A recent story in the New York Times inadvertently raises issues about the hypocrisy of the mainstream news media in championing the details of the tragic torture and murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
The story, published on Wednesday, was headlined “How one journalist’s death provoked a backlash that thousands dead in Yemen did not”. But as a Palestinian and former journalist who has been a longtime critic of American news media bias, I see it differently.
The mainstream American news media picks and chooses it’s outrage very carefully. When Khashoggi was a Saudi royal family insider, he was just another of the cacophony of voices often ignored by the American press. But when he broke with the royal family and became one of their most vociferous critics, suddenly they embraced him, and the Washington Post hired him.
The media hypocrisy is obvious. But the mainstream American news media doesn’t stop there, as the New York Times did in selectively conflating Khashoggi’s horrible and outrageous killing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul Turkey on 2 October 2018.
The New York Times, and much of the American news media, has been hinting at the same message: The Arab World is a dangerous place where inhumane torture a bounds and the killing of civilians is a daily occurrence. And yet, they seem to draw a protective circle around one Middle East country, excluding it from similar assertions, Israel.
The New York Times headline could just as easily have been “How one journalist’s death provoked a backlash that thousands dead in Israel did not.” That would have more accurately described how Israel has turned the murder of Palestinian civilians into a national pursuit, which the media has turned a mostly or limited blind eye to.
There are ways to kill people in the Middle East if you want to avoid intensive mainstream news media scrutiny, and it’s not just Arab governments who are involved. Israel is the one Middle East nation that seems to be above mainstream American news media scrutiny when it comes to cruelty, murder and horrendous killings.
Although leaked details from Turkey paint a horrendous picture of Khashoggi’s torture and murder, the end result of murder is all the same. Does it really matter if a government torture’s someone to death or indiscriminately shoots someone in the back of the head?
The Israelis have mastered the art of de-criminalising murder, using several strategies that work. That’s how Israel manages to escape mainstream American new media scrutiny in its constant human rights abuses.
Why kill someone when it is enough to destroy their home, destroy their life, deny their existence and bury them away in a detention camp someplace in the middle of the Negev Desert.
You don’t need to be cruel to achieve your goal. The Israelis have taught the world much about how to murder innocent civilians and get away with it, if you have the complicity of the mainstream American news media. Put out a press release in English that denounces the victim as a “terrorist”; accuse your victim of plotting some outrageous act of violence. Don’t worry about the facts; the accusation and headline are enough.
Give the murder process a fancy name, especially one that sounds like it has legal standing in the International Rule of Law. Something like, “extra-judicial killing”. “Extra-judicial killing” actually sounds like it is a legalised form of human rights protection that involves “extra” concern for justice and the International Rule of Law apparently, according to the mainstream America news media which reports on the incidents as if they are justified.
When fancy labels don’t work, all Israel does is call its victims “terrorists”. If the victim is in Gaza, expand the label with the word “Hamas”. Oh yea, “Hamas terrorist” sounds really bad, justifying the murder, right?The number of labels Israel uses to accommodate American news media complicity is endless. For Israel, managing murder isn’t about stalling, as the Saudis seem to be doing, but rather about defining phrases to accommodate the mainstream American news media’s blindness to Palestinian suffering.
Israel disguises murder for the Western media applying the phrase “human shield”. That’s how they described the killing of Razan Al-Najjer who was shot to death by an Israeli soldier sniper along the Gaza border, along with hundreds of other civilians, as she was trying to provide medical attention. Toss in another powerful label, “Hamas operative”, and even the murder of a first responder helping the injured won’t raise mainstream American news media ire.
Another is “collective punishment” which suggests the persons brutalised deserve the violence. The term “collective” is used to disguise the massive extent of the process which Israel uses to destroy the lives of Palestinians.
Sometimes, you don’t have to actually kill someone to destroy them. All you have to do is take their home, take their land, expel them, deny them the ability to put food on their table, jail them and shut them up for six to eight months without habeas corpus, an American legal term referring to the right to a public trial.
Then use the labels. Assert that the victims are related to a “terrorist” and that they enabled the terrorist because they are the mother, the father, the sister, the brother. Maybe the infant child. Throw them to the street and watch their lives fall apart slowly but deliberately.
Finally, strip the victims of any and all humanity. Don’t refer to them by name. Don’t provide details of their “life”. Just keep the victims obscured under the various labels like “terrorist”, “human shield”, “extra-judicial killing” and “terrorist”. You can’t over use the word “terrorist” when demonising opponents.
Instead, provide extensive personal details about the lives, family and loves and wants of the person you are protecting, like the poor Israeli soldier who felt the Palestinian terrorist stabber killer lying on the ground was a threat. Show him with his mother, relatives. Let people into his life, living in fear of Palestinian terrorism.
I know it is hard to believe. But this works. Just ask Israel.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.