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The Partiality of the Western Media during the Gaza War

Background

One of the often discussed issues in modern times is the Gaza War. The two ever-feuding regions, Israel and Palestine were involved in the war for a long time. The timeline for the war can be drawn from 27th December 2008 to 18th January 2009 and at that time the focus of the world centered on the area. The operation is widely known as “Operation Cast Lead”. Both the parties involved in the war made comments that would manifest their innocence in front of the press while committing war crimes. From the angle of Israel, the war was comprised of two phases, “the air phase” and the “air-land phase”. The air phase began on 28th December and ran up to the 3rd of January, and the air land phase started after that (Zunes, 2010). It continued from 3rd January to 18th January and at the phase, the air force thoroughly supported the army. However, in the western media, the war correspondence is argued to be not completely impartial and Israel has been held as a hero while Palestine is portrayed as a villain (Zunes 2009). It is believed that textual expressions like ‘terrorists’, ‘harmful’ and ‘Islamic militants’ are used in abundance (Williams, 2009). This creates a negative feeling in the mind of the reader. In the study, a complete content analysis of texts and textual partiality would be analyzed.

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Introduction

The horror of any war is directly shown in the count of causalities of the war. The case is the same here too. On the Palestinian side, there were 1342 deaths and among the dead, there were a significant number of children and women. 5320 people were injured and among them, 320 were very serious and many of them died later or became seriously affected. A huge number of people had to be displaced due to the incessant bombings, and roughly the number of displaced estimated is 50000. Over 2000 buildings were destroyed as shown in satellite images. Some agencies claim that in the death toll there were 315 minors were killed, 115 women and almost 83 men over the age of 50 were killed (Zunes, 2010).

On the other hand, the Israeli suffered fewer casualties. 13 were killed among which there were 10 soldiers. 3 persons died in friendly fire and a total of 182 people were wounded in the case. The Israeli sources claim that over 700 Hamas fighters were killed during the three-week offensive while Hamas claims that 48 of their soldiers had lost their lives. Other groups like Popular Resistance Committee said that it had lost 34 men and Islamic Jihad had lost around 38 men, and they were fighting for Hamas. The Israeli authorities said that the figure of 300 and more dead children is nothing but aggravation by the media, while some claim that the deaths range from 900 to 1200 in some cases. There is a general rule in war, for every one reported death there will be three deaths. Some war correspondences also claimed that a lot of Hamas fighters were seriously injured and they were not admitted to hospitals, but taken to some secret places and the real death toll from the Hamas was not known (Carter, 2009).

The Human Rights Organizations working in the Gaza War can be termed as “third party” who was working on the battlefield and their views of the war can be looked at as “neutral” in the case of the war. These facts and statistics shown by the Human Rights Organizations were terrifying in the aspect that how a fully equipped army blasted on a small city with all the new advanced weapons and the results of the attack were unmatched brutality. Israel, as it is mentioned earlier, sealed the city of Gaza and launched the attack, to ensure maximum damage (Zanotti 2009). Some very important facts had come out in the findings of the human rights organizations. For instance, Israel had used some weapons that were unprecedented in war and the forensic reports and the medical reports on the dead and the injured confirmed that (Zunes, 2009). It is by their reports the people came to know that Israel had started to use white phosphorus as a weapon. It is an international rule that white phosphorus can be used only as a smokescreen in war. Israel had barred International reporters to enter the war zone during the combat and before starting the war Israeli forces tactically bombed the electrical towers and other communication centers of Gaza. Also, no Israeli fighter was allowed to carry a mobile phone in the war zone. So there was no way that one could get news from the war front that was inside except the human rights people. The Human Rights Organizations most importantly showed the World the war crimes by them (Peltonen, 2010).

However, the western media is reluctant to show the sufferings of Palestine and the crime committed by Israel. As they have always mentioned Hamas is primarily a terrorist organization. The source, Peltonen, (2010) also said that the Goldstone Report, a report prepared by the US investigative committee assigned to scrutinize the war and it found that Israel grossly ramified human rights during the war, just not rewarded terror, but by the way, they encouraged terrorism in a broad sense. But in the report, both the parties involved in the war were accused of war crimes (Ward, 2009). In the 575 page report, the chroniclers also mentioned the attacks on the Government buildings, the uses of weapons like phosphorous bombs and the impacts of blockade on the residents of Gaza and their subsequent falling in front of Israeli devastation. On the other hand they also clearly discussed the impact on Israeli civilians in the face of incessant mortar and rocket firing of the Palestine armed groups on Southern Israel (Zanotti, 2009).

Reason of Interest

Israel is faced with charges of bombing in residential areas. There were also allegations of using Palestinian families as human shields and even bombing a UN school, which was declared a refugee shelter. The use of phosphorous bombs by Israeli forces has been proved and the hospitals were full of persons injured from phosphorous bombs. This is nothing but a chemical weapon by which the entire body of a person caught in the bombing will burn within one hour. Senior Military advisors from Human Rights Watch are absolutely certain about the use of these bombs though the Israeli forces denied the charges (Zunes, 2010).

Many new and unknown symptoms are seen in the dead and wounded that have made to think to the workers that Israel is using other new and unknown weapons. Even this is rumored that Israel had used depleted uranium in the Gaza war. In the official UN report, it is said that two parties have committed war crimes. Israel was accused of using “disproportionate force” deliberately in the war. The rocket attacks by the Palestinians were also considered war offenses (Carter 2009). The attacks were one of the direct causes of the war. But basically, it says that the whole military operation was directed towards the civilian population. And the aimless mortar shelling and rocket launch by the other party is condemned.

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To restrict access to media during the war, Israel had cordoned off the war zone by the army. For furthermore security and maybe to stop the International media from converging from the war zone, no foreign reporters were allowed there. Moreover, the cell phones of the Israeli soldiers were confiscated during the war. So there was not much scope to cover the war from the battlefield to the journalists, and everyone had to base their ideas about the war as Israel Defense Forces reported. Due to acute power shortages and very scarce accessibility to the internet, the fastest communications medium also got stalled there (Zunes, 2010).

Some of the Human Rights Organizations present in Gaza were Amnesty International and others. We can go through their report in which they discussed in length the Operation Cast Lead. But during wartime, Israel and his allies targeted the human rights organizations and tried to dismiss their findings. Many news channels, websites and other news sources had been there during the war and they had no state-led agendas in them (Zunes, 2010). However, media is a hugely powerful medium and it had the power to stop this but they too became involved in supporting Israel and simultaneously, opposing Palestine by identifying them as terrorists. Thus, it is important to analyze the issue to find out the truth.

Research question

The problem between both Israel and Palestine is a long process and are going on since 1967’s Six-Day War. Though Israel had always responded with massive counterattacks in this case the Operation Cast Lead is the most lethal in magnitude or firepower or in the case of destructions happened. It is risky to send persons to document the destructions happening in hostile places, and there will be arguments that the eyewitnesses’ accounts can be problematic as the eyewitness must support a group in the war, and the emotional attachment to that side may cause some problems for the person. Actually, there were breaches of human rights by both parties in Gaza (Carter 2009, p. 34).

The target of Israel during the war was everywhere, from schools, colleges, mosques, and hospitals even to the U.N. Sanctuaries in Gaza, there is a rough estimate in which it is said that one-third of the dead in Gaza were children, and the unofficial count of the death toll of children is 1200. Mostly the findings by the NGOs present there at that time state these horrific facts, and they have published various reports on these things on their websites, and it is interesting to know that most of the versions of the Gaza war in their reports are more or less the same and the reports have a huge difference from the Governmental Organizational reports (Zunes, 2010). Therefore, the question remains, ‘Is the Western Media too soft on Israel and too harsh on Palestine?’ A proper content analysis would reveal the answer.

Hypothesis

On initial research on media and media-related texts, the hypothesis is relatively clearly visible. It states that the Western Media is indeed supporting Israel and had supported it during the Gaza War despite their violation of human rights whereas Palestine has been held a villain.

