Because of intense worldwide interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the great influence of outside parties, media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — which can influence hearts and minds — is seen by many participants as no less important than the conflict itself. As Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, says, "Wars are won, not only on the battlefield, but also with words."

Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi told Reuters: "The media are... crucial. It presents a version of reality. It creates awareness of what's happening, and the perceptions that are presented affect public opinion."

The settingEdit

Israel and the territories have one of the highest concentrations of journalists in the world, reflecting intense worldwide interest in the conflict. There are 350 foreign news organizations based in Jerusalem alone, employing some 800 reporters, cameramen and technicians. Since the beginning of 2004, another 1,300 accredited journalists have visited the region. The number is likely much higher if freelancers and writers who enter as visitors without presenting credentials are included.

Charges of media biasEdit

In the experience of the Columbia Journalism Review no news subject generates more complaints about media objectivity than the Middle East in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular. [1]. Almost every mass media outlet has been accused of media bias, that is to say, slanted reporting either in favor of the Palestinians or of the Israelis (exacerbated by what psychologists call the "hostile media effect"). Often the same outlet is accused, by different people, of being both at once. For example, The New York Times is regularly castigated by left-wing and pro-Palestinian groups in the United States for its uncritical support of Israel, especially on its editorial pages, while right-wing, pro-Israel groups claim the paper has a pro-Palestinian bias, both citing the same editorial pages as well as factual errors in its reporting. While systematic bias cannot be construed simply on the basis of mistakes— editors and writers are often working under tight deadlines and mistakes made under pressure do not necessarily reflect personal or institutional political biases— journalistic ethic requires a newspaper to correct such errors. Failure to do so leads to charges of bias.

Accusations of media bias generally have one or more of the following bases:

  • Biased terminology - the use of certain words and phrases are likely to prejudice the reader's position to the news presented. Even using terms such as "Israel" and "Palestine" are likely to provoke charges of bias, since the legitimacy of each of these is not a foregone conclusion. See below for more detail.
  • Selective use of facts - only or mostly those facts that support one side or another are presented to the reader. A very common issue is the use of statistics over casualties, and whether these are combatant or civilian casualties.
  • Imbalanced presentation of disputed matters - unconfirmed items from one side are accepted at face value.
  • A pattern of selective reporting - over time, the news presented through a media organization tends to emphasize one side of the story at the expense of the other.
  • Insufficient presentation of context - news are presented without sufficient explanation of the circumstances of the events being reported
  • Commingling editorial and news reporting - editorial opinion is inserted into news reporting that is supposed to be objective.
  • Coercion of reporting/censorship - journalists are pressured into distorting their reporting for fear of losing access or their lives.
  • Outright forgery - video footage, quotes, and other items are fabricated to bias the presentation. See Pallywood for such allegations.


Choice of terms may bring charges of bias. Consider the implications of the following:

Alleged motivationsEdit

A number of reasons are cited for alleged bias, the most prominent being:

  • A tendency toward sensationalism. Stories that evoke emotional responses are more likely to get play in the mainstream press, and editors are accused of favoring those that emphasize pathos.
  • Prejudiced journalists. Several varieties exist, including:
    • Political ideology. Journalists are accused of having a left- or right-wing outlook that distorts their perceptions and reporting.
    • Ethnic and/or religious bias. Journalists with Jewish or Arabic names (or who are known to belong to one ethnic group or another) routinely have their reports discounted because of alleged tribal loyalty. From time to time, it is alleged that Jewish ownership of major media organizations leads to undue influence over the editorial process. (This, however, is also popularly rumored by anti-Semites of the government, film/television industy, jewelry busines, and other fields.)
    • Ethnic and/or religious prejudice. Reporters and journalists are also accused of bigotry against Jews, Arabs, or Muslims.
  • Israeli or Palestinian censorship and intimidation. Authorities in Israel and/or areas controlled by the Palestinian authority exercise unfair control over what is published, either through censorship[2], intimidation before the fact [3], or sanctions after the fact.
  • Reliance on freelance journalists. Reporters may find it difficult, costly, or impossible to get firsthand knowledge of the conflict, and thus many rely on local freelance journalists with their own biases and agendas.

