Most of the world’s media members, if asked, would undoubtedly identify themselves as sophisticates, who are too cynical and world-weary to take anything at face value. Their mental self-image almost certainly falls somewhere between wise-cracking Cary Grant (His Girl Friday) and idealistic Woodward and Bernstein. They care deeply, but they’ve seen it all. To which I would respond that it’s always a fascinating sociological and psychological moment when a single group suffers from such a profound mass delusion.
That the media has no healthy cynicism, objectivity, or even decency, was beautifully demonstrated when Sarah Palin appeared on the political screen. Even as someone who likes Palin, I freely admit that she was an easy target. If you think Ivy League degrees are the only ones worth having, she didn’t have one; if you think states with big populations are the only ones that provide worthy political experience, she didn’t come from one; if you think believing in God is a sign of primitive irrationality, she was both primitive and irrational; and if you believe in the perfection of the human race through casual eugenics, Palin was a race traitor. And of course there was that absolute lack of foreign policy experience, although no one seemed to mind it in Obama, so I won’t go there.
The media wasn’t content with easy targets. Proving themselves credulous and naive, rather than cynical and sophisticated, they leaped onto every rumor they could find, and trumpeted those rumors as the absolute truth:
This New Journalism, if you can call it that, exhibited in 2008 was epitomized by an eradication of the lines between fact and opinion – and, even more troubling, between reporting and propaganda. Some journalists were content to repeat Democratic Party talking points or bloggers’ rumors as though they were established fact, interspersing them with ideological commentary in a kind of toxic stew.
The media’s mass hysteria when it came to Sarah Palin was a sad demonstration of the way in which blind ideology can lead formerly trustworthy institutions to engage in ferocious acts of personal destruction. (The by-product, of course, might be the destruction of America as we know it, but that certainly wasn’t the media’s goal. Its members were out to get Sarah, not America.)
But what about a media that’s out to get a whole country? And what if, in pursuit of that goal, reporters set outside any journalistic instincts and report as gospel truth the most scurrilous, and manifestly false rumors they can find? If you’ve paid any attention to the news for the past twenty-five years or so, you know that this question isn’t hypothetical. It’s an accurate description of the way in which the world media responds to stories about Israel. The latest example popped up this past week. I discovered it when I checked Spiegel Online, as I periodically do for news as seen on the continent.
At Spiegel, I saw this bold-type headline: ISRAELI SOLDIERS PROVIDE SHOCKING TESTIMONY : Report Paints Damning Picture of Gaza Campaign. The story reported on the horrible testimony IDF soldiers provided about routine brutality against Palestinian civilians:
Israel has claimed that everything was done to protect innocent lives during its recent military operation in the Gaza Strip. But according to statements from Israeli soldiers there were malicious acts of destruction, white phosphorus was used and civilians were deliberately targeted.
The report is an account of acts of brutality. The Israeli human rights organization Breaking the Silence spent several months interviewing veterans of the Gaza war that took place in January of this year. The responses by 54 of the veterans paint a completely different picture of Israel’s campaign against the Islamist organization Hamas from that provided by the Israeli military leadership. According to the report, the commanders hammered it into their soldiers that they were not to show any consideration for the Palestinian civilian population, so as not to risk the lives of Israeli troops.
The statements by reservists, conscripts, soldiers and officers, which are consistent with and reinforce each other, substantiate for the first time the suspicion that the Israeli military in many cases ignored one of the basic tenets of the international laws of war: the distinction between combatants and innocent bystanders. The three-week war claimed the lives of about 1,400 Palestinians, many if not most of them civilians.
There’s more, all in the same vein, including pictures of sad Palestinians. What’s fascinating is that, aside from ignoring conflicting third-party reports about Israel’s exceptional efforts to protect civilians) there’s not a word in the Spiegel article about the “human rights organization Breaking the Silence” on which the story relies. After all, a report is only as good as its source. Unlike the credulous reporters, who assumed that Breaking the Silence must be speaking the truth because it’s results jibed perfectly with their own ideological view (Israelis: murderers; Palestinians: victims), I was immediately suspicious.
One of the first tip-offs was the way Breaking the Silence is designated as a “human rights organization.” Long experience shows that those groups are never concerned with human rights in the abstract. They are always leftist organizations that are concerned with proving that America and Israel brutally victimize other people and they’re willing to sleep in any beds (politically speaking) to make their points. The fact that this is an Israeli group (which has the potential to destroy Israel) didn’t seem to affect that agenda.
Still, the organization’s self-identification is circumstantial evidence at best. I needed more, so I contacted the people who were most likely to know: Robert Avrech at Seraphic Secret, Soccer Dad, Thomas Lifson of American Thinker, Omri Ceren at Mere Rhetoric; Freedom Fighter at JoshuaPundit; and Carl at Israel Matzav. They were all swift and unanimous in their response: Breaking the Silence is a Leftist group that is more dedicated to Leftism than it is to its members own survival. Soccer Dad sent me the best summary of this latest example of Israeli citizens attacking themselves:
Israeli non-governmental organization Breaking the Silence has published a new report reliant upon testimonials from soldiers who served in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Once again, allegations of “war crimes” and misdemeanors are based on second-hand evidence and hearsay. Once again, international media outlets rushed to publish a story from another flawed source.
