CNN’s New Day morning show followed up on yesterday’s surprising discussion regarding Israel and the media with another segment on the August 5 edition of the program. It featured co-host Chris Cuomo interviewing pro-Palestinian pundit Rula Jebreal on the topic, and the on-screen headline read “Is Media Coverage Pro-Israel?”
As the old saying goes, any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered with the word “no,” but Jebreal clearly thought otherwise. [MP3 audio here; video below]
While the Arab-Israeli national was more subdued than in past cable television appearances, she still managed to take a few shots at the American press for their supposedly pro-Israel coverage. She argued that the American media was in fact more friendly to the Israelis than the Israeli media itself:
Look, if you read Israeli newspaper[s] and I think in America we are by far much more constrained in challenging policy -- the Israeli policy and talking point[s] -- than the Israeli press itself, which is really strange. If you read Haaretz for example, the Israeli main newspaper, they challenge Benjamin Netanyahu on what is the end game in Gaza.
Haaretz, of course, is a decidedly left-of-center Israeli newspaper that has been frequently critical of Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign policy. Jebreal added that the media have not questioned the Israeli government “on the connection between cyclical violence, occupation and blockades.” Later in the segment, Jebreal suggested that Israel only comes to the negotiating table in response to violence:
You cannot take the context of the conflict today and separate this from 45 years of military occupation of the West Bank, where you have leadership that renounced violence, recognized the state of Israel and gets nothing. In return, Hamas used violence and Israel negotiated with them -- negotiated with them in 2011, when they released 1,000 Hamas prisoners for one Israeli soldier.
She asserted that this was “perverse message” to send to the Palestinian people. Earlier in the segment, Cuomo voiced skepticism that CNN and the media in general could be pro-Israel, given how often they cite the civilian death toll in Gaza. He noted that CNN has received criticism to the point where they are often labeled “anti-Israel.”
Jebreal was quick to blame pro-Israel conservatives for this confusion: “I don't think anybody can attack CNN or – except conservative groups who would like you to be a propagandistic organ for their talking points and other things.”
The relevant portion of the transcript is below.
August 5, 2014
8:40 a.m. Eastern
CHRIS CUOMO, host: To some there is a third party in the war between Israel and Gaza, and that third party would be the American media. They think the media is being played by both a media savvy Israel and a Hamas that knows the impact of pictures of dead civilians, especially children. Yesterday we had a guest on who thought that the media is not tough enough on Hamas. The media's role as you know is always to give a fair account, but what does that mean in the current story? Joining us now is Rula Jebreal, foreign policy analyst, journalist and author. It’s good to have you here. I’ve read what you have to say about it. And you come from a very eclectic background, born in Haifa, Palestinian, married to a Jewish man. You've covered this situation and you feel very definitely that things are being left out. What is being left out?
RULA JEBREAL, foreign policy analyst: Look, if you read Israeli newspaper[s] and I think in America we are by far much more constrained in challenging policy -- the Israeli policy and talking point[s] -- than the Israeli press itself, which is really strange. If you read Haaretz for example, the Israeli main newspaper, they challenge Benjamin Netanyahu on what is the end game in Gaza. They challenge actually this administration and this government on the connection between cyclical violence, occupation and blockades, and the secret relations but we've never seen the question asked.
CUOMO: Peter Beinart, who writes for Haaretz, is on the show regulaly.
JEBREAL: And he's one of the voices I love and is actually very critical but you really don't see these questions asked to Israeli officials. I've seen Israeli officials interviewed everywhere during these four weeks of conflict. I've never seen them asked about blockade, occupation, and whenever we show civilian casualties, and there are a lot of them, 80% of the 2,000 that have been killed in Gaza are children and women. We are criticized in the media by being – by showing only one side of the story but this is our role, our role is actually to give both sides coverage and give voices, having critical media is important, and not only that, diverse media is very important.
CUOMO: But if you're showing the pictures.
JEBREAL: Reporters like Ayman Mohyeldin on the ground who showed four kids being killed in front of him and then asked officials – Israeli officials what happened there? What's the problem, how can you kill civilians? I think this is our duty.
CUOMO: But isn't it happening? I mean you just said it yourself.
JEBREAL: It's happening more.
CUOMO: There was an example. We are very careful about what we show of the dead, that's certainly true more in American media than it is abroad, but we are covering the pictures of what's happening to civilians so much that we get constantly attacked that we are anti-Israel. So how can both be true?
JEBREAL: I don't think anybody can attack CNN or – except conservative groups who would like you to be a propagandistic organ for their talking points and other things. But then, this is not a democracy. This is Egypt. This is elsewhere, where the regime – I worked in Egypt. I was kicked out of the country because I interviewed some officials on the relationship between torture and extremism. But in a state, in the United States, in a country like this, conservative elements can go on Fox News and say whatever they want and insult even the president, and then – but they cannot pretend that we don't show the other side and they cannot pretend that we don't show civilian casualties because it's part of what we do as reporting. This is important. You did this in the Ukraine. That was important. You challenged Russian officials and local officials on what is the end game there, why this plane was shot. Aren't these fair questions to ask the Israelis?
CUOMO: I think so. They definitely are. I just think we happen to be asking them. I wonder how much of your frustration with the coverage is a function of your own feelings.
JEBREAL: Look, no doubt. I am Palestinian. I am Israeli, but my criticism comes from the fact that I think sometimes especially in previous conflicts, we really failed our audiences. Look at the Iraqi war, for example. Let me bring you back in history. During the Iraqi war, I think American media has failed there to cover in an objective way the leading to the war and they didn't challenge enough of the administration.
CUOMO: When Hamas was elected, put in power and its main principle, as you know, is that Israel should not exist. That is a tough thing to separate.
JEBREAL: Listen, the Palestinian story starts many years earlier. You cannot take the context of the conflict today and separate this from 45 years of military occupation of the West Bank, where you have leadership that renounced violence, recognized the state of Israel and gets nothing. In return, Hamas used violence and Israel negotiated with them -- negotiated with them in 2011, when they released 1,000 Hamas prisoners for one Israeli soldier.
CUOMO: You can't justify that as ends/means analysis. Sounds like it is.
JEBREAL: I’m talking – it's not a justification Chris and I hope you can follow what I'm saying. What I'm saying is what was sent was a perverse message to the Palestinian public opinion, if you use violence sooner or later we negotiate with you and we concede. And if you believe in peace, we don't concede, like the leadership in the West Bank. I think we don't challenge them on the settlement, we don't challenge them on many other issues where the Israeli press itself challenges Bibi Netanyahu on his government. Look, it's – for us and for me as an Arab, as an Israeli, I am used to criticizing a government. I am used to being on Italian television and ask Berlusconi tough questions about his connection with Mafia, about his corruption, about his sex scandals. I'm used to this. We should not shy away from our responsibility on challenging officials, especially the Israeli narrative, and talking points. So when they tell us there's Hamas shooting missiles near schools, and UN officials are telling you, we told them that we have thousands of civilians, we told them there's nobody there, we told them that we found weapons in another empty school and they're still shooting? We don't challenge them on this? We don't challenge them on one point. What is – what do you want to do with the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza?
CUOMO: I would end this on this. First of all, this is not the end of the conversation. This is a conversation that has to be had going forward. You and I will have it. People need to have it in general, but you have to be careful with the word "we." Because just as you can generalize on how things are done wrong on the government side, you have to be specific about who you're talking about in the media. We –