Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

If You Got Your News Only from the Television, You Would Have No Idea of the Roots of the Middle East Conflict, or That the Palestinians Are Victims of an Illegal Military Occupation. (Columns)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

If You Got Your News Only from the Television, You Would Have No Idea of the Roots of the Middle East Conflict, or That the Palestinians Are Victims of an Illegal Military Occupation. (Columns)

Article excerpt

In May, the Glasgow University Media Group, distinguished for its pioneering media analysis, published a study of the reporting of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It ought to be required reading in newsrooms and media schools. The research showed that the public's lack of understanding of the conflict and its origins was compounded by news reporting, especially on television.

Viewers, says the study, are rarely told that the Palestinians are victims of an illegal military occupation. The term "occupied territories" is almost never explained. Indeed, only 9 per cent of young people interviewed knew that the Israelis were the occupiers and the "settlers" were Israeli.

The selective use of language is important. The study found that words such as "murder", "atrocity", "lynching" and "savage, cold-blooded killing" were used only to describe Israeli deaths. "The extent to which some journalism assumes the Israeli perspective," wrote Professor Greg Philo, "can be seen if the statements are 'reversed' and presented as Palestinian actions. [We] did not find any [news] reports stating that 'The Palestinian attacks were in retaliation for the murder of those resisting the illegal Israeli occupation'."

Given that the central truth of the conflict is routinely obscured, none of this is surprising. News and current affairs programmes seldom, if ever, remind viewers that Israel was established largely by force on 78 per cent of historic Palestine and, since 1967, has illegally occupied and imposed various forms of military rule on the remaining 22 per cent.

The media "coverage" has long reversed the roles of oppressor and victim. Israelis are never called terrorists. Correspondents who break this taboo are often intimidated with slurs of anti-Semitism - a bleak irony, as Palestinians are Semites, too.

Having long ago recognised Israel's "right" to more than two-thirds of their country, the Palestinian leadership has contorted itself in order to accommodate a maze of mostly American plans designed to deny true independence and ensure Israel's enduring power and control. Until recently, this was reported uncritically as "the peace process". When ordinary Palestinians cried "enough!" and rose up in the second intifada, armed mostly with slingshots, they were put down by snipers with high-velocity weapons and with tanks and Apache gunships, supplied by the United States.

And now, in their despair, as some are turning to suicide attacks, the Palestinians appear on the news only as bombers and rioters, which, as the Glasgow study points out, "is, of course, the view of the Israeli government". The latest euphemism, "incursion", is from the vocabulary of lies coined in Vietnam. It means assaulting human beings with tanks and planes. "Cycle of violence" is similar. It suggests, at best, two equal sides, never that the Palestinians are resisting violent oppression with violence. A Channel 4 Dispatches recently "balanced" the Israeli assault on the Jenin refugee camp with a Palestinian attack on a "settlement". …

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