Israeli Deaths Matter More

The horrific shooting of eight young people at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem last Thursday was followed by saturation media coverage. International statesmen lined up with condemnations of the attack and condolences for the victims and their families.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced: “This is clearly an attempt to strike a blow at the very heart of the peace process.”1

Foreign Secretary David Milliband described the slaughter as “an arrow aimed at the heart of the peace process so recently revived.”2

The Guardian‘s front page declared: “the descent into violence in the Middle East accelerated last night” in a “dramatic escalation”.3 A Daily Mirror headline read: ‘Kids Murdered In The Library’4 The Telegraph asserted that the attack “is likely to be remembered as the moment the Middle East peace process died.”5

The contrast to reactions to the killing of over 120 Palestinians, including many women and children, in occupied Gaza the previous week could hardly be more striking. On one day alone, 60 people died in a hail of Israeli firepower using F-16 planes, Apache helicopter gunships, tanks, armoured bulldozers and ground troops.

No Western leader was heard condemning the Israeli assault on Gaza as “an attempt to strike a blow at the very heart of the peace process.” To our knowledge, no reporter suggested that “the peace process” had now “died”. No headlines screamed of Palestinian babies “murdered” in their beds. In short, news reports from the Gazan bloodbath typically lacked the anguished details and tone that suffused the reporting from Jerusalem less than a week later.

Nor was there the same heightened pitch and intensity of news coverage following Israel’s deadly ‘incursion’ into Gaza in mid-January. 17 Palestinians were killed in one day, and around 50 injured, while President Bush was visiting the region. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said:

What happened today is a massacre, a slaughter against the Palestinian people.

Our people cannot keep silent over these massacres. These massacres cannot bring peace.6

But for the Western media the massacres that really matter, the ones which “strike a blow at the very heart of the peace process”, are those inflicted on Israelis.

The BBC’s Propaganda Role

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is now at its worst since the occupation by Israel began in 1967. More Gazans are dependent on food aid than ever before: fully 1.1 million out of a population of 1.5 million. Hospitals are suffering the longest power cuts yet experienced, record levels of raw sewage are being pumped into the sea, and the economy is at its most dire with unemployment set to exceed 50 per cent.7 Is it any wonder that the people of Gaza are in despair?

Our alert of March 3 highlighted the lack of attention given to the latest assessment by John Dugard, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories. Palestinian terrorism, while abhorrent, is the “inevitable consequence” of Israeli occupation, noted Dugard. He warned: “the collective punishment of Gaza by Israel is expressly prohibited by international humanitarian law.”8 The BBC’s official response to our challenge about its neglect of Dugard’s vital analysis was telling:

We missed the original publication of John Dugard’s report, but are intending to write about its formal presentation to the UN later today.

Mr Dugard has, of course, repeatedly made very critical comments about Israel, some of which we have reported:

It is fair to point out however that Mr Dugard’s views are not those of the UN. Under international law, an occupied community is not allowed to adopt terrorist methods against the civilian population of its occupier. Occupied people remain under an obligation to conduct themselves according to the laws of war. So, while terrorism may be an ‘inevitable consequence’ of the occupation, that does not mean it is somehow legitimate. The UN, including the secretary general and the security council, have repeatedly condemned suicide bombings and rocket fire from Gaza.9

This response is noteworthy, even for the BBC’s usual shameful record. There was no mention of Israel’s responsibilities as the occupying power, or its repeated and brutal transgressions of international and humanitarian law over forty years. Human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem in Israel, have documented many grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, constituting war crimes. Little of this fundamental context ever makes it into BBC news reports.

Instead, the BBC focused exclusively in its reply on the obligations of “an occupied community” which has been continually attacked and impoverished by an Israeli state that is massively supported — financially, militarily, diplomatically — by Washington. The anonymous BBC official who wrote that “while terrorism may be an ‘inevitable consequence’ of the occupation, that does not mean it is somehow legitimate” was answering a strawman argument of his or her own invention. Neither Media Lens nor the UN Special Rapporteur claimed that Palestinian terrorism was “legitimate.” Indeed, had the BBC employee read the report, he/she would have seen that Dugard had condemned Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel’s civilians as “war crimes”.

