My debut Malaysiakini piece. The Star, NST and The Sun decided not to print it – I already expected so, seeing as they have to watch out for their printer’s licences and my letter seems very pro-Israel (strict no-no around here!). Which is why I included Malaysiakini on the mailing list this time.
You need a subscription to view the full article. Luckily, I’ve included the full version screen captures. I’ve also included the text for easier reading and access to the links.
Also, thanks to Dr. Hsu for alerting me to the appearance of my letter and for saving the page for me before I got a subscription for the full version.
Are US news agencies biased against Palestine?
Alison Weir at her recent talk in Petaling Jaya organised by Just (International Movement for a Just World) with the theme ‘Deadly Distortion: American News Coverage of Israel-Palestine and its Effect on the Alleged Clash of Civilisations’ gives the impression that American news agencies are biased against Palestine and in favour of Israel in their coverage of the conflict.
Without expressing support for either side in the conflict, I would like to say that this issue is not as clear cut as it is made out to seem. My purpose in writing this letter is simply this: To point out that the American media is not always unflinchingly on the side of Israel.
In fact, a not-inconsequential number of columnists and bloggers, in America and worldwide, feel the exact opposite – that the American media is routinely biased against Israel, and simultaneously unfairly biased in favour of Palestine and whoever Israel’s opponents are.
For example, take the case of Tuvia Goldman. In this case, a photo taken during the Al-Aqsa Intifada of 2000 depicted a bloodied youth with a shouting, club-wielding Israeli policeman standing behind him.
This photo was published by at least seven American newspapers including the New York Times, with an accompanying caption stating that the unarmed youth was a Palestinian. The caption also gave the impression that the Israeli policeman was in the process of assaulting the youth. Thus the scenario fed to the public was that of uniformed Israeli brutality against an innocent Palestinian.
It was only when the youth’s father sent a letter to the New York Times that the truth behind the sensation was revealed: The injured youth was actually Jewish. While riding in a taxi, he and his friends had been mobbed, beaten and stabbed by Palestinian Arabs. The youth, Tuvia Grossman, managed to stagger to a petrol station where the Israeli policeman protected him from probable death.
American media bias?
A sincere error in reporting, perhaps. But when the New York Times published a correction, it omitted any mention of the youth having been beaten by Palestinians. Was that an example of American media bias in favour of Palestine?
Another example of alleged media inaccuracy not in favour of Israel is the well-known Red Cross Ambulance Incident. In this incident, photographs and television footage were released by the mainstream media depicting two damaged ambulances during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. One of the ambulances had a hole piercing directly through the centre of the red cross painted on its roof.
The media all across America and elsewhere reported that these ambulances in Lebanon had been struck by Israeli military weapons. Eyewitnesses to the incident who were interviewed testified that an Israeli aircraft had aimed rockets at the ambulances, scoring a direct hit on them and creating a huge fireblast that injured the ambulance drivers and passersby.
All in all, the impression that was created was that the Israeli armed forces had deliberately targeted clearly-marked humanitarian aid vehicles, causing much bloodshed and death. In other words, a blatant and unquestionable war crime.
The enigmatic reporter Zombietime was, however, skeptical of this claim. Using media-released photos as reference material, he investigates on various inconsistencies in the media-published accounts.
For example, the ‘rocket hole’ punched through the Red Cross symbol was quite suspicious. What were the chances a rocket fired at range would hit the exact middle of the symbol? Why is the hole so small and neat, instead of large and ragged from a rocket ripping through the metal roof? Why are there already rust large marks around the ‘freshly made’ hole?
If the rocket supposedly tore into the ambulance from the outside, why are the edges of the hole bent outwards from the inside of the ambulance? And wait a second, isn’t the position of the hole exactly where these Red Cross ambulances usually have a round emergency light or siren? Perhaps all that happened was that the light had been removed, rather than a spectacular rocket impact having made the hole?
If the rocket struck the ambulance and exploded devastatingly – as the various eyewitnesses swear – why are the ambulances shown in the photographs so remarkably intact? Where are the blood and gore and burn marks from the fire? Even the inside of the ambulances look amazingly under-damaged for an explosion that purportedly happened inside the passenger compartment.
And the ambulance driver who was reported to have been seriously injured by the rocket, who was shown in photographs resting in hospital heavily bandaged… Why does he appear in photographs taken less than a week later walking about, unbandaged and completely uninjured?
Zombietime proposed several hypotheses as to why such slipshod reporting was so quickly accepted and aired by the American media. One hypothesis was that the American media was politically biased against Israel, rather than the other way around as Alison Weir believes.
The charges of reporting bias against Israel are not confined to American media either. Other Western media have occasionally been taken to task for their dubious news sources and alleged laziness in basic facts-checking.
For an example involving the BBC, a photo shows a Lebanese woman wailing in front of a demolished building. The caption reads that she is mourning her home, which was recently destroyed by Israeli weapons.
Yet in a photo claimed to have been taken two weeks later, the exact same woman in the exact same clothes is shown looking shocked in front of a completely different building…which is also claimed to be her home that was just destroyed by Israeli weapons! This strange coincidence was publicized by blogger Drinking From Home.
Censored and doctored
With it being so seemingly easy to manipulate the Western media, there even exists the term ‘Pallywood’ – a combination of the words Palestine and Hollywood. The term refers to news events that are allegedly staged by locals and cameramen to portray Israel in an unfavourable light as often as possible. Such events are quickly scooped up by foreign reporters eager for juicy news coverage, with nary a regard for its authenticity.
And even if the Israel-Palestine conflict is given pro-Israel selective coverage by the American media, what can be said of the media in other countries… Including our own? Is the media worldwide fair and unbiased, or is it heavily censored and doctored in favour of a certain side, depending on the country’s political leanings?
Once again, let me reiterate the disclaimer that I am in no way supporting Israel with my reporting and references. I am merely pointing out that even if there does exist significant media bias in favour of Israel, there also exists evidence of significant media bias against Israel. I sincerely and strongly ask that the editor keep these disclaimers of mine.
But there is also another lesson to be learned from the above stories. In many of those cases, it was independent bloggers who did the reasearch and pointed out the inconsistencies in the traditional media reporting. That is truly something worthy to be mentioned when bloggers today are accused by certain official channels of being incapable of anything except shallow reporting and spreading sensational rumours.
The ideal of reporting is to be truthful, accurate and unbiased. Unfortunately, it seems that in the harsh realities of this world, the tenets of free speech are often abused and exploited for ulterior motives. It’s enough to make skeptics and paranoid questioners of us all.
But with every netizen being capable of individually checking out the reports and facts for themselves, our questions will at least have a chance of receiving satisfactory answers.
SCOTT THONG YU YUEN, a Malaysian, believes that to sacrifice the truth for any cause is to sacrifice the integrity of that cause.
For more information on the topics I mentioned in my letter, browse thru the following:
2006 Lebanon War photographs controversies
Zombietime on Reuters photo fraud
Media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
If Americans Knew (founded by Alison Weir)
Fauxtography Update (List of fake news pics)
Media Mythbusters Wiki(Dedicated to exposing media inaccuracies)