Media Matters: Redemption through slander

The British like to believe that they have learned a lesson from their checkered past and must now play the role of the world’s conscience.

We get blamed for everything. Jews, Zionists, Israel, whichever grouping is most convenient at the time, are prime targets for conspiracy theorists (remember how we were responsible for the 1997 Asian financial crisis? Or how we were warned to leave the Twin Towers in advance of the 9/11 attacks?). Unfortunately, part of our identity as Jews, Zionists and Israelis has become learning how to brush off the conspiracies and lament peoples’ ignorance. But it still stings.
This week, Just Journalism, an independent media research group based in the UK, released an investigative report analyzing 121 editorials relating to the Middle East published by The Financial Times of London last year. The report, quite astonishingly, found that the paper repeatedly blames Israel for everything wrong in the Middle East. The editorial staff continuously glosses over crucial factors like Hamas, the Iranian threat or Palestinian terrorism and exhibits a strange level of support for countries like Saudi Arabia.
The report, titled “Financial Times 2009: A year of Middle East editorials,” examines the editorials and divides them into four sections: 1. Israel and the Palestinians: Leaders and efforts for peace, 2. Key points of conflict: Settlements and Gaza, 3. Iran: Nuclear ambitions and tensions with Israel, and 4. The Arab world: Regimes and peacemaking. The report found that The Financial Times placed the role of settlement building in the West Bank “above any other single factor affecting the conflict.”
And here I thought terrorism against civilians was the most egregious aspect of this conflict. Silly me.
Just Journalism also found that while repeated threats against Israel’s existence by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were completely ignored by The Financial Times’s editorial staff, speculation of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities was mentioned several times. Bravo to a publication that can make Israel look like the aggressor against the Ahmadinejad regime – that takes real skill.
EAGER TO probe The Financial Times’s apparent “beef” with Israel, I conducted my own bit of research into its critical stance. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised to find buzzwords like “boycott,” “ethnic cleansing” and “disproportionate response” floating around. Sure, we’ve heard it all before, but when Israeli leadership is referred to as “hawkish” and “ultranationalist” while Palestinian leaders are described as “moderate” and “conciliatory,” you can’t help but scratch your head and wonder.
Adjectives and action verbs aside, the real kicker came in the form of an opinion piece published on December 8, titled “Israel must unpick its ethnic myth.” As it turns out, this “ethnic myth” Israel is being asked to unpick is its identity as a Jewish state. The reason it needs to unpick? According to the author, Tony Judt, Israel’s Jewishness is the underlying cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Judt goes on to opine that the notion of Israel as a Jewish state is “delusional,” “perverse” and “dysfunctional.”
Marty Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, lamented The Financial Times’s relationship with Israel in his column. Noting its insistence that Tel Aviv is the capital, Peretz believes “in this little obsession can be seen the newspaper’s resistance to 61 years of fact...”
What is going on here? How can a respected publication exhibit such blatant bias? Peretz sheds some light on the paper’s ownership and its association with the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Center, which, as he notes, “has been supported by so many Arab governments and Arab zillionaires that one can hardly trust its views.”
This association with the Carter Center is definitely of concern, but the bigger picture suggests that perhaps it is the historical relationship between Britain and the Jews/Israel, and – more importantly – Britain’s habit of criticizing the rest of the world in an attempt to repent for its own shady, colonialist past.
Take a look at some of the most hostile conflicts in the world, and in many cases Britain’s footprints are all over them – India and Pakistan with the partition of India and the Kashmir conflict, the division of Ireland into two parts with Northern Ireland under British rule, and our own Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
British Mandate period documents describe the British as forcing local Arabs to drive “mine-sweeping taxis” ahead of British vehicles “to reduce [British] land mine casualties” in areas where mines were believed to have been planted. The British even enacted specific regulations allowing them to demolish any house located in a village where a suspected terrorist lived. A quick trip to the Web site for the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine paints an ugly picture of the British Mandate government. One they are desperately trying to bury.
The British, and to be fair, most of Europe and even the United States,like to believe that they have somehow learned a lesson from theircheckered pasts and are now responsible for playing the role of theworld’s conscience. Their media organizations more often than not tendto function as the most prominent cheerleaders of this guidingprinciple. The Financial Timescan editorialize its little heart out, but making a habit of grossomissions and misrepresentation will undoubtedly catch up with it –after all, it is The Financial Times, and as any conspiracy theorist worth his salt will tell you, it’s the Jews who control the money.