Western media are partners in Israel's genocide in Gaza

Western media are partners in Israel's genocide in Gaza
9 min read

Salim Nuqul

15 November, 2023
In its coverage of Gaza, Western media has pushed a distorted narrative, spread disinformation, and parroted propaganda that has helped to manufacture consent for Israel's violence against Palestinians, writes Salim Nuqul.
From the invasion of Iraq to Israel's war on Gaza, Western media has pushed distorted narratives with impunity, but global solidarity with Palestine still grows, writes Salim Nuqul. [Getty]

In today's media whirlwind, an unwavering commitment to unassailable impartiality is the bedrock of responsible journalism. However, recent global conflicts and atrocities frequently bring to light a troubling and pervasive bias in media coverage.

In situations like the current Israeli war on Gaza, this flagrant partiality erodes essential journalistic principles and sparks a profound debate about information integrity in the digital age.

Actually, the Western media has demonstrated its susceptibility to political manipulation, becoming a mere mouthpiece for politicians, who use it as a pawn to echo their rhetoric, obey their directives, and, most significantly, engage in the tactics of coercion, discrediting, and the amplification of falsehoods.

It all hinges on the age-old use of false propaganda, now repackaged and wielded anew.

False propaganda serves the atrocities in Gaza through its ability to manipulate public opinion and garner international support. By disseminating misinformation and distorted narratives, it can create a skewed perspective where one side, Israel, is portrayed as a victim defending itself against "terrorists," while the other, the Palestinians, is depicted as the aggressor.

This portrayal elicits sympathy and support for Israel, both political and financial, from various nations and individuals. False propaganda also shifts accountability away from those responsible for the atrocities, obscuring the underlying causes of the occupation and the harm inflicted on civilians.

Furthermore, it undermines the credibility of opposing narratives, exacerbating the challenge of discerning the truth and perpetuating a siege and control over journalism and many media outlets.

Delving into the details, post-October 7th, a series of incidents reveals media alignment with politicians, often favouring the Israeli perspective. Evidently, the orchestration of media and politics has converged with a singular purpose: employing a spectrum of multi-faceted strategic measures and terminology.

This deliberate alignment has created a potent synergy in sustaining the military war on Gaza, while manipulating public perceptions on a global scale.

It all commenced in the immediate wake of the events on October 7th, when an American official statement, widely echoed by many politicians and media outlets, hastily labelled the operation as an 'unprovoked terrorist attack.'

This calculated narrative pervaded the Western media and political discourse, and gave Israel the pretext to justify its military onslaught with claims of self-defence, all under the guise of countering the so-called 'unprovoked attack’.

Nevertheless, one must question: Was it truly an unprovoked attack? The direct answer is no. In reality, the international community had long turned a blind eye to Gaza, overlooking the prolonged suffering its people had endured for decades.

Gaza is currently enduring its fifth devastating war in 17 years, exacerbating its already dire living conditions. The people of Gaza found themselves trapped, their access to necessities and vital supplies tightly controlled by Israel, as they continued to grapple with the enduring pain of past struggles.

Perspectives

After the October 7th attack, Israel severed these lifelines, cutting off food, water, and fuel. Daily life metamorphosed into an excruciating struggle for existence, a heart-wrenching ordeal. Western politicians and media's pre-October 7th oversight has rendered the use of 'unprovoked' an example of biassed reporting, overlooking decades of Israeli aggression.

In the days following October 7th, another disturbing incident emerged: claims that 40 Israeli children had been beheaded during the Hamas attack. These claims were endorsed by several politicians, including American President Joe Biden, who initially validated these reports by stating he had seen photographic evidence.

However, the White House later clarified that the claims were unconfirmed and solely based on Israeli reports that had not been verified. But the damage had already been done, and this deceptive statement had already influenced public perception, making subsequent corrections less effective.

Similar rhetoric regarding the false incident was also echoed and exploited by media anchors and reporters, including Piers Morgan, Ben Shapiro, Sara Sidner, and many others.

This ongoing parroting of fabricated information, including accounts of the burning and beheading of Israeli civilians and the rape of women, is a premeditated and orchestrated effort.

Its purpose is to draw parallels between Hamas and notorious terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. Israeli officials have continuously repeated these statements since the beginning of the attack. The relentless association of Hamas with ISIS is a deliberate project to paint Palestinians as terrorists.

We have seen this narrative before, and these tactics emulate those employed in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, where the assertion of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction is wielded as a pretext for invading a sovereign state only to be exposed as false.

