In September, the Associated Press published a report titled “Palestinians mourn boy who died ‘of fear’ of Israeli troops,” claiming a 7-year-old died of cardiac arrest after being chased. However, upon further investigation, the story of his death was fabricated—the young boy had fallen from the balcony of his home.
In January, an NBC News headline read “Deadliest Israeli raid in decades fuels fears violence could spiral.” But NBC buried deep in its story that the raid was a counter-terrorism operation that killed seven terrorists.
Also in January, Agence France-Presse (AFP) published the headline “Israeli Civilian Kills Palestinian at West Bank Farm.” The title insinuates an Israeli killed an innocent Palestinian, but it’s not until you begin to read the article that you find out the Palestinian, Tariq Maali, tried to stab the innocent Israeli civilian.
If you peruse these headlines on your phone, you might begin to think Israelis are walking around killing innocent Palestinians—which is a lie.
These three misleading headlines have all been published in the last few months. So trust me when I say there is plenty more where that came from.
Is this just bad reporting, or is there more to the media’s image of Israel than meets the eye?
Matti Friedman seems to think there is an intentional effort among journalists to fashion a narrative about Israel to show a “Jewish moral failure.” In his 2014 The Atlantic piece “What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel,” he describes the journalistic culture of Western reporters in Israel as a pipeline that’s beyond rusty; it’s been “intentionally plugged.”
There is an intentional effort among journalists to fashion a narrative about Israel to show a “Jewish moral failure.”
As a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of The Associated Press (AP) between 2006 and 2011, Friedman saw for himself when the foreign press would break ethical standards after journalists abandoned their “objective observer” position to help pro-Palestinian institutions, organizations, and NGOs.
For instance, the former AP reporter recalls a student rally at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem when Palestinian students were supporting the armed fundamentalist group Islamic Jihad. Actors pretended to be dead Israeli soldiers as a line of masked men stood close by with their hands in a Nazi-like salute. Hundreds of students were present for the event.
Ironically, Al-Quds University, where the rally took place, is just down the road from the offices of the hundreds of foreign journalists based in Jerusalem. For some reason, the editors didn’t consider the student demonstration newsworthy. However, the foreign press did publish that the U.S. State Department would provide a slight increase in funding for the Palestinian Authority on the same day as the rally.
I’m sure the cutting room floor of these press rooms is full of stories the world needs to read about. Still, the international press ignores, hides, or manipulates “the uglier aspects of Palestinian society” that disrupt the Israel narrative they create for you to read.
The international press ignores, hides, or manipulates “the uglier aspects of Palestinian society” that disrupt the Israel narrative they create for you to read.
Friedman suggests that this problem among Jerusalem-based journalists is deeper than their personal opinions toward Israel’s politics and security policies. He believes it’s more about how the press deprecates the “Jews of Israel” because of what they symbolize:
In these circles, in my experience, a distaste for Israel has come to be something between an acceptable prejudice and a prerequisite for entry. I don’t mean a critical approach to Israeli policies or to the ham-fisted government currently in charge in this country, but a belief that to some extent the Jews of Israel are a symbol of the world’s ills, particularly those connected to nationalism, militarism, colonialism, and racism—an idea quickly becoming one of the central elements of the “progressive” Western zeitgeist, spreading from the European left to American college campuses and intellectuals, including journalists. In this social group, this sentiment is translated into editorial decisions made by individual reporters and editors covering Israel, and this, in turn, gives such thinking the means of mass self-replication.
If his critique is correct, then news from the foreign press will always arch toward an anti-Israel bias since each article is written on an antisemitic foundation. This isn’t journalism; it’s anti-Israel advocacy.
Finding Trustworthy Sources
Here’s the good news (no pun intended): Friedman’s article was written nearly 10 years ago, and a lot has changed. As seen in the headlines above, journalists are still twisting headlines to write their ugly Israel narrative. However, there are resources you can access that can help you read between the lines.
Honestreporting.com analyzes stories, articles, opinion pieces, and images that appear in the media’s coverage of Israel, exposing and responding to inaccuracies or bias. They are a great resource to help you find the truth behind what the media publishes.
Also, the majority of Israel’s major media outlets are available online in English to get reporting straight from the Jewish state, skipping over the foreign press. I regularly check The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post, i24 News, and Ynet News for my Israeli news. Of course, opinions vary among Israeli journalists; but at least you can be sure they don’t see themselves “as a symbol of the world’s ills.”
Before you let an article change your opinion of Israel, consider the slant the writer or the publication might have. Israel faces an uphill battle because of the united journalistic efforts to portray it as the enemy. No country is perfect or justified in all it does, but if you read the facts of a news story about Israel with an open mind, you’ll learn to spot the journalistic tactics used to tear down Israel, and you’ll find Israel to be better than its reputation suggests.