The press doesn’t like Israel very much, it seems. They can usually be counted on to take the Palestinian line, they leave out details that are important in understanding Israel’s actions, they are endlessly critical of Israel and Israeli policy, and they disproportionately cover this conflict over other conflicts around the world (ask yourself: where is the outrage over Syria? Assad’s army has killed almost 400 civilians in the last week alone).
There’s no doubt that the international press (and I include in that group a good deal of American media) dislikes Israel – not just her policies, but her very existence. Their coverage is reflexively anti-Israel because of their personal attitudes and opinions. But there are other reasons for the obvious bias in their coverage. A media outlet can’t be too critical of Hamas and expect still to report from inside Gaza or get interviews with Hamas leaders. Unlike a Western democracy, where a reporter or newspaper can criticize a president or prime minister and still have access, Hamas is a terrorist dictatorship. Write something bad about them and, at best, you’ll be sent packing. At worst…well, you can imagine (and so can reporters).
So why the disproportionate focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? War zone comfort and proximity. Think about it. Every news outlet in the world covering Gaza right now has their reporter down at the Israel-Gaza border. There is dramatic footage! Rockets! Air strikes! Explosions! After the article is written or the on-camera interview completed, the reporter goes back to their hotel room, takes a hot shower and goes out for a nice meal in a fully-developed country (Israel). During their reporting, there’s no government goon standing over them telling them what they can and can’t say or trying to intimidate them. They can say whatever they want, go about their business, and enjoy all the perks of international travel. Think the restaurants are better in Damascus than in Tel Aviv? Not likely. That freedom is also why many news outlets have their Middle East bureaus in Israel – it’s the only country in the region which guarantees freedom of the press!
Then there are the adrenaline rush junkies who hunker down in Gaza. These reporters always struck me as adventure tourists. They hang out with the natives for a while, but in the end they cling to their foreign passport, can leave any time they want, and, with luck, they’ll be part of the story when Israel finds Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders hiding in their building.
As pro-Israel activists, the best thing to do is to call the press on their anti-Israel bias whenever you see it. Write letters to the editor, call the public advocate or ombudsman to complain. Better still, act like a consumer of any other product and stop watching or reading sources whose pervasive bias makes you sick.
We’re not going to be able to end press bias against Israel. But we can be aware of it, call attention to it, and choose to spend our news-gathering dollars in ways that don’t support it.