Media coverage of the Arab–Israeli conflict


Media coverage of the Arab–Israeli conflict
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This box: view · Arab–Israeli conflict by journalists in international news media.

Media coverage of the conflict has been dogged by allegations of bias on both sides. These perceptions of bias, possibly exacerbated by the hostile media effect,[1] have generated more complaints of partisan reporting than any other news topic and have led to a proliferation of media watchdog groups on both sides.[2]

Contents

Types of bias

Bias in print and broadcast media may manifest itself in varying ways, including:

  • Diction: The use of emotive words or euphemistic terminology as well as double-speak may prejudice the audience one way or another.
  • Omission: The presentation of some facts but not all the facts may lead to false and biased conclusions.
  • Selective reporting: Over time, the news presented through a media organization may emphasize one side of the story at the expense of the other.
  • Decontextualization: News may appear without sufficient explanation of the circumstances of the events being reported.
  • Placement: The consistent placement of one viewpoint in preferential locations of an article (e.g. in the headline or in the first paragraph) may increase reader exposure to one side of the story.
  • Factual errors: Errors in content may mislead the reader.

Print and broadcast media may be biased for varying reasons, including:

  • Coercion or censorship: Journalists may be pressured into distorting their reporting for fear of losing access or their lives.
  • Lack of verification: News outlets may "parrot" as objective fact the unverified or disputed claims of one side.
  • Exaggeration or sensationalism: In order to increase a publication or broadcasts's consumption, reporters may exaggerate events for the maximum emotional response.
  • Prejudiced journalists: Journalists may intentionally or unintentionally distort reports due to political ideology, national affiliation, anti-Semitism, anti-Arabism, or Islamophobia.
  • Forgery or falsification: Video footage, quotes, and other items may be fabricated to bias the presentation. See Pallywood for such allegations.
  • Prejudiced fixers: Journalists may distort reports due to fixer ideology, national affiliation, or for-profit motives.

Diction

Diction, or word choice, affects the interpretation of the same set of entities or events. There is an emotional and semantic difference between the verbs died and killed, and similarly between kill and murder; murder evokes stronger negative emotions and connotes intent. In the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, various terminological issues arise. The terms "disputed territories" versus "occupied territories" reflect different positions on the legal status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The terms "security fence" and "apartheid wall," "neighbourhood" and "settlement," and "militant," "freedom fighter," and "terrorist," while used to describe the same entities, present them in a different light and suggest a different narrative. Similarly, describing an attack or bombing as a "response" or "retaliation" again places the events in a different light.

Retaliation

A study by the American organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting monitored the use of the term "retaliation" in the nightly news broadcasts of the three main American networks CBS, ABC, and NBC between September 2000 through March 17, 2002. It found that of the 150 occasions when "retaliate" and its variants were used to describe attacks in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, 79 percent were references to Israel "retaliating" and only 9 percent were references to Palestinians "retaliating".[3]

Emotive Language

MediaCoverageOfTheArabIsraeliConflict wallorfence.png

In a study of BBC television news coverage, the Glasgow Media Group documented differences in the language used by journalists for Israelis and Palestinians. The study found that terms such as "atrocity," "brutal murder," "mass murder," "savage cold blooded killing," "lynching" and "slaughter" were used describe the death of Israelis but not for the death of Palestinians. The word "terrorist" was often used to describe Palestinians. However, in reports of an Israeli group attempting to bomb a Palestinian school members of the Israeli group were referred to as "extremists" or "vigilantes" but not as "terrorists."[4]

Omission

In the context of media, an omission refers to the failure to include information. This selective inclusion of information, which results from omitting other information, may distort the presentation of events in favor of one side or the other. In the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, for example, consider the difference in overall impact between:

  • An article mentioning both a Palestinian suicide bombing in Israel and an Israeli offensive in the West Bank.
  • An article mentioning only the Palestinian suicide bombing.
  • An article mentioning only the Israeli offensive.
According to pro-Israel watchdog groups

In its "Critical Thinking: Can You Trust Everything You Read?" article, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America(CAMERA) explains:[5]

"Factual errors can be errors of omission or commission. Omission means that something important was not said, and as a result, readers are misled. In errors of commission, the reporter gives information which is not true."

In its "Understanding Bias" article, Honest Reporting asks the following questions pertaining to omission:[6]

  1. "Was the reporting one-sided and imbalanced?"
  2. "Was key information missing (selective omission)?"
According to pro-Palestinian watchdog groups

In a 2001 study done by FAIR, only 4% of the US media mentioned that an occupation by Israel is occurring.[7] In an update to the study, the number has reportedly gone down to only 2% of the media mentioning an occupation.[8] The 2001 figure is also seen in the documentary Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land.[7]

In its "Media critique quick sheet", Palestine Media Watch asks the following questions pertaining to omission:[9]

  1. "How many times were UN reports/findings/resolutions mentioned?"
  2. "How many times were Human Rights reports/findings/statements mentioned?"
  3. "Did the story describe official Palestinian denials/pleas of ignorance and innocence in violent acts?"
  4. "Did the story describe official Israelis denials/pleas of ignorance and innocence in violent acts?"

