Open Debate, Rula Jebreal, and MSNBC

Rula JebrealYou know my general feelings about MSNBC. It has become too much of a mouthpiece of the Democratic Party. And like the Democratic Party, it lacks backbone and shows no loyalty whatsoever. This was clear when they fired Alec Baldwin, whose show wasn’t all that good anyway, but it was certainly better than Lockup that it replaced and was replaced by. Then there was the totally unacceptable firing of Martin Bashir. The network has the same non-offensive air that many people hate about the Democratic Party. It is also the reason that politicians like Ted Kennedy and Alan Grayson stand out.

Well, it would seem that MSNBC does have a backbone after all. It is just the backbone of top management and what they really care about. This was totally on display with the firing of MSNBC commentator Rula Jebreal. Her firing was the result of attacking the network’s biased coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. What’s shocking is that she said it on Ronan Farrow’s show—who would have known anyone actually watches that show? This immediately caused her booked appearances on a number of upcoming shows to be canceled.

Max Blumenthal at AlterNet has all the details, “Witch Hunt”: Fired MSNBC Contributor Speaks Out on Suppression of Israel-Palestine Debate. Jebreal said that she has been complaining in private to the network for the last two years with no change. What she said on the air was not different than what she has been saying privately. Blumenthal continued:

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.

When Chris Hayes had her on to discuss the firing, he did not do himself proud. He defended the network and said that of course it was going to protect its “stars.” This is in reference to Jebreal specifically mentioning Andrea Mitchell. But as Blumenthal noted, “MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough has publicly attacked fellow MSNBC hosts and slammed the network for its support for the Democratic Party.” Of course, I’m sure that gold ol’ Joe speaks for the top management at MSNBC. They have a quasi-liberal network because there is an audience for it; it doesn’t make them liberal. And clearly Rula Jebreal got too far outside their comfort zone.

My experience with MSNBC’s recent coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict is that at its best, it is even handed. It’s usual coverage is highly biased toward Israel. What’s especially terrible about this coverage, however, is that it is better than the networks, not to mention Fox News. What is considered balanced coverage in America is that this all started with some extremists kidnapping three Israeli kids and killing them. This eventually led to Hamas firing rocks into Israel, who had to respond and ain’t it sad that so many Palestinians are getting killed. So the start of the narrative is arbitrary and picked to favor Israel. And in a horrific irony, the people who killed those kids either did it hoping for financial gain and not as a political act (and thus weren’t extremists but just criminals), or did it as a political act hoping it would lead to what is happening right now.

Regardless of any of this, the firing of Jebreal shows a fundamental weakness in MSNBC. She was a commentator, not a reporter or an anchor. She’s supposed to have opinions. And she’s the only one that was willing to voice this particular opinion. It was a great opportunity to address the issue. But MSNBC, because it is both timid and disloyal, just shut down the conversation. But if you want good coverage on just about anything, but especially the Israel-Palestine conflict, you should be watching Al Jazeera America.


See also: Dehumanizing Iranians and Jews.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Open Debate, Rula Jebreal, and MSNBC

  1. It’s weird. The US media is much more lockstep in repeating government foreign-policy positions than the Israeli media. There, even-handed views are not popular, still, they are expressed in some major news outlets. Here, fuggetaboutit. Except maybe PBS. (And al-Jazeera, to be sure, but that’s not major.)

    I thought the other day that the Palestinians — at least, in how the treatment of them is justified by the Israeli government and pro-settlement supporters — are rather like the Native Americans. I find some arguments made over and over on the web/in filmed interviews, and my reading tells me these arguments are popular within Israel.

    "They attack us." Natives attacked settlers too. The smartest of the Native voices usually advised against this, thinking no good would come of it, but when it came to risking oneself in fighting, they stood with those so angry at being decimated they felt attack was the only option.

    "They were primitives eking a sparse living off the land. We have represented progress." Exactly the same argument then and now. I’m guessing Israeli land use makes some egregious environmental mistakes (water use, I’d bet) and Palestinian land use did, too (overforesting, I’d bet.) Same with Natives, who probably hunted some large mammals to extinction, and US settlers, who — well, we know what they did. "Progress" is not necessarily a defensible feather in your cap until the results of it are clear.

    "They weren’t really here first, they were hardly here at all, scattered and nomadic." Another match. Revisionist history. The first American settlers were thrilled that disease from earlier contact had done its damage, and went so far as to rob recent graves to eat decomposing bodies when starvation necessitated this. Israeli settlers quickly moved into homes abandoned by terrified fleeing Palestinians in 1947. Only later did that "big empty space ready for progress" theme enter the history books in both cases.

    "They’re sexually immoral." A match in a weird way. British Puritans and later emissaries of empire found the Native tradition of offering sexual contact to possible new trading partners (a handy way of cementing alliances, though possibly chauvinist, we don’t know what all the women thought) barbaric. The French trappers had no problem with it, and often intermarried; many had long lives with their Native wives. (My mother’s family comes from this intermingling.)

    The version you hear from Israeli apologists a lot now is that Palestinians are not supportive of women’s rights and GLBT rights. (They often use "Arabs/Muslims" instead of Palestinians, just to remind Americans we’re all one in the battle for freedom against those bad guys.) Well, this is a class/culture thing. Rich hipster Israelis no doubt have more sexual freedom than Palestinians, or orthodox Jews (or recent Russian immigrant Jews, who are super-conservative.)

    The two Muslim-American families I know have substantially more sexually tolerant views than their families back home (Palestine/Somalia), largely because the ones I know are doing better and so are freer to not rely on their families for financial/survival support. (They still engage with their families, but aren’t obligated to prove their loyalty through adherence to a defensive cultural norm.) This degree of security allows them to make up their own minds; security no resident of Gaza has a chance to experience. This one isn’t a direct parallel to Americans and Natives, but it’s curious how the same language (they’re sexually immoral) is invoked.

    Perhaps these arguments are used whenever one population displaces another; I know nothing of how the British overran Australia, how the Armenians were driven out of Turkey, and less about the many other such displacements to have happened in our time. The parallels between these two examples did strike me as amazingly similar.

  2. @JMF – I’ve long argued that if this conflict were happening a couple hundred years ago, the Israelis would have just committed a quick genocide and it would be over. That is nothing against the Israelis. If the Palestinians were the ones with the power, they would have done the same thing to the Israelis. We committed a genocide against the native tribes here. It is the way of the world.

    What I have a problem with is Israeli officials coming on TV and saying, "What could we do?" Well, one thing you could have been doing for the last many decades is stopping illegal settlements. That is, after all, the big Palestinian complaint. And it is clear that the Israeli government [i]likes[/i] the spread of the illegal settlements.

    They are trying to perform a genocide by inches. And with the United States’ help, they will probably succeed. There are really vile, stupid, hateful people on both sides. It is just that one side has a great army. (To be clear: I’m not talking about the people–they are all victims. Of course, when the fighting starts, they all support their leaders. Our species is doomed.)

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