The Suppression of Guilt - Part 2
Dor continues to examine the Israeli media coverage of the 2002 re-occupation of the West Bank.
How then, does the obsession with guilt translate into a worldview?.....Well, as we shall see in this chapter, the common denominator, the foundational basis, lies in the portrayal of Israel – its government, its military, its people – as an agent without intentions, an innocent society that has been pushed into the operation…….by the sheer force of Palestinian violence, with no agenda of it’s own except self-defense……..
The most remarkable feature…….is that none of these commentators ever raises, or even hints at, the possibility that Sharon actually knows very well what he is doing, that he does have a plan, and that he is not particularly bothered by the fact that the military operation will not lead the parties back to the negotiating table. In other words, the media never formulate the alternative interpretation: that
has not been passively pushed into this action….. Sharon
Is this alternative interpretation necessarily true? Not at all. But the reporters working for the five media institutions consistently brought in materials which strongly suggested that this interpretation may actually be closer to reality. These materials, however, were systematically published, or broadcast, in a way that amounted to suppression.
The Israeli media suppresses any idea of political intent, but also reports the actual conduct of the IDF in the territories in a similar manner.
This is most clearly reflected in the coverage of 2 topics, which from the point of view of the international press, were thought of as indicative of Israel’s long-term intentions: the IDF attack on the Bituniya headquarters of Jibril Rajoub, the head of the PA preventative security in the West Bank, and the damage caused by the IDF to the civic infrastructure of the PA.
Senior officials of the IDF have also publicly admitted that he was not involved in terror-related activities…..the attack on his headquarters…was thus interpreted by some of the international press as evidence that Israel intended to destroy the PA itself……Ha’artez then, just like all the other Israeli media, bases its coverage of the attack on the IDFs formal description of the event: the headquaters were attacked because wanted individuals were found there. Ha’aretz’s main headline on April 2 simply states: ‘Siege on Wanted Individuals at Rajoub’s HeadQuarters…’
Crucially, this perspective is flatly contradicted in the commentary written by Danny Rubenstein, the papers own senior commentator on Palestinian affairs, published on April 7 in section B of the paper – away from the news pages: ‘…..The goal is the complete destruction of the Palestinian security system. This is no scoop……’.
This is how one of the senior military correspondents described circumstances in an interview, ‘The atmosphere there was incensed and hot-blooded, and they did things there which should not have been done…’
These comments are significant, because none of this ever appeared in the Israeli media throughout the operation. In most reports, and, as we have seen, in all the reports highlighted by the editorial text, the soldiers are portrayed as sensitive, thoughtful, and considerate towards the Palestinian civilians…..The possible link between Sharon’s rhetorical style and the conduct is never mentioned. Consequently, and quite unbelievably, only a single report throughout the operation takes the damage inflicted on the PA civil infrastructure as its topic.
Lack of intention on the part of
If Israel is the passive entity, dragged into a war against its will, then the Palestinians are always crystal clear about their goals, these goals are always totally evil……this perspective is most dramatically reflected in the portrayal of Yasser Arafat……….
Dozens of items through out the month focus on Arafat, and they all tell the story of a larger-than-life enemy: evil, murderous, cunning, subtle, determined, invincible. He is always in full control of the events in the territories……..
This then is the crux of the analytical perspective projected by all the media: the entire Israel-Palestine conflict, in all its incredible complexity, depends entirely on the individual personality of Yasser Arafat……None of the media ever attempts to question it, and once the ID enters the muqata’a they all full-heartedly participate in the incrimination: if Arafat is guilty, then we are innocent.
Proving Arafats intentions became a focus of both the IDF and the Israeli media. Much was made of documents which claimed to prove that Arafat was financing terror attacks.
Whenever some sort of ‘proof’ was found for Arafats involvement in terror, the finding was reported as no less than a victory. The IDF produced press releases, organized displays and press conferences- and the media published and broadcast as much of this as possible. Throughout the period only two writers…. took the trouble to critically examine the ‘proofs’ supplied and displayed by the IDF……
Here is....a paragraph...from April 26: ‘Was the Tanzims terror activity financed by the Authority? According to the [IDF] commentary, yes. According to the documents, no. All the ‘financing documents' are in fact a collection of bitter complaints about the Authority’s tight fist, and the fact that it does not provide the Tanzim with resources…..Did Arafat approve of money transfers to people involved in suicide attacks? Those who only check the pre-digested texts are led to believe this was indeed the case. But whoever reads the texts themselves will not find a trace of evidence.’….
Within this general framework, the media simply refrains from asking some of the most fundamental questions regarding the causes behind the reality of terror….the deeper casual questions having to do with the inseparable ink between the suicide attacks and the occupation……Whenever a reporter brings in important materials regarding these questions, it is buried deep in the back pages of the supplement..
Dor provides several examples of this crucial perspective that the papers own reporters produced,
…for example, correspondent Ariela Ringel-Hoffman interviews experts on terror…..One of the experts…makes the following comment: ‘The method of closures between and around cities is the root cause of all evil…..Effectively it has turned an entire population into one homogenous bloc which produces terror…’
..a long article in the holiday supplement….. ‘Many people in the defense establishment now believe that
has played a considerable part in the fact that the Tanzim has joined the circle of suicide attacks. The assassinations of its senior members…generated a tremendous urge to respond…In private conversations, the PM and Minister of Defense have admitted that the execution Ra’ad Carmi –carried out at a time of relative calm in the OTs – was a mistake…’…… Israel
This all important piece of information does not merit a headline and does not appear in the news pages….
The effect of all this is that,
..even when senior Israeli security sources openly admit that a causal connection could be detected between Israels conduct and the continuation of terror, and even when three senior correspondents report this, this significant fact does not make it across the editorial text – and does not leave a mark in the Israeli public consciousness.
Dor develops an explanation for what he has described that goes beyond ‘manufacturing consent’. But for our purposes here, it’s enough to note that this contrives a defence against judgement, particularly from the outside; you can’t judge us, this is not our fault. That it is an issue of guilt is highlighted by the fact that blame is not the problem. In fact blame is often accentuated, but countered by shifting all responsibility elsewhere.
Anyone paying attention to Israeli politicians and spokespeople will note this consistent message in their pronouncements regarding
I’ll look at just this framework, in relation to Qana, in the next post.