The Public Square

David Green on media bias in the coverage of Israel’s occupation of Palestine


On June 30th, several newspapers carried a report from the Gaza, Palestine, similar to that of Joel Greenberg's description in the Chicago Tribune:

"Israeli youths had turned a three-story house into a makeshift outpost, daubing the words 'Muhammad is a pig' on a wall-a reference to the Prophet Muhammad.

"Jewish militants went on a stone-throwing spree, attacking Palestinian homes, drawing volleys of stones. Israeli soldiers fired shots in the air in a futile attempt to stop the fighting.

"One Palestinian youth was wounded in the head by a rock, and as he lay senseless on the ground, young settlers stoned him at close range while an Israeli soldier tried to shield him.

"'Don't touch him, let him die', shouted one settler in footage shown on Israeli television. The Palestinian was transferred to a hospital."

Compare Greenberg's account to that by NPR's Linda Gradstein:

"Yesterday, another group of extremists in an abandoned Palestinian building nearby clashed with Israeli soldiers and with Palestinians, critically wounding a Palestinian teen-ager. Last night, Israeli soldiers stormed that building and arrested the 30 activists inside." Yes, activists, she calls them.

That's it, that's all. While Gradstein provides intra-Israeli context, she glosses over this ugly and racist violence and its relation to the brutal occupation of Palestine. The Tribune does little better at providing such context, instead emphasizing the predicaments of occupying Israeli soldiers and Israeli politicians.

For a more critical analysis I therefore turn to Israeli journalist Gideon Levy:

"If the media had exposed the full scope of the settlers' deeds over the years - the dubious ways in which they took over land, the huge budgets they received, their violent behavior - perhaps they would have been denounced long ago, as should be done by a healthy society. Israeli society chose to be cynically manipulated, and journalists lent a hand.

Never has there been such an impressive media success here as that of the (Israeli) right. An enterprise that was criminal from the outset was depicted as one of high principles. The rotten fruits of this distorted description are now placed at our doorstep."

But given the above references, I would suggest that regarding both Israel and Iraq, the same dire conclusion can be reached for American journalists and our right wing. It offers little solace to citizens in either society to claim that theirs is marked by marginally less journalistic cynicism in the face of overt political mendacity.