English/2008/17-04-2008.htm
This is on top of the ongoing, US/Israeli/EU forced-mass-starvation, including economic sanctions, embargoes, fuel cut-offs, and total military lock-down of the territory by air, land, and sea.
[2]
ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jD4YSkDPlclqd9dHvg2f0Ij18zEgD9036QDG0
[3]
reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSL1632826120080416
[4]
maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=28808
[5]
cpj.org/news/2008/mideast/gaza16apr08na.html
[6]
reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSL1632826120080416?pageNumber=3&virtualBrandChannel=0
[7]
apnews.myway.com//article/20080417/D903RCQ81.html
[8]
ifamericansknew.org/media/clues.html
[9]
pr-inside.com/gaza-fighting-killed-4-hamas-gunmen-r540556.htm

5 comments:

  1. This a a well-done, in-depth analysis of how the media controlled propoganda works in the United States.

    Noam Chomsky would be proud.

    The editor,
    The Palestine Review
    http://palestinreview.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very kind of you. Thanks. Thanks for the link; I appreciate your website.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice blog. The part about the Hamas charter, it's so true, it's ridiculous, they use that as a tool to prevent a resolution to the "conflict" when the Israeli zionists have the worst track record of destroying "the other". Mainsteam media is truely the propaganda ministry.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for visiting my blog and thank you for the link to your blog.

    You have an excellent blog and I really appreciate the way you present it all.

    I will add you to my blogroll. Keep up the great work. This is one of the best blogs that I have seen.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks, neozionazifascism. Hear hear. They are indeed The Ministry.

    Chet,

    Much obliged. Same to ya.

    ReplyDelete