How media bias protects Israel and demonizes Palestinians
Israel began the most recent bout of violence against the Palestinians after its courts ruled that Palestinian civilians should be forcibly expelled from their homes in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in order to increase the Jewish presence in the occupied city. Palestinian Christians and Muslims protesting against the imminent evictions were last month attacked by Israeli soldiers, police and settlers — a move so outrageous that further protests erupted throughout the Occupied Territories, inside Israel and around the world. These demonstrations escalated as Israel increased its violent response.
However, while war crimes are being committed by Israel’s heavily armed soldiers, police and racist settlers, many mainstream news media outlets — including the BBC — are complicit as they dilute Israel’s offensive violence and exaggerate Palestinians’ defensive response.
Israeli police shot and killed Palestinian citizens of Israel who were protesting against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ethnic cleansing policies in Sheikh Jarrah. But those killings were minimized by much of the mainstream media.
The issue of the media’s glaring bias can be seen in a May 12 BBC story on how Israeli authorities and settlers responded to unarmed Palestinian protests. The story was headlined “Israel declares emergency in Lod as unrest spreads,” but it doesn’t even address that angle until the 14th paragraph.
Although the story was supposed to be about Palestinian citizens of Israel rising up in protest against the Tel Aviv government’s violence, it was really a public relations exercise that reflected Israel’s efforts to dilute its killing of Palestinians and exaggerate the deaths of Israeli Jews.
The BBC story’s focus was buried under 13 paragraphs of propaganda that had already been heavily reported and attempted to blame the latest violence on Hamas rockets fired from Gaza. In fact, while Israel killed more than 250 Palestinians during last month’s violence, Hamas rockets only killed a handful of Israelis. That is a news story the BBC obviously does not want to write.
The BBC characterized the Lod protests as “rioting by Israeli Arabs” as part of a wider “conflict between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.” When the story finally got around to describing what happened in Lod, it disclosed that an unidentified and undescribed Palestinian man had “died during unrest in the city.” The BBC uses the passive word “died” to describe Palestinian deaths without attributing blame, while using the more aggressive “killed” to describe the deaths of Israelis, blaming Hamas and Palestinians. This subtle bias is significant when reading the story.
The story also added the setup for false charges of anti-Semitism, quoting Israeli media that synagogues and several (presumably Jewish) businesses had been “set on fire.” There was no mention of the destruction of Palestinians’ businesses and homes when they were confronted by Israeli soldiers, police and settlers.
The Lod protests were significant because they showed that concern over the issue of Israel’s war crimes, which are now being investigated by the UN Human Rights Council, is not restricted to foreign critics. According to Palestinian citizens of Israel, the Israeli police in Lod, with backing from soldiers and armed settlers, were the ones involved in a “full-scale riot” against civilians. Calling the Palestinians’ protest a “riot” helps justify Israel’s violence against its own citizens, even though they already live in an apartheid-like society where Christians and Muslims are discriminated against by law.
The BBC story twice mentioned that an Israeli father and his 16-year-old daughter were killed by a Hamas rocket. So the media, the BBC in this case, writes a story about attacks on Palestinian citizens of Israel by packing it with extraneous details about how Hamas rockets took the life of two Israelis.
Calling the Palestinians’ protest a ‘riot’ helps justify Israel’s violence against its own citizens.
What the BBC failed to report in 40-plus paragraphs of propaganda disguised as news was that the Israeli military censors every story about the violence reported by every news agency in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Reporters have to keep the Israelis happy, otherwise they could be expelled from the country — something many Western media outlets fight by hiring pro-Israel Jewish journalists who live inside Israel. Most journalists do not actually report from the Occupied Territories and instead rely on information supplied to them by sources, including Israel’s military. That system helps Israel exaggerate its claim of innocence and promote the propaganda story that the Palestinians are the bad guys.
Anyone who reads this BBC story can easily see how the facts are skewed in Israel’s favor and how the biased news media is failing in its responsibility to report the truth.
- Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania