Are the American media biased in favor of Israel, as some liberals
claim? No, unless you define the American media as conservative commentators
Admittedly, most conservatives, including those in the media, tend to be
pro-Israel. Among the reasons are that they believe that Israel, the only
democracy and reliable ally in the region, occupies the moral high ground in
this conflict. Israel didn¹t acquire the disputed lands in Gaza and the West
Bank through unprovoked territorial aggression but in the process of
defending herself from attack.
Conservatives are also more realistic in their recognition of the
long-term goal of the Palestinians to exterminate Israel and of the dangers
inherent in Israel forfeiting the very land that will facilitate that goal
by making her infinitely more vulnerable to attack.
Christian conservatives, as a rule, are even more ardently pro-Israel.
They take seriously God¹s Biblically revealed promises to Abram/Abraham that
He will make a great nation out of him, that the Holy Land will belong to
the nation of Israel as an everlasting possession, and that those who bless
Israel will be blessed while those who curse her will be cursed.
On the other hand, I admit to bafflement at liberalism¹s inhospitality
to the Israeli cause and even more so at the Jewish communities¹
overwhelming liberalism and seeming unwillingness to hold liberals
accountable for this slight.
But what about the media¹s bias? On April 8, the Chicago Tribune ran a
commentary asserting, "readers are likely to read stronger criticisms of
[Israeli Prime Minister] Sharon¹s policies in the Israeli than in the U.S.
The author cited a column by Nation magazine columnist Eric Alterman,
who opined that "the punditocracy debate of the Middle East in America is
dominated by people who cannot imagine criticizing Israel." Alterman offered
a list of 62 American "columnists and commentators who can be counted upon
to support Israel reflexively and without qualification." He only named five
who are reflexively anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian, and seven who are
In his concluding paragraph, Alterman observed, "the entire anti-Israel
contingent of the punditocracy does not add up to a single George Will or
William Safire, much less a Wall Street Journal or U.S. News."
Apart from being implacably devastated at not being included on any of
the lists, I must take exception to the thrust of Alterman¹s piece. In the
first place, the overwhelming majority of the pro-Israel 62, with notable
exceptions such as Alan Dershowitz, are conservatives. So the list may say
more about the predominance of conservatives among influential columnists
than it does about the leanings of the media overall on the Middle East
Next, with only two exceptions I could find, Rush Limbaugh and Laura
Schlessinger, all are columnists -- not TV or radio commentators. Alterman
omits from his lists and from his discussion in general any mention of the
anchors and personalities on the major television networks. (For example, he
makes no mention of Katie Couric¹s conspicuous pro-Palestinian views or
those of Peter Jennings or Dan Rather.)
Also, Alterman barely acknowledges any influence of the nation¹s mostly
liberal editorial boards on the issue. Those he does cite, such as the New
York Times and the Washington Post, he curiously places in the pro-Israel
More importantly, Alterman fails to factor in the selection, placement
and slant of "news stories" on the major networks and in the liberal print
media. These thinly veiled and unacknowledged biases are far more insidious
because they pass for objective reporting. At least readers of columns or
listeners/viewers of broadcast commentaries know they are getting commentary
and can weigh that in their assessment of the opinions.
A cursory glance at the front page of April 8¹s St. Louis Post-Dispatch
illustrates the point. The lead story is entitled "Israel defies U.S. appeal
to pull back." Just below it appears another story, under the headline
"Multiplying Miseries in West Bank, Palestinians report shortages, Israeli
looting." But front-page reference to a third article took the cake. The
blurb read: "Suicide bombings are labeled a success: Leading Palestinian
militants say they have terrorized Israelis and damaged the Israeli
economy." The cumulative effect of these "news" stories is bound to be
profound. This type of "reporting" abounds in the liberal print media
throughout this country.
So while the pro-Israeli position is undoubtedly represented in the
media, it is usually accompanied with truthful packaging. Most of the
pro-Palestinian slant is comparatively covert. Media bias concerning the
Middle East, then, turns out to be a microcosm of overall media bias. Just
as the liberal mainstream media deny their bias in general, they deny their
specific predisposition against Israel.
Somebody please tell Mr. Alterman -- and while you¹re at it, get me on