media-biasOne 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.


Zanzibar acid attack: UK media whitewash?

Two British Jewish girls have been attacked in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania in east Africa. The two teens, who were volunteer teachers on the predominantly Muslim island, had acid thrown in their faces by men driving by on a moped.

The way this story is being reported is significant. In Britain, the media has so far declined to raise the possibility that is an anti-Semitic attack. The BBC’s News at Ten, for example, failed to mention that the girls were Jewish. The broadcaster kept repeating the police mantra that a motive has not been established – but surely it is worth asking whether it could have been motivated by anti-Semitism.

Why is the BBC and Channel 4 News etc afraid to raise the possibility that the acid attack is an example of Islamic violence against Jews? Is it because the British media would have us believe that Muslims are not capable of hurting Jews? Has the Israeli-Palestinian narrative distorted editorial decision-making to such an extent that Jews are no longer considered victims?


The BBC’s pro-Palestinian posturing

Newsnight – the BBC’s flagship nightly news program – has once again revealed itself to be nothing more than the propaganda outlet for the Palestinians.

To mark the 90th birthday of Israeli president Shimon Peres, Newsnight focused on his efforts to bring about a two-state solution. Unfortunately, the BBC made a number of schoolboy errors regarding the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians.

The principle mistake was allowing a Palestinian spokesman to expound the ludicrous view that Jewish settlements are the obstacle to peace. The BBC (as usual) did not bother to explain why this narrative is false.

Between 1948 and 1967 there was not a single settlement on the West Bank or in Gaza. And yet the Arab states refused to make peace with Israel and made no attempt to establish a Palestinian state when they had the chance.

When the Israelis pulled out of Gaza, the Palestinians could have laid the foundations of a functioning state. Instead, Hamas came to power and launched a war of attrition against the Jewish people.

Nor did the BBC mention the fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected a two-state solution – most notoriously when Arafat walked away from the Camp David summit in 2000.

There a myriad reasons why Jewish settlements are not an obstacle to peace and why the Palestinians are culpable for their own mess. But don’t expect the BBC to present the truth.

BBC’s mid-east reporting requires shake-up

At a time when the BBC is under intense scrutiny following revelations about its shoddy journalism and serious errors of judgment, it is disconcerting to discover that the broadcaster has once again breached its own guidelines concerning impartiality and honesty.

Within twenty-four hours of the start of Operation Pillar of Defense, the BBC had been caught out by media watchdog Honest Reporting for broadcasting footage that shows an apparently injured Palestinian man being carried away by his neighbors. Thirty seconds later, the footage shows the same man walking around in a state of complete health. A miraculous recovery or yet another example of a Western news company broadcasting Palestinian propaganda?

The footage broadcast by the BBC on the evening of November 14 is, of course, in the grand tradition of Pallywood in which Palestinians on stretchers suddenly come back to life and children in the so-called West Bank leap in front of moving cars for the cameras. Such deception is promoted in the Quran and Islamic literature. Taqiyya (saying something that isn’t true) and kitman (lying by omission) are acceptable methods of deceiving non-Muslims.

The Palestinians are well aware that news consumers in the West are lost in a nebulous realm of doctored photos and contrived news stories. Far from being concrete or objective, “reality” is mediated by television, newspapers, films and especially the internet. As far as the BBC and other 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,” i.e. the demonization of Israel.

The manipulation of the media is not the BBC’s only problem. Even when it attempts to be fair-minded, the BBC is actually legitimizing terrorism. Switch on BBC News 24 (or any other news channel in the UK) and you will see Hamas representatives being given just as much – sometimes more – air time than Israeli spokespersons. War criminals like Hamas should not be allowed to justify their actions on the BBC or Sky. Giving Hamas a platform to espouse their absurd rhetoric only legitimizes their genocidal hatred. Would the BBC have allowed the Nazis to air their revolting views on BBC Radio during the Second World War?

Actually, the Nazi comparison is not that far-fetched. In the past few days it has come to light that the BBC’s Hungarian Service during War World War chose to withhold information about the mass extermination of Jews in Europe. During the dark days of 1942, the BBC broadcast news to the people of Hungary but omitted to mention news of the unfolding Holocaust in case it upset Hungarian anti-Semites who were needed to fight alongside the Allies. In fact, there is a disturbing BBC memo from 1942 that states: “We shouldn’t mention the Jews at all.”

Fast forward to the 21st century and we find the BBC focusing rather too much on “the Jews.” Earlier this month, the BBC’s Washington correspondent Katty Kay said that “no one running for President [of the USA] wants to alienate the power and money of the Jewish lobby.” Despite complaints, the BBC refused to acknowledge there was anything wrong with Kay’s statement, which perhaps speaks volumes about the BBC’s innate bias against “the Jews” and Israel.

For years, the BBC has favored the Palestinian narrative, even when that narrative is driven by Hamas. Although the page no longer exists, the BBC News’ online profile of Hamas failed to mention the terrorist group’s genocidal intentions toward Israel. More famously, the Balen Report (2004), which contains the findings of a report into alleged 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 the information requested is excluded from the Freedom of Information Act because it is held “for the purposes of journalism.”

Last year, British politician Louise Bagshawe berated the BBC for failing to cover the brutal murders of the Fogel family in Itamar, accusing the broadcaster of a “lack of care.” Writing in the Telegraph, she said, “Horrified, I went to the BBC website to find out more. There I discovered only two stories: one a cursory description of the incident in Itamar […] and another focusing on Israel’s decision to build more settlements, which mentioned the killings in passing.” Obviously, the construction of houses was more important to the BBC than the horrific murder of an entire Jewish family by a pair of deranged Palestinians.