Lack of verification

The ethics and standards of Journalism requires journalists to verify the factual accuracy of the information they report. Factual verification "is what separates journalism from other modes of communication, such as propaganda, fiction or entertainment".[10] Lack of verification refers to a failure to perform factual verification, involves the publication of potentially unreliable information prior to or without independent confirmation of the facts, and have resulted in various scandals. In the context of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, for example, consider:

  • The Battle of Jenin, after which early media reports claimed that Israel "massacred" hundreds of Palestinian civilians.[11][12][13] Later investigations by the United Nations and Human Rights Watch estimated the total Palestinian death toll at 52 (with estimates of civilian deaths ranging from 22 to 26) and contradicted previous claims that a massacre had taken place.[14][15][16][17][18]
  • The Islamic Jihad shooting attack on Kiryat Arba in November 2002, which Western media reports described as an attack on "worshipers," resulting in international condemnations.[19][20] According to the Jerusalem Post, Islamic Jihad "opened fire at a [sic] security forces safeguarding Jewish worshipers," and according to both Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post, the twelve Israelis killed all belonged to the IDF, the Israeli Border Police, or the Hebron security force.[21][22]
According to pro-Israel watchdog groups

In its "Atrocities of the British Press" article, Honest Reporting writes that many media outlets devoted huge amounts of ink to "unverified Palestinian tales of conspiracies, mass murders, common graves, and war crimes." [23]

In its "Edward Said's Documented Deceptions" article, CAMERA said that when dealing with vilification of Israel, facts remain unchecked, accusations remain unverified, and journalistic responsibility is replaced by disclaimers.[24]

According to pro-Palestinian watchdog groups

In its "Coverage of the Middle East Crisis In the Opinion Pages and News Coverage Of the Charlotte Observer" article, Palestine Media Watch writes the following with regard to lack of verification:[25]

"PMW found that more and more, facts are being verified by independent and Palestinian sources and witnesses rather than relying on Israeli government, Israeli military, or Israeli sources solely. PMW believes this should be a consistent practice, but is encouraged to find it happening increasingly. ... When Israelis targeted a Palestinian girls’ school and hospital, they were described as 'Jewish extremists'. Also, when Israeli military or Jewish settlers kill civilians, their death is reported as a 'mistake' or as accidental due to 'crossfire'. These Israeli statements are rarely if ever challenged or reported as verified."

Selective reporting

A pro-Palestinian webcomic about the capture of Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit

Selective reporting involves devoting more resources, such as news articles or air time, to the coverage of one side of the story over another. In the context of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, for example, consider the overall impression given by:

  • A broadcast which spends eight hours interviewing Palestinian victims and only three hours interviewing Israeli victims.
  • A broadcast which spends eight hours interviewing Israeli victims and only three hours interviewing Palestinian victims.
According to pro-Israel watchdog groups

In its "Understanding Bias" article, Honest Reporting asks the following question regarding selective reporting:[6]

"Is 'equal time' granted to both sides of the conflict, or is one side given preferential treatment – hence lending more weight and credibility to that side's position?"

In its criticism of National Public Radio, CAMERA writes:[26]

"...CAMERA identified 350 speakers and found a gaping disparity in the time afforded to Israeli and pro-Israeli speakers compared to that provided the Arab and pro-Arab speakers. The pro-Arab speakers received 77% more time. ... More dramatic still was the disproportionate number of segments that included only pro-Arab speakers and excluded entirely any pro-Israel voices as compared to the many fewer reports that omitted altogether Arab speakers. The Arab-speakers-only segments were almost twice as numerous (41 to 24) and four times as long (18,321 words spoken on the air versus 4,934)."

According to pro-Palestinian watchdog groups

Pro-Palestinian watchdog groups have alleged that the media in the United States downplay violence against Palestinians. FAIR has alleged that National Public Radio reported more Israeli casualties of the Arab-Israeli conflict than Palestinian casualties by percentage.[27]

Decontextualization

Decontextualization is a type of omission in which the omitted information is essential to understanding a decision, action, or event, its underlying motivations or key events leading up to it. In the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, for example, consider the effect of the following:

  • An article discussing the West Bank Barrier, which does not mention the suicide bombings of the Second Intifada.
  • An article discussing the 2006 Hamas Election Victory, which does not mention the corruption of Fatah.
According to pro-Israel watchdog groups

In its "Objectivity & The Media: 7 Principles of Media Objectivity" article, Honest Reporting writes the following with regard to decontextualization:[28]

"By failing to provide proper context and full background information, journalists can dramatically distort the true picture."

In its "How to Recognize Unfair Reporting" article, CAMERA writes the following regarding to decontextualization:[29]

"Does the article or broadcast omit essential context and information? This tends to be a frequent problem when reporting about the Middle East. Write a letter to the editor or directly to the journalist and/or media outlet to provide the missing context."

According to pro-Palestinian watchdog groups

In a 2001 study done by FAIR, only 4% of the US media mentioned that an occupation by Israel is occurring.[7] In an update to the study, the number has reportedly gone down to only 2% of the media mentioning an occupation.[8] The 2001 figure is also seen in the documentary Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land.[7]

Another study done by FAIR shows that about 79% of the media call Israel's actions "retaliation" while only 9% for the Palestinians. The most balanced network is ABC's World News Tonight, which called Palestinian actions "retaliation" 21% of the time, and the least balanced was NBC Nightly News which never referred to Palestinian actions as "retaliation".[30]

In its "Media critique quick sheet" article, Palestine Media Watch asks the following questions pertaining to decontextualization:[9]

  1. "Were Palestinian actions described in context (e.g., 'Palestinians launched a mortar attack after Israelis bulldozed a row of houses')?"
  2. "Were Israeli actions described in context (e.g., 'Israelis bulldozed a row of houses after Palestinians launched a mortar attack')?"

