TEL AVIV – A veteran Arab reporter said that many of the Western journalists sent to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are “clueless” and do not “conceal their hatred for Israel and for Jews” while seeing “no evil” on the part of the Palestinians.
Award-winning journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, who covers Arab affairs for the Jerusalem Post, wrote in an article for the Gatestone Institute that Western journalists sent to cover the conflict suffer from “professional laziness” and lack a basic grasp of events in the region.
In addition to citing shocking examples of reporters’ misinformation, Abu Toameh expounds on the Western penchant for simplistic reporting that adheres to a predetermined dichotomy of good guy versus bad guy, resulting in anti-Israel bias in the mainstream media.
In one example, a Western correspondent asked a Palestinian colleague to arrange an interview with the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat, years after Arafat had died.
“Fresh out of journalism school and unknowledgeable about the Middle East, the journalist was apparently considered by his editors a fine candidate for covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” wrote Abu Toameh.
More recently, Abu Toameh was approached by two Western reporters who asked to be escorted to the Gaza Strip to interview Jewish settlers living there. Unfortunately for the earnest reporters, Israel withdrew all Jewish presence from Gaza over a decade ago, a unilateral move that led to the Hamas takeover of the Strip.
“No, this is not the opening line of a joke. These journalists were in Israel at the end of 2015, and they were deadly serious,” Abu Toameh wrote.
“You have to have some pity for them. These foreign colleagues were rookies who aimed to make an impression by traveling to a ‘dangerous’ place such as the Gaza Strip to report on the ‘settlers’ living there. Their request, however, did not take anyone, even my local colleagues, by surprise.”
Referring to them as “parachute journalists,” Abu Toameh claims that they are catapulted into the region without being briefed on any of the basic facts surrounding the conflict.
“Sadly, correspondents such as these are more the rule than the exception,” he notes.
Abu Toameh further claims that many Israel-based reporters believe that before the Jewish state’s founding in 1948, a Palestinian state existed with east Jerusalem as its capital.
In one instance, a British newspaper sent their crime reporter to cover the 2004 assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, since, as the reporter himself said, “No one else was willing to go.”
This “particular clueless British reporter” ended up claiming to be reporting directly from the Gaza Strip when in fact he was writing from the bar of a fancy hotel in Jerusalem.
When it comes to bias, Abu Toameh observes that many of the journalists simply choose not to report on something if it does not fit preconceived notions about the conflict:
“But when it comes to covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ignorance apparently is bliss. Misconceptions about what goes on here plague the international media. The binary good guy/bad guy designation tops the list. Someone has to be the good guy (the Palestinians are assigned that job) and someone has to be the bad guy (the Israelis get that one). And everything gets refracted through that prism.
“Yet the problem is deeper still. Many Western journalists covering the Middle East do not feel the need to conceal their hatred for Israel and for Jews. But when it comes to the Palestinians, these journalists see no evil.”
He added that in such a context, it’s unsurprising that the international media is largely ignoring the current wave of car-rammings and stabbings against Israeli citizens. Noting that mainstream media outlets never refer to Palestinian assailants as “terrorists,” Abu Toameh also points out that international headlines more often than not show more sympathy towards the Palestinian attackers than their Israeli victims.
Abu Toameh concludes his article with advice to reporters who wish to cover the conflict:
“Western reporters, especially those who are ‘parachuted’ into the Middle East, would do well to remember that journalism in this region is not about being pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. Rather, it is about being ‘pro’ the truth, even when the truth runs straight up against what they would prefer to believe.”