As promised, the BBC news website did indeed write about the Dugard report; it devoted all of 168 words at the bottom of a short news item. The item noted blandly that unspecified “scheduling problems” meant that the report would now be presented to the UN in June rather than this month.10 For the Special Rapporteur’s assessment to be shunted to one side by the ‘international community’, even as the slaughter in the Middle East continued, was horribly ironic. The possibility that power politics might have been at play in the alleged “scheduling problems” appears to have eluded the media’s scrutiny.

The Eternal BBC Claim: “We Will Not Be Cheerleaders For Anybody”

Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East news editor, received numerous emails that were copied to us. Many were in direct response to our alert, but others were sent spontaneously by people appalled at the coverage they were seeing and hearing from the publicly-funded broadcaster. After the killings at the Jewish seminary, Bowen defended the corporation’s recent unbalanced news coverage from the region:

In the last week, we have reported very fully from inside Gaza as well as from Sderot and Ashkelon. We will continue to report on the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But we will also report fully from the Israeli side. The BBC’s reporting will be as impartial as we can make it. We will not be cheerleaders for anybody.11

Bowen’s assertion simply does not stand up to scrutiny. In our March 3 alert, we cited the testimony of former BBC Middle East correspondent Tim Llewellyn who pointed out that ‘balance’ is “the BBC’s crudely applied device for avoiding trouble”. This inevitably leads to a clear news bias towards the viewpoint of power residing in Israel, Washington and London.

The public can see for themselves the ‘neutral’ media language used to describe Israeli actions: ‘incursion’, ‘retaliation’, ‘military operations’. By contrast, Israel endures ‘terrorist attacks’, ‘slaughter’, ‘a bloodbath’. Careful analysis by Greg Philo and Mike Berry, of the Glasgow University Media Group, found a persistent, ugly pattern:

In our samples of news content, words such as ‘mass murder’, ‘savage cold-blooded killing’ and ‘lynching’ were used by journalists to describe Israeli deaths but not those of Palestinians/Arabs. The word ‘terrorist’ was used to describe Palestinians, but when an Israeli group was reported as trying to bomb a Palestinian school, they were referred to as ‘extremists’ or ‘vigilantes’.12

The reality is that by devoting disproportionate coverage to Israeli deaths over Palestinian deaths, the BBC’s claims to “impartial” reporting are simply demolished. With great consistency, lives in the ‘Third World’ are presented as being of far less importance than those who are ‘like us’. At its most brutal, we see a deeply racist attitude that also underpins the culture of killing in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Major General Bargewell’s report into the massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha by U.S. marines gave a glimpse of the prevailing mindset:

Iraqi civilian lives are not as important as US lives, their deaths are just the cost of doing business…13

And while the BBC and other news media continue to pump out propaganda about the Middle East, the “cost of doing business” is only too obvious to the victims and anyone who cares about them.

SUGGESTED ACTION

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to: Jeremy Bowen, BBC’s Middle East news editor Email: ku.oc.cbbnull@newob.ymerej

Write to Helen Boaden, BBC news director Email: ku.oc.cbbnull@stnialpmoc.nedaobneleh

