My Thoughts on Pro-Israeli Rhetoric

After reading up quite a few articles online regarding the Gaza issue, I began to notice a definite pattern in the narrative coverage of multifarious News Agencies. Here, I’ll attempt to expound on key similarities which establish the fact that not only is the content of such news pro-Israeli, but the narrative style also tends to be biased and inciting.

The key feature discussed here is what I will roughly call an Antithetical Statement.

Antithesis is a literary device, defined as:
when the writer employs two sentences of contrasting meanings in close proximity to one another. Whether they are words or phrases of the same sentence, an antithesis is used to create a stark contrast using two divergent elements that come together to create one uniform whole. An antithesis plays on the complementary property of opposites to create one vivid picture. The purpose of using an antithesis in literature is to create a balance between opposite qualities and lend a greater insight into the subject.

For my analysis here, I will divide an antithetical statement in two parts, Statement 1 and Statement 2 respectively. Both statements are in contrast to each other. However, what is similar in all such statements is the degree of effect achieved in terms of Statement 2, which mostly has negative implications.

Antithesis is a device employed mostly in poetry. What I have labelled as Statement 2, maybe a phrase, an idea, words or a concept. Since the idea of the entire sentence ends with Statement 2, hence Statement 2 leaves a more lasting impression as opposed to Statement 1.

SOURCE: New York Times
Gaza Deaths Spike in 3rd Day of Air Assaults While Rockets Hit Israel
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/11/world/middleeast/israel-gaza.html

(On a side note, the article was written by Isabel Kershner, a British Jew. But to maintain the integrity and true intention of my analysis as mentioned above, I’ll be impartial towards the journalists and their background so as to focus chiefly on the context and the style of the narrative.)

This is the first paragraph of the article from International New York Times, dated July 10, 2014.

“Palestinian deaths from Israel’s aerial attacks in Gaza rose sharply on Thursday, while militants there fired more than 180 rockets into Israel, reaching new targets spread across a vast area of the country.”

Statement 1: Palestinian deaths from Israel’s aerial attacks in Gaza rose sharply on Thursday…
Statement 2: while militants there fired more than 180 rockets into Israel, reaching new targets spread across a vast area of
the country.

The very first paragraph of this article begins on a seemingly innocuous note that of Palestinian deaths from Israel’s aerial attack, which incurs sympathy on behalf of Gaza. But this emotion is brief, as it is immediately followed by a more brunt statement which puts the spotlight of empathy on Israel as being the real victims. It must be also be noted that the length of both statements is directly proportional to the reader’s attention and the influence it has on the subconscious. Statement 1 is short and precise, whereas Statement 2 is extended, includes a comma and the word “while” and “militants”. It also includes implicit words that make the idea of the Israeli region affected seem much more expansive than the civilian deaths; “spread across”, “vast area” and “country”.

Also note that during the time this report was published, the number of deaths in Gaza were widely attributed to the figure of around 78 (which happens to be mentioned much later on in the news). But the columnist ensured that the article starts with a vague plurality of deaths in Gaza, but with a definite and precise number of 180 rockets that had targeted Israel.

Further Research:

I noticed that the screen captures of the same article I had took the previous night were different from what the online article was showing as of July 12, 2014 at approximately 1:45 AM (around the time I’m writing this). This prompted me to go to web.archive.org where I discovered that each of the four snapshots taken of the same article (on July 10, 2014) had minor but critical differences in the first paragraph.

Snapshot @ 11:14:45 and @ 12:15:48 “The death toll from Israel’s aerial offensive in Gaza rose on Thursday, while rocket fire from the Palestinian coastal enclave reached ever-broader swaths of Israel.”

Snapshot @ 21:52:01 and @ 23:27:00 “Palestinian deaths from Israel’s aerial attacks in Gaza rose sharply on Thursday, while militants there fired more than 100 rockets into Israel, reaching new targets spread across a vast swath of the country.”

[I am not aware of what the rules are for publishing journalistic content online, given that International New York times also publishes news in print. Perhaps one article is written, and is altered accordingly provided that the main content is the same, or that the writer made an error in the first article and has to retract it. In both cases it is often explicitly stated that the writer made some changes. But such an explanation is not found on this website, which begs the question: How many times do journalists make subtle changes to their columns without bringing it to direct attention of their readership? Since once a lie, or a mistake is in circulation, a retraction is futile unless it is clearly stated.]

