Glasgow University Media Group’s ambitious new study of British TV’s coverage of Israel and the Palestinians, More Bad News from Israel, is the second edition of 2004’s Bad News From Israel. Led by academics Greg Philo and Mike Berry, this work is precise, fair-minded and detailed. It constitutes irrefutable evidence of endemic pro-Israel bias.
Those of us regularly subjected to BBC and ITV news won’t exactly find this conclusion surprising but the importance of detailed documentary evidence like this book provides cannot be overstated.
The team had originally analyzed approximately 200 bulletins and questioned more than 800 persons. This new edition examines coverage from the past few years (369). Samples of coverage were taken from the main news bulletins on BBC and ITV (the most popular TV news programs in the UK). The authors identify key themes, such as coverage of casualties on “either side,” justifications for violence and “peace conferences” and international diplomacy. Audiences from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds were asked to complete a series of questionnaires and take part in focus groups. The vast majority reported that TV news was their primary source of information on Israel and the Palestinians.
The samples, taken from key moments in recent history, are well chosen. The focus of the initial study was coverage of the second Palestinian intifada’s outbreak in 2000 (in the first two weeks of which, Israel, by its own soldiers’ accounts, fired a million bullets at unarmed protesters). The next samples are taken from one year later (by which time Palestinian groups had started retaliatory bombings within Israel), and from coverage of the March and April 2002 Israeli re-invasions of the occupied West Bank.
The new chapters look at coverage of Israel’s 2008-09 winter assault on Gaza and the Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla a year ago (which was breaking news at the time the book was due to go to print).
Systematic preference for Israeli points of view
By fastidiously counting lines of transcript text, the authors identify a systematic preference for Israeli points of view. Israeli speakers were given twice as much space as Palestinians during the first few weeks of the intifada (215). Israeli casualties were disproportionately reported, accounting for approximately a third of the coverage, despite the actual ratio of 13 Palestinian deaths to one Israeli at that stage (223). After the Palestinian retaliatory bombing campaign began, this phenomenon worsened: “from October to December 2001 we found that there was significantly more coverage of Israeli casualties than Palestinian” even though the reality was actually still the opposite (259-60).
The study’s most telling findings concern the dominant explanatory framework and the lack of background or historical context in coverage. Even when individual journalists manage to make implicit criticisms of Israeli actions, such as on the killing of civilians, Israeli rationales were always reported — or even adopted by journalists themselves. “The journalists do not always sound happy about the Israeli rationales” but they were still included and “there is no comparable inclusion or discussion of the reasons for Palestinian action” (254).
The authors give many examples of this, including an ITV report from March 2002 that described Israeli collective punishment destroying civilian infrastructure around Bethlehem as “the ongoing fight against terror.” But there are “no commentaries such as ‘the Israeli attacks have reinforced the determination of Palestinian fighters to defend their land against Israeli terror’ [and] … we do not hear of Palestinian attacks as sending ‘a tough message to Israelis to end military rule’” (265). Such statements are unimaginable on British TV.
“All bang bang stuff”
One BBC journalist was told by his editor he wasn’t interested in “explainers” since “it’s all bang bang stuff” (180-1). But the audience studies here reveal “a strong feeling in the [focus] groups that the news should explain origins and causes” (315). This is unsurprising, considering that audiences questioned here often did not even know what nationality “settlers” were, or that there was a military occupation of the West Bank (400-1).
The two key historical events missing from the narrative of TV news are the Nakba (Arabic for “catastrophe”), what Palestinians call the ethnic cleansing and dispossession of their homeland in 1947-48, and the military occupation that started in 1967 (333). One student in a focus group said: “I didn’t realize they [Palestinians] had actually been driven out” (292). As the authors put it: “these absences in public knowledge very closely parallel the absence of such information on the TV news” (294).
The new audience studies for this second edition looked at whether anything has changed since 2004. The answer for the most part seems to be no. Coverage of Palestinian casualties seems to have increased, but Israeli casualties are still over-represented proportionate to the level of Palestinian deaths (363). Overall, the “most striking feature” of the new samples was “the dominance of the Israeli perspective” (340).
