What is the worldview of your average Israeli when it comes to Gaza? Why is there such a gap between mainstream Israeli media on the one hand, and mainstream media in America, Europe, and the Middle East on the other? (Let’s leave aside actually progressive reporting for the moment).
Out of curiosity, I thought I would limit myself yesterday evening to only mainstream Israeli broadcast journalism – channel 2 – to get a feel for what your average Israeli learns from the evening’s news about the impending war on Gaza.
At first one is struck by the sheer imbalance, roughly 100% of the evening's news focused on the suffering of Israelis. Expectedly, channel 2 has correspondents on the scene in Kiryat Malakhi – the site of the building were a rocket blew through a civilian housing unit and killed three innocent civilians. We listen to a recording of the “911” phone call between the emergency responders and the survivors of the attack, along with footage of the dead Israelis being carried out on stretchers. Then we get a few interviews with family members of the victims and others affected by the rocket. This is followed by in-depth biographical sketches of the three innocent Israeli civilians killed in the attack.
Having covered the Israeli casualties, I assumed the broadcast would move to the 14 Palestinians that had been killed (as of Thursday night), or at least mention that number (indeed, the number 14 was mentioned only once in passing during the hour long broadcast). But no. After the in-depth coverage of the situation on the ground from Kiryat Malakhi, we are continually bombarded with the facts and figures: more than 200 rockets; 3 killed in Kiryat Malakhi; 2 babies were wounded there as well; another 3 soldiers experienced mild to light wounds.
All the while two reporters sit perched above a busy highway in Tel Aviv. “All appears to be normal in Tel Aviv” they declare. As long as citizens of Israel heed to the warnings of the “Pikud Ha-oref,” the Israeli equivalent of the Department of Homeland Security advisory warning system (think colors), then there is no reason to panic. We are told by multiple IDF spokesperson to remain calm because Tzahal (the Israeli army) has everything under control.
Then we move to the next casualty of the evening: the khaki pants of the innocent Tel Avivians who had to dive for cover under trees on Rothschild Boulevard – one of the main hustle and bustle centers in Tel Aviv – as they heard the warning siren last evening.
But Israelis have many times over been through these kinds of disturbances, the expert political commentators remind us: during the First Gulf War when Saddam fired rockets at Tel Aviv, during the second intifada, when they experience sometimes daily bombings on public buses. Us, Tel Avivians, know what it’s like to live through terror!
Some of the only footage from Gaza itself is a brief clip of Palestinian children in Gaza picking up leaflets dropped by the Israeli army warning them to evacuate certain urban spaces. Oh, how benevolent is the Israeli army! The other footage from Gaza is of masked Palestinians waiving guns and shooting into the air at the funeral of Ahmad Jabari, the leader of the military wing of Hamas who was assisinated in his car by Israelis on Wednesday.
Indeed, with so many Israelis suffering, there were no shortage of Israeli victims to interview. Thus channel two brings us to the next casualties of the evening: wedding and bar mitzvah postponements ... sob stories of brides and grooms forced to cancel their wedding plans in the face of the impending barrage of rockets. One young lady is interviewed in Be’er Sheva while having her eye make-up done, telling us she sure as hell isn’t going to cancel her wedding just because of a few ‘tilim’ (rockets). After all that money spent on eye-make-up, I, for one, certainly sympathize with her. Another couple decided that, if they couldn’t get married in public, they would just invite everyone over to their house for the celebration. The end of channel 2 news broadcast brings us live to the home of the later, where we witness glee men and women dancing under the "chupah," and singing songs of praise for uniting two souls in an eternal bond of love and happiness.
This is the kind of reporting I would have expected to see under Syrian or Egyptian state television during the mass protests against their regime. In order words, reporting everything save for the news itself. This kind of reporting makes the staples of American broadcast news – CNN, ABC and others – look like ragtag daredevils and muckrakers – no small feet. Hopefully Israelis turn to other sources of news – because their own media has proven to be an exercise in irrelevance, propaganda, if not outright support for state-sponsored violence.