Itamar and British Media Bias
I don’t own a television and I don’t buy newspapers. I do so mainly to save money, but also because I think that I end up better informed by seeking out information on the internet. A particularly striking example of this happened this week. Like many people I heard about the grisly murders in Itamar on motzei Shabbat and I assumed that, since the brutal stabbing of children is something of a rarity, and matters Israeli are a veritable obsession for the British press, everyone else would have too. However, two conversations on Sunday with people who are neither ignorant nor apathetic quickly produced the response: ‘what murders?’
So I did some scouting. The killings were reported by some newspapers, though by no means all and always far from the front page. Nowhere on the news or in print were any pictures of the deceased shown, which is unusual for a media usually so keen to get footage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that they accept fairly obvious fakes. However, things only got really bad when I went onto the BBC website. Almost unbelievably, ‘Aunty’ (as people insist on calling it) reported the story as ‘Israel approves new Jewish settler homes in the West Bank’, mentioning down in paragraph three that this had followed the murder of the Fogels. It’s sometimes darkly joked that the world is more concerned with Jews building houses than Iranians building bombs, but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Britain’s state-funded broadcaster is more concerned with Jews building houses than Arabs breaking into a house and stabbing a three month old girl to death.
The article goes on to claim that the ‘attack on the Fogel family has been met with outrage in Israel and has shocked many Palestinians’, but provides no evidence of this because it is a fantasy. In reality, PA officials have produced perfunctory condemnations, tagged on to denunciations of settlements, which are rather belied by the fact that the group which has taken responsibility, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, is an adjunct of Fatah, ‘our partner in peace’. Hamas has praised the brave heroes, who will, no doubt, go down in the same Hall of Fame as Samir Kuntar and Ahmad Dakamseh. Ordinary Palestinians have demonstrated their shock by engaging in the time honoured tradition of handing out sweets. But of course, very few Britons will ever see these images, just as they will never be shown footage of the Palestinians celebrating on 9/11, conveniently, since that might dent confidence in the belief that a Palestinian State is in the British national interest and hence a legitimate goal (not to say all consuming obsession) of British foreign policy.
So, the BBC (which unlike NPR is entirely taxpayer funded) has crossed the line from systemic bias to outright propaganda for the Palestinian cause. The inclination of many of you reading this will probably be to blame ‘the Left’, but here that would be way off; what passes for ‘the Right’ in this country is just as bad. Though a number of truly delusional people claim that the British media and government is dominated by Zionists, political debate here ranges from a ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ position similar to the dove-ier edge of Avodah and an ‘anti-Israel, pro-war’ viewpoint. No British politician, to my knowledge, is on record as opposing a Palestinian state, or even supporting the position that negotiations should be postponed until a more opportune moment. All major parties are agreed that each and every settlement, including East Jerusalem, is illegal and while the most extreme Palestinian opinions get a regular airing, even the viewpoint of the average Kadimah voter is totally absent from mainstream British opinion. An average debate will consist of a foam-flecked pro-Palestinian like George Galloway ranting about a litany of evils from 1948 onwards, with an opponent arguing that, of course, Israel’s occupation of the ‘West Bank’ is unconscionable and settlements are the ‘obstacle to peace’, but perhaps Hamas and Hezbollah have their drawbacks too. Settlers themselves are seen not as human beings with exotic political opinions, but as something close to fiends: greedy inhuman land-grabbers, alchemically responsible for the myriad woes of the world from Tunis to Jakarta. Uniquely, no effort at all is ever made to understand the root causes of their insatiable desire to buy houses build schools for their children.
The upshot is that those Jews who have the temerity to live in the Judea and Samaria have been so thoroughly demonised that even the politically motivated murder of infants isn’t really newsworthy, at least not newsworthy like the loft conversion the Fogels might one day have made for their growing family.
A brief addendum: it’s been widely said that the proper response to this tragedy is to build. I don’t disagree, but would add that we must ‘build’ in the wider sense too. We must meet the hatred of our enemies by building strong Jewish families and communities filled with light and love that will grow, both in size and their devotion to Torah and mitzvot. Take more time to learn, put both more time and more effort into your prayer, fill every available moment with devotion to fulfilling the commands of our Creator in all their details. This way, not just the pioneers in Eretz Yisrael, but every Jew the world over can defeat those who rise up against us in every generation in the most profound and enduring way. If we do, then B’ezrat Hashem, decades from now Itamar will be thriving city, filled not just with buildings and people, but Torah, avodah and gemilut chasidim – and not just Itamar, but maybe Tel Aviv and Eilat too. La’yehudim haytah orah v’simcha, v’sasson, vikar, as it says in the Megillah. Ken tiyihe lanu.