Mike Tyson, Toddlers, and 'Balance': A response to Owen Jones

Here are the first few paragraphs from a Times of Israel op-ed by Shany Mor:

There is much to learn from Owen Jones’ much retweeted Guardian post last week about the alleged “imbalance” in Israel’s favor at the BBC and, by implication, the rest of Western media and politics, but not necessarily what Jones intends.
Jones extrapolates from one solitary headline on the BBC’s website two discernible arguments. Neither argument stands up to the barest of scrutiny, but let’s start with the headline.
“Israel under renewed Hamas attack” was the “perverse” headline that the BBC ran from which Jones deduces the “macabre truth that Israeli life is deemed by the western media to be worth more than a Palestinian life.” If this were the only headline the BBC ran on the violent escalation over the past week, Jones might have a point. But it wasn’t even the only headline that day. All week, there have been from five to ten stories on the fighting. Some stories are filed from Israel and focus on the Gazan rocket attacks; some are filed from Gaza and focus on Israeli air and naval attacks; others are diplomatic stories or personal stories or focus on one particular incident which the BBC editors seem to think is interesting or noteworthy. The story Jones references was filed from Ashqelon, a city in southern Israel that absorbed a large number of rocket attacks from nearby Gaza. The day before the report, Hamas in Gaza had gone from a policy of tolerating and encouraging other militant groups in the Strip to fire rockets at Israeli civilian centers, as it had for the previous two weeks, to actively participating in these attacks itself with its much larger, more numerous, and more sophisticated rockets. Hamas had, literally, renewed its attacks on Israel after twenty months of cease-fire. This was a significant development because it meant a large Israeli military operation would inevitably follow. This is lost on Jones who picks one headline to make a sweeping and falsifiable generalization.
Two arguments can be picked out of Jones’ short post in the Guardian. The first regards what he calls the “hierarchy of death.” As far as I can tell, Jones’ postulated hierarchy is measured as a quotient of newsworthy deaths divided by the amount press coverage generated. It’s an odd claim to through around in what poses as a pro-Palestinian piece, because by any measure the Palestinians are the beneficiaries of this hierarchy of death. Let’s stipulate that we accept Jones’ claim that there is more coverage per Israeli death than per Palestinian death (though most of this is probably accountable to the much lower death toll on the Israeli side throughout the decades of conflict, something which tells us next to nothing about the moral or normative standing of either side; see below). Coverage of violence involving Palestinians far exceeds that of Iraqis, Syrians, Somalis, Congolese. Not just in the media, but throughout the western “human rights community,” the self-appointed protectors of western rectitude for whom Israeli actions that wouldn’t even count as a rounding error in the Syrian or Iraqi civil wars — or for that matter in NATO operations in Afghanistan — regularly generate hysterical cries of “war crimes” and even “slow-motion genocide.”just a stiff letter to the editor against “collective punishment.”

Read the rest of the op-ed here.

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