Coercion or censorship

A comic from DryBones about the kidnapping of BBC reporter Alan Johnston and a decision by the NUJ to boycott Israeli goods

Coercion or censorship refers to the use of intimidation or force to promote favorable reports and to confiscate unfavorable reports. In the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, both sides accuse each other of coercion or censorship as an explanation of alleged bias in favor of the other side. In support of these claims, Israeli advocates point to kidnappings of foreign reporters by Palestinians, while Palestinian advocates point to media blackouts and confiscation of reports by Israelis. Additionally, both sides point to reports by both governmental and non-governmental organizations, which assess the degree of journalistic freedom in the region. See Media of Israel and Human rights in Israel#Freedom of speech and the media.

Forgery or falsification

Forgery or falsification involves the intentional misrepresentation, alteration, or invention of reported information. Due to the severity of these actions, which violate the ethics and standards of journalism, instances of forgery and/or falsification are frequently cited by Israelis and their advocates and/or by Palestinians and their advocates—depending on the nature of the forgery and/or falsification—in order to support claims that the media favors the other side.

In its "Bold Distortions and Outright Lies" article, HonestReporting commented on the 2006 Lebanon War photographs controversies:[31]

"A Reuters photo turns out to be an outright lie, manipulated to make damage in Beirut appear much worse than reality."

"The conflict between Israel and the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah has produced some of the most distorted and biased reporting we have seen in years. Despite evidence that Israel is taking unprecedented steps to avoid civilian casualties, some in the media have accused the IDF of using disproportionate force against a harmless civilian population. With little evidence to back up this claim, some are even resorting to outright fraud...."

For additional claims of forgery and/or falsification see Pallywood and the 2006 Lebanon War photographs controversies.

According to pro-Palestinian watchdog groups

In its "Please counter the Israeli PR machine" letter, Palestine Media Watch criticized the media for fabricating information or for reporting fabricated information:[32]

"Basic facts will not only be ignored, but will be fabricated, outright, bald-faced lies will be told, and the intelligence of the American people will be shamelessly and repeatedly insulted and violated. And all along, the US media will not only simply roll over and play half-dead, as usual, but will cheerfully accept the easy, comfortable way out, never bothering to ask the obvious questions, never pointing to the decades-old record of rejection from Ariel Sharon, his open refusal to accept a viable Palestinian state, his brutality, his war crimes, and his relentless sabotaging of all chances, minor or major, at advancing political dialog. The media will again fail to connect the simple dots, will fail to look for or detect obvious patterns, never daring to stare reality right in the face, let alone break free from the mindless narrative sandbox in which they have decided to confine themselves."

In a letter to the Washington Post by Omar Barghouti, an activist of Palestine Media Watch, Barghouti criticized the Post for repeating allegedly fabricated information:[33]

"By relying largely on Israeli Army sources, Mr. Keith Richburg and Mr. Lee Hockstader portrayed an inaccurate picture for the Israeli operation on Thursday, November 9th, against Mr. Hussein Abayat. The Israeli army wants us to believe that Mr. Abayat was a 'terror' mastermind, who 'deserved' to be killed by Israel. The Washington Post article only helps promote this distorted image."

"From the very beginning, the article calls the operation a 'targeted slaying', which in any other context would be immediately and intuitively be called assassination. The reader, as always, is given a very foggy account of the victim, Mr. Abayat, and only the Israeli-provided biographic information is highlighted. I have always complained about the convenience with which some Post journalists rely on Israeli sources, despite the fact that they were proven over and over again to be grossly inaccurate, if not altogether fabricated. A quick look at the reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights will attest to what I am saying."

Placement

According to pro-Israel watchdog groups

In its page on "Headlines & Graphics", CAMERA writes the following regarding placement:[34]

"Headlines are the first, and sometimes only, news items seen by readers and should provide the essence of a news story. While they must capture the reader's attention, headlines should always be accurate and specific. The size of a headline signals the importance of the story and its relationship to other stories, and the use of the active versus passive voice also shapes reader perceptions."

In its "New York Times Skews Israeli-Palestinian Crisis" article, CAMERA criticized the New York Times for the placement of news stories about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, writing:[35]

"In a key period in late March and early April, as Israel suffered a wave of unprecedented Palestinian terrorism prompting the Israel Defense Forces to respond with incursions into areas under Palestinian Authority control, the New York Times presented a decidedly skewed picture of events. Reporting focused heavily on Palestinian suffering while continually minimizing the personal toll on Israelis. The number and prominence (judged by placement and size) of news stories and photographs regularly cast Palestinians as blameless victims of Israeli aggression. Israeli victims were rarely even named, much less profiled. Guest Op-Ed’s were overwhelmingly tilted toward condemnation of Israel."

