The Media’s Representation of Israel Leaves Much To Be Desired

By RACHEL SHMULEVICH
Opinions Co-Editor
Published: August 22, 2014

When it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict, the former has almost always drawn the short end of the stick when it comes to a fair and balanced representation in the media—at least if it’s the liberal media that’s doing the reporting. And while it’s important that we have many news outlets representing many different viewpoints, if viewers aren’t given the whole picture, they’ll inevitably draw an ill-informed conclusion that they might not have otherwise have come to.

There is no problem with taking a stance on an issue. However, there is a problem when it’s based on lies and omissions.

Palestinians march through the street protesting against Israel. Courtesy of Alex Proimos via Flickr
Palestinians march through the street protesting against Israel. Courtesy of Alex Proimos via Flickr

That’s exactly what’s happening today. According to a Pew Research poll published on July 28, about a third of the 18-29 demographic believes that Israel is to blame for the Gaza conflict. And given the dire state of liberal reporting on the issue, and the fact that our generation tends to be more liberal, those numbers are no coincidence. While a majority of Americans, 40%, believe that Hamas is to blame, most of those Americans come from the 40+ demographic—a group that tends to be more conservative—and it’s not particularly comforting that the college students and recent graduates who will soon take on meaningful leadership positions are so misinformed about one of the most important and complicated international conflicts of this day and age.

As it is with most issues, the liberal and conservative media are split—each with their own viewpoints, and their desire to get their viewpoints across in the most convincing way. This is nothing new. But both a conservative pro-Israel and a liberal anti-Israel broadcast, article, investigative piece, etc. are obligated to present all available facts. Again, there is nothing surprising here. What is surprising, however, is that for the liberal viewpoint to be made convincingly, practically the entire history of Hamas, and of the Gaza conflict, must be ignored or rewritten.

For example, on a July 25 CNN broadcast, Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the United States,  expressed his dissatisfaction with the network’s anti-Israel bias, citing their omission of the extremely important (and readily available) fact that rockets were found in two UN schools in Gaza—and then were handed back to Hamas. Anchor Erin Burnett then attempts to refute this claim by showing the footage in question—a report by Karl Penhaul—however, it only serves to further skew the facts. Penhaul clearly states that “the United Nations has accused militants of using at least two schools to store weapons and to store their rocket arsenals in as well.” Penhaul only says that Hamas was “accused” of storing weapons in schools—he never says that it is a fact that these rockets were found. In addition, he fails to mention that the rockets were then returned to Hamas by the UN itself.

This is one of the more subtle instances of the skewing and omitting of the truth, and it is still rather obvious that it is designed to skew the facts to make them fit the desired claim, rather than a skilled and thorough argument made in spite of them. But as someone with family in Israel, who has met children and adults alike who shudder during a thunderstorm because it reminds them of the rockets being continually dropped on their towns by Hamas, it’s particularly disconcerting for me to see fellow students and fellow Americans completely ignore what Hamas is: a terrorist organization bent on destroying Israel and Judaism.

The Hamas Covenant, or the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (1988), very clearly states that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it,” “[o]ur struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious” and should be carried out “until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realised.” It goes on to say, “‘The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews),’” that Palestine is a Muslim land which the Jews have overtaken, and that “jihad,” which Hamas interprets as meaning war, and not the non-violent struggle it is stressed to be by many Islam scholars, is the only option.

But we don’t hear these stories. It is only the conservative news outlets, while also far from perfect in their reporting of the Gaza conflict, that do not ignore what Hamas is and do not berate Israel for defending itself from a group that has been labeled a terrorist organization by most of the Western world—including the US. What pro-Israel media recognizes is that there is no real pro-Palestinian viewpoint: the conflict here is not between Israel and the citizens of Palestine—it is between Israel and Hamas.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t criticize Israel. We absolutely should. Nathan Sharansky, chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel and former deputy prime minister of Israel, said it best: “Israel, like any other free country, should be held to a higher moral standard than its unfree neighbors.” But to ignore that Hamas is a terrorist group; that their very own governing document asks not for peace, but for destruction; to support them anyway and call Israel supporters anti-Muslim and Islamophobic? For the UN to condemn Israel’s act of not sharing the Iron Dome—which has protected citizens from Hamas missile attacks—as a war crime and to once again ignore that Hamas stores rockets in UN schools (an actual war crime)?

Whatever the reason for the liberal media’s desire to ignore what is right in front of them, it is clear that they are failing to make a compelling anti-Israel/pro-Hamas argument without distorting and omitting the facts. And until they can, we must recognize it, and get the real facts so that we can take a real stance. The Gaza conflict isn’t going anywhere, and we must be well informed enough to at least have an honest conversation about it.