By MATT PEPPE
The Israeli conquest of Palestine has always been a difficult issue for Western mainstream media to cover. The difficulty lies not in the task of reporting the facts on the ground and transmitting an accurate depiction of them to the public, but in refraining from doing so.
The journalistic mission, to provide citizens with factual information that enables them to be informed participants in democratic decision making, conflicts with the corporate mission, to maximize profits and influence.
The role of U.S. mass media – and Western media in general – as a tool for disseminating propaganda was first argued by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in their landmark 1988 book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. Their analysis reveals a media propaganda system based not on “formal censorship” but rather “by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without significant overt coercion.”
More than 25 years later, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the BBC keep churning out work that continues to validate Herman and Chomsky’s argument in Manufacturing Consent. In no foreign policy story is this more apparent than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The propaganda narrative requires Palestinians always to be portrayed as the aggressors, and Israel as responding in self-defense. In the last decade, four military confrontations have taken place in Gaza – in 2006, 2008, 2012 and 2014 – in which Israel has invaded and carried out wholesale slaughter. Israel in each case has been the party who routinely and flagrantly violates the cease fires.
Israeli cease fire violations are simply ignored or reported as inconclusive accusations. When they are mentioned at all, it is as something Palestinians say but that journalists dare not corroborate with verifiable facts.
It is instructive to study the period leading up to and after the ridiculously named “Operation Protective Edge” and its portrayal in corporate media as a test of the Herman-Chomsky propaganda model.
The previous war in Gaza occurred in November 2012. As a study in the Jerusalem Fund indicates, rocket fire from Gaza in the period afterwards was virtually non-existent.
“In the immediate aftermath of the cease-fire agreement no projectiles were launched from Gaza into Israel,” writes Yousef Munayyer. “Rather Israel continued to fire into Gaza, killing one Palestinian, injuring 42 others, committing four incursions and firing at or detaining 48 Palestinian fishermen off the coast. It was not until after most of these violations that the first projectile from Gaza post-ceasefire was launched on Dec. 24, 2012.”
Human rights groups like Visualizing Palestine analyze the data and reach the same conclusion as the Jerusalem Fund. Their data shows conclusively that Israel commits vastly more cease fire violations than Palestinians.
From November 2012 through July 7, 2014, Visualizing Palestine tallied 191 Israeli violations to 75 Palestinian violations. The Israeli violations were far more deadly. Israel was responsible for 18 fatalities and dozens of injuries, while Palestinians were responsible for 0 fatalities and 3 injuries.
After Israel assassinated 6 Hamas members in July, Hamas responded with rocket fire into Israel. U.S. officials unanimously proclaimed that Israel had a right to defend itself. The press uncritically repeated these assertions, despite no such self-defense justification existing in international law.