During the Gaza war last year I read an article published on an academic website by a Professor of Journalism which argued against objective journalism in the reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It stated that adhering to the basic tenets of ‘objective’ journalism in the conflict was a “cop-out”. The statement is absurd on a number of levels. One of these is that the very basis of news reporting is objectivity as it ensures that news is presented in a balanced, fair and accurate way. It does so by requiring journalists to practice a number of strategic rituals, which include: verification of the correctness of information, examination of sources’ motivations, to neither misquote nor take quotes out of context and to provide each party with an opportunity to give their version of events. The reasons for these rules are clear: they ensure reliability, protect against propaganda and enable readers to arrive at their own conclusions. Yet, the Professor was prepared to forego them on the basis that “at a fundamental level, there is a right and a wrong in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Unquestionably, Israel is using force that is disproportionate to the level of threat it faces. It operates in a global climate of near impunity, disrespecting international law, but getting away with it, because it has powerful friends.”

The mainstream press like Professor Duncan, head of the journalism Department at the University of Johannesburg, believes it knows the truth of the Palestinian –Israeli conflict. Therefore the stories relating to it – no matter how far removed from the conflict itself - bear the same signature. This is represented in the press’ approach to the Pope and Abbas story, which on closer examination was simply about the Pope meeting Abbas at the Vatican and what transpired. It was though used as the ultimate vehicle for representing the ‘truth’ of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The headlines screamed that Pope Francis called Abbas "An angel of peace". It presented the view that the Palestinians, represented by Abbas, are considered angelic. The corollary of course then is that Israel (a cover for anti-Jewish sentiment) is demonic. It is interesting to note that the Italian news sites' presentation of the quote: “ lei possa essere un angelo della pace,” means something entirely different when directly translated. It means "May you be an angel of peace". In effect then, Western media presented their interpretation of the event to reflect its ‘truth’.

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Besides the false assumptions made by it, this reporting raises questions as to who decides the truth. A twenty something reporter? An ambitious anchor? Abbas? Clearly the danger of this approach is that there is no absolute truth. Even a little knowledge of history shows that many dictators and regimes both modern and historic believe they are or were in possession of the truth and insisted that the media reflected it. They were proved wrong.

Professors and media need to draw clear distinctions between news and analysis. While analysis is clearly subjective and is differentiated from news because of this, the reader or viewer is aware of it and can make decisions regarding it. If a news story is not presented objectively the lines between the two become blurred and as a result media consumers become unaware that they are being fed subjective analysis, which effectually makes it propaganda. This can be seen in the reporting of Israel’s humanitarian aid to Nepal, which was completely unrelated to the Palestinian issue. Despite the fact that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), sent 260 doctors, nurses and personnel, who set up field hospitals, assisted in finding disaster victims and provided emergency relief in Kathmandu after the earthquake reports regarding it did not reflect this. Either they went unreported or if reported the reports were peppered with accusations that Israel merely did so to improve their public relations, were somehow involved in baby trafficking, that surrogate mothers were left behind in Nepal (according to TIME), and included a tweet from Human Rights Watch's Ken Roth that it is: “Easier to address a far-away humanitarian disaster than the nearby one of Israel’s making in Gaza. End the blockade!”

To prevent the media from effectually courting 'social justice' in the guise of ‘the truth', it is incumbent on Israel supporters and journalists to balance that which is presented as mainstream ‘news’ by challenging, investigating and commenting on it. For just seventy years ago the success of propaganda proved itself to be a powerful influence and justification in the genocide of six million Jews.
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