3. Direct Quotations: Majority critical of Israeli actions / leaders.
Direct quotations can have a huge impact on the weight of a story. The LA Times tends to use quotations — from both Palestinians and Israelis — that are critical of Israeli actions. While there is an occasional story where a Palestinian is quoted criticizing the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, these are few and far between. Does this mean that there is no criticism? Or can the lack of quotes be because in general, Palestinians are wary of going on record to criticize the PA or Hamas for fear of repercussions?
Examples of direct quotations favoring Palestinian side / critical of Israel:
i) “They are killing us and then forcing us to pay for it, too,” Natche said. “The courts are racist and we knew what the decision would be from the start.” – Palestinians evicted from two East Jerusalem houses, April 18, 2012
ii) “A victory for righteousness, justice and humanitarian principles.”
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on UNESCO’s vote to include holy sites in the biblical city of Bethlehem on the World Heritage list, despite Israel’s objections. – Palestinians hail World Heritage listing of Bethlehem holy sites, June 29, 2012
iii) “The documents show that Israel used its control to put pressure on the Hamas regime by making civilians suffer.” – Sari Bashi, director of the Israeli group Gisha, Israeli military calculated caloric needs of Gazans during embargo, October 17, 2012
iv) Peace Now accused the government of making “a mockery of the rule of law” by allowing “a radical minority” to create facts on the ground and undermine a possible future agreement with the Palestinians. – Two new settler outposts go up in West Bank, activists report, October 31, 2012
4. Headlines: Four times more likely to reflect negatively on Israel.
A headline is the first piece of information a reader will see about a news story and has a huge impact on the way the news story will be perceived. A more passive headline that talks about “rockets being launched” will create less of an impression than a more direct one along the lines of “Israeli Army shoots….”
In our survey, we found that headlines were four times more likely to reflect negatively on Israel as on the Palestinians. This is not surprising considering our finding about content being weighted against Israel. Yet just because an article describes a subject that is critical of Israel, it does not mean that the headline needs to be so weighted. Often a story that does cover both sides of an issue can bear a completely one-sided headline. Look at these examples. If all you saw was the headlines, what impressions would you have of the conflict?
“Arab citizens in Israel bemoan lack of policing” – The article points out that initially the Arab residents were against an additional Israeli police presence. But the reader would not know this from the headline.
“Gaza militants killed in Israeli airstrike” – The headline does not mention that those killed were preparing to launch rockets at Israel.
“Jewish extremists accused of vandalizing Jerusalem monastery” – The headline does not convey that this relatively minor, though serious act of vandalism was condemned by Israeli officials.
“Palestinian family loses its Jerusalem home to Israeli settlers” – The headlines lacks any indication that this issue has been fought in the courts for years and that the courts decided that the family was not the legal owner of the property in question.
The examples of bias in the above articles, images and headlines are admittedly subtle. Taken individually, one could argue that they do not represent classic examples of anti-Israel bias. But that is what makes their impact worse. By painting a picture of the conflict in which Israel is depicted negatively and the Palestinians are ignored, the LA Times inevitably shapes public perception of Israel and the conflict.
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Image: CC BY-SA HonestReporting.com, flickr/andymangold