Matti Friedman arbejdede for det store nyhedsbureau Associated Press i Jerusalem mellem 2006 og 2011 og skønt han erklærer sig selv som venstredrejet (liberal i amerikansk terminologi) kan han ikke længere stå inde for, hvad han betegner som “a hostile obsession with Israel” i den almindelige nyhedsdækning. I en længere og højst anbefalelsesværdig artikel fra august i år i Tablet Magazine fortæller han om den overeksponering af Israel med sin tidligere arbejdsgiver som illustrativt eksempel. At de havde mere end 40 medarbejdere til at dække Israel-Palæstina, hvilket var mere end resten af Mellemøsten til sammen og kun ved særlige lejligheder vægtes andet end Israel højest.
To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel. I don’t mean to pick on the AP—the agency is wholly average, which makes it useful as an example. The big players in the news business practice groupthink, and these staffing arrangements were reflected across the herd. Staffing levels in Israel have decreased somewhat since the Arab uprisings began, but remain high. And when Israel flares up, as it did this summer, reporters are often moved from deadlier conflicts. Israel still trumps nearly everything else.
The volume of press coverage that results, even when little is going on, gives this conflict a prominence compared to which its actual human toll is absurdly small. In all of 2013, for example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict claimed 42 lives—that is, roughly the monthly homicide rate in the city of Chicago. Jerusalem, internationally renowned as a city of conflict, had slightly fewer violent deaths per capita last year than Portland, Ore., one of America’s safer cities. In contrast, in three years the Syrian conflict has claimed an estimated 190,000 lives, or about 70,000 more than the number of people who have ever died in the Arab-Israeli conflict since it began a century ago.
News organizations have nonetheless decided that this conflict is more important than, for example, the more than 1,600 women murdered in Pakistan last year (271 after being raped and 193 of them burned alive), the ongoing erasure of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Party, the carnage in Congo (more than 5 million dead as of 2012) or the Central African Republic, and the drug wars in Mexico (death toll between 2006 and 2012: 60,000), let alone conflicts no one has ever heard of in obscure corners of India or Thailand. They believe Israel to be the most important story on earth, or very close.
Det der er vigtigt i en Israel-Palæstina historie, argumenterer Friedman, er Israel. Palæstinenserne anerkendes ikke som selvstændige aktører og eksisterer kun som passive ofre. Korruption er altid interessant, men kun israelsk. Friedman fortæller at han ikke kunne komme igennem med en artikel om palæstinensisk korruption fordi “that was not the story”. Således angribes enhver skævhed i det israelske samfund nidkært; Israelsks lovforslag til pressefrihed, antallet af ortodokse jøder, bosættelser, kønssegregering osv, mens der er meget få artikler om lignende palæstinensiske forhold.
Hamas formålserklæring, som handler om et udslette Israel og alle jøderne og deres graven terrortunneller ind under Israel er ikke vigtigt for medier og nyhedsbureauer, men det er derimod Israels angreb på Hamas. De fleste rapportere, siger Friedman, opfatter essensen af deres arbejde at rapportere om israelske overgreb: “That’s the essens of the Israel story”!
Og denne fortælling sættes ind i den ramme der hedder Israel-Palæstina konflikten eller variationer heraf. Her er det Israel, der er den store og dermed aggressoren hvor sandheden er at jøderne kun optager 0,2% af Mellemøsten og der er 5 millioner jøder overfor 300 mio. arabere. Det var den samlede arabiske verden, der ville udslette Israel fra begyndelsen og den palæstinensiske sag blev først interessant efter 1967 krigen, hvor Israel indtog de resterende områder fra delingsplanen fra Ægypten og Jordan, der ellers havde annekteret dem uden protester fra den arabiske verden.
For centuries, stateless Jews played the role of a lightning rod for ill will among the majority population. They were a symbol of things that were wrong. Did you want to make the point that greed was bad? Jews were greedy. Cowardice? Jews were cowardly. Were you a Communist? Jews were capitalists. Were you a capitalist? In that case, Jews were Communists. Moral failure was the essential trait of the Jew. It was their role in Christian tradition—the only reason European society knew or cared about them in the first place.
When the people responsible for explaining the world to the world, journalists, cover the Jews’ war as more worthy of attention than any other, when they portray the Jews of Israel as the party obviously in the wrong, when they omit all possible justifications for the Jews’ actions and obscure the true face of their enemies, what they are saying to their readers—whether they intend to or not—is that Jews are the worst people on earth. The Jews are a symbol of the evils that civilized people are taught from an early age to abhor. International press coverage has become a morality play starring a familiar villain.
You don’t need to be a history professor, or a psychiatrist, to understand what’s going on. Having rehabilitated themselves against considerable odds in a minute corner of the earth, the descendants of powerless people who were pushed out of Europe and the Islamic Middle East have become what their grandparents were—the pool into which the world spits. The Jews of Israel are the screen onto which it has become socially acceptable to project the things you hate about yourself and your own country. The tool through which this psychological projection is executed is the international press.
Men det er på alle måder den forkerte historie der fortælles, skriver Friedman. Reportere ser alt gennem en israelsk optik og ser derfor ikke islams undertrykkelse og forfølgelse af minoriteter, hvor der med ISIS nu er tale om folkemord
A knowledgeable observer of the Middle East cannot avoid the impression that the region is a volcano and that the lava is radical Islam, an ideology whose various incarnations are now shaping this part of the world. Israel is a tiny village on the slopes of the volcano. Hamas is the local representative of radical Islam and is openly dedicated to the eradication of the Jewish minority enclave in Israel, just as Hezbollah is the dominant representative of radical Islam in Lebanon, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and so forth.
Hamas is not, as it freely admits, party to the effort to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. It has different goals about which it is quite open and that are similar to those of the groups listed above. Since the mid 1990s, more than any other player, Hamas has destroyed the Israeli left, swayed moderate Israelis against territorial withdrawals, and buried the chances of a two-state compromise. That’s one accurate way to frame the story.
Men i mediernes og nyhedsbureauernes fortælling er Israel vulkanen, en vulkan der ikke eksisterer i den sammen geopolitiske virkelighed som resten af Melleøsten. Historen om Israel er ikke om nyheder men om “something else”.