The Washington Post’s Jefferson Morley reports that the media in the Arab world and Europe are criticizing the U.S. media for reporting the news with a pro-Israeli bias. Morley writes that the main difference between U.S. and international coverage is the latter’s greater focus on civilian deaths in Lebanon. Morley concludes:
Is the U.S. media just providing reports that conform to its consumers’ world view? After all, Americans are the most sympathetic towards Israel of 15 nations surveyed by the Pew Global Attitude survey conducted earlier this year. That survey found that 48 percent of Americans sympathized with Israel as compared with 13 percent who sympathized with Palestinians.
Americans are also more likely than the people of any other country to regard U.S. policy in the Middle East as “fair,” according to Pew pollsters. In one 2003 survey, 47 percent thought U.S. policy in the Middle East favored neither the Israelis or the Palestinians. Only five percent of Lebanese shared that view.
The disparate reaction to Lebanon’s civilian casualties may simply reflect the larger beliefs of the societies in which journalists work.
That’s one way of saying that the U.S. is more sympathetic to Israel’s side in this conflict while ducking the reasons why Americans feel that way. Perhaps it’s because we face the same enemy – an enemy that has visited death and destruction on our homeland in the time since Israel’s last major conflict. An enemy that, unlike Europe, we refuse to appease.
Also, some of the overseas commentators Morley quotes either don’t know what they’re talking about or are being highly disingenuous. Like this, from the Lebanon Daily Star’s Marc J. Sirois:
… for the most part western TV viewers, newspaper readers and web surfers are reading highly sanitised versions of the news, spun in such a way as to dilute the brutality of the Israeli onslaught and especially to ensure that blame is placed squarely on Lebanon in general and Hizbullah in particular.
Is it the U.S. media’s fault that Hezbollah did in fact start this war? And Sirois must have missed today’s New York Times, which reported that most of the Lebanese dead have been civilians and that a 10-year-old Palestinian girl was among the casualties of an Israeli airstrike on a refugee camp.
I guarantee that such tragic details are not lost on American readers. But we also know what it’s like to live in fear of an enemy that is dedicated to your destruction and for whom no tactics are off-limits – especially and almost exclusively including the deliberate targeting of innocents. And we’re smart enough to see Israel’s response in proportion to the threat it faces, not the actual damage its enemy is currently able to inflict.
Is the U.S. media pro-Israel, or just not as objectively anti-Israel as the Arab and European media? Maybe on the first, and definitely on the second. But either way, I’ve seen plenty of coverage of civilian deaths in the U.S. media and plenty of analysis suggesting that Israel’s response has been “disproportionate”. Where I have seen pro-Israel sentiment in the media, it usually derives from the commentator’s conclusion that Hezbollah started this war, that it remains committed to the destruction of Israel, and that Israel is entitled to defend itself. Call that pro-Israel if you want. To me it just seems like the most compelling argument.
UPDATE: As Brent Baker notes, those overseas critics of the U.S. media must not get NBC, either.