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Biased Coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Is Not Journalism

07/20/2014 10:54 EDT | Updated 09/19/2014 05:59 EDT

Watching another prolonged massacre unfold in Gaza over the last couple of weeks has been extremely difficult. As a human, it has been heartbreaking to see Palestinian children have their lives cut short en masse. As a Canadian citizen, it has been enraging to see the government cheering on this slaughter. As a young journalist, it has been depressing to see established journalists uncritically rehashing government talking points instead of holding power accountable.

George Orwell stated, "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Anything else is public relations." Unfortunately, most North American journalists have acted as PR reps for Israel's ongoing invasion in a variety of ways, some subtle, others explicit.

The most blatant example of pro-Israeli media manipulation occurred on ABC News where host Diane Sawyer commented on an image of Israeli's "trying to salvage what they can" of their home after a Palestinian attack. Except the image was of Palestinians, and the damage was caused by Israeli rockets, as Sawyer admitted in an on-air apology a day later.

Regardless of whether this was an honest mistake or not, the station still decided to dig for an image of Israeli's suffering (which they couldn't find) while simultaneously leaving out any image of the carnage in Gaza (which are all over the Internet). The underlying message is clear: any story contradicting the official narrative of Israelis as victims and Palestinians as blood-thirsty aggressors will not be given air-time.

The official narrative has been reinforced in numerous other ways. For example, the ongoing conflict is almost always described as an equal war instead of what it is: mass slaughter of inmates in the world's "largest open-air prison." Moreover, any stories discussing Palestinian deaths jump through hoops to avoid mentioning that these lives were taken by Israel.

Take a New York Timesstory, describing how four Palestinian children were killed on a beach by an Israeli airstrike in cold blood, as an example. The article fails to mention who killed the boys until at least midway through the article. This is information that should be in the title and lede. Another article in the New York Times on the same issue was a little more honest. It was titled "Four Young Boys Killed Playing on Gaza Beach." This bit of honesty was evidently too much as it was later changed to "Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, and Into Center of Mideast Strife."

As if this wasn't enough, mainstream networks and newspapers have flooded their space with blatant pro-Israeli analysts. Take the National Post, a national Canadian newspaper, for example. In the last week they have published at least seven pro-Israeli opinion articles, including one from known Israeli apologist Alan Dershowitz, and another accusing Arabs of dreaming of slaughtering "Israel's Jews."

There were absolutely zero articles published in this timeframe that showed even the slightest amount of opposition to the ongoing crimes in Gaza. This trend is true in all mainstream media publications in North America, and to an extent, Europe. The same publications who for years have found it appropriate to give an "equal voice" to debunked climate change deniers cannot muster up the decency, or journalistic standards, to do a fraction of the same for the Palestinians being slaughtered.

This bias has long existed, and been documented, including in a superb 2004 documentary called Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land. The documentary, which includes analysts such as Noam Chomsky, points out that North American coverage of the ongoing repression of Palestine is the most biased in the world, even more so than within Israel itself. There are exceptions of course. Publications such as the Electronic Intifada, Alternet, and Mondoweiss offer more progressive coverage and analysis of the conflict. Still, these publications reach a far smaller audience than the mainstream media.

Malcolm X once claimed, "If you aren't careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." North American mainstream media is well aware of this, and abusing their power in order to ensure that it occurs. Anyone who calls themselves a journalist needs to do their part to ensure that this injustice is overcome. Otherwise, these individuals can't be called journalists. They can call themselves what they like -- PR reps, government spokespeople, etc. -- but they can't be called journalists.