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UK News Coverage of Conflict in Israel and Gaza Showed ‘Overwhelming’ Bias, Report Finds

The Centre for Media Monitoring found that, in the month after the 7 October attacks, pro-Israeli sources were quoted more often and challenged less frequently than Palestinians

Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza on 11 October 2023. Photo: Adel Hana/AP/Alamy

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UK news coverage of the Israel-Gaza conflict in the month after the 7 October attacks showed an “overwhelming” bias in favour of Israel, according to a detailed analysis published today by the Centre for Media Monitoring, an offshoot of the Muslim Council for Britain.

Pro-Israeli sources were quoted more often and challenged less frequently than Palestinian sources, the report says, while news reports were frequently framed in ways that overlooked or marginalised Palestinian perspectives. 

Israeli deaths also tended to be described in emotive language while Palestinian casualties were often presented dispassionately, it says, so that while Israelis were frequently presented as victims of massacres and atrocities, Palestinians simply “died”.  

The report’s authors analysed more than 176,000 broadcast news items across 13 channels received in the UK (including some repeats) between 7 October and 7 November last year, and 25,000 news articles appearing on 28 online media websites in the same period. 

“What we’ve uncovered,” they write, “is that the majority of news outlets have chosen to present news from an Israeli perspective, with major failures of basic fact-checking and verification.”

Citing recent research that found US news media unduly favouring Israeli narratives, they state: “Our analysis shows the same broad finding… There is an overwhelming bias against Palestinians and their cause.”


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Key Findings

● Israeli opinion and commentary were sought nearly twice as often as Palestinian viewpoints in online and three times more often in broadcast news. 

● Over the whole month of the period studied, in which many more Palestinian civilians were killed than Israeli civilians, terms such as “atrocity” and “slaughter” were 70% more likely to be applied to Israeli deaths. 

●  The rights of Israel were mentioned in broadcast reports five times more often than the rights of Palestinians.

● More than three-quarters of online articles described the conflict as the “Israel-Hamas war” – a form of words favoured by the Israeli Government and which identifies all residents of Gaza with the governing party there.

● In more than three-quarters of online news articles making reference to Israel, Hamas or Gaza there was no mention of the words “Palestinian” or “Palestine”, indicating a tendency to deny Palestinian identity.

● Whereas Palestinian news sources were frequently treated by reporters and news presenters with scepticism, Israeli sources such as the IDF, which has a proven track record of inaccuracy, were often taken at face value. 

● Unverified, sensational news stories such as the (never substantiated) allegations that babies were beheaded and burned in ovens by Hamas attackers were given widespread coverage, often without any reference to sourcing.

● Israel’s claim that Hamas was responsible for the bombing of the Al Hathi hospital in Gaza on 17 October was widely accepted by news media, though when Channel 4 News analysed the recordings presented as evidence for this it quickly found it had been manipulated.

● Even after claims were disproved, commentators, presenters and journalists sometimes repeated them on air, or allowed them to be repeated, without challenge. 

The report cites examples of good journalistic practice and points out that some journalists stepped forward to criticise coverage of the conflict by their own and other media.

“The evidence that we have gathered shows unequivocally that the overall tone of coverage in the Western media has been pro-Israel,” it states. “This is also a conclusion drawn by journalists and staff at some media corporations who have accused their own outlets of among other things ‘journalistic malpractice’.” 

The study notes difficulties faced by international journalists who are allowed access to Gaza by Israel only “under strict limitations including being forbidden to speak to Palestinians”, though it criticises media that failed to draw attention to the distortion of coverage caused by these restrictions. 

A theme of the report is what it calls the “dehumanisation” of Palestinians in Gaza, which included “the minimisation of their suffering, effectively rendering them invisible despite the huge numbers of those killed”.

Where emotive language was used by journalists it was chiefly in reference to the suffering of Israelis, while Palestinian suffering tended to be reduced to a death count that was itself often treated with suspicion and not explicitly linked to Israeli action.

An aspect of this dehumanisation, the report indicates, was the readiness of many journalists and media outlets to accept a representation of the population of Gaza as synonymous with Hamas. It notes that Hamas has not been elected in Gaza since 2006, when it won 44% of the vote, and that in a poll weeks before 7 October two-thirds of Gazans said they did not trust Hamas. 

Journalists, it says, rarely put such points to speakers who asserted that Gazans were collectively responsible for the 7 October attacks. Nor were those points made when marches in London in support of a ceasefire were described in some media as ‘pro-Hamas’ demonstrations.


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Another theme is what is called the denial of context. The report cites numerous examples of presenters interrupting speakers who sought to refer to events before 7 October and often insisted instead that they denounce the Hamas actions. It describes this as an Israeli perspective.

“Our view is that whilst news outlets can (and perhaps should) focus on a specific incident at the time it occurs, when it is part of a broader news story that continues over many weeks and months it is unreasonable to simply take the Israeli perspective and not provide the relevant context,” the report states.

“Whilst no context justifies terrorism, acknowledging the historical context within the overall news coverage is important to ensure that audiences have a fuller understanding of what perhaps led to the attacks on 7 October.”

Elsewhere the report states that “media outlets must not be advocates of one cause, yet accuracy and correct framing leaves no room to ignore the context of 75 years of Palestinian suffering”.

“Nor should it allow for the fact that this is fundamentally a conflict of two unequals, namely an occupier (Israel) and an occupied (Palestine) recognised in international law and by a majority of countries and people as well as the historical record,” it adds.

The report is critical of news outlets including the Express, TalkTV and GB News, which it says used the opportunity to give platforms to commentators expressing Islamophobic views. 

The Express, for instance, published a comment article attributing the 7 October attacks to “historic Islamist bloodlust” and “an ever-present cancer” having a “medieval ambition” which is “the genocide of the Jewish people”.

On TalkTV, the report states, Sun columnist Trevor Kavanagh was left unchallenged when he said: “By the very definition of being a Muslim voter, you are going to be anti-Jewish.” 

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