For Western Media, Only Israeli Lives Matter

Across the Anglo-American mainstream media the killing of Palestinians is seen as normal. It’s only Israeli lives that matter, writes Des Freedman.

Israeli air strike destruction in the Gaza Strip, Oct. 17, 2023. (Fars Media Corporation, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

By Des Freedman
Declassified UK

Twenty-four Israeli soldiers were killed in two separate incidents in Gaza on Jan. 22. Mainstream media outlets around the world reacted in unison: this was the “deadliest day” for Israel since Oct. 7.

This exact phrase was used in headlines on Jan. 23 carried by news agencies such as Reuters and AFP, and major broadcasters including the BBC, CBS, NBC, CNN, ABC and ITV News. 

The exact same phrase was also used by leading news titles including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, The Jerusalem Post, The Guardian, London’s Evening Standard, Financial Times, The Independent and Yahoo News.

On the same day, Israeli forces killed almost 200 Palestinians in Gaza including at least 65 people in Khan Younis alone. 

These deaths received no headlines in the above outlets. Where they were reported, they were listed as part of the regular daily round-up of events in an unfolding genocide that has now seen more than 26,000 people killed in Gaza.

How is it possible that the world’s media could embrace exactly the same phrase in relation to Israeli victims but largely ignore the identities of the much higher number of Palestinians killed? 

Why would Jan. 22 be described as “deadly” for one group of people but not for another?

Unequal Value

You might expect that editors took the “deadliest day” phrase from press statements from the Israeli government or military. 

Yet Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari did not use this phrase in his statement and neither did the IDF Chief of the General Staff Herzi Halevi, who instead simply called it a “difficult day.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu also described it as “one of the most difficult days” while Israel’s President Isaac Herzog spoke of “an unbearably difficult morning.” He used the same language as both Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana and Minister Benny Gantz, both of whom referred to a “painful morning.”

Of course, it is possible the phrase was used in private and informal briefings to the press on the morning of Jan. 23. It is, however, equally conceivable that this was a trope that came “naturally” from a deep-rooted idea in the western media that the lives of Israelis and Palestinians are not of equal value. 

And, therefore, that measuring the “deadliness” of a particular day should only be done for Israelis (where every life matters) and not for Palestinians (whose individual lives clearly appear to count for less).

‘Deadliest Day’

Indeed, a search of the Nexis database of U.K. national and local news (including BBC broadcast bulletins) reveals that there were 856 uses of the phrase “deadliest day” from Oct. 7, 2023 until Jan. 25, none of which directly referred to evidence of Palestinian deaths in Gaza

The only exception to this were some BBC bulletins on Oct. 25 which mentioned “Palestinians reporting the deadliest day in Gaza” (emphasis added). 

Otherwise, there was not a single reference during this period across the British media to “the deadliest day for Palestinians” or “for the people of Gaza.”

The other approximately 850 references directly related only to Israeli casualties. Some 28 percent of them focused on the killing of IDF soldiers on Jan. 22. 

The vast majority referred to the events of Oct. 7, described either as “the deadliest day for Jews” or “the deadliest day for the Jewish people” which accounted for some 25 percent of all references.

Many of these stories were focused on the words of U.S. President Joe Biden who, in a much publicised speech to Jewish leaders at the White House, described the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 as the “deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.”

Biden’s words alone make up 20 percent of all references to the “deadliest day” trope.

Perhaps Biden’s words were on the minds of editors across the world as they listened to Israeli spokespeople on the morning of Jan. 23 and that the deaths of 24 IDF soldiers merited such a phrase when talking about Israeli lives.

Framing the War

 Biden addresses a group of Jewish Community leaders about his support for Israel on Oct. 11, 2023. (White House, Adam Schultz)

But why has the phrase not been used in relation to Palestinians and, indeed, why is there so little preoccupation with days when particularly large numbers of Gazans are killed?

Precisely because the war is not framed in a way which recognises the equal worth of all those affected — in other words, a situation where every instance of significant Palestinian casualties would deserve a headline — it’s hard to be certain of which have been the very deadliest days for the residents of Gaza.

However, it’s clear that the period immediately after the temporary ceasefire in the last week of November saw particularly intense airstrikes and there were, according to Al Jazeera, at least 700 Palestinians killed on Dec. 2 alone.

Yet there was no mention in the U.K. media about this being the “deadliest day” for Palestinians. Instead, The Guardian simply ran with a headline of “‘Israel says its ground forces are operating across ‘all of Gaza’” while The Sunday Times wrote: “Fears for hostages as Gazans say bombardment is worse than ever.” 

According to The Mail Online, “Israel says it is expanding its ground operations against Hamas’ strongholds across the whole of the Gaza Strip as IDF continues to bomb territory after terrorists broke fragile truce.” 

