From Double Standards to Deception: Analysing Western Media's Role in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

This article critiques the Western media's coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict, highlighting biases in favour of Israel, the omission of crucial context, and the dehumanisation of Palestinians. It emphasizes Western outlets' one-sided portrayal, neglecting Gaza's human toll while amplifying Israeli perspectives and uncritically reporting unsubstantiated Israeli claims. The systemic favouritism towards Israel erodes the credibility of mainstream media, particularly among Arabic-speaking audiences, perpetuating stereotypes and legitimising Israeli violations of international law. Despite mounting evidence of Israeli atrocities, Western media often frames Israel's actions as self-defence, downplaying Palestinian suffering. Journalists expressing empathy risk repercussions, reflecting a broader pattern of silencing alternative viewpoints. The suspension of Muslim anchors by MSNBC, the mischaracterization of pro-Palestinian demonstrations by the BBC, and the suppression of dissenting voices on social media underscore the pervasive censorship and manipulation shaping the narrative. The article concludes that the Western media's failure to provide comprehensive, balanced coverage perpetuates injustice and hinders meaningful resolution of the conflict.

 Since the onset of the ongoing crisis in Israel and Gaza on October 7, the Western media has been criticised for displaying a clear bias in favour of Israel, which has greatly contributed to the dissemination of false information and the devaluation of human life. Media experts and Arab journalists argue that Western media frequently exhibits unprofessionalism by making unsubstantiated claims, offering a one-sided view, and depicting Palestinians exclusively as instruments of Hamas in their coverage of the Israel-Hamas war. According to experts and journalists questioned by Al Jazeera, the consistent bias in favour of Israel is causing permanent harm to the reputation of news institutions that are considered "mainstream" by Arabs and other individuals (Nashed, 2023). Experts argue that Western media outlets are dehumanising Palestinians and legitimising Israeli crimes against international law during the bombing of Gaza. They highlight the disregard for the crucial historical backdrop of the Palestinians' agony over the past 75 years.

 

According to Israeli officials, on October 7, Hamas carried out a very unusual assault on military outposts and communities in southern Israel, resulting in the fatalities of more than 1,400 Israelis and the abduction of over 200 individuals who were taken back to Gaza as prisoners. Israel launched a relentless bombing campaign on Gaza, causing the deaths of thousands, of which approximately 40 percent were children. The Western media has widely characterised the events of October 7 as a "terrorist attack," while they have depicted the Israeli assault on Gaza, resulting in the deaths of more than 34,000 people, predominantly women and children, as an act of "self-defence. Israel has caused severe damage to Gaza's healthcare system and completely destroyed a significant portion of its infrastructure. Furthermore, it intensified its restrictive blockade by depriving the region of fuel, water, and food. These actions constitute war crimes according to international humanitarian law.

 

 Western media have travelled to Israel to comprehensively cover the sorrow experienced by Israeli families. However, Israel has prohibited international journalists from entering Gaza, causing them to overlook a crucial component of the story (Nashed, 2023). The term "victims" is not commonly used when referring to Palestinians, unlike the Israeli side, which receives more coverage. Rather than confronting the human casualties in Gaza, many Western media networks either portray the dead Palestinians as mere statistics or replicate the perspectives of the United States and Israel, such as Israel's asserted "right to self-defence" and the charge that Hamas uses Gazans as "human shields.

 Arwa Damon, a former CNN journalist and current non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think-tank in Washington, DC, said that these "double standards" are indicative of a larger pattern in Western media companies to depict Muslims and Arabs as inferior beings. Experts interviewed by Al Jazeera report that Western television networks often question invited Palestinians about their condemnation of Hamas, while they rarely ask Israeli guests to denounce their government's policy of apartheid in the occupied West Bank or its actions of besieging and bombing Gaza. Israeli parties have managed to get unverified assertions featured prominently in the headlines of Western news organisations. It has been reported in the western media that Hamas has decapitated 40 babies, burned their bodies, sexually assaulted underage Israeli girls, and operated covert tunnels and military installations beneath civilian infrastructure like hospitals and refugee camps (Middle East Council on Global Affairs, 2023). These unverified accounts have gained immense popularity on social media and have frequently featured in mainstream media. These factors have unfortunately resulted in a misleading representation of this tragic event in the minds of millions of people in the Western world.

