The opposite test developed at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in the 1960s. That concept helps describe the near total protection afforded Israel in the U.S. media today.
Back then, under the guise of fighting corruption, the Iraqi government appointed committees to control the importation of drugs and pharmaceuticals. Soon, as bureaucratic inertia inevitably set in, these products became increasingly difficult to find on the local market. But the government dealt with the problem by announcing that drug supplies were plentiful.
So, as even aspirin became scarce, the idea took hold that reality was the opposite of what the Iraqi government said it was. The governments announcement of an amnesty for imprisoned Kurds, it was reckoned, signaled a ruthless new crackdown against Iraqs Kurdish minority in the north.
In fact there had been corruption before Iraqs drug committees were appointed, and the conflicting aspirations of the countrys 20 percent Kurdish minority and its Arab majority did present a complex, if not insoluble, political problem. So there were at least connections between Iraqs realities and its governments assertions.
Therefore the Iraqi medias tenuous hold on reality compares favorably with statements in the U.S. media now that Israel is Americas strategic ally. This astonishing assertion is presented without supporting evidence, analysis, or any connection to reality.
The implication may be that somehow Israel kept communism out of the Middle East during the Cold War, and that justified the $3 annual billion, plus, in U.S. foreign aid grants to Israel that have continued ever since.
When that is questioned, Israels well-paid U.S. lobbyists and its media apologists demand that the cost of aiding Israel be compared to the cost to the United States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATOs role was to keep the Soviet Union out of Europe, and its cost was several times the cost of helping Israel. Thus, it is said, the United States got a real bargain in its Israeli ally.
However, neither the U.S. print nor electronic media ever made a persuasive case that communism was taking hold in the Middle East. The reason was that no such case could be made.
The media never examined the facts that the Arabs were too individualistic and too focused on religion to find Soviet collectivism or atheism attractive. As for the Middle Eastern countries bordering the Soviet Union, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan, all had historical reasons for rejecting the Russian bear and anything it purveyed, including communism. Still, according to U.S. media friends of Israel, we had ally Israel to thank for keeping communism out.
Media protection of Israel has reached the it never happened level.
Attributes of strength that a valuable ally might possess were rarely discussed where Israel is concerned. This would have highlighted Israels weaknesses, which included physical size (smaller than Hong Kong), population (smaller than Burkina Faso, Burundi, Rwanda, or Cameroonall countries that few Americans could locate on a map), paucity of natural resources such as oil (none), a chronically weak economy requiring huge American subsidies, political instability since its government does not assure equal protection of the laws to all of its citizens, and a reputation for human rights violations so bad in the Arab and Muslim worlds that our aid to Israel reflected adversely on us with the Muslim one-fifth of humanity.
The superiority of the Israeli military over the Arab countries military was justly highlighted. Even here, however, there were weaknesses. When Egypt and Syria launched coordinated surprise attacks in 1973 to take back their territory seized and retained by Israel since 1967, Israel suffered very heavy human and material losses. To turn the military tide in Israels favor in that war, the U.S. had to fly tanks and other heavy equipment directly to the fighting fronts, stripping our own forces in Europe to do so. Otherwise Israel might not have survived.
Although Israels 1982 aggression against Lebanon seemed initially successful, Lebanese suicide fighters actually drove the Israeli army out of most of Lebanon in 1983. And our ineffectiveness in halting the massacre by Israels Lebanese Maronite allies of 2,000 Palestinians at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, after these camps were surrounded by Israeli forces, reflected very badly on the United States.
A Lack of Trust
In the 1990-1991 Gulf war the United States refused to provide Israel with the daily electronic friend or foe code used by U.S. and other coalition aircraft flying over Iraq. The reason was that U.S. commanders didnt trust Israel to refrain from settling its own scores with Iraq and thus breaking up the 35-nation coalition put together by the United States and its Arab allies.
For further understanding of American media protection of Israel, the memory hole described by author and social critic George Orwell in his futuristic novel 1984 might be linked to the opposite test. Historians know that Israel attacked the USS Liberty in 1967, killing 34 Americans and wounding 171. Historians also know that Israeli agents firebombed American diplomatic and cultural missions in Cairo and Alexandria in 1954 in the infamous Lavon Affair (named after Israeli Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon), to make it falsely appear that Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was the culprit. But these and other such incidents that reflect unfavorably on Israels value as an ally have disappeared down the memory hole of the U.S. media.
In fact, U.S. media protection of Israel goes beyond either the opposite test or the memory hole. It has reached the it never happened level, based upon the dictum that if something isnt reported in the American media, its not reality. Thus an event the U.S. media doesnt report becomes a non-event, and partisans of Israel get away with branding any account of such an event a lie. Thus American public opinion is manipulated to Israels benefit, not by the Israeli media but by ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, National Public Radio and, to only a slightly lesser extent, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and other national dailies which once were called Americas newspapers of record.
Think about this when you read or hear about the next great victory for Middle East peace. And then apply the opposite test.
Mr. Andrew I. Killgore, a former US ambassador to the state of Qatar, is publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.