Fifty-years of US media study reveals massive anti-Palestinian bias

Activists stage a rally condemning the Israeli violence at the Gaza Strip’s eastern border in Brooklyn, New York, United States on 14 May, 2018 [Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency]

While any reasonable person might feel that we do not really need to do a study to conclude that the mainstream US media has an anti-Palestinian, pro-Israel bias that affirms the lies of the latter while minimizing the reality of the former, one international research group has done just that.

Confirming what most of us have always known — and what Israel spends a fortune on trying to conceal — 416 Labs has confirmed that the mainstream news media in America is biased in favour of Israel and against Palestinians. The 416 Labs study covers an exhaustive period of 50 years, from the aftermath of the June 1967 Six Day War and the start of Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

"Our results support previous research and claims that the US mainstream media's coverage of the issue favours Israel by providing greater access to Israeli officials, focusing on Israeli narratives both in terms of the quantity of coverage as well as the overall sentiment, as conveyed by headlines," say the 416 Labs team.

The study concludes that the failure to achieve peace is a direct result of both media bias that protects Israel from most if not all blame for almost anything and everything, regardless of how serious, as well as Washington's unwavering and unconditional support for the Israeli government.

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"A key factor in prolonging the conflict has been the United States' unconditional support for successive Israeli governments; which has helped entrench Israel's illegal presence in the Palestinian territories. Augmenting this has been the US mainstream media, which critics argue has maintained a slanted view of the occupation, one that favours the Israeli narrative over those of Palestinians."

In other words, no matter what crimes Israel commits — including murder, human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity — the media will spin the propaganda to erase Israel's culpability while exaggerating Palestinian shortcomings.

In a country like America where most people get their "education" about current Middle East events and Arab history from the TV and newspapers, the media's biases are embraced almost without question. For Americans, the pro-Israel lie is spun into the truth while the pro-Palestinian truth becomes the lie.

And therein lies the problem. When the American people are brainwashed into believing Israeli lies by never-ending pro-Israel propaganda, it has a direct impact on politicians who find it even easier to whitewash Israel's war crimes and introduce legislation that violates the Constitutional pillars of US democracy.

This week, for example, the US Senate's first item on the agenda is not legislation intended to tackle some of the most important issues facing the people of America, such as hunger and homelessness, murder and crime, the economy and healthcare. Far from it. The first issue that legislators will address is a law to punish any American citizen who exercises their right to free speech enshrined in the US Constitution and supports a boycott of Israel. Adopting Senate Bill 1 in the 116th Congress essentially violates the First Amendment of the Constitution which guarantees that every American has the right of "free speech" to express their opinions without intimidation, bullying or demonisation.

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If there is any confusion about what that Amendment States, here it is: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

"Abridging the freedom of speech" in this case means making it illegal for someone to oppose Israel's violations of human rights, theft of land and building of Jewish-only settlements on occupied territory; and preventing citizens from boycotting any goods that are produced by companies which benefit from such activities which are specifically deemed illegal under international law.

The anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) legislation is expected to be approved by the Republican-controlled Senate and then go to the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives where, once passed, any American who criticises Israel and boycotts the state and its products faces prosecution and severe penalties.

Media brainwashing almost always follows the Israeli narrative in its reporting and has thus contributed to this state of affairs coming into being. As a result, it becomes easier for Israel to push its version of events, making itself look good, while discrediting the Palestinians. One example of this is the steady replacement of the word "occupied" with "disputed" territory when referring to the West Bank and Jerusalem.

As well as introducing draconian laws like the anti-BDS legislation, the US Congress also votes through billions of dollars of military aid to Israel every year. While American citizens are homeless and hungry, their government pays Israel at least $3 billion every year; that's $8 million a day. It's astonishing.

How does the media respond to this? It hides its coverage of Israel-Palestine behind its more objective professional coverage of other topics. The mainstream US media may be outrageously biased in its coverage of Israeli and Palestinian issues, but that news probably only represents around 5 per cent of the total output, which is overshadowed by the 95 per cent. That's how the media maintains its own image as a fair, principled and accurate profession.

The 416 Labs study is shocking, but should come as no great surprise. Nevertheless, its conclusions are a sad indictment of the state of the mainstream US news media.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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