Mondoweiss / July 13, 2020
There is no issue in American life about which the mainstream media ignores or distorts the truth more than Israel/Palestine, and censors or “cancels” the people who could tell it.
So far, the growing debate over “cancel culture” has understandably focused on individual cases. Certainly, Israel/Palestine has many examples of courageous thinkers who have suffered for their views: Steven Salaita and Norman Finkelstein come immediately to mind. But the blackout has been so far-reaching for so long that we can say that an entire subject has been ignored or distorted in the mainstream almost beyond recognition.
Right now, Israel is conducting a violent sabotage campaign against Iran, in an effort to provoke America into war — and there is a nearly complete news blackout in the United States.
Maybe the 153 celebrated signatories to that now famous letter to Harper’s magazine that warned about “cancel culture” could draft another epistle, one that appeals for an end to suppressing free discussion about Israel and Palestine.
On July 10, another explosion hit near near Tehran, the latest in a string that have struck at, among other targets, Iran’s nuclear energy program at Natanz. The New York Times, to its credit, is reporting on the sabotage campaign, and the paper even said that one of the attacks was “apparently engineered by Israel.” But beyond the basic facts, nothing: no editorials, no opinion pieces warning about the risk of war, no reminder that Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to instigate the U.S. against Iran for at least a decade. There was no effort to explain that Israel’s attacks are meant to goad Iran into retaliating, which will draw in the U.S., and possibly help Donald Trump’s sinking reelection campaign.
At least the Times is doing the bare minimum. So far in the Washington Post, not a word from its own reporters or commenters; you would think that the paper could find sources in the D.C. intelligence community to explain the danger of war. On National Public Radio, one short, confused report that provided no context at all. Foreign coverage on the U.S. cable networks continues to be an insignificant joke.
U.S. soldiers, sailors and pilots could soon find themselves in a shooting war that would stun our citizens with its suddenness.
The mainstream U.S. media’s failure to report Israel’s effort to provoke fighting with Iran is happening at the same time as American journalistic malpractice continues over Netanyahu’s plan to illegally annex up to 30 percent of occupied West Bank Palestine. There has been very little news coverage of annexation, and Palestinian voices continue to be ignored.
Three members of the New York Times editorial board have extensive experience with Israel/Palestine: Thomas Friedman, Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss. None of them has yet written a single word about annexation.
Here is a final paradox. “Cancel culture” means that the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream are nearly closed to the truth about both Israel’s instigation over Iran, and its probable illegal annexation in the West Bank. But Friedman, the most influential foreign affairs columnist in America, has to, along with his editorial page colleagues, self-cancel — because he, like them, can’t write anything without sharply criticizing Israel.
James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades; he lives in New York City