Just as it manufactured consent for the Iraq war, the media is now a willing partner in the ongoing war on Gaza. This partnership, marked by the spread of disinformation and false narratives, has thrived in an environment of impunity.

Even after the Iraq war, where solid evidence of false information emerged, no significant accountability was imposed on politicians or media outlets responsible for spreading these lies, emboldening Western figures to continue these tactics without fear of repercussions.

The continued use of these strategies has far-reaching consequences. It deliberately leverages the moral sensibilities of Western audiences to legitimise and support the substantial loss of civilian lives and the enforced displacement of Gaza's population.

Indeed, this approach potentially sets the stage for a broader application of similar tactics in other regions, such as the West Bank, where similar oppression has been occurring, and neighbouring territories, in the foreseeable future.

In tandem with this media coverage circus, concerns about censorship and shadow banning on major social media platforms like Meta, X, and others have arisen. These actions stifle pro-Palestinian perspectives and constrict open dialogue, raising concerns about their influence on public opinion.

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It inadvertently aids Israeli propaganda and the spread of falsehoods. Troubling reports indicate that most footage depicting Gaza's atrocities were obscured or removed, worsening the lack of visibility on the ongoing civilian crisis.

Pages and hashtags supporting Gaza and Palestine also experienced restrictions and removals, reducing their reach. Reports suggest social media platforms, particularly Meta, deploy algorithms to censor pro-Palestinian content, prompting users to find workarounds. 

Upday, a prominent European news aggregator app and media company, faced allegations of instructing employees to prioritize pro-Israel content, limit Palestinian casualty coverage, and avoid headlines deemed pro-Palestinian.

Another facet of narrative control involves coercing specific stances from various figures, through intimidation, threats, and targeted campaigns against non-compliant voices. Such tactics can be seen in the numerous interviews on Western TV channels featuring Arab politicians, influencers, and others.

Arab and Muslim guests are frequently pressed to denounce Hamas and the events of October 7th, a request that most resist. The fervent drive of Western media and politicians to condemn Hamas serves an additional strategic purpose, amplifying the narrative that it lacks significant support from the Arab world and divergence from broader Arab sentiments.

Another striking and alarming instance is a recent speech by former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid. He explicitly urged news reporters not to offer objective coverage of the Gaza war, claiming that doing so would benefit Hamas.

Other reports have shown how Israel offered financial incentives to social media influencers in exchange for their support and the suppression of any information validating the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

This all can be seen as an attempt to intimidate journalism, aiming to manipulate the narrative and stifle independent reporting. When some political leaders or activists attempt to contextualise the prolonged Palestinian struggle, or advocate for a humanitarian truce or ceasefire, they often face vehement criticism from Israeli officials and supporters of Israel.

This became evident, for instance,  when UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a truce and mentioned in his speech that attacks by Hamas “did not happen in a vacuum”. Israeli officials went so far as to demand his immediate resignation, and even imposed visa bans on UN officials travelling to Israel.

In various other contexts, similar situations unfolded, notably in Hollywood, where American writers encountered criticism for not taking a definitive stance against Hamas.

Despite the manipulation of media narratives and the perpetuation of false propaganda, which have undoubtedly had a profound impact on the public perception of the Palestinian cause, millions of people around the world increasingly express their support for Palestine and reject biassed reporting.

Today, more than a month after Israel began its war on Gaza, the sustainability of this propaganda appears limited. The atrocities in Gaza have galvanised global movements for justice, humanitarian intervention, and an immediate ceasefire.

This is also leading to a reevaluation of media integrity and the power of collective voices in advocating for the rights of Palestinians.

Ultimately, these developments raise several critical questions: Can this populace’s support for Palestinians lead to a significant change in the existing narrative? Is it time to scrutinise the independence of Western media outlets? And do they genuinely report without bias, or are they primarily serving as a front for particular political interests?

As long as the pursuit of impartiality remains steadfast, it is likely that the distorted narratives that have propped up the Israeli offensive will continue to crumble in the face of an awakened and unified global conscience.

Salim Nuqul is the Managing and Research Director at Core Consultants Network. His expertise lies in Middle Eastern affairs, violent extremism, international relations, and conflict and peace-related matters in the MENA region. Nuqul holds a Master's Degree in International Affairs from King's College London and an Executive Master's Degree from the Geneva Graduate Institute in Development Policies and Practices.

Follow him on Twitter: @salimnuqul

Have questions or comments? Email us at: editorial-english@newarab.com

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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