Michelle Daniels

Bizarre Bias in the Media: When Facts Don’t Matter

After Hamas infiltrated Israel and terrorized, raped, burned, tortured, murdered, and kidnapped Israelis and other foreign nationals on October 7, a tsunami of emotions was unleashed all around the world. From the pro-Israel camp, it was a justified eruption of sadness, pain, anger, and fear. From the pro-Palestinian side, it was a continuation of what they do best: demonization of Israel.

There were those in the media who already had steadfast opinions of who was responsible, many of whose biases were revealed in the way they conducted their interviews.

Take for example the issue of hostage/prisoner swaps. This past Monday we learned that Israel agreed to a proposal whereby 40 Israeli hostages would be exchanged for 800 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are serving life sentences for murdering Israelis in terror attacks.

During a now famous interview with Eylon Levy last year, a reporter accused Israel of devaluing Palestinian lives when they agreed to exchange 150 Palestinian prisoners for 50 Israeli hostages. The reporter asked the question, “does Israel not think that Palestinian lives are valued as highly as Israeli lives?” Wait, what? I had to rewind that part of the interview just to make sure what I heard was actually what was being asked, and then it took a moment for the accusation to sink in. How bizarre! Even I, with no background in communications or news reporting had to raise my brows.

Photo Credit: Michelle Daniels. Walk for the Hostages, Central Park

I might be going out on a limb here for speaking for Israel, but I can assure you that Israel would be more than happy to exchange one Palestinian prisoner for one Israeli hostage, or even better, one Palestinian prisoner for fifty Israeli hostages. Would that mean that Israel values Israeli lives more? Or less? In the eyes of this particular journalist, it’s hard to say. Israel is damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

An even more outrageous example is the recent cringeworthy interview of Douglas Murray by former Doha-based Al Jazeera reporter Jane Dutton. The seemingly uninformed reporter’s ground zero position for her interview gives one the impression that Israel is guilty of any and everything of which they are being accused. Dutton claims to have visited Gaza but either has no idea that Egypt shares a border with Gaza or conveniently ignores the fact when she states that Gaza is completely sealed off and encircled by the Israelis. After some prodding from Murray asking who else is encircling Gaza, she says “the Americans and whomever else supports the Israelis.” Really? I could actually feel Murray’s exasperation as he proceeded to enlighten Dutton of the shared border between Gaza and Egypt. How could she not know or even fail to acknowledge this important fact? Was she ignorant or were her biases getting the better of her? Needless to say, it was incredibly refreshing to watch Murray set her straight over that and numerous other biased allegations throughout the interview. (I encourage you to watch the interview as it’s highly entertaining if you can get past Dutton’s performance).

When it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict as it was once known, now morphed into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, true unbiased journalism seems harder to find. We rely on fact-based reporting, but there’s a blurred line between reporting the facts and sharing biased opinions, half-truths, fabrications, or flat out lies.

Several weeks after the brutal massacre in Israel, a missile landed near Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza. The Gaza Health Ministry, run by Hamas, immediately claimed that over 500 people were killed. Numerous media outlets and pro-Palestinian activists took Hamas’ report at face value, blaming and condemning Israel. Congresswoman Tlaib stated on social media that “Israel just bombed the Baptist Hospital killing 500 Palestinians.” Other members of the Squad followed suit with their accusations. The Middle East and North Africa erupted with anti-Israel demonstrations. Western intelligence sources claim, however, that in all likelihood, a misfired rocket from Islamic Jihad was responsible for the explosion. Nonetheless, the damage (no pun intended) was done. Did they walk back their accusations when it was determined that Israel was most likely not responsible for the explosion? Were people marching against Islamic Jihad for firing the missile? Was the Gaza Health Ministry held accountable for misleading the public? Facts didn’t seem to matter. If Israel had dropped the bomb, it was Israel’s fault. If Islamic Jihad fired the rocket, it was still Israel’s fault.

On the flip side, immediately after October 7, Israel’s accusers were demanding proof for the violence, rape, beheading and burning of Israeli civilians.  Conspiracy theories were circulating throughout social media. Many Israel-haters refused then and even now to acknowledge the horrific details of the massacre. They questioned every detail, they denied Hamas were terrorists, or went a step further to actually blame the victims. Those who were quick to blame Israel for the Al Ahli Hospital explosion wanted to wait until they had all the facts, details, confirmations for the reports of the October 7 massacre. I would even venture as far as saying they wanted to see Jewish blood. But even that wasn’t enough. Those same voices chose to quickly overlook the atrocities and focus their attention and rage at Israel for the suffering of the people in Gaza before any soldiers stepped foot in Gaza.  Remember the pro-Palestinian rally/celebration in Times Square on October 8?

We hear the terms ‘genocide and ethnic cleansing’ so often during this war that it has become mainstream and parroted by protestors across the globe. But is there truth in such accusations? The Palestinian population has increased tenfold since 1948, from less than a million to 5.5 million.  Israel must be the biggest failure when it comes to ethnic cleansing and genocide. We know that if Israel really wanted to commit ethnic cleansing or genocide in Gaza, they could have done so anytime over the past nineteen years, easily, without having to risk the lives of any Israeli soldiers. But they didn’t and haven’t. We all know that Israel has nuclear capabilities, but not once have they threatened to use them to annihilate any country or group of people. Iran on the other hand….

Israel is fighting a challenging battle, not just in the field, but on social media and in multiple media outlets. At times it seems like they are their own worst enemy. Israel’s PR is weak at best. Just by sheer numbers, they are outnumbered, and with the recent suspension of one of the best voices for Israel, Eylon Levy, for angering the UK after what critics say were “untruths,” the majority of Israelis and Jews around the world no doubt saw this as a huge blow to Israel’s voice. But, to be consistent, facts matter, and we all need to do better whether as journalists, spokespeople, and politicians, speaking about the war.

When there is unbridled bias when it comes to reporting about Israel, it becomes difficult for the masses to distinguish fact from fiction. Are media outlets vetting their reporters and guests? Are the organizations themselves biased? How much knowledge do they actually have on the history and nuance of the Arab-Israeli conflict, on the Ottoman Empire, on the British Mandate, on Jewish history, on Islam, on the failed peace talks, on Iran’s stated goal of annihilating Israel?  All these things matter. Knowing that Egypt shares a border with Gaza matters when reporting on the region.

If anti-Israel bias is so deeply entrenched in the mindsets of those who report about the conflict, then why would facts matter to them?  They have already judged and convicted Israel and it becomes plain to see that this isn’t about Israel’s actions, but rather about Israel’s mere existence.

About the Author
Michelle Daniels was born in Australia to Indian Jewish parents born of Iraqi descent. She has a lifelong love of Israel, and although not orthodoxly observant, her Judaism and the traditions are of great importance to her and serve as a moral compass for everyday living. She loves to read and is currently writing a novel based on her father's life. She moved to the United States in 1993 and is currently living and working in New York City.