By Ray Hanania
The “shock and awe” surrounding the swift Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has created a perfect distraction for Israel as it steps up its violence against Palestinians.
During the past week, as mainstream news media was consumed with reports of Kabul’s collapse and takeover by the Taliban, Israel has been fueling American concerns while also stepping up its campaign against the Palestinians.
Mainstream US news media already barely covers the violence by Israel’s government against Palestinians, a violence that has cost four lives in the past week and more than 40 lives in the past three months alone.
Can the US news media do even less? Yes, they can, as the focus of the nation turns to the resurrection of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
One reason for the increasing number of deaths is the Israeli army’s decision to allow its soldiers protecting Jewish settlers to use live ammunition against protesters. The soldiers are using .22-caliber Ruger bullets. But because the military describes the bullets as “non-lethal” — and Israel’s government censors all media reporting on Palestinians — there has been little coverage in the US media on the surge in Palestinian deaths.
If four Israelis were killed, the deaths would be reported in front-page headlines on many major US newspapers, as well as on TV and radio broadcasts.
But not so the killing of four Palestinians on Monday.
Israel claimed in a statement that its soldiers were hunting for “terrorists” in Jenin when they came under fire and had to defend themselves, killing the four victims and wounding a fifth.
Palestinians claim that the Israeli soldiers came in firing, recklessly and without concern for those who were killed.
The Washington Post failed to challenge the Israeli version of events and mentioned the deaths of the four Palestinians in a single paragraph. The newspaper devoted 12 paragraphs to two stories detailing how Venezuela’s government is set to resume talks with rivals, and wildfires burning outside Athens.
Reuters did a lengthy story on US President Joe Biden declaring Hamas a terrorist organization in a call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, and then offered a short four-paragraph blurb on the killings, repeating Israel’s claims of self-defense.
Remember, all news reporting in Israel on Palestinians must be approved by the Israeli censors before it can be published. In many cases, the news media hires an Israeli journalist sympathetic to Israel to cover the stories. They will not risk being punished. Non-Israeli journalists can be expelled on a whim.
Worse still, news media reports have been censored by the military.
It is a story the mainstream US media does not want to address because, professionally, it is embarrassing that their reports are subject to government approval. Anywhere else, that censorship would be an issue, but not in the US and not involving Israel’s government.
Afghanistan removes the burden of guilt — if the US news media even has a conscience when it comes to Israel’s conduct — from the editors. They can fill their pages with critical news reports disparaging the Taliban because the Taliban were the terrorists who empowered Osama Bin Laden.
That is an easy story to report without the need to pull punches or weigh words and descriptions, as is done with stories from Israel. Israel is more than an American ally. It is a significant factor in molding US public opinion, and its allies are major contributors to US political campaign coffers.
While there are some US journalists of Arab heritage who may have ties to one of the 22 Arab countries, there are many more Jewish-American journalists, including many who have dual Israeli citizenship, who defend Israel’s actions more often than they criticize them.
But news reporting is not like opinion commentary. News stories are supposed to be objective and show all sides. Opinion commentary is based on the writer’s personal and subjective analysis of the facts.
The US news media has far fewer Arab writers than Jewish writers, and the impact is clear.
The deteriorating crisis in Afghanistan makes it easier for the US news media to be even less objective or fair in covering the Israel-Palestine conflict. They do not have to be factual at all. All they are required to do is follow Israel’s censorship rules, remove facts the Israeli government objects to, and ensure that Israel’s military security is given priority when stories are published.