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Jan 21

Dateline Jerusalem - Jim Fletcher

The Liberal Media's Bias Against Israel

We all know people who stand out from the crowd. Rare individuals. People who do things that inspire us and sets them apart from the rest of us. Maybe not saints, but people who are raised up for a particular purpose, in a particular time and place. I’m thinking of ones I’ve known personally over the years, then obvious ones like General Patton and Winston Churchill.

 I also often think of Jonathan Netanyahu, the Israeli commando who lost his life while leading the successful Entebbe hostage rescue. But that is for another column.

 I’d like to introduce some of you to a man I knew toward the end of his life.

 David Bar-Illan was executive editor of the Jerusalem Post, and later, a policy advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He was also an acclaimed concert pianist and writer.

 His columns in the Jerusalem Post are considered classics by his admirers. Likewise, he was hated by the appeasement crowd, the ones who pushed the Madrid Conference in 1991, and the subsequent bail-out of terror mastermind Yasser Arafat.

 Bar-Illan told me once that his mother hid hand grenades in her dress skirt during the wild and woolly days before Israel’s independence in 1948. This was during the days of heightened Arab terrorism against Jewish settlers in Palestine.

 He was raised on Zionism and unabashedly promoted it. He was also quite sophisticated and elegant, which made him a tough, moving target for his detractors. Sometimes it’s easy to marginalize the “crazies,” those who support Israel in a sincere-yet-odd way. Bar-Illan, though, was such a great writer and communicator that his critics were left with personally attacking him. They couldn’t win a debate.

 He died in late 2003, but left behind a body of work that I turn to for inspiration in these times of confused, muddled thinking about morality, particularly as it regards Israel.

 Among the many great paragraphs he wrote is the following, from 1992:

 “Some of the world’s most celebrated columnists, commentators and experts have written mind-blowing nonsense. But being proved repeatedly wrong has deterred none of them; they all know that only assiduous researchers remember their folly.”

 Wow, so much rich wisdom in that. And, “mind-blowing nonsense”! What a great, great line! So dead-on.

 Anthony Lewis, the former columnist for the Washington Post, once wrote about the murder of some Israeli schoolgirls on a field trip, by a rogue Jordanian soldier. Lewis acknowledged the brutal act in the lead, then spent the next 13 paragraphs blaming Israel.

 Thomas Friedman, who well understands the viciousness of Arab terrorism, still insists on castigating Israel for “the settlements.” Friedman is a celebrity author and immensely enjoys dispensing wisdom on political television. Yet sometimes he writes the most mind-blowing nonsense. He’s done much to prop-up Arab propaganda in the West.

 Mike Wallace used to make fun of activists working to free Russian Jews from the Soviet grip. He’d claim that practically no Jews in the USSR wanted to move to Israel. Then a million of them did.

 This kind of thing goes on all the time.

 Bar-Illan knew it and exposed it. He’s one of the few journalists who did. He distinguished himself as a man who wasn’t afraid to stand for the truth, no matter how much he was attacked. Once, when taking to task a British writer who had joined the “Blame Israel crowd,” Bar-Illan wrote this gem:

 “[He] is not shaken to the marrow by the existence of states like Saudi Arabia and Jordan in which no Jews can live. Nor is he incensed by the idea that while 750,000 Arabs can live as full-fledged citizens of Israel, Israelis are told they should not live among Arabs in Jerusalem or Hebron. What bothers him is the rhetoric through which ‘moderates on both sides are abused and silenced.’ At last, we have the perfect equivalence: Arab moderates are abused and silenced by being tortured, raped, burned to death, hacked with axes, garrotted and beheaded. Israeli moderates are abused by being called nasty names in the Knesset, which they reciprocate tenfold with gusto. But silenced?  Show me one Israeli, moderate or otherwise, who has been silenced — and I’ll show you a case of terminal laryngitis.”

 Beautiful. You get an idea of Bar-Illan’s sharp wit and command of facts. This was a lethal combination for Israel’s enemies.

 The thing one has to keep in mind about journalists is that many of them are liars. The concept of “unbiased” reporters is only that — a concept. It resides in the realm of astronomy research, like String theory or black-holes.

 No human has ever been unbiased. We are all products of environment, education, pre-suppositions. Yet many liberal media types will claim to be unbiased. Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America for decades, yet he decided that he didn’t like the Vietnam War, so he reported that we couldn’t win it. Among other things, that report ended Lyndon Johnson’s political career. But America was winning the war when Cronkite reported we weren’t.

 David Bar-Illan understood the biases of other kinds of Leftists, Israel’s detractors. Once he wrote: “Quotes, particularly the ‘man in the street’ kind, are used and even invented not because they mean anything but because they add credibility to the points the writer wishes to make.”

 Obviously, there are many dedicated reporters who try to be objective; I’m not saying there are not. There are even liberal reporters who try to be objective. But the point I’m trying to make is that when we rely on the media for our news, much of it is polluted with propaganda.

 So it is especially in the arena of Israel on the international stage. Israel-hating is a particular sickness that compels otherwise capable journalists to lie in order to further a pro-Arab agenda. Israel fights this on a daily basis. David Bar-Illan understood it, fought it, and did much to help his country.

 He is missed.