On Media / Pop Culcha

Jewish World Review May 4, 2001 / 11 Adar, 5761


CNN: Headline Jews


By Michael Berman



When it comes to the Palestinian-Israel Conflict, CNN.com headlines are reserved exclusively for Israeli aggression


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- EVER since the Gulf War, CNN has been regarded as the nation's -- indeed, the world's -- pre-eminent news organization. Millions of viewers and Internet readers worldwide depend on the media outlet to offer the news clearly, accurately, and fairly. But by that standard, CNN coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has failed its audience.

Without question, over the past few months both the Palestinians and the Israelis have engaged in aggressive acts, acts of warfare. While each side may portray itself as the victim, engaging in defensive action or justifiable frustration, the job of a news organization is simply to describe what happened. Analysis of the respective claims is the job of editorial writers, whom the world has in abundance. Yet CNN has consistently portrayed only one side as the aggressor. The bias of CNN is no longer something for conjecture -- now, it can be proven.

In order to demonstrate an obvious and ongoing pattern, one need merely look back over the last few weeks at CNN.com's news headlines -- which, of course, reach a considerably larger audience than the article contents. All the articles discussed here can be found by finding the latest article on the conflict and then paging back through the "Related Stories" headlines which CNN.com provides at the bottom.

The archived CNN headlines on the conflict during the month of April tell a very clear story. Eleven different headlines clearly associate Israel with a verb and/or description marking an aggressive act:

  • Israel launches air strikes in central Lebanon

  • Israelis strike Arafat's guard unit's headquarters

  • Witnesses: Israel shells Gaza town

  • Israeli police enter disputed compound

  • Israel seals off Gaza, West Bank until Friday

  • Israel retaliates for Hezbollah attack

  • More than 30 Palestinians wounded in new Israeli attack

  • Israel hits Gaza after attack wounds infant

  • Islamic Jihad activist killed in Israeli helicopter attack

  • Israel arrests 6 from Arafat's elite force

  • Israeli, Palestinian children buried; Israel arrests Arafat guards The count of CNN headlines which similarly identify Palestinian or Arab aggression against Israel, is zero. The closest approximation thereof is the above-mentioned "Israel retaliates for Hezbollah attack," which implies that Hezbollah attacked -- but leaves the verb form, that which stirs the emotions, to Israel. In several cases, the desperation to avoid identifying those initiating the violence is especially apparent, with headlines such as "Bomb kills 2, wounds 39 at bus stop near Tel Aviv" or "Mortars injure five Jewish settlers" -- one could almost wonder if these were Israeli home-made weapons which blew up too early, so devoid are these headlines of the least hint of who was responsible.

    No headline -- not one -- directly references the cold-blooded murder of an Israeli infant by a trained Palestinian sniper. "Mideast buries child victims" reports on this carefully aimed homicide alongside the death of an 11-year-old boy who joined armed gunmen in an attack on Israelis. Contrast this with the days of coverage following the accidental killing of Mohammed Al-Dura, who wandered with his father into the crossfire when Palestinian gunmen assaulted IDF soldiers.

    While it is possible, it is unlikely that a single page on the CNN site identifies a greater number of acts of Palestinian aggression against Israelis, between the article itself and the "related stories" at the bottom, than vice-versa. This writer's search could not turn up even one exception to the rule: CNN headlines are reserved exclusively for Israeli aggression and criticism thereof.

    This is not, of course, the behavior of an unbiased news source.

    In much of the Jewish community, CNN has acquired the nickname PNN, as in "Palestinian News Network." CNN content and headlines prove the network worthy of the name.


    JWR contributor Michal Berman is a Baltimore-based dot-com CEO and media critic. He may be reached by clicking here.

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    © 2001, Michael Berman