So, my guess is that around the time I opened the article online on my browser, the figure 100 had been changed to 180, but the number of Palestinian deaths remained obscure. The Antithetical Statements theory can be equally applied to the two sets of different snapshots taken of the first paragraph.

Not only the news itself, but the title heading also is an antithesis, with Statement 2 always inclining towards Israel’s victimization. Again, the same article has had three varying headlines:

  • Death Toll Rises in Gaza, as Hamas Hits Deeper in Israel
  • Gaza Deaths Spike in Third Day of Israel Air Assaults
  • Gaza Deaths Spike in 3rd Day of Air Assaults While Rockets Hit Israel

More instances: “Airstrikes overnight on a house in Khan Younis and an open-air beach cafe killed at least 15 Palestinians, and one airstrike hit a car used by a local news agency bearing media signs, killing the driver, Hamed Shehab, 27, the officials said. The Israeli military said it had also hit at least eight operatives from Hamas and Islamic Jihad in what it described as several precision strikes. The military said all had been involved in either the manufacture or firing of rockets.”

Same context as above, from Snapshot @ 11:14:45 “As the air campaign entered its third day, the Palestinian death toll rose to at least 67, according to officials in Gaza. Airstrikes overnight on a house in Khan Younis and a cafeteria on the beach killed at least 15 Palestinians, Gazan officials said. According to the officials, one airstrike hit a car used by a local news agency bearing media signs, killing the driver, Hamed Shehab, 27. The Israeli military said it had also hit three Islamic Jihad operatives that it said were involved in manufacturing medium-range rockets. In another strike, the military said it had hit an operative for Hamas, the Islamic militant group that dominates Gaza, saying he was involved in firing rockets against Israel.”

Both the above paragraphs begin with deaths of Palestinians and end on the note of “militants” of Gaza and firing of rockets, lending an air of persecution of Israel.

However, the older version of article ends on a completely different note which can be accessed here http://web.archive.org/web/20140710111445/http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/11/world/middleeast/israel-gaza.html

“The military said at least three more rockets had hit civilian communities in the Negev desert, more than 50 miles from Gaza, and that areas around the town of Netivot were hit.”

Hence the article in entirety forms an antithesis. It begins with an obvious disregard of Palestinian deaths, and ends on the assured note of exactly three rockets having hit an Israeli settlement.

SOURCE: New York Times
Israeli Leader Says He Feels No Pressure to Quit Bombing Gaza
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/12/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-strip-conflict.html

First Paragraph: “Brushing aside criticism of Israel’s four-day-old aerial attacks on Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday he felt no international pressure to quit the operation and would not rule out a ground invasion to stop the barrages of rockets from Palestinian militants.”

Last Paragraph: “Colonel Lerner said the Israeli military was “operating to minimize the civilian impact.”

“But when Hamas embeds itself in the civilian population and uses it as a human shield,” he said, “that makes it very difficult for us.””

SOURCE: AP
GAZA DEAD TOPS 85 AS ISRAEL PRESSES ITS OFFENSIVE
http://bigstory.ap.org/article/israel-escalates-aerial-offensive-gaza

First Paragraph: “The Al Haj family never heard it coming: An Israeli missile smashed into their home in the middle of the night, destroying the structure and killing eight relatives in a matter of seconds. A survivor said all the dead were civilians.”

Last Paragraph: “In southern Israel, the area hit hardest by the rockets, people have been ordered to stay within close range of shelter. Summer camps have been canceled, motorists have been forced to jump out of their cars, and high school students took their final exams in bomb shelters. Many people are using a smartphone application that alerts them to incoming rockets when they can’t hear air-raid sirens.

Lian Assayag had planned a big wedding in the southern city of Ashkelon. But her special day was dashed due to the rocket fire. She decided instead to get married Thursday night inside a bomb shelter at a synagogue in nearby Ashdod.

I have mixed feelings. Everything got messed up,” she told Channel 10 TV. “It’ll be OK.””