According to pro-Palestinian watchdog groups

If Americans Knew published an article that claimed that Palestinian deaths are often placed in the last two paragraphs of articles published by The New York Times.[36]

Exaggeration or sensationalism

Sensationalism, in general, is a form of being extremely controversial, loud, or attention grabbing. In the context of the media, sensationalism refers to claims that the media chooses to report on shocking events or to exaggerate, at the expense of accuracy and objectivity, in order to improve viewer, listener or readership ratings. This criticism, also known as media circus, is proffered by both Israelis and Palestinians as a possible explanation for alleged bias.

According to pro-Israel watchdog groups

In its "'New Rules' For Mideast Reporting" media critique, Honest Reporting writes the following regarding sensationalism:[37]

"Every media outlet has its own stylebook, designed to be as fair and impartial as possible. These days, however, it often seems like the Palestinian Minister of Information is publishing and distributing his stylebook to dozens of newspapers and media outlets. Since September 2000, a new de facto "stylebook" has emerged for reporters covering the Palestinian violence against Israel. In some cases, the "new rules for reporting" are based on actual policies promulgated by news organizations and editors. Though elements of "pack journalism" are evident, there are probably no conspiratorial hands behind the emergence of this stylebook. For the most part, reporters and correspondents have informally, perhaps even subconsciously, adopted these guidelines. Invariably, the new rules are biased against Israel. While not a "conspiracy," an anti-Israel press "convention" has emerged, and clear biases are evident. For now, the bias appears to have had little impact on American public opinion regarding Israel. In Europe, the stronger, more strident anti-Israel tone of much of the media may be having a different impact. Following are eight new "rules" for reporters covering the Middle East, as distilled from hundreds of articles covering the recent violence:"

"Rule 1. Sensationalize the intensity and scope of Israeli military actions.
Call the Israeli actions 'aggressive,' 'devastating' or 'intensive.' Refer to Israeli incursions into Palestinian territory as 'deep,' even when they involve only 300 yards (270 m). [The New York Times, April 14, 2001]
On the other hand, refer to Palestinian mortar attacks as 'ineffective' or 'falling harmlessly,' even though the intent of the mortar teams is malevolent."

In its "Selective Quotes Distort Intent of Sharon's Gaza Withdrawal" article, CAMERA criticized Haaretz for using a sensational headline:[38]

"The 'teaser' revealed a few selected quotes, and carried the sensational headline, 'Top PM aide: Gaza plan aims to freeze the peace process.' ... By valuing sensationalism over accuracy in its teaser, Haaretz practiced irresponsible journalism."

According to Pro-Palestinian Watchdog Groups

FAIR has a page on their website that explains how sensationalism increases ratings and readership in the media.[39]

Prejudiced journalists

Journalists may intentionally or unintentionally distort reports due to political ideology, national affiliation, antisemitism, anti-Arabism, or Islamophobia. Both Israelis and their advocates along with Palestinians and their advocates have pointed to these qualities—political ideology, national affiliation, anti-Semitism, anti-Arabism, or Islamophobia—as a potential explanation for the alleged bias of certain prominent journalists.

According to pro-Israel watchdog groups

In its "Amanpour's Troubling Journalism" article, CAMERA attributed Christiane Amanpour's allegedly biased news coverage to her political ideology:[40]

"Known for parachuting in to cover the latest global hotspot, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour is one of the most famous journalists in the world. But there have long been questions about her habit of skewing coverage to suit her own political biases."

Ira Stoll of the New York Sun, and formerly of the Jerusalem Post, attributes alleged anti-Israel media bias in part to reporters of Jewish background:[2]

"Most deficiencies of fairness and balance, alas, aren't the result of editors deliberately placing their papers on the side of freedom, democracy, and the West and against murderous, repressive tyrants. I suspect they are instead the result of four factors: 1. Self-hatred and bending over backward by Jewish or once-Jewish reporters, editors, and owners; 2. Ordinary, innocent carelessness and mistakes that can creep in on any stories that are constructed by tired human beings working on deadline; 3. The structural imbalance that comes from journalists being able to work mostly free and uninhibited in Israel but being subject to severe restrictions in countries like Syria or Iran; 4. Lack of understanding of the underlying historical and political background."

Frequently cited incidents

In order to substantiate claims that the media favors the other side, participants in the conflict on each side frequently cite a number of illustrative and extreme examples of controversial reporting. This section lists incidents of controversial reporting frequently cited by only Israelis and Israel advocates, by only Palestinians and Palestinian advocates, or by both sides. The list of incidents appear chronologically, according to when the incident took place. Where events took place on the same date, the incidents appear sorted alphabetically.

Muhammad al-Durrah affair

On September 30, 2000, the 11–12 year-old boy, Muhammad al-Durrah, was shot in Palestinian-Israeli crossfire at the Netzarim junction.[41] France 2, which caught the incident on tape, claimed that Israel had fatally shot the boy.[42] After an official, internal investigation, the IDF conceded that it was probably responsible and apologized for the shooting.[43] Al-Durrah became a symbol of the Second Intifada and of Palestinian martyrdom.[44]

External investigations suggested that the IDF could not have shot the boy and that the tape had been staged.[45][46] In 2001, following a non-military investigation, conducted by Israeli Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yom Tov Samia, the Israeli Prime Minister's Foreign Media Advisor, Dr. Ra'anan Gissin, along with Daniel Seaman of the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) publicly challenged the accuracy of the France 2 report.[47] In 2005, the head of the Israeli National Security Agency, Major-General (res.) Giora Eiland publicly retracted the IDF's initial admittance of responsibility.[47] In order to avoid negative publicity and a resulting backlash, the IDF did not conduct its own official, military investigation until 2007.[48] On October 1, 2007, Israel officially denied responsibility for the shooting and claimed that the France 2 footage had been staged,[49][50] prompting criticism from Al-Durrah's father.[51]

Photo of Tuvia Grossman

Associated Press photograph misidentified Tuvia Grossman's nationality and the photograph's location, and implied police brutality by Grossman's Israeli rescuer.
This file is a candidate for speedy deletion. It may be deleted after Saturday, 12 November 2011.

