The Media Honor-Shame Game: Humiliate Israel, Spare and Taunt the Arabs

I have been working with a powerful new tool that an associate has prepared for me at Second Draft. We’ve been recording all the news coverage from CNN and BBC since December 27, 2008 that deals with Israel (and some relevant other coverage). As I go through the coverage, it’s hard not to notice how much the journalists themselves (especially the anchors like Jim Clancy of CNN and Jeremy Bowen of BBC) are hostile to Israel. Bowen even admitted how much he’s enjoying the dust-up between Israel and the US.

‘It has been an unusual and enjoyable new experience to be able to look on as the Israelis argued with their most important ally. The fact that the dispute is over Jewish settlements is even better for the Palestinian [sic].’

Nothing like a good dose of Schadenfreude to make a journalist’s day.

But beneath this fairly obvious layer, I’ve begun to detect something else: a game of honor-shame in which the media plays the role of taunter.

It follows three basic principles.
1) Play up Israeli insults to the Arabs and the West, thus taunting those so insulted to retaliate.
2) Play down Arab insults to Israel and the West, thus reducing any sense of Israeli concerns.
3) Taunt Arabs into becoming more hard line.

The overall contribution of these subliminal messages which pop out here and there, is to stir hostility to Israel. It is as if the journalists want, above all, to have Israel get slapped in the face. Apparently their own efforts just don’t seem to satisfy them.

1) Play up Israeli insults to the Arabs and the West, thus taunting those so insulted to retaliate.

The following, from BBC announcer Kathy Kay gives a good sense of how it works from a news anchor:You can watch the whole file, but the opening soundbite sets the tone:

The Vice President gets a very public slap in the face when he visits Israel… is the US going to let this ride?”

2) Play down Arab insults to Israel and the West

This is a pervasive phenomenon, and manifests itself both in widespread silence about, say, Palestinian incitement, and in the lack of interest in how Israelis might respond to hearing Palestinian leaders say that the Jews have no historical attachment to Jerusalem. Thus Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in 2000 was a response to Arafat’s dismissal of Israel’s historical connection, but the Palestinian riots were a response to his provocation. The subtext here: Israel should turn the other cheek, and they should not slap the Arabs.

My favorite disturbing example of the degree to which journalists seek to avoid embarrassing the Palestinians comes from the beginning of the Second (Al Aqsa) Intifada. Crowds of enraged Palestinians shouting “revenge for the death of Muhammad al Durah” had just rampaged through the streets with the torn body parts of two Israeli reservists who had the misfortune to drive into Ramallah (October 12). The next day, Sheikh Halabiya, a popular preacher addressed his congregation in a sermon that PA TV would broadcast.

The Jews are the Jews. Whether Labor or Likud, the Jews are Jews. They do not have any moderates or any advocates of peace. They are all liars. They must be butchered and must be killed… The Jews are like a spring as long as you step on it with your foot it doesn’t move. But if you lift your foot from the spring, it hurts you and punishes you… It is forbidden to have mercy in your hearts for the Jews in any place and in any land. Make war on them any place that you find yourself. Any place that you meet them, kill them.

Two weeks later, William Orme, senior NYT journalist, came to Israel to write a piece specifically on incitement as a contributor to the violence. After interviewing a Palestinian who said, “Israelis consider anything incitement,” he gave his one example of incitement, this incident, which he quoted as follows:

Israelis cite as one egregious example a televised sermon that defended the killing of the two soldiers [at Ramallah on October 12, 2000]. “Whether Likud or Labor, Jews are Jews,” proclaimed Sheik Ahmad Abu Halabaya in a live broadcast from a Gaza City mosque the day after the killings.

What’s to make a stink about? This is garden-variety prejudice.

3) Taunt Arabs into becoming more hard line.

The most famous of these taunts comes from George Gallaway – granted, not a journalist, but the example is so striking I had to include it. Speaking on Al Jazeera in 2005, he told his Arab audience:

Two of your beautiful daughters are in the hands of foreigners―Jerusalem and Baghdad. The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will. The daughters are crying for help, and the Arab world is silent. Some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters. . . .”

