I received an interesting question from a young reader struggling to understand why US mainstream media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict is so prejudiced against the Palestinians.
Here is the email I received from 16-year-old Jamal Nimer (shared with his permission):
I’ve been reading your articles recently concerning the Israel-Palestine Conflict as my father has been forwarding your papers to me. All of your work is excellent especially “Benny Morris’s Untenable Denial of the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.” I recently attended the Seeds of Peace International Camp that is centered on facilitating dialogue between Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian, Israeli and American youth regarding conflict in the Middle East – especially as it pertains to Israel and Palestine. The camp has many goals including bringing hope to the next generation that a potential solution to the conflict is possible. The camp prompted me to read more about the issue and the current political stage that surrounds Israel and Palestine; I’ve also begun to follow the news more closely, and as a result, I’ve become more aware of America’s unconditional support of Israel. That alone has caused me to feel that there isn’t much hope regarding the conflict and that despite the suffering of the Palestinians, America’s continued support will allow Israel to continue denying Palestinians a state, and Israel will be able to continue its blatant violation of International Law and Human Rights. There seem to be many ways through which Israel has been able to work American politics so that the alliance between the two countries will not be compromised. This has led to the so called “Palestinian Exception to Free Speech” in which politicians and even private industries, influenced by the Israeli government or its supporters, will deny Americans who sympathize with the Palestinian cause a voice.
I bring all this up to ask you whether or not you feel as journalist that it is difficult to express a Pro-Palestinian view. What are some of the obstacles you face? How / are you able to overcome these obstacles? How do you believe that Israel is able to influence American media so powerfully, and why does the American media allow it to happen? Do you believe it is possible for American’s liberals to ever become pro-Palestine or do you believe that the media is too caught up on propagating Israeli falsehoods?
I’m certain that you are busy so if you do not have the time to respond to any or all of my questions, I completely understand. I’m simply hoping to better understand how a journalist feels about the conflict and your opinion on a potential increase in support for the Palestinian cause in America.
There could be a couple different answers to Jamal’s first question. In one sense, it is not difficult at all to express a position that is critical of Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ rights. I am able to do so freely.
However, in another sense, it is very difficult indeed. I don’t write the kinds of things about the conflict that one reads or hears in the mainstream media. Rather, I’m highly critical of the media for systematically misinforming the public about its true nature.
For more about how the media serve to manufacture consent for the US government’s policy of supporting Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, see my article “The Role of the US Media in the Palestine Conflict“.
In that article, I explain in some detail how and why the media serve this role. (It’s not due to direct Israeli influence on journalists or media institutions.)
I suppose if I wanted to get a job writing for the New York Times, it would be hard for me to speak out since it would in all probability jeopardize my career.
However, I prefer to maintain my independence. The Times would simply never publish the things I write about the topic. And I would not want to write the kind of crap the Times publishes about it. I prefer to expose the Times‘ prejudice than to participate in the media establishment that is so much a part of the problem.
Of course, maintaining my independence presents a whole world of other difficulties. It is not easy to make a living as an independent political analyst who’s critical of the establishment and the existing order it seeks to maintain.
I won’t get into details, but “not easy” is a severe understatement. It’s a stream of endless obstacles. Overcoming them has required extreme dedication, enormous will power, vision, entrepreneurship, and sacrifice (not just from me, but also from my family). I just try to face these obstacles one by one and keep pressing forward as they come.
Then, of course, there are the usual charge of “anti-Semite” for being a strong critic of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. The ceaseless repetition of this charge is more a nuisance than a difficulty, but it can certainly be wearying dealing with those who refuse to reason.
One big part of what keeps me going is the encouragement I get from those who are capable of independent thought, are honest, and have a moral compass.
As for whether American liberals can overcome the propaganda, while I agree most do not really understand the conflict, there are probably more people who do speak out for Palestinians rights among the liberals in the US than among conservatives.
Educating about the realities of the conflict is particularly problematic among the conservative Christian population, due to the pervasiveness of Christian Zionism in the country. It has enormous influence.
I do believe that the misinformation can be overcome, and that the American public can affect the paradigm shift necessary for US policy to change, which is necessary for a just peace to be realized.
That’s in fact why I wrote my book Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. I didn’t intend for people just to get informed about the conflict’s true nature and the US’s true role in it; rather, I intended the book as a call to action.
I want people to gain the knowledge that is necessary to affect the paradigm shift necessary for a just peace to be realized.
Peace is not going to come through the actions of the governments of the world. It is up to us. I believe we can make it happen, but it will require reaching enough people, getting them to recognize the relevance of the conflict to their own lives, guiding them into an understanding of what the conflict is really all about and why it persists, and motivating them to join the struggle.
The trick is to help open-minded people unlearn the lies and misinformation they’ve already been heavily indoctrinated with. That is where Obstacle to Peace comes in.