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December 10, 2014

Farah Stockman Demonstrates the Double Standard

farah stockman.jpg

If someone asks for a two-word description of what's wrong with so much media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, there probably is no better answer than "double standard."

The double standard can often be subtle — for example, when many months pass between the evincing of one standard and the second, shifted standard. Who would have noticed this example?: The New York Times considered it to be front-page news when Israeli veterans met in 2009 and shared with each other rumors they had heard of atrocities during wartime. Front-page news, and the topic of repeated articles. But when twice in 2008 US soldiers actually confessed, in court and in signed documents, to the same type of atrocities, the news was buried deep inside the newspaper. And when American veterans informally met in 2008 to do just what the Israeli soldiers did, exchange atrocity stories, The Times didn't even bother to cover the meeting. Clearly a double standard, but not an easy one to notice.

Other times, though, the double standard is glaring. Such is the case with Boston Globe columnist Farah Stockman's recent two-part series about Jerusalem.

In article number one, Stockman derisively dismissed the idea that Palestinian incitement could be linked to Palestinian acts of violence. "Netanyahu blames the attacks on 'incitement' by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, a claim so disingenuous it was contradicted by his own intelligence chief," she stated. Instead, the violence against Israelis is framed as being Israel's fault. (Stockman explained away the murder of four Jews praying in a synagogue as being "what separation sows.")

But in article number two, published less than two weeks later, it's a whole different story. In fact, a main theme of the piece is the idea that the "toxic atmosphere" created by the words of Jewish radicals is a cause of an attack by Jews on a Jewish-Arab school.

Why the different standard? Why is it that Stockman believes an obscenely toxic atmosphere has no effect on Palestinian society, while an atmosphere in which some hateful currents exist, but are roundly condemned, drives Israelis to arson? Are Palestinians immune to the racist rhetoric in schools, calls for violence on television, and celebration of terror by government leaders, all of which are unfortunately exist Palestinian society, but Israelis are propelled to act violently by extreme language that is much more rare?

The Arab-Israeli conflict cannot be understood, and cannot be effectively explained, when a shift in focus from one side to the other coincides with a shift in the lens, the cropping, the standards, the expectations, and the physics of the situation. It's simply unreasonable to laugh off concerns about Palestinian hate speech just before claiming that an Israeli arson is a "symptom" of Israeli rhetoric. It is the kind of double standard that impairs so much of the conversation about the conflict.

Posted by GI at December 10, 2014 03:41 PM


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