by Lucian J Hudson
The media does not demonstrate systematic bias, but has revealed unconscious bias at times in ways that, if not tackled, will prove to be corrosive.
One can certainly catalogue a series of examples of poor – if not lazy – journalism when it comes to Israel and Palestine.
I say this more in sorrow than in anger, as a former BBC editor myself.
Just as one expects better of Israel as a modern state, one also expects higher standards of British journalism.
This newspaper, along with many in the Jewish community, have accused the UK press of false reporting and wilful distortion.
The front page of the Jewish News two weeks ago, saw top Israeli politician and former journalist Yair Lapid declare there was a ‘media intifada’.
In journalism, as important as the facts are, the context needs to also be properly explained.
My worry in terms of the reporting from Israel/Palestine is less the facts and more the context – which often indicates a lack of rigour and vigour.
Although it’s true that foreign reporting requires an understanding of all sides of the argument, it is a mistake to relativise incidents which, if they had happened in our backyard, would be treated for what they are: criminal acts.
Recent incidents in Israel, including random stabbings and bus bombings, would be seen as totally unacceptable if they happened in the UK, but are reported differently when they take place abroad. I’m not altogether surprised, as a Liberal Jew, and a former journalist, of the instinct to speak truth to power and, therefore, be more critical of those in authority.
But in the context of Israel/Palestine, it is less clear where power lies. Power and authority are not necessarily the same thing. Of course it’s right to hold the state to account, but it’s also right to hold others to account.
The violence and terrorism that comes from the ground up – either from individuals of their own initiative or through incitement by others – is also an abuse of power and should be held to the same scrutiny.
The press should not ignore or seek to justify behaviour by Palestine individuals and institutions. Both sides must be subject to equal standards and scrutiny. Freedom of the media and rule of law are integral to an effective liberal democracy.
We must therefore support the highest standards in media and adopt a policy of zero-tolerance towards breaches of journalistic standards.
• Lucian J Hudson is deputy chairman of Liberal Judaism and a former director of communications for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office