Archive for July, 2010

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July 25, 2010
Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land

Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land

American Media: An Obstacle to the End of the Occupation?

Review of the documentary Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land

Nowadays, television represents the first and primary source of information. It allows us to know what is happening in the world; what are the important events. Television shapes our vision of the world.  This is why the information has to be as neutral as possible.

In the conflict between Palestinian and Israel, it is clearly apparent that Israel is fighting on two different fronts. The first fight takes place in the Occupied Territories, whereas the second one takes place in the American Media, ensuring the continuance of military and a financial support.

The origins of Israel’s current public relations campaign dates back to the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, when hundreds of refugees from Sabra and Shatila refugee’s camps were massacred. The international community was shocked, and Israel’s image stained, resulting a year later in the Israeli government’s decision to launched the Hasbara project….An effort to promote a positive Israeli reputation in the Americans media.

Reporting on Israel in the United States news bears the influence of this institutional relationship, ensuring that the information goes through different filters before it is released to the public. In order to understand how the American media deals with the conflict in the Middle East, it is essential to understand how those filters work.

The most important filter is the one committed to upholding the commercial interests of the corporation(s) which own the media outlets. Those economics interests are shared with the political elite, who constitute the second filter. The third filter is the overarching Israeli government’s effort to control their public image via selective news releases.  The Israeli government hires American companies to refine these communications. It is practically impossible for opponents of the Israeli government to release accurate information to the world at large after having been subjected to the process of being rung through all these filters.

Three elements play a huge role in blocking ordinary U.S. citizens from acquiring (and thus comprehending) the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. First of all, there is the availability of images (i.e., photos, video, etc.).  When we watch American TV news, we note a lack of visual depictions that accurately convey aspects of the conflict. If we don’t witness Palestinian suffering, how can we understand how much colonization is injuring them?

The second important element is the choice of the words/phrases (language) used in the media to report the facts. For example, CNN sent a note to its journalists in the Middle East that notified them that from now on, Gilo  – an illegal Israeli settlement – would be referred to as a “neighborhood”, obviously misleading viewers into thinking that its existence is conflict-free. By changing the word, they change the story.

The third essential element to understanding the situation is the context. In order to understand the current conflict, it is essential to place the situation within its true context: by virtue of the United Nations and International Law, Israel is the illegal occupier of Palestinian territories.  However, in the American TV news, Israel is only referred to as “the State of Israel”:  the occupation is never mentioned, and thus their true status within the area frequently referred to as “the Holy Land” is very often missing.

The United States – because of its financial and military support to Israel – does have within its capacity an ability to apply pressure on Israel, and this could be used to help end the occupation.  But sadly, its control of the media instead reflects the strategic importance of Israel to U.S. “interests”, and maintaining those over human rights instead.  As long as Israel has strategic importance, the United States will be an obstacle to the end of the occupation

Haby Drame’  – MPT Intern

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