In the past few weeks, I searched the word “Israel” in leading international news websites, originated in the US and the UK and presenting themselves as balanced and impartial. I examined the stories they tell about my country, and compared them with the facts, only to find that some stories are far from accurate and are being told in a way that serves anti-Israeli propaganda.
On this post, I will focus on the main controversial story of the month: Israel’s decision to release Palestinian prisoners as a gesture of goodwill to Abbas.
So what really happened there? Sunday night, Israel released the names of the 26 Palestinian security prisoners who are scheduled to be released as a gesture of goodwill to Mahmoud Abbas, as part of the peace process. A few hours later, two rockets were fired toward southern Israel by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. In response, the Israeli aircraft attacked two rocket launchers in north Gaza.
How was the story covered on some of the leading English speaking news websites?
BBC: The title BBC gave the story was: “Israel to free next 26 Palestinian prisoners under deal”. The title presents the release as part of an official, formal deal, which can make the reader think it is a part of the peace process itself, and not a gesture prior to the official talks. The article itself did not mention the fact it is a gesture of goodwill, and not the result of any agreement made officially as part of the peace process. The article also failed to mention the reaction from Gaza. Instead, it focused on the previous prisoners’ release in August, and reminding the reader how emotional the terrorists’ and murderers’ return home was.
CBS: The title CBS gave the story was: “Israel releases 26 Palestinian prisoners ahead of peace talks”. It is a bit more accurate title than the BBC one, for it recognizes the release as an act of goodwill, ahead of any formal agreements and deals under the peace talks. With that being said, this article, much like the BBC one, also failed to mention the attack from Gaza. It also focused on the prisoners’ release last August and presented the readers with the humane side of the prisoners, some of them are cold blooded murderers. Much like the BBC news report, it talked about the difficulties the prisoners and their households have experienced over the years, and did not refer to the Israeli families whose loved ones’ killers are being liberated and will likely move again.
ABC: The title ABC gave the story was: “Israel Releases 26 Palestinian Prisoners” It is somewhat in the middle between the BBC title and the CBS one, for it does not recognize the release as an act of goodwill ahead of the any formal agreement on the one hand, and does not create the false idea of the release being a part of any agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the other hand. This article starts with an “impartial and balanced” façade, but soon falls off the wagon. Unlike the first two articles, the ABC story does mention the anger within parts of the Israeli society for the release of the terrorists. However, it does not zoom in on the Israeli families, and only mentions the “Israeli society” as a whole. It also quotes only people on the Palestinian side of the story, and much like the previous articles, it faces Palestinian individuals with a somewhat vague and faceless “Israel.” By doing that, it helps the reader “feel” for the Palestinian side. This article also neglected to mention the attack from Gaza.
CNN: The title CNN gave the article was “Israel releases Palestinian prisoners amid protests.” On one hand, it appears to present both sides of the story. On the other hand, it does not mention the release being an act of goodwill. While the title appears to be impartial, the rest of the article appears to be dedicated in making Israel look bad, while hiding major parts of the truth. The article is completely biased, not mentioning the prisoners being terrorists, and not explaining why Israelis protested against the release (because the released prisoners are, in fact, terrorists and killers and many of them are set to strike again.) It tells the fictitious story of prisoners being released (setting the background for the assumption that they were falsely held captive) and returning home to their loving families, to the sounds of anger from the Israelis, who want to keep them captive for no reason. People who read this article have no chance of ever knowing the truth and furthermore, will probably create a resentment towards Israel. All because of a biased story disguised as a news report.
The first two articles neglected the fact that those prisoners are killers, but all four focused almost only on the Palestinian side of the story. They describe the joy for the prisoners’ return, and ignored the fact that in here, families are mourning on the release of those who murdered their loved ones. While Palestinians are being quoted and their feelings and emotions are detailed, the Israeli side remains anonymous and general. Palestinian people vs.“The State of Israel.” By doing that, all articles can easily fool the average reader who can mistakenly think those Palestinians were held in Israeli prison for no reason. It draws the picture of innocent Palestinian people facing a big, powerful, heartless and faceless “Israel.” Another important and disturbing issue is the neglection to report the attack from Gaza, which happened but was not covered, probably because it has the potential of affecting the storyline detailed above.
Moreover, and most importantly, those articles were written by people, journalists with opinions who wanted to tell a story in a certain way. News reports can pretend to be impartial, but they never are. They all go through the process of Media Framing, and it is something we all must remember when approaching any news report.