What the media reports, how, and who influences all this is no doubt important in how we understand the issues and what opinions and perspectives we therefore form. As Israeli reporter, Amira Hass points out3, what journalism should be about is to monitor power and the centres of power. Aspects of mainstream biases then are worth noting.
The US and other Western mainstream media and Israeli leaders solely lay the blame of the current violence on Yasser Arafat. However, there is no real alternative to provide the Palestinians and they are also fed up with Arafat himself. The recent violence can equally be attributed to the actions of Israeli leaders, and also the frustration of the one-sided peace process4, to which Arafat has not represented the Palestinian people, but instead, advanced his own interests.
Headlines of many mainstream sources also give misleading perceptions. Things like Israel extends time for peace (USA Today, October 10, 2000) leave the impression that it is solely the fault of Palestinians. As Jewish-American media critic, Normon Solomon says5, At this rate, we may someday see a headline that reads: Israel Demands Palestinians Stop Attacking Bullets With Their Bodies.
One US report even advocates brutality against Palestinians6, which has been condemned by Amnesty International.
The mainstream media often interviews a disproportionately large number of people that are supportive of US and Israeli policies and vilifying Arabs, Palestinians and/or Islam. The questioning is often very supportive rather than inquisitive. Senators, former or current military personnel etc are all regarded as experts on the Middle East. Civilian members, analysts and critics of American policy are usually not given much of a voice, or if they are, they are not usually present in a debate where their statements are analyzed by some sort of panel. For most of the population then, the framing of the discourse has been set and the perceptions made8.
According to then U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, she saw the US as an even-handed peace broker. In addition, [t]hose Palestinian rock throwers have placed Israel under siege adding that the Israeli army is defending itself. (Meet the Press, NBC, October 8, 2000). Many officials claim this position, and the US mainstream media accept it mostly without question.
For sure, it can be seen that Israel does have to defend itself against these attacks, for it has had a devastating toll on Israeli civilian lives. And, while there is often detailed reporting on some of the horrific events, on some of the talks that various sides have tried to initiate, and so forth, the deeper context within which the latest Palestinian uprising is ocurring is often left out.
The Palestinians have indeed risen up with protests, riots, violence and often with horrendous suicide bombings that target Israeli civilians. However the deeper context within which the Palestinian uprising has occured is often not looked at in detail. For example, some aspects often not looked into by much of the mainstream is that:
It is Palestine which is occupied.
Israeli tanks, helicopter gun ships etc have been used against villages, camps and cities, firing missiles and live rounds. (They also targeted the Palestinian National Authority’s Gaza headquarters, the Voice of Palestine radio station and police stations.)
In comparison, the Palestinians don’t have an army in the first place. The Palestinian police force, accused of firing against Israeli soldiers are doing their primary job of protecting their citizens.
Israeli extremists have also been turning on Palestinians living in Israel.
For analysis and critique about Albright’s statements, see this report titled A Tragic Reversal: Madeleine Albright’s View of Reality10 by Hanan Ashrawi, Arab Media Internet Network, October 9, 2000
It is worth quoting at considerable length, the following background context, of the Camp David negotiations:
The above quoted article from FAIR also details how the mainstream media has claimed that generous concessions by the Israeli side have been met with hatred and violence from the Palestinian side. Yet, the above context suggests that those generous concessions were at the least very questionable from a Palestinian perspective.
At the same time, the following quote summarizes well the failing of the Palestinian leadership to help clearly articulate their issues so that others will listen and understand: