Media Analysis: US priorities in the Middle East.

By: Dominique Rossi

During a recent press conference regarding the Middle East,  President Obama stated “it is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because… when conflicts break out, one way or another, we get pulled into them. And that ends up costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure.”

Blood or Treasure? This is the core question that University of Colorado professor Ira Chernus says is shaping current  debates over how to approach Israel/Palestine relations. Chernus argues that it is the US preference for treasure, meaning maintaining lucrative hegemony in  oil rich regions, which has kept  Washington thus far from proposing a truly viable two-state solution.

Map of Israeli parameters

Chernus’ article is well written and is worth taking note of for numerous reasons. He links to the majority of the quotes, press conferences and events that he references.  There is a particularly interesting segment within the article  that is devoted to pointing out how other media outlets have interpreted and in someways skewed comments made by the Obama administration regarding Israel and Palestine.  The president’s assertion: “we are not prepared to resolve these issues no matter how much pressure the United States brings to bear” was interpreted by the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz to mean Obama believes that peace is beyond reach while  Jerusalem Post described this remark as the US cannot impose peace.

Chernus’ article also serves as a great example for how a journalist can use creative language even in the context of political coverage.  My favorite sentence strongly wraps up the first paragraph: “Every word about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the president or his advisors is now parsed by journalists like so many soothsayers studying oracle bones.” Chernus continues the simile in the first sentence of the second paragraph, which makes for a smooth and intriguing transition.

This piece presents a good model for political journalists looking to attract more readers. Chernus weaves historical facts into the story so that younger readers can gain a sense of policy changes over the expansion of several decades. I think he uses the appropriate ‘fog level’ as well. The vocabulary is serious and does not insult the reader’s intelligence, but the sentence structures are simple and direct.  The complex aspects are labeled by  easily navigated titles such as “convincing divided Palestinians” and “convincing reluctant Israelis”.

Chernus outlines possible US  foreign policy changes and how various  Israeli and Palestinian groups are likely to respond. He also suggests how different policy shifts  would impact US hegemony and why the preference to maintain hegemony may be inhibiting the policy changes most likely to succeed.  This article was originally posted on TomDispatch and has been republished at Mother Jones and Common Dreams.

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