In almost 40 years of studying these issues I’ve never seen a better case study
of mass-media bias and knee-jerk narrowness than an aspect of the current flap
about what presidential candidate Mitt Romney said during his trip to Israel.
I’m going to focus on a single point because it brings this problem into sharp
If you truly understand what you are about to read, I don’t see
how you can accord most of the mass media any credibility when it comes to
Israel ever again. Briefly, Romney mentioned the gap between the Israeli and
Palestinian economies – ironically, he vastly understated the gap – and
attributed it to “culture” by which he meant, as Romney has said elsewhere, such
things as democracy, individual liberty, free enterprise and the rule of
But I’m not talking about Romney here or the media’s critique of
him. What is interesting is this: How do you explain the reason why Israel is so
much more advanced in terms of economy, technology and living standards? The
media generally rejected Romney’s explanation and pretty much all made the same
To quote an Associated Press story, that was this: “Comparison of
the two economies did not take into account the stifling effect the Israeli
occupation has had on the Palestinian economy in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and
East Jerusalem – areas Israel captured in 1967 where the Palestinians hope to
establish a state.
“In the West Bank, Palestinians have only limited
Israel controls all border crossings in and out of the
territory, and continues to restrict Palestinian trade and movement. Israel
annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, but has invested much less heavily there than in
Jewish West Jerusalem.”
Or, in other words, it’s all Israel’s fault. Yet
in choosing to blame Israel, the media generally showed no interest at all in
additional factors which are equally, or far more, valid. My point is that only
blaming Israel was even considered as a reasonable explanation on this issue –
as it is on the failure of the peace process and just about anything else
involving Israel-Palestinian matters, and at times, perhaps less true recently,
the entire Middle East.
I’m not suggesting that journalists and editors
thought through the following list of factors and deliberately decided not to
mention them. I think that these things never entered their minds. Yet how can
that be? Some of these points require knowledge of the situation on the ground
and its history. Still, many should be obvious to those who have read past
newspaper accounts or just use logic, not to mention research.
Consider the points made below. You might count them for less, but anyone honest should
admit that they add up to a compelling case:
1. The most devastating problem for
the Palestinian economy has been the leadership’s refusal to make peace with
Israel and to get a state. Most notably, the opportunities thrown away in 1948,
1979, and 2000 doomed both countries to years of suffering, casualties and lower
development. Today, in 2012, both Palestinian leaderships –Fatah and Hamas –
continue this strategy.
2. Statistics show major advances in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip during the period of Israeli occupation. A lot of money also
came in from Palestinians working in Israel (or to a surprising extent, on the
3. The media should be expected to explain why
Israel interfered at all, considering by around 1994 almost all West Bank and
Gaza Palestinians were under Palestinian rule. The reason, of course, was
Palestinian violence against Israel and Israelis. If there had not been such
attacks, Israeli forces would not have set foot in Palestinian- ruled
Stability would have encouraged development and foreign
investment. There would be no roadblocks. Incidentally, roadblocks and
restrictions on travel have changed constantly and at times of relative quiet
became almost non-existent. Of course, Israel maintained control of the borders
to prevent weapons from coming in.
4. The large transfer of funds (as
provided in the Oslo agreement, but PA behavior did not make Israel violate the
agreement) from Israel to the PA regarding refunds on customs’ duties and
workers’ fringe benefits.
5. The well-documented incompetence and
corruption of the Palestinian Authority. For example, there is no reliable body
of law that a company could depend on there. Bribes determine who gets
contracts. Literally billions of dollars have been stolen and mostly ended up in
the European accounts of Palestinian leaders.
6. And where did those
billions of dollars come from? They came from foreign donors who showered huge
amounts of money on a relatively small population. Yet, even aside from theft,
the money was not used productively or to benefit the people.
of the risks and attacks on Israel, the country stopped admitting Palestinian
workers except for a far smaller number. Tens of thousands thus lost lucrative
jobs and the PA could not replace these.
8. The unequal status of women
in the Palestinian society throws away up to one-half of the potential labor and
talent that could otherwise have made a big contribution to
9. And then there are the special factors relating to the
Gaza Strip. Under the rule of Hamas, a group committing many acts of terror and
openly calling for genocide against Israel, the emphasis was not put on economic
development but on war-fighting.
The shooting of rockets at Israel
created an economic blockade. Note also, however, that Hamas also alienated the
Mubarak regime in Egypt which also had no incentive to help it, instituting its
own restrictions that were as intense as those of Israel.
Palestinian leadership generally antagonized Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other
oil-rich Arab states that were consequently not interested in helping them
11. Finally, compare the Palestinians to the Egyptians,
Jordanians, Syrians or Lebanese. In those places the excuse of “it’s all
Israel’s fault” is hard to sustain, yet the Palestinians have done as well or
better than other Arabs who share a very similar political culture.
My main interest here was not so much to present these eleven points but to ask the
question: Why is it that these factors were barely mentioned – or not mentioned
at all – in the media analyses of Romney’s statement? The answer, of course, is
that most of the media is set on the “blame Israel” argument.
given this point, why is that approach used virtually 100 percent of the time
with nothing about the other side of the issue? Often, one suspects there is no
interest in presenting anything other than an anti-Israel narrative.The
writer is the director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA)
Center http://www.gloria-center.org The Rubin Report blog