As advocates for Palestinian rights have long maintained, major U.S. news outlets retain a strong bias toward Israel in their coverage of Israeli forces’ current bombardment of Gaza, a new analysis published by The Intercept shows.
In an analysis of Gaza coverage from The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, researcher Othman Ali and writer Adam Johnson found quantitative evidence that, in the first six weeks after the October 7 Hamas attack, the outlets maintained a “gross imbalance” favoring Israel in the way that casualties and narratives were portrayed.
The analysis of over 1,100 articles found that, through discriminate use of certain terms, Palestinians were consistently dehumanized and portrayed as unsympathetic, while stronger language to describe deaths was reserved for Israelis.
This was evident in the outlets’ use of certain emotionally charged words to describe Israeli and Palestinian deaths, the report revealed. While the newspapers used “slaughter” 60 times to describe Israelis who have been killed in the study period, they used “slaughter” only once to describe the killing of Palestinians. “Horrific” was used 38 times to describe Israeli deaths, but only four times to refer to Palestinian deaths. And the outlets used “massacre” 120 times in relation to the killing of Israelis, versus four times to refer to the killing of Palestinians.
This is despite the fact that the death toll of Israelis, while harrowing, has been multiplied roughly 20-fold by the Palestinian death toll since October 7.
During the time period of the Intercept analysis, roughly 1,200 Israelis had been killed, largely in the October 7 attack, while Israeli forces had killed over 10,000 Palestinians in Gaza in the following six weeks. That death toll has now more than doubled, with Israeli forces killing over 22,000 Palestinians, or about 1 in every 100 Palestinians in Gaza, while the Israeli death toll has remained roughly the same.
The analysis also exposed a bias by The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times against using the word “children” to refer to children in Gaza, instead often using euphemisms like people “under the age of 18” or, sometimes, “minors.” There has been a noticeable lack of coverage of the record number of journalists killed amid Israel’s assault, the report further noted.
This is despite the fact that Israel’s genocide in Gaza has killed children at a faster rate than any other global conflict in modern times, some research has found, while 79 journalists, including 72 Palestinians, 4 Israelis and 3 Lebanese, have been killed — also a record amount.
Finally, the report found that, while some research has indicated that there has been a rise of both antisemitic and Islamophobic hatred in the U.S. — including the shooting of three Palestinian students in Vermont and the stabbing death of a 6-year-old Palestinian boy in Illinois — these outlets have largely focused on antisemitism. While the three outlets mentioned antisemitism 549 times in the six weeks after the October 7 attack, they mentioned Islamophobia only 79 times.
The report comes after another recent Intercept investigation revealed that CNN has all of its Gaza coverage looked over and approved by their Jerusalem bureau staff before publication. The Jerusalem bureau is monitored by the Israel Defense Forces, which has implemented strong censorship protocols in relation to media coverage of the assault.
Palestinian journalists have long noted the bias in Western media against Palestinians. In November, the union Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate put out a scathing statement condemning Western outlets for their complicity in Israel’s genocidal assault.
“Even by the low standards set by media coverage of previous massacres in Gaza, the media discourse surrounding recent events represents a new low for the principles of journalistic integrity,” the group wrote.