Media Bias: Covering Israel/Palestine
By Remi Kanazi
23 March, 2006
On July 18, 2005 14 year old
Ragheb al-Masri sat in the back of a taxi with his parents at the Abo
Holi checkpoint. An Israeli bullet penetrated his back and cracked open
his chest. His mother screamed as his body lay lifeless. Have you heard
his name? I wouldn't expect that you have because CNN, The New York
Times, and The Washington Post didn't report the killing online. If
they had quoted his parents, their readers would have been able to feel
their tears and envision the heartbreak. Ultimately, no Israeli soldier
was arrested or even reprimanded.
Every time a suicide bombing
strikes Israel, mass coverage of the tragedy begins instantly. Whether
landing on the front page of The New York Times or taking up the headline
block on CNN.com, the pain Israeli people endure is shown endlessly.
Israelis do suffer. Suicide bombings are horrific. Nevertheless, Palestinian
pain occurs far more frequently, and yet often overlooked by the mainstream
Since the uprising in September
of 2000, more than 3800 Palestinians have been killed in the Occupied
Territories as a result of the conflict. Most Americans are unaware
of the toll because it is not properly reported. In 2004, If Americans
Knew—an American organization that exposes and examines the facts
of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict—reported that 808 Palestinian
conflict deaths occurred while 107 Israelis conflict deaths occurred.
The study, however, found that The New York Times covered Israeli deaths
in the headline or the first paragraph in 159 articles—meaning
in some cases they covered the same death numerous times. In contrast,
The New York Times only covered about 40 percent of Palestinian deaths—334
of 808—in the headline or in the first paragraph of the articles.
Nearly eight Palestinians died for every one Israeli. Disturbingly The
New York Times is considered the quintessential "liberal"
newspaper of the US.
When Palestinian deaths occur,
especially militant deaths, the Israeli Government's version of the
story is taken as fact in the mainstream US media. In most cases, articles
covering the death of Palestinians only include large Israeli quotes,
without citing Palestinian witnesses and other credible nongovernmental
organization sources. This continues to be the case after human rights
groups have released reports stating Israel has indiscriminately shot
at civilians, even using them as human shields. In as early as 2001,
Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated, "At
least 470 Palestinians have been killed, most of them unlawfully by
Israeli security forces when their lives [Israeli Security Forces] and
the lives of others were not in danger." Since the AI/HRW report,
more than 3350 Palestinians have been killed. It is remarkable how so
many can accept Israeli Government as the sole, objective source when
it forcibly occupies the Palestinian territories.
On August 25, 2005 the headline
on CNN.com read, "Israel: Five Militants Shot in Raid." The
article claims the militants were suspected of being involved with a
suicide bombing; they were armed and exchanged fire with the Israeli
Occupation Forces (IOF), and five Palestinians were shot. The report
also mentions the town Netanya, where the suicide bombing referenced
in the article took place, was a frequent sight for suicide bombings.
No Palestinian quote, no witnesses giving an alternative perspective,
and no mention that three of the victims shot were under the age of
The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz,
covered the same event including Palestinian quotes and some Palestinian
claims. The paper reported that the IOF killed five Palestinians on
August 25, three of whom Palestinian sources claim to be between the
ages of 14 and 17 with no known links to militant organizations. Four
of the victims died at the scene, while one of the young victims died
later that night.
Varying Palestinian reporters
cited witnesses claiming all five Palestinians were unarmed, including
the two militants killed. This was the first fatal attack since the
"disengagement" of the Gaza Strip.
The contrast in coverage
between CNN and Haaretz is staggering. The CNN headline was written
in absolutes: "5 militants shot in raid." The CNN article
continues by stating only the Israeli claim that five militants were
killed, making the headline biased and misleading. The Haaretz headline
read: "U.S. urges restraint after IDF raid that killed 5 Palestinians."