Media representation of the war

The Israeli media mentioned it like a military operation against the militant group “Hamas”, a Palestine based Islamic extremist group, and termed the war as “War in the South”, while the Arab media covered it as “War on Gaza”, and also mentioned it as an attack on the innocent civilians of the place. Before starting the discussion we must look at the history. In 1967 Israel captured Gaza during the “Six Days War”, and from then a lot of conflicts in that place have resulted in bloodshed. During the 22 days of the war, the human rights organizations working in Gaza as relief workers documented some serious war offenses by both parties involved and some of these offenses can be termed as “War Crimes”. Officially the death toll stands in the Gaza War in much less than the unofficial count. Officially 700 lives were lost in Gaza, while in Israel 3 people died (Peltonen 2010, p. 114).

In the mainstream American Press, many clear versions of reports of this Gaza War were not published. American Press covered the Gaza War from one aspect and that is from the point of the view of the Israeli, and since they did not get both the parties, the coverage was much skewed (Zunes 2010). America was part of a lot of wars in Modern Human History, and through their extensive media coverage common people learned about the state of war, and if the Government policies were wrong, the people raised their voice in protest. The journalists, by their columns and coverage, brought the war home, and it was a time when communication was harder than today.

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However, a lot of reports were never got published in America during the Gaza Conflict. There can be some opinions about this. In present times, it is taken for granted that public memory is short and the newspaper companies want regular news and the conflict in Gaza, or to be very precise, between Israel and Palestine is really a long issue (Zunes, 2010). And slowly the presence of the conflict was getting reduced news-space in Western media as the people were losing interest in the subject. But if we take a close look it will be clear that the point of view of Israel was more prominent in the cases. And maybe it can be assumed if Israel is one of the much-valued allies of the United States of America and they had committed heinous war crimes in Gaza War which were clearly mentioned in the Human Rights Organizations reports then there may be some big political and other important issues involved here that suppressed the real facts from the common American people. There can be many cases as both of the countries have bi-lateral relationships on different issues. And as of Israel, the United States is also ravaged by Islamic terrorist groups and they had their war on terrorists in very recent times (Carter, 2009).

Method

The methodology used in this report is content analysis. Krippendorff (2004) defines content analysis as a “research technique for the objective, systematic, and quantitative description of the manifest content of communication” (Krippendorff 2004, 19). In addition, Krippendorff (2004) puts emphasis on the method to understand a text by “referring to any technique a) for the classification of the sign-vehicles b) which relies solely upon the judgments (which, theoretically, may range from perceptual discrimination to sheer guesses) of an analyst or group of analysts as to which sign vehicles fall into which categories, c) on the basis of explicitly formulated rules, d) provided that the analyst’s judgments are regarded as the reports of a scientific observer” (Krippendorff 2004, p. 126).

This study, it describes the usage of specific negative terms against Palestine like a terrorist, Islamic militant and terrorism. These are extremely negative words considering that these words are only associated with death and destruction. It is not to say that Palestine cannot be labeled as a terrorist state but putting emphasis on these words surely draws negative attention even when the general population of the region is suffering and these words were used in the media during and after the Gaza war (Zunes 2010). The analysis is based on three communication usage. The first one is

  1. Use of manipulation of text to create a negative feeling.
  2. Conventional text with the help of specific symbols like exclamation marks and question marks as non-verbal communication tone.
  3. Use Upper case letters and bold fonts to show the importance of the message.

All these elements are used in a text to put extra emphasis on the subject. These are tools to motivate and induce the reader in believing the point of view of the author. As a result, these are the factors that are used for the study and thus they are highly operationalized. Once it is evaluated that these elements are used with high frequency, it would establish the hypothesis the western media actually supported the moves of Israeli armed forces by condemning the Palestine population as terrorists.

Coding

Three texts out of several texts were primarily used. These were:

  1. UN ceasefire call goes unheeded by BBC News published on January 1, 2009” (Zunes, 2010)
  2. Hamas Leader Claims Remarkable Victory by CBS News published in January 22nd 2009” (Zunes, 2010)
  3. Griff Witte’s “Blast at Gaza Border Kills Israeli Soldier; Palestinian Farmer Killed by Gunfire published in The Washington Post, 28-01- 2009” (Zunes, 2010).

