Israel Forum Watch; 24-Hour Vilification, Apologetics and Hate from a Fanatically Pro-Israel Viewpoint

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Suppression of Guilt - Part 1

There is a constant theme running through most of the apologetics by the Stalinists at IsraelForum. Should any Israeli action cross the line in terms of lawful behaviour there are 2 defences that are consistently and constantly invoked,

1. That others behaviour necessitates Israeli action. Therefore they assume all responsibility for the consequences of Israels actions.

2. That whatever occurred, was unintentional, a mistake, as Israel, by definition, can not possibly intend to act illegally or immorally.

Fortunately, a former journalist, Daniel Dor, has done an outstanding job of examining this issue in relation to the Israeli media. What follows are some short extracts from Dor’s book (‘The Suppression of Guilt’) that help us understand how Israels defenders try to deflect blame and what drives them to do so.

The suppression of guilt is a much wider phenomenon than the mere suppression of information that potentially implies guilt………guilt can also be suppressed by counter-blaming (the other side is guilty, therefore I am not) and by disqualifying the source of the blame or the judging authority (they have no right to judge me). It can be explained away by blurring intention (I did not mean to do that, it happened by mistake), and by recourse to a claim about coercion (I was forced to do what I did).

Dor examined the coverage of Israels re-occupation of the West bank in 2002. He looked at the three major newspapers (Ha’artz, Ma’ariv and Yediot Ahronot) and 2 TV stations. Keeping in mind the above, in a nutshell this is what he found,

….all the different media, with virtually no exception, implicitly complied with a basic imperative; they suppressed reports that could be perceived as incriminating, that is, reports which would suggest unreasonable or immoral acts committed by Israel intentionally, both at the level of government policy and at the level of IDF conduct on the ground. Most significantly, the media suppressed reports which strongly indicated that the goal of the entire operation was not the fight against terror, but the reoccupation of the West Bank and the destruction of the Palestinian Authority……..

This constant struggle against guilt goes hand in hand with a wider world-view, one which fends off guilt by blaming the other side. This world-view insists that Israel does not have its own agenda in the present crisis, that Israel was dragged into it by Palestinian terrorism, and that the occupation and the IDFs mode of operation play no role in the persistence of terror.

And a few examples to demonstrate the points. Dor looked at the coverage of the Israeli attack on Jenin, particulary by Ha’aretz.

…..Ha’aretz consistently supplies with significant information about the state of affairs on the Palestinian side…...In this sense Ha’aretz is still in a league of its own ….. The other side of this is that very little critical coverage finds its way to the front pages.

In all of this Ha’aretz sends its readers a complex message: on the one hand, the paper accentuates its own commitment to democratic values; on the other, it also indicates quite strongly that with respect to the factual bottom line- who did what to whom, when and why- it prefers to go along with the perspective of the Israeli establishment. This is the perspective which consistently makes the front page……………

This complex attitude is dramatically revealed in the papers coverage of events in Jenin. Ha’aretz publishes quite a few critical reports from the refugee camp, and their distribution is fascinating. Reports originating from within the IDF, or reflecting the Israeli perspective, appear on the front page, or the main news pages. Thus, for example, the first report about Jenin by military correspondent Amos Harel appears on the front page……..

But when Amira Hass sends her first report from the camp, it is published… section B of the paper, far from the news pages. The report is an extremely harsh account of the IDF’s actions in the camp. Hass tells the story of a 51-year-old Palestinian man…..who for 5 days was forced to open the doors to houses, while IDF soldiers hid behind his back…………

However, this is not the end of the story. Much more significant is the way the paper itself, in its editorial, refers to Hass’s report. Under the headline ‘There was no Massacre in Jenin’…….This paper’s editors, then, use Hass’s ‘extensive article’ – which they themselves relegated to the back pages – as part of an argument which starts by determining that there was no massacre…..

Part II to follow soon.