The consistent failure of British news outlets to inform their readers about the drumbeat of Palestinian incitement, and popular Palestinian support for violence, is one of the most vexing elements of their reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Despite incontrovertible evidence revealed continously at sites such as Palestinian Media Watch showing PA political and religious leaders inciting extremism and violence (most recently over non-existent threats to al-Aqsa Mosque), most journalists treat such reports as nothing more than Israeli ‘hasbara’ – or as mere “claims”, the truth or falsehood of which they never care much about scrutinizing.
Conversely, many of the same journalists obsessively highlight every example purporting to show Israelis and Israeli leaders as far-right extremist proponents of violence against Palestinians, a double standard in coverage which grossly distorts news consumers’ understanding of the conflict.
The following tweet by Gregg Carlstrom, who contributes to Times of London and The Economist, represents an example of this dynamic:
"But some of the messages aired on Israeli news sites were scathing, wishing Mr. Erekat a speedy death." https://t.co/a65IxzwNQt
— Gregg Carlstrom (@glcarlstrom) August 3, 2017
The quote was from a New York Times article by Isabel Kershner about the illness of Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, who’s suffering from pulmonary fibrosis and in need of a lung transplant, mostly likely from Israel or the US. Here’s the paragraph:
Many Israeli officials, people involved in the various rounds of failed negotiations and private citizens had called to wish him a speedy recovery and inquire if they could do anything to help, he said. But some of the messages aired on Israeli news sites were scathing, wishing Mr. Erekat a speedy death and mockingly decrying the possibility that he might be saved by the health system of the state he has disparaged….“A transplant? Forget it,” wrote one reader. “But cigarettes are on me.”
So, there were two elements of the paragraph Carlstrom could have highlighted: the fact that many Israeli officials wished Erekat well and asked if they could help, or the fact that some “messages” aired on Israeli news sites “wished him a speedy death”. He of course chose the latter.
However, if you open the link embedded in the NYT article, you’ll see that “messages” at “Israeli news sites” refers to the talk back section of Yedioth Ahronot beneath one article about Erekat’s health problems.
Currently, there are 15 messages below the line. Our colleagues at Presspectiva (CAMERA’s Hebrew department) read all the comments, and it turns out that only one (number 6, שייתפגר כבר) wishes him death.
Of course, as anyone familiar with our work at UKMW already knows, talk back sections at UK sites like the Guardian are often cesspools of hatred – hate often directed towards Jews beneath articles focusing on Israel. Whilst in the early years of this blog, we often criticised Guardian comment editors for not removing antisemitic comments (some threatening violence) sooner, we never contextualised the ubiquity of such vitriol and incitement as a commentary on the views of the British people as a whole.
Carlstrom’s egregiously misleading tweet, reinforcing the dominant far-left view that Israeli society is lurching dangerously ‘right’, is a perfect example of the bias and advocacy journalism which informs British media coverage of Israel and the Palestinian territories.