Media as a National Class Tool for Oppression

by Adel Sanara

excerpted from the book

War, Lies & Videotape

International Action Center, 2000




The New World Order has created a media that hides social resistance, or in the words of Gramsci,
"a censoring acceptance of capitalist society." The new industry rarely contributes information which will help human beings to oppose oppression and discrimination. For many writers, scientists, historians, journalists and economists, the world has become one "village," which they call the global village. In theory, if this were an accurate picture then every human being would have access to the means and tools of knowledge, allowing them to pursue liberty, freedom and happiness. Obviously there is something wrong with the concept of a global village when illiteracy is increasing around the world, and a whole generation of young people are denied a real education. The media writes about the great economic growth that is taking place while a few billion people face poverty every day.

When we examine the policy of those who control the media, we find that the media only represents one class of people. This class is made up of the wealthy establishment that actually owns the media. It is so in my country, Palestine, where the media are owned and controlled by the Israeli government. The Zionist media attempts to justify the destruction of the Palestinian land, culture and the physical existence of its people.

In the United States, the media function as a class machine, shaping and reshaping the mentality of the American citizen. The people are taught to support prohibitively expensive space wars despite the fact that 38 million Americans live under the poverty level. They are taught to accept aggression against Iraq, Cuba, Libya and the Sudan. They are taught to accept the colonization of Palestine by the Israelis. The media attempt to get U.S. citizens to adopt a passive attitude when it comes to foreign policy.


opular phenomenon in the area.
In the United States, the media function as a class machine, shaping and reshaping the mentality of the American citizen. The people are taught to support prohibitively expensive space wars despite the fact that 38 million Americans live under the poverty level. They are taught to accept aggression against Iraq, Cuba, Libya and the Sudan. They are taught to accept the colonization of Palestine by the Israelis. The media attempt to get U.S. citizens to adopt a passive attitude when it comes to foreign policy.


A striking feature of the capitalist media is its hegemony over people's ideas. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, superficial press reports and propaganda, not real analysis, were used to distort what socialism was really about. Writers like Francis Fukuyama, who was supported by and linked to the U.S. State Department, jumped to inaccurate conclusions and generalizations. For Fukuyama, history itself ended when a victorious capitalism was given the right to define it

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world media has become subject to control by the capitalist nations, whose agenda ~s to subjugate the socialist countries and to suffocate any factions that might oppose its power. This would include organizations, individuals and the broader socialist culture.

Media under Occupation

Since its beginning in June 1967, the Israeli colonial regime has imposed military control over all aspects of life in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. All local radio stations, newspapers magazines and publishing houses were closed or transferred to Amman, Jordan. The only radio and TV broadcasting for the area were those controlled and designed by the Israeli police which helped play a role in the brain-washing or psychological war imposed on the people. Al Ayiam was published daily under the supervision of the Israeli police.

By the beginning of the 1970s, some Palestinians received permits from the Israeli military administration to produce newspapers. These licenses were limited to Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem, whose land was annexed by the Israeli occupation. The rest of the Palestinian population was considered on a lower status. They were given IDs that reflected this lower status, though no nationality was mentioned. These IDs were imposed over the West Bank and Gaza population. Those from Jerusalem, though lower in status than full Israeli citizens, were relatively " privileged" when compared to the other Palestinians.

The papers of those who succeed in gaining a newspaper or magazine license had to be produced in Jerusalem, and distribution to the West Bank or Gaza requires a special permit. Under the strict control of the Israeli authorities, this permit can be canceled at anytime. Newspapers and magazines must show all material (news, analysis, advertisements, even deaths), to the Israeli military censors in West Jerusalem, who can pass, edit or cancel the article. Licenses for producing a publication are decided arbitrarily on the basis of the Israeli security official's attitude toward the person applying, not according to law or civil rights.

Books are censored as well. The Israeli occupation produces an annual list of prohibited books which, when found, are confiscated and book store owners fined for marketing them. Even words and expressions are censored in the newspapers. Any terms that refer to Palestinian rights in Palestine, even in a metaphoric manner, are prohibited. In poetry, the words " lover" or " darling" have been removed by the Israeli military censors, who felt it might mean " Palestine."