Has the tide turned on perceptions of Palestine?
Many of us who follow Western perceptions of Palestine have gained optimism by detecting a slow but positive shift in public opinion in support of Palestinians over the last couple of years. Perhaps that is still true, but the new findings here give pause for thought. The framework of assumptions is still overwhelmingly influenced by the Israeli version of events. In other words, Palestinian actions are always assumed to lead to Israeli “responses.”
The original study revealed that the “Israeli response to Palestinian violence” formula was so all-pervasive that the infamous Israeli killing of Gaza schoolboy Muhammad al-Dura in the first days of the intifada was understood by many as as “response” to a killing of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah — even though the latter event actually took place afterwards (305). The updated audience studies here suggest that this malign phenomenon has not changed.
Palestinian rockets from Gaza were still seen by many as the main reason for Palestinian civilian deaths: “Palestinians are seen as initiating the violence … [so] it follows that Israel is ‘retaliating’” (378). On the BBC during the sample period 27 December 2008 to 17 January 2009, Israel’s November 2008 violation of the ceasefire with Hamas was mentioned in only 4.25 lines of transcript, compared with 249 lines of text that emphasized the firing of Palestinian rockets into southern Israel (419).
ATHENS — A group suspected of being linked with the Israeli foreign intelligence agency the Mossad was reported to have tried to thwart the sailing of a Greek ship slated to join the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla II due to set sail sometime next week.
The elements tried to sabotage the ship’s engine, but a crew discovered the men while checking the equipment, Quds Press said, quoting sources from the flotilla’s organizing body, on Saturday. The sources added that the men fled the scene.
Since the incident, participants have been taking turns watching guard in anticipation of another shot at foiling the mission to deliver much needed humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
The flotilla, which will include some 15 ships and hundreds of notable passengers, has insisted on heading for the Strip despite Israel’s open threats to use military force to stop the ships short before landing at the said destination.
Meanwhile, the European campaign to end the siege on Gaza, one of the largest organizers of the flotilla, has announced that the first ship to join the flotilla has departed from France.
The ship, titled “Dignity”, has left the Corsica seaport in France and is on her way to the point where the rest of the ships will take off, said ECESG member Mazen Kahil in a press statement. He added that the ship will join another French ship docked in Greece.
He also announced that technical problems on some of the ships could cause delays in the scheduled departure next week.
Spanish protesters have set off from Barcelona, marching toward the capital, Madrid, on their last and longest march against unemployment, welfare cuts and corruption.
The protesters, who currently number around 50, plan to campaign in every midway city to gather support for the Madrid rally, which is expected to take place on July 24, AFP reported.
The country has witnessed non-stop anti-government demonstrations since May 15.
“First we took to the streets, then the squares, and now the highways,” said Rafael de la Rubia, international coordinator of the movement World without War, who is among the demonstrators.
“After that, we will take Europe,” he asserted.
Spain is struggling to recover from nearly two years of recession triggered for the most part by the collapse of an overheated real estate sector.
The country’s unemployment rate has reportedly surpassed 21 percent in the first quarter of the year — the highest rate recorded for joblessness in the industrialized world.
Currently, some nine million people suffer from poverty across the country.
Last month, Amnesty International warned that hundreds of thousands of families in Spain are at the risk of losing their homes.
Protests are expected to continue as the Bank of Spain says the crippled economy will likely keep the recovery rate slow and the jobless figure will likely remain high for the foreseeable future.
Basra provincial council voted on a decision to prevent US Forces from entering the province, Al Sadr Front’s Ahrar Bloc said on Wednesday.
Basra provincial council called to withdraw US Forces from Basra International Airport and affirmed that the council’s decision stipulates compensating damaged citizens from US military operations.
“26 out of 35 members at Basra provincial council voted during its ordinary session held on Wednesday night on a draft resolution brought forth by Al Ahrar Bloc preventing US Forces from entering Basra City”, head of Al Ahrar Bloc in Basra Mazen Al Mazeni told Alsumarianews.
