The following is an excerpt from my book ms., They’re So Smart cause We’re so Stupid: A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st century.
From: Part II: the Players, Chapter 5: Lethal Journalism
Compliance with Palestinian Media Protocols
It has become increasingly clear over the last decades that
the MSNM reporting on the conflict between Israel and her neighbors followed
practices that overlapped remarkably with Palestinian demands that journalists
report virtually all of the news within the framework of the Palestinian-David/Israeli-Goliath. The
rules are fairly straightforward and can be summarized in the form of eight
|1) The Palestinians are the noble resisters – David||2) The Israelis are the cruel oppressors – Goliath|
|3) Thou shalt always portray
Palestinians as victims, never asAggressors
|4) Thou shalt never portray the Israelis as victims, always as Aggressors.|
|5) Thou shalt not portray
|6) Thou shalt not portray Israel
|7) Thou shalt not challenge or undermine Palestinian claims||8) Thou shalt challenge and
undermine Israeli claims.
Obviously no journalist would work in full compliance with these demands, lest he or she lose all credibility. Nonetheless, the general level of compliance hovers around an invisible line of credibility, in which the journalists comply as much as possible without looking like fools. The number of cases in which these commandments operate is so great, one could compose volumes enumerating them, just of those cases when, for example, Hamas rockets killed Palestinians, and journalists, obeying commandments, 3, 4, 6, and 8, only reported the story as long as it looked like Israel had done it, but fell silent when it became clear it was Hamas. The number of violations in the opposite direction – not reporting reliable cases that made the Israelis look bad (i.e. violating #6, 8, 10) are minimal, and so many unreliable cases of (often false) reporting are so amply covered, that it would be hard to compose any significant list of under-reporting Israeli malfeasance. On the contrary, reporters make their careers by rooting out Israeli malfeasance.
Black Hearts Red Spades: Paradigmatic Expectations and the Rejection of
Perhaps the best place to see this at work is in the cases where the Israelis are victims and the Palestinians aggressors. An outstanding example came right at the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada/Oslo Jihad. The day after Ariel Sharon had visited the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif (29 September 2000/ 2 Rajab 1421), enraged by Palestinian news broadcasts claiming Sharon had desecrated Al Aqsa, severe rioting broke out in East Jerusalem. In the course of a terrible day of clashes, a dozen died and hundreds were wounded.
The next day, AP sent out the following photo and caption.
The obvious suggestion of the caption is that the angry Israeli policeman with the baton has beaten the Palestinian. Except that the boy in the picture is not a Palestinian, but an American Yeshiva student in Israel, Tuvya Grossman, whose taxi had taken him through an Arab neighborhood where a mob of Arabs dragged him out of the cab and nearly beat him to death. To run the photo with the proper caption, however, would contradict the media’s Israeli-Goliath/Palestinian-David framing, and, not coincidentally, violate Palestinian Media Protocols. So, someone in the AP office identified Tuvya as a Palestinian, and the site of the confrontation as the Temple Mount, despite the gas station in the immediate background.
As Thomas Kuhn and cognitive scientists have warned: we see
what we expect to see, what we want to see; and in this case both AP and the
NYT, and many a reader, read into the photo what they “already” knew was
happening: the Israeli Goliath was beating the Palestinian David. It took the
NYT four days to issue a laconic correction, and only under heavy pressure, to
spell out the real story: an Israeli border guard protecting a Jewish seminary
student beaten nearly to death by a Palestinian mob.
And despite the correction, Muslim and groups pressing an Israeli boycott,
repeatedly used the image.
Now granted that there were, that day, many pictures of injured Palestinians available – 7 dead and about 300 injured. Why did this one make the front page? Because, mislabeled, it told the whole David-Goliath story: not merely Palestinian victimhood, but Israeli culpability. The journalist’s “nut.” All the Palestinian sources of violence disappear in the overwhelming image. When forced to correct – Jewish pressure, again! – neither AP, nor the papers that used their material – reflected on how such egregious errors could have occurred. Nor did they see fit to connect the violence against a Jewish “civilian” to the extensive beatings of the press by Palestinians at that same time.
