US media bias: Covering Israel & Palestine
By Remi Kanazi
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Mar 24, 2006, 01:43
On July 18, 2005, 14-year-old Ragheb al-Masri sat in the
back of a taxi with his parents at the Abo Holi checkpoint. An Israeli bullet
penetrated his back and cracked open his chest. His mother screamed as his body
lay lifeless. Have you heard his name? I wouldn�t expect that you have because CNN, The New York Times, and
The Washington Post didn�t report the killing online. If they had quoted
his parents, their readers would have been able to feel their tears and
envision the heartbreak. Ultimately, no Israeli soldier was arrested or even
Every time a suicide bombing strikes Israel, mass coverage
of the tragedy begins instantly. Whether landing on the front page of The New
York Times or taking up the headline block on CNN.com, the pain Israeli people endure is shown endlessly.
Israelis do suffer. Suicide bombings are horrific. Nevertheless, Palestinian
pain occurs far more frequently, and yet is often overlooked by the mainstream
Since the uprising in September of 2000, more than 3,800
Palestinians have been killed in the Occupied Territories as a result of the
conflict. Most Americans are unaware of the toll because it is not properly reported.
In 2004, If Americans Knew -- an
American organization that exposes and examines the facts of the
Israeli/Palestinian conflict -- reported that 808 Palestinian conflict deaths
occurred while 107 Israelis conflict deaths occurred. The study, however, found
that The New York Times
covered Israeli deaths in the headline or the first paragraph in 159 articles
-- meaning in some cases they covered the same death numerous times. In
contrast, The New York Times only
covered about 40 percent of Palestinian deaths -- 334 of 808 -- in the headline
or in the first paragraph of the articles. Nearly eight Palestinians died for
every one Israeli. Disturbingly The New York Times is considered the
quintessential �liberal� newspaper of the US.
When Palestinian deaths occur, especially militant deaths,
the Israeli government�s version of the story is taken as fact in the
mainstream US media. In most cases, articles covering the death of Palestinians
only include large Israeli quotes, without citing Palestinian witnesses and
other credible nongovernmental organization sources. This continues to be the
case after human rights groups have released reports stating Israel has
indiscriminately shot at civilians, even using them as human shields. In as
early as 2001, Amnesty International
(AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated, �At least 470 Palestinians have been killed, most of
them unlawfully by Israeli security forces when their lives [Israeli Security
Forces] and the lives of others were not in danger.� Since the AI/HRW report,
more than 3,350 Palestinians have been killed. It is remarkable how so many can
accept the Israeli government as the
sole, objective source when it forcibly occupies the Palestinian territories.
On August 25, 2005 the headline on CNN.com read, �Israel: Five Militants Shot in Raid.� The article
claims the militants were suspected of being involved with a suicide bombing;
they were armed and exchanged fire with the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF),
and five Palestinians were shot. The report also mentions the town Netanya,
where the suicide bombing referenced in the article took place, was a frequent
sitet for suicide bombings. No Palestinian quote, no witnesses giving an
alternative perspective, and no mention that three of the victims shot were under
the age of 18.
The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz,
covered the same event including Palestinian quotes and some Palestinian
claims. The paper reported that the IOF killed five Palestinians on August 25,
three of whom Palestinian sources claim to be between the ages of 14 and 17
with no known links to militant organizations. Four of the victims died at the
scene, while one of the young victims died later that night.
Varying Palestinian reporters cited witnesses claiming all
five Palestinians were unarmed, including the two militants killed. This was
the first fatal attack since the �disengagement� of the Gaza Strip.
The contrast in coverage between CNN and Haaretz is
staggering. The CNN headline was
written in absolutes: �Five militants shot in raid.� The CNN article continues by stating only the Israeli claim that five
militants were killed, making the headline biased and misleading. The Haaretz headline read: �U.S. urges
restraint after IDF raid that killed 5 Palestinians.� This headline refers to
the people who were shot as Palestinians and not solely militants. The Haaretz article covers conflicting
Israeli and Palestinian claims, which made it impossible to determine whether
or not all five killed were militants or civilians.
