Top positive review
53 people found this helpful
A guide to misunderstanding Israel-Palestine
on 9 September 2004
Greg Philo, Professor of Communications at Glasgow University, carried out a three year study into the relationship between television and the construction of public knowledge - how we understand foreign events etc. What he found was that 80% rely mainly on TV news, and that people (esp. young people) were very confused about events.
Philo DOESN'T claim that reporters and news organisations are deliberately biased, but that a lack of historical perspective causes confusion. A huge majority of the British public thought that the 'settlers' were Palestinian, and that the 'occupied territories' were Israeli land being occupied by Palestinians. They thought that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was just another border conflict - they didn't realise that a people had been dispossessed.
This loss of the origins of the conflict has interesting consequences. Palestinians were always seen as initiating violence, and Israelis as responding. Palestinian action was never understood as a 'response' to occupation and repression and loss of land. People assume suicide bombs are the result of 'mad-men', rather than emerging from a particular set of social conditions.
Reporters' subconscious use of words like 'hit-back', 'retaliate', 'pay-back time' were only used in terms of the Israeli action; while 'atrocity', 'murder' and 'cold-blood' were only used to refer to Palestinian action. This use of words tacitly endorses Israeli action while condemning Palestinian action. Can you imagine a suicide bomb being described in a news report as 'Palestinians hit back for 35 years of occupation? Or an Israeli raid into a refugee camp being described as 'cold-blooded killing'?
This different semantic treatment for the Palestinians and Israelis produced some odd results. A group of people were asked to write a script for a set of pictures used in a news report a few years ago. The pictures were of Mohammed Al-Dura, the 12 year old boy, who's father claims was shot by Israeli snipers, but who Israelis claim was caught in the crossfire. The group said that 'this boy was caught in the crossfire' and worryingly, they went on to say 'in retaliation for a Palestinian suicide bomb'. But Mohammed Al-Dura was shot at the start of the current intifada, before the first suicide bomb!
Philo is NOT a pro-Palestinian campaigner, he makes it clear at the outset that he is not endorsing any killing - Israeli or Palestinian. He is interested in how people misunderstand events, and what the cause of that knowledge was. Despite this, he has been the target of letter-writing campaigns, and malicious reviews in international publications which have clearly not read his work.
An eye-opening insight into how the public misunderstands Palestine, and how reporters are subconsciously responsible.