The draft resolution calls as well for the full withdrawal of US Forces from Basra International Airport, Al Mazeni added.
“The resolution includes a paragraph that stipulates compensations for damaged citizens from US military operations in Basra, head of the Information and Relations Department at Basra Provincial Council Hashem Luaibi told Alsumarianews.
“The Council has issued its decision based on the entitlements granted by the provincial council law number 21 for the year 2008”, he added.
US Forces in Basra Province, 590 kilometers southern Baghdad, are stationed mostly at the military wing of Basra International Airport, 14 kilometers northwestern Basra. Basra International Airport is divided into two wings, one civilian and another military. The civilian wing is under full control of US authorities while US Forces are stationed at a military base in the airport’s military wing. US and British Embassies are based at the airport as well. Before 2008, Basra airport’s military wing used to come under missile attacks. It was targeted this month several times.
A discussion on militarism in Israeli society and gender equality in the army.
Alex Cohn, a war resister who served five months for objecting to serve in the army analyses a children’s show that portrays a typical interaction between soldiers and Israeli children as part of a discussion on the insidious prevalence of militarism in Israeli society.
What is the best way to smear Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists and get away with it?
That is the question David Bernstein, Executive Director of the pro-Israel propaganda group, The David Project, asks in a surprisingly frank article titled “How to ‘Name-And-Shame’ Without Looking Like a Jerk” posted on Israel Campus Beat, a website sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
One of the more controversial tactics in a growing effort to counter the delegitimization of Israel is to “name-and-shame” – to go after those who actively delegitimize Israel and seek to delegitimize them.
There are even those, such as British journalist Melanie Phillips, who argue that our entire strategy should be to relentlessly attack the other side and to cease “defending” Israel.
While name-and-shame tactics can be put to positive effect, they can also easily backfire and do more harm than good. We need to learn the art of being disagreeable in the most agreeable possible fashion.
Hiding vilification behind a veneer of “civility”
Bernstein offers advice on how to be as insincere as possible in order to undermine Palestine solidarity work, especially on college campuses:
- Start every critique with supportive words for peace or free discourse or both.
- Don’t accuse anti-Israel forces of anti-Semitism unless they openly vilify Jews; accuse them of being anti-peace for opposing Israel’s right to exist.
- On campuses and other places where anti-Israel groups act in a disruptive manner, write and promulgate civility petitions calling on all parties to engage in a respectful discussion. If the anti-Israel groups sign it, then they constrain their future actions; if they don’t, they can be accused of being uncivil.
- In taking on an anti-Israel professor on campus, don’t focus on the substantive arguments they make. That will make you look like you’re trying to stifle discourse. Instead, accuse them, in the words of Professor Gil Troy, of “academic malpractice” for propagandizing the classroom.
- When someone on campus justifies Hamas or Hezbollah, call them out by asking a question: Do you really support the Hamas charter’s call for killing Jews? Can that ever be justified?
- Avoid indictments against all Muslims or Islam; preface any criticism of a Muslim radical group with an acknowledgement of peaceful Muslims.
No one should be fooled by the mask of civility – Bernstein makes clear that the goal is to “delegitimize” and marginalize, not to actually engage in “civil” debate.
The David Project’s dirty tricks
The David Project has a long history of dirty tricks. Indeed, the group was a key actor in the slander and fabrication campaign against Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad, part of the unsuccessful effort to deny him tenure (Massad explains the background in a statement on his website after his list of publications).
More broadly, the effort to “name and shame” Palestine solidarity activists is part of the major “anti-delegitimization” efforts underway by American Zionist organizations at the suggestion of The Reut Institute, an Israeli think-tank which in 2010 called for a campaign of “sabotage and attack” on activists and organizations.
In October 2010, the Jewish Federations of North America – an umbrella for 157 major pro-Israel organisations – and the Jewish Council on Public Affairs launched a $6 million initiative called the “Israel Action Network” to fight “delegitimization” – a strategy that will undoubtedly include “name and shame.”