On September 7, the findings of a probe,
conducted by Haaretz and the Israeli
human rights group B�Tselem, found
that three of the five Palestinians killed in the assault on August 25 were under the age of 18 and did not have any links to known terrorist
organizations. Their investigation also found that the two militants killed
were low ranking operatives who were not armed at the time. This repudiates the
Israeli claim that IOF soldiers were in the area involved in an operation
against militant leaders and a �ticking bomb� with connection to suicide
bombings in Israel.
�Ticking bombs� are characterized as individuals that are an
imminent physical threat to the state of Israel or people holding information
that imminently threaten the security of the state of Israel. In most cases,
�ticking bombs� are referred to as would be suicide bombers or those holding
valuable information on individuals carrying out a suicide bombing. Israel used
the �ticking bomb� scenario in the past as an excuse to torture Palestinians
with impunity. In a 1998 study on the �ticking bomb� scenario, B�Tselem found Israel�s claim that it is
necessary to use torture against �ticking bombs� was in most cases �totally
unsubstantiated.� The recent findings of Haaretz
and B�Tselem deeply call into
question the reliability of the state of Israel on affairs in the Occupied
Territories and reaffirm the notion that using Israel as the sole source is
careless and unacceptable.
Israel professes it doesn�t have the death penalty, but it
has in the past and �maintains the right� in the future to carry out
extrajudicial assassinations of �wanted� Palestinians. Israeli Defense Minister
Shaul Mofaz admitted on August 26 that Israel invaded
and fired first in the incident that killed five Palestinians, while
maintaining the notion that the militants -- meaning all five killed -- were
armed. Again, Israel, the occupying force, reserves the �right� to play God
with the lives of the Palestinian people. There are many examples of unarmed
children and disabled Palestinians being injured or killed by Israeli forces. More than 875 women and children have
died since the start of the conflict under the guise of security. Nearly 25
percent of the children killed were under the age of 12.
Why are �left wing� media outlets such as The New York Times and CNN not reporting the Palestinian side
of the story? Well the simple answer is The
New York Times and CNN are not
liberal, nor honest. They cover injustices only when there is no risk of
backlash from readers and advertisers. The media moguls are only �aware� and
objective when it pays them to be. CNN and
the New York Times must vet their
content, so as not to be viewed as �pro-Palestinian,� in fear that advertisers
will pull their ads or commercials, leading to a loss in revenue.
Israel solidified itself as the strategic ally of the US in
the Middle East after its victory in the Six Day War (1967 Arab/Israeli War).
Israel was taken under the wing of the US -- which saw its potential as a
strategic, military, and political force.
The rise of religious Zionism after 1967 and the subsequent
call for the preservation of the Jewish homeland became relevant in America
with the Jewish elite as well with Christian conservatives. Jewish historian,
Norman Finkelstein, recalls in his book The Holocaust Industry, "Accordingly,
American Jewish elites suddenly discovered Israel. After the 1967 war, Israel�s
military �lan could be celebrated because its guns point in the right direction
-- against America�s enemies."
Finkelstein continued, �Now they [the Jewish elite] could
pose as the natural interlocutors for America�s newest strategic asset. From
bit players, they could advance to top billing in the Cold War drama. Thus for
American Jewry, as well as the United States, Israel became a strategic asset.�
As the years progressed, Israel claimed victory in the 1973
Ramadan War (Yom Kippur War) with the defining help of America. The mounting
support for Israel as a war victor, a �democracy,� and a capitalistic society
settled well with Americans.
Thirty-eight years after the Six-Day war, America sees an
even stronger military and political ally in Israel, and the pro-Israeli lobby
has made sure that the sense of Jewish victimization has never faltered.
