Following a major study on television coverage of the Second Intifada by Glasgow University Media Group, several journalists from the BBC continued to stay in touch with the media group. Greg Philo, research director of the group reports in the Guardian Israel’s PR victory shames news broadcasters: “The propaganda battle over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has reached a new level of intensity.”
Since then we have been contacted by many journalists, especially from the BBC, and told of the intense pressures they are under that limit criticism of Israel. They asked us to raise the issue in public because they can’t. They speak of “waiting in fear for the phone call from the Israelis” (meaning the embassy or higher), of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau having been “leant on by the Americans”, of being “guilty of self-censorship” and of “urgently needing an external arbiter”. Yet the public response of the BBC is to avoid reporting our latest findings. Those in control have the power to say what is not going to be the news.
Exposing a “relentless” barrage of coordinated messaging from Israel endured by broadcasters and journalist alike, the toll it has taken on both the coverage and public impression of the conflict is predictable.
In a new project , we have analysed more than 4,000 lines of text from the main UK news bulletins of the attack, but there was no coverage in these of the killing by the Israelis of more than 1,000 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, in the three years before it. In the TV news coverage, Israeli statements on the causes of action overwhelmed those of the Palestinians by more than three to one. Palestinian statements tended to be only that they would seek revenge on Israel. The underlying reasons for the conflict were absent, such as being driven from their homes and land when Israel was created…….We interviewed audience groups and found the gaps in their knowledge closely paralleled absences in the news. A majority believed Palestinians broke the ceasefire that existed before the December attack and did not know Israel had attacked Gaza during it, in November 2008, killing six Palestinians. Members of the public expressed sorrow for the plight of Palestinians but, because of the Israeli message so firmly carried by TV, they thought the Palestinians had somehow brought it on themselves. As one put it: “When I saw the pictures of the dead children it was dreadful, I was in tears but it didn’t make me feel that the Palestinians and Hamas were right … I think the Palestinians haven’t taken the chance to work towards a peaceful solution. Hamas called an end to the last ceasefire.” This participant was surprised to hear Hamas was reported to have said it would have stopped the rockets if Israel had agreed to lift its economic siege. The source was Ephraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad intelligence service.
We have to keep the pressure up, this is a crucial period. I am reminded of the thrill I experienced the other night reviewing the amazing evening Blueprint for Accountability when Naomi Klein called Mondoweiss a ‘lifeline’ (@ 28 minutes). This is what the internet means to Palestine and Israel. This is what we mean for justice and freedom, all of us. We have to keep the pressure up because we can win this. They can’t fool everyone forever and it is up to us to balance out this constant onslaught of propaganda by exposing the truth.
(hat tip seafoid)