Exposing double standards in Mideast reporting

Romney’s gaffe has drawn attention to the media’s multiple standards when it comes to Israel.

Media 521 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Media 521
(photo credit: Associated Press)
As is by now well-known, the global mainstream media wasted no time discrediting Romney’s “culture” theory to explain the “dramatically stark difference in economic vitality” between Israeli and Palestinian economies. As soon as Romney uttered the words “culture makes all the difference,” chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat called the remarks “racist” and the media swooped in with a vigorous fact-checking of Romney’s claims.
The French news agency Agence France-Presse reminded its readers that culture could not explain the difference since  “...the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) regularly stress that Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement of people and goods is a key factor hindering the economic development of the Palestinian Territories.” La Presse Canadienne noted that  “Mitt Romney did not mention the economic blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza” and “data from the World Bank figures show, however, that Mitt Romney’s statements do not conform to reality.”The Washington Post said Romney’s “assessment is one not widely shared within Israel, and suggested a lack of sustained study or nuanced understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.” And Time magazine noted on its website that Palestinians living outside the Middle East – who do not live under occupation – generally succeed very well economically.
Given the media’s skewering of Romney’s comments about Palestinian culture, one would expect the media to enthusiastically challenge overt falsehoods disparaging Israeli society, right? One would expect, for example, that Saeb Erekat’s statements libeling Israel an “apartheid regime” would be subject to rigorous fact-checking and examination. The media might articulate, for example, that this statement is untrue since Israel is actually the only democratic and apartheid-free state in the Middle East, where everyone is equal under the law and where minorities enjoy more prerogatives than most ethnic minorities in the world.
Alas, baseless anti-Israel libels get traction in the media precisely because they are rarely challenged.  And yet, as we see in Romney’s case, the media can rise to the occasion when motivated to do so.   
Not only is libel against Israel frequently reported by the media, but overt Palestinian racism is given a free pass. Several weeks ago, Ahmed Mansour, a retired Palestinian Authority official, fell to his death from the third floor window of a PA Military Intelligence building in Ramallah. Mansour was facing charges of treason for taking part in land transactions with Israelis – an offense which is punishable by death, according to PA law.  This past April, the PA sentenced Muhammad Shahala, a former intelligence official, to death for selling property to Jews. Shahala was reportedly tortured into confessing.
How did the media portray this appalling law?  The Associated Press and the Canadian Press wire, among others, informed its readership that “Palestinian society views such acts as treason because it weakens their quest for an independent state.”
It is difficult to know which is more scandalous: this essentially racist law or the media’s rationalization of this racist law.
Thus, we learn from the media that it is egregious to infer that Palestinian society — which names schools and parks after suicide bombers – could stand some moral refinement, but sentencing a man to death for selling land to a Jew is understandable.
Romney’s overseas trip may not have done much to shore up his foreign policy credentials, but it hasn’t done much for the media’s image either. Romney’s gaffe has drawn attention to the media’s multiple standards when it comes to Israel: criticisms of Palestinian society shall not be tolerated, anti-Israel libels may go unchallenged, and Palestinian malfeasance should be indulged. That pretty much sums up the current state of mainstream Mideast reporting.
The writer is the Quebec regional director for HonestReporting Canada, a non-profit organization that ensures fair and accurate media coverage of Israel in the Canadian media.