General UK Media

Everything you always wanted to know about media coverage of Israel but were afraid to ask

In carrying out this blog’s mission, we often attempt to contextualize Guardian/UK media coverage of Israel and the Jewish world by explaining not only what they get wrong, but also why they get it wrong.

eye_stardavid400x246_3k8lxgc5Tablet Magazine just published a long and extremely important article (by former AP correspondent Matti Friedman) which masterfully dissects such institutional bias against Israel – in the broader Western media – and we strongly encourage those who’ve thought seriously about the subject to read the 4,000 word essay in full.

Here are some excerpts:


The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; 

How Important Is the Israel Story?

Staffing is the best measure of the importance of a story to a particular news organization. When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined

To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel.

What Is Important About the Israel Story, and What Is Not

A reporter working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel. If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate

Israeli actions are analyzed and criticized, and every flaw in Israeli society is aggressively reported. In one seven-week period, from Nov. 8 to Dec. 16, 2011, I…counted 27 separate articles, an average of a story every two days….this seven-week tally was higher than the total number of significantly critical stories about Palestinian government and society, including the totalitarian Islamists of Hamas, that our bureau had published in the preceding three years.

The Hamas charter, for example, calls not just for Israel’s destruction but for the murder of Jews and blames Jews for engineering the French and Russian revolutions and both world wars; the charter was never mentioned in print when I was at the AP

What Else “Isn’t” Important?

In early 2009..two colleagues of mine obtained information that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had made a significant peace offer to the Palestinian Authority several months earlier, and that the Palestinians had deemed it insufficient. This had not been reported yet and it was—or should have been—one of the biggest stories of the year. The reporters obtained confirmation from both sides and one even saw a map, but the top editors at the bureau decided that they would not publish the story….

This decision taught me a lesson that should be clear to consumers of the Israel story: Many of the people deciding what you will read and see from here view their role not as explanatory but as political. Coverage is a weapon to be placed at the disposal of the side they like.

How Is the Israel Story Framed?

The Israel story is framed in the same terms that have been in use since the early 1990s—the quest for a “two-state solution.” It is accepted that the conflict is “Israeli-Palestinian,” meaning that it is a conflict taking place on land that Israel controls—0.2 percent of the Arab world—in which Jews are a majority and Arabs a minority. The conflict is more accurately described as “Israel-Arab,” or “Jewish-Arab”—that is, a conflict between the 6 million Jews of Israel and 300 million Arabs in surrounding countries…

The “Israeli-Palestinian” framing allows the Jews, a tiny minority in the Middle East, to be depicted as the stronger party

The Old Blank Screen

For centuries, stateless Jews played the role of a lightning rod for ill will among the majority population. They were a symbol of things that were wrong. Did you want to make the point that greed was bad? Jews were greedy. Cowardice? Jews were cowardly. Were you a Communist? Jews were capitalists. Were you a capitalist? In that case, Jews were Communists. Moral failure was the essential trait of the Jew…

Like many Jews who grew up late in the 20th century in friendly Western cities, I dismissed such ideas as the feverish memories of my grandparents. One thing I have learned…is that I was foolish to have done so. Today, people in the West tend to believe the ills of the age are racism, colonialism, and militarism. The world’s only Jewish country has done less harm than most countries on earth, and more good—and yet when people went looking for a country that would symbolize the sins of our new post-colonial, post-militaristic, post-ethnic dream-world, the country they chose was this one.

Who Cares If the World Gets the Israel Story Wrong?

Understanding what happened in Gaza this summer…requires us to understand what is clear to nearly everyone in the Middle East: The ascendant force in our part of the world is not democracy or modernity. It is rather an empowered strain of Islam that assumes different and sometimes conflicting forms, and that is willing to employ extreme violence in a quest to unite the region under its control and confront the West. Those who grasp this fact will be able to look around and connect the dots

Israel is not an idea, a symbol of good or evil, or a litmus test for liberal opinion at dinner parties. It is a small country in a scary part of the world that is getting scarier. It should be reported as critically as any other place, and understood in context and in proportion. 

Read the rest of the essay here.

25 replies »

      • @cba: This article is pure drivel.

        Adam, you’re an intellectual lightweight, and a poorly read one at that.

        Where are you intellectual heavyweights? Why are there none?

        It’s very dull reading tbh……

        • DipSticks, have you worked for AP and if so, what did you find AP were doing when not reporting the Palestinian failings and why they chose to ignore the important bits?

          Oh, so you didn’t work for AP. Tell us about Reuters then? You didn’t work for them either?

          So you are not in a very good position to criticise are you!?
          Not so much as a lightweight are you. More like an airhead.

          The piece by Friedman is very informative

  1. “The conflict is more accurately described as “Israel-Arab,” or “Jewish-Arab””

    Nonsense. The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, reaffirmed by the Arab League in 2007 offered normalised relations between all Arab states and Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and a just solution to the refugee problem. Israel, as ever preferring land to peace, never gave the proposal any consideration. None of the Arab states shows any inclination for armed conflict with Israel and the largest, Egypt, actively collaborates with Israel against the Palestinians.

    “The “Israeli-Palestinian” framing allows the Jews, a tiny minority in the Middle East, to be depicted as the stronger party…”

    Israel just happens to have one of the most powerful armed forces in the world, not counting its nuclear status. It is also backed unreservedly by the US, the most powerful. In all of its wars with Arab states Israel has comfortably out-gunned its combined opponents.

