After running a Google news search on Marrickville+BDS on April 18, I spent a half hour looking at just under 30 articles published over the past seven days on Marrickville council’s position of support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
I looked at every result published by a major news website (news.com.au, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, The Age, ABC) and omitted articles that contained duplicate AAP copy.
I noticed that only two articles mentioned the word “Palestine” or “Palestinians” more than “Israel” or “Israelis”.
In two articles, the words “Israel” and “Israeli” or “Palestine” and “Palestinians” were mentioned equally.
Every other article I looked at mentioned “Israel” more often. One article in The Australian mentioned “Israel” 13 times (plus a headline mention) and “Palestine” only 4 times.
An opinion piece by Miranda Devine in The Daily Telegraph mentioned “Israel” or “Israelis” 9 times and “Palestinians” only once — and this one mention was followed by the word “terrorist”.
I know this is hardly exhaustive and intricate research, and that human error means I could have overlooked an article or two (or a Google error could mean a certain article did not appear in the results).
But I think one clear point emerged about the focus of the mainstream media’s coverage on this issue.
In this case, even when covering a topic such as the BDS movement, which has at its core achieving basic human rights for the people of Palestine, the focus in the corporate press remains on Israel, and not Palestine.
Israel’s military occupation and oppression of Palestine is rarely mentioned (and if it is the word “alleged” normally accompanies the mention).
Instead, the news angles most often taken on the BDS debate were the sensationalised story of the economic effect of the boycott on taxpayers, the impact it would have on Australia’s relationship with Israel, and the argument that since there are other countries with bad human rights records, any questionable behaviour by Israel should be deemed negligible.
The media placed a heavy focus on the Greens’ councillors and Fiona Byrne, and not the Labor councillors who also, at first, voted in favour of the motion to support BDS in December.
This is just a snapshot of the coverage of one important issue, but it is important to acknowledge how issues are spoken about in the mainstream media, and what sort of language is used to frame the situations on which they report.