Western media continues to get it wrong when reporting on Israeli violence against Palestinians

The pro-Israel bias in the mainstream reporting on the Al-Aqsa mosque violence is viewed as an attempt by Western media outlets to justify Israel’s oppressive apartheid policies against Palestinians

April 07, 2023 by Abdul Rahman
Biased media on Palestine
(Photo: The Palestinian Information Center)

International media coverage of the Israeli aggression inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound earlier this week has once again raised concerns about media impartiality and hidden agendas. Several Palestinians and human rights activists have pointed out how coverage of Israeli violence in the occupied Palestinian territories is often misleading and prompts readers to sympathize with the occupation.      

Despite videos of the Israeli security forces perpetrating brutal attacks on peaceful Palestinians worshippers circulating on social media, prominent mainstream media houses from the West, such as BBC and New York Times, tried to portray the blatant violence as ‘clashes’. 

A New York Times report that held Palestinians “who had barricaded themselves inside” responsible for the Israeli attacks on Tuesday particularly invited angry reactions. Many claimed that the paper uncritically reproduced Israel’s version of the brutal attack on Al-Aqsa and the peaceful Palestinian worshippers inside.  

Palestinians claim that the Western media reports of “Palestinians barricading” themselves inside the mosque indicates a complete lack of understanding of the religious practices in Islam. As per their claims, Palestinians inside the mosque at the time of the Israeli attack were performing Taraweh and Itikaf, an extended prayer performed during the month of Ramadan after usual prayers, and not “barricading” themselves as claimed by the media and Israeli police.

Talking to Middle East Eye, senior Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouti called the Times reporting on the Al-Aqsa violence as “biased to Israel, adopting Israeli narrative unconditionally, and trying to provide Israel with impunity.”

Another report by the BBC also invited strong reactions from Palestinians. Following the incident on Tuesday night, the BBC published a report on Wednesday with the headline “clashes erupt at contested holy site.” 

Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, termed the BBC report “misleading” and argued that the report “contributes to enabling Israel’s unchecked occupation and must also be condemned/accounted for.”    

Well known journalist Jonathan Cook, writing in the Middle East Eye, said that the report “entails knee-jerk echoing of the British establishment’s support for Israel as a highly militarized ally projecting western interests into the oil rich Middle East.”

Not the first time 

The international media’s reporting on the Israeli violence at Al-Aqsa and its subsequent airstrikes in Gaza as a response to ‘Palestinian provocation’ or a ‘clash’ is problematic, however, it is a routine practice and nothing new. 

In the past, whenever Israeli occupation forces have launched air strikes inside the besieged Gaza strip, outlets like the New York Times, CNN, and BBC, among others, portray it as a “fight” between two forces “conflicting” with each other, conveniently forgetting that Gaza is an occupied territory facing more than a decade-long blockade.  

Such reportage shows Western media’s complete and unquestioned borrowing of what Barghouti calls an Israeli narrative. Israel has claimed that ever since the disengagement plan in 2005, Gaza is no longer an occupied territory. This is despite Israel fully controlling Gaza’s borders and the UN also rejecting its claims.   

Most reports on the raids in Palestinian towns and villages inside the occupied territories in the West Bank, whether carried out by the Israeli armed forces or by illegal Israeli settlers, are termed as ‘clashes’ as well. These reports also often refer to the Palestinians resisting Israeli occupation as “terrorists” or “militants.”  

Last year, when Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by an Israeli sniper in Jenin, the New York Times misreported it by saying that she had died in a clash between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen. Even though the paper was forced to correct its version, it has been routinely pointed out that most of its reports have been a reproduction of the Israeli state’s version of particular incidents. Whenever there is clear evidence of Israeli atrocities that cannot be overlooked, the paper tries to play a balancing game, like much of the rest of Western media.