Twenty ways the Western media attacks Israel

Younger journalists reflect critical theory and relativism popularized in universities and among leftist and Islamist politicians. Op-ed.

Howard Rotberg ,


On July 9th, Israel National News carried the important column by the great Melanie Phillips, “Media malpractice in the West has caused permanent harm in to Israel.”

There are many of us who monitor news media, print, televison and online. It is a somewhat depressing endeavour as the situation worsens. As Ms. Phillips notes, “The effect of the invidious role played in helping foment murderous rage against the Jewish state and the Jewish people, while sanitizing the behavior of the Palestinians, is incalculable.”

There are various organizations which have assumed the task of exposing and challenging this media malpractice. I follow Honest Reporting (and Honest Reporting Canada), CAMERA - Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis, and NGO Monitor.

I suggest that if every pro-Israel person would read those sites and then write emails to the editors of offending publications, we would increase our influence.

Ms. Phillips essay enlightens us about some recent “invidious” stories. Most of the media misreported Israel’s offer to transfer to the P.A. some one million unused doses of the Pfizer vaccine which were good until the end of the month, but the P.A. cancelled that deal alleging that a four week window was insufficient. The media reported this P.A. falsehood which was exposed when South Korea gladly took some 700,000 doses that the P.A. had rejected.

But the media did not change their positive reporting of the P.A. lie and do not report that the P.A. is a quasi-government that looks after its own healthcare. Phillips also reports on the lies about the recent Gaza war, including Hamas weapons falling short and killing their own people, how many of the Gaza dead were Hamas militants, and to what extent Israel goes to avoid civilian deaths.

Former Associated Press reporter and editor Matti Friedman in an excellent piece for the Atlantic, that followed the Gaza War of 2014, has written that the cumulative effect of Western misreporting of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians “has been to create a grossly oversimplified story—a kind of modern morality play in which the Jews of Israel are displayed more than any other people on earth as examples of moral failure. This is a thought pattern with deep roots in Western civilization.” (title:“What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel”)

Friedman analyzes in detail the culture for the revolving door for journalists who lack historical context and chum around with the members of hostile NGOs and live in fear of what Hamas might do to them if they report honestly, knowing that no such threats emanate from Israel. He states:

“This summer (of 2014), with Yazidis, Christians, and Kurds falling back before the forces of radical Islam not far away from here, this ideology’s local franchise launched its latest war against the last thriving minority in the Middle East. The Western press corps showed up en masse to cover it. This conflict included rocket barrages across Israel and was deliberately fought from behind Palestinian civilians ... Dulled by years of the ‘Israel story’... confused about the role they are meant to play, and co-opted by Hamas, reporters described this war as an Israeli onslaught against innocent people. By doing so, this group of intelligent and generally well-meaning professionals ceased to be reliable observers and became instead an amplifier for the propaganda of one of the most intolerant and aggressive forces on earth. And that, as they say, is the story.”

As reported by Fox News in June, an open letterfrom journalists representing mainstream and left-wing media outlets this week called on other journalists to cover Israel as a violent and oppressive "apartheid" state — all in the name of "objectivity" and better serving Palestinians.

"For the sake of our readers and viewers — and the truth — we have a duty to change course immediately and end this decades-long journalistic malpractice. The evidence of Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestinians is overwhelming and must no longer be sanitized," the signers wrote.

They went on: "We are calling on journalists to tell the full, contextualized truth without fear or favor, to recognize that obfuscating Israel’s oppression of Palestinians fails this industry’s own objectivity standards. We have an obligation — a sacred one — to get the story right. Every time we fail to report the truth, we fail our audiences, our purpose and, ultimately, the Palestinian people."

These signatories were not just from some publications clearly identified with antisemitic views. They included representatives from New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, BuzzFeed, the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, ABC News, NBC News, NPR, The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, and the Chicago Tribune.

And so it is clear that our media and especially younger journalists now reflect the critical theory and relativism popularized in our universities and among leftist and Islamist politicians like “the Squad”.

Note especially how these supposed journalists refer to the need to tell the “contextualized truth”. What they really mean by “contextualized truth” is whatever meets their political goals, aids in lessening their hurt “feelings”, replaces morality with intersectional concepts of giving more “power” to the supposed “oppressed”. And in this new world, with its use of “cancel culture” we really need to worry about the ultimate cancellation – another genocide against the Jewish people, with few journalists standing up for us again, just like in the Shoah.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told Fox News the letter was part of a "fundamentally disturbing" trend in journalism which places feelings before facts.

