Reading From Left to Right


Rigged Media Coverage of Israeli Ethnic Cleansing

by Joe Auciello


A suicide bombing in Tel Aviv kills 21 people. Reporters, commentators, and politicians speak of “terrorists,” “guerrillas,” “extremists,” and the like. The major daily paper in the city where I live prints, alongside the latest wire reports from Israel, a list of Palestinian bombings against Israelis. The causes behind these bombings are never analyzed or explained. Israel’s attacks on Palestinian territory are not included. The result is a distorted, one-sided account that will provide no understanding of the proverbial “Middle East tension.”

This result is also standard-issue media coverage of the Palestinian uprising, the second Intifada.

The facts tell a different story. The Israeli army occupies the West Bank and Gaza, blockades roads, imposes curfews, and fires on demonstrators. Israeli helicopters shoot into crowds of Palestinians. Israel’s secret police target Palestinian leaders for assassination. In response to bombings carried out by individual Palestinians, Israel sends F16 fighter planes to attack Palestinian areas. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon threatens even greater retaliation unless Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat reins in organizations that Arafat does not control. Sharon publicly denounces Arafat as a terrorist and a “pathological liar,” ominous language that prepares the way for escalation of Israeli hostilities.

Already, the killing of Palestinians is a daily occurrence. These deaths are often random and indiscriminate, but they are also a matter of policy, planned by the Israeli government . One of the most heavily armed nations in the world arrays itself against a Palestinian nationality that is disorganized and dispersed. Attack helicopters and tanks versus slingshots and stones. No wonder, then, since the Palestinian uprising resumed last fall against Israeli occupation, four times as many Palestinians have died in comparison to Israelis.

No matter how many Israeli planes are launched and no matter how many Israeli bombs are dropped, the U.S. media will not describe Israel’s war against the Palestinians as “terrorist,” “extremist,” etc. Those epithets are reserved exclusively for Palestinians.

”Blood will have blood,” Shakespeare wrote, and his words describe the passion for revenge in this part of the Middle East. To show that Israel’s dominance is not total or complete, to show that Israelis, too, will be targets, young Palestinians who expect to die as victims choose instead to die as martyrs.

In June, Z Magazine concluded Edward Herman’s three-part series, “Israel’s Approved Ethnic Cleansing,” which demonstrates that the U.S. “mainstream media’s coverage of Middle East issues shows a genuine propaganda system in action.” Herman carefully and thoroughly dissected this propaganda system, refuting it in an exhaustively researched and detailed argument. He accurately forecast the media response to the Tel Aviv suicide bombing and showed, as well, why predictions of a pro-Israeli slant in the news require no crystal ball: “…the media’s bias displayed during Intifada II has been spectacular in giving far greater attention and exclusive indignation to stone-throwing and suicide bombings by Palestinians, than to the more cruel and deadly violence of the Israeli army. The better than six to one ratio of killings and far higher ratio of Palestinian injuries to those of Israelis is neutralized by greater attention to — and much greater humanization of — Israeli victims.

“In a simple and rough measure of this bias, out of eight front-page photos of Intifada victims in the New York Times from September 28, 2000, through March 9, 2001, six were Israelis and two were Palestinians. This, along with massive suppressions, helps sustain the identification of violence with stone throwing and suicide bombing of the population in revolt.”

In Part 2 of the series Herman asked the crucial question about U.S. relations with Israel, and he has provided essential answers. “Why does the U.S. support Israel’s ethnic cleansing? Broadly speaking, the reasons boil down to two factors. One is Israel’s role as a U.S. proxy in the Middle East and its integration into the U.S. security system, which encompasses not only keeping the Arab world in line, but also providing services like supplying arms” for decades as a U.S. conduit to right-wing dictatorships. Just last year the Sri Lankan government was able, with last-minute military aid from Israel, to stop the advance of the nationalist Tamil Tiger movement.

The other factor behind U.S. support to Israel that Herman cites is the Israeli lobby in Washington, no small part of “the propaganda system in action.” Countering that system requires accurate information and analysis. Interested readers will find a larger version of Edward Herman’s important series on the ZNet web site.

Globalization: Neoliberal Challenge, Radical Responses

When social, ecological, and labor activists protested the Summit of the Americas held in Quebec City in April this year, police were called in to bust up the demonstrations. New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman was moved to add some gallons of ink to the tear gas and water cannons already in use by the police.

In his April 22 column Krugman chanted the mantra of capitalist politicians: There Is No Alternative. This particular piece of corporate wisdom goes back to the days of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. A new refrain has been added since the 1999 Seattle demonstrations: Not only is protest against corporate globalization useless; it is also harmful. Krugman wrote, “… anyone who thinks that the answer to world poverty is simple outrage against global trade has no head — or chooses not to use it. The anti-globalization movement already has a remarkable track record of hurting the very people and causes it claims to champion.”

Of course, few if any on the left will claim that “simple outrage” is the answer to a worldwide system of exploitation, though outrage is a pretty good starting point.

But listen to Krugman’s defense of how globalization and capitalist development will benefit Third World countries. “Because the countries are poor, even what looks to us like bad jobs at bad wages are almost always much better than the alternatives…those jobs wouldn’t exist if the wages were much higher.”

