PBS Uncritically Hypes ICC Allegations To Paint Netanyahu As Out Of Touch

News & Politics

PBS ran an updated version of their December Frontline documentary on the Gaza War on Tuesday by concluding with a montage of soundbites intended to portray Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as out of touch with the world, the International Criminal Court, and even his own country. No rebuttals were included.

The original 2023 documentary was something of an anti-Netanyahu screed meant to equate him with Hamas and Palestinian dead-enders like Yasser Arafat’s actions at Camp David in 2000. The revised 2024 version ended with narrator Will Lyman recalling Netanyahu and President Joe Biden’s embrace, “Now, the two men who’d embraced on the tarmac are at a critical juncture as the consequences of the war accumulate.”

That kicked off a montage of news reports, including “The calls for accountability are now growing” and “Israeli forces admit they killed seven aid workers delivering food to starving Palestinians.”

Lyman also recalled that “President Biden recently took the extreme step of pausing a shipment of bombs to Israel,” before another reporter was heard declaring that “Biden warned Israel against authorizing a military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.”

Another news report relayed the news that “the International Criminal Court has announced it is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

That included a clip of Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan adding, “It’s alleged that these crimes were committed in the context of the ongoing armed conflict.”

As for Israel itself, Amos Harel of the left-wing Haaretz declared, “We have a leader who’s mistrusted by most of the Israeli voters, and yet he’s leading us through our worst crisis since this country was established 75 years ago. And this is part of the tragedy. We may be facing not only our worst security situation, but also a huge political crisis with no kind of solution on the horizon.”

PBS really did its viewers a disservice. The changes were sold as an update to the previous version, but in reality, it just threw spaghetti at Netanyahu to see what it could get to stick.

It didn’t note, for instance, that the IDF did more after strike that killed seven food aid workers PBS highlighted than Joe Biden did after the Kabul drone strike in 2021, despite Khan justifying his decision to seek Netanyahu’s arrest on the premise that Israel refuses to investigate itself.

Furthermore, Khan apparently lied to Israel and American officials of both parties when he told them he would go to Israel to consult with the government before making any decisions. Instead, he went on CNN to announce the decision to seek arrest warrants.

As for Harel, PBS ignores some key facts. For instance, Netanyahu has been under pressure by Benny Gantz, an opposition leader who joined a unity war cabinet after October 7, to come up with a post-war strategy and has threatened to resign if Netanyahu fails to come up with one. Gantz is portrayed in the American media as a more reasonable and centrist politician, but in presenting his demands, his office criticized Netanyahu for waiting too long to attack Rafah.

For the media, the last point is critical. Not all Israeli criticism of Netanyahu is the same and projecting the American political spectrum onto Israeli domestic politics is a mistake. Netanyahu’s American critics, and some of his Israeli critics accuse him of prolonging the war for his own political benefit or accuse him of being too reckless in prosecuting the war. Yet, when he listens on the latter, he is accused by non-right-wing rivals of being too timid, but discussing that would undermine PBS’s narrative that Netanyahu is an irredeemable right-winger who is just as much to blame for the current situation as Hamas.

Here is a transcript for the May 28 show:

PBS Frontline: Netanyahu, America & the Road to War in Gaza (2024 Version)

5/28/2024

11:21 PM ET

WILL LYMAN: Now, the two men who’d embraced on the tarmac are at a critical juncture as the consequences of the war accumulate.

FEMALE NEWSREADER: The calls for accountability are now growing.

FEMALE NEWSREADER 2: Israeli forces admit they killed seven aid workers delivering food to starving Palestinians.

LYMAN: President Biden recently took the extreme step of pausing a shipment of bombs to Israel.

JOE BIDEN: We’re not walking away from Israel’s security. We’re walking away from Israel’s ability to wage war in those areas.

FEMALE NEWSREADER 3: Biden warned Israel against authorizing a military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

LYMAN: Netanyahu has not backed down.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: [Speaking Hebrew] If we need to stand alone, we will stand alone. I have said that if necessary we will fight with our fingernails. But we have much more than fingernails.

LYMAN: But he is increasingly under pressure.

FEMALE NEWSREADER 4: Breaking this morning, the International Criminal Court has announced it is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

MALE NEWSREADER: They’re all charged for war crimes or crimes against humanity.

KARIM KHAN: It’s alleged that these crimes were committed in the context of the ongoing armed conflict.

LYMAN: And he’s facing challenges at home.

AMOS HAREL: We have a leader who’s mistrusted by most of the Israeli voters, and yet he’s leading us through our worst crisis since this country was established 75 years ago. And this is part of the tragedy. We may be facing not only our worst security situation, but also a huge political crisis with no kind of solution on the horizon.

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