Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

The jaundice against the Jews


Readers might recall that the Jewishly owned New York clothing chain Syms (which once merged with Filene’s Basement but ultimately folded in 2011) had a clever marketing campaign for “the educated consumer.” In Sy Syms’ famous radio and television ads, his salesmen were really “educators” who taught the public about quality, fabric, and price.

What the Central Florida public really needs to be educated about, however, is how Israel is framed in the media. Readers of the Heritage need to be better versed in journalistic uses and abuses. Become an educated, critical consumer of language and rhetoric when it comes to Israel; do not blindly accept something from a television, radio, newspaper or Internet outlet without stringently looking at factors such as language choices, language placement, visual presentations, rhetorical devices and order of speakers. Here are four rhetorical and linguistic concepts to keep close at hand in assessing the recent escalation of conflict in Gaza:

Euphemism. National Public Radio (NPR), on July 10, said that the conflict arose following “the deaths” of three teenagers. “Death” is something one hopefully experiences in very old age, with a dignity about having led a full life. The three boys didn’t “die;” they were murdered, in cold blood, plain and simple. When the calculated, senseless, and cowardly pre-meditated murder of teens is softened into “deaths,” it is a win for the terrorists. The boys didn’t “die;” they were slain. A common technique in news organizations is to use the term “soldier” when applied to an Israeli (age 17 or 18) and the term “youth,” “teen,” or even “child” when applied to a Palestinian of the exact same age. These language choices tie into framing Israel as an aggressor. Reminder: the “D” in IDF stands for “defense.” Any nation on earth is assumed to defend itself as a natural human right. Only Israel must convince the world that rockets randomly raining down upon innocent civilians requires stiff response.

Placement. Look for how actors (operating on verbs), nouns, and verbs are placed in headlines. A recent New York Daily News headline read “A grenade-tossing Hamas terrorist was killed on the West Bank, and Israeli aircraft pounded 34 Gaza Strip targets in the hours after the three slain students were found.” Note here that an Arab terrorist’s killing gets top billing, Israeli aircraft “pounded” targets, and the three innocent Jewish teens are placed at the end of the sentence, in the passive voice yet, “were found.” The sentence just as easily could read “After three innocent Israeli teenagers were brutally killed by Hamas, Israel retaliated by killing a grenade-tossing Hamas terrorist and followed up with air strikes on terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip.” In the original sentence, “Gaza Strip targets” suffers from ambiguity—it sounds like Israel is randomly striking anything. It is not. The highly sophisticated Mossad works around the clock to isolate terrorist strongholds. Hamas, like most cowards, deliberately blends in with places like schools, mosques, and hospitals, in order to gain world sympathy when Israel does act to protect itself. Foxnews.com recently ran a headline that read “Dozens of Hamas rockets bombard Israeli heartland.” Here is an example of a reasonable piece of writing: a subject (dozens of Hamas rockets), a verb (bombard) and a direct object (Israeli heartland). There is no obfuscation, there is no bias. There are no buzzwords, euphemisms, trigger words, taking sides words. Adjectives and adverbs, the elements of flowery language, are eliminated.

Omission. On July 8, The New York Times reported that Israel actually takes steps to prevent deaths of innocent Arab civilians by both airdropping leaflets that it is going to attack, and when it has knowledge, actually phoning households that might be near air raids. Furthermore, Israel will first drop plastic bombs on neighborhoods as a signal to take shelter—that real ones are coming. Funny, I don’t recall a single instance of Arabs forewarning that a suicide attack in an open Israeli market, on an Egged bus, or in a café is about to take place, do you? The whole idea does not pass what Alan Dershowitz repeatedly calls “the giggle test.” If you are getting news reports of attacks on Gaza—and they are occurring—make sure those reports include the reality that Israel has a moral compass, and does what it can to forewarn innocents. Terrorist leaders hide with the innocents because they do not care about their own people and they lack the moral fiber Israel possesses. If news of Gaza attacks does not also contain references to the leaflets, then it is biased reporting.

Hyperbole. Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, repeatedly calls Israel’s strikes on Gaza to be “war crimes.” That’s right, “war crimes.” What to Ban Ki-moon are Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel? Paper airplanes for fun? War crimes, in general, are actions that violate international agreements (established by the Hague) and involve gross misconduct in times of war such as systematic rape, enslavement of women and girls, the use of chemical warfare and gases, and cruel and unusual punishments such as public beheadings. Hamas is attacking Israel with rockets; Israel is striking back in kind. That is war. To find war crimes on the globe, I suggest Ban Ki-moon look at the jails and concentration camps of North Korea, the brutal bullets and mass videotaped Sunni burials by ISIS in Iraq, and spend an afternoon in a tough Iranian prison of “dissenters.” Always look for distortion and hyperbole in Israel reporting.

Anti-Israel biases can be so entrenched in the media that we barely notice them. Rhetorical devices are so widespread that we grow to accept the new normal as acceptable. It isn’t. Phrases such as “anti-Zionism,” “anti-Israel” or “pro-Palestinian” are in fact borrowing from a 19th century German playbook, in which the term “anti-Semitism” was coined to appear scientific and consonant with social Darwinism. All of it is linked to a deeper, more ancient phrase: “Jew hatred.”

Long before Facebook or Twitter, the Huffington Post or NPR, there has been jaundice against the Jews. It is a blight on the globe, a disease of mankind that is harder to eradicate than small pox.

Richard Ries has recently completed his graduate studies at UCF and is an occasional contributor to the Heritage.


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