When they launched their attack on Israel on 7 October, Hamas broadcast as much footage as possible about their operations. Videos and images from Hamas or Israelis have flooded the Internet. They were real enough to build verifiable reports on what had really happened.
However, one particularly disturbing claim — that the Palestinian group beheaded nearly 40 babies — made headlines days after the attack. The US and Israeli governments capitalised on this story despite its being unverified.
The claim has been repeated by the likes of US President Joe Biden, who claimed that he had seen footage of the children himself. US senators, Israeli government officials and Western leaders parroted the story. CNN, Fox News, The New York Post and social media went along with the report.
The claim fuelled hatred against Palestinians and Israel’s lust for vengeance. Meanwhile, Israeli officials said they could not confirm this report. The White House set the record straight that Biden had not seen any photos. Rather, he based his remarks on media reports, which later proved false. The damage was irreparable.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has once again exposed the Western media’s failure to stay neutral. Western reportage is clearly biased and perpetuates a narrative that demonises others whose ideas are different. Selective coverage, social media censorship and disregard for the atrocities against Palestinian civilians further highlight lapses in objective reporting.
So, the West has failed to deliver unbiased coverage and presents a skewed perspective in favour of Israel and neglects the Palestinian narrative.
Media bias is evident in the terminology used. The Palestinian resistance is “terrorist” while Israeli actions within the occupied territories are overlooked. The emphasis on Israeli casualties carries the subtext that Palestinian lives are less valuable.
By stifling the Palestinian narrative, the West reinforces the existing power imbalance and silences pro-Palestinian voices, thus highlighting Israeli victimhood while ignoring the Palestinians’ struggle for justice.
False media reports can ignite violent conflict and fuel hatred. The media are immensely powerful in shaping public narratives and with that power comes the responsibility to report truthfully. Holding the media accountable will lead to a better informed and responsible society.
When neutrality disappears, the suffering of Palestinians grows worse and exacerbates tensions in the region.
To restore media credibility, journalists and media organisations should re-examine their news gathering practices in conflict situations. Journalists must present multiple perspectives and present a balanced narrative that respects the rights and experiences of all individuals involved. Only through genuine neutrality can the West contribute to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.