On 13 May of this year, Reuters ran an 'explainer' titled "How Jerusalem tension sparked the heaviest Israel-Gaza fighting in years". Even though the article mentioned the exact number of rockets gathered by Hamas in Gaza, it fails to mention the name of the neighborhood that is at the centre of the most recent clashes, let alone stating the fact that the neighborhood was originally created by the UN for Palestinian refugees and the fate of 28 families depend on it.
It also did not mention that East Jerusalem is an unjustly occupied territory until the very last sentence of the piece. It seems uncharacteristic for a respected news source like Reuters to mistakenly deprioritise such important information; precisely because it is not. Misrepresenting the Israel-Palestine Conflict (IPC) in favor of Israel has been done by the Western Media, the ones generally hailed as paragons of journalistic integrity, ever since the birth of the Jewish state.
According to a research paper published in 2016 titled "Framing the Gaza Conflict: US media portrayals of Palestinian Arabs", the most frequented phrases in US newspapers were 'Israeli officials' and 'Hamas aggression'. The paper processed 102 articles published by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal during the Gaza war in 2014 to explore how the conflict was portrayed in the US.
The data clearly shows that these media outlets are primarily reliant on Israeli narratives for information and consequently, sees Hamas as an aggressor in most cases. Similarly, Hamas is often called 'militants', 'Islamist faction' and 'terror sqaud' in the New York Times while the Wall Street Journal calls the organisation 'Islamist millitant group' and 'terror army' while labeling the Gaza war as 're-occupation of Gaza'- as if Gaza were ever a part of Isreal.
These names hide two important issues: Hamas has a prominent social service wing called 'Dawah' and it is the democratically elected government of Palestinians according to the Palestinian legislative election of 2006. This narrative also extends to blaming Hamas for the civilian casualties of Israeli actions and justifying the bombing of hospitals, schools and mosques by portraying them as arsenals of Hamas.
In some cases, the Palestinian populace is also blamed for the collateral damages. Even though Palestinians are the disproportionate victims of the conflict, they are not often personalised, reducing living humans to just numbers making their readers more apathetic to the brutalities of the occupying Israeli forces. In most articles, the news organizations regularly fail to state that the occupation of East Jerusalem and the Gaza strip are illegal under international law, giving Israeli actions a veneer of legitimacy.
This phenomenon has continued during the recent protests. One New York Times article labels Sheikh Jarrah as a 'contested neighborhood', as if both sides have equally valid claims to it. Another BBC article states, "Protesters hurled stones at the police at Damascus Gate in the Old City, and officers responded with stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannon," ignoring the fact that the Israeli police were storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan prayer'.
In many writings, 'Israelis' are replaced with 'Jews' and 'Palestinians' are replaced with 'Arabs', ignoring the fact that there are Arab Jews in Palestine and Arab Muslims in Israel. The reports also did not mention the fact that armed Isralei right-wing organizations marched on the streets of Jerusalem and chanted 'Death to Arabs' and "We are burning Arabs today" in any significant capacity. Even when this occurrence was reported it was blamed on 'extremists', ignoring the fact that the root of this extremism lies in the illegal settler programmes of the Israeli government.
The reasons behind such misleading reports are multifaceted. Israel has not only been a long term strategic ally of the West, but it has been a centre-piece in the Middle Eastern policy of the US. Exposing their brutalities will definitely make the billions of dollars the US gives to Israel every year seem heinous and may lead to a call for actions against the Zionist state.
It will also delegitimise the US strategy in the region which both the Republican and the Democrat administrations chose to follow, tarnishing the reputation of the established order domestically. Additionally, there are powerful Zionist lobby groups that influence the Western narrative about this issue.
In their work titled "The Israel Lobby and the US Foreign Policy" Mearsheimer & Walt found that the US media presents disproportionately publishes pro-Israel op-eds. Journalist Anthony Loewenstein said in 2017 that journalists who are critical of the Israeli settlements or the lobbying groups are 'targeted privately and publicly'.
But perhaps the most important inadequacy of the Western narrative is the lack of historical or regional contexts. These outlets depict Hamas as a generic Islamic fundamentalist group like Boko Haram and often demonize the people of Gaza for supporting them. For the longest period, Palestinian politics has been solely dominated by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), often depicted as a more progressive side.
Hamas was not in the political landscape before the Second Intifada, which was caused by the breakdown of the Camp David Summit in 2000. The Western media also blames the PLO for this. The then Israeli president Ehud Barak chose to discard some interim steps to which Israel formally committed in 1993. So there was no way the PLO would believe Israeli promises, especially since they were only verbal.
This, coupled with the alleged assasination of PLO's legendary leader Yasser Arafat made Palestinians lose hope for a peaceful and gradual resolution, brokered by the West. Ironically, even though the US and Israel recognize the authority of the PLO, Israeli government has not stopped sending settlers to the East bank which is supposed to be governed by the PLO, decreasing the chance of a non-violent solution even further.
This is, however, quite understandable because pulling on historical threads delegitimises the statehood of Israel. It is crucial to remember that the Palestinian people did not and could not consent to the formation of a Zionist state in their lands, it was created by the British imperialist mandate.
Reports that frame this issue as 'war', 'conflict' or 'clash' makes it look like a balanced fight between two nations where Palestinians are the aggressors and Israelis are simply defending themselves. But in reality, this is a fight for the survival of the native populace of Palestine from Israeli colonial regime, a side that has an enormous and well-equipped army, vast resources, strong allies and allegedly, nuclear weapons, while all Hamas can muster is rockets that barely makes a dent on Israel. The prevailing narrative has made the colonisation process look like a defensive war, like many other colonisation processes undertaken by the West in the past, betraying the reality and the integrity of journalism.