Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

Why Does the Israeli/Palestinian Situation Get So Much Attention?

Why does the Israeli/Palestinian conflict garner so much attention and generate so much passion, as compared to other similar sorts of conflicts (e.g. Chechnya or Kashmir). Today at Real Clear Politics, Dennis Prager offers some possible reasons (his choice of comparisons is the situation in Tibet). Of the seven reasons he gives, two seem especially plausible:

China. If Tibet had been crushed by a white European nation, the Tibetans would have elicited far more sympathy. But, alas, their near-genocidal oppressor is not white. And the world does not take mass murder committed by non-whites nearly as seriously as it takes anything done by Westerners against non-Westerners. Furthermore, China is far more powerful and frightening than Israel. Israel has a great army and nuclear weapons, but it is pro-West, it is a free and democratic society, and it has seven million people in a piece of land as small as Belize. China has nuclear weapons, has a trillion U.S. dollars, an increasingly mighty army and navy, is neither free nor democratic, is anti-Western, and has 1.2 billion people in a country that dominates the Asian continent.

[T]elevision news, the primary source of news for much of mankind. Aside from its leftist tilt, television news reports only what it can video. And almost no country is televised as much as Israel, while video reports in Tibet are forbidden, as they are almost anywhere in China except where strictly monitored by the Chinese authorities. No video, no TV news. And no TV, no concern.

In addition to the candidates mentioned by Prager, I would add the following:

8. Scapegoating. Getting local populations riled up over the plight of the Palestinians is a good way for Muslim dictators to distract attention from the miserable effects of their policies and to strengthen their grip on power.

9. The U.S. The fact that the United States has gotten involved in trying to solve the conflict has given it a higher profile than it might otherwise have had. In addition, because of the alliance between the U.S. and Israel, at least some criticism of Israel seems to be a stalking horse for criticism of the United States.

10. Communism. For strategic reasons, during the Cold War the Soviet Union (after some initial support for Israel) strongly took the side of the Arab states against Israel and spread a lot of anti-Israeli propoganda throughout the world. This not only gave the situation a higher profile than it otherwise would have had, but it affected how the conflict was viewed by certain segments of the Left, who as it happens are overrepresented among journalists and academics.

11. It’s gotten attention before. There is a kind of self-re-enforcing aspect to coverage of a given conflict. When the media reports on a given conflict, knowledge about that conflict increases, which in turn can increase the demand for information about that conflict, leading to more coverage, and so on. This could explain why certain conflicts (say, the situation in Darfur), get so much more coverage than seemingly comparable conflicts (say, the situation in the Congo).

No doubt there are other possible explanations that I’m missing. Thoughts?

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March 25, 2008 - Posted by | China, Israel

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