Portrayal of Israel in American media is inherently biased
Over winter break, I embarked on a trip that changed my entire perspective on life. For ten days, I travelled through Israel with a student organization called the David Project. We went from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. This was my first time traveling to the Middle East and I had no idea what to expect –– would everyone be riding on camels? Would there be bombs going off left and right? It turns out that my idea of what Israel would be like was completely wrong. Everyone had the latest cellphones and almost everyone spoke English and wore clothes just like mine. In Tel Aviv, I felt like I was in New York City, aside from the fact that all of the street signs and store banners were in Hebrew. Most importantly, I never felt afraid or unsafe. What I did feel was foolish for thinking that Israel would be a scary place.
Thanks to the seemingly constant barrage of bus bombings and random terrorist attacks I’d seen on American news, I had formulated a violent image of Israel. American news media has created a stereotype of Israel as a dangerous and wholly unsafe, war-driven country.
At the seminars I attended, in which wI heard Palestinians and Zionists alike, along with teachers, business leaders, journalists, peace activists and army generals, I had the chance to formulate my own opinions and views about the country and conflicts within it. They were completely different from what I had been led to believe from American news outlets. For example, I met several Palestinians that had Israeli friends and acquaintances and were actively working between the two groups to negotiate a fair solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I also spoke to many students around my age that spend their free time watching television, listening to music and living completely normal young adult lives.
Just being able to walk around the different cities in Israel and see for myself what everyday life was like made me realize how similar those cities were to American cities.
As an aspiring broadcast journalist, it was disappointing to discover the disparity between images American media propagates of Israel and the reality I was able to experience. The media attracts a larger viewership with dramatic stories and tragic events, and it is causes them to stray from a higher standard of ethics. This biased reporting contributes to diminished awareness because we take the information that the media gives us as the absolute truth. This is how conflict between different groups is sustained. If we are constantly seeing the worst side of a country, whether it is Israel or anywhere else, than we do our best to avoid that country, its conflicts and people from that country.
There is no easy solution to this problem. The media is inherently biased, but if we were to completely stop watching, then we would not be informed about current events at all. Additionally, it is not viable to visit all of the places that are in the news. What we can do is be skeptical of what the media tells us, and do our best to formulate our own opinions.
Courtney Han is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies and political science. Her column, “Fit Wit,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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