Monday, January 14, 2019

50 Years of Anti-Palestinian Press Bias

Here's the introduction to an important new study of press bias relating to Palestine/Israel coverage which, sadly, merely confirms what we already knew from our casual reading, namely that the mainstream US press is overwhelmingly anti-Palestinian in content, and has been since 1967:

"A study released last month by 416Labs, a Toronto-based consulting and research firm, supports the view that mainstream US newspapers consistently portray Palestine in a more negative light than Israel, privilege Israeli sources, and omit key facts helpful to understanding the Israeli occupation, including those expressed by Palestinian sources. The largest of its kind, the study is based on a sentiment and n-gram analysis of nearly a hundred thousand headlines in five mainstream newspapers dating back to 1967. The newspapers are the top five US dailies, The New York Times, Washington Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times. Headlines spanning five decades were put into two datasets, one comprising 17,492 Palestinian-centric headlines, and another comprising 82,102 Israeli-centric headlines. Using Natural Language Processing techniques, authors of the assessed the degree to which the sentiment of the headlines could be classified as positive, negative, or neutral. They also examined the frequency of using certain words that evoke a particular view or perception.

"Key findings of the study are:

*Since 1967, use of the word 'occupation' has declined by 85% in the Israeli dataset of headlines, and by 65% in the Palestinian dataset;
*Since 1967, mentions of Palestinian refugees have declined by an overall 93%;
*Israeli sources are nearly 250% more likely to be quoted as Palestinians;
*The number of headlines centering Israel were published four times more than those centering Palestine;
*Words connoting violence such as 'terror' appear three times as much as the word 'occupation' in the Palestinian dataset;
*Explicit recognition that Israeli settlements and settlers are illegal rarely appears both in both datasets;
*Since 1967, mentions of 'East Jerusalem,' distinguishing that part of the city occupied by Israel in 1967 from the rest of the city, appeared only a total of 132 times;
*The Los Angeles Times has portrayed Palestinians most negatively, followed by the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and lastly The New York Times;
*Coverage of the conflict has reduced dramatically in the second half of the fifty-year period." (Exclusive: are US newspapers biased against Palestinians? Analysis of a hundred thousand headlines says yes, Dorgham Abusalim,, 9/1/19)

A comparable study of the Australian press, you can be sure, would only replicate such a bias. It should also be noted that since the Fairfax (now Nine Entertainment Co.) and Murdoch presses  ceased to employ Middle East correspondents, the former now recycles reports from the Washington Post and The New York Times, while the latter draws on items from the Murdoch-owned The Times and The Wall Street Journal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I became interested in Palestine as a young man working in the media. I wanted to know the reason for the blatant bias.

These days the bias is accompanied by the equally repugnant sin of omission. Airstrikes, abductions, home demolitions, economic sabotage, woundings and deaths of Palestinians remain unreported by 'our' media. There is no equivalent elsewhere in biased reportage.

An excellent and comprehensive daily bulletin detailing the above routine war crimes is produced by pro Palestine activists in New Zealand. This can be accessed at or for a free subscription email:

So as a life long Palestine supporter I am shocked by the extent of and severity of the unreported war crimes. 'Our' media has a lot to answer for.

'Our' successive governments, as a supposed high contracting party to the Geneva Conventions, have a lot more to answer for.