Complexity of the issueEdit

As is the case with all controversial issues, each party is likely to charge the media with bias anytime coverage goes against their cause. This has indeed been the defense of major news organizations that have been subject to criticism and condemnation for alleged bias.

Indeed, because the context and reality differs so significantly for the principal parties in the conflict, it is likely that accusations of bias aren't merely self-serving; they are likely to be sincere objections to the press presenting a reality that seems alien to those who are in it. Efforts to prove bias run the range from polemics that accuse reporters of pursuing their own political agenda, to fact-based analyses to prove one bias or another.

Both sides maintain media monitoring organizations, which monitor video and print coverage for what they perceive as media bias against their side. The most visible such organizations are Arab Media Watch, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

Fallacies of media reportingEdit

  • Balance = neutrality. Some media organizations seem to believe that the truth is the average of two extremes, thereby neglecting the responsibility to find the truth.
  • Sources have equal credibility. A source that consistently turns out to be unreliable should not be given equal weighting to one that more often is reliable, and/or demonstrates good faith.

Incidents of Controversial Media ReportingEdit

  • The alleged shooting of Muhammad al-Durrah, which sources initially claimed Israeli forces had killed the 12-year-old boy. Notably, the British press was quick to condemn Israel before any substantial analysis of the footage was conducted. Some analysts have since concluded al-Durrah was actually killed by Palestinian militants (whether or not this was accidental or deliberate is not agreed upon).[1]
  • Tuvia Grossman, an American Jewish tourist, was misrepresented in a photo as a Palestinian victim of a club-wielding Israeli policeman. In reality, the policeman was defending the bleeding Grossman from Palestinian mobs who "severely [beat] and stabbed" him and two friends.
  • During the April 2002 Battle of Jenin, Palestinian sources claimed Israel massacred hundrends of Palestinians. The United Nations (initially condemning Israel for its media blackout) and Amnesty International concluded that a massacre had not taken place. The Palestinian Authority later acknowledged those findings. Human Rights Watch concluded that Palestinian gunmen had endangered the lives of Palestinian civilians. Staged funerals had taken place, which various analysts and programs, such as 60 Minutes, have documented.[2] Investigations found that 52 Palestinians had been killed, mostly militants. This figure is about 80 percent less than what initial Palestinian sources claimed. 23 Israeli soldiers were killed.
  • After the Gaza beach blast where eight Palestinians had been killed, Palestinian and other sources claimed they had been victims of an Israeli shell. Many reports have concluded Israel artillery had not been responsible for the blast. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] The unique state of the source of the explosion) has made it difficult to conclude what actually killed the victims. The IDF's theory is that the explosion was caused by unexploded ordnance buried in the sand, although whether it was a Palestinian or Israeli explosive is not determined. According to Human Rights Watch, the IDF investigation was not credible and their artillery strike most likely killed the family: “There has been much speculation about the cause of the beach killings, but the evidence we have gathered strongly suggests Israeli artillery fire was to blame,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “It is crucial that an independent investigative team, with the necessary expertise, verify the facts in a transparent manner.”[9]
  • During the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah conflict, sources claimed that Israeli forces had killed 60 Lebanese in Qana. Investigators concluded that 28 had died. Similarly, in Houla, it was falsely reported that Israel had killed 40 Lebanese. The correct number was found to be 1. Israel was also accused of bombing an ambulance and its rescue personelle during the conflict; however, analysis of the vehicle after the incident is cleary inconsistent with a missile strike.[10][11]
  • PATV has broadcasted falsified videos: 1) An authentic clip of an Israeli helicopter is shown, the video then cuts to a girl tripping and falling on the ground while sound effects are played. (Oct. 5, 2001) 2) Muhammad al-Durrah shot dead, after an implanted video clip of an unrelated Israeli soldier. (2002-03) 3) Another broadcast of Muhammad al-Durrah, this time implanting another shot of a different soldier. (2002-03) 4) An implanted scene of the Israeli Navy, then cuts to Palestinians grieving on the Gaza beach. [4]

Personal risksEdit

Reporters Without Borders publishes a yearly worldwide press freedom ranking of countries. Using 7 colors on a spectrum (1-Red having most restraints on press, and 7-Deep green having the least restraints and thus more freedom of press), Israel was placed in the 5-Blue category (#50, the highest ranking in the Middle East), along with the United States, Italy, and Argentina. The Palestinian Authority was placed in the 3-Yellow category along with Sudan, Rwanda, and Kazakhstan, and ranked quite lowly in terms of freedom of press (#134 of 167, in 2006).

