Gaza: Falling rockets and failing media

Some journalists defend their journalistic bias toward Israel, but the truth will prevail

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi
Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi
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Lies are easily exposed when the truth comes out.

Indeed, social media outlets and several journalists with refreshing conscience have finally spoken out against the farcically biased and unprofessional stance taken by the Western media in favor of Israel during its ongoing onslaught on Gaza.

MSNBC’s Rula Jebreal is one such example. Jebreal recently denounced the media for being complicit with the infamous American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) through their continuous funding. “It is because of this money that we journalists have become disgustingly biased in favor of Israel,” Jebreal said. “Just look at the airtime given to Israeli commentators compared with their Palestinian counterparts,” she said.

Jebreal also referred to NBC’s recent failed attempt to apparently silence their veteran journalist, Ayman Mohyeldin, in Gaza. Mohyeldin’s only fault, as I understand it, was his emotive coverage of the Israeli slaughter of four children as they played on the beach. Mohyeldin had also spoken about restrictions on movement due to the continued Israeli siege on Palestinians in a televised report. No amount of “objective” coverage, such as Mohyeldin’s assertion that Hamas’ military wing operates in a highly condensed area and that any rocket-launching attempts are inevitably made in residential areas, did him justice.

Mohyeldin’s removal from Gaza, however, did not last long. Popular pressure via social media sites forced NBC to send Mohyeldin back to the war-torn region soon enough.

Sadly, such instances remain rare in the U.S. media.

Indeed, the U.S. continues to paint this war as being equal between both sides.

Rampant headlines, such as one that read “Israel and Hamas trade attacks as tension rises” in the New York Times, are a wicked perversion of the truth.

Sometimes, only one-sided stories make it to the press, such as a Wall Street Journal headline that read “Gaza rockets reaching deeper into Israel.”

The Washington Post, meanwhile, took journalistic brazenness to new levels.

Two Israelis killed in Gaza clash,” read one headline, with “death toll tops 330 as Hamas militants step up attacks” as a subheading to suggest to the average layman that Palestinian “terrorists” are responsible for the death of their own people.

It is this kind of coverage that degrades Palestinian lives so effectively and violates the very basic tenets of the journalism profession. Yet such a dynamic is nothing new.

The U.S. media, it seems, has always sided with Israel, using pro-Israeli terms and adopting the Jewish state’s fundamental narrative. Occupied territories have become “disputed,” illegal settlers who kill Palestinians are “extremists” and Palestinian fighters are “terrorists.” Other channels have gone even further than this.

Fox News, for example, bluntly defends right-wing Republicans and their unwavering support of Israel. CNC, NBC, and to some extent, CNN, also take Israel’s side, in my eyes.

These charades, however, can’t continue for long with the explosive advent of social media sites, which have given a new and unprecedented platform for publicizing the other side of the story. ABC’s Diane Sawyer, for instance, succumbed to pressure on Twitter and apologized for telling viewers that images of the destruction in Gaza were in Israel.

The tragic images of children killed by the Israeli army, and especially the images of the four kids who died while playing on the beach, has revived world conscience and reminded readers of the “other” side of the story. All of these indicate that change is inevitable.

Even in the U.S., certain journalists have had the courage to portray the facts as they are. Satirist Jon Stewart has parodied many of the media’s injustices, in one instance commenting on NBC’s coverage of an exchange of fire between fighters and the Israeli Defense Forces.

Stewart even mocked Israel’s “humane” alert bombs signaling Gaza’s residents to flee their homes. “Evacuate to where?” asked Stewart rhetorically. “Have you seen Gaza? Israel has closed its border and Egypt has closed its border. What, are they supposed to swim for it?”

Some journalists defend their journalistic bias toward Israel, arguing that Israelis provide them with English-speaking eyewitnesses, unlike the Palestinians in Gaza.

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, however, had an answer to that contention. “That simply won’t wash,” writes Zogby. “There are a number of courageous souls covering the situation within Gaza,” citing the name of journalists narrating from the ground. This, in fact, is true and journalists should not betray the ethics of the profession by taking the easy way out. They, instead, should take it upon themselves to do their factual homework and defend values and morals through their writing.

By any standards, Gaza is an open wound and media outlets that ignore this catastrophe are taking an active part in the crime. Research centers should analyze media coverage and keep a check on the way social media activists are fabricating and propagating stories.

Verily, amid the madness, the voice of truth will always prevail.

This article was first published in Arab News on July 30, 2014.


Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi is the editor-in-chief of Sayidaty and al-Jamila magazines. A prominent journalist who worked with Asharq al-Awsat in London and Arab News in KSA, al-Harthi later moved on to establish al-Eqtisadiah newspaper in KSA, in which he rose the position of Editorial Manager. He was appointed editor-in-chief for Arajol magazine in 1997. He won the Gulf Excellence award in 1992.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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