The largest bastion of pro-Palestinian support in the United States — college campuses — has been largely sidelined in this round of fighting due to summer break and Americans’ support for Israel as the Middle East’s only democracy remains strong, says the leader of the largest umbrella group of American Jewish organizations.
Malcolm Hoenlein, the longtime executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told Hamodia in an interview Sunday night that, while the majority of U.S. media outlets remain predictably prejudiced in their coverage of a conflict that stretches back decades, it has not filtered down to their viewers and readers.
“The coverage of most of the media has been really terrible, with a few exceptions, such as The Wall Street Journal and The [New York] Post,” Hoenlein said.
The one-sided media coverage, while not as egregious as European media, has not trickled down to their consumers, several polls indicate. A Gallup poll released Thursday shows support for Israel’s actions versus Hamas’s by a 4-to-1 average.
However, worrying trends show the young college youths do not support Israel in the current conflict by 51 to 29 percent. But the U.S. campus demonstrations that have fueled sometimes-violent anti-Israel protests during previous antiterrorism sweeps by Israel was nearly absent this time due to summer break.
“There’s no one on campus,” said Hoenlein, who has visited Israel twice since Operation Protective Edge began three weeks ago.
Hoenlein says that the “usual suspects” in the mainstream media have played true to form in the current atmosphere, with the only surprise being how flagrant it is.
“Most of the coverage has so portrayed the Hamas side and diminished Israeli losses as well as the fact that they blurred who started this — I would say that CNN and MSNBC has gone very far, the BBC always,” Hoenlein said. “So the usual suspects are just going to further extremes in their bias.”
He dismissed a rare editorial by The New York Times at the beginning of the battle, in which the Gray Lady recognized that Israel had no choice but to confront Hamas, destroy their rockets and demolish their terror tunnels.
“Of course they said that Hamas is responsible,” Hoenlein said. “How can you not say that?”
Hoenlein praised The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which has consistently placed the blame on Hamas for civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip. The Journal this week compared the relatively prosperous Fatah-controlled Yehudah and Shomron areas with Hamas-ruled Gaza.
“The economic point is that building these tunnels and smuggling thousands of missiles takes money — lots of it,” the Journal wrote. “If Hamas cared about the well-being of its citizens, it would use that money to build schools and public works or invest in businesses. Instead, Hamas devotes its scarce resources to building a terror economy of tunnels and rockets and sending its young men to die in suicide raids. That is why Gaza is impoverished.”
Another development in the current conflict not seen in previous ones is the tacit, if not explicit, call by other Arab governments for Israel to be allowed to destroy Hamas. Egyptian talk show hosts, perhaps mindful of their own battle with the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent of Hamas, have been outspoken in blaming the terror group for the suffering. Ditto for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
But Hoenlein says that the Arab Spring — which he terms the “Arab Volcano” — is not the sole cause of the change of heart. Rather, it is out of self-interest, or a sense of identification with Israel’s besiegement by terror forces.
“In this context, they want to see Israel not be restricted but to deal with the threat of these terrorists who threaten not only Israel, but Egypt and Saudi Arabia and what they are doing in the Sinai,” he noted. “This is also part of the ISIS, which is now in Gaza.
“So there is a greater understanding, I think, of the danger, and Israel’s role at the forefront of fighting that danger, and being given the time and ability to root them out, once and for all. Also, knowing that behind most of the problem is Iran.”
Hoenlein said that the perception that Israel is doing a much better job at explaining itself to an often hostile media is no mirage.
“Israel is handling it much better because Israel’s information resources are much better; the spokesman’s bureau is excellent,” he said. “Listen to [Israeli Prime Minister] Bibi [Netanyahu] on all the major talk shows today (Sunday), or a lot of them.”