By Ray Hanania
The role of the news media is supposed to be to provide the basic facts so the public can come to their own conclusions about the rights and wrongs of any issue. But when reporters and their bosses manipulate news content to marginalize certain facts or exaggerate others, emphasizing one side over the other, you can imagine how the public can be manipulated.
Last month, Israeli protesters chanted “Death to the Arabs” during their flag march on Israel’s Jerusalem Day. If the roles had been reversed and it was Palestinians chanting against Israelis, the chants would have been the lead focus of media stories, with the moral corruption of the Palestinians undoubtedly criticized.
After Palestinian Christian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed last month, apparently by an Israeli soldier (the bullet that killed her was one commonly used by the Israeli military), Israeli police and soldiers attacked the funeral procession, beating protesters and family members as they carried the coffin to the cemetery. This was included in some Western media reports, but had this been about a Jewish family in any Arab country, it would have been the lead story and would have attracted screaming headlines.
This type of media distortion has been used repeatedly to undermine Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims.
The levels of media distortion vary depending on the subject, but the biggest target of this manipulation is the Middle East, where it is effective in skewering the truth and fairness against Arabs and Muslims.
American and Western audiences easily become victims of this media manipulation because of the years of negative stereotypes fomented by Hollywood movies and the Western publishing industry. As a result, Americans, for example, do not question biased coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as it fits the narratives they have been conditioned to believe.
Even if such anti-Arab hate was tempered with pro-Arab movies and books, the damage already caused is so great that it would take a very long time to change public perceptions. That is not a concern, however, because the Arab world does little to create movies or novels for Western audiences that promote the truth.
So, when some members of a Palestinian protest, for example, wrongly use racist language to denounce Israelis, Jews and settlers, or flash up Nazi images and phrases, the news media often focuses on those, while ignoring the larger story of justice for Palestine.
Using this media bias, Israel has weaponized the use of the term “anti-Semitism” to tar anyone who criticizes Israel, its government or its policies. Such hateful use of the term undermines the credibility of Israel’s critics and distracts the public from the real issues.
A good example of how the Western media minimizes racist conduct by Israelis is the CNN coverage of the Israeli flag march in East Jerusalem on May 29. The CNN story did not focus on the many Israeli protesters who chanted “Death to the Arabs” during the march. Instead, the event was presented as a typical confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians. The story should have led with the fact that thousands of Israelis, protected by heavily armed police and soldiers, chanted “Death to the Arabs” as they marched through occupied East Jerusalem, promoting the Israeli flag and Israeli nationalism.
Stories reported in that manner would quickly undermine the Israeli image of Jewish people trying to defend themselves against Palestinians — the foundation of all the anti-Arab hatred that spews from pro-Israeli sources.
As long as sections of the Western news media slant and manipulate their coverage to minimize Israel’s actions and exaggerate those of the Palestinians, the conflict will only worsen. That is because the Palestinians, who are the victims of Israel’s apartheid racism and hate, see the truth, only for that truth to be intentionally sanitized by the pro-Israel news media. That bias feeds anger and anger often leads individuals to acts of violence, something I think many Israelis want in order to counter and deflect from their own crimes.