Why can’t the American media copy the Guardian?

This is a cross-post by Mark Gardner at the blog of the CST.

An article in the Guardian newspaper (“Obama alone can’t make the US see the Middle East anew” 11 August 2010) by columnist / roving Middle East reporter, Jonathan Steele, provides yet another example of the potential antisemitic pitfalls that are risked by heaping everything on Israel’s shoulders.

In this specific instance, it concerns the recently reported surge in Arab disappointment with U.S. President Barack Obama. The problem is that the President raised Arab expectations in his striking speech in Cairo last year, but ultimately failed to deliver upon them. According to Jonathan Steele, somebody – more accurately, some thing – is to blame for that failure. Can you guess what that thing might be?

Let us be clear, Steele most certainly does not blame the much maligned Global Jewish Conspiracy for Obama’s failure. There is no mention of Jews in his article, but much is made of pro-Israel lobbyists. (What an antisemite might refer to as ZOG – the Zionist Occupation Government.) It is a variation on the routine that is depressingly familiar at both the Guardian and the Independent newspapers (and their respective websites). It goes like this:

1. the pro-Israel lobby runs American Middle East policy

2. the pro-Israel lobby does this via compliant politicians

3. the American media is complicit in the above

To this, we can often add a disclaimer in brackets: (4.) (any resemblance between the pro-Israel lobby accusations herein and antisemitic Jewish conspiracy allegations, including ZOG, are entirely accidental. The authors, publishers and readership are opposed to all forms of racism, including antisemitism – and anyone hinting otherwise is a pro-Israeli trickster.)

Anyway, returning to Steele’s article about who is to blame for dashed expectations, it seems relevant to mention that this would not be the first time in history that a politician had failed to live up to his promises.

Furthermore, the Middle East, in particular, is a place where the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.

We could even ask, does America behave any differently in the Middle East to how it behaves elsewhere?

Nevertheless, Steele knows how these things really work and he knows how the Guardian works too. So, the summary of his article (probably written by a sub-editor) puts it like this

After the promise of his Cairo speech, disillusion is rife in the Arab world. But a slanted media keeps the president timid.

It is “a slanted media” that “keeps the president timid” and has resulted in “rife” “disillusion” “in the Arab world.” Arab positivity towards America has collapsed from 45% last summer to 20% this summer. Meanwhile, Arab negativity towards America has soared from 23% to 67%. Only 16% of Arabs are “hopeful” about US policy.

Steele says of the President, “Since his Cairo speech Obama’s Middle Eastern failures have been glaring”. He then goes on to list the “failures”: every one of which cites Obama supposedly failing to crack down on Israel. These are not Obama’s “Middle Eastern failures” (such a list would surely make at least a passing mention of Iraq and Afghanistan to name just two factors), these are simply his Israel “failures”, but having set up Israel as exclusively to blame for the collapse in Arab confidence with America, Steele ends by scrutinising Israel’s role and responsibility.

His third last paragraph links “Israel’s political elite” with its US lobby, implies that the President is helpless in the face of the lobby; and stresses that the lobby’s influence on the US media is every bit as important as its lobbying of politicians

It is easy to blame Obama, as though he alone had the power to crack down on Israel’s political elite. It is easy, too, to blame the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for its lobbying against critical US politicians. Just as important is the pressure that pro-Israel campaigners put on the mainstream US media. They warn people off the very word Zionist as though only antisemites use it and demand Israel be treated as a special country whose politics deserve more sympathy than others.

The (above) concluding sentence is especially curious. It implies that the US media is so compliant (due to fear of being branded antisemitic) that it avoids using the very word “Zionist”.

Only last year, a stern Guardian editorial warned against antisemitism, but the paper (including the Comment is Free website) needs to do some serious thinking about when the use of the word “Zionist” risks evoking older antisemitic conspiracy theories: particularly the ones about Jews running the media, and bending politicians to do their bidding.

The claim that “Israel be treated as a special country” is also curious. Clearly, the Guardian has no problem treating Israel “as a special country”, so why does it seek to prevent others from doing likewise?

This is, of course, disingenuous, but the answer comes in the article’s last two paragraphs. It isn’t stated outright, because it doesn’t even need saying, but if onlythe American media covered Israel like the Guardian does, then we could start solving both America and the Middle East.

In fact US publishers, editors, and reporters carry the biggest responsibility for the rotten state of US policy in the Middle East. The pro-Israel lobbies are powerful and Obama weak mainly because Americans rarely get an alternative view…

It would be nice if Obama stuck his neck out, but he needs a radical media to start a real debate. The sea-change in US attitudes that the Middle East so urgently needs cannot come from the White House alone.

Obama’s Presidency has more years left to run, and Arabs are not the only ones showing disillusionment. Lets hope the blame game doesn’t go too far.

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