The BBC’s journalistic standards have been below par for many years, which is why the broadcaster is in so much trouble at the moment. In the past few weeks, the BBC has been embroiled in an embarrassing series of scandals, including the suppression of an in-house report that revealed systemic child abuse by one of its most famous presenters. The BBC’s former director-general, George Entwistle, has admitted there have been “unacceptable journalistic standards.” It would be nice if the BBC also acknowledged – and amended – its poor-quality Middle East reporting.

To its credit, the BBC has occasionally come down hard on journalists who unfairly criticize Israel. In 2009, Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen was censured by the broadcaster for breaching its rules on accuracy and impartiality in two reports about the Arab-Israeli conflict. An inquiry found that a reference to “Zionism’s innate instinct to push out the frontier” breached guidelines, while the suggestion that Israel was “in defiance of everyone’s interpretation of international law except its own” was said to have been “imprecise.”

According to the BBC’s six core values, “trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest.” If the BBC cannot be trusted to be these three things, then the organization no longer deserves its yearly income of £3.6 billion from the millions of British license payers who have no option but to fund the BBC’s newsrooms. As the BBC ponders its future, now is a good time for it to come clean about the Balen Report and radically improve its Middle East reporting. Deciding to ditch the pro-Palestinian narrative in favor of something more fair and balanced would be welcome news indeed and may go some way in restoring trust.

In the meantime, the BBC ought to be more careful about broadcasting footage sourced from Gaza. The BBC, along with Sky and other news outlets, must check and re-check every bit of footage before broadcasting it to the world. And instead of wasting air time on Hamas spokesmen, the BBC and others may want to spend more time exploring what life is like for Israelis who live under constant threat of missiles, which are now falling on the suburbs of Tel Aviv.

BBC goes to Pallywood

Last night (November 14th, 2012), BBC News 24 broadcast footage that appeared to show a Palestinian “casualty” in Gaza Half a minute later, the “casualty” has fully recovered. Divine intervention or just another example of Palestinian perfidy? See to decide for yourself. Of course, Hamas and its supporters are not interested in a fair or balanced media. But why is the BBC using dubious footage and not checking its sources properly?

The BBC’s journalistic standards have been below par for many years, which is why the broadcaster is in so much trouble at the moment. Unfortunately, most media organizations – both broadcast and print – are just as lazy and corrupt, so the BBC is not alone in its use of untrustworthy sources and biased reporting. What is particularly distressing is that Israel is always on the receiving end of such bad journalism. It’s almost as if the western media is working on behalf of the Palestinian propaganda machine, often dubbed “Pallywood.”

Pallywood, a portmanteau word of Palestinian and Hollywood, is a coinage used by some media watchdogs to describe doctored and fake media footage produced by the Palestinians to illustrate their false but lethal narratives about Israel. Calev Ben-David, writing in The Jerusalem Post, described Pallywood as “media manipulation, distortion and outright fraud by the Palestinians and (and other Arabs, such as the Reuters photographer caught faking photos during the Second Lebanon War), designed to win the public relations war against Israel.”

Canadian columnist Paul Schneidereit says: “We’ve seen cases where the bodies of Palestinian martyrs carried on stretchers are inadvertently dropped, then, of their own volition, climb back on again. We’ve seen reports of massacres, as in Jenin in 2002, that turned out, after independent investigation, to have been greatly exaggerated. Needless to say, such episodes don’t instill an abiding trust in subsequent Palestinian claims, at least until they’re verified.”

The methods used by the Palestinian disinformation industry include:

1. Using visual media to construct fake stories of Israeli atrocities. This involves editing media footage and staging events. For example, directing Palestinian civilians, ambulance drivers, doctors and police to “act out” roles such as the “injured man,” the “dead child,” the “concerned medic,” the “brave freedom fighter.” Palestinian journalists and cameraman are complicit in this theater of propaganda.
2. Luring Israeli soldiers into schools, shelters and hospitals and using civilians as human shields in order to increase the casualty rate. For example, in 2009 Hamas militants fired mortar shells from a school in Gaza. The IDF returned fire, resulting in 40 civilian fatalities.
3. Ignoring or downplaying attacks on Israeli civilians, and omitting to mention the oppression and murder of fellow Palestinians by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
4. Repeating the claim that Israel ethnically cleansed Palestine in 1948, despite the fact that Palestinian leaders deliberately spread false rumors of rape and massacres in order to provoke Arab armies to fight on their behalf.
5. Repeating the claim that Israel is a colonialist occupier of a country called Palestine, despite the fact that there has never been a Palestinian nation and that Jews have lived in the Holy Land for the past three thousand years.
6. Depicting the Israelis as Nazis and claiming the Jews faked or exaggerated the Holocaust.
7. Masking the prosperity of the Gaza Strip by focusing on isolated examples of hardship.
8. Disseminating faked reports of massacres, deaths of children, atrocities and privations to the Western media. e.g. claiming the Israelis had carried out a massacre in Jenin in 2002.
9. Appealing to the United Nations, Amnesty International, the Western media and NGOs for help and/or aid, despite the fact that Israel provides aid and/or allows passage for humanitarian assistance.

According to French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, contemporary society is alienated from “the real” due to an “ecstasy” of information. Reality is no longer objective but mediated by television, newspapers, films and the internet. Media consumers live in a “hyper-real” universe where reality is simulated. Baudrillard’s theory of the hyperreal helps explain why Pallywood is so successful. Although the Palestinians are no match for the Israeli Defense Forces, they are winning the Arab-Israeli conflict in the hyperreal realm.

The fact that Pallywood has found such a willing audience in the West strongly suggests the idea of the “real” has been shattered. As far as the Western media is 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 demonization of Israel.