How people are conditioned to hate Israel

Watch out for ‘unclean’ news – infected with personal opinion driven by agenda, by a desire to condition readers or viewers.

Steve Apfel

OpEds Arab rioters in Jenin (stock)
Arab rioters in Jenin (stock)

This is Part II. Part I may be read by clicking here. Well worth it.

A common phenomenon in conditioning the public is ‘unclean’ news – infected with personal opinion driven by agenda, by a desire to condition readers or viewers.

Here follows news not to be trusted, news unfit to print.  

Case of the chocolate bar head

What would it take for news of someone killed by a bulldozer to make the front page – not in a tabloid but in a paper of repute? And what if the event happened in a distant country? To lengthen the odds, what if the story had no corpse to show for it? To make the odds even longer, what if the victim was no celebrity or VIP but an ordinary citizen?

Yet it all came together in the Independent. Justin Huggler filed a news story about how citizen Salem met his end.

What made Mr. Salem front-page news? For one thing, he was a Palestinian Arab. For another, he was a victim of Israel.

Who told Justin Huggler the story? The dead man’s son and daughter told him.

"Old" – that was the first adjective to give tempers a tweak and a stir. Their father was old. While on this tack, what more to wring out of the tragedy, what deeper emotion to plumb? On top of being old the victim was deaf. He couldn’t have heard the bulldozer coming. Who said he was deaf? Again the two children.  

Outraged to the core, the correspondent would have pressed on. "What more can you tell about your old and deaf father crushed with your house under an Israeli bulldozer?" But at this point Salem Jr. disclosed a poetic turn of mind. The head of his father was compressed to no thicker than a chocolate bar. He even gave measurements: the head was no more than two centimeters thick after the Israeli bulldozer had done its work.

Was it a “clean” news story ((Type 1 in Part 1), in that the reporter faithfully conveyed whatever he’s told? Well – Huggler had faith all right, blind faith in his informants, the victim’s children. Here was a story crying out  to be verified. Yet no mortuary record, no grave site, not a document to prove there’d been a father to compress into whatever shape or form.  Fake news at its best.

Case of the Hollywood massacre

Going from a sham murder to a massacre of the Hollywood hype  – the Jenin ‘massacre’ illustrates the reporter champing at the bit. He cannot wait for news to happen. He wants a scoop, and he must have it now. When has fake news been more spectacular? When was it produced with such care and detail? When did ‘fake’ score so spectacularly, then flop so dismally? Phil Reeves got his scoop and his fame, though not long-lived enough for a newsman’s  liking.

On April 16, 2002 the Independent splashed the front page with the headline, "Silence of the Dead." In font size and black boldness it equalled the breaking news of 9/11 – a history-making headline.

Wrote Phil Reeves: "A monstrous war crime that Israel has tried to cover up for a fortnight has finally been exposed.” He was on the spot, treading the "wasteland" that had been the Jenin refugee camp, assaulted by "the sweet and ghastly reek of rotting human bodies." 

Here was the fullest example of Type 2 news (Part 1) – colored, embellished, created. .The creator’s attitude was all over it. Reeves’ septic hatred of ‘Zionists’ oozed from every line, every word. The harangue of a  street mob bent on a pogrom set the tone of his writing. And how Reeves forced the reader to share his hatred!

Hollywood could hardly have bettered the production, "Massacre in Jenin." Ghastly reek and phantasmal effects were obtained with animal carcasses; the credits were shared by complicit UN and Palestinian sources

The finale though was, quite unlike Hollywood, muted and self-deprecating. Being  acquainted with the bosses, I submitted a document to go to law, There followed a shy, half an apology, followed by the retiring of the newshound into oblivion. The anti-Israel movement, impatient to move on to the next Zionist crime, scanned the vague, wistful apology tucked away on page two.

Phil Reeves owned up. His scoop story had been "highly personalized." (Read: driven by my personal feelings about Zionists). “It was clear that the debate over the awful events in Jenin four months ago is still dominated by whether there was a massacre, even though it has long been obvious that one did not occur" (Read: Israelis would not oblige so I produced their crime, which is exactly what my editor wanted).

Cases of bizarre murders

Fabricating crimes is not the only way reporters can make news. In the first case, we look at how Reuters and the BBC made news by implanting  attitude and reinventing language.

Murder of a bus stop

In April 2011, a bomb in a telephone booth went off near Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station. Reporting it, Reuters found it necessary to explain terminology. Although Israelis might see it as an act of terrorism, explained Reuters, others might not see it the same way. Police described the explosion as a “terrorist attack” — Israel’s term for a Palestinian strike.”

A unique and grotesque way, you might think, of reporting a bomb that killed a woman and injured many pedestrians.

What exactly had Reuters in mind? Think if it had reported the London bus bombings using the same formula: "Police described the explosions as a ‘terrorist attack’ -- Britain’s term for an Al Qaeda strike."

What did Reuters hope to gain? First, it is protecting a patent right. Israelis must on no account usurp the role of victim. The victim patent is held by Palestinians – a valuable and jealously guarded patent. A terror attack claims innocent victims; a strike does not. The whole narrative would be turned on its head were Israelis to become the victims of terror. Remember, Palestinian Arabs are the oppressed people.

Secondly, the euphemism "strike" in place of "terror attack" is carefully chosen. This, too, keeps the narrative intact. "Strike" is softer than "attack," and far more so than "terror attack." It is not so hostile or so deadly. Palestinians do not attack – Israel does that. Palestinians are the oppressed people.

"Strike" further conveys a normal military operation. Just as Israel is a nation with a right to defend itself, so, too, the Palestinians are a nation with the same right. Reuters conveys that one nation may strike another. A bomb to kill pedestrians at a bus station is one method of striking; hitting Hamas combatants as they fire rockets into Israeli towns is another way. Both methods are part of the conflict -- the "cycle of violence."

Reuters, we see, is not merely reporting; it is conditioning news, packaging it in appropriate shape and form to keep the plot tidy.

To learn something different from the same case, look to the BBC:  “Deadly bombing targets Jerusalem bus stop.”

This too is a formula, though different from Reuters. We are to understand that the bomb was not targeted at people. No, its target was a bus stop, an object fixed on the side of the road. Clearly the BBC has the same object in mind as Reuters: Israelis must on no account usurp the role of victim. Better the victim be a bus stop.

Knife murders family

Here's a story that allows one to watch the reporter as he goes through the process of moulding news. He starts off blaming a knife for the murder of the three Fogel siblings and their parents in Itamar, March 2011.

Who blamed the knife for slitting throats and nearly decapitating a toddler? Time magazine’s Karl Vick blamed the knife. "The murder by knife of three children,” Vick writes. Palestinians don't kill children in their beds, knives do that. And the Fogels were not a family, they were "settlers." By using the impersonal and passive voice, Time removes Palestinians from the horror.

"The slaughter did not eradicate the family," Vick goes on. Now he decides that a knife is too inanimate an object for a credible murderer; he is prepared to own that something, or someone, called "the slaughter" did the deed. But he's not sure whether "the slaughter" is to be given human shape and form. "The means of entry into the settlement,” he writes, reverting to the impersonal voice.

We can understand Vick’s problem: "The slaughter’s means of entry" doesn't work too well. Only near the end of the report Vick concedes that humans might have perpetrated the horror. Still, he steadfastly keeps Palestinians away from it. The murders were done by "attackers" whose identity "remains unknown.”

Like Reuters and the BBC, Time’s agenda is not to muddy the plot. Palestinians may not be cast as murderers. They are the oppressed  – remember!