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Why is the Media Biased?

Why is the Media Biased?

The reasons abound, but the result is the same: Israel is getting a bad rap in the world media.


Media coverage of the Mideast violence has created a groundswell of protest in the Jewish community. Israel is largely portrayed as the aggressor, and events are frequently taken out of context, without presenting the very real threat to security that Israel faces.

CNN and BBC have been singled out for especially blatant bias toward the Palestinian side. Numerous articles have been written detailing these specific violations of objectively.

What is the source of this media bias? I believe there are three answers:

Reason #1 – Palestinian intimidation of journalists.

We expect journalists to maintain independence and objectivity -- and certainly not pledge "cooperation" with one side of an armed struggle. But in the current violence, journalists often weigh favorably toward the Palestinians because they are intimidated into doing so. This has been well-documented.

On October 18, a representative of Italian state television issued an apology in Arabic over the filming of the brutal lynching of two Israelis in Ramallah, and promised to cooperate more fully with the Palestinian Authority in the future.

By apologizing, the Italian journalist revealed that the Palestinian Authority indeed places guidelines on reporters, restricting their ability to objectively report the news. In the case of the Italian film crew, they had reportedly been receiving death threats.

British photographer Mark Seager told how he was "scared for my life" as he was punched in the face by a Palestinian and had his camera smashed to the floor -- when he tried to photograph scenes of the Ramallah lynching.

Aguirre Bertrand of France's TF1 says that Palestinian police took a tape of the Ramallah incident from his crew at gunpoint.

How can a journalist report honestly if his life is being threatened?

There are many more examples. BBC World Service reporter Paul Adams was recently assaulted by a Palestinian mob as he was covering an explosion in the Bethlehem headquarters of a Palestinian militia. The BBC chose not to cover the attack on its reporter, for fear of reprisals.

By contrast, Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East. No other country in the region allows photojournalists to film riots, wars or police actions within their borders. So by that fact alone, coverage gets skewed.

Reason #2 -- It's more exciting to root for the underdog.

In almost every competition -- military, political, business, or athletic -- there's not much excitement if the stronger side wins as expected. So Western society has made a habit of rooting for the underdog. Not only does it make the event more exciting, but it gives us hope that our own less-than-perfect lives can take a dramatic turnaround.

We all know the Biblical story of David, armed with only a slingshot, who slew the giant Goliath. That image was applied to the Israelis who repelled attempted annihilation by invading Arab armies in 1948 and 1967.

But now, with Israel's superior military might, and the Palestinians brandishing their slingshots on CNN, the world has reversed the labels. Israel has become Goliath.

This imagery sells newspapers and increases TV ratings. And in a world fed a steady diet of Super Bowls and Academy Awards, the moral truth is often less important than the thrill of an underdog victory.

Reason #3 -- The world applies a double-standard of morality to Israel.

Charles Krauthammer writes in The New Republic:

"It is plain that compared with the way its neighbors treat protestors, prisoners and opposition in general, Israel is a beacon of human rights. The salient words are Hama, a town where Syria dealt with an Islamic uprising by killing perhaps 20,000 people in two weeks and then paving the dead over; and Black September (1970), during which enlightened Jordan dealt with its Palestinian intifada by killing at least 2,500 Palestinians in ten days, a toll that the Israel intifada would need ten years to match."

So why does the world apply this double-standard?

Ever since Abraham first introduced to humanity the concept of monotheism, the Jewish people have become the torch-bearers of the moral message. The Ten Commandments codified the idea that you can't just live as you please; there is one God for all humanity who makes moral demands on human beings. Disseminating this message became the Jewish mission as a "Light Unto the Nations." And despite the fact that Jews were never more than a tiny fraction of the world's population, these ideas became the basis for the civilized world.

Why would anyone hate the Jewish message? Says Aldous Huxley in his book "Confessions of an Atheist":

"I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently, I assumed that it had none and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom."

Jews became a lightening rod for those opposed to the moral message. If Jews behaved well, they made those around them feel deficient. If they misbehaved, those around them felt relieved of the moral demands the Jews represented in history. So... many people (journalists among them) have a vested interest in portraying Jews in a negative light.

Hitler expressed it bluntly:

"Providence has ordained that I should be the greatest liberator of humanity. I am freeing man from the restraints of an intelligence that has taken charge, from the dirty and degrading self-mortifications of a false vision called conscience and morality, and from the demands of a freedom and personal independence which only a very few can bear."

For more on this topic, visit the "Why the Jews" online seminar, which explains the roots of anti-Semitism. (

December 2, 2000

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Visitor Comments: 15

(15) Anonymous, June 1, 2001 12:00 AM

War desires

I would tell one more reason... As you see in the Cinema, or even in the old Rome, the human kind has a desire for violence, we love it. So, when it's possible to provoke, the media will do it. The media is not interested in peace, peace doesn't sell anything, peace doesn't move the world.

(14) Anonymous, May 31, 2001 12:00 AM

I think you're kidding yourselves. Yes, all those answers apply to some extent. But the only thing that explains anti-Semitism in every place and at every time is...that people hate Jews. Amalek, Haman, and Hitler needed no reason, and neither does anyone else. I think it almost evident that the Almighty created anti-Semitism, probably as a way to keep us in line. The more out of line we are, the stronger the "reminder." Nothing else explains how there can be anti-Semitism in Central American countries w/out Jews (Nicaragua, if I recall correctly) or in outposts with few Jews (e.g., Japan). Or, how there can be Christian-style, Christ-killer anti-Semitism in Arab countries, even more vehement than their progenitors'. Or how we are villified contemporaneously as both communists and capitalists, rich and poor, clannish and assimilated. Since Jews have always been hated by people who have no idea what Jews stand for, including morality and conscience, it is too glib, and it gives morons too much credit, to assert that they don't like us for those traits.

(13) Israel Garzon, January 3, 2001 12:00 AM

Reason3: Double standard of morality

I believe there are two ideas mixed in this laast part. One is the concept of a "double standard". The other, however is clear to me that is more connected to the existence of antisemitism base purely in senseless and irrational hatred. This last one is, unfortunately a fourth reason that, in many cases, permeates the other three.

(12) Tim Ellis, January 2, 2001 12:00 AM

The Truth

I am glad to see articles like this one, I am a Christian American that has noticed for a long time the media Bias against Israel in reporting the Truth about what is happening, It saddens and suprises me that so many us papers are guilty, though it is no suprise of cnn's reporting...

(11) Ned Miller, December 24, 2000 12:00 AM

Excellent insight to the horrendous and worldly media problem.

Thank you, Rabbi Shraga, for attacking
an issue that is so upsetting to so many Jews. I wish the newspapers themselves would have the courage to print your comments, which are so poignant. Thank you.

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