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The Nation

MSNBC's Disgrace: In Five Hours of Prime Time, Fifteen Minutes on Israel-Gaza

Early yesterday, I made this prediction over at Twitter: Based on past performance, none of MSNBC’s five prime-time, liberal, hosts last night or their guests would utter a single word critical of Israel in the current conflict with Gaza. This came on a day when the missiles and drone strikes and rockets kept firing, and the death toll climbed to over 110 in Gaza, most of them women and children and most, no doubt, killed by US weapons or weapons purchased with funds from America. Just in case an “American angle” was needed.

Sadly, my prediction proved all too prescient, as the night rolled on from Chris to Al to Ed to Rachel to Alex Wagner (sitting in for Lawrence).

Now, of course, they have a right to say whatever they want, or remain silent, for that matter, but the full measure of MSNBC’s disgrace can be felt in this stat: in the five hours of programming (or seven, if you count the re-runs), a little less than fifteen minutes was devoted to the air war in Gaza and Israel—which not only has American fingerprints all over it but also will immeasurably influence, and likely not in a good way, our interests and actions and threats against us abroad. (See updates today.)

Five programs and exactly two brief segments on this crisis, even as a building in Gaza housing MSNBC’s fellow journalists is struck twice with Israeli’s missiles, and as President Obama suddenly dispatches Secretary of State Clinton to the region.

Over on CNN, we at least had Anderson Cooper reporting from Gaza. Piers Morgan led off his interview show with Shimon Peres but later had a balanced panel—that balance needed, because one of the three guests, the ever-repugnant Alan Dershowitz, would claim that Palestinians actually wanted their kids killed to gain media attention, calling it the well-known “baby strategy.”

Now, what were those two MSNBC segments?

On Hardball, Chris Matthews—who early in the show briefly hailed Susan Rice for halting any move for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations—archly defended Israel’s actions and also portrayed them as being a valuable testing period for a possible coming war with Iran (see video below). Surprisingly, the often sharp chief NBC correspondent Richard Engel joined him in this, noting the current conflict offered Israel a chance to test its Iron Dome missile defense system, destroy longer-range rockets that might have been launched from Gaza in support of Iran, and judge responses from Egypt and Hezbollah and the United States, and more.


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This may all be true, but Engel offered no other commentary—such as the notion of killing dozens of civilians in such a “test.” He also whitewashed those civilian casualties—besides the 114 deaths so far, there have been perhaps 1000 injuries in Gaza—by swallowing whole Israeli claims that they phone the neighbors of houses or builidings about to get bombed to warn them to scramble. Even if true, well, I guess that woudn’t have helped that family that lost eleven members in a direct Israeli missile hit on Sunday.

Then Matthews ended the segment cheerleading Israel’s bombing actions with, “It makes sense to me, good for Israel, it has to do this.” Sounds like the usual hawkish pro-Israel resolution just passed by both houses of Congress, and promoted by liberal heroes Senator Al Franken and Senator Sherrod Brown.

After utter silence on the conflict from Al Sharpton and Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow surely would have something to say? Well, yes, to a point. She did devote about five minutes to the Middle East at the top of the show, though it was mainly as a lead in to the main focus of the segment—how the GOP is adrift on foreign policy and has chosen the ever-nuttier John McCain as its front man. Her main take on Israel-Gaza was simply: Most of the world does not want to see Israel invade Gaza by land. And that no-brainer was just about it.

Nothing else on the conduct of the air war or proportional response or media buildings getting hit or…anything. And nothing about the back story, such as the long-running embargo that has left the Gazan population, and especially children, malnourished and in need of vast medical help (even before the current bomb raids). And certainly no references to prominent Israelis now calling for the “flattening” of Gaza, or referring to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in relation to the current conflict.

Then, on to Alex Wagner and…more nothing. Although we did get a snappy preview of the pressing matter of the 2016 race for the GOP nomination for president.

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