Along with all leading church media, Wel-com strives in its editorial to challenge its readers to consider how the forgotten people of society are affected by the decisions of the world’s rulers, as did Jesus did during his time on earth.
One such group are the Palestinians who have been marginalised by Israeli attempts to move them off their land, particularly during a sustained attack on Gaza in December/January. Such an onslaught haunts one young Palestinian journalism graduate returning home after study at Georgetown University, Washington DC.
In choosing journalism, Raphaela Fischer set out to understand ‘the slanted and inadequate media coverage’. She had just spent valuable months learning how to present all facets of an issue in ways that would attract and challenge readers. Her research had uncovered areas where the media had reported only some of the facts of an issue.
Nine years ago, Raphaela’s father, a German doctor, was blown to smithereens by an Israeli missile while tending injured police near their headquarters.
‘I hated journalists then,’ Raphaela said in a recent essay. ‘Because had Dad not been German, he would probably not have had any media coverage and just faded into history as a nameless, faceless, mere statistic in the mounting death toll of the Palestinians that was barely covered.’
Through her study, Raphaela discovered how little people in the US knew about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—‘some have never even heard of Palestine before’.
Talking to other journalists with an interest in the Middle East, Raphaela found how the media influences public thinking. For example, the US media closely reported the Israeli elections in February and March. Yet there was little in the news on the aftermath of the Israeli attacks on Gaza which have ‘rendered more than a hundred thousand people in Gaza roofless’ and on the insufficient medical care for the injured due to damage to hospitals and clinics and the ‘continual denial of humanitarian aid by Israel’.
One commentator pointed out that while Palestinians are starving, the US financial aid to Israel amounts to $7 to 8 million a day and an estimated $100 billion in loans that are not expected to be repaid and donations ‘which can be used unconditionally’ to buy military hardware.
The terminology used in the media also shows bias with ‘Islamic terrorists’ giving the impression that all Muslims are terrorists.
‘One of the most disturbing terms used is the phrase “caught in the crossfire” by Israelis when Palestinian civilians are killed, which almost always means that the Israelis have killed an innocent person. On the other hand when Israelis are killed, journalists use words such as “murdered”.’
Raphaela’s study has uncovered some important considerations for a church newspaper which sets out to counter any bias in the mainstream media.
Since news of the Middle East conflict in the New Zealand media often comes through US news organisations with the sort of bias Raphaela’s investigations have illuminated, Wel-com considers its mandate to report compassionately by describing the lives of the people most affected by wars, those least likely to be able to speak for themselves.
The editorial in Wel-com is a vehicle for raising questions about the media treatment of such victims as Raphaela’s father and the injustices that the Palestinians suffer while Israel continues to take over more and more Palestinian territory.