The movie “Wag the Dog” is supposedly a fictitious film about a group of publicity managers who fabricate a war in an unknown country in the Middle East and then work their publicity magic in order to create the persona of a president in charge. The movie was a highly comical yet engrossing look at how mass media easily manipulates the public into believing what they want the public to believe. What is highly disturbing is that the movie, made by Hollywood for the entertainment of the masses, is actually based on reality.
This reality is deeply embedded in the Israel – Palestine conflict that has been raging on for as far back as I can remember. Politics is a very dirty and secretive game. The government and its supporters will utilize anything and everything in order to achieve their endgame. The public is the unwitting spawn in this power struggle and the controlling method of choice is the mass media. The manipulation happens so high up in the government power hierarchy that even the media no longer realizes that their supposedly independent and free thinking job of keeping the public informed is a well thought out and planned outcome of Washington’s needs.
Media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict is considered an important tool in understanding the source of their bad blood relationship. The media reports that are seen worldwide are an influential source both political and social support for both nations. This is the reality that is presented to the world and it is the basis for the creation of a strong public opinion either in support of or against the goings on between the two countries.
In the opinion column of Sonia Nettnin that she entitled “U.S. Media Coverage of Israel-Palestine Conflict”, she informed her readers about the reality of who really controls the US Media when it comes to the coverage of the Israel – Palestine conflict: Few Americans realize that U. S. mainstream media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict passes through America’s political elites, Israeli public relations organizations and private American organizations, before it reaches the public. In other words, we get the sanitized version of the reports.
Nothing we see on the nightly news, or hear on the radio reports, even what we read in the newspapers, can be taken to be the unabridged truth of the goings on in that part of the world. She invites her readers to watch the film ” Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land: U. S. Media and the Israel – Palestine Conflict” in order to realize how much our media is censored without realizing it. Nettnin specifically wants the viewers to understand how the director of the film, Sut Jhally:
Examines how these filters distort the realities on the ground. It demonstrates how through word choice, limited historical context and one-sided perspectives, U. S. journalists provide the American public with limited news coverage. The media’s misinformation campaign is actually a public relations manipulation being masterminded by American corporations and lobbyist groups. The manipulation of the news allows the media and various interests groups to mold the public opinion towards beliefs that will be beneficial to those concerned.
Simple word play can totally alter the way news video footage is presented to the public. In reference to an actual event that happened in September 3, 2001, Nettnin relates that: Through interviews with journalists, media analysts and political activists, the film explores the co-opted media’s techniques for reporting the conflict and mobilizing public opinion. For example, on September 3, 2001, a news network did not want its journalists referring to the Israeli settlement, Gilo, as a “settlement. ” Instructions given to journalists explained that “?
We don’t refer to it as a settlement? ” so in one of the network’s news clips that followed, the journalist reporting from Gilo used the officially substituted word “neighborhood. ” The word change altered the perspective of the news report drasttically because it removed an perception of colonization from the report’s context. Clearly, replacing or eliminating words from a report can assist with removing skepticism about the nature of its subject matter. Moreover, it helps modify public perceptions as to who is the aggressor.
Last February 5, 2006, Alison Weir, founder of If Americans Knew (IAK) presented a compelling power point presentation titled “Israel-Palestine: What the Media Leave Out” at the Meditation Center in Fairfax, California. Here, she showed her audience of 14 people her personal statistical analysis pertaining to the American media reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to her, their group research discovered that television reports covering the conflicts between September 2000 – 2001 reported:
Israeli deaths at a ratio of three to four times greater than reports of Palestinians killed. In addition, Israeli deaths frequently would have a prominent follow-up report, whereas Palestinian deaths were rarely reported even once. What further disturbs Weir is that this pattern of inaccurate and biased reporting continues to be the format for news reports of similar events up to the present time of the conflict. Basically, the whole world will depict the ongoing war between Israel and Palestine based upon reports coming out of the USA.
This is because the USA is considered the World Police by majority of the nations thereby giving the country the right to dictate how other countries will be viewed in the context of a battle. According to a joint article entitled “America’s One-Eyed View of War: Stars, Stripes, and the Star of David” by Andrew Gumbel and Donald Macintyre of The Independent: There are two sides to every conflict – unless you rely on the US media for information about the battle in Lebanon.
Viewers have been fed a diet of partisan coverage that treats Israel as the good guys and their Hizbollah enemy as the incarnation of evil. American media has portrayed the Hisbollah as the bad guys in this ongoing religious war. This is not to say that the Hizbolla’s are not the bad guys, but the Israeli’s, the people viewed as the innocents may not really be all that clean either. But, the U. S. has made such a clear cut decision on who the bad guys are in this scenario that the attitude of the country has left no room for any sort of debate on the topic.