“So,” Krugman concludes, “who are the bad guys?…Images can deceive. Many of the people inside that chain-link fence [i.e., George W. Bush and 33 other capitalist world leaders] are sincerely trying to help the world’s poor. And the people outside the fence, [i.e., us] whatever their intentions, are doing their best to make the poor even poorer.”

Well, yes, images can deceive, but so can op-ed columnists. Partial reforms may indeed shift problems rather than solve them. The answer, though, is neither “simple outrage” nor the abandonment of reforms in favor of an economic and political system that, as Krugman admits, is “not always pretty.”

A new book by Marxist economist Robert Went, Globalization: Neoliberal Challenge, Radical Responses, published last year by Pluto Press in association with The International Institute for Research and Education (IIRE), helps to show there is an alternative to capitalist globalization. The book provides the new social movement with at least a part of the needed theoretical analysis and guidance. It’s a work that deserves careful study.

In an introduction to Robert Went’s book, IIRE colleague Tony Smith says, “As long as capitalism persists the vast majority of the world’s population in both the centre and the periphery will be threatened by increasing inequality, economic insecurity, and erosion of the material conditions necessary for happiness and autonomy...We must instead attempt to formulate and implement policies that are intelligible and attractive to all those harmed by global capitalism, yet which have a dynamic leading to an ever-more profound questioning of the capitalist order.”

Went himself writes, “The world could look very different if priorities were determined in a truly democratic way, instead of according to the principle of ‘one dollar, one vote.’ More and more people are arriving at the conclusion that revolutionary changes are both necessary and objectively possible.”

Went has outlined an alternative agenda drawn from the anti-globalization movement itself and from the heritage of the revolutionary Marxist tradition. Rather than accepting the logic of the system, Went speaks for “a radically different starting point: that production should be organised not so as to make the highest possible profits, but to meet the needs of the whole world population.”

To that end, Went enumerates the following topics: regulation of the financial sector, cancellation of Third World debt, break with export-led growth, sustainable production, control over the labor process, redistribution of work and income, and democracy in planning.

Went concludes, “In the face of cynicism, fatalism and the dominant market orthodoxy, a social, ecological, feminist and internationalist alternative must win back credibility and offer new hope by developing realistic utopias.”

For a copy of Robert Went’s book, contact the IIRE by email or send a check for $15.00 (payable to P. Rousset) to IIRE, Postbus 53290, 1007 RG Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The Economics of Health

In the midst of a much needed spring cleaning, I found a collection of back issues of In These Times. An article from 1981 caught my eye. The article warned of a trend in U.S. health care that emphasized profit before patients, and the author suggested dire consequences for the health care system if the laws of the market gained the upper hand. It’s not to suggest that medical needs were ever treated without the taint of money, but in 20 years the quality of health care in the U.S. has worsened for many people.

Dollars and Sense magazine has focused its May/June issue on “The Economics of Health.” The editor’s introduction states: “The reality is, you don’t have a lot of options, especially when it comes to your health. Whether or not you are healthy, or can be healthy, depends on lots of factors beyond your control. Do you have access to nutritious food and good medical care? That depends on whether you can afford them. Are you able to minimize your stress level? That depends on your working conditions. Is your neighborhood free of environmental hazards? That depends on the color of your skin. In other words, your health depends on where you fit into the larger society, and how your society — or any society — fits into the global economic scheme.”

Articles include, “The Social Relations of Health and Disease,” “Putting Names on the Numbers: Testimonies of the Uninsured,” “Spending #1, Performance # 37: How U.S. Health Care Stacks Up Internationally,” and “The Health Care Struggle Today.”

Two articles in particular stand out: “Making Patients Pay,” by Ellen Frank and “Cause of Death: Inequality” by Dollars and Sense co-editor Alejandro Reuss.

Ellen Frank provides an excellent overview, concise yet thorough, of the U.S. health system during the last twenty years, from fee-for-service medicine to managed care, then restricted care, and finally to the present day of full-fledged profit-driven medicine. “How to allocate scarce medical resources is a topic worthy of debate,” she concludes, “but that debate needs to take place in public, not in corporate boardrooms and secret negotiations between insurers and providers.”

Alejandro Reuss has assembled the information to prove that “Inequality Kills.” He explains, “You won’t see inequality on a medical chart or a coroner’s report under ‘cause of death.’ You won’t see it listed among the top killers in the United States each year. All too often, however, it is social inequality that lurks behind a more immediate cause of death, be it heart disease or diabetes, accidental injury or homicide. Few of the top causes of death are ‘equal opportunity killers.’ Instead, they tend to strike poor people more than rich people, the less educated more than the highly educated, people lower on the occupational ladder more than those higher up, or people of color more than white people.”

Reuss’s article is thoroughly researched (resources are included at the end) and powerfully written. Even readers who are generally familiar with the problems of health care in the U.S. today will find useful information in this and many of the other articles in Dollars and Sense.

Also, Arthur MacEwan’s column, “Ask Dr. Dollar” is a must-read. His most recent article explains the concept of “middle class” in clear and convincing terms. I’ve made photocopies for friends who think I am a capitalist because I own most of my house. (The bank owns the rest.)

I have written of Dollars and Sense previously and called it essential reading for political activists. This May/June issue alone justifies the $23.95 subscription price. Write to Dollars and Sense, P.O. Box 3000, Denville, N.J. 07834, or call 1-800-783-4903. Their web site is: <www.dollarsandsense.org>.