Finkelstein comments, �Organized Jewry has exploited the
Nazi holocaust to deflect criticism of Israel and its own morally indefensible
The effectiveness of the pro-Israeli lobby hinges on the
willingness of the US government to support Israel. According to the strongly
pro-Israeli website The Jewish Virtual Library, the US has given Israel nearly $50
billion in aid from 1974 to 1997. If
the US government didn�t have significant interests in backing Israel, the
pro-Israel lobby would be less of a factor much like the Palestinian lobby.
Interestingly, the Jewish lobby only supported Israel when it was in their
interests to do so.
Finkelstein notes, �The Holocaust industry sprung up only after Israel�s overwhelming display of
military dominance and flourished amid extreme Israeli triumphalism.�
The convergence of American and Israeli support found
success in delegitimizing the Palestinian cause. This consequently washed
Israel�s hands clean in US eyes of the atrocities committed throughout the
Middle East -- i.e., the invasion and indiscriminate bombing of Beirut in 1982
-- and more directly to the Palestinian people through dispossession and
occupation. Strikingly, the American media refuse to differentiate between the
past suffering of the Jewish people and the suffering Israelis endure due to
inept Israeli policy which has besieged the Palestinian people for 58 years.
Consider the backlash professors at Colombia received
because they were accused of promoting anti-Semitism. In reality Joseph Massad,
one of the accused professors, and others simply critiqued the Israeli
government. As a result, pro-Israeli groups
like the David Project and Campus Watch tried to silence their right to free
speech. Just as questioning the war in Iraq is �un-American,� the idea of
questioning Israeli actions is �anti-Semitic.� Ridiculous assertions such as
equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is a way in which the pro-Israel lobby
restricts the media from criticizing Israel or fairly reporting matters.
In a post-9/11 world, it has been much easier to side with
mostly European Israelis, who look more like Americans, who love capitalism
like Americans, and who are fighting �Arab terror� like Americans.
Unfortunately for the Palestinians, the media don�t like to diverge from mainstream
political correctness. If objectivity were the top priority of the media, they
would not have dropped the ball in the coverage leading up to the war in Iraq.
Even Bob Woodward of the �liberal� Washington Post admitted, �We did our job
but we didn�t do enough, and I blame myself mightily for not pushing harder.�
The media are corporate sponsored outlets that feed into the
majority support at a time when the Palestinian lobby is virtually non-existent
in America. The �biblical rights� of Jews and their suffering the Holocaust are
exploited to reassert the status of victimization. Pro-Israel advocates
incorporate the notion that the Arabs are trying to �drive the Jews to the
But who would really push the American/Israeli agenda,
besides those fearing backlash? The neoconservatives and Christian coalitions
in support for Israel. The Pat Robertsons and the Billy Grahams.
Neoconservative talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Best selling
authors Alan Dershowitz and Thomas Friedman. Lobbying groups like AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs
Committee) and the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), and attack dogs such as Daniel
Pipes and his cronies in Campus Watch. The Fortune 500 companies such as
Caterpillar, McDonalds, Disney and Starbucks to name a few. But most damningly,
it�s the �liberals,� that complete the majority support. Hillary Clinton and
Nancy Pelosi; the honest broker himself, Bill Clinton; the heads of The New York Times, CNN and the rest of the �left wing� media that won�t stand up for
what�s morally right. These people are too selfish or too weak to do what�s
right, and off with the heads of those who do.
The dilemma of the �free press� in America is that it isn�t
free. The media hinge on the support of the people, newspaper subscriptions,
television viewership, advertisements, and the bottom line of their companies.
We live in a capitalistic society run by corporate profits and essential year after
I understand why The
New York Times and CNN report the
way thye do. They are media hacks run by the corporate dollar. Injustice is
injustice. Murder is murder. While Palestinian suffering goes on, unreported
children like Ragheb Al-Masri remain dead and forgotten, and the American press
remains biased and forgiven.
Remi Kanazi, a Palestinian-American, lives in New York
City. He is a freelance writer, and the founder and primary
writer for the political website, Poetic
Injustice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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