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Israel is holy cow for sa media

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Posted on: Voice of the Cape

2008-06-16 12:56:48

For a media that has shown ”exceptional tenacity” in its ability to probe and uncover many startling details in relation to shady operations by powerful individuals and groups, the South African media has been much more circumspect in dealing with issues related to Israel.

This claim has prompted media advocacy group, Media Review Network chairperson Iqbal Jassat, to accuse the South African media of dealing with Israel as it if was a “holy cow”.

“Many of the daily and weekly papers have made remarkable strides in pursuit of exposes, matched at times by the electronic media, resulting in shocking disclosures. No politician is spared, neither the President of the Republic nor any of his cabinet ministers. Indeed, the message inherent in these revealing accounts of the high and mighty is that there are no ‘holy cows’ as far as the media is concerned.

“Yet, it can be argued that despite their reluctance to admit it, media do have ‘red lines’ which determine their levels of coverage or analysis on such ‘untouchable’ subjects. For instance, The Star under Moegsien Williams’ editorship has an unwritten policy not to touch Israel. Thus, by conferring a ‘holy cow’ status upon Israel, Johannesburg’s leading daily denies its consumers access to critical analysis and debate on Israeli policies as well as conduct vis-à-vis Palestinians under its occupation,” Jassat said.

Radio 702 too has been accused of protecting Israel. “Many regular callers to its daily talk shows have complained about being denied access whenever they attempt to raise issues critical of the Jewish state. Yet, they point out, that Israel is discussed though only by ‘kosher’ analysts or spokespersons of the Olmert regime or some or other pro-Israeli academic,” Jassat said.

He said the SABC’s lack of substantial depth in its coverage of Israel “and at most times to completely ignore the suffering experienced by Palestinians as a consequence of policies best described as inhumane, is further evidence of a ‘holy cow’ syndrome.”

A snap survey of the print media conducted by the Media Review Network shows that there is a general disinclination to get to grips with brutal facts – warts and all – of Israeli violations, settlements, checkpoints, tortures, detentions, abductions among others. To its discredit, SA press coverage of Israel remains in the archaic realm of “cut & paste”, Jassat charged.

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s recent trip to undertake investigation of the Israeli massacre of a Palestinian family in Gaza provides a critical indictment of shoddy neglect by SA media. The expectation that a UN probe of a ghastly crime led by an icon of this country would warrant reams of space filled with pictures and commentaries did not materialize. Instead, coverage of Tutu’s visit was confined to a few centimeter columns mainly sourced from agencies such as AP and AFP.”

Jassat said not a single paper provided any editorial comment. Neither did any print journalist attached to SA media interview Tutu on his experience and observations. “What does it say about ‘holy cows’? Is it not ironical that the Cape Times header for one of its AFP-sourced reports read: ‘Tutu slams the world’s silence on Gaza’s plight’, when in fact it and other SA media remain silent on Israel’s atrocious conduct?”

Jassat said while there exist notable exceptions, “the unfortunate truth is that unless media practitioners are able to confront this demon of selective critique, their ability to take a critical view of Israel’s destabilizing role and service of America’s imperial interests will remain silent on Israel’s atrocious conduct?”