On a Palestine demonstration last year Picture: Guy Smallman

The mainstream media is biased against Palestinians. That bias isn’t just in the headlines but in the language it uses when talking about Israel’s genocide in Gaza. 

The bias flows from the fact that most of the mainstream media won’t admit one simple truth—that the state of Israel oppresses the Palestinian people.

A recent, detailed report from the Centre for Media Monitoring showed the extent of this bias. The report’s lead author, Faisal Hanif, spoke to Socialist Worker. 

He said, “We can all cite individual examples, but the report shows broad macro-level facts. “The media, especially within the West, is heavily on the side of Israel.”

“From the statistics we can see the bias and it has been happening for a very long time,” he explained. 

“We did a study of language. The terms ‘atrocity’, ‘massacre’ and ‘slaughter’ are heavily used about the deaths of Israelis rather than Palestinians.”

The report found that broadcast channels promoted Israel’s right to defend itself five times more than the Palestinian’s right to resist.

And there is a bias towards Israeli sources and against Palestinian sources. Israelis “confirm” events whilst Palestinians “claim” events.

The media describes Israelis as having been “killed” while Palestinians have “died” or “lost their lives” with no mention of the killers. 

This language deliberately underplays Israel’s murders of Palestinians. “Why is the media saying that Palestinians are just dying? Why have they used the passive tone? The reality is that the Israeli military killed the Palestinians,” says Faisal.

He pointed out that “there’s been evidence even within left-leaning media, such as The Guardian, of pro-Israel bias”. 

And he added that the newspaper “stays in line with the rest of Western media”. Faisal cites an example where “The Guardian did a story on antisemitic attacks against Jews, and the image it used was of pro-Palestinian protesters holding Palestinian flags”.

Faisal explained there is a dangerous “linking of antisemitism to the support for Palestine,” with the image creating an “automatic linking of the two that’s problematic.” 

“People may think better of newspapers like . “But from the examples we cite, they fall into the same trap of pro-Israel bias,” he explained. 

The media uses language selectively, with the standard of selection being Israelis or Palestinians. 

The implicit statement is that the lives of Israelis matter more than the lives of Palestinians. It also has a part in dehumanising Palestinians.

Even more sympathetic news agencies can present the Palestinians as having no agency.

Lara Gibson, an Egypt-based linguist, told the Middle East Eye that the media “uses the passive voice to evade the truth and somehow make Israeli war crimes look doubtful”.

And “terms like ‘war’ suggest an equal contest rather than Israeli-powered genocide,” she says. 

In the coverage of Israel’s genocide, news organisations help to justify Israel’s mass murder and starvation of Palestinians as not only acceptable but unavoidable.

Read the report at tinyurl.com/GazaBias

Even the bosses’ press can’t only pump out lies

An array of ideas exists in the mainstream media and sometimes reporting of events can be contradictory. 

There are mainstream news outlets that have shown some sympathy for the Palestinians. These outlets can no longer deny Israel’s brutality completely, especially when millions have been out on the streets raging against it.

Media bosses know that if they completely ignored Israel’s genocide, they would lose paper sales, credibility and viewers.

Mainstream media outlets balance between trying to stay in business and backing up ruling class ideas. 

The mainstream media is part of the ruling class apparatus used to try to shape people’s ideas. Western ruling classes defend Israel because it furthers their interests in the Middle East.

This means that the media bias towards Israel isn’t by chance, but because the media’s coverage backs up the ruling classes’ imperialist interests.

The reason for the support for the capitalist system is quite simple.

The vast majority of the media is owned by bosses who make profits and wealth within capitalism and so support it. 

The owners of media corporations are part of the ruling class and ensure that the line their editors follow aligns mainly with what they want. 

As Karl Marx wrote, “The class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.” The class that owns production “has control at the same time over the means of mental production”, while those “who lack the means of mental production are subject to it”.

The media operates by circulating and repeating the ruling class’s ideas to try and make them seem like common sense. 

The constant repetition means that dominant ideas appear as the natural order of things. The ruling class creates the illusion that there is a free press. Many mainstream outlets will say they aren’t biased. The mainstream media’s role as a part of the capitalist set-up shapes the reporting.

People can question the media 

You don’t have to look far to find instances of media bias against the Palestinians. They permeates the whole terrain of the media.

In early November, The Times newspaper said, “Israelis marked a month since Hamas killed 1,400 people and kidnapped 240, starting a war in which 10,300 Palestinians are said to have died.” 

Israelis are described as dying in the active voice—Hamas “killed” them—while Palestinians “die” in the passive voice, as if by chance. 

Palestinians “dehydrate to death as clean water runs out”, as The Guardian newspaper describes it as if the water shortage randomly occurred. 

In a Sky News broadcast report on Israeli forces murdering a Palestinian child, the reporter describes a bullet “accidentally straying” into the back of a van that “killed a 3-4 year old young lady”. 

Fortunately, it’s not true that most people simply follow the media line unthinkingly all of the time. From their experiences many people see that the ideas of the ruling class, reflected in the mainstream media, don’t match up with their reality. 

And they can question the line from above. Otherwise we would not have seen the millions of people in Britain on the streets for Palestine.

Back media that backs Palestine

It’s a myth that there can be an “objective” media without bias. Socialist Worker is proud to be biased towards the Palestinians, because they are fighting imperialism, racism and oppression. 

We don’t seek to give a balance between Zionist and Palestinian views.

And we don’t seek to separate words and actions. We bring together reporting, analysis and calls for action

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