  1. Jon Smith, Press Association, ‘Brown: massacre “strikes at heart of peace”‘, March 7, 2008. []
  2. Donald Macintyre and Eric Silver, ‘Massacre in the heart of Jerusalem’, The Independent, March 7, 2008. []
  3. Rory McCarthy, ‘Eight dead as gunman hits Jerusalem religious school’, The Guardian, March 7, 2008. []
  4. Allison Martin, March 7, 2008. []
  5. Tim Butcher, ‘Hopes of peace in the Middle East are blown away in a hail of bullets’, Daily Telegraph, March 7, 2008. []
  6. Al-Jazeera, Abbas: Israeli raid “a massacre”, January 15, 2008. []
  7. The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion, March 6, 2008. []
  8. Media Lens media alert, Israel’s Illegal Assault On The Gaza “Prison”. []
  9. Email from “The BBC News website” [no name provided], March 6, 2008. []
  10. BBC Online, UN alarm at Gaza-Israel violence, March 6, 2008. []
  11. Email, March 6, 2008. []
  12. Philo and Berry, Bad News From Israel, Pluto Press, London, 2004, p. 259. []
  13. Josh White, ‘Report On Haditha Condemns Marines; Signs of Misconduct Were Ignored, U.S. General Says,’ Washington Post, April 21, 2007. []
Media Lens is a UK-based media watchdog group headed by David Edwards and David Cromwell. The most recent Media Lens book, Propaganda Blitz by David Edwards and David Cromwell, was published in 2018 by Pluto Press. Read other articles by Media Lens, or visit Media Lens's website.

21 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. D. R. Munro said on March 12th, 2008 at 6:32am #

    Thank you for this.

    Articles, and events, like should serve to prove that all people who are against Israel are not anti-semitic. The corporate media without doubt places a pro-Zionist spin on their reporting, as do Western political leaders.

    I believe I read a quote somewhere from an high-ranking Israeli official that saving one Israeli life is worth the deaths of one-thousand Palestinians.

    That isn’t a direct quote, so please research it a bit before you take it for fact. I may be wrong.

  2. Michael Kenny said on March 12th, 2008 at 7:42am #

    The odd thing about this sort of coverage is that it actually damages Israel, precisely because it highlights the double standards which are applied. The image of the Jews in Europe, and by extension, Israel, was of a poor, downtrodden, victimised, minority. Now, they have become overbearing bullies, swaggering around and claiming privilege. That utterly destroys their moral stance. And the more European leaders wax indignant when Israelis are killed but say nothing about Palestinians, the more damage they do.

    Americans may have trouble understanding how words not spoken can be the most eloquent words of all, but such are the subtleties of European civilisation!

  3. jaime said on March 12th, 2008 at 8:24am #

    3 points.

    1) BBC’s usual slant has historically been against Israel. If they are reporting more even handedly as of late, it is indeed a recent development.

    2) Those 100+ people in Gaza would still be alive today if Israel hadn’t been attacked. For those who watch the regular media, note that missile launchings from Gaza have mostly tapered off over the last few days, as have responses from the Israeli military. This biased article does not mention the missile and mortar attacks against a civilian population that precipitated Israel’s latest incursion.

    3) Israeli deaths matter more when they are the victims of psycho attacks such as the slaughtering of children studying a school.

  4. D. R. Munro said on March 12th, 2008 at 8:42am #

    Please don’t refer to home-made, crude RPGS as “missile launchings.”

    And Palestinian civilian deaths matter less when they are the victims of systematic starvation?

    You make it sound as if every Palestinian is bent on the destruction of Israel.

    Then again, it’s always the same old song and dance with you, isn’t it Jaimie? Completely ignorant and close-minded to a side of a debate that isn’t the side you so happen to choose.

  5. sk said on March 12th, 2008 at 9:35am #

    George Orwell knew his British media when he wrote:

    All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

    George Galloway makes the same observation at the end of this video interview.

  6. hp said on March 12th, 2008 at 10:38am #

    “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail,” said rabid rabbi Yaacov Perrin, in his eulogy of Dr. Baruch Goldstein, a rabid Jew who, in 1994, on Purim day, entered a mosque and murdered, in cold blood, 30 praying Arabs. This monster also wounded another 150 worshipers.
    To emphasize the degree of hatred and inhuman degradation these types live, there is a plaque near this monster’s grave which reads; “To the Holy Baruch Goldstein, who gave his life for the Jewish people, the Torah, and the nation of Israel.
    Now here’s Jaime to point out how hateful and horrible I am for pointing out the facts.

