Media’s game on the Israel- Palestine Conflict
Everyone is aware of the Israel-Palestine conflict and all the violence that still continues there, but people are only aware of the side, based on what has been portrayed by the media. Not many realize that there is propaganda behind the sort of coverage and reportage done by the media. Once this was realised by a few people articles and books were written on the same. The Israeli propaganda has been strong enough to intimidate other journalists who would want to report to report the truth. The Book ‘News From Israel’ by sociologists Greg Philo and Mike Berry, examined and analysed four separate periods of news coverage by the BBC and ITN, Britain’s two main TV news channels(during the conflict). They examined around 200 news programmes and compared them against the national press and other programmes such as Channel 4 (C4) News and BBC2’s current affairs programme, Newsnight. They also interviewed over 800 people and brought well known broadcasters and programme makers to take part in discussion groups with ordinary viewers and know what their view was on the conflict.
In their analysis they found out that while the news item consisted of little explanation about the origin of the conflict, they did not mention how the establishment of Israel had taken place and how the following war had led to thousands of Palestinians fleeing their homes, both because of the horrors of war and the forced eviction organised by the official Israeli military forces and Zionist terrorist groups authorized by the then Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion.
They pointed out that while news coverage focused on the day to day details of the Palestinian armed uprising, few reporters described how Israel had seized the West Bank and Gaza 37 years ago and illegally occupied it. There was no explanation of the meaning of that occupation: that the Palestinians lived under military rule, had no civil rights and suffered enormous economic and social deprivation. Without any background information, most viewers did not appreciate that the Israelis had seized the Palestinians’ land to build the Zionist settlements, as this is what was told to the viewers. If the journalists did make passing reference to such abuses, they failed to point out that all of this was illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Due to a lopsided reportage only 10 percent of the groups of British students, who were interviewed in 2001 and 2002 knew that it was Israel that had occupied Palestine. Some even thought that the Palestinians were the occupiers. Many saw the conflict as some sort of border dispute between two countries fighting over land. A massive 80 percent did not know where the Palestinian refugees had come from or how they had come to be dispossessed.
The language used regularly by reporters was studied and it was then revealed that it favoured the occupying Israeli military forces over the occupied Palestinians. Words such as “atrocity”, “mass murder”, “lynching” and “slaughter” were used to describe Israeli deaths, but not the Palestinian deaths. Journalists used the word “terrorist” to describe Palestinians, but “extremists” or “vigilantes” to describe an Israeli group trying to bomb a Palestinian school. It was also noted that that the impoverished and humiliating conditions faced by Palestinians for decades under the military occupation were almost ignored. The bias was quite blatant. In the sample of news items in 2001, the news coverage was six times more likely to show the Israelis as “retaliating” to Palestinian “terrorism”, which led the viewers to blame the Palestinians. There was more coverage of Israeli deaths than the Palestinian ones, even though three times the number of Palestinians had lost their lives. The evidence to this is with the journalists.The demand by the commercial news channels for 24 hour news “as it breaks” means that journalists spend more time in front of the camera than collecting and analysing the news. It makes them more reliant on easy-to-source and cheap information, meaning official sources of information.
‘The Palestinians were described as the worst enemy ever’- such a perspective of the media had become the perspective of the people. But the reason for such one sided reporting is due to pressures some journalists face from those who are at the ‘Israeli position’. The political pressure on the media sometimes end with reporters being threatened, losing their jobs and their lives. This however, is the side of the journalists, those at an authoritative position have continued with this propaganda due to the advantages it would get from the Israelis.
This sort of reportage and work is against the ethics of journalism as it creates an unfair public opinion based on certain media propaganda.