While the BBC gleefully pushed the story to the top of its agenda, The Independent produced a two-page center spread with a screaming headline “Israeli soldiers reveal the brutal truth of Gaza attack”. Others also covered the story, including CNN, The Guardian, Associated Press, Reuters, AFP, Financial Times, Times of London, Daily Telegraph, NPR, Toronto Star and the Globe & Mail.
The G & M’s Orly Halpern even wrote on her personal Twitter page: “I’m reading a really moving report which I will be writing about for the Globe and Mail. It makes me sick to my stomach.” Can an objective and balanced story emerge when emotions rather than facts are the driving force?
Defending the IDF operation against charges including the use of human shields, Golani Brigade commander Col. Avi Peled stated that one of the soldiers who testified in the report was not even in the field at the time: “He told his commander about a week [during] which he wasn’t even in the field. He reported about what he heard happened.”
NGO Monitor’s Dan Kosky points to the Breaking the Silence report’s central problems – flawed methodology and absence of any reasonable research standards:
By Breaking the Silence’s own admission, the allegations are comprised of “the testimony of around 30 combatants” – a fraction of the thousands of Israeli combat troops deployed during the Gaza conflict. This extremely narrow and presumably hand-picked sample is an absurd basis on which to pass judgment, and even these limited testimonies were entirely unverifiable.
All statements are anonymous, and so-called “evidence” is further compromised by the absence of any details of where and when alleged incidents occurred. Consequently, were the report intended to prompt the IDF to investigate individual allegations, Breaking the Silence has made this impossible.
The IDF has issued an initial response to Breaking the Silence that can be viewed here.
In other words, Breaking the Silence is like any other Soros-funded, far left, anti-War group.
To my mind, though, there is a difference between anti-War groups in Israel and the same groups in America. Leftist anti-War groups in America merely wish to reconstruct America as a subservient, third-world nation. In Israel, though, the group’s members must know, or are completely blind to, the fact that their acts invite their nation’s imminent and complete destruction. MoveOn will cause America’s decline; Breaking the Silence will cause Israel’s death and that of all her citizens.
The actions of Breaking the Silence, and other similarly situated Israeli groups, take Jewish self-loathing to an extreme that is pretty much impossible for the rational mind to comprehend — and the world’s media laps it up. As with Sarah Palin, the media gives up any pretense of actual investigative reporting when the information that lands in their laps aligns perfectly with their world view: pretty, religious conservative woman is an ignorant, book-burning, devil-chasing slut; small nation besieged on all sides by genocidal enemies is a vicious, sadistic war machine that does everything it can to destroy all in its path.
This next bit is not the digression it seems to be:
When my father was a little boy, living in the Dickensian slums of Weimar Berlin, his mother had to leave town for some reason. She made arrangements to place him with a Jewish welfare organization that would take care of children under those circumstances. Since she wasn’t a very bright woman, she managed instead to place him with a Catholic organization that, unfortunately, was run by some very sadistic nuns. (I like nuns in principle, by the way, because they were so good to my Mom when she was interned in Java. These particular nuns, however, were sadists.) Rather than police the children and punish the offenses they actually committed (if any), the nuns just beat every child severely at bedtime, on the assumption that, as children, they must have done something wrong during the day. Within a couple of days, my father decided that, if he was going to get beaten any way, he might as well be bad.
You can see where I’m going here. If Israel is inevitably going to be accused of using disproportionate force in any wars against the Palestinians, a sensible policy, unbounded by moral standards, would have Israel, which has the necessary fire power, actually using a scorched earth policy and getting rid of the Palestinian problem once and for all. The fact that Gaza and the West Bank still stand, and that the citizens still live in the millions, is all the evidence one needs that the stories about Israel systematically committing atrocities are libels.
UPDATE: Thanks to Rob Miller for information about a group of soldiers who are countering these libels.
UPDATE II: Thanks to Robert Avrech for information that Breaking the Silence is not a grass roots movement from the Israeli Left. Instead, it’s funded in significant part by many European governments:
In response to the claims, Breaking the Silence presented the Post with its donor list for 2008. The British Embassy in Tel Aviv gave the organization NIS 226,589; the Dutch Embassy donated €19,999; and the European Union gave Breaking the Silence €43,514.
The NGO also received funding from the New Israel Fund amounting to NIS 229,949.
In 2007, Breaking the Silence received a total of NIS 500,000, and in 2008 it managed to raise NIS 1.5 million.
There’s definitely a European trend to try to prove that, historically, Europeans weren’t really so bad to Jews, with the proof being that Jews are bad people, who are currently worse than Europeans were on their own worst days. (Sorry about the awkward writing there, but you know what I mean.)
I’m now looking for information about the New Israel Fund. It’s an American/Israeli entity, and I wonder if I’ll find Soros’ name behind it somewhere. Do any of you know anything about it? It’s website shows that most of the players are “human rights activists” which, as I noted above, is inevitably code for an anti-American, anti-Israel agenda. That’s not to say that America and Israel might not have committed abuses. What shows the activists’ bias is that they’re never looking at or for human rights abuses committed by any other countries, especially other Middle Eastern countries.
UPDATE III: Israel Matzav has vast amounts of information about Breaking the Silence. If this article at all piqued your curiousity, you must click the link and find out more about this Israel-based, anti-Israel NGO.
UPDATE IV: Melanie Phillips writes about the ugly antisemitic firestorm ignited by Breaking the Silence and other European anti-Israel initiatives.