The BBC’s TV news bulletins on Dec. 3 carried distressing footage of casualties but also featured a quote from an adviser to Netanyahu saying that “Israel was making the ‘maximum effort’ to avoid killing civilians” without carrying an immediate rebuttal of this outrageous claim.

In other words, despite the fact that 30 times more Palestinians were killed on Dec. 2 than when the 24 IDF soldiers were killed on Jan. 22, there was no recognition of the “deadliness” of that day. 

Instead, the framing was all about the strategic plans of the Israeli military rather than the mass slaughter of Palestinians.

‘Intensive Strike’

On Dec. 26 a further 241 people were killed by Israeli bombs. Britain’s “newspaper of record,” The Times, responded with the headline: “Israel-Gaza war: Palestinians hit by ‘most savage bombing’” with a sub heading: “Israel launches most intensive strike since Hamas attack on October 7.” 

You could be forgiven for thinking that there was nothing deadly about this episode because, after all, Palestinians were only being “struck” as opposed to brutally killed.

But this was hardly an exceptional day given that Oxfam reported earlier this year that Israel’s military was killing Palestinians at an average rate of 250 people a day, a figure it said exceeded the daily death toll of any other major conflict of recent years.

There is clearly a brutal politics to counting the dead. The New York Times ran an article on Jan. 22 headlined, “The Decline of Deaths in Gaza” arguing that average daily deaths across a 30-day period have now fallen below 150. 

For the NYT, it is “plausible that a lower percentage of deaths are among civilians now that Israel’s attacks have become more targeted and the [average] daily toll has declined.”

Not only, however, is there little evidence that the IDF is in any way opposed to killing civilians but the idea that casualties are declining at a time when we are soon likely to see a total of 30,000 Palestinian deaths is profoundly shocking. 

Any slowdown in the rate of killing is hardly a consolation to the millions who still live in fear of IDF raids and rockets.

Media Consensus

The media consensus that only Israelis are the victims of the “deadliest days” in the region and not Palestinians, despite the latter accounting for 95 percent of deaths since Oct. 7, is one of the many illustrations of the unequal and profoundly distorted coverage of this war.

Until the South African government submitted its partially successful claim to the International Court of Justice, news organisations were unwilling even to investigate the genocidal language of Israeli political and military leaders. 

The media also routinely uses dehumanising and differential language where Israelis are “massacred” while Palestinians simply “die.” This illustrates the awful role of the mainstream media in paving the way for the ethnic cleansing we are currently seeing.

The real reason you don’t see or hear the media talk about a “deadly day” for Palestinians is that every day is deadly when you live in Gaza.

Des Freedman is a professor of media and communications at Goldsmiths, University of London and a founding member of the Media Reform Coalition.

This article is from Declassified UK.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

22 comments for “For Western Media, Only Israeli Lives Matter

  1. Paul Jalbert
    February 2, 2024 at 12:30

    Dear Des Friedman,
    Nicely done.
    You have done, in part in this piece, a ‘categorization analysis’ with regard to the language of the mainstream media. I have done this kind of analysis about the Israeli military program in the past. I wrote a book, my dissertation, about the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, analysing the categorization practices of the ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS reportage of that invasion, which was never published because it was deemed too critical of Israel. Times have changed, but not that much. Keep up the work. We need analysts like yourself to unpack the crap that continues to invade our journalism. I always remember George Orwell and his disgust with the way people in positions of power use language.
    Best regards,
    Paul L. Jalbert, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Communication, Emeritus
    University of Connecticut

  2. susan
    February 2, 2024 at 10:55

    Western Media outlets wouldn’t know the TRUTH if it bit them in the ass…

    • GC
      February 2, 2024 at 23:01

      Plain and simple American media has gone to hell.

  3. david coleman
    February 2, 2024 at 09:25

    (1) IDF condemns Gazan grandma for intercepting their bullet with her body (
    (2) Banksy Parliament – Search (
    hxxps:// @LKTranslator

  4. Anaisanesse
    February 2, 2024 at 08:03

    Netanyahu said that October 7 was the worst thing to happen to Israel since its independence which surely tells us how small are any of the “tragedies ” Israel complains of.

  5. Francis Lee
    February 2, 2024 at 04:45

    It seems that mass murder is not something new in the lexicon of the western ‘civilization’, Herewith those who engage in mass murder of the lesser breads in the west.

    ”The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois ‘civilization’ lies unbound before our eyes, from its home, where it assumes respectable forms, to the colonies where it goes naked.”

    Karl Marx – in the New York Daily Tribune – No. 1840, August 8, 1853.

