Thursday, May 10, 2007

May 10 Media Critique: “Nice Story But Where's the Context?"

Or alternatively – 'Nice Try, But Do You Really Think You Can Ever Make Us Happy?' (HonestReportings ability to find bias in anything is neatly explained by experimental studies - see the 'hostile media effect').

While we frequently highlight some of the most egregious media bias and inaccuracies, it is also worth noting those instances where a seemingly benign or even positive article can disguise a greater problem….. so what's the issue with a piece where there appears nothing to get upset about?
That’s right – even when there is nothing to get upset about, HR will always find something to get upset about. It just goes to show the utter futility or trying to please extreme partisans like HonestReporting. The BBC are the target for running a puff-piece (sorry, human interest story), on the fond reminisces of some Iraqi-Jews for their homeland. But the BBC miss the all-important "context".
The problem lies not in what has been written but in what has been left out. While terming the Iraqi Jews' move to Israel as part of a "mass migration", the BBC conveniently forgets that this was not a move made out of choice. In fact, the Iraqi Jews (along with thousands of Jews living in Arab states) were forced to flee for their lives as refugees in anything but positive circumstances.
Well, not quite "fleeing for their lives", as the emigration of Iraqi Jews occurred over several years, and it was a migration that Israel was only too happy to encourage.

Never ones to miss a chance at being factually inaccurate, HR include a map to show the level of migration to Israel from Arab countries. It includes Egypt which shows a figure of 89, 525. But that is roughly the Jewish population of Egypt, not the number of émigrés to Israel. And HR also never miss an opportunity to do themselves, what they accuse others of doing. Just as they accuse the BBC, they leave out some vital ‘context’ about the situation in Egypt – most of the émigrés didn’t go to Israel. Why? Well, it's not the kind of 'context' that HR likes. Many of the Egyptian Jews blamed Israel for their situation. In the 1950s Israel had recruited several Egyptian Jews to bomb targets in Egypt, followed by Israels 1956 invasion of Egypt, all which led to Egypts Jews becoming the targets of campaigns doubting their loyalty to Egypt, leading them to emigrate, the majority going anywhere but Israel.

There is some other missing context, but again not the sort that HR would tell its' sheep-like readers – why do some of the Mizahrim have fond memories of Iraq? Afterall, as HR tell us, they were "forced to flee for their lives". Doesn't make much sense does it? But, onto the context that resolves this apparent conundrum. The European nature of Zionism meant that the Mizharim didn’t get a very warm welcome in Israel. They were seen as second-rate and were treated that way. It was they who were sent to the outlying ‘development towns’ where conditions were harsh and services very basic, often finding themselves living in tents for extended periods. And these were people who were often the middle class in their countries of origin. It was a very rude shock for many of them, compounded by the contemptuous attitudes towards the 'Oriental-Jews'. Contempory Mizhari scholars increasingly write about the racism that has typified the relations between themselves and the Ashkenazi Jews of European origin.