MSNM to Israel: We’re a force of nature, deal with it.

The latest developments from Silwan, and a brilliant spoof on the MSNM by Latma (below) prompt me to report a conversation I had last summer with a journalist who is the Middle East Correspondent for a major Western news outlet. I was speaking to him about my concern that the MSNM had behaved very badly over the previous decade, much to the detriment, not just of Israel but of the West and societies that try and guarantee the freedom of speech and the press. In particular I emphasized the skewed epistemology whereby they treated Palestinian claims as true until proven false, and Israeli claims as false until proven true, and when the evidence eventually favored the Israelis, they tended to fall silent.

His response was that Israeli complaints (whining) about the media being unfair is like a general who complains about rain on the field of battle. I didn’t bother pursuing the point that in no case does the rain only fall on one army alone. What interested me more was the implication of this (repeated) comment, namely that he (and apparently many others) saw the media as a force of nature, an unalterable force, immune to reason or rebuke. They would just do their thing, and let the Israelis deal with it.

I think that some of this comes from an attitude of sympathy towards the underdog. Bob Simon, in treating the Al Durah story, commented that “in the Middle East, one picture can be worth a thousand weapons.” Over time, a number of journalists (off the record) agreed with the formula: “The Israelis have all the weapons, so why not let the Palestinians have the PR victory? It’s a way of leveling the playing field.”

But what about fake stories? Like Muhammad al Durah? In subsequent years, I heard (especially European/French) journalists shrug and say, weapons of the weak, as if somehow that made it alright. In this sense, Enderlin’s response to my observation that most of the action sequences from Talal abu Rahmah were framed — “Oh, they do that all the time, it’s a cultural thing” — represents the journalist’s off-the-record Orientalist indulgence of a culture foreign to everything that Western journalism is supposed to be about.

Now, I can understand some journalists coming to this conclusion, deciding that somehow the underdog status of the Palestinians allowed them to invent what Nidra Poller has aptly called “lethal narratives” but not everyone.  And yet, my friend the journalist (who few would consider a particularly nasty anti-Israel writer) tells me that a majority of the journalists stationed in Israel would be far more harsh in their treatment of Israel were it not for their editors at home.

I think I understand why he presents the MSNM as a force of nature, impermeable to change: they’re going to handicap Israel by raining on their troop positions. It’s not only the “moral” thing to do (level the playing field, side with the underdog), but it’s also a show of power. They will be the Lilliputians that tie the giant Gulliver down.

Talking to him, listening to his reasoning, to his explanations for things (like explaining the precipitous drop in Hamas’ suicide bombings in recent years as a response to the disapproval of Muslims worldwide), to his disappointment that Israel is not more in line with his own liberal/progressive thinking (alas, they reacted to suicide attacks by becoming more right-wing), to his selective empathy, I begin to realize how tight the grip of what Charles Jacobs calls the Human Rights Complex is on our journalists, and their party-buddies, the UN workers and “Human Rights” NGOs who hang together in Jerusalem. It produces the “herd of independent minds” that characterizes today’s Middle East journalism.

And of course, if you adopt this point of view, you never have to deal with the problem of what happens if you report stuff that’s not acceptable to the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims. So they can, in all good conscience, look you straight in the eye and say, “There’s no intimidation here.” Try writing some stories on the culture of genocidal hatred that has pride of place in Palestinian pulpits and airways, and see if there isn’t some pushback.

But then, that would be supplying Israel with PR weapons, and we wouldn’t want that.

All of this is a long and rather elaborate introduction to a brilliant satire put out by Latma on precisely this subject. Enjoy. Imnsho, it’s right on.

17 Responses to MSNM to Israel: We’re a force of nature, deal with it.

  1. Eliyahu says:

    but another question arises: Who is the underdog? To be sure, the PLO/PA have fewer weapons than Israel and no supersonic jets, etc. But on the other hand, Western and Communist powers have sided with the Arabs, especially since invention of the “palestinian people” notion. So the “international community,” an often bloodthirsty lot, to be sure, has long sided with Arabs –since the 1950s– and the UN and other international organizations and institutions are dominated by powers hostile to Israel. A striking case in point is the UN “human rights council” which is dominated by the anti-Israel Org of the Islamic Conference [OIC]. So Israel and its friends are almost always outnumbered in the UNHRC and the GA and the UN SC, and so on. And Israel’s enemies are supplied with advanced weapons by various and sundry great powers. And the media of powerful and influential Western states make pro-Arab, pro-PLO/Hamas/PA propaganda. This is meant to turn Western populations against Israel. So, whereas weapons cannot do everything –and that goes for Israel’s weapons too– Israel is subject to discrimination, bullying, boycotts, etc. Therefore Israel is the underdog. But the argument that that section of the Arabs called “palestinians” are the “underdog,” cleverly propounded by Western and Arab politicians and media mind benders, has been very successful. That is partly due to the clever psywar waged against Israel, not just by Arabs and Muslims but by powerful institutions and persons in the West.

  2. Abe "Lupe" Selig says:

    Great post Richard – the Landes-Sha’anan clan are missed, somewhere deep in the back country of Texas….

  3. Richard says:

    “It’s a way of levelling the playing field”
    But it is not the job of journalists to level the playing field! This is a classic example of a politico-moral narrative overriding the function of the media.

    Ah, Eliyahu, but the Israelis are also a proxy for the United States and therefore the superior (and bad).

  4. Richard says:

    “It is an interesting question whether those who reject their civilisation on moral grounds exemplify moral abasement or moral megalomania. The answer, of course, is that the abasement is collective, and the megalomania is personal.”

  5. Eliyahu says:

    Well, if Israel is a “proxy” for the USA –and I’ve heard that claim made many times, by Commies, Trots, “right-wingers”, etc– then the USA sure has a strange way of treating its proxies.

  6. incognito says:

    the implication of this (repeated) comment, namely that he (and apparently many others) saw the media as a force of nature, an unalterable force, immune to reason or rebuke.

    But today that IS the reality: to whom is the MSNM accountable? In fact, it even loses money and does not correct itself? Is there any public audience today knowledgeable and able to reason independently and critically to take it to task?

    As to their morality, they would not know what that is if it bit them on the ass. Arguments to the contrary notwithstanding, moral considerations also require knowledge and reason.

    Regarding who is the underdog, today’s left considers the self-expression of grievances the automatic definition of the underdog: just scream you’re a victim and you’re the underdog. Read the Guardian or critique by David Thompson at his site — they’re full of evidence to that effect. The pals seem to have learned this and have their propaganda targetted accordingly. Israel, however, has chosen to play the strength card, despite the fact that strategically it keeps losing due to serious errors while the arab side keeps winning precisely due to success in manipulating the west’s stupidity in defining the underdog.

  7. […] summer with a journalist who is the Middle East Correspondent for a major Western news outlet. … Continue reading →(Augean Stables)Elder of Ziyon links:Not only is Israel delegitimized, but also her defenders. (CiF […]

  8. Eric R. says:


    Israel is going to have to treat these “journalists”as terrorists. And yes, if that means targeting and killing them, they should do it. I am sure some of them are conspiring with Hamas and Hezbollah, and Israel can probably obtain evidence for this.

    They are no more journalists and Joseph Goebbels and should be considered to present the same threat.

    As to the reaction of the Europeans? They are all filthy Nazis anyway. There is no pleasing them, only telling them to go rot in their soon-to-be Islamist hell.

  9. […] should be granted authentic status a priori seems like a foolish epistemological move… one typical of many journalists up till now. But there are a few questions that are not asked by these journalists – or by those […]

  10. […] need checking. If you need short cuts, let me suggest finding a significant alternative to the current reigning epistemology of your comrades on the beat in the Middle East: believe Palestinians until proven wrong, and doubt […]

  11. […] Kershner has drunk the journalist/UN/NGO kool-aid for a long time now. This particular article illustrates nicelythe way that journalists have taken […]

  12. […] Journalist reclaims the moral high ground. Israelis put down in the mud pits with the Palestinians. It’s all part of the cycle of blame and violence. It’s precisely this “take,” that makes the West so vulnerable to cognitive war. “If you Israel-firsters point it out to me, I’ll just accuse you of the same thing, and go about my business (of assisting their cognitive war against you). And if you complain, well then, I’ll just tell you to stop whining. Generals don’t complain about the weather.” […]

  13. […] Goldberg and Beinart and Friedman and Sarkozy and Walt and Mearsheimer and J-Street and my journalist interlocutor and so many others of his guild (and, Goldberg now informs us, the POTUS), believe that those […]

  14. […] to the Middle East, even fair-minded journalists get “turned” into partisans of a particularly weaponized version of the Human Rights Complex. The senior journalists (like Charles Enderlin), UN employees, and the NGO folk form the […]

  15. […] of coming to the Middle East, even fair-minded journalists get “turned” into partisans of a particularly weaponized version of the Human Rights Complex. The senior journalists (like Charles Enderlin), UN employees, and the NGO folk form the “honor […]

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