  7. hp said on March 12th, 2008 at 11:52am #

    One more note of interest. Dr. Baruch Goldstein attended the Yeshiva at Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York and also Yeshiva University.

  8. joe rose said on March 13th, 2008 at 4:59am #

    jaime, you are improving your comical quality of your writings by the post

  9. brian said on March 13th, 2008 at 1:56pm #

    . The image of the Jews in Europe, and by extension, Israel, was of a poor, downtrodden, victimised, minority.

    Thats the image they like to maintain!

  10. brian said on March 13th, 2008 at 2:00pm #

    The most moral army in the world…

    Thousands of Palestinian orphans protest Israeli army looting of their food
    March 13, 2008

    Thousands of Palestinian orphans on Tuesday took to the streets in this southern West Bank town to protest recent raids by the Israeli occupation army of their orphanages and boarding schools.

    Hundreds of Israeli troops, backed up by armored carriers, raided the Islamic Charitable Society in downtown Hebron earlier this week , vandalizing property and looting hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of food materials, clothes, shoes and furniture donated by local and foreign donors for the benefit of the orphans.

    The charitable society, the largest in Palestine, runs two orphanages and several boarding schools, which cater for as many as 7000 children who have lost either or both parents.

    “Israel is treating us the way Nazi Germany treated the Jews,’ read one of the placards carried by the protesters. “Israel represents the Nazis of our time,” read another sign. A third placard read “We shall triumph.”

    http://www.uruknet.info?p=41954

  11. Hatuxka said on March 13th, 2008 at 3:19pm #

    This attack did not happen in a vacuum, as even the Israel-philic CNN reporter giving the report put it. But she did not mention that the attacked seminary is that of one of the most (if not THE most) ruthless uber-Zionist sects, whose rhetoric is beyond the pale.

    It does not justify it, but it does explain it.

  12. jaime said on March 13th, 2008 at 7:40pm #

    According to Associated Press :

    “Israel seized the assets of a Hamas charity in the West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday, accusing it of funneling money to the group’s militant activities and helping to recruit members.”

  13. hp said on March 14th, 2008 at 11:17am #

    Yes Jaime and also they arrested three four year olds and shot to death a third for resisting arrest. The three terrorists, all know members of a criminal gang, were taken away by IDF boy scouts for cookies and milk.

  14. LanceThruster said on March 14th, 2008 at 11:19am #

    Jaime – Yeah if there’s one org that’s known for being fair and balanced, it’s the Israelis.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/nov/24/israel

    “Record of a shooting

    Watchtower
    ‘It’s a little girl. She’s running defensively eastward’

    Operations room
    ‘Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?’

    Watchtower
    ‘A girl of about 10, she’s behind the embankment, scared to death’

    Captain R (after killing the girl)
    ‘Anything moving in the zone, even a three-year-old, needs to be killed’ ”

    ——-
    AP story would probably read as follows:

    “Heroic IDF Thwarts 3-Year Old Terrorist”

    Film of Israeli ticker-tape parade at 11.

  15. jaime said on March 14th, 2008 at 1:14pm #

    Lance’s very selective quotation from a 4 year old article…to make you hate jews and Israelis again…

    Anyone else who bothered to read the article can see that it’s about a hearing: an Israeli officer was charged with illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and other infractions .

    Anyone here ever heard of Hamas or the Al Aqsa Brigades charging any of their “soldiers” with violent misconduct ?

    I haven’t either.

    That’s because they don’t.