While watching the cable news reports, I have come to realize that the reason we feel such empathy for the Israeli’s is because these networks all have their reporters in the thick of the action within Israel and none in Palestine. There is also a lack of real interest in getting a professional opinion from a historical expert who is familiar with the roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict. But, the report goes on to say that: A startling amount of airtime, meanwhile, is given to the likes of Michael D Evans, an end-of-the-world Biblical “prophet” with no credentials in the complexities of Middle Eastern politics.
He has shown up on MSNBC and Fox under the label “Middle East analyst”. Fox’s default analyst, on this and many other issues, has been the right-wing provocateur and best-selling author Ann Coulter, whose main credential is to have opined, days after 9/11, that what America should do to the Middle East is “invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity”. It is said that the Bush Administration has a solid view of the Hizbollah as, according to Gumbel and Macintyre:
Part of a giant anti-Israeli and anti-American terror network that also includes Hamas, al-Qa’ida, the governments of Syria and Iran, and the insurgents in Iraq. It is this view that the media of the world has interpreted and believed. Mainly because the conflict is presented in such a cut and dried manner by the United States government that nobody will dare to ask questions such as what the difference between the 2 groups are or perhaps wonder aloud as to what their goals might be. Mainly because according to San Francisco rabbi Michael Lerner:
There is no major figure in American political life who has been willing to raise the issue of the legitimate needs of the Palestinian people, or even talk about them as human beings. The organised Jewish community has transformed the image of Judaism into a cheering squad for the Israeli government, whatever its policies are. That is just idolatry, and goes against all the warnings in the Bible about giving too much power to the king or the state. But just like everything else that has to do with war, the media has slowly come to realize that Palestinians are not just people across the border from Israel.
They too have their own stories to tell about the atrocities of war, and, their story must be told as well. According to the video Der Yassin Remembered: Westerners now realize that Palestinians, as a people, do exist. And they have come to acknowledge that during the creation of the state of Israel, thousands of Palestinians were killed and over 700,000 were driven or frightened from their homes and lands on which they had lived for centuries. Deeper research into this topic led me to information about how the Czech media handles the reporting of the aforementioned events.
In her article ” Are Czech Media Reports on the Arab World Objective”, Dita Asiedu asked Jan Krecek, a faculty member at Charles University if the Czech media was providing the public with an unbiased coverage of the events in the Middle East and the Arab World. The reply received was quite straightforward: The media institutions are normal firms that are working on the market and you can see it in their content – the news is somewhat biased. This is because they have to make a profit. He points out that the worldwide media exercises 2 different powers when reporting the news.
That of a selective power when deciding what news feeds are newsworthy, and descriptive power, or the power to choose how a story is presented. These are the main moneymakers for the company and are therefore are the major factors in making their decisions. When Czech reporters are asked why they report so little about the real status of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the usual reply is that Arab countries seem to have a closed door policy when it comes to information dissemination. According to Bretislav Turecek, reporter for Pravo, a paper in Czechoslovakia:
Even Arab journalists who go to Israel see an openness of the Israelis – it’s possible to call the spokesman of the Israeli Army 24 hours a day and it’s possible to reach the spokesman of the Prime Minister. This is really unusual in most of the Muslim countries in the Middle East, where there are so many restrictions for journalists, or generally for foreigners. So Israel knows use the foreign press for its purpose – in both the positive and the negative way. As Mr. Turecek mentioned, the Arab community is not really interested in sharing their views and information with the rest of the world.
Which is why my research turned up no Middle East media views on the media coverage of the Israel – Palestine conflict. Instead, what I did turn up were the opinions of various Israeli and Palestinian citizens who have migrated to the USA and have shared their personal views with the western media. Thus, it is this viewpoint that will be thrust of my paper from this point on. Leon T. Hadar, author of “Quagmire: America in the Middle East” is also a former New York correspondent attached to the Jerusalem Post. He related that during a conference discussing” Is the American media coverage of Middle East biased?” which he attended 2 years ago.
He was hosted by the New York Times and Washington Post who allowed him to present various media reports related to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict to his audience and asked them to guess what particular newspaper covered the issue. He shocked the audience when he told them that the articles were not from American, British, nor European based newspapers. Nobody could believe that: The articles, however, were all published in the leading Israeli Hebrew-language daily, Ha’aretz, also known as “the New York Times of Israel.”
