Reporting on Israel-Palestine conflict – who can we actually trust?



israelThanks to a  person on my Facebook friends list , whose home is in Israel, for her comments, from direct experience , when I had , somewhat rashly in hindsight , posted this report which I saw on Twitter earlier today and had re-tweeted with a comment but also posted here. This  without my normal practice of checking the validity of the source & its contents. Having been quite rightly taken to task by her I did some further research & turns out the source is likely suspect & partisan as this is an incident from 2013 where for example where the teen’s death was reported at that time.

There is no actual evidence that any soldier was ever charged with the death of this teenager, controversy about how many bullets struck him or independently verified he was shot in the back whil running away & certainly no such sentence delivered by a military court.  (I cannot recall authorities taking any such action where forces personnel have killed citizens .) The official report from government sources say the teen was trying to enter Israel where he was killed & of course as is likely Palestinian sources reported very differently.  Here’s how the same story was reported in, one would hope, a more balanced way by one of the UK mainstream quality papers.

Whilst I normally am sceptical about many international news items I see shared on social media , especially Twitter, &  normally Google those reports to see how widely they are reported and by whom, there is a salutary lesson here. This in taking links to news reports people share as gospel when there is the issue of wilfully fake news , politically biased reporting, satirical news sites which appear to be trustworthy . Fewer and fewer news sources have reporters on the ground and most rely on news that has been syndicated without verifying detail hence, truths and half truths are shared published  regardless of whether they are accurate.

Added to that we are seeing in the UK ever declining circulation figures for print media and most people accessing news via their mobile phones , sometimes  TV news websites like BBC  Sky News but more commonly via Twitter and to a lesser extent  Facebook and other platforms. The problem is genuine news sources & journalists write to platforms to maximise audience   but they are in the minority. This is since Twitter has 317 million active users monthly & Facebook 1.7 billion .  The majority of active users are personal accounts individual accounts & so often instant “copy and pasters” without forethought. So  it is easy to see the vast  potential  reach of individuals & with the ease of copy and pasting links the potential to share misinformation and fake news  is huge as it usng copied stuff  for their own propaganda or to serve their own agendas.

Official state sources most or all nations are not going to take to the media publishing news that reflects badly on them & some of course either limit or block or  stop internet access to citizens & severely punish people who use social media to criticise the state or its government ministers or heads of state.  Looking as an outsider at the Israel-Palestine problem. I think it is fair to say that the sheer volume of critical Tweets about Israel & especially of its forces is  huge and although some of this is directly racist & anti-Semitic  &  or anti-Zionism , most criticism  is directed at State policy  from a humanitarian perspective  based on what people see in the media.

The UK is a small already densely populated island & relatively safe with a strong , routinely non-armed police force, this  in a country where gun ownership for self defence is not permitted or deemed necessary. But,as elsewhere, we have ever increasing violent crime figures , some social unrest , & we suffer  occasional terrorist atrocities, & now a growth in right wing extremism , where in the light of terrorist actions elsewhere, that movement has grown & essentially marginalised members of the Muslim community leading to a spike in the last year especially in hate crimes towards Muslims & immigrants  most of whom are well integrated, & contribute to society in  positive ways.

We still have basic freedom of the press although increasingly, establishment media, including the once trusted good old BBC, are no longer independent & often guilty of political bias & often in favour of conservative establishment politics. With newspapers, those editors put a spin on news that appeals to their target audience rather than be politically neutral. Journalists from oversees are free to come and go here & are not constrained for example of being critical of our government & policies.

It seems to me that the state of Israel of course has a right to defend its citizens where the fear of random attacks by a minority of Palestinian militants is very real but then again, for example , refusing entry into the country or  the deportation of western journalists who have been or are being critical of the situation as they see it on the ground, invites suspicion. Also ultra orthodox settlers seem to be a very powerful lobby &  openly hostile to ordinary Palestinian citizens which can do little but further provoke hostility.

I, like decent citizens both sides of this conflict, yearn for a peaceful settlement to the issues but when we cannot actually visit that part of the world, who can we trust to give us an independent assessment of the situation as it really is to enable us to make a informed opinions where often what is said has tended to be from a vested interest perspective? Amnesty International, for one, promise they  are independent of any political ideology, economic interest or religion  and have reported a string of human rights violations in Israel as you can see here.


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