Why Media Have Failed Gaza

The media’s job is to create uncertainty, doubt and confusion. Our job is to explode that lie, denying them and the political class an alibi, Jonathan Cook told a peace rally in Bristol on the weekend.

An entrance to the BBC broadcasting house in London. (Edwardx, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Jonathan Cook 

It was fitting that we marked World Press Freedom Day last Friday by highlighting two things. First, honouring the brave journalists of Gaza who have paid a horrifying price for making the Palestinian experience of genocide visible to western audiences over the past seven months.

Israel has killed a tenth of their number — some 100 journalists — as it tries to prevent the truth of its atrocities from getting out. Israel’s has been the most deadly eruption of violence against journalists ever recorded.

Second, we must shame the western media — not least the BBC — who have so utterly betrayed their Palestinian colleagues by failing to properly report the destruction of Gaza, or name it as a genocide.

The BBC aired only the briefest coverage of South Africa’s devastating case against Israel at the International Court of Justice in January — a case so powerful the court has put Israel on trial for genocide. A fact you would barely know from the BBC’s reporting.

By contrast, the corporation cleared the schedules to present in full Israel’s hollow legal response.

The BBC’s double standards are all the more glaring if we recall how it reported Ukraine, also invaded by a hostile army – Russia’s.

Only two years ago the BBC dedicated its main news headlines to Kyiv’s citizens mass-producing molotov cocktails with which to greet Russian soldiers closing in on their city.

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen felt emboldened to post — apparently approvingly — a diagram showing weak points where the improvised explosives would do most damage to Russian tanks, and the soldiers inside.

Two years later, in its coverage of Israel’s assault on Gaza, the same BBC has performed a 180-degree turn.

Double Standards

An Israeli tank on patrol. (Michael Mass/Yad la-Shiryon Museum)

It is quite impossible to imagine Bowen or any other British journalist posting instructions on how Palestinians might burn alive Israeli soldiers in their tanks – even though those soldiers, unlike Russia’s, have been occupying and stealing Palestinian lands for decades, not two years.

Israeli soldiers, unlike Russian soldiers, are now actively enforcing a genocidal policy of starvation.

But the double standards of establishment media like the BBC aren’t directed only towards the people of Gaza. They are directed at us, the public, too.

The same media that celebrated families taking in Ukrainian refugees has willingly conspired in the smearing of those whose only crime is that they wish to stop the slaughter of 15,000-plus Palestinian children in Gaza.

There is apparently nothing heroic about opposing Israel’s genocide, even if opposing Russia’s invasion is still treated as a badge of honour.

The media give politicians a free pass to vilify as an antisemite anyone outraged that U.K. weapons are being used to help kill, maim and orphan many, many tens of thousands of Palestinian children. That accusation assumes that every Jew supports this slaughter, and erases all those Jews standing alongside us today at this protest.

In the U.S., police forces are beating and arresting students who have peacefully called on their universities to stop investing in the arming of Israel’s genocide. When the police pulled back at UCLA, it was only to allow pro-Israel thugs to assault the students — again many of them Jews.

A clear war is being waged against the right to protest against a genocide. And in tandem, the media has declared a war on the English language.

BBC Reverses Roles

The roles of aggressor and victim have been reversed. The BBC accused the students, encamped on university grounds, of “clashing” with pro-Israel groups that invaded the campus to violently attack them.

What explains these glaring inconsistencies, this gigantic failure by a media that’s supposed to act as a watchdog on the abuse of power?

Part of the answer is old-school racism. Ukrainians look like us, as some reporters let slip, and therefore deserve our solidarity. Palestinians, it seems, do not.

But there is another, more important answer. The establishment media isn’t really a watchdog on the abuse of power. It never was. It is a narrative factory, there to create stories that make those abuses of power possible.

State and billionaire-owned media achieve this goal through various sleights of hand. First, they omit stories that might disrupt the core narrative.

The media’s script is a simple one: What the West and its allies do is always well-meant, however horrific the outcomes.

And what the West does, however provocative or foolhardy, can never be cited as an explanation for what our “enemies” do.

No cause and no effect. They, whoever we select, are simply savage. They are evil. They are out to destroy civilisation. They must be stopped.

Nightly for weeks, I have watched the BBC news. If it were all I relied on, I would barely know that Israel is daily bombing the refugee camps of Rafah that are supposedly a “safe zone.”

Or that Israel continues to engineer a famine by blocking aid, and that Palestinians continue to die of hunger. Or that the U.K. has actively assisted the creation of that famine by denying UNRWA funding.

Or that the protests to end the Gaza genocide — painted as terror-supporting and antisemitic — are backed by many, many Jews, some of them here today.

And of course, I would have little idea that Israel’s imprisonment and slaughter of Palestinians did not begin on Oct. 7 with Hamas’ attack.

That’s because the BBC continues to ignore the siege of Gaza as the context for Oct. 7 — just as it and the rest of the media largely ignored the 17-year siege throughout the years Israel was enforcing it.

If I relied on the BBC, I would not understand that what Israel is doing can be neither “retaliation”, nor a “war.” You can’t go to war, or retaliate, against a people whose territory you have been belligerently occupying and stealing for decades.

And when the media can no longer omit, it distracts — through strategies of deflection, misdirection and minimisation.

So, when Gaza makes the news, as it rarely does now, it is invariably filtered through other lenses.

The focus is on interminable negotiations, on Israel’s plans for the “day after” on the agonies of the hostages’ families, on the fears evoked by protest chants, on where to draw the line on free speech.

Anything to avoid addressing a genocide that’s been carried out in broad daylight for seven months.

In their defence, establishment journalists tell us that they have a duty to be impartial. Their critics, they say, do not understand how news operations work.

