Bias and selective reporting in favor of Israel is nothing new. We have come to expect sins of omission and commission from the media, and recent weeks proved to be no exception.
On 19 December, 18 Israeli soldiers crossed into Lebanese territory and abducted two middle-aged men harvesting olives near the village of Blida. They were taken into Israel where they were interrogated, beaten and tortured. The men were repeatedly bitten by dogs and questioned about a possible connection to Hizballah. They were released the next day around 3am. While the event was widely reported in the Lebanese media, it did not register a blip in mainstream Western outlets. The only significant Western report on this incident appeared on the Agence France-Presse news service and did not attract significant attention.
In striking contrast, on 25 December, The New York Times was one of the first news outlets to publish a report on the Lebanese army’s discovery, in the Lebanese town of Naqura, of eight Katyusha rockets “aimed at Israel” (so they were pointed south?). The Lebanese army then dismantled the rockets. Any threat posed by them was neutralized. Notwithstanding the fact that eight Cold War-era rockets do not pose much of a threat to the fourth largest military power in the world, The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune saw fit to publish the story, along with The International Herald Tribune and a number of Australian newspapers. None of these sources mentioned the kidnapping that occurred the previous week.
Concerning the invasion of Gaza, Western media sources consistently ignored the fact that it is Israel that has violated its truce with Hamas. The Israeli government continually refers to Hamas as having “seized power” in a “coup” of June 2007, even though it came to light eight months ago that the US armed and trained the Fatah movement with the intent of overthrowing the democratically-elected Hamas government.
Hamas’ routing of Fatah in Gaza was clearly a response to aggressive intervention, yet the continuing war between Palestinian factions is consistently portrayed as the result of Hamas alone and not the result of American, Israeli and Fatah attempts to thwart the legitimate outcome of the Palestinian elections of 2006. Major Western media outlets conveniently leave these facts out when recounting Hamas’ rise to power and popularity in Gaza. Most importantly, the Hamas movement’s de facto acceptance of a two-state solution, one based on the 1967 borders and conditional on the passing of a national referendum, has not been highlighted.
What we have here is more clear evidence that the Western media ignores direct attacks on Arab peoples while amplifying and exaggerating the threat of “terrorism” against Israel. Legitimate criticism of Israeli policy is suppressed through journalistic crimes of omission and commission. The public is presented with images and stories of Arab violence and aggression while the notion of Israeli restraint and victimhood is piously maintained. Israeli actions are thus “responses” and never belligerence.
Hopefully, more critical readers will ask themselves why the 2006 abduction of Israeli soldiers was immediately news of global significance, but the 2008 kidnapping of Lebanese civilians has been greeted with a deafening silence.
Nate George is a Lebanese-American activist, filmmaker, and graduate student at the American University of Beirut. He may be reached at ndg00 A T aub D O T edu.lb.