"We’re not talking about journalists anymore. We’re talking about propagandists," the Rabbi said. "You have a set of beliefs and you go out and cherry pick whatever you want, whatever fits your world view."

Let’s explore the various invidious techniques of what Melanie Phillips calls media “malpractice”, hopefully to help readers in the future analyze media misreporting:

These techniques are taken from the important book by Farrell Bloch, Identity and Prejudice, Mantua Books, including the chapters dealing with journalistic bias and misleading statistics. Identity and Prejudice is an important resource on these topics, as a necessary counter to the current critical race theory, relativism and cancel culture.

1. Choice of What Stories to Report

For example, journalists gave little to no coverage, before both Gaza wars, of Hamas’ frequent rocket attacks on Sderot and other Israeli cities of the south, and the continuous terrorism against Israeli civilians, but when Israel takes actions to defend itself, media reporting leads one to think that Israel is the aggressor.

2. Misreporting Stories

Probably due to their pro-Palestinian, antisemitic bias, most media are quick to report fake stories supplied by Palestinians to their naive reporters. This would include the allegations of mass poisoning at a girl’s school when a mysterious substance was found on the windows, and many girls fainted, when it turned out later than the substance was given off by trees and the symptoms were in fact the result of mass hysteria.

Also included would be the omission of coverage of the Palestinian Authority’s corruption, persecution of dissidents and failure to hold elections. From the media reporting one would think that there is an equivalence between rights and freedoms in Israel compared to Gaza, the Palestinian Arab ruled territories and in general with the Arab and Islamic world. No country in history that is under constant attack and explicit threats of genocide has ever been able to preserve freedom to the extent Israel has.

3. Placement of Stories to Maximize or Minimize Readers’ Attention

We Jews are unfortunately used to this technique, as the New York Times never put a story about the Holocaust on the front page.

4. Incomplete or Misleading Headlines

Many readers of both print and internet media never read beyond the headlines. Two examples of hostile reporting: Firstly, after a terrorist attack by 2 Arabs against 4 men praying at a synagogue, CNN’s headline was “4 Israelis, 2 Palestinians dead in Jerusalem”, not noting this was an attack on civilians at prayer. Such headlines are meant to serve the moral equivalence of the fake “cycle of violence” reporting.

Secondly, when a terrorist rammed his car into passengers at a Jerusalem train station, killing two (including a baby) and injuring 8, and then was shot by police as he attempted to kill other passengers, Associated Press used the headline “Israeli police fatally shoot man in East Jerusalem”.

5. Focus on the Victims of the Favoured Group

In the most recent Gaza war, the press followed its usual approach of reporting Palestinian deaths (as furnished to them by Hamas) and comparing that number to the number of Israeli dead, as if to prove that Israel must be the aggressor, when this was in response to rocket attacks aimed at civilians and Israel took every possible step to avoid killing civilians. No matter – the media failed to report how many of the Palestinian dead had been killed by their own rockets falling short of the border and how many of their dead were militants as opposed to how many of the Israeli dead were civilians.

6. Personalize the Victims of the Favoured Group

Canada’s government broadcasting system, the CBC, is notorious for only interviewing crying Palestinians after every event of this constant war, rather than interviewing a similar number of Israeli civilians.

7. Facts Versus Claims

This involves reporting disfavoured individuals (i.e. Israelis) as unambiguous perpetrators of someone’s death but when describing the favoured group’s (i.e. Palestinian Arabs’) role in a death or attack, the media uses terms such as “alleged” or “claimed”.

8. Adding Negative Historical Detail While Ignoring Other Past Events That Could Provide Context.

An example would be reporting how Gazan Palestinians object to Israeli limitations on certain imports into Gaza and not mentioning that Gaza was completely turned over to the Palestinian Arabs who responded by electing the Hamas terrorist group which used concrete imports nor just for homes but for extensive terrorist tunnels to be used to massacre Israeli civilians near the border.

Another example is the criticizing of Israel for the effect on certain Arab villages of erecting its anti-terrorist walls, without mentioning how many fewer deaths of Israelis stemmed from this defensive action, compared to before the walls.

