Thursday, February 15, 2007

Israel and the Canadian Media

For background, read this article by Dan Freeman-Maloy, an excellent analysis of the Canadian media's biased reporting of last summer's Israel/Lebabon and Israel/Gaza conflicts. He accurately sums up the double standard in Canadian media: "No attacks on Israel can have been provoked. All of Israel’s attacks must be provoked and defensive."

He makes special mention of Toronto Star columnist Mitch Potter, who he says,
reduced Palestinian resistance to stubborn stupidity and described the fallen fighters as animals: "Another batch of Palestinian militants drawn out lemming-like and falling by the dozen to higher-calibre Israeli fire, just like their predecessors".

This was quoted in Justin Podur's blog Killing Train. Potter responded to Podur, defending himself:
I have been called many things in my time in the Middle East -- in fact, the dominant thrust of my critics after nearly five years of reporting from the region is that I am overempathetic to the plight of Palestinians.

The only thing this proves is how biased mainstream opinion really is. Compared with mainstream media, Potter is indeed fairly moderate, so it isn't surprising they'd consider him "overempathetic to the plight of Palestinians".

Podur responded to Potter's response yesterday. What was interesting was his scorn for the ideal of parity in coverage. The ideal of parity explains why even those who are trying to defend Palestinian rights are often careful to apportion blame equally to both Israel and the Palestinians, or they risk being totally reviled. But one of the underlying facts about this conflict is that it isn't a struggle between two equal forces. The consequences are also not equal. Take casualties for example:
Human rights organizations document the disparity. According to B'Tselem, from the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000 to the end of January 2007, Palestinians had killed 1020 Israelis, 704 of whom were civilians, 119 of whom were children. According to the PCHR, up until September 2006, when you sent me your email, Israel had killed 3859 Palestinians, 3069 of whom were unarmed, 724 of whom were children. It had completely demolished 2831 Palestinian homes and partially destroyed 2427. It had leveled 37 square kilometers (an area 10% the size of Gaza) and destroyed 677 industrial facilities.

You also must know that the disparity has grown in recent years. For the period during which I looked at your work (July 2006 – December 2006), Israeli forces killed 479 Palestinians, wounded 1650, and arrested 1570. By contrast, Palestinians killed 4 Israeli security personnel and 2 Israeli civilians.

The analysis of Potter's writing shows how language is used differently when describing the Palestinians compared to Israelis. Podur calls Potter racist. My sense is that this is simply a perfect example of how it is nearly impossible to think outside the dominant "Cowboys & Indians" Western world-view which designates who is good and who is evil. The same acts are viewed completely differently based on who is the perpetrator. And language transmits these biases, even when they are not necessarily intended.

Read the opening of this November article by Potter
Bedevilled by the continuing scourge of homemade Qassam rocket attacks, Israeli officials are believed to be exploring a new diplomatic overture that calls for the surrender of large swathes of the West Bank to a new Palestinian leadership in exchange for a decade-long ceasefire.

The plan, still in the formative stages, was outlined yesterday in the Hebrew daily Ma'ariv as a "bold and original" initiative that would enable the creation of a provisional Palestinian state as a first step toward normalization with Palestinians and the wider Arab world.

Reading this with no background information who would you think are evil and who heroes?

Via Zmag.


susansmith said...

good post red jenny.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Jenny. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

Indeed! Where does one start? The problem is simply so overwhelming. A Canadian version of this is long overdue.

I have posted twice on that problem: Sloppy CBC reporting and CBC regurgitating AP bias - again. In the latter case, it is about Iraq coverage. If you consider that the Iraq "adventure" is a joint US/Israel "project", then the bias applies to that sector as well.

Unfortunately for us this phenomenon of biased reporting happens almost on a daily basis. It's difficult to keep track.

Erik said...

Good post.

Check the British (Guardian, Independent) or Dutch (NRC, Radio Netherlands) on Israel, and you'll get a complete different (but more complete) picture.