Journalists reporting the conflict often do so at great personal risk. Palestinian journalists claim they have not been given official press cards since Israel stopped renewing them on 1 January 2002 and allege that they are harassed, threatened, insulted, physically attacked or wounded by the Israeli army. During 2004 the APTN cameraman Nazeh Darwazi and the British cameraman James Miller were killed and the AFP photographer Saïf Dahla, Ahmed Jadallah (photographer) and Shams Odeh (cameraman) (both of Reuters) were wounded. [5]. On April 14 2005 an Israeli Military Judge dismissed disciplinary proceedings against the army officer in the James Miller shooting; the British Government reacted to this news with dismay.

On the other side, Palestinians have been accused of intimidating journalists - often citing the French NGO Reporters without Borders, which ranks the Palestinian territories as 132nd in the world in terms of freedom given to reporters ([6]). Italy’s state television network RAI has had to recall its correspondents from East Jerusalem, fearing for their lives, since the Palestinians strictly prohibited releasing tapes of the lynching of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah. This is despite an RAI reporter, Riccardo Cristiano, sending a letter to the Palestinian Authority stressing his support for the Palestinian cause. According to the AP, Israel Radio and the Jerusalem Post, the Palestinians also threatened news organizations and their workers in an effort to stop the broadcast of video showing large crowds of Palestinians celebrating after the deadly 9/11 terrorist attacks. Reporters Without Borders reported in 2005 that "lawlessness continues in Gaza and journalists have become targets. Four were kidnapped during the year and the Palestinian Authority (132nd) seemed powerless to prevent the situation worsening."

Films about the media coverageEdit

Media bias regarding the Middle East conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has also attracted much media attention in itself. By now it has reached a point that several films have been made regarding the issue of media bias in this conflict.

The films include:


See alsoEdit


  • The Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, by Charles D. Smith (2004)
  • Bad News from Israel, Greg Philo and Mike Berry Pluto Press, (2004)
  • Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, New and Revised Edition, by Norman G. Finkelstein (2003)
  • Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on U.S. Middle East Policy, Kathleen Christison (2001)
  • Reporting the Arab Israeli Conflict: How Hegemony Works by Tamar Liebes (1997)
  • Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World, by Edward W. Said (1997)
  • Missing: The Bias Implicit in the Absent, by Marda Dunsky; Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol. 23, 2001
  • Racism and the North American Media Following 11 September: The Canadian Setting, by T.Y. Ismael and John Measor; Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol. 25, 2003
  • The Other War: A Debate: Questions of Balance in the Middle East by Adeel Hassan; Columbia Journalism Review, Vol. 42, May-June 2003
  • Caught in the Middle by Steve Mcnally; Columbia Journalism Review, Vol. 40, January-February 2002
  • Days of Rage: News Organizations Have Been Besieged by Outraged Critics Accusing Them of Unfair Coverage of the Violence in the Middle East. Are They Guilty as Charged?, by Sharyn Vane; American Journalism Review, Vol. 24, July-August 2002
  • Do Words and Pictures from the Middle East Matter? A Journalist from the Region Argues That U.S. Policy Is Not Affected by the Way News Is Reported, by Rami G. Khouri; Nieman Reports, Vol. 56, Fall 2002
  • Covering the Intifada: A Hazardous Beat; Photographers and Journalists Come under Gunfire While Reporting on the Conflict, by Joel Campagna; Nieman Reports, Vol. 56, Fall 2002
  • Images Lead to Varying Perceptions: 'In Photographs in Which We, as Journalists, Saw Danger, Some Readers Saw Deception, by Debbie Kornmiller; Nieman Reports, Vol. 56, Fall 2002
  • The Minefield of Language in Middle East Coverage: Journalists Rarely Have the Time or Space to Navigate through the War of Words, by Beverly Wall; Nieman Reports, Vol. 56, Fall 2002
  • The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy. Stephanie Guttmann, Encounter Books, 2005 (ISBN 1-893554-94-5)

External linksEdit

Credit and categoriesEdit

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