    • “The “Israeli-Palestinian” framing allows the Jews, a tiny minority in the Middle East, to be depicted as the stronger party. It also includes the implicit assumption that if the Palestinian problem is somehow solved the conflict will be over, though no informed person today believes this to be true. ”

      Are you young? There must be some cause for your ignorance and stupidity. Israel’s military strength is rated at 11th in the world. The U.S. guarantees its military edge over its enemies, the Arab states, because it is generally recognized that given the chance they would wipe Israel off the map if they could, coupled with the fact that Israel is a tiny country with no frontiers. Israel has to win every time, the Arabs but once.
      The only people ‘comfortable’ with this are uninformed haters like you.

      • Jeff I have a problem with your last sentence.
        Where you describe Brian (sencar) as “..uninformed haters like you.”
        In this you are being unnecessarily charitable to Brian.
        To be ‘uninformed’ is bad enough but Brian is wilfully blind to the truth and that makes him deliberately malicious.

          • Brian I do not give a platform to Fascists or those who hide behind the excuse of promoting Fascist ideas.
            So this is the last time I intend to directly address a malicious apologist for Fascists and their ideas such as you.

            Is that clear enough for you?

      • Perhaps you might review what I said, Jeff. I was responding to a whinge that Israel is weak because its population is small and I noted that Israeli military strength is very great. You merely confirm this. Your claim that “given the chance [the Arab states] would wipe Israel off the map if they could” is contradicted by the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. But of course you don’t deal with this any more than any Israeli government has done.

        • Sencar I’m surprised again and again after reading your posts – I always think that finally you arrived to the highest possible limit of stupidity, maliciousness and ignorance – and poof – you are coming out again with a much bigger piece of bullshit.
          Your claim that “given the chance [the Arab states] would wipe Israel off the map if they could” is contradicted by the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.
          The Arab – Israeli conflict started almost hundred years before the Arab Peace Initiative – during this time the Arabs did everything in their ability to to wipe Israel off the map. It took them almost 100 years to realize that they can’t do it by violence. The initiative doesn’t contradict Jeff’s claim, exactly the opposite it proves its correctness, showing that it took the Arab countries more than 90 years to think about peace at all. (It was offered them many times during these decades by Israel). BTW your claim that the Arab Peace Initiative wasn’t considered seriously by the Israelis is a laughable lie. The Israelis didn’t accept two very important points of it: a./the demand that Israel accept the so called “Right of Return” of every Palestinian to Israel and b./ it’s “take it or leave it” nature, it was intended as a non-negotiable package.
          This time your stupidity and ignorance surpassed your previous level too.
          With supporters like you the Palestinians are really doomed. But maybe they will realize the sad fact that you don’t support them at all, you want them to spill their blood by fighting us Jews as your proxies.

          • “The Israelis didn’t accept two very important points of it: a./the demand that Israel accept the so called “Right of Return” of every Palestinian to Israel and b./ it’s “take it or leave it” nature, it was intended as a non-negotiable package.”

            The “just solution to the refugee problem” was never about ““Right of Return” of every Palestinian to Israel”, or the Peace Initiative would have said as much. Most commentators take it to mean a token return of a few thousand and some form of financial compensation to others (no doubt paid for by the US or EU).

            It wasn’t “take it or leave it”; Israel just never took the proposals seriously, so there were never any negotiations based on the initiative. The Israeli government described it as “a non-starter” about five minutes after it had been issued.

            • Liar – that is EXACTLY what the Arabs have stated hundreds of thousands of times. They demand that every single Arab and all of their vicious off-spring be allowed into Israel.

              You are lying through your tooth to state otherwise.

              As for negotiations – yes Israel said okay you had your say now let’s talk and the Arabs said NO-NO-NO just like Khartom. Either we accept it or refuse – they got their wish.

            • Not wishing to overload your very meager intellectual abilities I will use only the Wikipedia for references
              Bullshit #1
              The “just solution to the refugee problem” was never about ““Right of Return” of every Palestinian to Israel”, or the Peace Initiative would have said as much.
              But it said sencar exactly that.
              …and a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee crisis based on UN Resolution 194 (which calls for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict and resolves that any refugees “wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors” should be able to do so
              meaning all refugee wishing to return could do it.
              Bullshit #2
              It wasn’t “take it or leave it”
              But it was sencar as everybody not blinded by the hate of Israel knows
              …. in exchange for a complete withdrawal from the occupied territories (including East Jerusalem)…
              meaning no territorial compromise and non negotiable borders.
              Taking into account that it was advertised days after the Passover massacre implemented by your Hamas heroes and the fact that Arafat refused to accept very similar conditions in 2000, that Abbas refused to accept much more favorable conditions (for the Palestinians) in 2008 instead of you i wouldn’t bring it up as an evidence of the of Arab longing for peace. But naturally you did sencar proving again your laughable ignorance and stupidity. Keep it up.

        • sencar,
          I know exactly what you were trying to say. Perhaps you should review what I said, and what Peter added, and stop believing in the balderdash of Chomskyites, fascists, and Islamists.

    • Considering that the so-called Arab Peace Initiative offered the genocide of the Jews and nothing less – some peace.

      In return for total surrender to the Islamofascists and the importation of millions of terrorists we were offered that some nations MIGHT recognize us. That is the only thing that was offered. Oh and there was no negotiations over the terms.

      A worthless piece of paper for our murders – thanks but no thanks it was no offer.

      We are standing between our people and over 1 billion psychopathic, xenophobic fascists that want to enslave the world. That is the cult of Islam. We refuse to surrender.