If British news consumers were to rely on the Guardian as their sole source of information about the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, they’d be forgiven for not only falsely believing the IDF failed to take adequate precautions to avoid civilian casualties, but that it may have targeted Palestinian kids. Though – with one or two exceptions – this wasn’t stated explicitly, the Guardian’s op-eds, reports, headlines and photos from the war could have led many to reach this erroneous conclusion.
In fact, something close to the opposite is true. Despite the fact that Hamas routinely used Palestinian civilians as human shields, firing rockets from and hiding weapons in mosques, schools and hospitals, the IDF took extraordinary measures to avoid killing civilians.
Sadly, this false narrative alleging Israeli attacks on civilians is being sustained by the usual UK media commentators, including Guardian journalist Zoe Williams. Her column, on allegations of political bias against Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow, includes a vicious smear relating to Israel’s conduct during the war.
Though the column (Jon Snow’s ‘anti-Tory rant’ and the myth of the pinko inside the TV, June 28th) mainly focuses on comments attributed to Snow critical of the British Conservative Party, Williams somehow pivots to Israel – and a previous accusations of anti-Israel bias against Snow – in this paragraph:
[Snow] made a series of points about the humanity of scatterbombing a place where you know the average age to be 17, and, therefore, how many of your victims are likely to be children. To my ears and most likely yours, they read as utterly uncontroversial. However, Israel and Gaza is, joint with climate change, the issue on which broadcasters effectively demand not balance but something quite different: equal voice given to the staunchest proponent of each side. For want of finding someone who could defend the killing of the children of Gaza, it is much easier to stay silent on the subject, and this marked a distinct downturn for the channel’s explorations into new media, with its looser regulation.
This is an extraordinary example of Williams’ own bias and carelessness with the truth.
Here’s the 2014 video by Snow that Williams is referring to, which, as you can see, represents a classic example of advocacy journalism – suggesting that all decent people must stand against Israel.
First, contrary to Williams’ claim, Snow made no allegations of “scatter bombing” (cluster bombing) in Gaza, and in fact we could find no such allegations during the war, even by “human rights” groups.
Far more troublesome, however, is Williams’ analogy between Israel’s defenders – whom she characterises as defenders of “killing children” – and climate change deniers is indicative of a view of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, held by many in the media, which sees it as a binary tale of ignorance vs truth, good vs evil.
Herein lies the vicious cycle of media coverage of Israel:
- The intrinsic anti-Israel bias of reporters informs their reporting from the region.
- This results in coverage portraying the nation’s conflicts through a highly distorted lens, which – as with Williams’ astonishing credulity in reaction to Snow’s Gaza report – is rarely critically examined.
- This skewed coverage – which imputes maximum malevolence to Israel and denies Palestinians any semblance of moral agency – informs and reinforces the bias of journalists and editors when covering future stories.
Williams’ capacity to maintain belief in her own commitment to empirically driven conclusions whilst simultaneously disseminating complete fabrications about Israel would only come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with the pro-Palestinian media echo-chamber in which she operates.
- Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow is clueless in Gaza. (UK Media Watch)