Foreign correspondents are in the position of being able to influence on a daily basis how others perceive the country in which they work. Not only do they shape that country’s image in the eyes of general foreign audiences, but their reporting also affects the attitudes and decisions of policy makers. As political and governmental decisions are often – and perhaps increasingly – influenced by the amount of media attention a certain subject gets, a foreign correspondent’s decision to report or not to report a particular news story has more gravity than just the telling of the story itself.
Taking the month now ending as a random example, analysis of the Guardian’s coverage of Israel on its dedicated page in the World News section shows that out of 60 items published between April 1st and 29th, seven dealt with the subject of Habima’s appearance at the Globe Theatre.
A further 11 items were published on the subject of Gunter Grass and his controversial poem. Nine items touched on the subject of Iran’s nuclear project, three were related to Raed Salah’s immigration tribunal in the UK, five concerned the Danish ISM activist hit by an Israeli officer and a further five touched on aspects of what the Guardian Style Guide terms as settlements and settlers; Jews living over the ‘green line’.
Other subjects tackled include the Israeli version of ‘Big Brother’, Saturday bus services, the gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel (2 articles), the ‘flytilla’ (2 articles), illegal migrants from Africa, Holocaust Memorial Day (3 items), Easter, and hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners (2 articles).
Pessach, Memorial Day and Independence Day (all of which took place in April) were not covered, despite their importance to anyone hoping to understand Israel.
Neither did the Guardian report on any of the following events:
“On the morning of April 2 a 65 year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish man was attacked by a young Arab man wielding an axe. The attack took place near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. The victim, who had been on his way to the Western Wall to pray, sustained minor injuries and was evacuated to a hospital for medical treatment.”
“On the evening of April 2 stones were thrown at a bus near Beit Horon, an Israeli village to the northwest of Jerusalem. Two women suffered minor injuries and were evacuated to a hospital for further treatment.”
“On the night of April 4 residents of Eilat heard explosions throughout the city. Searches conducted by the Israeli security forces discovered the remains of two 122mm Grad rockets, two of three launched at Eilat from the Sinai Peninsula. The rockets fell in open areas near residential structures. There were no casualties, but a number of residents were treated for shock.”
“On the morning of April 8 two long-range rockets landed near the city of Netivot. There were no casualties and no damage was done.”
“On the evening of April 8 a rocket landed in an open area near the city of Sderot. There were no casualties and no damage was done.”
“On the night of April 15 two rockets fell in open areas in the western Negev. There were no casualties.”
“On April 11, IDF military police detained a Palestinian at the Beqa’ot checkpoint in the Jordan Valley. He was found to be carrying seven improvised IEDs, three knives and bullets. He was transferred to the security forces for questioning.”
“The Egyptian and Palestinian media reported that the Egyptian security forces had stopped a vehicle in the northern Sinai Peninsula driven by an Egyptian and carrying three Palestinians who had illegally entered Egyptian territory on April 13. The three admitted that they had been en route to Libya to buy weapons to smuggle into the Gaza Strip through the tunnels. The interrogation conducted by the Egyptian security forces in El-Arish revealed that the three were residents of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip and belonged to the Salah al-Din Brigades, the military-terrorist wing of the Popular Resistance Committees.”
“Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip targeting the western Negev continues. One rocket hit was identified in an open area. There were no casualties and no damage was done.”
“On April 19 in Jerusalem a 20 year-old yeshiva student was stabbed in the stomach, incurring serious wounds. Two young Arab men were detained as suspects. The initial investigation revealed that the motive for the attack was apparently nationalistic.”
“On April 21 Israel border policemen saw two Palestinians about 17 years old alighting from a taxi at the Tapuach junction (south of Nablus), carrying a suspicious-looking bag. The policemen ordered them to halt but the two turned and ran. The youths, both residents of the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, were found to be carrying four IEDs, a gun and ammunition.”
The IEDs and weapons found in the possession of the two Palestinians
(Israel Border Police Media Office, April 21, 2012)
“There has recently been a rise in the number of stones and Molotov cocktails thrown at Israeli vehicles south of Jerusalem in the Gush Etzion district; on April 19 there were five such attacks. In one instance Palestinian youths threw stones and rocks at an Israel car at the Gush Etzion junction. One of the rocks hit the car and shattered the front windshield. Riding in the car were a couple and their two-year old son.”
“The Mount of Olives in Eastern Jerusalem was the scene of an attack on Sunday night [April 15th], as 7 molotov cocktails or “firebombs” were hurled at Jewish homes in the neighborhood of Maale HaZeitim.”
“Three separate attacks in Jerusalem Thursday, [April 26th] left 4 people injured.
A Jewish family was assaulted by Arab teenagers in eastern Jerusalem, leaving three of the family members injured and in need of medical treatment.
In the Old City of Jerusalem, an 11 year old boy was injured when Arabs began throwing rocks near Israeli Jews in the area. The boy was hit in the head and also received medical help following the incident.
The last attack to occur happened late Thursday night when an Orthodox man was attacked by two Arab youths, who fled the scene on foot before causing any physical harm. Police have arrested a suspect in the case and are reportedly looking for another.”
“An Israeli cab driver heading from Tel Aviv to Kfar Saba – a 14.5 mile trip – was stabbed several times overnight by an Arab man described by police as being in the country illegally.”
It is expensive to keep a permanent correspondent in a foreign country and that expense might well be queried if its only outcome is to produce multiple versions of the same carefully selected items in order to cultivate a tailored view of the country covered.
But the stories untold are just as relevant as the ones which do get published. It is, for example, much easier for both British politicians and members of the general public to voice criticism of Israel’s checkpoints and security barrier as impediments to free movement if neither they nor the people listening to them know anything about attempts to smuggle IEDs, guns and knives intended to kill civilians through those checkpoints.
The Guardian’s placing of a total black-out on the reporting of rocket fire into Israel from Gaza (unless Israel reacts), ‘cold weapon’ terror attacks on Israeli civilians and attempted armed infiltrations into Israel from Palestinian Authority-controlled areas is an additional method of influencing foreign perceptions of Israel which should not be underestimated.
- Guardian’s “relative calm” in Israel continues, 130 rockets fired from Gaza in last 30 hours (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian’s biased coverage of terrorist hostilities in Israel’s south: Numbers, headlines and photos (cifwatch.com)
- Photos the Guardian won’t publish: Israeli communities under siege from Gaza rocket fire (cifwatch.com)
- The Washington Post’s Coverage of Israel: Slouching towards the Guardian at Easter (cifwatch.com)