Media Criticism Palestine Ramzy Baroud

Deliberate Misrepresentation: Western Media Bias Makes Israeli War on Palestinians Possible

On August 16, the Israeli military finally admitted that it was behind the strikes that killed the 5 young Palestinian boys of Jabaliya. Whether the NYT reported on that or not matters little. The damage has been done, and that was Israel’s plan from the start.
Protest for Palestine. Brahim Guedich, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By Ramzy Baroud / MintPress News

While US and western mainstream and corporate media remain biased in favor of Israel, they often behave as if they are a third, neutral party. This is simply not the case.

Take the New York Times coverage of the latest Israeli war on Gaza as an example. Its article on August 6, “Israel-Gaza Fighting Flares for a Second Day” is the typical mainstream western reporting on Israel and Palestine, but with a distinct NYT flavor.

For the uninformed reader, the article succeeds in finding a balanced language between two equal sides. This misleading moral equivalence is one of the biggest intellectual blind spots for western journalists. If they do not outwardly champion Israel’s discourse on ‘security’ and ‘right to defend itself’, they create false parallels between Palestinians and Israelis, as if a military occupier and an occupied nation have comparable rights and responsibilities.

Obviously, this logic does not apply to the Russia-Ukraine war. For NYT and all mainstream western media, there is no question regarding who the good guys and the bad guys are in that bloody fight.

‘Palestinian militants’ and ‘terrorists’ have always been the West’s bad guys.  Per the logic of their media coverage, Israel does not launch unprovoked wars on Palestinians and is not an unrepentant military occupier or a racist apartheid regime. This language can only be used by marginal ‘radical’ and ‘leftist’ media, never the mainstream.

The brief introduction of the NYT article spoke about the rising death toll, but did not initially mention that the 20 killed Palestinians include children, emphasizing, instead, that Israeli attacks have killed a ‘militant leader’.

When the six children killed by Israel are revealed in the second paragraph, the article immediately, and without starting a new sentence, clarifies that “Israel said some civilian deaths were the result of militants stashing weapons in residential areas”, and that others were killed by “misfired’ Palestinian rockets.

On August 16, the Israeli military finally admitted that it was behind the strikes that killed the 5 young Palestinian boys of Jabaliya. Whether the NYT reported on that or not matters little. The damage has been done, and that was Israel’s plan from the start.

The title of the BBC story of August 16, ‘Gaza’s children are used to the death and bombing’, does not immediately name those responsible for the ‘death and bombing’. Even Israeli military spokesmen, as we will discover later, would agree to such a statement, though they will always lay the blame squarely on the ‘Palestinian terrorists’.

When the story finally reveals that a little girl, Layan, was killed in an Israeli strike, the language was carefully crafted to lessen the blame on her Israeli murderers. The girl, we are told, was on her way to the beach with her family, when their tuk-tuk “passed by a military camp run by the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad”, which, “at the exact moment, (…) was targeted by Israeli fire”. The author says nothing of how she reached the conclusion that the family was not the target.

One can easily glean from the story that Israel’s intention was not to kill Layan – and logically, none of the 17 other children murdered during the three-day war on Gaza. Besides, Israel has, according to the BBC, tried to save the little girl; alas, “a week of treatment in an Israeli hospital couldn’t save her life”.

Though Israeli politicians have spoken blatantly about killing Palestinian children – and, in the case of former Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, “the Palestinian mothers who give birth to ‘little snakes’” – the BBC report, and other reports on the latest war, have failed to mention this. Instead, it quoted Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who reportedly said that “the death of innocent civilians, especially children is heartbreaking.” Incidentally, Lapid ordered the latest war on Gaza, which killed a total of 49 Palestinians.

Even a human-interest story about a murdered Palestinian child somehow avoided the language that could fault Israel for the gruesome killing of a little girl. Furthermore, the BBC also labored to present Israel in a positive light, resorting to quoting the occupation army’s statement that it was “devastated by (Layan’s) death and that of any civilians.”

The NYT and BBC have been selected here not because they are the worst examples of western media bias, but because they are often cited as ‘liberal’, if not ‘progressive’, media. Their reporting, however, represents an ongoing crisis in western journalism, especially relating to Palestine.

Books have been written about this subject, civil society organizations were formed to hold western media accountable and numerous editorial board meetings were organized to put some pressure on western editors, to no avail.

Desperate by the unchanging pro-Israel narratives in western media, some pro-Palestine human rights advocates often argue that there are greater margins within Israel’s own mainstream media than in the US, for example. This, too, is inaccurate.

The misnomer of the supposedly more balanced Israeli media is a direct outcome of the failure to influence western media coverage on Palestine and Israel. The erroneous notion is often buoyed by the fact that an Israeli newspaper, like Haaretz, gives marginal spaces to critical voices, like those of Israeli journalists Gideon Levy and Amira Hass.

