Monday, January 25, 2016

A lesson in bias - Aharon Lapidot

by Aharon Lapidot

As far as The Guardian is concerned, Israel does not exist outside the conflict with the Palestinians.

The British newspaper The Guardian has never been a fan of Israel. I suspect that the only reason The Guardian even accepts Israel's existence is, like Emmanuel Goldstein's character in George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984," The Guardian needs Israel as an example of everything that is wrong with the world.

Last Wednesday, the British daily ran a review of an exhibit called "To Whom it May Concern," currently on display at the Ronald Feldman Fine Arts gallery in New York City. The exhibit is comprised of some 50 photographs from the archives of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz from the years 2000 to 2015.

The exhibit is divided into five themes: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, religion and state (the tension between the religious and the secular), attitudes towards "the other" (foreign workers), the erosion of law (political corruption) and the growing economic gap (the so-called "social justice" protests). 
The monolithic direction of the topics selected raised some questions regarding the objectivity of the exhibit's curators, but so be it -- conflicts have always photographed well and drama is an essential component in photojournalism. Any selection would inherently be subjective, and should be respected. 

However, that is not the case in The Guardian. The paper chose four photos to accompany its review. The main one: the Balata refugee camp in Nablus. The second photo shows a Palestinian family sitting among the ruins of their home, which had been bombarded by Israel during Operation Protective Edge. The third photo shows brothers Ahmed and Mahmoud from the village of Yatta, near Hebron, rummaging through garbage in the nearby dumping ground. 

Only one photo of the four presented by The Guardian features non-Palestinian subjects -- a protest at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, calling to end the war in Gaza. 

In other words, as far as The Guardian is concerned, Israel does not exist outside the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It exists solely through the Palestinian prism. According to the paper, there is nothing happening in Israel that is interesting or worthy of discussion other than the plight of the Palestinians. 

The photo selection is so biased and transparent that it makes the British paper, which boasts being liberal, into not much more than a political manifesto. You just can't have it both ways. 

Haaretz provided 50 photos to the exhibit, focusing on not one, but five different topics. The paper could have just as easily opted to highlight a photo of a social justice protest at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, or an Ethiopian-Israeli protest, or perhaps a photo of an ultra-Orthodox mass prayer. They were all included in the exhibit and were even mentioned in The Guardian's review, but God forbid that one of them should ever find its way into the paper. 

I do not expect The Guardian to use a photo that paints Israel in a positive light. God forbid -- no. But, not even an unflattering photo of policemen in the Ethiopian-Israeli protest? Why? The powerful photograph doesn't need any explanation. We are all familiar with the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words." This is particularly true nowadays, when patience is in short supply and the internet has cut the attention given to each article down to a number of seconds. 

To paraphrase Karl Marx, the image determines the consciousness. Thus, for example, a photo of a clash during a protest can convey a message of democracy and social health because whenever a demonstration takes place -- anywhere in the world -- there will always be police present. The presence of police at a demonstration in Israel serves to frame Israel as "normal," which is apparently why The Guardian could not bear to include such images in its article. 

The Guardian can only tolerate one type of image of Israel: a cruel occupier that abuses its Palestinian minority. The rest is just not worth mentioning.

Aharon Lapidot


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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