    ”The fact is, there is no army in Europe or America with so much brutality as the British. Plundering, violence, massacres things that everywhere else are strictly and completely are a time honoured privilege, a vested right of the British soldier. The infamies committed for days together … are without parallel … For twelve days and nights there was no British army at the city of Lucknow – nothing but a lawless, drunken brutal rabble, dissolved into bands of robbers, far more lawless and greedy than the Sepoys (Indian Native Soldiers) who had just been driven out of the place. The sack of Lucknow in 1858 will remain an everlasting disgrace to the British military service.”

    Karl Marx – May 8, 1858. Letter to Frederick Engels – Details of the attack on Lucknow.
    Published in the New York Daily Tribune,
    Number 5553, May 25, 1858

  6. hgfkhg
    February 2, 2024 at 01:51

    al-Jazeera ran a story yesterday: “Palestinians demand international inquiry after mass grave found in Gaza: Bodies of Palestinian detainees who were handcuffed, blindfolded discovered in plastic bags near northern Gaza school.”

    Something similar happened at Bucha in Ukraine and the global MsM went ballistic for months. Israel does it and not one word is published or aired in the West.

  7. WillD
    February 1, 2024 at 23:37

    One way or another, Israel and the hard-line Zionists will come to regret this. It will be a blight, a stain that all Israelis will carry with them for decades to come.

    Everywhere they go, people will regard them with suspicion, wondering whether they were directly involved or supported the slaughter.

    It will affect Jews everywhere.

  8. Jerry Markatos
    February 1, 2024 at 22:32

    This is one reason that the unsubstantiated claims of mass rape on October 7 still stand.
    As long as exaggerated and contrived atrocities are ascribed to Palestinians, anything goes
    and they are all legitimate targets for our arms industry’s products.

    Max Blumenthal and the insiders at the NYT who are reportedly fighting management
    to retract the false claims, are a reminder of the proper role of journalism.

  9. February 1, 2024 at 18:40

    People – just avoid the media outlets mentioned in the first two paragraphs! Don’t read then. Do not access them on the net. Do not buy their papers. They are all mouthpieces for governments and the mega wealthy. Avoid like the plague. They are propaganda outlets. There are excellent independent journalists with integrity. Find them. Pass their work to others. Consortium News has excellent analysis – join them. Boycott the others. They are brainwashing us!

  10. Lois Gagnon
    February 1, 2024 at 16:00

    Noam Chomsky told us years ago there are worthy victims and unworthy victims. Dehumanization of the targeted country or territory’s population is standard fare for fascist regimes. Disappearing human beings whose lives are an obstacle to geo strategic interests is designed to keep the domestic audience from having any sympathy for the dead of our designated “enemies.” To a large degree, it has been successful. At some point under such fascist regimes, eventually, the domestic population becomes the enemy. We all become unworthy victims.

  11. Daniel George Good
    February 1, 2024 at 15:45

    It’s the Palestinians’ own fault; they should have left long ago. That is what Zionist supporters feel, even today. Let them go to Egypt. Where they go is not Israel’s problem. Zionists now own the land. What is never mentioned in any discussions of Gaza is that ethnic cleansing is baked into the ideology of Zionism itself, ever since the beginning, even before the Balfour Declaration. Long before Zionism was ever implemented under the British Mandate, the idea that one population could displace another in order to create a new country for a new population that claimed it had a right to a country, was opposed by most Rabbis and many Jews. Suffice it to read the extensive literature by anti-Zionist Jews dating from the days of the Zionist Congresses before WW I. But this debate was ignored for a simple reason: the Zionists focused on the support of the “Great Powers” and so long as this support was forthcoming, Zionists were able to avoid debate and argumentation. As a practical matter, the idea was to displace a population by land purchases, which seemed feasible at a time when colonialism was in full bloom. But as soon as the idea was attempted during the British Mandate, the killings began. No thought was given to those who did not own land. Anyone who has looked into the history knows this. And it started long before the Holocaust. Zionists have claimed, after the facts, that the Jewish state is a needed refuge for the victims of the Holocaust. But in fact the need to displace a native population was the problem from the start. The results are there for all to see. Zionism does not work and never will. Before there is peace, the Zionist idea has to be rejected. Unfortunately, when Great Powers get egg on their faces, they double down.

  12. Richard Burrill
    February 1, 2024 at 15:10

    And I imagine the Christian Right were all singing “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” Such dumb fucks they are.

  13. JonnyJames
    February 1, 2024 at 14:04

    The hypocrisy is truly sickening. Biden pandering to African Americans, while cheer-leading genocide is beyond hypocrisy and irony.

    The racism and bigotry against Palestinians, and Arabs in general (whether Muslim or Orthodox Christian) has a long history in
    “Western” culture. The classic Orientalism (1978) by the late Palestinian American scholar, Edward Said is a must-read, for starters.

