How and why reporters self-censor when it comes to Israel

We have seen how the Israel lobby dominates the US government. The lobby is aided in this by the way that it can also intimidate journalists. Philip Weiss writes about how reporters from the major western press admit that they self-censor reports from Israel so as not to be ‘savagely targeted’ by both the Israeli government and the Israel lobby that exists not just in the US but in other countries like the UK and Australia a well.

In the U.S. the Israel lobby is rarely mentioned critically in the mainstream media. But check out this segment on the political show Drum on Australia’s ABC two days ago:veteran Middle East correspondents Antony Loewenstein and John Lyons describe the relentless pressures from Israel and its lobby on journalists who are critical of Israel.

The show’s host Ellen Fanning notes that in Lyons’s new book (Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir) he recalls sitting with a leading correspondent from Agence France-Presse and asking him How many foreign correspondents censor themselves? Lyons:

He replied, “Everybody,” and he’s one of the toughest bureau chiefs around. As part of the book I interviewed The New York Times, the Economist, Reuters, AFP, and I found a common trait. Reuters even has their own special words that we’re allowed to use that won’t upset the Israelis. And I went there with the view that I’d been in Washington and New York, I would report it as I saw it. But every time I would write about settlements, something that’s factual, you get targeted, as a journalist.

If you write the truth of what you see in front of you in Israel and the West Bank, you will be savagely targeted.

Lyons is a veteran journalist. He served as six years as Jerusalem correspondent for The Australian, and is now the paper’s associate editor.

Another veteran Australian journalist Antony Loewenstein writes:

The way it often works is a journalist who is critical– Jewish, non-Jewish, Muslim, Palestinian, Christian, whatever– if you are critical of the settlements, if you are critical of the occupation, if you are critical of the Israeli government, if you are critical of the way the Israel lobby in Australian in my view perniciously and dishonestly pressures media organizations, ABC and others, and governments, you will be targeted privately or publicly.

The lobby has a right to exist. the point is that groups like AIJAC [Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council] are so belligerent and far right, they are supporting Israeli government policies that are pro settlement, pro occupation, anti-Arab and deeply racist.

But Weiss writes that despite the pressures, public opinion is slowly shifting to a more accurate view of Israel and its awful treatment of the Palestinians.


  1. Matt G says

    I wonder how many self-described liberals who criticize other liberals for being too soft on Islam will not acknowledge this problem.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    Jews do NOT control the media. To even suggest such a thing is a common vile anti-Semitic slur, and anyone engaging in such racist dog-whistle rhetoric can kiss their credibility and their career in the media goodbye.

    But if it could be arranged for the media to control itself… that would be better for everyone, obviously.

    despite the pressures, public opinion is slowly shifting to a more accurate view

    It is probably coincidental that this shift is taking place just as monolithic mainstream media organisations such as newspapers and television stations -- organisations that can be owned by one or just a few people -- are losing their position as influencers of opinion. They are slowly being replaced by of massively distributed media on the internet. If journalism is your career, and your career depends on continued employment with one of a half-dozen major players, you obviously have to toe the line. If journalism is your hobby, or you monetise it directly instead of through a powerful middleman, you’re much less susceptible to lobbying by people who don’t like what you say.

    So: good thing, or bad thing, do we think?

  3. aashiq says

    Let’s try a thought experiment. suppose a Jewish non-profit told to do opposition research hired a top law school student, who happened to be Orthodox Jewish, right wing, and grew up in the settlements. But, he was a top-notch lawyer. Now suppose his project was to make the case that “Israel is becoming a racist apartheid state” or, for extra points, has already become one.

    How much time would his boss allocate, for this project? Obviously, not very much.

    The Israel lobby is a shameless bully. It is profoundly anti-American to control opinion this way. Jews and non-Jews alike are threatened and called anti Semitic. Israel is a foreign country and not a sacred object.

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