The intense media coverage of the demonstrations in Egypt has revealed that the double standard employed in the media’s coverage of Israel has boomeranged against the very Arab leaders that have evaded scrutiny and accountability for years . The marked decline in coverage of Israel draws attention to the vastly disproportionate amount of attention Israel receives in the world press, at the expense of coverage of other parts of the Middle East. As a result, insignificant minor events in Israel are reported, analyzed, and magnified while the human rights of tens of millions in places like Egypt are ignored entirely,
There are some 450 foreign journalists permanently resident in Israel, not to mention the hundreds of support staff. Over the past weeks, many journalists have left Jerusalem and headed to Cairo. Many of those Jerusalem-based journalists are responsible for not only covering Israel but also the neighboring Arab countries of the Middle East, including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Compared to her non-democratic neighbors, Israel is a paragon of democracy, human rights and virtue. Paradoxically, however, these are just the things that Israel finds herself attacked over in the international media.
Indeed, an Israeli misdemeanor can make headlines in the capitals of the world while far worse human rights incidents from Arab states throughout the region will go completely unreported. There is a double standard at play when it comes to the reporting in the Middle East. Why is it, for example, that an international news story concerning Israeli measures to stem a wave of African migrants crossing the Egyptian-Israeli border? Could it be that such a story fits a narrative that portrays Israel as a “racist and apartheid regime” more concerned with Jewish exceptionalism than caring for black Africans? Could it be that those who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis are no longer prepared to save those who are persecuted today?
Sadly, this is the angle in the back of the minds of many if not most who file stories despite the fact that the issue of immigration is a sensitive one in both the US and Europe and is not unique to Israel. What the media has intentionally failed to highlight is the treatment that these migrants receive en route to Israel through Egypt, where tales of theft, murder, torture and rape are common and occurring for the past years yet unreported. Where is the international outrage that women and children are being shot by Egyptian border patrols as they run towards the one country that they believe offers them a better future? Where are the stories of how IDF soldiers actively rescue these people from certain death, physically pulling them over the border and out of reach of Egyptian guns?
Stories are emerging from Egypt of foreign journalists being harassed and even physically attacked, so much so that this has prompted protests from Western governments, including the US administration. Yet why is this news? After all, even in the “moderate” authoritarian regimes of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, journalists are regularly threatened, harassed, beaten, arrested and even murdered. However, you won’t hear about such incidents. Reporting these kinds of news items will permanently deny access to any reporter, so they don’t.
In Israel however, a recent incident made news in the international media and prompted a complaint from the Foreign Press Association after an al-Jazeera reporter was asked to take off her bra to go through a security check at a journalist event hosted by Prime Minister Netanyahu.
While the undoubted humiliation and inconvenience of an Al-Jazeera reporter makes headlines, the many stories of foreign journalists inconvenienced, detained, threatened, and imprisoned, are never reported simply because the foreign press is unprepared to publicly take on autocratic regimes that would respond by imposing sanctions that would negatively affect the ability of journalists to gather news.
Consider another example concerning Al-Jazeera, the Qatari station that has proven its biased and politicized agenda with its reporting of the Egyptian crisis and the recent Palileaks papers. “Democratic” demonstrators attacked its offices in Cairo and Ramallah while in Israel it is still free to operate where the worst that can happen is the humiliation of one of its reporters at a security check.
Only now, after the Mubarak regime has capitulated leaving behind a serious and dangerous political vacuum in the Middle East, journalists have begun to expose revelations about Egypt, that despite being a Western oriented ally in the region is not a liberal or virtuous place for its citizens to live.
The recent events in Egyptian offer us a case study in media double standards when it comes to coverage of Israel as part of the Middle East. While Israel’s neighbors are not held accountable or scrutinized, Israel, by virtue of her freedom of expression and access becomes the villain of the region while Western publics fail to appreciate Israel’s legitimate security concerns in what has been broadcasted in the past few weeks, a repressive, unstable and dangerous neighborhood. Journalists stationed in Israel should stop abusing the comforts of their home base to disproportionately focus on Israel at the expense of neighboring Arab states, which truly deserve to have the spotlight focused on decades of human rights abuses, corruption and mismanagement. Such is the double standard in media reporting from the Middle East.