Mideast News and Propaganda

Joseph Farah, WorldNetDaily.com
Sept. 6, 2001

I don't like to write about "media bias."

As someone who has worked in the media his entire adult life, I prefer to do my job to the best of my ability and leave the criticism of my colleagues to the press watchdogs.

But, sometimes, when coverage is so skewed, so distorted and so one-sided, I feel compelled to speak out.

Such is the case with coverage of the Middle East by the international establishment media.

Here are a few examples of what I'm talking about:

- The BBC routinely characterizes bombings by the Irish Republican Army as the work of "terrorists." When Arabs bomb targets in Israel, the perpetrators are often called "militants."

- The New York Times no longer accepts as historical fact that a Jewish Temple once stood upon the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. News stories now refer to "the Temple Mount, which Israel claims to have been the site of the First and Second Temples."

- Ariel Sharon, the duly elected leader of the state of Israel is often referred to by the Associated Press and other news agencies as a "hard liner." Yasser Arafat, the self-proclaimed leader of the Palestinian Arabs, is often referred to as a "moderate."

- CNN.com offers a list of websites relating to the Middle East under the heading "General Information Sites." All 12 are Arab-related resources.

- Bryant Gumbel of CBS' "The Early Show" interviewed Middle East envoy Dennis Ross about Ariel Sharon shortly after his election victory earlier this year. Here's one question from the host: "But does he [Arafat] even have a chance with Sharon, when many objective observers view him as not only a racist, a terrorist, a murderous war criminal?"

- In February, when an Arab, Khalil abu Olbeh, killed eight Israelis by ramming his bus into a crowd, the London Guardian described him as "a sort of Palestinian everyman who finally snapped because of the combined pressure of the four-month uprising and Israel's economic blockade."

- The Oct. 23, 2000, edition of Teen Newsweek, a magazine distributed to middle-school students across America, featured a photo of three Arabs – one holding up blood-covered hands. The caption read: "In the West Bank city of Ramallah, bloodied Palestinian protesters express their rage." No mention was made of the fact that these "protesters" had just finished beating, stabbing, burning and disemboweling two innocent Israelis.

I could go on and on with such examples. They appear in virtually every outlet of the big corporate media world in the West – defying the stereotype of "heavy Jewish influence and presence in the press" – or, perhaps, in spite of it.

Why does it take an Arab-American journalist, of all people, to point out this pervasive pattern? And how does one explain it?

I'm not sure I can answer either one of those questions. But I will try.

Coverage of Middle East events is actually far more balanced in Israel itself – though there are many media critics in the Jewish state who see a surprising tendency to tilt toward the Arab point of view even within the embattled nation. Meanwhile, coverage in the Arab world is largely the product of an official or semi-official press. Governments do the talking through the media.

In addition, even Israeli officials tend to be quite understated and balanced in their presentation of their viewpoints and the viewpoints of the government. While, in the Arab world, fiery, threatening, bellicose rhetoric is the rule.

International coverage centered on Israel takes advantage of one of the most open societies in the world – one in which spokesmen for the Arab Palestinians are as easy to find as spokesmen for the government. And the Arabs are better prepared, more conscious of effective propaganda techniques and masters of spin and the use of overstatement. Official Israeli spokesmen tend to be, shall we say, "less colorful" than those organizing the mayhem in the streets.

There are other factors at work as well. The reasons for the bias are not nearly so important as the solution, because these propaganda coups by the Arabs are making an impact on policy. And there will be no solution – there never is – until someone, somewhere, somehow identifies the problem.