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About bias in the media 
By Ramzy Baroud

Washington: The issue of western media bias, especially bias in the United States, is accepted as a matter of fact in the Middle East, and by perhaps millions of people in the West who are witnesses to such bias every time they open a newspaper, sometimes just by glancing at the headlines. 

The subject of media bias came up and was thoroughly discussed in a recent Arab and Muslim journalists conference held in Chicago, where prominent American and Arab-American journalists attended and took part in the heated discussion. 

American journalists, at least those who attended insisted that there is no such bias, and that both parties, pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel can make the same claim of not liking the wording of a certain article or protesting the use of an image or a tasteless comic. 

Of course to those who have been following the coverage of the conflict know that such a justification is misleading, and that every mainstream newspaper, or TV network or radio station is often colored with a certain political leaning that not only influences the overall media perception of a certain issue, but every report written, word uttered, image broadcast, type of individual interviewed or report cited. 

To demonstrate, I visited the Voice of America news web site and reviewed the most updated report dealing with the Middle East. 

In the news report tilted: "Bush Scolds Israel for Offensive Against Palestinians", which might appear balanced, is an excellent example of that bias. 

Regardless of the reporter's own skill in conveying Bush's message, one cannot help but protest the following conclusion, offered by the reporter's own understanding of the ongoing violence: 

"This month, more than 160 Palestinians and nearly 60 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, suicide bombings and Israeli reprisals.." 

Its amazing how much bias this seemingly innocent attempt by the reporter to help us, the ignorant readers to come into better understanding of the Middle East crisis, contained. 

It has not only justified Israel's killing of 160 Palestinians (although according to international rights organizations these victims were mostly unarmed civilians, children, medical workers and journalists), but he shifted the entire flow of events. 

Those who followed the news must remember that the surge of violence was provoked by Israel's continued assassination policy, which provoked Palestinian retaliation, and that the so-called Israeli reprisals were systematic and intense bombings (criticized by numerous western officials for being grave violations of international law) that reached almost every Palestinian town and refugee camp. 

However, the above quote truly depicts the current state of American media, which manages to place the blame of the victim and spare the aggressor any blame. 

Let statistics speak for themselves. According to a recent survey, only 3 percent of the American public even know that the West Bank and Gaza are occupied territories. Only 7-11 percent of the American public, according to recent CNN polls sympathize with the Palestinian people's plight. 

Do you see the problem? How can Americans come to grips with the reality of the Middle East situation if they don’t know the most basic, fundamental and essential fact that have fueled the conflict for the last 35 years? 

Its mind-boggling that although the Middle East conflict remains the main focus for the American media, the American public still knows very little, of course except that Palestinians are terrorists, Israel is defending itself, and that Palestinians teach their children hate, and want to throw all Israelis into the sea. 

Where is journalistic integrity? No, really, I would like to know. How can a reporter go to sleep comfortably, knowing that he/she propagated falsehood at the expense of a traumatized and oppressed nation? 

The American media in particular shifted its priorities and overlooked essential facts to avoid honest reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

For example, the issue of Iraq is never mentioned in the media without the mentioning over and over again, of how Iraq refuses to abide by international law and allow the return of weapons inspectors as instated by the United Nations.. 

So, if international law (despite the inaccuracies contained in the above claims) seems a major reference in reporting on the Iraqi issue, why not use the same reference to the Middle East crisis. 

How often do we read or watch references in news reports in the US media that mentions UN resolutions 242, 338 dealing with the illegality of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories? No wonder why only a few Americans know that Palestinians are occupied by Israel. 

How often do we read, watch or hear reports dealing with the right of return for Palestinian refugees and that such right is clearly emphasized in international law? 

But references to suicide bombings, no matter what political and military contexts of which they were part, never cease to interest most of the US media, while Palestinians deaths often go unreported, and if they are, then a child becomes a militant, and a man gunned down by sniper in his own home is a “suspected suicide bomber." 

If the media is meant to educate the people on the truth, then the American media have done a lousy job. The question remains; Why is the American media so biased? And how do we counter such bias? How do we reach the alienated and deceived public? How do we tell them of their government's dishonest role in the conflict? How do we narrate to them how their tax money is used to purchase weapons that have killed thousands of innocent people? 

These issues will certainly have to be confronted and some serious strategies need to be developed to answer them, for we cannot spend the rest of our lives complaining about the current state of the media, yet fail to come up with an alternative, an alternative that we need now more than ever.
q

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