Examining Big Media’s ‘Israeli-Centric Perspectives’

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs‘ Michael Gillespie (1-2/09) saw Alison Weir of If Americans Knew speak about her group’s “look at a category that would be universally accepted as significant and quantifiable” to examine U.S. media coverage of the Israel’s occupation of Palestine: “We settled on coverage of deaths among both populations.” Explaining that “first impressions are so powerful,” If Americans Knew initially looked at the beginning year of the current Intifada. Starting with B’Tselem figures showing “165 Israelis were tragically killed by Palestinians, and 549 Palestinians tragically killed by Israelis,” they then asked “Now how was this covered by our primetime network news broadcasts?”:

Using Nexis-Lexis databases, Weir said she discovered that ABC reported Israeli deaths at a rate 3.1 times greater than Palestinian deaths, CBS reported Israeli deaths at a rate 3.8 times greater than Palestinians’, and NBC reported Israeli deaths at a rate 4.0 times greater than Palestinians’ during the first year (September 2000 to September 2001) of the second intifada.

Weir said she also performed original research on media coverage of the deaths of children on both sides, and in 2004, when eight Israeli children and 179 Palestinian children were killed, network news broadcasts reports were again markedly biased in favor of the deaths of Israeli children.

ABC reported on the eight Israeli children’s deaths and on 20 Palestinian children’s deaths, or 100 percent of Israeli children and 11 percent of Palestinian children, a ratio of 9.0 to 1. CBS reported on 4 Israeli children’s deaths and 7 Palestinian children’s deaths, or 50 percent of Israeli children’s deaths and 4 percent of Palestinian, a ratio of 12.8 to 1. NBC reported on the 8 Israeli children’s deaths and on 18 Palestinian children’s deaths, or 100 percent of Israeli children and 10 percent of Palestinian children killed during 2004, a ratio of 9.9 to 1, at a time when Palestinian children were being killed at a rate 22 times greater than Israeli children, said Weir.

Exacerbating this proof of the fact that “media were using Israeli-centric perspectives to determine how they reported,” is what Weir calls U.S. taxpayers’ “direct connection to the anguish of Israelis and Palestinians: “We give Israel more than $7 million per day of our tax money… more than we give to all of sub-Saharan Africa.” Taking the next step, If Americans Knew sought to determine why “most Americans don’t know about that: Their 6-month survey of the San Francisco Chronicle “discovered that during that period there had been 251 stories about Israel-Palestine. And U.S. aid was mentioned in only three of those stories, usually in the last sentence.” Weir even asks “how many times did they give the full amount” of the aid? The outrageous answer is “never once.”

See the FAIR magazine Extra!: “The Illusion of Balance: NPR’s Coverage of Mideast Deaths Doesn’t Match Reality” (11-12/01) by Seth Ackerman