Wednesday, March 29, 2006

At ABC News Nightline, If You Are Right, You Are Far Right

Last night, ABC's Nightline featured a brief report on the Israeli elections, which displayed a bias that typifies "the Mainstream Media." I suspect that the expression of bias was totally unconscious on the part of ABC News, but that only shows how deeply embedded the attitude is in Mainstream Media Consciousness.

Co-host Terry Moran and reporter John Donvan described the "winner" of the election, the Kadima Party, as "center-left." The party of Benjamin Netanyahu, which lost Knesset seats in the election, was described as "the far-right Likud party." When Mr. Donvan did a report and interview with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni, of the Kadima party, it described her father, who was a veteran of the Irgun (a militia that fought the British and the Arabs in pre-independence Palestine), Menachem Begin's Herut party and the Likud, as a politician of "the far right." In contrast, the Labor Party and the Meretz Party were described as parties of "the left." Not the far left, just the left.

Let's examine the appropriateness of those descriptions more closely. The Likud, following the last Israeli election, was the largest Israeli political party, and had governed Israel for the majority of the previous 30 years. The founder of Kadima, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon; Kadima's current leader, and probable Prime Minister in the new government, Mr. Olmert; Ms. Livni, and the current Finance Minister Meir Sheetrit, were all veteran politicians in Likud. Yet leaving Likud to found Kadima magically transforms them into members of a "center left" party, while the Likud, which gave birth to Kadima, is not merely "right," but "far right."

Alright, having admitted people such as Shimon Peres to its ranks, Kadima perhaps can accurately be described as "center left." But how did Likud suddenly become "far right." Its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, probably differs not at all from his former colleagues, now in Kadima, on the economic policies that usually determine whether one is of the right or of the left. He believes in, and as Finance Minister under Ariel Sharon he promoted, free market economics and welfare reform, just like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Another of Likud's leading lights, Natan Sharansky, is one of the world's most articulate spokespersons for human rights and democracy. Overall, Likud is a classic European liberal nationalist party. Why is Likud not just "right?"

In contrast, let's look at the parties identified by Nightline as "the left." The Israeli Labor Party is a classic European Social Democratic party, with a rigid Socialist approach to economics that one just doesn't find nowadays in a governing party in Europe. In Great Britain, for example, Tony Blair successfully led Labor away from the socialist policies that had crippled the British economy for decades until Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives swept Labor from power. In Israel, the Labor Party went somewhat in that direction under Prime Ministers Rabin, Peres and Barak, but its current leader, former national trade union boss Amir Peretz, wants to transport the Israeli economy back to 1975. That, however, is only "left," not "far left."

The other party of the mere "left," provides an even better example of this unconscious bias. Meretz is a direct lineal descendent of Mapam. "Mapam" is an abbrieviation of the party's Hebrew name, Mifleget Poalei Meuhedet (United Workers Party). As accurately described in Wikipedia:

"It was initially oriented towards the Soviet Union with a strong Stalinist policy until the 1953 Prague Trials shook the party's faith in the USSR. The show trials in which mostly Jewish leaders of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia were purged, falsely implicated Mapam's envoy in Prague, Mordechai Oren, as part of a Zionist conspiracy. After the Prague Trials and, later, Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech at the 20th Party Congress in the Soviet Union, Mapam moved away from some of their more radical left wing positions, moving towards social democracy."

So a party that hung with Stalin until 1953, reluctantly separating from its Great Leader only when he purged and murdered its Czech affiliates; a party that nonetheless adhered to a quasi-Communist philosophy ever since, still qualifies for the label of "left," not "far left."

And so my dear readers, to the Mainstream Media, a politician, whether American or Israeli,who strays ever so slightly right of John McCain, is no longer merely "right," but "far right." And conversely, even if a party espouses the economic and political policies of Che Guevara, one may rest assured that it is not "far left," but only "left."


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