This headline refers to the people who were shot as Palestinians and
not solely militants. The Haaretz article covers conflicting Israeli
and Palestinian claims, which made it impossible to determine whether
or not all five killed were militants or civilians.
On September 7 the findings
of a probe, conducted by Haaretz and the Israeli human rights group
B'Tselem, found that three of the five Palestinians killed in the assault
on August 25 were under the age of 18 and did not have any links to
known terrorist organizations. Their investigation also found that the
two militants killed were low ranking operatives who were not armed
at the time. This repudiates the Israeli claim that IOF soldiers were
in the area involved in an operation against militant leaders and a
"ticking bomb" with connection to suicide bombings in Israel.
are characterized as individuals that are an imminent physical threat
to the state of Israel or people holding information that imminently
threaten the security of the state of Israel. In most cases, "ticking
bombs" are referred to as would be suicide bombers or those holding
valuable information on individuals carrying out a suicide bombing.
Israel used the "ticking bomb" scenario in the past as an
excuse to torture Palestinians with impunity. In a 1998 study on the
"ticking bomb" scenario, B'Tselem found Israel's claim that
it is necessary to use torture against "ticking bombs" was
in most cases "totally unsubstantiated." The recent findings
of Haaretz and B'Tselem deeply call into question the reliability of
the state of Israel on affairs in the Occupied Territories and reaffirm
the notion that using Israel as the sole source is careless and unacceptable.
Israel professes it doesn't
have the death penalty, but it has in the past and "maintains the
right" in the future, to carry out extrajudicial assassinations
of "wanted" Palestinians. Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz
admitted on August 26 that Israel invaded and fired first in the incident
that killed five Palestinians, while maintaining the notion that the
militants—meaning all five killed—were armed. Again, Israel,
the occupying force, reserves the "right" to play God with
the lives of the Palestinian people. There are many examples of unarmed
children and disabled Palestinians being injured or killed by Israeli
forces. More than 875 women and children have died since the start of
the conflict under the guise of security. Nearly 25 percent of the children
killed were under the age of 12.
Coincidence or Collusion?
Why are "left wing" media outlets such as The New York Times
and CNN not reporting the Palestinian side of the story? Well the simple
answer is The New York Times and CNN are not liberal, nor honest. They
cover injustices only when there is no risk of backlash from readers
and advertisers. The media moguls are only "aware" and objective
when it pays them to be. CNN and the New York Times must vet their content,
so as not to be viewed as "pro-Palestinian," in fear that
advertisers will pull their ads or commercials, leading to a loss in
Israel solidified itself
as the strategic ally of the US in the Middle East after its victory
in the Six Day War (1967 Arab/Israeli War). Israel was taken under the
wing of the US—which saw its potential as a strategic, military,
and political force.
The rise of religious Zionism
after 1967 and the subsequent call for the preservation of the Jewish
homeland became relevant in America with the Jewish elite as well with
Christian conservatives. Jewish historian, Norman Finkelstein, recalls
in his book The Holocaust Industry,
Accordingly, American Jewish
elites suddenly discovered Israel. After the 1967 war, Israel's military
élan could be celebrated because its guns point in the right
direction—against America's enemies.
Finkelstein continued to state,
"Now they [The Jewish
elite] could pose as the natural interlocutors for America's newest
strategic asset. From bit players, they could advance to top billing
in the Cold War drama. Thus for American Jewry, as well as the United
States, Israel became a strategic asset."
As the years progressed, Israel claimed victory in the 1973 Ramadan
War (Yom Kippur War) with the defining help of America. The mounting
support for Israel as a war victor, a "democracy," and a capitalistic
society settled well with Americans.
38 years after the Six-Day
war, America sees an even stronger military and political ally in Israel,
and the pro-Israeli lobby has made sure that the sense of Jewish victimization
has never faltered. Finkelstein comments, "Organized Jewry has
exploited the Nazi holocaust to deflect criticism of Israel and its
own morally indefensible policies."
