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July 23, 2014

Witch Hunt’: Fired MSNBC Contributor Speaks Out on Suppression of Israel-Palestine Debate

Max Blumenthal

MSNBC contributor Rula Jebreal’s on-air protest of the network’s slanted coverage of Israel’s ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip has brought media suppression of the Israel-Palestine debate into sharp focus. Punished for her act of dissent with the cancellation of all future appearances and the termination of her contract, Jebreal spoke to me about what prompted her to speak out and why MSNBC was presenting such a distorted view of the crisis.

“I couldn’t stay silent after seeing the amount of airtime given to Israeli politicians versus Palestinians,” Jebreal told me. “They say we are balanced but their idea of balance is 90 percent Israeli guests and 10 percent Palestinians. This kind of media is what leads to the failing policies that we see in Gaza.”

She continued, “We as journalists are there to afflict the comfortable and who is comfortable in this case? Who is really endangering both sides and harming American interests in the region? It’s those enforcing the status quo of the siege of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank.”

Jebreal said that in her two years as an MSNBC contributor, she had protested the network’s slanted coverage repeatedly in private conversations with producers. “I told them we have a serious issue here,” she explained. “But everybody’s intimidated by this pressure and if it’s not direct then it becomes self-censorship.”

With her criticism of her employer’s editorial line, she has become the latest casualty of the pro-Israel pressure. “I have been told to my face that I wasn’t invited on to shows because I was Palestinian,” Jebreal remarked. “I didn’t believe it at the time. Now I believe it.”

An NBC producer speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed Jebreal’s account, describing to me a top-down intimidation campaign aimed at presenting an Israeli-centric view of the attack on the Gaza Strip. The NBC producer told me that MSNBC President Phil Griffin and NBC executives are micromanaging coverage of the crisis, closely monitoring contributors’ social media accounts and engaging in a “witch hunt” against anyone who strays from the official line.

“Loyalties are now being openly questioned,” the producer commented.

The suppression campaign culminated after Jebreal’s on-air protest during a July 21 segment on Ronan Farrow Daily.

“We are disgustingly biased on this issue. Look at how much airtime Netanyahu and his folks have on air on a daily basis, Andrea Mitchell and others,” Jebreal complained to Farrow. “I never see one Palestinian being interviewed on these same issues.”

When Farrow claimed that the network had featured other voices, Jebreal shot back, “Maybe for thirty seconds, and then you have twenty-five minutes for Bibi Netanyahu.”

Within hours, all of Jebreal’s future bookings were cancelled and the renewal of her contract was off the table. The following day, Jebreal tweeted: “My forthcoming TV appearances have been cancelled. Is there a connection to my expose and the cancellation?”

Jebreal is the author of Miral, a memoir about her coming of age in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Her former partner, Jewish-American filmmaker and artist Julian Schnabel, adapted the book into full length film. A widely published journalist and former news presenter in Italy, Jebreal was a vocal supporter of the now-extinct peace process and a harsh critic of Islamist groups including Hamas. Her termination leaves NBC without any Palestinian contributors.

According to the NBC producer, MSNBC show teams were livid that they had been forced by management to cancel Jebreal as punishment for her act of dissent.

At the same time, social media erupted in protest of Jebreal’s cancellation, forcing the network into damage control mode. The role of clean-up man fell to Chris Hayes, the only MSNBC host with a reputation for attempting a balanced discussion of Israel-Palestine. On the July 22 episodeof his show, All In, he brought Jebreal on to discuss her on-air protest.

In introducing Jebreal, Hayes took on the role of the industry and network defender: “Let me take you behind the curtain of cable news business for a moment,” Hayes told his viewers. “If you appear on a cable news network, you trash that network and one of its hosts by name, on any issue — Gaza, infrastructure spending, sports coverage, funny internet cat videos — the folks at the network will not take kindly to it.”

In fact, MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough has publicly attacked fellow MSNBC hosts and slammed the network for its support for the Democratic Party.

“I did not think that i was stepping in a hornet’s nest,” Jebreal told me. “I saw Joe Scarborough criticizing the network. I thought we were liberal enough to stand self criticism.”

Yet when she appeared across from Hayes, Jebreal encountered a defensive host shielding his employers from her criticism. “We’re actually doing a pretty good job” of covering the Israel-Palestine crisis, Hayes claimed to her. “I think our network, and I think the New York Times and the media all around, have been doing a much better job on this conflict.”

Jebreal appeared on screen as a “Palestinian journalist” — her title as a MSNBC contributor had been removed. When she insisted that American broadcast media had not provided adequate context about the 8-year-long Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip or the roots of Palestinian violence, Hayes protested that he had wanted to host Hamas officials alongside the Israeli government spokespeople he routinely featured but that it was practically impossible.

