More Crossfire  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   October/November 2004

More Crossfire   

In "Caught in the Crossfire," June/ July 2004, Barbara Matusow notes that editors say pro-Israel Web sites generate about 10 times as much mail as pro-Arab sites. It is not surprising that journalists, despite claiming to be harassed by "extremists from both sides" while they present a "fair and balanced" portrayal of the Arab-Israeli conflict, frequently cover the issue with a pro-Israel slant.

A glaring example of imbalance (bias?): Many major papers carry four or even six times as many opinion articles supporting Israeli actions than criticizing them. This gross imbalance is not due to a "Zionist conspiracy," but because most syndicated columnists who write about the issue support Ariel Sharon. Editors, out of indifference, lack of time, or fear of the Israel lobby, make little effort to seek opinion-page balance.

Journalists tend to internalize U.S. and Israeli diplomatic terminology and versions of events. So Palestinians commit "terrorist acts" to which Israel "retaliates." But "Israeli state terrorism" and "Palestinian retaliation" are concepts that seldom enter the minds and language of journalists.

Given the 10-to-1 pro-Israel input journalists receive, they need to make a special effort to comprehend the "other side" by meeting with and reading the views of human rights and peace activists both in the U.S. and Palestine/Israel.

Edmund R. Hanauer
Executive director, Search for Justice and Equality in Palestine/Israel
Framingham, Massachusetts