As I wrote for Aljazeera.net last December in “Defending Palestinian solidarity”:
I got a foretaste of what the Israel Action Network’s tactics will likely be when Sam Sokolove, the head of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, launched a failed effort to get academic departments at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque to withdraw their support for a lecture I gave in November. Sokolove’s campaign involved publicly vilifying me in the media, likening me to a member of the Ku Klux Klan. It is probably because of the publicity the Jewish Federation gave me that hundreds of people attended my talk.
We can thank Bernstein for his honesty in explaining to us what Israel lobby tactics amount to: personal vilification hiding behind a thin veneer of calls for “civility.” It’s a further sign of the bankruptcy of so much “pro-Israel activism.” It is not so much “pro-Israel” as anti-Palestinian. It has no positive message to offer whatsoever, certainly not one of peace.
Melanie Phillips named and shamed
One final note of irony. In his piece, Bernstein cites Melanie Phillips, a very prominent pro-Israel advocate in the UK who has routinely attacked and vilified many people who have spoken up for Palestinian rights.
Last week, Phillips left her position at The Spectator under a cloud: the publication was forced to make several high profile apologies for Phillips’ totally false attacks against several people and organizations for alleged anti-Semitism or criticism of Israel. Phillips has been particularly virulent in her Islamophobic attacks on British Muslims, as Mehdi Hasan of The New Statesman reports.
The State Department said today that it is “seriously” considering classifying Venezuela as a “terrorist state”
By Eva Golinger – June 24, 2011
During a hearing today on the Foreign Relations Committee of the House of Representatives of the United States on “sanctioned activities in Venezuela,” Congressional Democrats and Republicans asked the Obama administration to take more aggressive actions against the government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. The head of the Sub-Committee on Foreign Affairs for the Western Hemisphere, Connie Mack, Republican of Florida, branded the Venezuelan government “terrorist”, saying “it is time to act to contain the dangerous influence of Hugo Chavez and his relations with Iran”.
Mack is known for his rabid anti-Chavez stance. However, the Republican congressman has weight in the legislature because of his high office in the Foreign Relations Committee. His efforts, along with the head of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, managed to convince the White House to impose sanctions against Venezuela’s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) last May 24. Mack has said that his only mission this year is “go for Hugo Chavez.”
Today’s hearing, devoted entirely to in Venezuela, was attended by senior officials of the State Department, the Treasury Department and the Office of Foreign Assets Control. In testimony before the Committee, the Assistant Under-Secretary of State for Latin America, Kevin Whitaker, revealed that the administration of Barack Obama is “seriously considering” labeling Venezuela a “terrorist state”. “No option is off the table and the department will continue to study any further action as may be necessary in the future,” said Whitaker.
The sanctions imposed on May 24 PDVSA fell into a sanctions law against Iran (Iran Sanctions Act) of the United States, including the prohibition of entering into contracts with the U.S. government, the use of the import and export bank of the United States and the approval of certain technology licensing. Washington’s hostile action towards Venezuela did not have much economic impact against the South American country and its oil company because it no longer had agreements with the U.S. government or loans from their banks. The sanctions did not affect the important oil supplies from Venezuela to the United States or the Venezuelan subsidiary in U.S. territory, CITGO.
However, the sanctions had an impact on diplomatic relations between Caracas and Washington, which were already in a period of deterioration. After the latter’s aggressive actions, the Venezuelan government declared relations with the United States “frozen”.
DANGEROUS TO DO BUSINESS WITH PDVSA
According to the Department of State, sanctions against PDVSA, while not impacting the country economically, “give a message to the world that it is dangerous to do business with Venezuela and PDVSA,” indicating that in the near future, Washington would act against those who enter into contracts or agreements with Venezuelan companies.
SANCTIONS AGAINST CONVIASA
The lawmakers also demanded that the State Department impose sanctions against the Venezuelan airline CONVIASA because of what they consider their “support for terrorism” because it had maintained flights between Caracas, Syria and Iran. Without a shred of evidence, the congressmen said that the flight, which is no longer operating, was “carrying radioactive material, weapons, drugs and known terrorists of Hezbollah and Iran.”