Instead, the narrative this image so neatly illustrated for the news media became the standard authorized version: Ariel Sharon caused the intifada, and Palestinians were its victims, a tale no amount of contrary evidence could penetrate. Over a decade later, Patrick Tyler felt no need to footnote the dismissive assertion: “The big accusation, however, was that Arafat had ordered the war. It wasn’t true, as all later reconstructions confirmed, but it didn’t matter.” It was true, as extensive later evidence confirmed. But to those with Y2KMind, it didn’t matter.
Headline Fails as a Symptom of PMP Compliance
This pattern of compliance with Palestinian demands is most
easily viewed in the headlines, the first and all too often last thing news
In cases where the aggressors are the Palestinians, who behave specifically as
terrorists – i.e., targeting civilians for murder – the job of the compliant
news media is to obey #4/5: Israeli never victim, Palestinian never victimizer.
What results is a remarkable grammar and syntax, that reverse the vectors of
violence (Israeli response leads) and washes out Palestinian agency.
On November 18, 2014, for example, two Israeli Arab youths
who worked in the neighborhood, entered a synagogue in Har Nof and butchered as
many congregants in prayer as possible, killing six and wounding seven before
they were shot dead. CNN headlines show an exceptionally high Compliance score:
The first headline obeys in a most extraordinary way PMP #4 (never Israeli victims); the second #3 (always Israeli aggressor). Thus, the synagogue, site of a truly dastardly attack, becomes a mosque, and the killers become victims of Israeli aggression. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer emphasizes the horror, but in conversation with Haaretz’ Barak Ravid (who is quick to identify this as the beginning of a “third intifada,” like the one in 2000) steers clear of giving the murderers any agency. No discussion of the ideology that moved these youth to turn on people with whom they had civil relations, and butcher them, nothing on media factories of incitement, nor on the possibility that these butcheries might have been inspired by ISIS. Instead it was how it would be unwise of Netanyahu to destroy the houses of the perpetrators.
Blitzer’s heavy-handed leading question, which assumed the 21st century Prime Directive (don’t piss them off), elicits Ravid’s eager accusation of his own leadership for not being sufficiently appeasing of his enemy’s anger. Blitzer and Ravid talk not about what happened, but what it means for Netanyahu. His next guest up, Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings: Let’s get back to the (recently disastrously failed) peace process whose failures the press compulsively blames on Israel.
CNN’s PMP Compliance Score? A+
Within the year after this stunning incident, the “knife intifada” broke out in which Palestinian ‘lone wolfers,’ in some cases in their early teens (!) entered Israeli civil space (as had the two ‘mosque’ massacrers), and tried to murder as many civilians as possible. The compliant MSNM depicted the motivation behind these extraordinary attacks as “desperation” in the face of “occupation” (#1, 2), and studiously avoided discussion of the rampant incitement in Palestinian media, both from Hamas and PA, that magnified real grievances into a scenario of apocalyptic revenge (#5). Only when Israeli spokespeople raised these issues would the media expose their readers to the power among Palestinians of a media of incitement (#7).
Now, no society should have to live with neighbors who teach their children to hate them with genocidal rage, just as no culture that says it’s against teaching hate, should support those neighbors. And certainly, in a global century, the last thing a humane humanity can afford, is to stand by when people are attacked in their civic spaces by terrorists. And yet, the news coverage evinces few traces of sympathy for the Israelis, object of this hatred (#4, 8).
Own-Goal Journalism? A+
Headline Fails during the Knife/Car Intifada
The Car-Knife Intifada produced a whole dossier of sometimes staggering “headline fails,” all of which comply with Palestinian Media Protocols. Indeed, once one understands the distorting effect that those Jihadi demands made on the grammar and syntax of our news providers, one can “read between the lines”: Palestinian aggressors are presented as victims (#3, 5); the cycle of violence reverses and Israeli retaliation initiates the headline (#4, 6); in matters of violence Israelis have agency, Palestinians do not; their violence is desperate resistance to oppression (#4, 3).
ISRAELI TROOPS SHOOT
DRIVER OF RAMMED CAR (EuroNews):
Palestinian rammed car into Israeli civilians, shot dead. NB: The syntax of
reversal, start with the reprisal; turn an active driver of ramming car, into
passive “rammed car.”
