How bad are the media?

How bad do you think the media are when covering Israel?

Hold that thought.

Now read this extract from an article by journalist David Akin in the Toronto Sun:

JERUSALEM — Sometimes reporters just don’t get it.

Heck, I’m a reporter and I’m the first to admit that.

But at a joint press conference here Tuesday, Canada’s Stephen Harper and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu essentially teamed up to say that, when it comes to politics in the Middle East, reporters just don’t get it.

What could he mean?

For the last two days, Canadian, Palestinian and Israeli journalists have, in Harper’s view, been trying to get him to say something bad about Israel and Netanyahu. After all, it says on a Canadian government website that it is official Canadian policy that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal. Why, the journalists asked, couldn’t Harper just say that?

More to the point, after spending a good chunk of his historic 2,400-word speech to the Knesset on Monday explaining that there was no way he was going to single out Israel for criticism in any public forum, Harper must have been wondering why the heck reporters continued to try to get him to do just that.

So he turned the tables.

Yesterday in the Palestinian Authority, no one asked me there to single out the Palestinian Authority for any criticism in terms of governance or human rights or anything else,” Harper said, speaking about the press conference he’d held Monday in Ramallah side-by-side with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas. “When I’m in Israel, I’m asked to single out Israel. When I’m in Palestinian Authority I’m asked to single out Israel and in half the other places around the world you ask me to single out Israel.”

Who asks him to single out Israel? The media. They want him to say something bad about Israel.

This observation brought a wry smile to Netanyahu’s face and grim laugh from Employment Minister Jason Kenney, seated in the front row of Tuesday’s press conference.

Now, let me just make one small but important observation. By Harper’s own insistence, the 11 parliamentary journalists who followed Harper here have been limited to precisely four questions in three days. If he’d take a few more questions, well, the problem Harper described might be resolved.

But that said, Harper makes a reasonable point.

What Harper is saying that the media drive the agenda. Mr Akin tends to confirm this. It’s the media who want people to condemn Israel. I would say that is more than a reasonable point!

Netanyahu did not miss the opportunity to drive the point home:

Netanyahu spent a remarkable 10 minutes explaining to us why Harper was right, why those were the wrong questions.

“The core of the conflict is not settlements. The core of the conflict is not the absence of a Palestinian state. The core of the conflict is the persistent refusal to reconcile to an independent nation state of the Jewish people. That’s what this conflict is about,”

[snip]

“I think it’s important for commentators in the Middle East to adopt their commentary on Canada-Israel relations to the new Middle East,” he said. What are the concerns of many of the world’s leading Arab countries these days?

“The first is the arming of Iran with nuclear weapons. And the second is the spread of the Muslim Brotherhood. And in meeting those twin challenges, these (leading Arab) countries do not see Israel as their enemy but as being on the same side of a difficult conflict.”

Point taken.

If only I could be optimistic that the media had taken the point and were going to pay attention to this truth. But we should remember it. Why is there so much bad press about Israel? Blame the media. You heard it from the horse’s mouth.

[First seen at Honest Reporting.]