Israeli propaganda, one of the most powerful and sophisticated in the world, however, can hardly be balanced by occasional columns written by a few dissenting journalists.

Additionally, Haaretz is often cited as an example of relatively fair journalism, simply because the alternatives – Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post and other rightwing Israeli media – are exemplary in their callousness, biased language and misconstruing of facts.

The pro-Israel prejudices in western media often spill over to Palestine sympathetic media throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world, especially those reporting on the news in English and French.

Since many newspapers and online platforms utilize western news agencies, they, often inadvertently, adopt the same language used in western news sources, thus depicting Palestinian resisters or fighters, as ‘militants’, the Israeli occupation army as “Israeli Defense Forces” and Israeli war on Gaza as ‘flare ups’ of violence.

In its totality, this language misinterprets the Palestinian struggle for freedom as random acts of violence within a protracted ‘conflict’ where innocent civilians, like Layan, are ‘caught in the crossfire.’

The deadly Israeli wars on Gaza are made possible, not only by western weapons and political support, but through an endless stream of media misinformation and misrepresentation. Though Israel has killed thousands of Palestinian civilians in recent years, western media remains as committed to defending Israel as if nothing has changed.

Ramzy Baroud
Ramzy Baroud

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

6 comments

  1. The Media shitlibs and Democrats don’t really care about Palestinian lives and are basically shills for Technocracy and Elitism, we know that, but can you imagine Right-wing “Populists” like MTG, Howley or any of those MAGA clowns ever raising their voice about Israeli crimes against Palestinians? Those Christian Zionist nutjobs probably think the Herzog-Lapid Gov. are going too soft on the Palestinians.

  2. I took my 1996-1997 academic sabbatical in Israel. I had enjoyed working with some Israelis when i was at IBM Research and continued to collaborate with them when I went off to become a professor in the US and they in Israel.

    To say the least, when I arrived for my sabbatical I thought of the Palestinian situation using the Western Press paradigm. It took me a few months living in Israel to realize that this paradigm had nothing to do with reality.

    It helped that I was reading the Jerusalem Post, a right-wing paper, that was clearly presenting another, very different, paradigm, the one that is projected in Israel, not the one Israel wants the World to subscribe to. This internal paradigm bragged about the high ratio of Palestinians to Israelis killed by year. It questioned if it was okay for a Israeli medical person to save the life a Palestinian child. When a hand-cuffed Palestinian prisoner was beaten to death in an emergency room, “Would there be an investigation?” And on and on.

    There are so many other features that the Western press completely misses. On a visit to Nazareth, I noticed that the Arab neighborhood. with its tree-less dirt streets, cinder-block houses, and minarets was in stark contrast to the western style houses, paved streets and sidewalks, and foliage of the Jewish part of town. When I asked my hosts about it, they told me that Arab neighborhoods get ten cents on the dollar compared to Jewish neighborhoods. When I asked why, I was told that it was because the Arabs didn’t serve in the military. When I asked if they could, I was told they couldn’t. So the idea that apartheid is only in the occupied territories is nonsense, it is mainstream inside Israel.

    There is so much more one learns by being immersed and keeping an open mind. When I’m asked if the Western Press paradigm is pro-Israeli or Pro-Palestinian, my response is that it is complete nonsense. It would be nice for people to learn about the internal paradigm.

  3. Reporting on the oppression of Palestine by Israel as “fighting” is exactly like the neighbors saying that Mr and Mrs Jones are “fighting again,” when Mr Jones is clearly beating Mrs Jones to a pulp.

  4. Some of my misinformed friends say “they have been fighting for centuries let them sort it out” is like not taking sides in an argument between a mouse and an elephant and really means you support the elephant! Even in Canada the news about Israel and Palestine has been scrubbed so as not to “upset” the Zionist lobby! When the odd real story squeaks out, the Zionist “Ministry of Truth” starts screaming “Blood Libel” or some other weaponized Anti Semitic diatribe! Honest Reporting Canada is hands down the most prolific watch dog up here and have many Zionist supporters that are unleashed on the media and politicians puking up the most insane rhetorical talking points! I started noticing their rebuttals in the Editorial pages and looked at their web sight.; They describe themselves as a “grass roots” organization but is just one arm of Israeli hasbara rhetoric machine. Who knew Orwell was describing Israel in 1984 when he wrote it in 1948 the year of the Nakba! Double Speak and Double Speech rule in Apartheid Israel and is run by thousands of O’Brien’s. Room 101 anyone? Col. Eitan once said those in Gaza “will drugged roaches in a bottle”. How much easier to squash them! The willful ignorance of the USA is best described by Dubya the leader of the “Free World” when he said “Ariel Sharon is a man of peace”. AHHHHHGGG!!

  5. Israel, among the most terrorist countries on our planet Earth, along with Saudi Arabia and the United States.

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