That wins him a high ranking among useful infidels. Note that Galloway is the founder of a political party entitled Respect.

But here’s Nisha Pillai of the BBC going after Amr Moussa the UN Ambassador from the Arab League during the first week of Operation Cast Lead for going to slowly in getting the Palestinians to unite against Israel. He comes off far more moderate. She shows no shame in a) interrupting him repeatedly, and 2) taking such staunch positions.

Pillai: “Have you invited Hamas and PA together. You need Hamas there don’t you?” [note the hand gestures and tone of voice].
Mussa speaks of patience.
Pillai: “Why? Why must it come later. At this moment you have a massive assault going on in Gaza. Don’t you have to have Hamas there with Fatah sitting together trying to sort out a joint response to Israel. Isn’t it a matter of urgency.”

Note that she had already given Bibi a rude interview because Israel is too aggressive.

Bibi’s question to her makes much the same point I’m making here: Do you think unprovoked attacks against Israelis are acceptable, but Israel’s attempt to stop them are not? Isn’t that a grotesque double standard that sends the wrong message?

Her response – to repeat her initial challenge by emphasizing the world’s concern for Palestinian children, makes it clear she either doesn’t know what he’s talking about, could not care less.

And so, dear viewers, when will someone be man enough to stand up to those arrogant Israelis and give them the slap in the face they need? Surely that will make the Arab world conciliatory and lead to peace, no?

UPDATE: It takes a Russian-Israeli minister to state the obvious:

Israel’s many gestures to the Palestinians have been reciprocated by “slaps in the face,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said yesterday. Speaking to Haaretz by telephone from Japan, Lieberman said that “we took the unilateral step of deciding on a moratorium, a construction freeze in Judea and Samaria. We recognized two states for two peoples. We removed a dramatic number of roadblocks.”

I think we made countless gestures, and what did we get in return? The glorification of terror.” He added that “the day before Israel’s acceptance by the OECD, [Palestinian Authority Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad approached dozens of countries with a request to sabotage that acceptance. They keep going on with their stories about war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. After all, [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas himself called and asked us, pressured us to continue the military campaign and overthrow Hamas.

17 Responses to The Media Honor-Shame Game: Humiliate Israel, Spare and Taunt the Arabs

  1. Daniel BIelak says:

    The question is, when will someone have the decency and backbone to give the racist Judeophobic genocide-inciting British journalists the metaphorical slap in the face that the well-being of the whole world needs.

  2. Sergio says:

    It’s about time. Problem is: there seems to be no qualified journalist to the job.

  3. E.G. says:


    The pattern is similar for most if not all Western media coverage that touches Islam. See e.g., the Mohamad cartoons case.

    On one hand, it’s in the media’s interest to stir up conflict, it’s their primary resource. On the other hand, any non-positive Islamic thing must be downplayed, whether due to financial concerns or to “accessibility” considerations, or to matters of life-and-death, or all the above.

    Israel’s case is a model of the genre.

    The premise that Moslems are not only highly thin-skinned but are also extremely (disproportionately) violent whenever they feel like being offended is taken for granted. But such a premise contradicts the equality principle in (post)modern Western thinking: are we all the same or not?
    If the answer is “Yes, but..”, it’s highly indicative of the existence and application of more than one standard to all.

    Of course, Pally propaganda takes advantage of such favourable conditions.

  4. E.G. says:

    Latma’s edition illustrates my above points.

  5. obsy says:

    1) Play up Israeli insults to the Arabs and the West, thus taunting those so insulted to retaliate.
    2) Play down Arab insults to Israel and the West, thus
    3) Taunt Arabs into becoming more hard line.

    How does this look like for someone without additions information?

    1) Israel does awful things.
    As a reaction to Journalists: Israel defends its right to do awful things.
    2) Arabs react modestly.
    3) Journalists (rightfully) ask why Arabs are so modest under such conditions (and Arabs fail to explain this?)

