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December 3, 2014 11:34 am

Matti Friedman Explains the Media Bias Against Israel

avatar by Adam Levick

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File photo of a Qassam rocket fired from a civilian area in Gaza towards civilian areas in Southern Israel. Photo: WikiCommons.

File photo of a Qassam rocket fired from a civilian area in Gaza towards civilian areas in Southern Israel. Photo: Wiki Commons.

In carrying out our mission, CiF Watch often attempts to contextualize the Guardian’s coverage of Israel by explaining not only what they get wrong, but also why they get it wrong. So, in August we posted excerpts from a superb article by former AP Jerusalem correspondent Matti Friedman in Tablet Magazine, which masterfully dissected the widespread institutional bias that distorts coverage of Israel and the Middle East.

Friedman’s latest essay (What the media gets wrong about Israel), published on November 30 in The Atlantic, is another must-read for those who’ve thought seriously about the skewed coverage of Israel at the Guardian – and within much of the media.

Here are a few of the more interesting passages from Friedman’s essay.

Human Shields

Hamas’s strategy is to provoke a response from Israel by attacking from behind the cover of Palestinian civilians, thus drawing Israeli strikes that kill those civilians, and then to have the casualties filmed by one of the world’s largest press contingents, with the understanding that the resulting outrage abroad will blunt Israel’s response. This is a ruthless strategy, and an effective one. It is predicated on the cooperation of journalists. One of the reasons it works is because of the reflex I mentioned. If you report that Hamas has a strategy based on co-opting the media, this raises several difficult questions, like, What exactly is the relationship between the media and Hamas? And has this relationship corrupted the media? It is easier just to leave the other photographers out of the frame and let the picture tell the story: Here are dead people, and Israel killed them.

Western Media as Hamas “Assets”

When Hamas’s leaders surveyed their assets before this summer’s round of fighting, they knew that among those assets was the international press. The AP staff in Gaza City would witness a rocket launch right beside their office, endangering reporters and other civilians nearby—and the AP wouldn’t report it, not even in AP articles about Israeli claims that Hamas was launching rockets from residential areas. (This happened.) Hamas fighters would burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff—and the AP wouldn’t report it. (This also happened.) Cameramen waiting outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City would film the arrival of civilian casualties and then, at a signal from an official, turn off their cameras when wounded and dead fighters came in, helping Hamas maintain the illusion that only civilians were dying. (This too happened; the information comes from multiple sources with firsthand knowledge of these incidents.)

Media Fails to Report Islamist War Against “the Last Thriving Minority in the Middle East.”

This summer, with Yazidis, Christians, and Kurds falling back before the forces of radical Islam not far away from here, this ideology’s local franchise launched its latest war against the last thriving minority in the Middle East. The Western press corps showed up en masse to cover it. This conflict included rocket barrages across Israel and was deliberately fought from behind Palestinian civilians, many of whom died as a result. Dulled by years of the “Israel story” and inured to its routine omissions, confused about the role they are meant to play, and co-opted by Hamas, reporters described this war as an Israeli onslaught against innocent people. By doing so, this group of intelligent and generally well-meaning professionals ceased to be reliable observers and became instead an amplifier for the propaganda of one of the most intolerant and aggressive forces on earth. And that, as they say, is the story.

We strongly encourage you to read the entire 4,800 word essay, here.

Adam Levick is the managing editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

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