Discussion of foreign affairs has also been closely monitored. Criticism of the Shah of Iran was prohibited, while criticism of the United States was not. In an attempt to give some political analysis, the Palestinian journalists had to delay their writings until Saturday night, a religious holiday, when the Israeli military left the office early. The military would quickly read over the material and " pass" it in their haste. Newspapers were often warned and punished later for publishing these " passed" articles. The Israelis argued that the Palestinian journalists " knew what was acceptable and what was not." For the Palestinians this meant that they had to censor their own writing. It was as if you had to put an Israeli censorship chip inside your brain. It was a call for Palestinians to colonize their own minds.

When the Israeli court decided, in a secret session, to close the al-Shira biweekly in 1983, the judge accused the editor of wrongful writings 60 times for 60 articles passed and stamped by the Israeli military censorship. Most of the articles were analyses critical of "moderate" Palestinian leaders in the PLO, the Jordanian regime, or local notables loyal to the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan.

Today, five years after the imperialist-designed Oslo " peace settlement," Israeli censorship still controls the Palestinian newspapers distributed in the West Bank and Gaza. My article,

The Palestinians of 1948 vs. a State of All Its Citizens," in the April 17, 1998, Al-Quds daily, was published only after cleansing all "radical/leftist" terms (i.e. imperialism, capitalism). The editor informed me that with these terms included the article would be canceled. This is a destructive war against the basic right of expression by individuals, and it controls national expression as well. Despite this and the fact that the Jewish state is occupying all of Palestine, most of the U.S. public still supports Israel. A poll conducted by the New York Times showed that 58% of Americans still support the Israeli cause, while only 13% side with the Palestinians. In my opinion the media has caused this slanted opinion.

Media in Jail

In December 1967, I was arrested by the Israeli army. Seeking to read and write while incarcerated, I met with the prison leader to ask for books, paper, and pens for myself and the prisoners. The request was denied. We were forced to steal pens from the prison guards and use the small sheets of paper inside cigarette boxes. After inspecting our rooms, the military administration confiscated these simple pieces of paper, on which we had written Arabic-Hebrew vocabularies. I applied to the prison administration to continue my studies by correspondence ~n the Lebanese University. The response was negative. I applied to the British Council to study by correspondence, and again the jail administration refused. In desperation I went on my first hunger strike for the Palestinian cause, demanding books. After seven days I received the first book in the jails under Israeli occupation. It was Maurice Duverger's book The Political Parties.

But this was not the end. Even when books were permitted, they had to pass through the jail's censorship administration. All Marxist or nationalist books were prohibited. We told our families to change the books covers and replace them with poetry or literature titles. To pass into the prison, the cover of Lenin's book, What's to Be Done, was changed to Alf Lila wa Lila.

Even letters from our families were tightly controlled. The officer in Beit Leed (Kfar Yona) jail called me in for investigation after reading a letter to my family. I was asked why I wrote that "by forbidding us from reading, they were trying to make us zeros."

Despite all of this repression, we could produce one hundred handwritten monthly magazines, translate books, and write articles. After my release from prison in 1978, I applied for a permit to publish a theoretical journal in Ramallah, but I was refused. After being arrested for the second time in November 1978, the lsraeli army confiscated 80 books from my private library. Despite all of my lawyer's protests, the books were never returned.

The Palestinian Media under the PLO

During the "semi-formal" resistance movement in 1967-993, the Palestinian media was never a creative revolutionary force. It was a media related to the PLO's political and ideological stance. The writers, who were both intellectuals and academics, were tied to the formal position of the PLO in Lebanon where they formed a small Palestinian government. This political leadership was a source of income and helped to rechannel the intellectuals, mainly refugees, and find them jobs within its bureaucracy. Those who worked in the media sector became similar to their Arab counterparts in other Arab regimes.

The Palestinian media in most Arab countries worked according to the political relationship of their organizations with the Arab regimes. As a result, the PLO was maintained as a resistance movement, not as a revolutionary one. Palestinian intellectuals were regarded as formal employees by the PLO, but they were prevented from organizing a revolutionary movement. While the popular and grass roots organizations (writers, journalist unions, theater groups, volunteer work groups, etc.) developed from within the Occupied Territories, the PLO leadership decided to bureaucratize these "naturally" developed groups by controlling the flow of money to them. This terminated their self reliance and integrated them into the bureaucratic structure of the formal PLO organizations.

