One picture can be worth a thousand weapons (Bob Simon, CBS news reporter)
The Western media is gullible and dishonest. I say this not with self-righteous indignation but with sadness. As a journalist, I’ve seen at first-hand how the facts are made to fit the story, how statistics are manipulated, how headlines are designed to catch the eye regardless of their truth-content.
Am I also guilty of these misdemeanours? I cannot lie. There have been times when I have knowingly sidelined an inconvenient piece of information or have chosen one set of numbers over another. But I can at least say this: when it comes to reporting on Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, I have neverrelied on dubious sources and unverified reports to create news stories. But many of my colleagues in the BBC, CBS, CNN and The New York Times do not hesitate to do so.
You can always spot a bad news organisation when it is ready to jump to conclusions. So when a ten-year-old Arab girl is killed by a Hamas bullet but it is reported that the IDF is responsible, then this will confirm the editorial team’s suspicion that the Jewish state is belligerent. Even when the truth comes out and the correction is buried on page 14, the people who believed the misinformation will continue to cling to their anti-Israel prejudices.
There are so many examples of media representation that it would be futile to list even one per cent of them. But here are a few examples:
The New York Times is seven times more likely to publish pieces that are primarily critical of Israel than those primarily critical of the Palestinians, according to media watchdog CAMERA.
The Balen Report from 2004, which contains the findings of a report into alleged BBC bias against Israel, continues to be suppressed. A request by Honest Reporting to publish the findings has been turned down by the BBC on the grounds that information held by the BBC is subject to the Freedom of Information Act only if it is “held for purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature.”
The BBC, CNN and other media do not report that Arab terrorists are stabbing and running over Israelis, only that Israelis are victims of knife attacks and rogue drivers. Likewise, during Operation Protective Edge, broadcasters were reluctant to show images of rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel.
During Operation Protective Edge, media outlets consistently failed to report the facts, preferring to take Hamas statements as ‘gospel truth.’ The macabre obsession with the death toll in Gaza – combined with the inability to explain why the Israeli death toll was relatively low – fuelled the belief that Israelis are ‘bad’ and Arabs are ‘good.’
Perhaps the worst offender is The Guardian. For two weeks in April 2002, the newspaper published a series of articles claiming that Israeli soldiers had massacred civilians in Jenin. Subsequent investigations by the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, all concluded there was no massacre.
The quality of reporting is so bad and the atmosphere so hostile that even if all reports of Israeli ‘barbarity’ were accurate, if Israel really was an apartheid state committing genocide, the news reports about them would still be anti-Semitic. Why? Because it would be anti-Semitic prejudices not facts motivating the stories – in other words, the gratification felt by those who would be able to say with a knowing wink: ‘I told you, Jews really are like that.’
The Arabs are well aware that news consumers in the West are lost in a hazy realm of doctored photos and contrived news stories. Far from being concrete or objective, ‘reality’ is mediated by television, newspapers, and the internet. Anyway, as far as media outlets are concerned, faked events are no less real than reality itself. Indeed, they may be ‘more real’ because they serve a ‘higher cause,’ which is the demonisation and delegitimisation of the world’s only Jewish state.
Daniel Seaman, a leading media spokesman in Israel who formerly served as the director of the Israel Government Press Office, has criticised Palestinian photographers and gullible Western media outlets.
“They [the Palestinian Arabs] always stage photographs,” says Seaman. “The IDF announces that it is going in to demolish an empty house, but somehow afterwards you see a picture of a crying child sitting on the rubble. There is an economic level to that. The Palestinian photographers receive from the foreign agencies 300 dollars for good pictures; that is why they deliberately create provocation with the soldiers. They’ve degraded photography to prostitution.”
He describes the foreign media as “hostile,” with the French, the Spanish and the British often the worst offenders. The hostility manifests itself in the writing, the biased footage, the assumption of Palestinian innocence and Israeli guilt, he added.
The manipulation of the media is not the only problem. Even when they attempt to be fair-minded, news organisations and newspapers are actually legitimising terrorism.
Switch on Channel 4 News or open up a copy of a left-wing newspaper during any period of fighting and you will see Hamas representatives being given just as much – sometimes more – column space or air time than Israeli spokespersons. Unfortunately, giving proscribed terrorists a platform to espouse their absurd rhetoric only legitimises their genocidal hatred.
So is the media knowingly complicit or just naive? The answer is both, depending on the news organisation in question. What is more certain is this: the media’s obsession with Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, the failure to triple check facts and verify footage, and the presumption of Israeli guilt and the endorsement of the Palestinian Arab victim mentality, are doing immense harm.
All of which is doing great damage to journalistic integrity, and contributing to a global rise in anti-Semitism and the erosion of the Jewish state’s legitimacy. These factors alone ought to weigh heavily on the consciences of newscasters and writers.