There are some many kinds of bias and inaccuracies that plague reporting on Israel. From omissions of context to plain old untruths, HonestReporting carefully documents the full gamut of media distortions.
There are more insidious forms of bias, though.
Harder to pinpoint, such biases mold the way people think. The Guardian’s coverage over the last month is a textbook example of imbalanced reporting.
In the space of under three weeks, the Guardian has run no less than eight pieces showing life and culture from the Palestinian perspective.
- Thousands are celebrating Palestinian grandmothers – I wish I had more memories of mine (20 August)
- ‘If Israeli soldiers start shooting, we won’t stop the interview’: Palestinian hip-hop crew BLTNM (19 August)
- Going Home by Raja Shehadeh review – rich, sad reflections from Ramallah (19 August)
- Gaza review – human stories in a city under siege (10 August)
- The keffiyeh: symbol of Palestinian struggle falls victim to fashion (9 August)
- Gaza review – heartfelt chronicle of life under political siege (8 August)
- The long read ‘Look where we’ve got to – defeated and dominated’: my generation’s failure to liberate Palestine (8 August)
- Going Home by Raja Shehadeh review – a walk through 50 years of occupation (7 August)
HonestReporting went through each one of these articles. Although there were numerous sentences which we did not agree with or believed could have been challenged if more specific information was provided, ultimately no complaints were made about any of these pieces. While context and motivations are important, Palestinians have the right to talk about their experiences and their lives.
However, taken as a whole, a problematic picture emerges.
These pieces all serve the same purpose of humanizing the Palestinian people while highlighting the flaws — some real, some perceived — of Israel’s policies. Common to all these articles is a lack of detail on Israel’s security situation. Israelis are not seen as real people with real lives. Palestinian extremism is excised, and when Israel is referred to, it’s in the context of aggression and a power imbalance.
To be sure, a strong case can be made that such articles do not require the Israeli side of the story be told, as they are human interest and perspective pieces.
Nevertheless, that’s not enough. Over the same period, the Guardian has run precisely zero Israeli book reviews, zero Israeli film reviews, and just one Israeli human interest story. In all, two color pieces about Israel were run in this time: an eerie photo-essay about the Tel Aviv central bus station, and a Sense of Place column in which an Israeli writer tells her grandfather’s story of saving an illegal immigrant. Neither story refers to the Palestinians, certainly not as aggressive or brutal, as some of the Palestinian-perspective articles do. Furthermore, the photo-essay isn’t original piece for the Guardian, but sourced from Reuters.
This lack of balance is made all the more astonishing given that in the last few days, Israel has come under attack twice, but the Guardian has neglected to document both the bombing which claimed the life of 17-year-old Israeli Rina Shnerb on Friday, August 23, and the unprovoked barrage of rockets fired from Gaza at Israel on the evening of August 25.
New organisations have every right to add color to the news by speaking to the people who live on the ground, by reviewing their books and shows, by showing their human side and by laying out their fears and concerns. The Guardian can document Palestinian film, music and literature all it wants, but what’s stopping it from documenting Israeli culture, too? There are books and music aplenty, and some challenging films and documentaries worthy of a wider audience. Our Boys, a ten-part series by America’s HBO and Israel’s Keshet about the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli boys and one Palestinian boy in 2014 provoked strong debate in Israel recently. At the very least it could have covered the critically acclaimed the recently released Netflix film The Red Sea Diving Resort, which details the Mossad’s secret mission to save countless Ethiopian Jews from the jaws of a massacre.
By documenting Palestinian culture and their troubles while totally neglecting to show the lives of their Israeli counterparts, including their legitimate fears and concerns, is to humanize one side while dehumanizing the other. And to do that while neglecting to report on Palestinian attacks on Israelis is to totally misinform readers about the reality of the ongoing conflict.
Source material can be found at this site.