On September 30, 2000, the New York Times, the Associated Press, and other media outlets published a photograph of a club-wielding Israeli police officer standing over a battered and bleeding young man.[52] The photograph's caption identified the young man as a Palestinian and the location as the Temple Mount.[52] The young man in the picture was 20-year old Tuvia Grossman, a Jewish American student from Chicago who had been studying at a Yeshiva in Israel; the Israeli police officer in the photograph, who appears to have beaten Grossman, actually came to his rescue by threatening his Palestinian assailants.[52][53]

On October 2, 2000, Grossman's father sent the following email to the New York Times:[54]

"Regarding your picture on page A5 (Sept. 30) of the Israeli soldier and the Palestinian on the Temple Mount – that Palestinian is actually my son, Tuvia Grossman, a Jewish student from Chicago. He, and two of his friends, were pulled from their taxicab while travelling in Jerusalem, by a mob of Palestinian Arabs and were severely beaten and stabbed. That picture could not have been taken on the Temple Mount because there are no gas stations on the Temple Mount and certainly none with Hebrew lettering, like the one clearly seen behind the Israeli soldier attempting to protect my son from the mob."

On October 4, 2000, the New York Times issued the following incomplete correction, which incorrectly identified the location of the incident:[55]

"A picture caption on Saturday about fighting between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem included an erroneous identification from The Associated Press for a wounded man shown with an Israeli policeman. He was Tuvia Grossman of Chicago, an American student in Israel, not an unidentified Palestinian. In some copies the caption also misidentified the site where Mr. Grossman was wounded. It was in Jerusalem's Old City, but not on the Temple Mount."

On October 7, 2000, the New York Times published an article about the incident and printed the following, more complete, correction:[53][56]

" A picture caption on Page A6 last Saturday about fighting in Jerusalem gave an erroneous identification from The Associated Press for a wounded man shown with an Israeli policeman. He was Tuvia Grossman of Chicago, an American studying at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem, not an unidentified Palestinian. In some copies the caption also included the news agency's erroneous reference to the site. The incident occurred in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem, not on the Temple Mount or elsewhere in the Old City."

"A correction in this space on Wednesday cited the errors incompletely and omitted an explanation of the scene. The officer was waving a nightstick at Palestinians, telling them to stay away from Mr. Grossman. He was not beating Mr. Grossman."

"An article about the incident and the photograph appears today, on Page A4. "

The Grossman photo appears frequently in Israeli criticisms of the media, because the photograph implied that the police officer who rescued Grossman had beat him, it implied an Israeli perpetrator, it implied a Palestinian victim, and it conveyed the opposite of what had transpired.[52][54][57][58] According to Honest Reporting's promotional videos, the pro-Israel watchdog was established in 2000 in response to this incident, which it describes as "the photo that started it all".[59][60] Seth Ackerman of FAIR described the attention given to the photo, as well as the three NYT corrections, as disproportionate to a "plausible, though careless" assumption resulting from "garbled information from the Israeli photographer".[61]

Battle of Jenin

On April 3, 2002, following the Passover massacre on March 27 [62] which killed 30 Israeli civilians and wounded as many as 143,[63][64] the IDF began a major military operation in the Jenin refugee camp, a city which, according to Israel, had "served as a launching site for numerous terrorist attacks against both Israeli civilians and Israeli towns and villages in the area".[65] The fighting, which lasted eight days and resulted in the deaths of 52 Palestinians (including 14 civilians, according to the IDF, and 22 civilians, according to HRW) and 23 Israeli soldiers, has been interpreted quite differently by Israelis and Palestinians.[66][67][68][69] In the aftermath of the fighting, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat claimed that the IDF had killed 500 Palestinians and accused Israel of committing a "massacre".[70] Early news publications, following both IDF estimates of 200 Palestinians killed and Palestinian estimates of 500 Palestinians killed, reported hundreds of Palestinian deaths and repeated claims that a massacre had taken place.[71][72] Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International later found that a massacre had not taken place, although both organizations charged the IDF with war crimes and human rights violations.[73][74] The United Nations similarly dismissed claims that hundreds of Palestinians had been killed as unsubstantiated, a finding which was widely interpreted and reported as rejecting claims of a "massacre".[16][17][66][75] The Battle of Jenin is still largely called the "Jenin Massacre" (Arabic: مجزرة جنين‎) by Arab and Palestinian sources.

