During the nearly month long crisis in Gaza, both Palestinian and Israeli sympathises have criticised a supposed media bias against their respective sides of the conflict. Israeli’s have continuously lambasted Middle Eastern media for its emphasis on the civilian death toll in Gaza, whilst Palestinian supporters have criticised a supposed long-term Western media bias in support of the Israeli viewpoint.
Omar Baddar, a Middle East political analyst based in the United States, said there was no doubt both sides of the conflict felt aggrieved about media coverage against them. But he noted that just because both sides claimed a bias against them, it did not mean the truth was necessarily somewhere in the middle.
“Given the fact that there is one occupying power that happens to hold substantial military advantage, fighting against an occupied population that is largely defenceless, I think the grievances on the Palestinian side happens to be a little more accurate,” he explained.
Baddar also pointed to the fact that the current escalation in Gaza was not about which side attacked first, but rather the original cause of the problem. That, according to him, was the fact that Israel has been occupying Palestinian land for well over half a century.
“What Israel is doing is not really using military violence as a means of self defence, but rather as a means of maintaining that occupation. That is precisely the problem that we’re seeing,” he said.
He suggested Israel had a much more sophisticated ‘propaganda machine’ operating, where they knew how to phrase things to bring sympathy towards their side of the issue. However, he recognised the impact of social media in negating Israel’s attempts at spreading that propaganda.
Baddar noted a positive shift amongst Western media sources towards the conflict in recent weeks, from reflexively taking the side of Israel, to seeing even a few mainstream media outlets challenging and questioning the Israeli narrative.
“That could be the beginning of an even bigger shift, where people start understanding what is actually happening. I think we are moving in the right direction, in large parts thanks to social media,” he said.
He also attributed the different viewpoints, particularly in the US to a widening age gap. He noted older Americans being more sympathetic to Israel, with the younger generation being more open minded about the conflict.
“The younger generation that has not grown up during the time when the Israeli propaganda machine was virtually unopposed, and the generation that does have access to social media, they have a very different understanding,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)