Ha’aretz is read by government officials, business executives, and the professional and intellectual elites in Israel. In addition to its exceptional coverage of current events, which has garnered the newspaper many national and international awards, Ha’aretz carries editorials and commentaries that help set the public agenda in Israel. It is a “must read” among diplomats and foreign correspondents stationed in Israel, who receive a more accurate and balanced picture of what is happening there than the one presented by most leading American newspapers.
Ha’aretz—unlike the Times or the Post—even employs a full-time correspondent who is stationed in the West Bank and Gaza and who provides the Palestinian perspective on the conflict, which explains why the articles by correspondent Amira Hess were considered so “pro-Arab” by my hosts. Additionally, he mentions that: Questioning the credibility of news reports from the Middle East has been one of the major tools of American Jews trying to cope with the continuing cognitive dissonance.
I am amazed sometimes that, even in this age of the internet, with Ha’aretz and other Israeli newspapers maintaining English-language websites and cable news networks broadcasting around the clock, for many American Jews (and for many Christian evangelicals), Israel still remains a fantasy—and they would like to keep it that way. Meanwhile, Remi Kanazi of the Palestine Monitor author if the article ” US Media Bias: Covering Israel/Palestine” and was really troubled by the marked discrepancies between reports from CNN and Haaretz regarding an encounter between Israel – Palestine troops:
The contrast in coverage between CNN and Haaretz is staggering. The CNN headline was written in absolutes: “5 militants shot in raid. ” The CNN article continues by stating only the Israeli claim that five militants were killed, making the headline biased and misleading. The Haaretz headline read: “U. S. urges restraint after IDF raid that killed 5 Palestinians. ” This headline refers to the people who were shot as Palestinians and not solely militants. The Haaretz article covers conflicting Israeli and Palestinian claims, which made it impossible to determine whether or not all five killed were militants or civilians
He mentions that he considers CNN and The New York Times . as “left wing” media outlets and wonders why they never present the Palestinian side of the war. He claims that the answer is that both companies are neither liberal nor honest. They are simply out to sell a product and will only cover a story properly if covering it does not pose a risk of losing readers or advertising revenues. But, it is not to say that the only reason there is a slant in the coverage of this war is for financial or political reasons. Both Israel and Palestine accuse the media of being bias although these accusations have never been proven.
One of the main reasons that Israel gets more news coverage in both print and television news the world over is because Israel knows how to play the lobby and public relations game. Israel has put together a highly impressive public relations team that speaks English, has knowledge of western media, and is very much at home being interviewed in front of the camera. The same public relations department also insures that informative emails are send to various news wires everyday. On the other hand, Palestinians, due to their intense secrecy, prevents itself from presenting their side of any given situation.
Their grasp of the English language is so poor that the language ends up a mangled mess when they try to communicate in it thus opening themselves to misinterpretation each time anybody from their side is interviewed. The roads leading to and from Palestine are also hard to traverse making the best way to get an interview from them over the phone. They also do not have an efficient public relations team and only manages to send out about 5 emails a week to keep the international press informed of their situation.
These are but a few reasons that explain why the Western news teams rarely get assigned to cover such country territories. There is so little for the other world media to go on when covering Palestine so that they instead spend their time explaining to their readers and viewers about why they don’t have any information that is necessary to explain what is going on to them. For far too long, Israelis have been using the term “war against terror” in a manner that exploits the current actions of Palestine against Israel.
It is this Israeli battle cry that has gotten the most media coverage over the decades much to the detriment of the Palestinians who are seemingly unable to express themselves effectively to the world. Quite recently though, there seem to have been observable changes to the way the Israel-Palestine conflict has bee playing out. With the support of British 24 hours news channel BBC, once formally accused of bias leaning towards the side of Israelis, there has been a slowly developing trend towards improving news coverage in the area. Nachman Shai an Israeli spokesman was asked about how he viewed the media coverage of the war and he replied:
It (meaning the media coverage of the Israel – Palestine conflict) has gradually become more balanced than in the beginning—the media are now seeing more of the complicated issues than at the beginning, because of the indiscriminate violence of the suicide bombers against the Israeli population. The bottom line is that the varying differences in the media’s coverage of the ongoing Israel – Palestine conflict is due to the very conflicting reports coming out of the opposing camps. Reporters are seemingly welcome only on one side of the border and this certainly affects the way they present the information they gather to the public.
There is no bias or hidden agenda on the media’s side. It is simply a matter of using the information that they can get their hands on in the best way they know how. Perhaps in the future, all of this will change and their will finally be a balanced and unbiased view of the events as they unfold in the Middle East. After all whether he is a television or print journalist, the main objective of a news reporter remains the same. To present the events as they happen in unbiased reporting styles.