Media gatekeeping on the Palestine issue

The results of the Israeli election had, as usual, no single party winning a majority of the 120-seat Knesset and so the post-election maneuvering to form a coalition has begun. The big news that the US media has focused on was that Benjamin Netanyahu’s party got just 31 seats, behind the 33 seats of Benny Gantz’s party. But few are noting that the Palestinian party got 13 seats and came in third. Philip Weiss says that the results have unleashed an outpouring of racism on Israeli TV.

I must admit I never had as much fun watching Israeli politics as I did this week. I spent the week glued to i24 News television for the Israeli election and was laughing a lot of the time.

I’ve never seen such a display of out-and-out racism on TV, and all parading as the democratic process.

The display was so blatant that (I want to believe) it can’t be very long before Israel’s shadow catches up with its shining American image. I know I’m biased, but I felt I was watching the disintegration of Zionism, right before my eyes.

You see, the Palestinian parties were big winners Tuesday night, getting 13 seats, third behind Blue/White at 33 and Likud at 31, and no one in Israeli politics knows how to deal with this, except to say We don’t want anything to do with the Arabs!

Weiss goes on to describe the many things said on Israeli TV about the election that revealed the underlying racism towards Palestinians.

Donald Johnson writes about the many ways that supporters of Israel’s discriminatory policies towards Palestinians try to silence critics by steadily expanding the range of the term ‘antisemitism’. He gives the example of Matt Seaton, an editor of The New York Review of Books (and formerly at the Guardian and the NYT opinion page) who accused Ali Abuminah of “blood libel anti-Semitism”.

What exactly had prompted this damning charge? Abuminah had tweeted in response to the recent Israeli elections that some were finding hopeful because Gantz’s party had secured slightly mores seats than Netanyahu’s. His tweet said: “What’s to celebrate? He will be replaced by another cold-blooded butcher of Palestinian children. Netanyahu’s replacement represents precisely zero progress for Palestinian rights.”

So how does this constitute a ‘blood libel’? In response to critics asking him to justify his charge against Abuminah, Seaton said that the juxtaposition of the words ‘butcher’ and ‘children’ was the giveaway because those were favored terms of anti-Semites.

Johnson responds:

That twitter thread is full of people who try (with varying degrees of politeness that gradually shade into ridicule) to point out the absurdity of this argument to Seaton. He won’t have it. He knows what he knows. Sure, Netanyahu and Gantz might be war criminals guilty of killing hundreds of, let us say, Palestinians who are not yet adults. One of these two war criminals might yet again become PM. Seaton doesn’t bother to dispute the point. What he cares about is this—many times in European history innocent Jews were falsely accused of the ritual slaughter of Christian children. So because of this, if two officials in the self-proclaimed Jewish state actually are guilty of killing children, you can’t use the word “ slaughter” and you can’t use the word “children” near that word “slaughter”, because only a vicious antisemite would ever do such a thing.

So it’s a trope. If you want to criticize the premature deaths of not yet fully grown Palestinians caused by the actions of officials of a particular state you had better do it in a way that avoids using any word ever used in a false accusation against Jews by antisemites.

This is going to be difficult. The problem is that antisemites often did accuse innocent Jews of terrible crimes, so what are you supposed to say if someone Jewish actually commits a war crime in reality?

The larger point is this. Look at [Seaton]s] career. This man is a gatekeeper. If you want to know why anti-Palestinian racism in Americans who support Israel is never called out, while antisemitism (both real and imagined) is often made central in discussions of Palestinian rights, look at Seaton’s mindset. How long can one criticize Israel in the terms it deserves before someone claims the criticisms are antisemitic? And once that happens, the subject of Palestinian human rights simply vanishes, as if by magic.

Johnson pointed out that Abuminah had used the juxtaposition of the same two words previously in criticizing Barack Obama for joining with Saudi Arabia to ‘slaughter’ Yemeni ‘babies’.

That is how the gatekeepers in the media operate, by trying to find as many ways as possible to brand as anti-Semites anyone who has the temerity to criticize the way that Israel treats Palestinians.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    “what are you supposed to say if someone Jewish actually commits a war crime in reality?”

    It depends how much you value your career and reputation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *