Greta Van Susteren speaking at the Newsmax July 4, event in Jerusalem (The Judean)

Last week, The Judean was privileged to celebrate America’s Independence Day in Jerusalem with one of the only media outlets that prides itself on presenting the facts, and one of the most iconic faces and names in fact-based journalism, Greta Van Susteren. Van Susteren, who began her career as a trial attorney and spent over a decade arguing in front of juries and appellate court judges, rose to notoriety on CNN as a legal analyst and made her mark during the O.J. Simpson trial. Despite her own personal regret over being “consumed in a Hollywood murder” one thing was apparent from the start, her focus on facts and insistence on them during interviews and when filing reports drove her Cable News career.

Ms. Susteren came to Israel with her network Newsmax to report on, among other things, the situation on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. Newsmax has always been fair when it comes to reporting on Israel and is one of the few that get it right because they deliver the context. Their grassroots format is not only refreshing, they rely on contributors who are not full-time media personalities, but true experts who work each day in their respective fields. Over the past few years, Newsmax has been building up its presence in Israel, even bringing on a newsman who has won numerous Emmy Awards as a News Anchor in a major market to serve as their Jerusalem Correspondent among other roles, Daniel Cohen.

The event was amazing, and yet despite all that I had learned about the people behind the network and all the amazing people and personalities I met, my thoughts upon reflection were elsewhere. The fact is, media coverage plays a crucial role in shaping public perception and the understanding of global events. However, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there has been a persistent and undeniable bias against Israel in the mainstream media. This unfair media coverage has resulted in a distorted narrative, misrepresentation of facts, and a lack of context, ultimately hindering the prospects of a fair and comprehensive understanding of the complex situation in the region.

Ms. Van Susteren spoke to this when she delivered her remarks to those who had been invited by Newsmax to celebrate America and Israel at the iconic King David Hotel. In recalling her visit to the Hezbollah-made terror tunnels she was given a tour of, she said there are those who “talk about us (America) standing with Israel, it’s not even a question of standing, it’s more just looking at the facts. And you take a look at that tunnel and use your wildest imagination, and there is only one reason for those tunnels, it’s to kill.”

Ms. Susteren went on to provide her opinion on why the media gets it wrong, and while I might personally disagree with her on this as I know too many “journalists” who report their feelings, not the facts, she has a point, and this is what separates Newsmax from the rest on this as Cohen’s full-time presence demonstrates. “It’s sending journalists out. I think that is one of the biggest defects that a lot of these news organizations have in the United States, they’re all saving money, so they’re not coming here and seeing.”

This was spot on. The fact is, most media outlets rely on a handful of wire services for their information about Israel, the Associated Press and Reuters being the biggest. The problem is the people they employ, or rather contract to provide much of the information are Palestinians who are personally associated with the people they are supposed to be covering, and too often are working with them to frame a narrative.  There is an old joke that if you want to see how the world gets their Israel news go to Jerusalem’s American Colony Hotel around 4 PM and watch the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s ‘news’ agency hand out their talking points to the foreign journalists who are sitting in the lobby. Keep in mind, the PLO was named a terror group in 1987 – and now, the group controls the Palestinian Authority which means that so many in the world are getting their account of what happens in Israel, from Palestinian officials via their Wafa News & Information Agency.

Another glaring issue with media coverage of Israel, and perhaps this is a result of the source most outlets are receiving their information from, is the tendency to focus on sensational events and present them out of context. Headlines that highlight Israeli actions while downplaying or ignoring the preceding Palestinian aggression perpetuate an imbalanced narrative. Incidents such as suicide bombings, rocket attacks, or knife stabbings are often underreported or relegated to a minor footnote, while Israeli countermeasures receive extensive attention. This selective reporting not only distorts the reality on the ground but also fails to present a holistic view of the complex factors driving the conflict.

During the event, I had several people from America asking me about Israel’s operation in Jenin which was on its second day. The reporting on Cable News as well as the major papers seemed to paint a picture of widespread destruction, indiscriminate killing, and even the targeting of children. The BBC had Israel’s former Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett on and the anchor tried to paint the picture that Israel was killing children. Here is where the context comes into place, and Bennett painted that contextual picture clearly, to his credit. The fact is the Palestinian militant groups recruit, train and send teenagers to attack professional soldiers. They do not even try to hide this fact. On their Telegram channels meant to communicate with their followers, these groups, and there are too many to count, post videos, pictures, and missives about their “young cubs” and yet, with the exception of a few like Newsmax, media outlets leave that part out.

Ms. Van Susteren’s segment on the terror tunnels (posted below) also brought something up for me; language and imagery are powerful tools that serve to shape public perception. When she descended the tunnel, it was not just a visual, she was narrating, and not merely describing what she sees, but painting the picture of what the Hezbollah diggers were intending. Language also comes into play when it comes to biased terminology and imagery that reinforce preconceived notions. Terms like "occupation," "apartheid," or "colonialism" are frequently used without adequate explanation or context, implicitly framing Israel as the aggressor. Watch Van Susteren’s tunnel video and it is clear who the aggressor is.  Additionally, images that focus solely on Palestinian suffering while neglecting Israeli victims further perpetuate an imbalanced narrative. Such linguistic and visual biases contribute to the demonization of Israel, painting a distorted picture for the global audience.

The media's double standards when reporting on Israel are evident in its treatment of similar conflicts around the world. Israel is often singled out for scrutiny and criticism, while other conflicts with higher casualty rates receive comparatively less attention. Just look at the actual number of Palestinians killed in 75 years of Israel’s existence. We should ignore the actual wars as these were not fought against Palestinians but against Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon, and we should just focus on the Palestinian deaths. However, even without discounting the wars, in 75 years, fewer people have died in Israel/Palestine than in the 13-year Syrian civil war that is still raging, the Iran-Iraq war, or even NATO’s Iraq war in which an estimated 250,000-300,000 were killed.

As mentioned above, the lack of context provided regarding the historical and geopolitical complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict further exacerbates this bias. Media outlets often fail to explain the series of peace offers made by Israel or the rejection of these offers by Palestinian leaders. By omitting vital information, the media fails to provide viewers with the necessary tools to form an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the situation.

Meanwhile, the unfair media coverage of Israel has far-reaching consequences. It not only distorts public opinion but also hampers diplomatic efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When international audiences are presented with a biased view, it becomes challenging to foster an environment conducive to dialogue and negotiation. The misrepresentation of Israel impedes its ability to defend itself against hostile actions and undermines its standing on the global stage. Furthermore, this media bias perpetuates the cycle of violence by discouraging Palestinian leaders from engaging in meaningful dialogue and pursuing peaceful solutions.

I am truly grateful to Newsmax’s CEO, Christopher Ruddy for inviting us to their event and to Ms. Susteren for her inspiring, fact-based reporting last week from Israel. While I was honored to be there and amazed to see how important it is to Mr. Ruddy that his reporters uphold a high standard, where facts are above all else when it comes to their reporting, it only made me reflect on the rest of the media world. The fact is, since we are on the subject, their irresponsible, often biased reporting has only served to prolong this conflict, and with it the suffering of good decent Palestinians and Israelis.

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