SOURCE: Reuters
Gaza toll passes 100; Israel to counter rockets ‘with all power’
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/11/us-palestinians-israel-idUSKBN0FC0JP20140711

First Paragraph: “An airstrike outside a family home early Saturday pushed the Palestinian death toll past 100 in four days of cross-border fighting as Israel showed no sign of pausing despite international pressure to negotiate a ceasefire with the militants.”

Last Paragraph: “An anti-tank rocket fired near the Gaza border wounded two Israeli soldiers on Friday, and Israel said it had targeted seven Hamas militants accused of involvement in rocket attacks.”

Visual Antithesis

This BBC story (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28271546) starts with a caption to a video “An eight-year-old Palestinian girl was hit by shrapnel which embedded in her brain, as Jeremy Bowen reports”, and ends with an illustration of the Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield.

This AP article (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/israel-escalates-aerial-offensive-gaza) begins with a gallery of pictures depicting destruction in Palestine along with a more or less similar caption, all ending on the account of Israel’s interception of “rockets fired by militants at the country’s heartland”.

[Scrolling through the gallery, most of the pictures portray the misery of Palestinians and the description associated with each picture is relevant. Yet, they all end on a redundant and detached note, mentioning “and Israel’s missile defense system once again intercepted rockets fired by militants at the country’s heartland” again and again. Quite ironically, the gallery too, ends with a diagram of the Israeli ‘Iron Dome’.]

So from the aforementioned definition of Antithesis, I have favorably deduced that antithesis is used to create a stark contrast using two divergent elements (Palestine vs. Israel), which come together to create one uniform whole (Israel), and create a balance between opposite qualities (Palestinian deaths are equated with rocket attacks in Israel; the former is justified on account of the latter’s victimization).


 

I realise that this argument may be flawed in many aspects, that many of you might find it too biased or misconstrued given the nature of its intention. I also understand that many of you will have reservations regarding the choice of articles I selected to support my arguments. However, the perpetual victimization of Israel and recurrent ignorance of international media regarding the suffering of Palestinians is an age-old argument. It is already evident in the content of news, but here I wanted to establish the stylistic methoTweetd employed to forcefully execute the pro-Israeli bias; the workings of selection and placement of words or phrases that directly influence our subconscious. An excellent
example of this is a tweet by @BreakingNews (https://twitter.com/breakingnews/status/487536069424869377). A tweet can be read in just over three seconds, but it still weighs in on the comparison of deaths and attacks, rendering the former trivial and the latter critical.

What I am now interested in finding out is the conscious deliberation behind such bias as it was evident by the three altered headings for the same article. Surely it is no coincidence that the columnist or the editor virtually changed each heading as a conscious effort to bring Israel’s predicament under the spotlight. The diction employed for Palestinians is wholly different from that assigned to Israelis; “militants” vs. “army”. There is also a somewhat definitive pattern of Grouping of Palestinian causalities and the Individualized injured Israelis.

SOURCE: BBC
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28271546

(Here, we get a detailed description of who was injured, where, when and how.)
“In Israel, one person was seriously injured when a rocket hit a petrol station in Ashdod on Friday morning, Israeli officials say.
Another Israeli soldier was injured on Thursday, by mortar fire in the Eshkol region, which borders Gaza.”

CAPTION: “The Palestinians say more than 500 people have been injured in Gaza” & “Five people were reported killed in an air strike on Rafah, southern Gaza, on Friday”

SOURCE: Reuters
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/11/us-palestinians-israel-idUSKBN0FC0JP20140711

“An Israeli airstrike killed five youths and wounded 15 people outside a family home in the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip early on Saturday, witnesses and medical officials told Reuters.

A rocket seriously wounded one person and injured another seven Israelis when a fuel tanker was hit at a service station in Ashdod, 30 km (20 miles) north of Gaza. Palestinian militants warned international airlines they would fire rockets at Tel Aviv’s main airport.”

I understand that it is impossible to describe each individual death or injury when the number is in hundreds. But, what we have here is a number, a figure versus a relatively comprehensive account of the few injured Israelis. 500 as a figure, is too large a number for us to fully grasp the gravity of the situation. 500 is a lot, and they all were injured in Gaza. But what does settle in the readers mind is how a patriotic soldier was injured (by a rocket, and mortar fire), where he was injured (near a petrol station in Ashdod, and in Eshkol) and when (Friday morning and Thursday).


 

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