In spite of the absence of solid proof, the claims were covered by CNN, Fox News, The Independent, and the New York Post. On October 12, President Joe Biden said that he had saw photographs of disfigured children. The White House subsequently withdrew his statements, confirming that Biden had not personally seen any such photographs and had just relied on press coverage. Lina Mounzer, a Lebanese journalist and critic with a track record of contributing to prominent Western news outlets, argued that the aforementioned claim, along with other unverified allegations, such as Hamas members sexually assaulting multiple Israeli women, was an attempt to manufacture public support for Israel's military response in Gaza. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Mounzer contends that the focus of Western media on reports of 40 murdered babies and women being gang-raped serves as a valid justification for Israel's strike.

 Western news agencies have frequently disseminated unverified assertions, presented a biased perspective, and deliberately downplayed acts of violence in order to rationalise Israel's breaches of international law and protect it from examination. Western journalists have disregarded fundamental principles in their reporting on Israel's treatment of Palestinians. All of this is familiar. For more than 75 years, Western journalism's shortcomings have helped Israel rationalize its occupation and use of force against Palestinians (Krishnan, 2024). The US and other Western media have provided minimal coverage of the destruction of Gaza and the killing of thousands of Palestinians, primarily children, in Israeli airstrikes, while giving excessive attention to the Hamas attack. The justification for Israel's war crimes is based on the claim of exercising the "right to self-defence." There has been no expression of opposition regarding the killing of twelve Arab journalists in the ongoing and intense bombing that has completely destroyed Gaza. The hypocrisy of individuals who profess to be advocates of liberty and democracy is deeply disturbing. Israeli politicians and certain Western media commentators have drawn parallels between the Hamas attack and the events of 9/11.

MSNBC, a prominent American TV network, suspended three Muslim anchors for allegedly attempting to provide an alternative perspective on the situation in Gaza, where residents are under a prolonged siege. The Arab News interviewed a journalist who described the current atmosphere as reminiscent of the post-9/11 period, characterized by a binary division of "you are either with us or against us." A BBC TV programme referred to the large pro-Palestinian demonstrations taking place throughout Britain as "pro-Hamas." The network subsequently admitted to deceiving the public, although it refrained from offering an apology. A CNN anchor described the Israeli-Palestine conflict as a battle between good and evil following a flattering interview with the president of Israel. Azmat Khan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and current Columbia University professor, revealed that her social media account experienced "shadow banning" after publishing an Instagram story about the Gaza conflict (Hussain, 2023). "This poses a significant danger to the dissemination of information and reliable journalism regarding an unparalleled conflict," she shared on X (formerly known as Twitter). The New York Times, in its editorial, declared: “What Israel is fighting to defend is a society that values human life and the rule of law.” The editors intentionally disregarded the presence of 5,000 Palestinian detainees held by Israel, as well as the significant number of casualties, particularly among women and children. Objective reporting on the Israel and Gaza conflict is essential for the Western media's credibility. Taking sides, especially in favour of Israel, undermines trust and perpetuates misinformation. To maintain integrity, the media must prioritize impartiality, fostering informed discourse and peace in the region.

References

Hussain, Z. (2023, October 19). Israel-Palestine conflict: The Western media has made it clear which side it is on. Scroll.in. https://scroll.in/article/1057793/israel-palestine-conflict-the-western-media-has-made-it-clear-which-side-it-is-on

Krishnan, V. (2024, February 2). Western coverage of Gaza: A textbook case of coloniser’s journalism. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2024/2/2/western-coverage-of-gaza-a-textbook-case-of-colonisers-journalism

Middle East Council on Global Affairs. (2023, December 14). Western media has failed to properly cover Gaza conflict - Middle East Council on Global Affairs. https://mecouncil.org/blog_posts/western-media-has-failed-to-properly-cover-gaza-conflict/

Nashed, M. (2023, October 29). Western coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza – bias or unprofessionalism? Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/10/29/western-coverage-of-israels-war-on-gaza-bias-or-unprofessionalism#:~:text=Rather%20than%20cover%20the%20human,Gaza%20as%20%E2%80%9Chuman%20shields%E2%80%9D.

About the author: Aijaz Ahmad Mir is a PhD scholar in the Political Science Department at Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, Telangana.E-Mail: aijazahmadpolite1@gmail.com

 

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily mirror Islamonweb’s editorial stance.

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