The most egregious example of bias against Israel demonstrated by the mainstream media is the dynamic by which they quickly frame events in the state in a manner consistent with the most unserious caricatures – narratives which impute the worst faith, the most malicious motivations, and are often devoid of relevant context.
In such a journalistic paradigm, a street fight between Jewish and Arab teens becomes fodder for an ‘examination‘ of institutional Israeli racism, some Jewish soccer hooligans expressing bigotry towards Muslims suggests the urgent need that Israelis engage in national ‘soul-searching‘, a question of whether Ethiopian immigrants to Israel were provided enough information on a contraceptive injection morphs into a systemic attempt to reduce the black population; and the introduction of new bus lines to serve Palestinians who work in Israel is framed as an insidious form of segregation.
In all these examples, the prejudiced actions of a few Israelis, or policies which may have the effect of being injurious to minority groups in the state, are exploited by Israel’s critics to suggest a ‘dangerous lurch right’, or to suggest that there is something fundamentally wrong – immutable and beyond repair – with the state or indeed with the idea of Zionism itself.
When pro-Israel bloggers and advocates attempt to refute such charges by demonstrating racial diversity in Israel, mainstream acceptance towards sexual minorities, and other examples of the state’s liberal advantages, it is often portrayed as propaganda – a cynical attempt to ‘wash over‘ its fundamental moral flaws.
If such hyper criticism of Israel by activists and journalists reflected a commitment to truly universal values, in which all people – and certainly all governments in the Middle East – were held to the same standard, such scrutiny would of course be justifiable. However, coverage of the region by the MSM and especially the Guardian newspaper shows that even the most outrageous displays of Arab racism are unreported, dramatically downplayed, and rarely contextualized as indicating a national or regional pathos.
So, while the Guardian provided saturation coverage of the bigoted reaction by some football hooligans to the introduction of two Muslim players to the Beitar Jerusalem team, an Egyptian football match in which fans hung banners explicitly calling for anther Holocaust against Jews went unreported.
When some rabbis in Safed encouraged Jews not to rent property to Arabs (an act universally condemned by Israeli leaders), ‘Comment is Free’ published a piece characterizing the event as nothing short of an example of a rising tide of fascism. However, news that the President of Egypt had called Jews ‘sons of apes and pigs‘ and called on the country to nurture their children on antisemitic hate was only mentioned in passing in Guardian reports about other topics – and wasn’t the subject of righteous condemnation by contributors or editors.
The most recent example of the Guardian downplaying a story about institutional racism in Egyptian society involves the country’s decision to ban a film about Egypt’s Jews on ‘national security’ grounds. The film, ‘Jews of Egypt‘, according to the director, attempts to document the history of the Jewish community in Egypt, and “to understand the change in the identity of the Egyptian society that turned from a society full of tolerance and acceptance of one another…into a society that rejects the others”
The ancient Jewish community of Egypt, which totaled nearly 80,000 citizens in 1948, is now practically extinct – the result of state sponsored ethnic cleansing in the late 40s and early 50s which included the seizure of Jews’ assets and property, the revocation of their citizenship, arbitrary imprisonment, torture and pogroms.
Whilst the question of how the mere cinematic depiction of Egypt’s Jewish community could possibly represent a security threat is a staggering one, and what the film’s censorship’s portends for other minorities in the country a serious subject, the first indication that the Guardian will not be taking the broader implications of the ban seriously is that news of the decision was covered, not by their Middle East editor, or another political analyst, but by their film critic Ben Child.
Child is out of his depth on the issue and the report fails to explore the most intuitive questions about what this official act of censorship implies about a nation evidently in complete denial about the fact that, due to state-sanctioned racist politics and official incitement over the course of little more than fifty years, they’ve eradicated a Jewish community which dated back to biblical times.
If Egyptians were held to the same moral standard as Israelis, critical, progressive minds would be demanding that Egyptians come to terms with their antisemitic history, that a national soul-searching is in order to account for racism so endemic that the President of the country can publicly lecture about the importance of passing down antisemitic values to the next generation of children and not the slightest national shame or outrage ensues.
As progressives won’t demand such a moral accounting of the ‘Egyptian soul’, nothing will change and nothing will be learned. The injurious effects of the hard bigotry of no expectations will continue to prevent a ‘Arab Spring’ worth its name from ever taking root.