Comical Complaints // Are mainstream media too nice to Israel?

Sometimes-increasingly so, of late—it feels like we’ve been dropped into some bizarre alternative universe where black is white and white is black; down is up and up is down; wrong is right and right is wrong. Where logic and reason are crazily twisted beyond all recognition.

Where there can be an onslaught, like there recently has been, aimed at major media for their alleged bias—get this —favoring Israel and disfavoring Palestinians, including Hamas.

The CNN network, for one, stands accused by some vocal members of its own staff who claim that it endorses what they call “Israeli propaganda” and censors “Palestinian perspectives.” (Note those telling nouns.) The network’s coverage of the Israel-Hamas War, says one anonymous CNN staffer, “amounts to journalistic malpractice.”

Some recent CNN headlines, just for some context: “Children die of hunger and mothers are unable to feed newborns in Gaza.” “Hamas responds to ceasefire proposal but accuses Israel of ‘stalling.’” “Israel ‘intentionally starving the Palestinian people,’ UN experts say.”

Just a sampling.

So, how, you ask, can anyone claim that the network is biased toward Israel? Good question! Well, let’s look at some of the complaints.

CNN, it is alleged, advises its reporters to avoid quoting Hamas spokespeople. Horrors!

Considering that the on-a-loop message of the gleeful murderers of innocents is that they own the Holy Land and wholeheartedly wish to continue to execute what their credo declares and render it Judenrein, one can sort of understand a reluctance to offer them a megaphone. As David Lindsay, CNN’s senior director of news standards and practices, wrote, Hamas statements are largely “inflammatory rhetoric and propaganda” and thus are not newsworthy. “We should be careful,” he asserted, “not to give it a platform.”

Another accusation: CNN requires stories written in the US about the Gaza war to be vetted by its Jerusalem bureau. Further horrors. How unreasonable, even hateful, to want to ensure that accuracy isn’t compromised by distance.

Another ostensible CNN outrage concerns a memo that advised staff that, when reporting on the toll taken on Gazans by Israeli military action, “we must continue always to remind our audiences of the immediate cause of this current conflict, namely the Hamas attack and mass murder and kidnap of civilians.” What chutzpah, asking reporters to accurately contextualize a conflict. Isn’t October 7 just ancient and irrelevant history?

The same memo also said that references to casualty figures from the Gaza health ministry add that it is “Hamas-controlled.” More unnecessary contextualization! More horrors still!

Just because a group has no qualms about joyfully butchering babies, it shouldn’t enjoy the presumption of honesty and integrity?  (University of Pennsylvania Professor of Statistics and Data Science Abraham Wyner, analyzing data for Tablet, concludes that the “civilian casualty count is likely to be extremely overstated.”)

A disgruntled CNN staffer also saw something sinister in network anchor Jake Tapper’s asking (after solemnly acknowledging the death and suffering of Palestinians in Gaza), “What exactly did Hamas think the Israeli military would do in response” to the October 7 attack? The staffer saw pro-Israel prejudice in Mr. Tapper’s daring to raise a rather pertinent question.

And it’s not just CNN that’s under fire. An assortment of “studies” have been reported to have exposed multiple major media’s supposedly pro-Israel biases.

Media studies scholar Mohamad Elmasry argued back in 2009 that US media rationalize Israeli military actions as a reluctant and understandable aspect of war, “retaliatory and legitimate,” while depicting Palestinian violence as “barbaric and senseless.” Sounds about right to me.

And last year, MIT’s Holly Jackson conducted a study of 33,000 news articles over many years and, with the help of state-of-the-art AI technology, found that there was anti-Palestinian bias that persisted during the first and second intifadas. That “bias” may have had something to do with the fact that the terrorism of those years was perpetrated by Arabs and that its victims were innocent Israelis. But never mind. AI has spoken.

Ms. Jackson also sees prejudice in the tone of some more recent New York Times reports. Like one about clashes between radical Arabs and Israeli hotheads in May 2021.

It stated that, in one episode, in Tveryah, “They [some Israeli Jews] threw rocks at hotels housing Arabs, who hurled objects from their windows in return.”

The evidence of bias? That Israelis “threw” and Arabs, from their windows, “hurled.”


She reveals, too, that the passive construction “killed” was used in headlines like “Palestinian killed as clashes erupt with troops,” while the active construction “slay” was used in “Palestinians slay 2 Israeli hikers.”

Does it really need to be said that attackers who are fatally fired upon are not the equivalent of wantonly murdered innocents—and that language reflecting that trenchant truth is perfectly proper?

A similar obliviousness plagues the progressive online news organization The Intercept, which reported that it collected more than 1,000 articles from The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times about the war in Gaza and found a gross imbalance in Israel’s favor.

Words describing the killing of civilians like “slaughter,” “massacre,” and “horrific” were almost exclusively used, the report revealed, for Israelis killed by Palestinians, rather than the other way around.

An example offered was a New York Times story’s headline that read: “They Ran Into a Bomb Shelter for Safety. Instead, They Were Slaughtered.” While the paper’s deeply sympathetic profile of Palestinian deaths in Gaza was headlined: “The War Turns Gaza Into a ‘Graveyard’ for Children.” Scratching your head on that one? Me, too.

The Washington Post, moreover, the report further noted, employed “massacre” several times in its reporting to describe October 7—when the Gazan attackers engaged in what Atlantic writer Graeme Wood described as “pure, predatory sadism”—but not at all when reporting about unintended casualties caused by Israeli bombing of Hamas outposts and tunnels. Those unfortunate people were only “killed.” Someone please send the folks at The Intercept a dictionary.

Another ostensible demonstration of The New York Times’ pro-Israel slant (yes, remember, we’re in an alternate universe) lies in its reportage about prisoner exchanges. The paper referred in one case to “Israeli women and children” being exchanged for “Palestinian women and minors.” The glaring, incriminating evidence?  The use of “children” vs. “minors.”

Among Hamas-held hostages who were released were a two-year-old, a four-year-old, and an eight-year-old. The young people released from Israeli detention had to be old enough to wield a knife or hurl—sorry, throw—a rock at an Israeli. None were babies or toddlers. Or even (well, probably; they do train them young) eight-year-olds.

The Intercept also noted that The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times mentioned anti-Semitism more frequently than they did Islamophobia. Might that have been due to things like what FBI statistics showed for 2022 (the latest year reported), that there were 1,305 anti-Jewish incidents in the country, and 205 anti-Muslim ones?

There’s a glaring bottom line here, and it needs to be seriously confronted.

With all due respect to Godwin’s Law, there are times when comparisons to Hitler and the Third Reich are not mere overblown insults but entirely apt. To compare Hamas leaders, whose fondest wish is to see Jews murdered, with Hitler and his henchmen is not unreasonable. In fact, it is a compelling correlation. Likewise, comparing those leaders’ followers who lustily carry out such carnage—yes, slaughters and massacres—with Nazis is entirely appropriate. In fact, it’s arguably inadequate.

Does recognizing those indisputable facts when reporting on events in Israel and neighboring areas constitute biased journalism? Would reportage during World War II that acknowledged the inherent evil of Nazism have outraged any responsible reporter at the time? Are there not times when… black is black and white, white?

The critics of media reports that treat the victims of Hamas murderousness and of Israeli military actions differently have indeed demonstrated bias.

Not their targets’ but their own.

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