The effectiveness of the
pro-Israeli lobby hinges on the willingness of the US government to
support Israel. According to the strongly pro-Israeli website the Jewish
Virtual Library, the US has given Israel nearly 50 billion dollars in
aid from 1974 to 1997. If the US government didn't have significant
interests in backing Israel, the pro-Israeli lobby would be less of
a factor much like the Palestinian lobby. Interestingly, the Jewish
Lobby only supported Israel when it was in their interests to do so.
Finkelstein notes, "The Holocaust industry sprung up only after
Israel's overwhelming display of military dominance and flourished amid
extreme Israeli triumphalism."
The convergence of American
and Israeli support found success in delegitimizing the Palestinian
cause. This consequently washed Israel's hands clean in US eyes of the
atrocities committed throughout the Middle East—i.e. the invasion
and indiscriminate bombing of Beirut in 1982—and more directly
to the Palestinian people through dispossession and occupation. Strikingly,
the American media refuses to differentiate between the past suffering
of the Jewish people and the suffering Israelis endure due to inept
Israeli policy which has besieged the Palestinian people for 58 years.
Consider the backlash professors
at Colombia received because they were accused of promoting anti-Semitism.
In reality Joseph Massad, one of the accused professors, and others
simply critiqued the Israeli government. As a result, pro-Israeli groups
like the David Project and Campus Watch tried to silence their right
to free speech. Just as questioning the war in Iraq is "un-American,"
the idea of questioning Israeli actions is "anti-Semitic."
Ridiculous assertions such as equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism
is a way in which the pro-Israeli lobby restricts the media from criticizing
Israel or fairly reporting matters.
In a post-9/11 world, it has been much easier to side with mostly European
Israelis, who look more like Americans, who love capitalism like Americans,
and who are fighting "Arab terror" like Americans. Unfortunately
for the Palestinians, the media doesn't like to diverge from mainstream
political correctness. If objectivity was the top priority of the media,
they would not have dropped the ball in the coverage leading up to the
war in Iraq. Even Bob Woodward of the "liberal" Washington
Post admitted, "We did our job but we didn't do enough, and I blame
myself mightily for not pushing harder."
The media are corporate sponsored
outlets that feed into the majority support at a time when the Palestinian
lobby is virtually non-existent in America. The "biblical rights"
of Jews and their suffering the Holocaust are exploited to reassert
the status of victimization. Pro-Israeli advocates incorporate the notion
that the Arabs are trying to "drive the Jews to the sea."
But who would really push
the American/Israeli agenda, besides those fearing backlash? The neoconservatives
and Christian coalitions in support for Israel. The Pat Robertsons and
the Billy Grahams. Neoconservative talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and
Sean Hannity. Best selling authors Alan Dershowitz and Thomas Friedman.
Lobbying groups like AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee)
and the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), and attack dogs such as Daniel
Pipes and his cronies in Campus Watch. The fortune 500 companies such
as Caterpillar, McDonalds, Disney and Starbucks to name a few. But most
damningly, it's the "liberals," that complete the majority
support. Hilary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, the honest broker himself
Bill Clinton, the heads of The New York Times, CNN and the rest of the
"left wing" media that won't stand up for what's morally right.
These people are too selfish or too weak to do what's right, and off
with the heads of those who do.
The dilemma of the "free
press" in America is that it isn't free. The media hinges on the
support of the people, newspaper subscriptions, television viewership,
advertisements, and the bottom line of their companies. We live in a
capitalistic society run by corporate profits and essential year over
I understand why The New
York Times and CNN reports the way it does. They are media hacks run
by the corporate dollar. Injustice is injustice. Murder is murder. While
Palestinian suffering goes on unreported children like Ragheb Al-Masri
remain dead and forgotten, and the American press remains biased and
*** Remi Kanazi
is the primary writer for the political website www.PoeticInjustice.net.
He lives in New York City as a Palestinian American freelance writer
and can reached via email at email@example.com