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More Bad News from Israel: how the media tell it like it isn’t

More Bad News from Israel, by Greg Philo and Mike Berry, reviewed by Miri Weingarten
January 2012

Perhaps the most shocking fact in More Bad News from Israel is that two-thirds of the British public are still unsure whether Israel is occupying the Palestinian territories or vice versa.

This book, an update of Bad News from Israel (Pluto Press, 2004), extends the research done by Greg Philo and Mike Berry of the Glasgow Media Group on how Israelis and Palestinians are represented by mainstream media and how the conflict and its origins are framed. It assesses the impact this has had on public perceptions of the conflict. This new edition includes studies of how television covered the Israeli offensive in Gaza in the winter of 2008–9, as well as the Israeli attack on the flotilla to Gaza in mid-2010.

The book demonstrates how the mainstream media, and especially the BBC, consistently focus on the immediacy and violence of events in sensationalist ways that fail to provide a clear historical context for current developments. This has been exacerbated by the emergence of Israel’s National Information Directorate, a PR apparatus founded in 2008 to feed interpretative texts to mainstream outlets. It provides them with a narrative that runs counter to the evidence of particularly violent images of death and destruction to which audiences are exposed.

Why does the BBC, for example, buy this pro-Israel interpretation? At least in part, it is because in a world of libel suits and PR bullying, bodies such as the BBC steer shy of direct criticism of Israeli government policies in the occupied territories, and of challenging Israeli officials who shamelessly distort facts to the camera. There is nothing ‘impartial’ about it.

Such representations ensure that the most basic relation of occupier to occupied is overlooked or even inverted and audiences are left with a vague sense of an endless chain of tit-for-tat violence that has neither a rational political explanation nor any hope for a resolution.

Rich in facts and rigorous in analysis, this book is an excellent, if depressing, expose of how the media has failed both the English-speaking public and the people who ultimately bear the results of this conflict – both Palestinians and Israelis.



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