Thanks to the reader who recommended this superb rhetorical analysis of the Israeli media as it covers the Occupation. Yonatan Mendel, a former Arab affairs correspondent for Walla, the Israeli news portal, analyzes the linguistic manipulation that sanitizes the Occupation for the average Israeli news consumer. Rarely will you see analysis this subtle of the ways in which even language is brought to bear in service of the national battle with the Palestinian “enemy.”
One of the goals of this blog is to allow you to “be there” in contemplating the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians. I want to get as inside the conflict as one can get while sitting thousands of miles away from it. Mendel, in this essay, does this in spades. In reading it, you feel as if the Hebrew language is a transparent skin and the author allows you to see right through it and uncover the subtle, willing psychological deception at the heart too much of Israeli journalism.
Here is a sampling of Mendel’s cogent analysis:
A year ago I applied for the job of Occupied Territories correspondent at Ma’ariv…I speak Arabic and have taught in Palestinian schools and taken part in many joint Jewish-Palestinian projects. At my interview the boss asked how I could possibly be objective. I had spent too much time with Palestinians; I was bound to be biased in their favour. I didn’t get the job. My next interview was with Walla, Israel’s most popular website. This time I did get the job and I became Walla’s Middle East correspondent. I soon understood what Tamar Liebes, the director of the Smart Institute of Communication at the Hebrew University, meant when she said: ‘Journalists and publishers see themselves as actors within the Zionist movement, not as critical outsiders.’
…When it comes to ‘security’…it’s ‘us’ and ‘them’, the IDF and the ‘enemy’; military discourse, which is the only discourse allowed, trumps any other possible narrative. It’s not that Israeli journalists are following orders, or a written code: just that they’d rather think well of their security forces.
…The Israeli army never intentionally kills anyone, let alone murders them – a state of affairs any other armed organisation would be envious of. Even when a one-ton bomb is dropped onto a dense residential area in Gaza, killing one gunman and 14 innocent civilians, including nine children, it’s still not an intentional killing or murder: it is a targeted assassination. An Israeli journalist can say that IDF soldiers hit Palestinians, or killed them, or killed them by mistake, and that Palestinians were hit, or were killed or even found their death (as if they were looking for it), but murder is out of the question.
…The IDF, as depicted by the Israeli media, has another strange ability: it never initiates, decides to attack or launches an operation. The IDF simply responds. It responds to the Qassam rockets, responds to terror attacks, responds to Palestinian violence. This makes everything so much more sensible and civilised: the IDF is forced to fight, to destroy houses, to shoot Palestinians and to kill 4485 of them in seven years, but none of these events is the responsibility of the soldiers. They are facing a nasty enemy, and they respond dutifully. The fact that their actions – curfews, arrests, naval sieges, shootings and killings – are the main cause of the Palestinian reaction does not seem to interest the media. Because Palestinians cannot respond, Israeli journalists choose another verb from the lexicon that includes revenge, provoke, attack, incite, throw stones or fire Qassams.
paul malfara says
Excellent stuff, but these guys are amateurs compared with what goes on in the good ole’ USA. I’m sure you’ve seen Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land, but for those readers who haven’t, take a look. The media watchdog groups like FAIR don’t just present the situation, they document it. The final paragraph of the above post could have come directly from the movie… “Palestinian violence, followed by Israeli retalaiation…forced to retaliate…stone-throwing youths forced Isreali troops in a Jewish neighborhood (near a settlement just outside of East Jerusalem) to respond with tear gas and rubber bullets”. Again and again, ad nauseum. Perhaps the biggest difference between the US and Israel in this respect is the fact that at least the Israelis understand the fact that there is an OCCUPATION. In the American Mainstream News Reporting, that little fact seems to be curiously omitted…
This reminds me again of German reports on bandit activity in WW2.
Would post a link but don’t want to spam.
Anyway, the partisans fighting the occupying Germans are “bandits”, and the Germans have to retaliate and secure an area for the German Army or civilians… In the context of protecting the troops from “bandits”, all is fair and justified: wiping out a village, shooting women and children. After all, this is war, and we are just protecting the patriotic young boys in uniform from “bandits”…
Iris Hefets says
well…I read Mendels analysis and agree with most of it. I totally disagree with his basic assumption though, that the Israeli journalists are usually open to discuss other issues but security ones. The example he gives in Kazav issue, is calling for reaction: it is a well known secret that the journalists also admitted. They all knew that Kazav had sexually harassed women all along his career. They decided to reveal and to publish it, when it was serving the elite interests. Kazav did not start this behavior as a President and had secretaries also as a maier and a minister of course. There are many issues like that, and the journalists are not “open minded professionals” that become Zionists when it comes to Security. If a theme has to do with the interests of the Ashkenazi hegemony in Israel, be almost sure you have to look for the information in the Internet , alternatively: what they tell you is what they want you to know. Mendel represent the good willing leftists in Israel, who have sympathy (and rightly so!) with the Palestinians, but do not see the other secondary victims of Zionism. As long as that goes on, there will be no change in Israeli internal policy. There are also Israelis of an Arab origin, who knows perfectly Arabic, where are they? they are used as MISTAARVIM, that means IDF uses their arab look to disguise themself and act as Palestinians, to recruits Quislings and so on. They could also be journalists and understand the Palestinians, but that is the last thing the Ashkenazu hegemony needs…cooperation between all Arabs (Muslim, Jewish, Christians…) will be their end.
Richard Silverstein says
I would agree with Iris about the Katzav affair as his “reputation” was long known by journalists who protected it for some odd reason. It doesn’t speak well of Israeli journalism. I think they did better with the Haim Ramon matter.
“They all knew that Kazav had sexually harassed women all along his career.”
Interestingly, reading Ostrovsky’s book now and this gels well with his observations…
Iris Hefets says
The Israeli journalists did indeed better with Ramon: they could be “liberal and professional” in his case and leave his protection to the Kneset members and other politicians. Ramon ist “unsere”, belongs to the Ashkenazi hegemony, that takes care: many big feminists (Ashkenazi as well) spoke for him – Shulamit Aloni and Shelly Yehimovitz among others. Ramon is in the government (can you imagine an American politician going back to the congress for example so fast after court found him guilty for sexual harassment?) and the liberals use him as a fig-leaf to cover their self castration. I would believe the Israeli press do their job, when they act against their own interests, i.e. showing some integrity.
Richard Silverstein says
I found the idea that Ramon was welcomed back into the embrace of the cabinet & Knesset to be repulsive. You’re indeed correct that his career would’ve been over had he been in the U.S. Though he would’ve in all likelihood been hired as a lobbyist by some military contractor or high powered law firm.