Israelis cite the reporting surrounding the Battle of Jenin, because "the Arab and European media hastily reported",[76] without proper verification, Palestinian allegations that a massacre had taken place, a claim broken by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and described by many pro-Israel sources as "The Big Jenin Lie" and by HonestReporting as "Jeningrad".[76][77][78][79][80][81] Palestinians and their advocates, many of whom view a massacre as having taken place, frequently cite the reporting surrounding the Battle of Jenin for later rejecting Palestinian claims of a massacre and for ignoring claims by Amnesty International and by Human Rights Watch that the IDF had committed war crimes.[82][83]

Gaza beach blast

On June 9, 2006, an explosion on a beach in the Gaza Strip killed seven Palestinians, including three children.[84] Palestinian sources claimed that the explosion resulted from Israeli shelling.[84] After a three-day investigation, Israel concluded that the blast could not have resulted from an IDF artillery shell.[85][86] This IDF investigation was criticized by both Human Rights Watch and The Guardian for ignoring evidence.[87][88] The IDF later conceded that the report was flawed for failing to mention two gunboat shells fired at about the time of the deaths but insisted that these shells had landed too far away from the area to be the cause of the explosion and that this omission, therefore, did not impact the report's overall conclusion that Israel had not been responsible for the blast.[89] According to CAMERA, "many in the press [have presumed] that Israel is responsible".[90] This incident is often cited by Israel advocates who claim that the media favors the Palestinian side, because of reports which attributed the blast to the IDF prior to the conclusion of the IDF investigation.[90][91]

2006 Lebanon War photographs controversies

On August 5, 2006 Charles Foster Johnson of Little Green Footballs accused Reuters of inappropriately manipulating images of destruction to Beirut caused by Israel during the Second Lebanon War.[92] This accusation marked the first of many accusations against media outlets for inappropriate photo manipulation. Media outlets were also accused of incorrectly captioning photos and of staging photographs through the inappropriate use of props. These accusations, which initially appeared in the blogosphere, were amplified by Aish HaTorah through an online video entitled "Photo Fraud in Lebanon".[93] In response to these allegations, Reuters toughened its photo editing policy and admitted to inappropriate photo manipulation on the part of Adnan Hajj, a freelance photographer whom Reuters subsequently fired.[94] Additionally, BBC, the New York Times, and the Associated Press recalled photos or corrected captions in response to some of the accusations.[95] This journalistic scandal, dubbed "Reutersgate" by the blogosphere in reference to the Watergate scandal and dubbed "fauxtography" by Honest Reporting and others, is frequently cited by Israelis and by Israel advocates in order to demonstrate alleged anti-Israel bias, this time in the form of an outright forgery created by a biased local freelance photographer.[96][97]

"Mystery of Israel's Secret Uranium Bomb"

On October 28, 2006, The Independent published an article, by Robert Fisk, which speculated, based on information from the European Committee on Radiation Risk, that Israel may have used depleted Uranium weapons during the 2006 Lebanon War.[98] The article prompted criticism by HonestReporting for coming to conclusions prematurely,[99] and resulted in an investigation by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).[100] On November 8, 2006, UNEP concluded that Israel had not used any form of Uranium-based weapons.[101][102] Israelis and Israel advocates cite the article as an instance of "shoddy journalism", arising allegedly as a result of media sensationalism.[103]

Samir Kuntar as a Hero

On 19 July 2008, Al Jazeera TV broadcast a program from Lebanon that covered the "welcome-home" festivities for Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese militant who had been imprisoned in Israel for murdering several people, including a four year old child, in a Palestine Liberation Front raid from Lebanon into Israel. In the program, the head of Al Jazeera's Beirut office, Ghassan bin Jiddo, praised Kuntar as a "pan-Arab hero" and organized a birthday party for him. In response, Israel's Government Press Office (GPO) threatened to boycott the satellite channel unless it apologized. A few days later an official letter was issued by Al Jazeera's director general, Wadah Khanfar, in which he admitted that the program violated the station's Code of Ethics and that he had ordered the channel's programming director to take steps to ensure that such an incident does not recur.[104][105][106]

Films

This section discusses films with media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict as its main topic. The films presented in this section appear in alphabetical order.

Décryptage

Décryptage is a 2003 documentary written by Jacques Tarnero and directed by Philippe Bensoussan.[107] The French film (with English subtitles) examines media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict in French media, and concludes that the media's presentation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in France is consistently skewed against Israel and may be responsible for exacerbating anti-Semitism.[108]

Pallywood

Pallywood: According to Palestinian sources... is an 18-minute online documentary by Richard Landes.[109][110] The film, with its title derived from the words Palestine and Hollywood, claims that the Western media uncritically accepts and reports the stories of freelance Palestinian videographers who record staged scenes, often involving faked or exaggerated injuries, in order to elicit sympathy and support.[110]

Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land

Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land is a 2004 documentary by Sut Jhally and Bathsheba Ratzkoff.[111] The movie claims that the influence of pro-Israel media watchdog groups, such as CAMERA and Honest Reporting, leads to distorted and pro-Israel media reports.[112] In its response to the movie, the pro-Israel JCRC criticizes the film for not discussing the influence of "the numerous pro‐Palestinian media watchdog groups, including, ironically, FAIR (Fair and Accuracy in the Media, which describes itself as 'A National Media Watch Group'), whose spokesperson played a prominent role in the film".[113] According to the pro-Palestinian LiP Magazine, the movie "offers a great starting point for thinking about media misrepresentation of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and useful analysis of how language is used to manipulate public opinion," but is short on "solid statistics and facts to back up some of its blanket statements".[114] A review in the New York Times by Ned Martel found that the film "largely ignores Palestinian leadership, which has surely played a part in the conflict’s broken vows and broken hearts. And such a lack of dispassion weakens the one-sided film’s bold and detailed argument".[115]