To support this dangerous “accusation”, Congress cited the German newspaper, Die Welt, which had published earlier in the week that Venezuela and Iran were building a missile base in the western Venezuelan coast-to “attack the United States.” Faced with this misinformation, President Hugo Chavez showed footage of a farm of windmills in the location where “sources” had indicated the fictional Iranian military base was.
The congress also implored the State Department to consider applying more sanctions against Venezuela, including “a ban on U.S. imports” and “transactions in dollars.” Representatives of the White House said that although they are considering further action against the government of Hugo Chávez, which they consider to be “an enemy government”, they must take into account the significant supply of Venezuelan oil, which comprised 15% of U.S. imports . Some days ago, President Barack Obama authorized oil drilling in the state of Alaska in an area protected due to its environmental value, indicating that Washington is seeking to secure their energy needs before breaking the trade relationship with Venezuela.
SANCTIONS TO DATE
In addition to the sanctions imposed against PDVSA on 24 May, Washington already has taken aggressive actions against the Venezuelan government. In June of 2006, it classified Venezuela as a country that “does not cooperate sufficiently with the fight against terrorism” and imposed sanctions prohibiting US arms sales to Venezuela or of any company in the world using U.S. technology.
Since 2005, Washington also has classified Venezuela as a country that does not “cooperate in the fight against drug trafficking,” which should carry a financial penalty against the South American country. Yet, Washington clarified that since Venezuela has no loans in the U.S., the only support that could be cut would be those millions of dollars given annually to anti-Chavez groups in Haiti who work every day to overthrow the Chavez government. They included an exception to this penalty, saying that it “would not affect the U.S. financial support grants to democratic ‘civil society’ organizations, thus ensuring continued support for the destabilization of Venezuela.
In 2007, the Treasury of the United States sanctioned three senior Venezuelan officials, accusing them of ties to terrorism and drug trafficking, but never offered proof. The officials included the Director of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, General Hugo Carvajal, the then Director of Bolivarian Intelligence (SEBIN), General Henry Rangel and then-Minister of Interior and Justice, Ramón Rodríguez Chacin.
The following year, the Treasury Department designated two Venezuelans of Syrian origin, Fawzi Kan’an and Ghazi Nasr al Din, as being “terrorists” for having ties with Hezbollah, considered a terrorist group by the United States.
All indications are that Washington will continue to increase their aggression against Venezuela with future sanctions and isolation.
Translation by Aletho News
See also AFP:
NABLUS — The Israeli Public Prosecutor has informed the HaMoked rights group that a West Bank professor has been denied permission to leave the occupied Palestinian territories to join a media conference in Qatar.
Al-Najah University professor Dr. Farid Abu Dhaheir said in a statement after HaMoked informed him of the decision that he was said to have “posed a threat” to Israeli security, adding that the grounds for the decision were “laughable”.
The professor explained that he planned on traveling to Qatar to join a conference staged by UNESCO and the World Conference of Science Journalism on June 26 to share the Palestinians’ experience in science journalism.
Abu Dhaheir said he had previously taken part in several conferences and academic activities in several countries without being banned from travel.
In his statement, Abu Dhaheir denied having political ties and said the decision was one form of collective punishment that Israel uses against Palestinian civilians. He said that thousands of Palestinians are banned from traveling abroad in an attempt to suppress them.
He also highlighted that the decision conflicts with human rights and humanitarian law, which ensure the freedom of movement between countries. He called on the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, as well as Arab states and rights groups to pressure Israel into dealing with the Palestinians according to international law.
Last month Israeli forces intercepted Abu Dhaheir on a crossing on his way to Jordan where his son was supposed to undergo a surgery. He was turned back even though he obtained prior approval from Israeli officials. The Israeli prosecutor then claimed that he poses a threat to Israel because of his ties abroad, ties which Abu Dhaheir has denied altogether.
Israeli authorities have disallowed Dr. Abu Dhaheir from traveling abroad since 2006 on the same grounds.