ANYONE WHO has campaigned for the Palestinian people will have come across some bizarre arguments explaining why the Israeli government should pursue its policies of repression against the Palestinians.
Bad News From Israel, by Greg Philo and Mike Berry of the Glasgow University Media Group, blows all of these arguments out of the water.
The authors have looked at four periods of BBC and ITV coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict between late 2000 and the spring of 2002.
The book shows that the news is not telling us the reasons behind the conflict, or what is really happening on the ground.
Just like in Iraq, the media coverage and the words used are biased in favour of the occupying force.
Bad News From Israel also shows the significant influence media reporting has on the views of ordinary people.
The Israeli view of the conflict dominates the coverage. For example, during the authors’ survey up to three times as many Palestinians were killed as Israelis. But there was more emphasis on Israeli deaths.
The authors say, “In our samples of news content, words such as ‘mass murder’, ‘savage cold-blooded killing’ and ‘lynching’ were used to describe Israeli deaths but not those of Palestinians/Arabs.
“The word ‘terrorist’ was used to describe Palestinians, but when an Israeli group was reported as trying to bomb a Palestinian school, they were referred to as ‘extremists’ or ‘vigilantes’.”
During Israeli reprisals for the killings of two Israeli soldiers, ITV said the the Israelis were “abandoning their restraint”.
The Israelis had killed 100 Palestinians in the previous two weeks, most of them civilians.
When Palestinians assassinated the Israeli tourism minister, it was barely mentioned that it was in response to the murder of one of Palestine’s most senior political figures.
Indeed, the authors noted that the “Israelis were said to be ‘retaliating’ about six times as often as the Palestinians”. As a result, Palestinians’ actions seem entirely unprovoked.
The news rarely goes into the background or the facts behind how Israel was created in 1948 by the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians.
A former news agency bureau chief says, “British TV covers the day to day action but not the human inequalities, the essential imbalances of the occupation and the humiliations of the Palestinians.”
A BBC journalist says that his bosses don’t want “explainers—it’s all bang-bang stuff”. This leaves viewers at best confused, and at worst uninterested.
Without exploration into the reasons behind the Palestinians’ anger it just looks like some Arabs causing trouble.
The results from discussions in focus groups and questionnaires show how the news affects people’s views. In 2001 and 2002 only 10 percent of British students knew that Israel had occupied Palestine.
Most believed that the Palestinians had occupied Israel and they were the settlers. Only 35 percent of students knew that the Palestinians had suffered the most casualties.
ITN and BBC1 broadcast 3,500 lines of text on the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising between 28 September and 16 October 2000. Only 17 lines of text were devoted to the history of the conflict.
The Israelis are more often seen as simply trying to defend themselves from unprovoked aggressors. The Israelis are given twice as much time to speak as any Palestinian representatives.
There is clear evidence to show from this study that when viewers understood the situation, they were more interested in it. But perhaps this is the point.
Our rulers prefer to keep dissenting voices down.
We need to ensure that our voices are heard in our own country in order to put pressure on our government to stop unconditionally supporting the Israeli government. This book will help us in bringing peace and justice to the Middle East.
Bad News From Israel by Greg Philo and Mike Berry (£10.99) is available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop. Phone 020 7637 1848 or go to www.bookmarks.uk.com