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'A free world'… 'A free press'…

January 27, 2014 at 2:46 am

By Ma’an Bashur

If the veteran American journalist Helen Thomas had called for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, as she called for the Israeli withdrawal from Palestine, would she have been forced to resign from her post as a media anchor at the White House following decades of distinguished professional service?

If the celebrated CNN Middle East editor Octavia Nasr had praised one of the many Jewish rabbis who, almost daily, incite their followers towards murder and destruction, displacement and house demolitions, the continuation of the blockade and illegal settlement activities, as she noted the passing of the revered and learned Al-Sayyid Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, would she have found herself out of the job in which she had spent more than twenty years making a significant contribution?

If the British Ambassador in Lebanon, Frances Guy, had commended a war criminal like Netanyahu, Lieberman or Barak on her website, as she commended Ayatollah Fadlallah, would her website have been censured by ‘unknown elements’?

These are three additions to the dozens of other questions that could be asked of the western media in general, and the US media in particular. In a country calling itself ‘the land of the free’, US bias in favour of Israel and hostility towards Arabs and Muslims has ‘obliged’ it to abandon professionalism, objectivity and even basic levels of media freedom.  

If the recent incidents referred to above are an indicator of the accepted ‘boundaries’ that define the freedom of the press and journalists in the west – where you are allowed to defame the Divine but under no circumstances must you defame Israel – then they constitute a scandalous abuse within an establishment which considers itself to be the bedrock of personal and civic freedoms; indeed, the birthplace of the enlightenment and the vanguard of the spread of its values across the world. Similarly, such indicators expose the fact that Israel is increasingly a burden which fails to fit the strategic and economic interests of western countries, as a number of senior US officials have pointed out. Nowhere is this burden more obvious than on the supposed bastion upon which western societies are built, the freedom of the press. This does not even begin to take into consideration human rights issues where the Israeli occupation has become a universal model for the violation of the UN Charter, international human rights law and all international resolutions.  

The current gap in the balance of power entices western governments and corporations to persist in their disregard for the principles and values which they claim as their own. On the contrary, they now rely to excess on policies based on double standards. However this persistence and excessive hypocrisy are driving these states toward the abyss, damaging their reputation and strength, especially as global awareness is growing, as witnessed by the sincere outrage at Israel’s assault on and hijacking of the Freedom Flotilla in May.

With all the violations of human rights norms and conventions that we have witnessed in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Palestine and Lebanon, in secret and public prisons, isn’t it time for an apology from the architects of this misery for those whose long-dreamed of day of freedom brought the armies of occupation to their countries, and those whose experiments with democracy prompted death and destruction from Israeli and US forces?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.