An article in today’s NY Times reports on the UN’s Human Rights Council’s decision to extend the term of its monitor for Iran. The vote was 21 to 9, with 16 abstentions. Iran, naturally, was opposed. Its government would like us to believe that there are no human rights problems in their country. Teheran has not allowed the monitor entry within its national borders, which naturally makes his job that much harder. The monitor, Ahmed Shaheed, nevertheless seems to have been quite effective in documenting continuing serious human rights abuses even under the relatively liberal Rouhani government.
So where is the imbalance? Here, in total, is the very final paragraph of the article:
The Human Rights Council also came under fire on Friday for its approval of five resolutions condemning Israel, largely over the treatment of Palestinians. The United States was the lone no vote in all five.
The article, totaling about 17 column inches, appears on page 3–a fairly prominent place. That last paragraph–the only place where Israel is mentioned–takes up less than one column inch. So, it seems natural to ask: why is the UN’s concern for human rights in Iran roughly 16 times as newsworthy as its concern for human rights in Israel/Palestine? (Of course, actually much more than 16 times, since the headline was just about Iran.) The disproportion seems especially striking given the fact that on a body that included many close US allies, including Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, the United States couldn’t bring a single other vote to its side. You might think that the US lone opposition to an overwhelming international consensus should be newsworthy—maybe even worth a story all its own.
But the US defense of Israel against human rights charges doesn’t rate much attention, for reasons that will be clear to you when you read Chapter 4 of my book. I don’t discuss Israel or Iran in that chapter (except for passing mentions) but I do point to a large body of research that demonstrates the US mass media’s subservience to Washington on matters of foreign policy. When there is a clearly prevailing Washington consensus on a foreign policy issue, it is exceedingly difficult to find news or analysis in our mainstream media that calls that consensus into question. On Middle East issues, the consensus centers on an unquestioning faith in Israeli rectitude and a stalwart indifference to the sufferings Israelis inflict on Palestinians. (When have you ever heard a serious American politician criticize Israel for human rights abuses? Or for anything at all?) Human rights violations by Israel, the world’s condemnation of them and US responsibility for enabling them don’t fit into the consensus narrative.
So, if you’re at all curious to know what those five Human Rights Council resolutions were about, you’ve got work to do. You’re not going to learn much from our newspaper of record. Or, most likely, from the Washington Post or NBC or CNN.