Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Alison Weir Speaks in Des Moines

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Alison Weir Speaks in Des Moines

Article excerpt

ALISON WEIR, founder of If Americans Knew, spoke at Drake University's Olmstead Center on Nov. 8 about her organization's research on bias in media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. If Americans Knew is a tax-exempt, independent research and information-dissemination institute, with particular focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, U.S. foreign policy regarding the Middle East, and media coverage of this issue.

"We decided to look at a category that would be universally accepted as significant and quantifiable," Weir explained, "so we settled on coverage of deaths among both populations. We decided to look at two periods in particular, especially the first year of the uprising, because first impressions are so powerful. They set the context in which we ever after view a conflict."

First impressions, said Weir, determine for us who is the aggressor, who is the victim, who is initiating the violence, and who is defending their population. Her organization used numbers of the dead provided by the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem.

"Using the Israeli numbers we discovered that 165 Israelis were tragically killed by Palestinians, and 549 Palestinians tragically killed by Israelis. Now how was this covered by our prime time network news broadcasts?" asked Weir.

Using Nexis-Lexis databases, Weir said she discovered that ABC reported Israeli deaths at a rate 3.1 times greater than Palestinian deaths, CBS reported Israeli deaths at a rate 3.8 times greater than Palestinians', and NBC reported Israeli deaths at a rate 4.0 times greater than Palestinians' during the first year (September 2000 to September 2001) of the second intifada.

Weir said she also performed original research on media coverage of the deaths of children on both sides, and in 2004, when 8 Israeli children and 179 Palestinian children were killed, network news broadcasts reports were again markedly biased in favor of the deaths of Israeli children.

ABC reported on the 8 Israeli children's deaths and on 20 Palestinian children's deaths, or 100 percent of Israeli children and 11 percent of Palestinian children, a ratio of 9.0 to 1. CBS reported on 4 Israeli children's deaths and 7 Palestinian children's deaths, or 50 percent of Israeli children's deaths and 4 percent of Palestinian, a ratio of 12. …

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