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Alternatives needed to combat media bias
By Ramzy Baroud, Washington

Pinpointing the bias of the mainstream American media in regards to issues concerning the Middle East is quite an easy task. All you need to do is buy an issue of the New York Times, the Washington Post or any other celebrated publication, and head toward the Op-Ed section. Bias can be found right from the start, in headlines, opening statements and paragraphs, even the photos chosen to be placed with articles. Similarly, its easy to spot an even-handed article, not as if they exist in abundance, but because once pro-Palestinian readers locate an article buried toward the end of a newspaper, they forward it to their news groups, personal e-mail lists, accompanied with notes urging one another to send thank you letters to the editor for his courage and fairness. However, while bias in an editorial or opinion piece can be easily detected, news reports have a better chance of fooling the trusty reader, for a reporters job is to simply narrate an event with objectivity and honesty.

With regards to the Israeli-Arab conflict, American reporters can be divided into two groups; ones who base their reports on official statements made by U.S. and Israeli officials (and to a lesser extent Palestinians), and recycled news from Western media sources. And another group, who has access to original reporting, yet chooses to disregard certain facts and consider others, serving therefore a suspicious political agenda.

To illustrate, consider the week of 28 March to 3 April. During this week, Palestinian casualties mounted. Deaths and injuries among Palestinians were counted by the hundreds, a fate that reached Palestinians from different age brackets, many of whom were women and children. Most, if not all of them were either killed or wounded inside Palestinian towns and villages. Some were bombed in their schools, homes, hotels, cars,..etc.

Israelis and Jewish settlers too had their share of causalities, although statistically speaking Israeli losses were minimum if compared with Palestinians. Another important factor is the geographical areas in which much of Israel's losses accrued, which mainly fell in occupied Palestinian territories, where Palestinians have endured a suffocating siege which has ruined their economy and put most of the population under the poverty level.

But the Associated Press saw things a bit different, or perhaps entirely different. In a new report posted 3 April, the AP narrated the weeks event in a greatly distorted fashion.A Palestinian mortar attack on a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip seriously wounded a 10-month-old boy on Tuesday, barely a week after the slaying of a 10-month-old Jewish girl, is how AP decided to put its introductory statement in a news report that seemed to be telling the story from an Israeli viewpoint only. Similar to most of its news reports, AP reiterated words often used by Israeli army generals to excuse their bombing of Palestinian towns and villages throughout the West Bank and Gaza, such as retaliation. Interestingly, Israel chooses to date any event back to where it finds suitable. According to Israel, the killing of a Palestinian was an act of retaliation for a prior assault by Palestinians against an Israeli soldier or settler. Although Palestinians could cite hundreds of events that would justify the reason behind their attacks the killing of over 400 people, the wounding of 20,000, the siege, the kidnapping of officials and the assassination of activists are only a few examples.

Unfortunately, most American newspapers accept Israel's justification of their violence, and dedicate few words to Palestinians perspective over the same matter.

On Tuesday, 3 April, over 50 Palestinians were wounded during Israel's helicopter strikes against the Gaza Strip alone. The news of the bombing was widely available in Arab newspapers and was broadcast on TV, joined by images of the wounded.

AP reporters, however, made no mention of those wounded. Instead, he/she made the Jewish baby in the Atzmona settlement, south of Gaza, the focus of the story.

While Palestinian causalities are often listed as inexact estimates, often all the way on the bottom of news reports (which leave out reference to ages, genders or any other information of relevance), Israel's casualties are often mentioned, time and again, with necessary and unnecessary details.

Half of the report by Karin Laub for AP described the baby's condition, examined his mothers feelings, quoted the doctor who treated him, and cited the hospital that he was escorted to. Then she retrieved another event, where another Israeli Jewish settlers child was wounded. Shockingly, Laub overlooked details of daily heinous crimes committed by Jewish settlers since the outbreak of the uprising six months ago, concluding the settlers have been targeted for attack throughout the Palestinian uprising that began more than six months ago.

Among the dozens of injured Palestinians, just one day before the wounding of the Jewish baby, a Palestinian child was wounded seriously in the head. Interestingly, the child, Said Amin Al-Khiat was hit by an Israeli bullet in al-Shaboura refugee camp, less than half a mile away from the Israeli settlement. AP said nothing about Said, nor did they narrate the story of his mother, nor did they quote his doctor. But for the sake of fairness, Said might have been mentioned as a number somewhere at the bottom of a news report, where very few people likely pause to ponder the fact that his life, too, was precious.

Of course, the same American media that reiterated the racist Israeli propaganda which stated that Palestinian parents throw their children into the crossfire to get them killed for media attention, pay little time to question the Jewish parents choice to move their families into the middle of an impoverished, dehumanized and abused Palestinian population, endangering their lives to uphold the misread teachings of a religious fantasy.

Moreover, the American media finds itself comfortable with certain terminology, again dictated by Israel, such as Palestinian militant, gunmen, terrorists, while using words like troops, Army unit and elite forces to describe the army assassination units. While journalistic integrity compels us to relate to historic facts that might be of some value, very little is said in regards to the international laws perception of the Middle East conflict. Little is said about the illegality of Jewish settlements or human rights groups criticism of Israel's excessive use of violence.

Lack of integrity in American journalism is not a new notion, nor is it hard to explain. However, undermining the influence of such an establishment calls for the creation of viable alternatives, using printed publications or the Internet as mediums to take us from the position of angry critics into creators of solutions.

The news is out there, ready to be told, with honesty or deception. Time is too precious to waste urging corporate media to become fair. Let us narrate the news the way we see it, for Palestinian babies, too, deserve to have their stories told.
q

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