    So: Journalists do their Job, Israel is evil and the Arabs are (weird? but) nice.

    As long as this presentation is (at least superficially) consistent, it will work for the media.

  6. Sergio says:

    No: journalist are doing a LOUSY job, because they are the ones supposed to have deeper information, context and impartiality (or else, declare once and for all their
    party). They are payed to go deeper than the surface, but they just don’t do it because they already made their minds.

  7. Cynic says:


    I hope you noted in that Link to the funding of Passia by USAID that the Palestinian propaganda machine received help from two Western journalists: Eric Weiner, of National Public Radio (NPR) – another U.S. taxpayer funded enterprise – and Lyse Doucete of the BBC.

    I’ve always maintained that in general the journalists’/editors’ agenda is malicious and not due to ignorance or naivety.
    They want to see blood running.

  8. E.G. says:


    I did, thanked you over there, and here again.

    I don’t see why or how ignorance and an agenda are contradictory. IMO they’re complementary.

    If I may correct, they want to show the blood running. And captivate viewers/auditors to re-runs and analyses of the hows and whys the blood got spilled, and why/when it may further be spilled.
    Blood is their raw material, provided it’s not spilt by Moslems.

  9. obsy says:


    I think that television journalism is not going deeper under the surface, because money lies elsewhere.

    Fast information that looks justifiable enough in the eyes of the public.
    Action, entertainment, powerful images and cheap stories that boost up emotions …

    Officially the job of the media is to inform the public. In reality this might be true only for some domestic news items. You don’t benefit directly from news about an earthquake in China, unrest in Gabon or even an election in the USA. Often such news have only those values:

    1. You can see yourself as a good well-informed citizen.

    2. On some topics you can get your own opinion confirmed.

    3. You might have to talk about these topics for social reasons, at work, with friends, on any occasion where people talk.
    In that sense, TV-news are an efficient way to arm yourself in a short time with opinions that can be expressed and defended during a small talk.

    It would be hard for TV to communicate in a small amount of time what an average citizen would need to express and defend (in a small amount of time) a pro-Israeli opinion (unless it is commonly accepted). On the other hand, even the dumbest and rhetorically untalented person can say: “But what about the blackened children.”
    Even in a really informed discussion he might only come across as “dumb but kind-hearted” ― a luxury that the defender of an air-strike does not have (even when he is right).

    So news-stations are doing a good job in what their real purpose might be.

  10. obsy says:

    In print media, most journalists are lousily paid (if at all). Life is pretty expensive in Europe if you are self-employed, because you are forced to have insurances and must pay them yourself. Articles that don’t get published won’t get you any money.

  11. […] But here’s Nisha Pillai of the BBC going after Amr Moussa the UN Ambassador from the Arab League during the first week of Operation Cast Lead for going to slowly in getting the Palestinians to unite against Israel. Excerpt from: Augean Stables » The Media Honor-Shame Game: Humiliate Israel … […]

  12. obsy says:

    Bowen put up an excuse: “there was a ‘glitch in [his] editing process’”

    isn’t that what the Guardian said when they published a list of nobel prize winners that left Israel off the list? maybe we shd start collecting a list of such editing errors. as my dad used to say, “ever notice how 95% of errors in the “check” favor the restaurant?” -rl

  13. Eliyahu says:

    So the media –or much of it– doesn’t want merely to report current events but to make them, indeed to make history.

  14. E.G. says:


    If only all people around the world played the Pallywood game…

  15. Sergio says:

    Obsy, so we agree: the media is doing a great job of doing a lousy job. :)

  16. […] agendas. They can count on Westerners to ignore the evidence. It’s been like that ever since William Orme dropped the genocidal incitement from his article on incitement as an element in the intifada back in […]

  17. […] immunity, quote a Sheikh calling for genocide against the Jews (from the pulpit, on TV), and leave out the genocidal part… in an article on incitement. And this unconscionable piece of journalism right at the […]

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