According to a recent survey, fewer than half the New Zealand public trust the mainstream media.
Why? Because the media is seen as politicized, opinionated and biased.
Nowhere is this seen more clearly, than in the reporting of the Israel Palestinian situation.
Take a look at this RNZ headline:
150 Palestinians injured after Israeli police raid Al Aqsa mosque
The article itself includes a smattering of quotes from various sources, but provides little context. It leaves many gaps and creates a false impression.
It includes a photograph with the by-line:
“Palestinians start to clean Al-Aqsa Mosque after Israeli forces raided…”
If you knew nothing of the situation, you would be left thinking “those nasty Israelis are at it again, using excessive force against innocent Palestinians, just for the sake of it. And in their holy site as well.”
The backstory is that Palestinian leaders have engaged in an intense incitement campaign to create unrest using falsehoods and rumours on social media. The violence began when hundreds of Palestinians gathered in the mosque with rocks and clubs. Some hurled stones from the top of the compound down onto the Western Wall plaza, the most holy site in Judaism, and then threw stones and shot fireworks at police who had entered the compound to prevent the hail of rocks falling on Jews at the Western Wall. The police refrained from entering the compound until after morning prayers at the mosque were finished despite the fact that rock throwing was already taking place.
The actions of the police to quell the rioters enabled peaceful Palestinians to continue to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque without hindrance, and 50,000 Muslim worshippers took part in afternoon Ramadan prayers that day.
This is just one of many examples of dishonest journalism that seeks to cast a negative light on Israel.
What is behind such unethical and unprofessional behaviour?
Matti Friedman has made some incisive comments on this phenomenon.
He was a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press news agency for several years and also worked as a reporter in Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Moscow and Washington D.C.
He wrote a couple of seminal essays about anti-Israel media bias.
Friedman explained that the Western press is no longer an objective observer of events. Rather, journalists see themselves as actors in current events and seek to use their platform to shape public opinion.
They see their role as amplifying the goals of the side they support – so they won’t report anything that doesn’t fit their worldview.
There’s also a sociological element at work.
The press corp is essentially a club where alliances are formed with diplomats, activists and international staffers from the UN and NGOs. It’s a club with an overarching worldview. A club for which
“a distaste for Israel has come to be something between an acceptable prejudice and a prerequisite for entry”.
One of their deeply held beliefs is that to some extent the Jews of Israel are a symbol of the world’s ills, particularly those connected to nationalism, militarism, colonialism, and racism. All elements of the so-called Western zeitgeist.
Of course, the practice of assigning the world’s ills to Jews or to the Jewish nation has a long and tragic history.
In addition, many journalists no longer critique or analyse information, but rather work to a simple formula to create a narrative, a story — Israel the bad guys; Palestinian the good guys. If the facts on the ground don’t fit this formula they’re either ignored or massaged to fit, as was the case with the Radio NZ headline. And the bias is more than simply the bent of individual journalists. Editors play a significant role in deciding what is newsworthy.
Consequently, it is often only the stories that make Israel look bad that make it through to the public.
So, while Israel faces threats from those within and without, seeking to kill and destroy, another battle rages in the intellectual space, where Israel comes under unrelenting attack from media, academia and civil society.
How should we deal with this?
Don’t just read the headlines. Dig a little further and seek out reliable sources of information. Challenge the antisemitic stereotypes and false narratives.
Be courageous enough to stand against the hatred and share truthful information.