Media bias 101: Guardian smears Israel’s PM with false accusation of racism

Yesterday, this writer accompanied a CAMERA colleague who participated in a special session of the Knesset, hosted by Tzipi Livni, on media bias against Israel.  

Though the session was largely initiated in response to the international media’s distortions relating to the latest terror wave, this recent spate of one-sided coverage is illustrative of a larger pattern of anti-Israel bias. Among the most egregious dynamics within this pattern relates to the failure of media outlets to hold Palestinian officials responsible for incitement and antisemitism, whilst imputing malevolence to Israeli leaders often with little or no evidence.

This provides some context to an article published in today’s Guardian by their Jerusalem correspondent, Peter Beaumont (Netanyahu plans fence around Israel to protect it from ‘wild beasts’, Feb. 10.)

Beaumont begins thusly:

Binyamin Netanyahu has announced his intention to “surround all of Israel with a fence” to protect the country from infiltration by both Palestinians and the citizens of surrounding Arab states, whom he described as “wild beasts”. 

A case in point is a Guardian report today by their Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont on a plan announced by Israel’s prime minister to build a fence around the entire country to protect against terrorism.  The report is titled ‘Netanyahu plans fence around Israel to protect it from ‘wild beasts’, and the remarks by Netanyahu featured in the story are contextualized as follows:

The Israeli prime minister unveiled the proposal during a tour of the Jordan border area in Israel’s south, adding that the project – which would cost billions of shekels – would also be aimed at solving the problem of Hamas infiltration tunnels from Gaza, a recent source of renewed concern.

He called the border project a part of a “multi-year plan to surround Israel with security fences to protect ourselves in the current and projected Middle East”.

Describing the need for new walls and fences on Tuesday, Netanyahu said: “In our neighbourhood, we need to protect ourselves from wild beasts.

First, the translation of the original Hebrew has been disputed, with many Israeli journalists, media outlets (and groups like Honest Reporting) noting that the Hebrew word he used is more accurately translated to “predators”.

However, the questionable translation isn’t the biggest problem. 

Using a characteristically Guardianesque technique, Beaumont weaves the comment by Netanyahu into the desired media narrative.

First, let’s go back to the first paragraph of the article, where he writes:

Binyamin Netanyahu has announced his intention to “surround all of Israel with a fence” to protect the country from infiltration by both Palestinians and the citizens of surrounding Arab states, whom he described as “wild beasts”. 

Note how Beaumont distorts the prime minister’s meaning to make it appear as if his “wild beasts”/”predators” comment was meant to describe not only terrorists, but regular “Palestinians” and “citizens of surrounding Arab states”.

However, the distortion of the prime minister’s comments gets worse in the penultimate paragraph:

Netanyahu’s use of the phrase “wild beasts” – also translated as “predators” – recalled his use of equally incendiary language about Israeli Arabs on the eve of last year’s elections whom he described as “coming out in droves”.

Of course, the false comparison between Netanyahu’s latest comments with what he said during the previous election would be obvious to all but the shrillest anti-Israel activists.  The prime minister was clearly referring narrowly to jihadists, and other terrorists who aspire to infiltrate Israel’s borders to murder Jewish civilians, as “predators”. 

There’s nothing even remotely racist or “incendiary” about such a characterization. 

In contrast to his false imputation of racism to Netanyahu, Beaumont quite remarkably didn’t write a single word, to cite one example, about Mahmoud Abbas’s dangerous incitement, in a speech on Palestine TV last October, when he falsely claimed that a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who stabbed two Jews in Jerusalem “was executed in cold blood”. (The Guardian’s entire coverage of Abbas’s libel consisted of two passages beginning in the 14th paragraph of an article by Kate Shuttleworth about an entirely different incident.)

During yesterday’s Knesset session on media bias, Israeli MK Michael Oren cited former AP Jerusalem correspondent Matti Friedman’s criticism of the media’s coverage of the region.  Among Friedman’s most important observations about such coverage related to journalists’ tendency to obsessively amplify every conceivable Israeli flaw, real or imagined, while almost uniformly treating Palestinians as passive victims lacking moral agency.

A regional bureau chief of a major news organization who participated in the special Knesset session yesterday responded to Oren’s question about Friedman’s criticism by testily rejecting even the suggestion that such news agencies are compromised by anti-Israel bias.

If you want to understand Beaumont’s latest false accusation of racism, and the broader tendency of UK media outlets to consistently skew the news against Israel, you need to accept that they aren’t willing to confront their often ideologically driven personal biases mainly because they sincerely don’t believe there’s a problem with their coverage to begin with.

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