CNN’s Israel Bias has Been Laid Bare. but CNN is the Norm, not the Exception – Jonathan Cook 2/12/24


Leaks from within CNN reveal that for months its executives have been actively imposing an editorial line designed to reinforce Israel’s framing of events in Gaza, to the point of obscuring atrocities by the Israeli military.

The dictates, say insiders, have resulted in senior staff refusing to accept assignments to the region “because they do not believe they will be free to tell the whole story”. Others suspect they are being kept away by editors who fear they will fight the restrictions.

Internal memos insist that stories be approved by the station’s Jerusalem bureau, where staff are widely seen as partisans who slant reports in Israel’s favor. Palestinian perspectives are tightly restricted.

“Ultimately, CNN’s coverage of the Israel-Gaza war amounts to journalistic malpractice,” one staffer told an investigation by the Guardian newspaper.

According to staff accounts, CNN’s pro-Israel directives come from the very top – Mark Thompson, a TV executive who was hired from the BBC. Thompson, the Guardian article notes, was remembered by BBC staff for “bowing to Israeli government pressure on a number of occasions” – presumably one of the qualifications that won him the job heading CNN.

It was he who notoriously championed in 2009 the BBC’s controversial  decision for the first time not to air the annual fundraising appeal of the Disasters Emergency Committee, which is a group of major British charities, because the monies were going to Gaza after Israeli bombing had devastated it.

Alongside the unhappiness at CNN, there is reported to be disquiet at the BBC. Staff, including senior presenters, held a meeting last month with Director General Tim Davie, one of Thompson’s successors, to accuse the corporation of anti-Palestinian bias.

They expressed concerns about the “dehumanising” language used to describe Palestinians killed in Gaza and the BBC’s failure to cover important stories reported by Al Jazeera and other networks.

A source told the Deadline website that the group of dissenters was surprised by Davie’s candour. He is said to have admitted that the pro-Israel lobby “was more organised than Palestinian supporters in its dealings with the BBC”.

None of this should come as a surprise.

Middle East Eye has highlighted the clearly skewed priorities of western news agendas since Hamas broke out of Gaza on 7 October – some 17 years after Israel began imposing a military siege that had already left the enclave barely habitable.

In the carnage that day caused by Hamas’ attack – as well as Israel’s indiscriminate violent response – some 1,139 people in Israel were killed.

As MEE has noted previously, the entire western press corps, not just CNN and the BBC, has failed in its basic duty to present a balanced picture of what has been going on over the past four months.

It has also failed to treat Israeli claims with the scepticism they deserve, especially since Israel has a long track record of being caught out in lies and deceptions.

Paradoxically, given its exposure of concerns at CNN, many of the accusations of journalistic failure levelled at CNN and the BBC could be directed at the Guardian newspaper too – or any other establishment media organization.

Following Hamas’ 7 October break-out, Israel unleashed a devastating assault on Gaza’s population – so far leaving tens of thousands of Palestinians dead or missing under rubble.

Yet all western media misleadingly continue to frame Israel’s rampage in Gaza – including the collective punishment inflicted on civilians by denying them food and water – variously as “retaliation”, “a war with Hamas”, and “an operation to eliminate Hamas”.

Western media have also largely avoided characterizing as  “ethnic cleansing” the Israeli military’s order for Palestinians to leave their homes. As a result, 1.7 million have been trapped in a small area in southern Gaza where they face relentless bombing.

Similarly, there has been almost no mention of a long-held plan by Israel – which it now appears close to realising – to drive Gaza’s population into the Sinai desert, in neighbouring Egypt.

And the same media outlets have refused to connect the all-too-obvious dots that Israel – in destroying most of Gaza’s homes, forcibly shutting almost all of its medical facilities and cutting off food and water, while also demanding international defunding of Unrwa, the United Nations’ main aid agency to Gaza – is pursuing an openly genocidal policy.

Israel is making Gaza unlivable, just as Giora Eiland, adviser to the Israeli defence minister, vowed Israel would do at the outset of its assault: “Gaza will become an area where people cannot live.”…

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