Mainstream media caught in the MEMRI mouse trap

Screenshot of Wolf Blitzer discussing the cartoon mouse on CNN. (

Normally CNN, FOX, MSNBC and the New York Times have little in common with each other, let alone blogs like little green footballs, Americablog or the Huffington Post. But when it comes to disseminating Israel’s message, all are on the same page.

On May 8, CNN, FOX and MSNBC began reporting on a Hamas-created children’s show, currently broadcast on Al Aqsa TV in Gaza, which features a Mickey Mouse-like cartoon character who does everything from teaching kids about the benefits of drinking milk to disseminating what CNN’s Jim Clancy described as “powerful message of HATE, RESISTANCE and DEFIANCE [sic]”. MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch, two pro-Israel propaganda groups, compiled and provided the video, the translation and some commentary.

None of the media outlets that ran the story bothered to get independent verification of the translation and of course it was disputed by the Arab correspondent/translator at CNN Octavia Nassar. By the time CNN’s resident racist Glenn Beck got around to adding his two cents to the fracas, he was prevented from running the video as the dispute over the translation surfaced. Instead, Beck interviewed the director of MEMRI and ranted about the “unseen forces” which caused the video to be pulled. All others ran the clip with different commentary, but equal outrage.

Even MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, normally a thorn in the side of Bill O’Reilly and a voice of reason, jumped on the band wagon. Keith almost never covers the Israel-Palestine conflict. Olbermann followed the lead of other mainstream outlets, never mentioning the word occupation or providing any context for the viewer.

While all of this air-time was being devoted to the mouse, some real news about the region with genuine political implications was completely ignored:

  1. World Bank criticizes Israel over Palestinian economy: Describing a system of apartheid that has devastated the Palestinian economy without naming it as such, the World Bank warned of the consequences if this continues.
  2. Israel plans new Jerusalem settlement: In response to the report, Israel announced the approval of plans to further Judaize Jerusalem, bringing the number of settlers living illegally on Palestinian land in the Occupied West Bank to 570,000.
  3. Shot West Bank woman ‘loses baby’: During an Israeli army raid in the West Bank, a pregnant woman was shot in the stomach and lost her baby.

Every day Palestinian children face the reality and brutality of occupation. Does anyone really believe that it takes propaganda to teach Palestinian children to hate the occupiers? On a daily basis these children see their homes demolished, their friends killed, their parents arrested, killed, humiliated or all of the above.

What they see on a daily basis is real hate being paid for by the American people, protected by the American government and demonstrated to them through the use of F16 fighter jets, blackhawk helicopters, tanks and M16s.

They don’t need a cartoon to teach them hate, they have the Israeli army. Yet, most do NOT. They wear baseball caps of US sports teams, they talk of visiting the US and they ask everyone who visits “why we do this to them?”

Sadly, the best main stream media broadcast coverage in the US of the situation comes from CNN International. Though CNNI does more, they still walk the line established by the Israel lobby through organizations like MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch, the two groups who provided this video.

Sometimes the bias is apparent, as in the case of Glenn Beck, but more often it is more subtle. When CNN’s Ben Wederman reported on the cartoon from Gaza, he or his producers deliberately juxtaposed the acknowledgement of children’s trauma in Gaza to a a recent conflict between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah. This was not sloppy journalism, this was deliberate misinformation, bordering on propaganda. How ironic is it when a report on propaganda actually becomes propaganda?

The children of Gaza and of the West Bank suffer from occupation by the Israeli army. Even the Hamas, Fatah conflict is a result of occupation and blockade.

According to Remember These Children, so far in 2007, 15 Palestinian children have been killed by the Israeli army, bringing to almost 1,000 the number killed since 29 September 2000. There are no statistics on the number wounded, or how many are going without food due to the economic blockade enforced by the US as punishment for Palestinians’ practicing their right to vote. CNNI’s Rosemary Church seemed particularly upset by the cartoon, which is perfectly legitimate, although, her reaction was much more typical of Kyra Phillips or Paula Zahn or Glenn Beck or anyone from FOX. What is severely lacking from all of the US media however, is the outrage, concern or reporting about what Palestinian children face every day.

All of the above makes Ben Wederman’s conclusion, delivered with a certain amount of sadness, resolve, and contempt, all the more contemptuous. Acknowledging the trauma suffered by Palestinian children he opined:

“Hamas TV may be exploiting the trauma of Gaza’s children but the ground was already fertile, If anything, this weeks program underscores a simple reality. Hamas is set on teaching a new generation of Palestinian children that co-existence is simply not an option.”

Isn’t that the message of occupation and dispossession?

Tom Wallace is the editor of American Hummus. Videos of the coverage trends reported in this article are accessible at