6 PALESTINIAN TEENS DIE AMID MIDEAST UNREST (Los Angeles
Times): 6 Palestinians who tried to stab Israelis during “Knife Intifada” killed
PALESTINIAN SHOT DEAD AFTER
JERUSALEM ATTACK KILLS TWO (BBC):
Palestinian murders two Israeli civilians, shot dead.”
FOUR PALESTINIAN TEENS ARE
KILLED IN ISRAELI VIOLENCE (Los
ISRAELI FORCES KILL BOY, 16,
AFTER STABBING IN JERUSALEM AS VIOLENCE CONTINUES (Independent).
NB: This headline was a toning down of an even more aggressive one targeting
JEWISH MAN DIES AS ROCKS PELT
CAR IN EAST JERUSALEM (NYT):
Palestinians pelt Israeli with stones causing fatal accident. NB: the headline
has wiped clean Palestinian aggression, indeed of any agency: the very stones
The corrosive irony here derives from the own-goal quality of this journalism: Europeans urged by their MSNM to side with the Palestinians, actually cheered on the Jihadis who were, at that time (2014), attacking Israel with new killing machines. While doing so, they gave nary a thought to their own role in this grand drama, ie, as further infidel targets of Jihad – as if the triumphalist Muslims in their midst would not read Palestinian success in running over Israelis with whatever vehicle they could commandeer, as a model for how to deal death to European civilians. And two years later, when a Tunisian resident of Nice drove a 19-ton truck into a crowd of people celebrating July 14, 2016, killing 84 and wounding over 400, rare was the European journalist who connected the dots. As in Jenin, Western lethal journalists unwittingly got Western “progressives” to unwittingly cheer for Jihad.
 Shati refugee camp July 2014.
 White phosphorous use by Israel in Gaza, 2009, to which Israel admitted with great reluctance: Jeremy Hammond, “Israel’s Illegal Use of White Phosphorus During ‘Operation Cast Lead’,” London Times, May 3, 2013. HRW dutifully spun the news coverage into accusations of war crimes, “Israel: White Phosphorus Use Evidence of War Crimes,” March 25, 2009; despite the counter-evidence, Steven Stotsky, “Did Israel’s Use of White Phosphorous constitute a war crime?” Camera, September 1, 2009.
a U.S. Student in Mideast Turmoil’s Grip,” NYT, October 7,
2000. For the details of the correction at AP, the NYT, and elsewhere, see “Photo
Falsehood and the Temple Mount Riots (September 2000),” CAMERA,
October 8, 2000. Kuhn analogy discussed in Richard
Hearts and Red Spades: The Media Gets the ‘Intifada’ Wrong,” The
Augean Stables, April 10, 2006. For the French case of Liberation
using, then correcting the photo’s caption, and the successful court case
against both AP and Libération, see Leuchter, “Etats des lieux au
31 mai 2002 (above, n. 2), p. 23f.
 Not only was the victim and the context wrong,
the location was misidentified as “The Temple Mount” despite having a gas
station directly behind the soldier, and it took two corrections to admit that
it wasn’t even in the “Old City.”
 Judy Lash Balint, “Journalists describe constant
Palestinian intimidation,” WorldnetDaily, March 6, 2001. Note
that the Italian journalist who wrote the craven letter to Arafat after the
Ramallah lynching, Riccardo Christiani, had been hospitalized after a beating
on the Temple Mount, the same day as Tuvia Grossman. (See below, **).
 “PA Minister: The Intifada
Was Planned From the Day Arafat Returned From Camp David,” MEMRI,
Special Dispatch No.194, March 21, 2001; Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, “Arafat planned
and led the Intifada: Testimonies from PA leaders and others,” Palwatch,
November 28, 2011.
 Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the
Military Elite Who Run the Country–and Why They Can’t Make Peace (NY:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), Kindle Locations 8107-8109. At Shimon Peres’
death in 2016, the NYT repeated the accepted wisdom that Sharon triggered the
falsely blames Israel for Second Intifada in Perez’ obituary,” Elder
of Zion, September 28, 2016.
 See above discussion of the use of ‘terrorism’ to describe Jihadi attacks in 9-11, above, Part I, chapter 2.