    Notice how the so-called liberals (right-wing authoritarians with a D after their names) love to virtue-signal that they are anti-racists, love to pander to shallow identity politics and they are some of the most rabid, racist warmongers out there. At least most of the Rs are more transparent about their racism and xenophobia.

    The “liberal” so-called news outlets (and both political parites) merely reflect the values of their owners and funders: the most powerful five “families” of the Oligarchy Mafia: the MIC, or MICIMATT (as Ray McGovern calls it), BigOil, BigPharma, BigFinance, BigTech.

    Similarly Russia and Russians can be included in the bigotry: if they were not white it would be racism. Russian lives don’t matter either. The “western” media largely or totally ignored the atrocities committed against the large ethnic Russian population by the coup regime in Ukraine, starting in 2014. Even today, Ukraine bombs and shells civilians in Donetsk and other places, yet the media ignores this. The bigoted

    • Jack Lomax
      February 1, 2024 at 17:21

      Western ‘news’ outlets are all controlled and all sing from the same song book . What long ago was perhaps genuine news reporting has long been a sophisticated persuasive propaganda organ much like the Orwellian ‘Truth is lies and lies are truth ‘ news organs of his dystopian Nineteen Eighty four.

    • J Anthony
      February 2, 2024 at 06:36

      Yes. Recently two ladies wearing hijabs(?) were refused entry into a Kamala Harris talk somewhere, the clip is circulating all over the place. The organizers singled them out while they were waiting in line and refused to allow them entrance, even though they were originally invited. The women are not given any reason, just two (D) tools are telling them they’ve been “dis-invited.” Pretty hypocritical, sickening stuff. Obviously they didn’t want to risk hearing any dissent but the way they went about it was just gross.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      February 2, 2024 at 10:57

      Excellent comment. I agree with you. The hypocrisy is stunning and revolting.

    • Charles E. Carroll
      February 2, 2024 at 11:13

      Thanks for your reply Jonny! You said it all.

      Free Palestine!

  14. Joey Hill
    February 1, 2024 at 14:00

    Joe Biden loudly proclaims that only Israel and American lives matter. Arab lives do not matter. Killing Russians is the best money ever spent.

    Except, Genocide Joe has a problem. According to the recent words of Genocide Joe, Russia has a right to directly retaliate against the USA. Because of the anti-Genocide operations in West Asia, some sacred American lives were lost protecting the Genocide. Genocide Joe stands up and loudly declares that this can not be allowed to stand, that people are going to have to die as a result, including threats to bomb Iran and Iran’s military. Iran’s military did not launch the attack, but under the Democrats, just uttering the words “Iran-backed” is all the justification required to kill and kill and kill some more.

    A couple of days ago, Ukraine fired two of the Patriot missiles gifted to them by Genocide Joe. They fired at a transport plane carrying Ukrainian POW’s to the frontline so a prisoner swap deal could be executed. Russia says that not only was Ukraine of course aware of the arranged deal, but also of the flight of this transport plane bringing the POW’s to the exchange. Ukraine used Joe Biden’s Patriot missiles (the Russians have the fragments, saying made by Raytheon, formerly run by current SOD Gen. Austin Powers.) to shoot down the transport plane and kill the Ukrainian POWs who thought they were coming home. Except, three Russian service members, the flight crew of the doomed transport plane, also were killed.

    Now consider Genocide Joe’s reckless words about how a nation has a right to avenge the death of it service members. By Genocide Joe’s own words, Russia has a right to strike at America in response to the deaths of its service members. Russia attacking America or killing Americans today would be exactly the same as America attacking Iran or killing Iranians today.

    Be sure to show your support for all of this by voting Democrat. The Democrats declare to the world that they get to decide which lives matter. The Democrats have long declared that saying “All Lives Matter” is a racist statement.

    All Lives Matter is the only sensible structure for a society that is going to provide safety and happiness to the lives who have to live within. All Lives Matter is the only road to Peace. The Democrats hate the notion that All Lives Matter.

    • JonnyJames
      February 1, 2024 at 15:59

      Vote? how quaint. No matter who “wins” Elections Inc. the US will continue its staunch, “unconditional” support for Israel. DT will likely be POTUS again, so don’t expect the genocide to end anytime soon.

    • JoAnn Henningsen
      February 2, 2024 at 00:27

      Well said, Joey.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      February 2, 2024 at 11:01

      Did you call the SOD “Austin Powers” deliberately? Pretty funny. I agree with you that the U.S. is the most dangerous, hypocritical, violent and arrogant government on the planet. They’re going to get their, though, if they keep this up.

Comments are closed.