Dutch press systematically under-reports Palestinian woes, still

In 2002 Jacqueline de Bruijn, a political scientist from Amsterdam, studied the way news from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was reported in the Dutch press, and found out that the MSM tend to exaggerate the evil of the Palestinians’ violence, and play down the Israelis’ violence. I remember from that time that the press had a field day with her report, in that they attacked her and her methodology. Not a word about their own responsibility though.

This year De Bruijn repeated her study, and came up with the same results: the MSM paint the Palestinians as evil ogres and the Israelis as innocent victims, even though it is the Israelis that are the aggressors in the conflict and the ones that are turning the occupied country into an Apartheid state. Again, De Bruijn was attacked for her findings and her person, and the MSM whined that they did nothing wrong.

Some of the criticisms given by De Bruijn are:

  • the press under-reports Israeli attacks on Palestinians, even when there are dozens of victims, but it reports on every Palestinian attack on Israelis, even when there are no victims;
  • as a result, the few times Israeli aggression is reported on, this makes it seem that the supposedly rare Israeli attack is a response to a continuous stream of Palestinian aggression

As one person cynically noted: dead Palestinians are not news, simply because there are so many of them. Israel’s state propaganda makes handy use of this fact by continuously stressing that its attacks are merely responses to Palestinian aggression (a tactic Israel also uses with the PR for its attacks on Lebanon). What makes the whole matter worse is that Israel’s heavy handed violence against the occupied population is actually beneficial for this PR strategy. There’s no reason for Israel to tone down the murderousness of its regime.

There is a popular (but iditiotic) notion among some leftists that the MSM are mere puppets of “the man” (whoever that is)—the cynical observation that dead Palestinians are simply no longer news is probably more of an indicator why violence against Palestinians is underreported. Palestinians have become faceless, and are therefore not as interesting to report about.

For the press to combat this bias, it first has to recognize that it does have a problem. Everybody can see that De Bruijn’s qualitative statements are correct simply by opening the newspaper and observing the loaded language, regardless of the merits of De Bruijn’s methodology and quantitative statements. Next, the press has to figure out how to attack this problem.

De Bruijn presented her findings during a meeting in which the press were present. Also there was essayist Mohammed Benzakour who came with an equally interesting observation: several of the major Dutch newspapers have correspondents in Israel who are allied with the Zionist cause. The correspondent for Algemeen Dagblad and broadcaster EO (evangelists) is former chairman of the Nederlandse Zionisten Bond and has a daughter who works as press spokes person for the Israeli army, and the correspondent of the Volkskrant organizes trips to Jerusalem for Cidi. That does not necessarily invalidate their reporting (for all I know they take great care to remain as objective as possible), but it does signal a clear conflict of interest, which should in turn alert news consumers. Then again, why should I consume news from a suspect source?

The solution, it seems, is simple. Media bias is not going to go away, but the media could at least try and recognize their bias, and from time to time publish “the other story.” With regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if the Dutch MSM don’t just want to write what Israel is happy to have them write, it will have to have correspondents in the dangerous Palestinian slums, rather than just the four star hotels of a relatively safe Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. And if the Palestians want to stimulate such a process, they will have to do something very counter-intuitive: no more stringers. No more Palestinian reporters who will take the risk of being shot at in exchange for delivering news that won’t be published anyway. Let the West duck bullets to come and get the news themselves. I am sure that way reporters won’t have any difficulty at all to tell an interesting story.

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