Western media bias in
Israeli-Palestinian conflict


The western media coverage of Palestinian
children’s deaths was even more flawed.

A recent survey by If Americans Knew, a U.S. non-profit organization specializing in media analysis, found that the Western media’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is marred by bias, omission and disparity.

The survey, which covered several U.S. news networks and Western media agencies, revealed disturbing patterns of omission and disparity which profoundly distorted the audience’s views of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and hampered their ability to know what’s really going on, Alison Weir, the executive director of "if Americans Knew", said recently at the Asia Media Summit 2006 in Kuala Lumpur.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, 165 Israelis and 549 Palestinians were killed in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict between September 2000 and September 2001. But Weir’s group found that major media outlets in the West inflated the Israeli death toll at a ratio of three to four times greater than Palestinians deaths. Moreover, Israeli deaths were often followed by a follow-up report, whereas Palestinian deaths were rarely reported.

This, Weir said, gave the audience a twisted view of the conflict.

"Such distortion also created a chronological reversal in which Israeli forces were seen as retaliating when in reality many Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Gaza before any Jewish Israelis were killed inside Israel," she said.

Moreover, mainstream U.S. media reports covering Palestinian deaths usually include Israeli quotes, without citing Palestinian witnesses and other credible non-governmental organization sources. This pattern continues even after several human rights groups condemned Israel’s inhumane policies of indiscriminately shooting at unarmed civilians, and even using them as human shields.

In 2001, Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a joint report; "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. 

Weir’s group also found that although there was no lack of newscasts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there was a pattern of omitting Israeli aggression against the Palestinians while highlighting violence against Israelis.

"At the same time we found the networks' tendency in 2004 to report on the fact that hundreds of Israelis had been killed without at the same time mentioning the number of Palestinians killed. Such reporting can only mislead," she added.

Moreover, the western media's coverage of Palestinian children’s deaths was even more flawed. For example, 28 Israeli children and 131 Palestinian children died between Sept. 2000 to Sept. 2001, but primetime news programs reported the deaths of Israeli children at a higher rate than the number of Palestinian children deaths.

"We found that ABC, CBS and NBC were reporting Israeli children's death at rates of 9 to 12.8 times higher than the Palestinian children's death. By omitting the killings of a great number of Palestinian children, ABC, CBS and NBC were failing to perform their functions as news agencies -- reporting news," Weir said.

In 2004, during a period when eight Israeli children and 179 Palestinian children died, The New York Times reported Israeli children’s deaths at a rate seven times greater than Palestinian children’s deaths, Weir said, warning that this troubling pattern of inaccurate, lopsided and biased reporting is continuing.

Another important issue grossly overlooked by the mainstream media, Weir pointed out, is the U.S. financial aid to Israel. “We give Israel at least $10 million per day of our tax money,” she said. “It is off the charts of our foreign expenditures.”

If loan subsidies and weapons programs are included, Weir estimated the figure would be closer to $15 million per day. According to her study, during one six-month period the San Francisco Chronicle published 251 articles on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but only three mentioned the aid given to Israel by American taxpayers, and none mentioned the enormous dollar figure.

Weir also discussed the Israeli attack on the U.S. Navy intelligence-gathering ship USS Liberty in international waters near the Sinai Peninsula, north of El Arish, on June 8, 1967, the fourth day of the Six-Day War between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The deliberate attack, which killed 34 U.S. servicemen and wounded 172, received virtually no media or governmental attention, she noted.

This biased reporting, which is consistent with the U.S.'s double standard policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, makes Israeli war crimes acceptable. As the Palestinians suffer under occupation, western media continues to hide Israel's crimes, and the world gets a distotred version of events. Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi once said: "the media is crucial. It presents a version of reality. It creates awareness of what's happening, and the perceptions that are presented affect public opinion."