“Not all Palestinians are Hamas,” Jebreal vehemently replied.

“Airtime always strikes me as a bad metric,” Hayes responded. “I mean there are interviews and then there are interviews. I had [Israeli government spokesman] Mark Regev on this program for 16 minutes, alright? That’s a very long interview but there was a lot to talk to him about.”

The NBC producer remarked to me that the network’s public relations strategy had backfired. Hayes’ performance was poorly received on social media while Jebreal appeared as another maverick journalist outcasted by corporate media for delivering uncomfortable truths.

For her part, Jebreal told me she was disturbed by Hayes’ comments. “I admire that Chris [Hayes] wanted to have me on but it seems like he was condoning what happened to me,” she said. “He was saying, ‘What do you expect? We rally around our stars.’ Well, I rally around reality, if that still matters in media.”

Jebreal continued: “I didn’t tell him this on air but I said, ‘I hope you don’t condone other things the network did, like what happened with Ayman.’”

Jebreal was referring to NBC correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin and his sudden removal by the network from the Gaza Strip. Mohyeldin, a rising star in the network and its only Arab-American reporter in the region, was an eyewitness to the Israeli killing of four young boys who had been playing soccer on a beach near Gaza City.

Moments after the killings, Mohyeldin relayed intimate accounts of the scene through Twitter, then released harrowing footage of the boys’ mother wailing as she learned of their deaths. Oddly, NBC correspondent Richard Engel was summoned to deliver Mohyeldin’s package that evening.

The NBC producer told me that the network was deluged with angry letters and phone calls from pro-Israel activists about Mohyeldin’s reporting.

Hours later, Mohyeldin’s summary of the US State Department’s statement defending Israel’s actions disappeared from his Facebook and Twitter accounts. He had apparently been forced to delete the postings. Next, NBC removed Mohyeldin from Gaza, sending him out of the area on the first plane available.

To replace Mohyeldin, NBC dispatched Engel, a veteran foreign correspondent well-liked by top brass and regarded as the network’s “star.” Engel was the keynote speaker at a 2013 event at the Newseum in Washington DC honoring journalists killed that year. Under Israel lobby pressure, the Newseum had removed the names of three Palestinian journalists killed in targeting Israeli strikes during the November 2012 assault on Gaza, accepting claims by anti-Palestinian groups like the Anti-Defamation League that their employment by Hamas-affiliated outlets rendered them enemy combatants. During his speech, Engel carefully avoided condemning the Newseum for its capitulation.

The removal of Mohyeldin sparked an international backlash, with tens of thousands from around the world protesting the decision through viral Twitter hashtags like, #LetAymanReport and #FreeAyman. Two days later, an apparently chastened NBC returned Mohyeldin to the Gaza Strip, but the damage had been done.

Unwilling to explain its unusual actions, NBC left it up to media critics to guess at its motives. CNN Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter chalked up the removal of Mohyeldin to “infighting and bureaucracy,” claiming that NBC was concerned primarily with ratings. Glenn Greenwald, the editor-in-chief of the The Intercept, wrote that Mohyeldin was ordered out of Gaza by David Verdi, a top NBC executive, for political reasons — his reporting was deemed too sympathetic to Palestinians.

The NBC producer insisted that Greenwald’s account was the more accurate one. “Greenwald was right,” the producer told me. “And I hate to say that.”

For her part, Jebreal does not expect to be welcomed back on MSNBC again. “I’m done there,” she told me. “It’s not happening any more. My contract is over. I’m fine with it. I’m not complaining.”

She cited the distorted coverage of Israel-Palestine in American broadcast as the central reason behind the American public’s support for Israel’s assault on Gaza.

“I believe this is a shifting moment in history and we need to make a decison,” Jebreal said. “It’s easier when there’s Bridgegate but there is another gate: This is Mediagate and we need to begin to challenge our responsibilities.”

Max Blumenthal is a senior writer for AlterNet, and the author of Goliath and Republican Gomorrah (Basic/Nation Books, 2009). Find him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

source

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Let’s Talk About Genocide: The Case of Palestine

 declaration made by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 96 (I) dated 11 December 1946 that genocide is a crime under international law

Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.  

Though still contentious in some circles even within the Palestine solidarity movement, I’d like to join the, Ali Abunimah, Ilan Pape and others [1,2] and put forth that Israel, typical of a colonialist entity, isn’t only guilty of war crimes, discrimination, and employing an apartheid system on the Palestinian people, but is actually committing genocide. Before the reader rules me out as another “extremist” and clicks on, I’d like to remind you that all these terms are legal terms. And though I’m by no means a legal expert, I intend to argue the legal points in this article, in hopes of not only proving that Israel is in fact committing the crime of genocide, but that legal professionals would refine these arguments and take them where they belong- International Criminal Court.

… intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group

“Intent to destroy” a group is a basic qualifier for the crime of genocide. Intent is probably the element of a crime that is most difficult to prove, however the zionist movement and its subsequent colony in Palestine in its 67 years of colonialism, has never really hid its intent, the “enemy” being identified alternately as “Arabs”, “Muslims”, or “Palestinians”. I give you exhibits A through H:

A- Theodor Herzl

When we occupy the land, we shall bring immediate benefits to the state that receives us. We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly … It goes without saying that we shall respectfully tolerate persons of other faiths and protect their property, their honor, and their freedom with the harshest means of coercion. This is another area in which we shall set the entire world a wonderful example … Should there be many such immovable owners in individual areas [who would not sell their property to us], we shall simply leave them there and develop our commerce in the direction of other areas which belong to us…

Granted, Hertzl wasn’t specifically referring to Palestine at the time, just outlining a generalized strategy. This quote within itself doesn’t show intent of genocide, but clearly outlines strategies of collective economic destruction (a “root cause of genocide” according to the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide website) and ethnic cleansing (another legal term). The quote’s relevance is in the future impact that Hertzl would have on the Zionist movement and its leaders, who had adopted his methods, as I intend to show in the rest of the quotes of this section.

B- Ben Gurion

What we really want is not that the land remain whole and unified. What we want is that the whole and unified land be Jewish [emphasis in original]. A unified Eretz Israel would be no source of satisfaction for me—if it were Arab.From our standpoint… We must expel Arabs and take their place… 

C- Golda Meir (collection)

Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us… Any one who speaks in favor of bringing the Arab refugees back must also say how he expects to take the responsibility for it, if he is interested in the state of Israel. It is better that things are stated clearly and plainly: We shall not let this happen… There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist… When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons… Arab sovereignty in Jerusalem just cannot be. This city will not be divided — not half and half, not 60-40, not 75-25, nothing. 

D- Yitzak Rabin

[Israel will] create in the course of the next 10 or 20 years conditions which would attract natural and voluntary migration of the refugees from the Gaza Strip and the west Bank to Jordan.

E- Ariel Sharon

While Sharon was more of a doer than a talker , he was nevertheless rather straightforward about his actions:

It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization, or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.[http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article13805.htm]

You don’t simply bundle people onto trucks and drive them away … I prefer to advocate a more positive policy, to create, in effect, a condition that in a positive way will induce people to leave [http://mondoweiss.net/2013/02/ethnic-cleansing-valley.html]

F- Ehud Olmert

There is no doubt in my mind that very soon the government of Israel is going to have to address the demographic issue with the utmost seriousness and resolve. This issue above all others will dictate the solution that we must adopt. In the absence of a negotiated agreement – and I do not believe in the realistic prospect of an agreement – we need to implement a unilateral alternative… The formula for the parameters of a unilateral solution are: To maximize the number of Jews; to minimize the number of Palestinians; not to withdraw to the 1967 border and not to divide Jerusalem.

G- Benjamin Netanyahu

This is the land where our identity was forged; this is our homeland; here is our country which was reborn. And the Palestinians must accept this. Otherwise, what we are being asked to do is allow for the establishment of a Palestinian state which will continue subvert the foundation for the existence of the Jewish state, which will try to flood us with refugees, which will advance irredentist claims from within the State of Israel’s territory, territorial claims, national claims… the most condensed version of the formula for a peace agreement with the Palestinians is a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. We do not want to annex the Palestinians as citizens of the State of Israel and we do not want to control them, but naturally the Palestinian state must be demilitarized. This means that certain markers of sovereignty will have to be limited. [http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/PressRoom/2014/Pages/PM-Netanyahu-addresses-INSS-Annual-Conference-28-Jan-2014.aspx]

And half a year later while massacring hundreds of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza strip:

I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan. [http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/netanyahu-palestinian-state.html]

This is the fourth day of Operation Protective Edge. The IDF, the ISA and the security forces are fighting Hamas with increasing intensity. As of now, we have hit over 1,000 Hamas’, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations’ targets, and we are still busy… The pace of attacks in this operation is double that of Operation Pillar of Defense and the military strikes will continue until we can be certain that the quiet has returned to Israeli citizens… no terrorist target in the Gaza Strip is immune but it must be pointed out that Hamas’s leaders, commanders and activists are hiding behind the residents of Gaza and they are responsible for any injury to them. [http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/182803#.U850woCSzQk]

H- The next generation: Ayelet Shaked (supporting genocide from Electronic Intifada)

It is a call for genocide because it declares that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and justifies its destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” It is a call for genocide because it calls for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”

(a) Killing members of the group see FULL document here

 

 

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