Coverage of hate crime against Jew highlights media biases

A group of Arab teenagers were indicted yesterday for the racially-motivated shooting death of a 51-year-old Jewish man. Comparing coverage of a similar incident in 2011 – in which a Palestinian man was stabbed to death by Jewish youth – reveals deep bias in Israel’s media.

Haaretz reports that eight teens were indicted yesterday in last month’s shooting death of a Ramle man, George Sa’ado. The murder appears to have been racially-motivated. The article is here. I warn you that it is graphic and heartrending.

Let’s compare this to a similar incident that occurred in February of 2011, when a Palestinian man was stabbed to death by a gang of Jewish youth who shouted “Death to Arabs.” The state initially placed a gag order the case. Once the gag was lifted, the Israeli media marched lockstep with Jerusalem police, calling the stabbing a “drunken brawl”—despite the fact that witnesses disputed this version of events.

While in both incidents, the Israeli media downplays the racial motives, the reaction of the government is interesting. While the racially-motivated violence of Jewish extremists gets a gag order – essentially sweeping the stabbing death of a man under the rug –  the gritty details of Sa’ado’s murder are out for all to see.

You can see the biased treatment of the two cases on a language level, as well, by comparing the Haaretz coverage of the 2011 racially-motivated stabbing, perpetrated by Jews against an Arab, versus that of Sa’ado’s murder. In today’s article about the indictment, Haaretz writes that the defendants “hurled racial abuse at him and shouted slogans in favor of rocket fire from Gaza.” It goes on to include the heartbreaking details about the youth kicking and throwing stones at Sa’ado’s dog.

The picture of Sa’ado’s murder is detailed, painful, and upsetting. The language (“hurled racial abuse”) is emotionally charged.

But the 2011 Haaretz article about Jewish youth murdering an Arab man uses broad brushstrokes. There are few details and a serious omission of the fact that the youth shouted “Death to the Arabs.” Not only is there no mention of the defendants hurling “racial abuse” at the deceased, the racial aspect is downplayed as “nationalistic.”

This has serious implications for the coverage of the conflict as a whole. As bureaus close or downsize their operations, the biased local media increasingly serves as a starting point for many foreign journalists. And then there are the overseas media outlets that “cover” stories simply by rehashing Israeli media reports, combining them, sometimes, with the reports of bureaus who base their reports on those from the Israeli media. The international media then becomes an echo chamber for the local media, perpetuating bias and one-sided coverage.