Why we urgently need alternative news sources
by Kathryn Shihadah
Here is a facet of Israel - that "true democracy" of the Middle East, that place where faith is in the air you breathe, the nation that shares the values of the great United States of America.
Here, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs bullies the oldest national broadcasting organization in the world. Israel tells the BBC what it can and can not say - and it makes its point with words that are unbecoming to an administrative agency of a first world country.
The whole brouhaha started with the BBC headline,
Israeli airstrikes 'kill pregnant woman and baby.'
For the Israeli MFA, the BBC choice of words was absolutely unacceptable:
The headline, "Israeli airstrikes 'kill pregnant woman and baby,'" doesn't look at all like a misrepresentation of reality (aka "a LIE"). It looks like precisely what happened that night. So why is it called a lie?
Most people think of a "lie" as an untruth, but in Israel's Foreign Ministry, apparently a lie is a statement that does not explicitly blame Israeli violence on Palestinian incitement.
Spokesperson Nahshon's tweet connected the dots - just as a quick reminder that Israel is the victim in this whole business: "Israelis were targeted by Hamas, and IDF acts to protect them." Blame Hamas for the death of that woman and that child; blame Hamas for the upwards of 170 Gazan deaths and 17,000 Gazan injuries; most importantly, blame Hamas for the 2 Israeli deaths and a handful of Israeli injuries.
Apparently BBC got the memo. Here's the new headline:
So to summarize, BBC went from
Israeli airstrikes 'kill pregnant woman and baby'
Gaza air strikes 'kill woman and child after rockets hit Israel'
Doesn't that headline sound like it was crafted to imply that the air strikes came from Gaza and possibly hit an Israeli woman and child? If so, isn't that a misrepresentation of reality?
And isn't that what Israel was going for - to portray Gaza as the bad guy?
This isn't just a British problem
Much, much more can be said on this subject, but for now, suffice it to say that US mainstream media also tend to frame the news in such a way as to avoid chastisement from Israel. (It would seem that, as Israel's $10 million-a-day Sugar Daddy, the US ought to be able speak its mind, but no such luck.) Thus we see such headlines as this one from ABC:
ABC's opening sentence, "Israeli airstrikes have killed at least three people, including a pregnant mother and her 18-month-old child, after the Israeli military and Hamas traded fire overnight and into Thursday afternoon, the Gaza Health Ministry reported," suggests that the 2 sides in this conflict are relatively equal, but only one side happened to suffer casualties. In reality, the Occupied Palestinian Territories are not allowed to have armed forces. Gazan Palestinians shoot off relatively harmless rockets they have made themselves: the last time a rocket has killed an Israeli was in 2014. On the other hand, Israel has around 700 warplanes (and they're not afraid to use them).
NBC's headline contextualizes the airstrikes by placing them after the rockets - but leaves the rockets decontextualized, as though Gazans had not been peacefully demonstrating for over 4 months against an 11-year blockade and had over 160 of their people killed by Israeli snipers. (Of course that's too much to fit in a headline, but that is why the rockets are flying.) NBC also makes no mention of the Palestinian woman and baby who were killed.
NBC's article is embedded in a video. The opening sentence reads, "Parents and kids in a playground run for cover as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel." While their fear is real, the rockets in the film are intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. (As an aside, this video is just one example of the actual horror experienced by Gazans under fire.)
As for the CBS headline, we are left to guess the nationality of the dead - all we know for sure is that Israel was not the aggressor.
The CBS opening paragraph reads, "Israeli warplanes struck dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip and three people were reported killed there, while Palestinian militants from the territory fired scores of rockets into Israel in a fierce burst of violence overnight and into Thursday morning."
Once again, a picture is painted of 2 equal sides going at it. But in reality, the Israeli warplanes destroy buildings and kill people, and the Gazan rockets usually land in empty fields, or cause minor damage or minor injuries when they make it to populated areas.
These examples are not aberrations. These are just a few sample headlines on one sample day in an ongoing pattern that is common to most if not all of our news networks.
Mainstream media - at least in the US and Great Britain - are not as independent and trustworthy as they would like us to think they are, at least when it comes to the issue of Israel and Palestine.
Always interrogate news sources. Find a few that are trustworthy and support them - but also keep an eye on them.
And watch for more on this topic.