Journalists covering the Mideast conflict have to answer a hard question each day: “Given the range of newsworthy items that constantly emerge, what should I run with, what’s my story?” Whatever they deem “in” will be zapped to tens of thousands of newspapers, radio stations and TV screens worldwide; what’s ruled “out” will disappear from world consciousness. This, in a nutshell, is how the media’s content decisions shape public opinion.
In the past week, such decisions on three major topics fell into a curious pattern ? when the news item challenged Israeli policy, it made it “in,” but when the item bolstered Israeli policy, it was deemed “out”:
1) Israeli Restrictions on Palestinians
IN: Both Reuters and the Associated Press released articles on September 8 trumpeting a new Amnesty International report that condemned, among other IDF practices, Israel’s use of administrative detention against Palestinians active in terror organizations.
OUT: The Israeli government’s startling announcement that the Palestinian perpetrators of the (Sept. 9) dual terror attacks in Tsrifin (7 murdered, 30 wounded) and Jerusalem’s Café Hillel (8 murdered, 50 wounded) were both, just six months ago, released from administrative detention in an Israeli prison.
Israeli policy is to continue administrative detention when necessary. The media’s method of selective reporting, however, leaves Israeli policy woefully unexplained.
2) Arafat and Peace
IN: Both Reuters and AP (Sept. 13) painted Yassir Arafat as a peace-lover under siege. AP’s headline was “Arafat Urges Israel to Return to Peace Talks,” while Reuters quotes Arafat saying, “I appeal to you the Israeli people, together we can make peace.”
OUT: That very day (Sept. 13), masked gunmen from Arafat’s own Fatah movement stormed the TV station Al Aribiya in Ramallah, held the employees at gunpoint, then systematically destroyed their equipment as “a warning” for unflattering reports on the PA. Acknowledging his involvement, Arafat later apologized to Al Aribiya in the middle of the night.
[The media frequently quote voices of dissent within Israeli politics, but almost never bring equivalent Palestinian dissent. For example, also deemed “out” this week was a remarkable voice of protest from a prominent Palestinian journalist, who wrote an article in a Palestinian daily critical of the Arafat-led PA’s “all or nothing” policy. Said Tawfiq Abu Bakr, “It is difficult to find a greater and more deeply rooted culture of self-deception than that in our Arab and Palestinian arena; a culture of daydreams in the height of a burning summer. People cling stubbornly to rosy dreams and delude themselves that these are the facts.”]
Israeli policy is to remove Arafat, as an obstacle to peace, enemy of Palestinian moderation, and undemocratic strongman. The media’s method of selective reporting, however, leaves Israeli policy woefully unexplained.
3) Palestinian Schoolchildren
IN: Both Reuters and AP reported large gatherings of Ramallah schoolchildren rallying in support of Yassir Arafat (Sept. 13). AP adds the detail that the children shouted “With our souls and our blood we defend Abu Ammar [Arafat’s nom de guerre],” while Arafat “waved and blew kisses from a window.”
OUT: The Jerusalem Post reported that the children had some other things to say (which apparently didn’t interest AP and Reuters): “I’m prepared to go to the Jews myself and to kill them wherever they are,” and “At school they tell us, go to liberate Palestine…We have to carry out suicide attacks because the Jews are killing us.”
And outside Arafat’s compound, one group of supporters shouted, “We will sacrifice millions of martyrs on the road to Jerusalem.”
Israeli policy is to remove Arafat’s grip on Palestinian culture, in order to eliminate the ongoing incitement in textbooks and classrooms calling for the murder of Israeli citizens. The media’s method of selective reporting, however, leaves Israeli policy woefully unexplained.
Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.