Other criticisms

False compromise

False compromise refers to the claim, made by some Israeli advocates and by some Palestinian advocates, that their side of the conflict is morally right and the other side is morally wrong and, therefore, attempts to balance the presentation of both viewpoints wrongfully suggests that both sides are morally equivalent. In the words of Israel advocate Bret Stevens, "Moral clarity is a term that doesn't get much traction these days, least of all among journalists, who prefer 'objectivity' and 'balance.' Yet good journalism is more than about separating fact from opinion and being fair. Good journalism is about fine analysis and making distinctions, and this applies as much to moral distinctions as to any others. Because too many reporters today refuse to make moral distinctions, we are left with a journalism whose narrative and analytical failings have become ever more glaring".[116]

Structural geographic bias

Structural geographic bias refers to the claim, made by some Palestinian advocates, that the Western media favors Israel, allegedly as a result of Western reporters living in Israel.[117][118]

New Media and Internet

This section documents how the Arab-Israeli conflict is portrayed and played-out on the web.

Internet

In the words of Jerusalem Post writer Megan Jacobs, "War in the Middle East is being waged not only on the ground, but also in cyberspace."[119] While Israeli and Palestinian advocacy websites promote their respective points of view, fierce debate over the Arab-Israeli conflict has embroiled social networking websites and applications with user-generated content, such as Facebook, Google Earth, and Wikipedia.[119][120]

Facebook

Facebook is a social networking website, which allows users to connect and interact with other people online, both directly by "friending" people and indirectly through the creation of groups. Because the website allows users to join networks organized by city, workplace, school, and region, Facebook has become embroiled in a number of regional conflicts. Facebook groups such as "'Palestine' Is not a country... De-list it from Facebook as a country!" and "Israel is not a country! ... Delist it from Facebook as a country!", among others reflecting the mutual non-recognition of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have protested Facebook's listing of Israel and Palestine, respectively, as countries.[121] This controversy became particularly heated when, in response to protests over Palestine being listed as a country, Facebook delisted it. The move infuriated Palestinian users and prompted the creation of numerous Facebook groups such as "The Official Petition to get Palestine listed as a Country", "Against delisting Palestine from Facebook", and "If Palestine is removed from Facebook ... I'm closing my account".[119] Facebook, in response to user complaints, ultimately reinstated Palestine as a country network.[119] A similar controversy took place regarding the status of Israeli settlements. When Israeli settlements were moved from being listed under the Israel network to the Palestine network, thousands of Israelis living in the area protested Facebook's decision.[122] In response to the protest, Facebook has allowed users living in the area to select either Israel or Palestine as their home country.[122]

Another controversy over Facebook regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict concerns Facebook groups which, against Facebook's terms of use, promote hatred and violence. According to former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Facebook has been used to promote anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.[120] A proliferation of Facebook groups praising the perpetrator of the Mercaz HaRav massacre in 2008 prompted the creation of the Facebook group "FACEBOOK: Why do you support Anti-Semitism and Islamic Terrorism", which claimed to have succeeded in deleting over 100 pro-Palestinian Facebook groups with violent content, by reporting the groups to Facebook.[123][124] The group, which since evolved into the Jewish Internet Defense Force (JIDF), took over the Facebook group "Israel is not a country! Delist it from Facebook as a country" when, according to the JIDF, Facebook stopped removing such groups.[125][126] The JIDF described the "Israel is not a country!" group as "one of the most vile, antisemitic, pro-terrorist sites on the internet" and stated that it "was the most active hate group of all----promoting hatred, violence, murder, and genocide..."[124][125] After taking over the group, the JIDF began to remove its more than 48,000 members and replaced the group's graphic with a picture of an IAF jet with the flag of Israel in the background. This sparked controversy.[126]

Wikipedia

Wikipedia is an online, collaboratively written encyclopedia. While editing conflicts occur frequently, one particular conflict, involving CAMERA and Electronic Intifada, made headlines in the Jerusalem Post and the International Herald Tribune.[127][128] When CAMERA encouraged individuals sympathetic to Israel to participate in editing Wikipedia in order to "lead to more accuracy and fairness on Wikipedia",[129] Electronic Intifada accused CAMERA of "orchestrating a secret, long-term campaign to infiltrate the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia to rewrite Palestinian history, pass off crude propaganda as fact, and take over Wikipedia administrative structures to ensure these changes go either undetected or unchallenged."[130] The accusations led to various administrative actions on Wikipedia—including the banning of certain editors. HonestReporting subsequently responded to the incident with its own article, entitled "Exposed – Anti-Israeli Subversion on Wikipedia" which complained of "anti-Israel bias on Wikipedia" and described Wikipedia's NPOV policy as a "noble goal not always applied equally by Wikipedia users.[131] CAMERA similarly responded to the incident with a letter entitled "The failure of Wikipedia", appearing in IHT, which described Wikipedia's Middle East articles as "often-unreliable".[132][133] In a separate article entitled "The Wild West of Wikipedia", which appeared in The Jewish Chronicle and IMRA, Gilead Ini of CAMERA decried "Wikipedia's often-skewed entries about the Middle East", described Wikipedia's rules as "shoddily-enforced", and wrote that, following the incident, "many editors who hoped to ensure accuracy and balance ... are now banned" while "partisan editors ... continue to freely manipulate Wikipedia articles to their liking".[134]

