How many times does a corporate reporter need to visit Israel to repeat its talking points?

Here we go again.

A little game; how many Western “journalists” and politicians continually visit Israel on a propaganda tour?

Answer; most of them.

In 2009 I wrote about the Sydney Morning Herald’s international editor Peter Hartcher visiting the Zionist state and being more than happy to speak to a very select collection of people, all offering a very similar message; we are under threat, we fear the Iranians, nothing about the occupation and all about repeating Israeli talking points.

Now Hartcher is back.

His paper’s front page story today:

Israel is troubled by the perception the US is an “empire of the past” and wants a resurgent America to lead a decisive confrontation with Iran, a top official has said.

“America is tested” at a pivotal moment in the history of the Middle East, said Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dan Meridor, who is also the Minister for Intelligence and Nuclear Energy.

The Arab world was watching the US closely: “They look to America. If America does not seem to be able to contain the Iranian threat, will they go with Iran?”

“This is of world-order magnitude,” he told the Herald in an interview. Israel, which depends on the US as its security guarantor, itself appears to have new doubts about US judgment.

Mr Meridor said he was “surprised” at the Obama administration’s treatment of a longstanding US ally, Egypt’s former president: “Was it necessary to immediately empower the demonstrators against him and let [Hosni] Mubarak go? It’s seen by all the allies of America in the Arab world. I don’t know where the tide of history will go and I’m not sure they know.”

“The perception, that I hope is wrong, that America is weakening is not good, but I hope that America will find a way, and I believe they can, to restore itself as the leading country and not allow those impressions spread by the Iraq war that America is an empire of the past. All this is here on the table.

“America has started wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Is it a success story or not? What happens in Pakistan? ”¦ It may be the use of power showed the limits of power.”

Mr Meridor, a senior member of the Likud party of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said the confrontation with Iran was “a decisive conflict”.

“The end of it is very important.

If the end of it is that Iran has nuclear power, it will have grave effects on world order, on balance of power, and on the Middle East.

“It may spell the end of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty regime, not only because Iran will be nuclear, but because other countries say they will need to be nuclear, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and others may do it.

“No more the responsible adults tell the kids what to do. When everybody has the bomb you can’t contain or control or interfere as America could do.”

And the lead op-ed:

Israel’s Mossad enjoys a reputation as the world’s most fearsomely effective intelligence agency, but it didn’t see the Arab uprisings coming.

“The first lesson I draw [from the uprisings] is that we should all be very humble,” says Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister responsible for intelligence and nuclear energy, Dan Meridor.

“We didn’t know,” he told the Herald. “Had you asked me the day before it happened in Egypt, I would have told you ‘no way’. Or Tunisia for that matter . . . Nobody predicted this happening in any specific way.”

Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, the ceremonial head of state, puts an optimistic face on the tumult. During a visit to Washington last week he imagined that “the moment that the Arab world will become free and open and peaceful it will be a major change in the world experience and in the annals of the Middle East”.

Surely an Israel surrounded by democracies would be a much more secure nation? One of the most striking features of the Arab ferment to date has been the fact that Israel has been irrelevant.

As Meridor points out: “What we saw in Cairo that was quite heartwarming, hopeful, promising, was that the slogans we heard were not taken from the Muslim vocabulary, they were taken from the Western vocabulary.

“You didn’t see the usual – ‘Down with America, Kill the Jews, Allahhu Akhbar [God is great]’ and all the rest. You heard words like liberty, freedom, equality, justice, an end to corruption.”

The people of the Arab world are more interested in improving their daily lives than demonising Israel, it seems.

Both pieces end with this:

Peter Hartcher is the international editor. He travelled to Israel as a guest of the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce.

Well, that’s alright then. It’s clearly too much to expect that a senior journalist from a major Australian paper would actually speak to people his guests haven’t arranged him to interview. Any Palestinians? Arabs? Gazans? Those under occupation? Discussion about Israel’s growing racism problem?

This isn’t journalism; it’s akin to stenography.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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