The coders were conveyed about the variables and proper instructions were provided about the recognition of these three elements that would be used for the study. They were to note the use of manipulation of text to create a negative feeling, conventional text with the help of specific symbols like exclamation marks and question marks as non-verbal communication tone and use of upper case letters and bold fonts to show the importance of the message. They were given markers with different colors in order to circle the units upon availability in the selected texts. It was instructed that a coder must read each article at the usual reading speed. Fast readings were automatically deleted from the study. The reason behind this is clear. A limit of 20 minutes was set as a benchmark. Similarly, too slow reading was eliminated. A total of three coders were used in the ultimate study.

Coding scheme for text during Content analysis

1. Use of text
Manipulation of text (1-10) Yes/no Eg.
Specific symbols (1-10) Yes/no Eg.
Upper case letters (1-10) Yes/no Eg.
Bold fonts (1-10) Yes/no Eg.
Powerful use of nouns (1-10) Yes/no Eg.
Powerful use of adjectives (1-10) Yes/no Eg.
2. Use of image
Dead Israeli soldier
Dead Palestine soldier
Destruction of Israeli property
Destruction of Palestine property
Others
3. Page contents
Heavy images
Heavy text
Heavy on image and text
Overall feel (objective and subjective)

Reliability test

The coding sheets were prepared in accordance with the use of tabulation by the people responsible for coding for the study. A table of chi-square was prepared in order to evaluate the fundamental units that are subjected to analysis in the texts. This was prepared by the three coders. It was seen that there was not much difference in the outcome of the three coders. The three coders with their three variables of units revealed this result. ChiSq =20.22; D.F. = 08; P =.127.

The reliability test showed that in accordance with the fitness test the mode applied was quite reliable in the terms of units used in coding. It was seen that there was not much difference in the outcome of the three coders. The Use of manipulation of text to create a negative feeling showed stability. (ChiSq = 4.9; D.F. = 7; P =.471). Conventional text with the help of specific symbols like exclamation marks and question marks as non-verbal communication tone came up with results that are well balanced (ChiSq = 9.02; D.F. = 7; P =.241). Use of Upper case letters and bold fonts to show the importance of the message was also the same (ChiSq = 9.18; D.F. = 7; P =.121). Thus, it can be stated that the reliability among the coders was established.

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Data and conclusion

A research initiative can be regarded as a practice of gathering, examining and interpreting data and information to come up with answers to required questions. In relation to this dissertation, research may be explicated as a realistic study or exploration to discover new information or bring together established facts by means of scientific methods with the intention of developing new or enhancing extant theory and establishing its relevance to real-world problems. In this investigation both basic and exploratory research design approaches would be adhered to. This research initiative makes use of the data sources to respondents, manuscripts, scholarly journals and archival articles. The coders went through all the texts selected and put them to use accordingly. Sources for the archival articles were mostly previously completed research initiatives, journals, academic textbooks, thesis papers and conference records which were studied extensively and played a vital role in identifying the issue.

Reference list

  1. Carter, J., 2009. ‘Yes, We Can’ in the Middle East. New Perspectives Quarterly 26 (2), 33-35.
  2. Krippendorff, K., 2004. Content analysis: an introduction to its methodology. New York: SAGE
  3. Peltonen, K., 2010. Preventive interventions among children exposed to the trauma of armed conflict: a literature review. Aggressive Behavior, 36 (2), pp. 95-116.
  4. Ward, W., 2009. Social Media in the Gaza conflict. Arab Media& Society, 4 (3),1-5
  5. Williams, I., 2009. Obsession with Goldstone Report Reflects Fears of War Crimes. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, 28 (9), pp.14-15.
  6. Zanotti, J., 2009. Israel and Hamas: Conflict in Gaza (2008-2009). Congressional Research Service, Report for Congress, R40101.
  7. Zuhur, S., 2009. Gaza, Israel, Hamas, and the Lost Calm of Operation Cast Lead. Middle East Policy, 16 (1), pp. 40-52.
  8. Zunes, S., 2009. Defending Israeli War Crimes. Washington, DC: Foreign Policy in Focus.
  9. Zunes, S., 2010. The Gaza War, Congress and International Humanitarian Law. Middle East Policy, 17 (1), pp. 68-81.

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