The Yesha Council and Israel Sheli, launched a project to improve coverage of Zionist views on Wikipedia.[135] The project organiser, Ayelet Shaked emphasized that the information has to be reliable and meet Wikipedia rules.[136] "The idea is not to make Wikipedia rightist but for it to include our point of view," said Naftali Bennett, the director of the Yesha Council.[135] In this vein, the groups taught a course on how to edit Wikipedia. The Yesha Council also launched a new prize, "Best Zionist Editor," to be awarded to the most productive editor on Israel-related topics.[135]

Watchdog groups

This is an alphabetically sorted list of media watchdog groups which monitor coverage of the conflict in Western news media. While academics debate the impact of the media on public opinion,[137] lobbying organisations view the media as essential in influencing public perceptions of the conflict and, therefore, as paramount in influencing and securing favorable public policy in relation to the conflict.[138][139]

Name Official Homepage Affiliation
Accuracy in Media http://www.aim.org/ Pro-Israel
Arab Media Watch http://www.arabmediawatch.com/ Pro-Palestinian
BBC Watch http://www.bbcwatch.co.uk/ Pro-Israel
Beyond Images http://www.beyondimages.info/ Pro-Israel
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) http://www.camera.org/ Pro-Israel
Eye on the Post (Referring to The Washington Post) http://www.eyeonthepost.org/ Pro-Israel
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) http://www.fair.org/ Pro-Palestinian, [1]
Fraud Factor http://www.fraudfactor.com/ Pro-Israel
Honest Reporting http://www.honestreporting.com/ Pro-Israel
If Americans Knew http://www.ifamericansknew.org/ Pro-Palestinian
Institute for Middle East Understanding http://imeu.net/ Pro-Palestinian
Just Journalism http://www.justjournalism.com/ Pro-Israel
MediaChannel http://www.mediachannel.org/ Unaffiliated
Media Research Center http://www.mediaresearch.org/ Pro-Israel
Media Watch International http://www.mwio.org/ Pro-Israel
Middle East Media Research Institute http://www.memri.org/ Pro-Israel
NPR Bias http://www.nprbias.com/ Pro-Israel
Palestine Media Watch http://www.pmwatch.org/pmw/index.asp Pro-Israel
Palestine National Authority International Press Centre Media Watch http://www.ipc.gov.ps/ipc_e/ipc_e-1/ipc-e_Media.html Pro-Palestinian
Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting (PRIMER) http://www.tampabayprimer.org/ Pro-Israel
Take A Pen http://www.take-a-pen.org/ Pro-Israel
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs http://www.washington-report.org/ Pro-Palestinian, [2]

See also

Further reading

References

  1. ^ Vallone, R. P., Ross, L., & Lepper, M. R. (1985). The hostile media phenomenon: Biased Perception and Perceptions of Media Bias in Coverage of the "Beirut Massacre". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 577–585. summary.
  2. ^ a b The Other War: A Debate by Columbia Journalism Review
  3. ^ Fair.org, In U.S. Media, Palestinians Attack, Israel Retaliates
  4. ^ Greg Philo and Mike Berry, Bad News From Israel
  5. ^ Critical Thinking: Can You Trust Everything You Read? by CAMERA
  6. ^ a b Understanding Bias by Honest Reporting
  7. ^ a b c d Uprising Without Explanation Extra! January/February 2001
  8. ^ a b FAIR challenges CBC Ombud's Report
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  57. ^ Victim of the Media War bu Tuvia Grossman on Aish HaTorah
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  77. ^ The Big Jenin Lie by Richard Starr on the Weekly Standard
  78. ^ Jenin: Massacring Truth on Aish HaTorah
  79. ^ Jeningrad: What the British Media Said by HonestReporting
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  124. ^ a b Response to Wikipedia by JIDF
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  126. ^ a b Moore, Matthew (July 31, 2008). "Facebook: 'Anti-Semitic' group hijacked by Jewish force". London: The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2478773/Facebook-Anti-semitic-group-destroyed-by-Israeli-hackers.html. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  127. ^ "Wiki-Warfare: Battle for the on-line encyclopedia". JPost. May 13, 2008. http://fr.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1210668627359&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull. 
  128. ^ "Wiki-war in the Middle East". IHT. May 6, 2008. http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/05/06/opinion/edbeam.php. 
  129. ^ How and Why to Edit Wikipedia by CAMERA
  130. ^ EI exclusive: a pro-Israel group's plan to rewrite history on Wikipedia by Electronic Intifada
  131. ^ Exposed: Anti-Israel Subversion on Wikipedia by HonestReporting
  132. ^ CAMERA Letter About Wikipedia in International Herald Tribune by CAMERA
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  134. ^ The Wild West of Wikipedia by Gilead Ini of CAMERA.
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  136. ^ Zionist Internet Struggle to Hit Wikipedia
  137. ^ Empathy with Palestinians vs. Israelis: Examining U.S. Media Representations, Coverage, and Attitudes by Donald A. Sylvan and Nathan Toronto, pg. 3
  138. ^ About CAMERA by CAMERA
  139. ^ About IMEU by IMEU

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