Skewed Coverage: Media in the Gaza War - Richard Behar
Journalists working for American news outlets have "become part of the Hamas war machine" in the ongoing war in Gaza, notes Gary Weiss, one of the world's top business investigative reporters.
On Aug. 11, the normally Israel-averse Foreign Press Association in Israel condemned the terrorist group for "the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists in Gaza over the past month."
Since the war began on July 8, so much of the Western coverage has been predictably skewed against Israel - through those time-honored journalism tools of sloppy and lazy reporting, superficiality, nuance, omission, lack of historical knowledge, or flat-out agenda-driven lies and bias. "We're talking about journalism that functions as a tool of a terrorist organization, Hamas: breathlessly pushing its narrative, whether cowed by its threats, sympathetic to its cause, or simply ignorant," says Weiss.
This epidemic of journalistic malpractice is contributing to the pain and loss of life that Palestinians in Gaza are suffering - as it helps to empower Hamas. In turn, this no doubt helps spread oil on the rising and frightening anti-Semitism we're seeing in Europe and elsewhere.
The arithmetic of civilian casualties in Gaza is one of the principal media crimes in this war. Major Western journalists routinely swallowed the huge civilian-casualty figures dished out to them by Gaza's Ministry of Health, a bureaucratic arm of a terrorist group that was shown to have lied about such figures in past wars. In some cases, reporters cite numbers instead from the UN, which gets its numbers from - surprise - the Hamas ministry.
An Insider's Guide to the Gaza War - Matti Friedman
- The way the Gaza war has been described and responded to abroad has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought - namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. News organizations believe Israel to be the most important story on earth, or very close.
- If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. The West has decided that Palestinians should want a state alongside Israel, so that opinion is attributed to them as fact, though anyone who has spent time with actual Palestinians understands that things are more complicated.
- Every flaw in Israeli society is aggressively reported. In one seven-week period (Nov. 8 to Dec. 16, 2011), I counted 27 separate AP articles, an average of a story every two days, on the various moral failings of Israeli society - a tally higher than the total number of critical stories about Palestinian government and society that our bureau had published in the preceding three years.
- Any veteran of the press corps here knows that Hamas intimidation of reporters is real. As an editor on the AP news desk during the 2008-2009 Gaza fighting, I personally erased a key detail - that Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians and being counted as civilians in the death toll - because of a threat to our reporter in Gaza. The policy remains not to inform readers that a story is censored unless the censorship is Israeli.
- The fact is that Hamas intimidation is largely beside the point because the actions of Palestinians are beside the point: Most reporters in Gaza believe their job is to document violence directed by Israel at Palestinian civilians. Many of the people deciding what you will read and see from here view their role not as explanatory but as political. Coverage is a weapon to be placed at the disposal of the side they like.
- The land that Israel controls consists of the 0.2% of the Arab world in which Jews are a majority and Arabs a minority. The conflict is more accurately described as "Jewish-Arab" - a conflict between the 6 million Jews of Israel and 300 million Arabs in surrounding countries (or, more broadly, 1 billion Muslims worldwide). Yet the "Israeli-Palestinian" framing of the story allows the Jews to be depicted as the stronger party.
- When journalists cover the Jews' war as more worthy of attention than any other, when they portray the Jews of Israel as the party obviously in the wrong, when they omit all possible justifications for the Jews' actions and obscure the true face of their enemies, international press coverage has become a morality play starring a familiar villain.
The writer was a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press (2006-2011).