The resultant policy of the PLO to make the Palestinian media similar to media within the Arab regimes has produced the same unfortunate consequences that can be seen in the Arab regimes, where collaboration by Arab intellectuals has supported repression, harmed democracy and hindered development. In fact, the bureaucratization of the Palestinian intellectuals has been even more damaging to Palestinian society. For example, the Palestinian intellectuals have terminated their people's historical rights and memories by supporting the Oslo agreement. All the Palestinian intellectuals, writers, media workers, etc. who were part of the formal PLO institution before the Oslo agreement continued to work for the same leadership afterwards. They came to the West Bank and Gaza encouraging " normalization with the occupation," either by defending Oslo or by keeping their silence.

Under PA (Palestinian Authority)

After Oslo, the PA established its own radio and TV in sections of the West Bank and Gaza, placing other newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations in jeopardy. All of them were supervised by PA authorities. Many of them were closed when they broadcast pieces of news that the PA opposed. The media acted as the mouth of the regime. They spoke of independence, development and self reliance on the one hand but called for Israel to absorb more Palestinian workers into its economy on the other. There was also a significant increase in corruption.

The Palestinian media was, of course, reluctant to talk about the PA's corruption. When they did, it was in an off-handed manner.

The most dangerous role of the Palestinian media is its cooperation with programs introduced by the United States, Israeli, foreign NGOs and the World Bank that plan to "reeducate" the Palestinian people. These are plans designed to vanquish the deeply rooted traditions of the Palestinians (e.g. community cohesiveness, support for revolution and readiness for resistance) and replace them with individualism, free market ideology and competition, and private sector support for the regime.

The areas controlled by the PA were the first to follow the lead of the World Bank and IMF by subscribing to a policy that puts all economic power in the hands of the private sector. Most of the activities pursued by these dependent private sectors are under subcontracts with Israeli factories. The Palestinian formal and private media are fully committed to this program of reeducation. They are supported by the well-financed foreign and local NGOs, UNDP and the World Bank. In a work shop called "Financing Development in Palestine" at the University of Beir Seit, the speakers of the UNDP (Thomas Baunsgaard) and of the World Bank (Timothy S. Rothermel? presented an optimistic picture of the PA's economy regarding its potential to compete on the world scale and its highly skilled work force. In contrast, all the Palestinians who shared in the workshop emphasized that the situation was catastrophic.

While separating the Palestinian youth from their revolutionary traditions, the media is increasing the nihilist, consumerist and anarchist trends among them. The youth are unable to build a connection between their recent role of resistance during the Intifada and their current situation as idle and careless people. Nor can they reconcile their struggle against the occupation with its legitimization by the so-called peace agreement.

Cooperation between Formal Medias

The role of the Palestinian formal media is varied according to the PA's political and class interests. On the national level, the PA radio and TV began referring to just the West Bank and Gaza as " Palestine," in an attempt to reeducate the Palestinian people in compliance with the terms of the imperialist Zionist peace agreement. This is not a mere recognition of Israel. It is a destruction of the people's memory and historical rights in Palestine, especially their right of return.

On the class level, the Palestinian media is supporting the private sector, a market ideology and an open door policy. All of these are for the sake of the peripheral capitalist comprador and dependent capitalist class in the West Bank and Gaza.

On the pan-Arab nationalist level, the PA media is reeducating the Palestinian people against Arab unity, cooperation and economic integration. Arab regimes are deliberately fostering the current situation of unequal development between Arab countries in an attempt to terminate the necessity of Arab unity. These regimes are maintaining little more than cooperation between Interior ministries and police, as evidenced by the recent agreement to fight "terrorism," as demanded by the U.S. and Israel.

Following the collapse of the radical regimes in the late 1960s, the Arab regimes decided to seek a joint reconciliation. Their media continued to support the revolutionary popular movements, but under the control of Arab regimes that had no democracy, no free press and which were integrated into the world order in a subservient position, media coordination became a requirement of self defense. The PA became part of this Arab bourgeois monopoly.

A recent example of this formal bourgeois alliance comes from Jordan. The government told the newspapers that they should not criticize the Palestinian Authority and its president Mr. Arafat. In addition, the prime minister took the necessary measures to introduce a new law prohibiting any media expression that might damage Jordan's relationships with other Arab countries. (Al-Quds, 4-16-98) None of the TV channels could

criticize other Arab regimes, except for Iraq. This exception shows the strong influence of the United States. The only area of media that is still not controlled by Arab regimes is the internet. Unfortunately, even if this media stays free it will take a long time to become a popular phenomenon in the area.

War, Lies & Videotape

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