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.