A picture taken from a position in southern Israel along the border with the Gaza Strip on January 19, 2024, shows an Israeli tank rolling along the fence as damaged buildings are seen in the Gaza strip amid the ongoing Gaza War Image Credit: AFP

One of the culprits in Israel’s war on Gaza is the West’s mainstream media (MSM), also called corporate media. Understandingly, the big TV networks and major newspapers fully adopted the Israeli narrative following the 7 October attack on Israel.

The fact that over 1200 Israelis were killed on that day summoned all kinds of editorial support and extensive news coverage. Western MSM embraced Israel’s initial version of what happened on that day. There was no fact-checking, no investigative reporting, and no interviews of surviving victims.

The Western MSM coverage of the first few days post-7 October resulted in creating a massive wave of public solidarity with Israel. But then Israel waged war on Gaza, one that has entered its fourth month and resulted so far in the killing of over 25,000 Palestinians, including at least 10,000 children.

About 10,000 are missing, presumed dead under the rubble. Almost 2 million of the Gaza Strip population of 2.3 million has been displaced. Those who have survived Israel’s indiscriminate bombing face starvation, lack of medicines, clean water, shelter, and cold weather.

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Targeting of journalists

But for more than two months, the Western MSM opted to ignore and hide the humanitarian catastrophe that was unfolding in Gaza. With a few exceptions, the corporate media continued to adopt the official Israel Defence Forces (IDF) version of events, even when some in the Hebrew press began to present evidence that debunked much of the initial claims of atrocities allegedly carried out by Hamas.

The fact that not one Western journalist has been allowed to enter Gaza on his own, other than those embedded in the Israeli army and whose coverage must be approved by the Israeli censor, is unheard of. After more than 100 days of the most horrific war this century, the Western MSM media continues to rely on Israeli sources and often picks news items to air or publish so as not to blemish IDF’s image.

There is coverage of the war. Still, it is primarily presented from an Israeli point of view with little or token mention of Palestinian suffering, no mention of the carpet bombing, or the deliberate blowing up of universities, mosques, churches, and hospitals, and the targeting of journalists, medics, and civilians trying to reach designated safe zones.

However, two things took place that have forced some major media conglomerates to alter their editorial policy. One is the role of social media platforms in bringing millions around the world an accurate, gruesome, and chilling picture of the carnage that is taking place in Gaza. These platforms gave a voice to those seeking to learn about the Palestinian question and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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At the International Court of Justice

TikTok, X, and others became venues where people could see what was happening in Gaza. A few days after Israel waged its war, millions, especially young people from all over, began to see first-hand the crimes being committing in Gaza.

The second development was South Africa’s case against Israel at The Hague a few weeks ago. Israel stood as a defendant at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accused of genocide. While the Western MSM tried to play down the South African presentation by not airing it or by giving it marginal coverage, it did precisely the opposite when it was Israel’s turn to present its case.

The Western MSM was already in trouble even before the Gaza war. Generation Z’s young audience has turned to the internet and various platforms for information and entertainment. The big networks and major newspapers were grappling with a loss of revenue and a declining number of consumers. Poor coverage of the Gaza war has damaged their cause even further.

Following the ICJ hearings, some Western MSM began balancing their war coverage. The New York Times and the Washington Post began to run some negative stories about Israel’s war in Gaza, the targeting of civilians, the desecration of cemeteries, and the horrendous humanitarian conditions the people of Gaza are facing.

Influential fringe websites, like Salon, published a couple of features denouncing the Western MSM media for failing to report the tragic status of Palestinians in Gaza. It asked: “How can something be headline news and also nearly invisible? Mainstream media are accomplishing that in Gaza.”

Subjective and slanted coverage by the Western MSM has badly damaged its reputation. People have a choice now and are rejecting fake narratives and seeking to learn and educate themselves.

After the war has finished, the backlash will be felt by the Western MSM for a long time to come.

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.