Monday, April 28, 2008

Mud and the Media

A casual reader opening the Cape Times today (28 May) will find a prominent letter entitled “Israel must reach out” by Mr Jazbhay in which he dissociates himself from any celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary.

As far as I know, Mr Jazbhay has not been invited to join in these celebrations, nor has the Cape Times associated itself with Israel’s remarkable accomplishments. Thus, a casual reader may wonder why Jazbhay felt impelled to write such a letter or, indeed, why the Cape Times consented to publish it.

The reader will find in Jazbhay’s letter the usual litany of complaints against Israel: brutality, expropriation, “the wall”, discrimination against Israeli Arabs and so on and on. Needless to say there is no mention of the on-going terrorist incursions against Israel with resultant deaths and injuries, the rocket attacks, the inflammatory behaviour of many (by no means all) Israeli Arabs who demand the full rights of Israeli citizens while undermining Israel abroad and at home or, indeed, the circumstances which led to the expensive and politically costly construction of the security barrier in the first place.

In fact, the reader would be astonished by any attempt at a contextualised or informative letter since this would be contrary to the objective of the game which, as even the most casual reader understands, is to throw as much mud as possible at Israel in the reasonable belief that some of it will stick.

A slightly less casual reader will have noticed by now some clear patterns within the South African media. Firstly, an obsessive concern with a highly complex conflict far outside South Africa’s domain of interest. Secondly, the gross preponderance of anti-Israel comment, images, reportage and analysis generally without even token attempts at “balance” or contextualisation. Thirdly, the reader will have noted that such exchanges invariably start with some anti-Israel piece followed by (in the interests of fairness of course) responses from those like me attempting to wipe some of the sticky stuff off.

What the ordinary reader will not know (but may guess) is the most of the “accusations” are endlessly recycled half-truths, distortions or outright lies. What the ordinary reader will not know is who and what is driving this campaign of nasty anti-Semitism or political propaganda under the guise of moral indignation. But, once again, it is not too difficult to surmise.

But in reply to Jazbhay and his ilk, Israel’s behaviour and accomplishments are one of the remarkable stories of the modern age and I and thousands of Jews and non-Jews celebrate its 60th anniversary with unmitigated pride. I challenge the Cape Times and the rest of the South African media to tell the true story.

Mike Berger

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