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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Lies & Videotape