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UK media’s pro-Israel bias revealed

MEMO Monitoring looks at the UK media bias during Israel’s war on Gaza and the influence of the coverage analysed by the Centre of Media Monitoring. Some of the most blatant examples of pro-Israel bias in the UK media include ‘Islamophobia’, ‘dehumanisation of the Palestinian people’, ‘lack of fact checking’ and the constant ‘questioning of the Palestinian death toll’ in Gaza. Israel claims are accepted as fact, the report found, while Palestinians are regularly discredited, it added.

May 19, 2024 at 10:00 am

The portrayal of Israel’s war on Gaza in the UK media has sparked concerns about bias and one-sided reporting. A recent study by the Centre of Media Monitoring (CfMM) sheds light on these issues, revealing a consistent favouring of Israeli narratives over Palestinian perspectives.

The report examined over 180,000 video clips and approximately 26,000 articles from various British media outlets and take focus on the first month of Israel’s war on Gaza. It identifies a troubling pattern wherein Israeli viewpoints are often prioritised, overshadowing the plight of Palestinians. Emotive language is frequently employed to depict Israeli victims, while Palestinian voices are marginalised, and Israeli representatives are allowed to dehumanise Palestinians without proper challenge.

As presented in the genocide case brought against Israel at the International Court of Justice, the report also found that Palestinians had been dehumanised as people. Israeli politicians were given platforms on stations during which they used dehumanising language, calling Palestinians in Gaza ‘human animals’ or saying that ‘Palestinian children brought this upon themselves’. Whilst media outlets should report statements by Israeli politicians, they should do so with the appropriate context and should refrain from using dehumanising language themselves.

However, the blurring of lines suggests that the population in Gaza shares the responsibility of Hamas’ attacks as a result of an election that took place almost two decades ago and in which the majority of today’s population of the Strip did not vote, was promoted by many media personalities. Furthermore, the report found that Israelis are about 11 times more likely to be referred to as victims of attacks, compared to Palestinians. When the UK media deploys emotive language, it is far more likely to be used about Israelis than Palestinians, who in consequence are stripped of their humanity. Israeli victims of Palestinian violence are “killed” while Palestinians mysteriously “die”.

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Despite the United Nations and the Geneva Convention recognising the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, the Palestinian struggle has been undermined in the media, where it is claimed that the Palestinian fight against the Israeli occupation is anti-Semitic and comes from an ancient hatred of Jews inherently rooted in Islam, which is entirely false. These claims of anti-Semitism are not only directed against Palestinians but Muslims in general.

Furthermore, the report found that the British media broadly adopted the Israeli viewpoint that the conflict started on 7 October without providing the necessary context. Acknowledging historical context in ongoing news coverage is vital for audiences to grasp the circumstances possibly leading to the 7 October attacks.

Disregarding any hostilities, occupation, or aggression from Israel in the preceding days and weeks, and in fact years and decades, is inaccurate. Furthermore, the increased violence in the occupied West Bank where more than 234  Palestinians, including children, had been killed in 2023 before 7 October, was rarely covered.

The report also found that the disproportionate number of Palestinians killed by Israel has constantly been undermined by media outlets who treat the killings of Israeli and Palestinian civilians differently. One notable example is from the Times newspaper in November 2023 when it wrote : “Israelis marked a month since Hamas killed 1,400 people and kidnapped 240, starting a war in which 10,300 Palestinians are said to have died.”

Arguably this is the correct journalistic approach when numbers cannot be absolutely verified, yet this same approach is not taken to question the number of Israelis killed, which has subsequently been revised down to 1,139, including those killed by Israeli tank fire.

At a time when tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed, and many more risk death as a result of starvation caused by Israel’s siege on Gaza, it is ever more important to ensure balanced and accurate reporting of the events on the ground by the British media. A more clear understanding of events may lead to an end to the bloodshed and, ultimately, peace.