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January 26, 2009

Reality Obstruction Field Breached!

By: John Caruso

I thought I was hallucinating last night as I saw a segment on 60 Minutes that explained the reality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.  And by "reality" I actually do mean reality—presented in a fair amount of detail, making it perfectly clear who is the victim and who is the victimizer, and with almost zero reference to standard Israeli talking points.  It started out with this quote from an Israeli settler...:

I think that settlements prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in the land of Israel.  This is the goal and this is the reality.

...and continued in essentially that same vein for 13 minutes.  It wasn't perfect, but given what we're used to seeing from the mainstream media in this country it was nothing short of stunning.  As I watched it I could only wonder what the average American (or the average American who watches 60 Minutes, anyway) would make of it, since compared to the steady stream of Israeli propaganda they usually receive it must have seemed like it was beamed here from Mars.

I'm sure this breach in the reality obstruction field will be located and plugged soon, but for now go ahead and treat yourselves to 13 minutes of quality mainstream journalism on the Middle East.  It doesn't happen often.  And given the avalanche of ADL-inspired hate mail CBS will no doubt be receiving soon, I think it's worth writing to them to thank them for putting this piece on the air.

(The transcript of the segment is available here, but I recommend watching rather than reading in this case since the visuals are a critical part of the story.)

— John Caruso

Posted at January 26, 2009 11:37 AM

So Tzipi Livni is now an Israeli moderate?

But one very important Israeli says she intends to move [the settlers] out. She's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a candidate to become prime minister in elections next month. She's also Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians, and she told 60 Minutes peace is unthinkable with the settlers where they are.

"Can you really imagine evacuating the tens of thousands of settlers who say they will not leave?" Simon asked.

"It's not going to be easy. But this is the only solution," she replied.

"But you know that there are settlers who say, 'We will fight. We will not leave. We will fight,'" Simon asked.

"So this is the responsibility of the government and police to stop them. As simple as that. Israel is a state of law and order," Livni said.

Posted by: SteveB at January 26, 2009 12:49 PM

The term 'reality obstruction field' may, at first, seem more poetic than literal, but there are factors that exactly constitute such a field.

A person with whom some of you are acquainted described to me a conversation he had with a major TV news producer (mainstream) shortly after Hurricane Katrina. The producer explained that one likely reason the news, even the corporate TV news, was, for a few days after the storm, being critical of the Bush administration was this simple equation: August is a slow news month, so August is traditional vacation month for TV news editors. During the 5-day period before the reassertion of "standards", newscasters were de facto allowed to report what was actually going on there on the ground along the Gulf Coast.

The Reality Obstruction Field, in that case, was a system of direct editorial control. The field was plugged quickly by emergency cancellation of vacations and the return of the guards. Although other forces (e.g., self censorship) are at play, the situation was intense and distracting enough to push aside those smaller factors, under the whoosh of pressure venting through that big hole.

Would that we could find a similarly elegant explanation for those 13 minutes. It might be very telling.

Posted by: Joel at January 26, 2009 01:13 PM

It is good to cut through the rhetoric and hear clearly that Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria are deliberate blocks to a Palestinian state.

Now whether the forcible removal of those settlements and the establishment of a Palestinian state on that land would have a reasonable chance of leading to a cessation of armed conflict... that's a whole different question.

Posted by: Fritz at January 26, 2009 01:52 PM

Holy shit, that's astonishing. How did that happen, seriously? Can we find out so we can help it happen again and again? Can someone use their journalistic jujitsu to figure it out?

Posted by: saurabh at January 26, 2009 02:00 PM

Yes, I think that's true. The report doesn't make a distinction between "legal" and "illegal" settlements (in quotes because they're all illegal according to international law.) Israeli politicians like to point to steps taken against "illegal" settlements as a way to bolster the legitimacy of the settlements they claim to be legal.

Posted by: SteveB at January 26, 2009 02:36 PM

I do agree, of course, that this segment is immeasurably better than anything the US MSM have ever produced on the subject; this is more or less European angle.

So, what do you think: is this Bob Simon guy about to leave the CBS to pursue a more promising career of a night watchman, or has something changed dramatically in the world?

Posted by: abb1 at January 26, 2009 03:39 PM

Also, thanks for including the link to send a comment to CBS. I did, and I hope others do, too.

And I'm wondering how you would track the backlash to a a report like this. Which groups would be likely to coordinate the response, and would they post something on their webpage, or only send an email to members? It would be helpful if someone were on those lists, so we could get an idea what CBS is getting from the other side.

Posted by: SteveB at January 26, 2009 05:07 PM

Huh. Does somebody actually think only a "vocal minority" of Americans support Israel against the Palestinians?

Posted by: Fritz at January 27, 2009 04:22 AM