  16. hp said on March 14th, 2008 at 3:52pm #

    Jaime, what were the results of that ‘hearing?’ The same as the results of the Rachel Corrie ‘hearing?’
    Sunday, March 16th, will mark five years since a loving caring little woman was murdered in cold blood by an IDF Nazi who ran her over with a bulldozer. Twice. In front of witnesses, with cameras rolling and God who was surely watching as well.
    If I remember correctly, the results of that hearing were the same as the murder of 34 other Americans on the USS Liberty… ACCIDENTAL… An accident. The USA, in front of the world and God as well, shamefully and sickeningly accepted this murder of its citizens by a foreign nation.
    These miscreants should be watched very carefully in case they start playing with matches. Or nuclear weapons…

  17. opeluboy said on March 14th, 2008 at 6:02pm #

    This uneven approach by the media is beginning to be noticed by even the most ignorant among us. Love for Israel in this country is in serious decline, thus the urgent need for the Zionists to “catapult the propaganda” as one of their brilliant allies stated.

    There are reasons for this waning support.

    Americans are waking up to the fact that we are being forced into wars for Israeli hegemony that are depleting our blood and treasure, and if the Zionist Lobby has its way, this will be an endless scenario, with Israel gladly holding our coat for years to come. Americans are angered to see a disproportionate amount of media and government power being weilded by a tiny fraction of that 2% of our population that American Jews comprise.

    Americans see the aftermath of Katrina, crumbling infrastructure and failing schools and wonder why we still have the money to prop up a criminal state that routinely spies on us, sells our secrets and high tech weaponry to our enemies while thumbing its nose at us.

    Americans see a dangerous and parasitic relationship that cannot even be discussed. They see their politicans — and even entertainers — fearful of being labeled “anti-Semites” for merely questioning Israel’s behavior or saying “no” to more handouts, while they can’t afford health care or pay their mortgage or send their kids to college.

    There’s always more money for Israel, no matter how poorly the people of this country are doing. That won’t fly forever, so the need to dehumanize, even demonize, Israel’s enemies (real or imagined) is paramount.

    But it is not working the way it used to. People are waking up. A sizeable portion of us aren’t alarmed that we have a man running for president with an Arabic name, no matter how desperately the right-wing Jewish organizations demand we should be. And if they succeed in sabotaging his campaign, they will further demonize themselves among, at the very least, Black voters in this country.

    Still, don’t expect to see Palestinians given the honor of names in death, or expect to see weeping mothers and murdered children receiving the same coverage Israelis would rate any time soon. Don’t expect journalists to question terms like “terrorist” and “settler” or to see CNN, ABC, MSNBC or any other network’s talking heads make the obvious link from illegal occupation to resistance, targeted assassinations to suicide bombers or air strikes on civilans to rocket attacks.

    But Americans are making those links themselves, and that’s a start.

    Finally, regarding Jaime and his eternal defense of the IDF, I could tell him that not only do these thugs loot charities, it is their standard MO to rob civilan homes, which they do regularly after trashing them. The money, jewelry and other belongings they take from an already destitute people to make themselves a little fatter are not items that would be used for “terrorism,” but for simply existing.

    I would tell Jaime this, but I hold to an old adage: Trying to teach a pig to sing is a waste of time, and it annoys the pig.

  18. jaime said on March 15th, 2008 at 8:24am #

    “I would tell Jaime this, but I hold to an old adage: Trying to teach a pig to sing is a waste of time, and it annoys the pig.”

    That’s funny, I heard it another way…

    Wrestling with a pig is useless. You get all dirty and pig enjoys it.

  19. jaime said on March 15th, 2008 at 8:32am #

    hp the results of “that hearing” for the purpose of this thread are irrelevent, as are your sidetracking to Rachel Corrie, the USS Liberty and the Chicago fire.

    I was responding to Lance’s assertion, which was to the effect that shooting a 3 year old was applauded by Israel and IDF. When his source was checked it revealed that the story was about a soldier being charged.

    So that was a complete bait and switch. Some would call it dishonest as well as hateful.

    Quite normal here at DV.

  20. Max Shields said on March 15th, 2008 at 9:33am #

    Why are you so fixated on commenting on “jaime”?

    Just curious. Is this about convincing the voice for Zionism that they should not be what they are? If not then to what end?

  21. hp said on March 15th, 2008 at 10:31am #

    The truth. What else?