What factors determine whether a racist comment is reported by the British media? Certainly, the stature of the person uttering the offensive comment would seem relevant. That’s why we often see media outlets report bigoted remarks by celebrities, politicians and other public figures. But, what about when family members of public figures engage in such behavior?
When news first broke that Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes, the wife of the Israel’s interior minister Silvan Shalom, tweeted (and later deleted) a comment deemed racist, it seemed at first glance to represent the kind of story which would only gain traction in the Israeli media.
After all, Nir-Mozes, the former head of UNICEF Israel and popular radio show host, is not an elected official and holds no position within the Israeli government.
So, given the weight attached, by British news editors, to one tweet by a spouse of a government minister in the Middle East, you’d certainly think that extreme racist comments by a President in the region would have similarly been covered. Yet, when Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned of an international Jewish conspiracy, the media was silent.
In a December 2014 speech, Erdogan said this:
“I am emphasizing this: Do not think that these are operations that target me personally. Do not think that these operations are against our government or any [political] party. My friends, the target of these operations and initiatives is Turkey, Turkey’s existence, her unity, peace, and stability. They are especially against Turkey’s economy and its independence. As I have said before, behind all these there is a Mastermind, which has now become part of our national conversation. Some ask me, ‘Who is this mastermind?’ and I say, ‘It is for you to research this. And you do know what it is, you know who it is.'”
Just in case anyone was unsure who precisely he was referring to when he accused a “Mastermind” of conspiring against Turkey, a pro-Erdogan news channel aired the documentary “The Mastermind” a couple of months later. The film “opens with images of the Star of David and images of a replica of the Temple in Jerusalem,” showed an excerpt of Erdogan’s December 12, 2014 speech and then ‘explored’ 3,500-years of “Jewish domination of the world.”
In the film, Islamist journalists and writers from the pro-AKP Islamist media, among them Yusuf Kaplan, Hasan Karakaya, Aydin Unal, Alper Tan, Prof. Hayrettin Karaman, Avni Ozgurel and others, in addition to government (AKP) officials, are shown giving their views of “the Mastermind” – whom they identify as “the Jews” as well as “the U.S.” (the latter of which the film earlier claims is dominated by the Jews). They blame them for both the destruction of the Ottoman Empire and for the coups in modern Turkey aimed at ousting Islamist leaders and parties.
Some of the journalists and officials depict the U.S. as a Zionist entity, while others claim that the U.S. is yet another country that is being controlled by a “Mastermind” lobby.
Advisor to Turkish Prime Minster Ahmet Davutoglu says in the film that what Erdogan is doing is bringing this entire story to people’s attention, and urging them to see the big picture. Erdogan, he says, wants recent events (the “operations” mentioned in his December 2014 speech) to be placed in this context – and for them to be seen as attempts by “a Mastermind” to bring down Turkey and its government.
The accusation by Turkey’s president that Jews have been conspiring for thousands of years to control the world was ignored by major British media outlets. A Lexis-Nexis search of the Guardian, Independent, Telegraph and Times of London turned up nothing on either Erdogan’s speech or the subsequent Mastermind film.
Can a serious argument be made that one racially offensive tweet by Nir-Mozes was more newsworthy than a Protocols of the Elders of Zion-style antisemitic conspiracy theory peddled by Turkey’s president?
As we have argued on numerous occasions, you simply can’t fully understand the Arab-Israeli or Palestinian-Israeli conflicts if you don’t appreciate the continuing epidemic of extreme antisemitism within Arab and Muslim culture. The dynamic whereby the media obssessively focuses on every conceivable instance of Israeli racism while ignoring the far more prevalent – and far more extreme – racism of its neighbors profoundly distorts news consumers’ views on the region.