9. Failure to Undertake Due Diligence on Prominent Figures in the Favoured Group

This applies to Palestinian politicians, professors, Imams, and journalists. In America Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin was clearly a Muslim Brotherhood operative but this was never explored by media.

10. Biased Language

For example, “extremists” rather than “terrorists”, “protests” instead of violent riots” “settlers” rather than “re-settlers” and the improper use of the following words – occupation, Islamophobia, tolerance, apartheid, migrants/refugees, progressives, suicide bombers (which should be called “genocide bombers”), cycle of violence, and the misuse of “hard line” versus “moderate”.

11. Biased Sources

Use of unnamed or anonymous sources, failure to follow the practice of getting two sources or witnesses for any story, acceptance of Arab sources or witnesses when such have a clear history of Islamism (support of Jihad, world-wide caliphate, taqiyyah or deceit for political/religious purposes). Matti Friedman points out the close ties between many anti-Israel NGOs and journalists, especially those with Associated Press, which in an era where few newspapers can maintain a foreign bureau, the reach of the biased Associated Press (which until the latest war had offices in a Hamas building) is very wide.

12. Lack of Context or Failure to Provide a Full Reporting

An article in the Washington Post about a Palestinian woman being treated for cancer in an Israeli hospital ignored the very moral policy of Israeli hospital of treating what can only be described as the enemy, and instead concentrated on the woman’s complaint that it was hard for her sons to come visit her because they had to wait to cross Israeli checkpoints – which of course were there because of constant Palestinian terrorism.

13. Inserting Opinions Into News Stories

This used to be a no-no but is now standard practice in such one-sided politicized newspapers as the New York Times - probably because they have given up all pretense of fair reporting and actually had an article justifying editorialism..

14. Misleading Statistics

For example, if group P is responsible for 90% of violence and group I for 10%, it is statistically misleading to say that “both sides” have been violent even though technically it is accurate.

15. Omission of Facts

This refers to non-reporting or under-reporting of facts. It is most often seen by those who have embraced the ideologies of excessive tolerance of evil (which I call “tolerism”) and submission to Islamism.

Because of the omission of reporting on Palestinian government and media and Islamist incitement of violence against Israeli Jews, a website was founded to monitor same: Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) documents cases of incitement in Palestinian media.

16. Use of Critical Theory, Power Analysis, Feelings, and Cancel Culture

See above my comments about the “Open Letter” by some 200 journalists.

17. Selective Photographs

Fake photographs can be used to incite terrorists to kill Jews. One example from the year 2000 was an image transmitted on the French TV station France 2, which purported to show the death of a Palestinian Arab child, Mohammed al Durah, under a hail of Israeli bullets in Gaza.

The image of a little boy clinging to his father apparently killed by Israelis was in fact a staged and fake image later the subject of a libel trial where the real evidence was presented: after the commentator said he was dead, the boy lifted his head and peeped through his fingers.

The person who helped bring the al Durah “Pallywood” lie to public attention, Professor Richard Landes, has written about the Western media’s lethal war journalism,” which he defines as reporting as news a foreign belligerent’s war propaganda.

There are many examples of Islamist trickery, but the embrace of this tactic by western journalists means many journalists are at war with us and we should act appropriately.

18 Citing Unrepresentative Opinions

This includes anti-Israel media seeking out interviews with anti-Israel Jewish groups such as JStreet, JVP, and extreme leftist Israeli politicians to give supposed balance and to provide a false impression of the position of Israelis.

19. Selective Publications of Letters to the Editors or Opinion Pieces

My local newspaper is notorious for only printing a pro-Israel letter or opinion piece if they can run at least one, often two, anti-Israel letters or opinion pieces at the same time.

20. Retractions That Are Too Late

Retractions for anti-Israel material that is proven to be factually incorrect by groups such as Honest Reporting or CAMERA will often be made late or buried on page 13 when the original story may have been on page one.

Howard Rotberg is the author of four books, including The Second Catastrophe: A Novel About a Book and its Author, Tolerism: The ideology Revealed, and most recently The Ideological Path to Submission... and what we can do about it. He writes for Israel National News, Frontpage Magazine and New English Review, among others. He is president of Mantua Books.