As a journalist who spent years working in major newsrooms, I can assure you this is a self-serving lie.

Lies Challenged

Just this week, an interview went viral of the Norway Broadcasting Corporation interviewing Israeli government spokesman David Mencer. Unlike on the BBC, Mencer’s lies did not pass unchallenged.

The Norwegian journalist spent 25 minutes unpicking his falsehoods and deceptions, one by one. It was revelatory to see an Israeli spokesperson’s claims stripped away, layer by layer, until he stood there naked, his lies exposed.

It can be done — if there is a will to do it.

Journalists at the BBC and the rest of the establishment media understand, however implicitly, that their job is to fail. It is to fail to investigate the genocide in Gaza. It is to fail to give voice to the powerless. It is to fail to provide context and aid understanding. It is to fail to show solidarity with their colleagues in Gaza being killed for their journalism.

Rather, the BBC’s role is to protect the political establishment from ever being held to account for their complicity in genocide. The establishment media’s job is to create the impression of uncertainty, of doubt, of confusion – even when what is happening is crystal clear.

When one day, the World Court finally gets round to issuing a ruling on Israel’s genocide, our politicians and media will claim they could not have known, that they were misled, that they could not see clearly because events were shrouded by the “fog of war.”

Our job is to explode that lie, to deny them an alibi. It is to keep pointing out that the information was there from the start. They knew, if only because we told them. And one day, if there is any justice, they will stand in the dock — at the Hague — their excuses stripped away.

This piece is a transcript of Jonathan Cook’s speech for the Bristol Palestine Alliance’s March Against Media Bias at College Green, Bristol, on Saturday May 4.

Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist. He was based in Nazareth, Israel, for 20 years. He returned to the U.K. in 2021.He is the author of three books on the Israel-Palestine conflict: Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish State (2006), Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (2008) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (2008). If you appreciate his articles, please consider offering your financial support

This article was first published on Jonathan Cook’s Substack.

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

22 comments for “Why Media Have Failed Gaza

  1. vinnieoh
    May 7, 2024 at 17:46

    Mr. Cook’s last three paragraphs remind us that twenty years after the fact(s) no-one has been held accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity for the illegal invasion, destruction, and occupation of Iraq.

  2. May 7, 2024 at 16:52

    How appropriate that American journalism’s top award is named after yellow journalism’s Joseph Pulitzer, for whom the truth was an obstacle to be overcome, a sort of plastic to be molded, most of all, to encourage armed conflict. Something its most recent awards fully reflect while the world’s most honest and effective journalist, Julian Assange, lies imprisoned in the United Kingdom at the request of the United States.

  3. Britton Kerin
    May 7, 2024 at 14:54

    “Israel has killed a tenth of their number — some 100 journalists — as it tries to prevent the truth of its atrocities from getting out.”

    Mr. Cook could you please provide sources for the denominator here (total number of journalists in Gaza)? I’ve wanted to cite this in a local editorial for a while since they’re so over-represented but I’d like to be 100% solid on it.


    • Ray Peterson
      May 8, 2024 at 14:01

      Britton, take a look at Al Jazeera or Palestine Chronicle,
      or Middle East Eye

  4. Paula
    May 7, 2024 at 13:30

    Here’s a link who explores the history of Ukraine/Russia dispute from 2008 forward: First link is the book written and archived in PDF format: hxxps://progressivehub.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/How-the-West-Brought-War-to-Ukraine.pdf

    The second is a Redacted segment where they interviewed the author: hxxps://rumble.com/v4t8gec-hes-exposing-how-the-west-brought-war-to-ukraine-and-they-dont-like-it-reda.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Redacted%20News

    I also love this Useful Idiots episode where the history between the Palestinians and Israeli occupying forces is spoken about. HISTORY OF ISRAEL CRIMES AGAINST PALESTINIANS

  5. John Puma
    May 7, 2024 at 13:10

    Indeed, “The media’s job is to create uncertainty, doubt and confusion … ”
    Forgotten was “fear and loathing.”

  6. Ray Peterson
    May 7, 2024 at 12:07

    How grateful I am for reading Jon Cook’s, Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of
    the Jewish and Democratic State (2006). Long after Israel’s attack on the USS
    Liberty, (1967) killing 34 Americans wounding some 170, US support for the apartheid
    Israel state he predicted. Israeli government’s were not going to allow a Palestinian
    state from the Balfour Agreement (1917) through the Nakba (1948), and now the
    genocide to bring the Dalet plan to conclusion. Thanks Jon.

  7. Maria Eugenia Villarroel
    May 7, 2024 at 11:56

    I wonder if it would be anti-Semitic to criticize Mencer. Given his physical appearance and his British accent, it seems like it would be more accurate to call such criticisms “anti-Caucasian.” Mr. Mencer is obviously a Caucasian person.

    • anaisanesse
      May 7, 2024 at 14:59

      You write as if you believe the ridiculous lies of the alleged origin of present-day Israeli Zionists like Netanyahu and other arrivals from Eastern Europe and of course the USA. This has been fully rebutted eg by Ilan Pappe the historian. The UK is a hotbed of Israeli support and lies about their actions.

    • Valerie
      May 7, 2024 at 15:14

      I wondered if he is a bloody brit. He sounds like one.

  8. Peter Loeb
    May 7, 2024 at 10:30


    With thanks to Jonathan Cook.

    Compared to any Russian manipulation of our body politic, Israel certainly does much more. According to
    “Open Secrets” (and available online) Joe Biden has received over 4 million dollars from the Israeli lobby,
    AIPAC. Minority Leader hakim Jeffries has received over 3 thousand dollars for 2024 and considerably more in past
    years. Speaker Mike Johnson has received cash from AIPAC as well. And so forth…

    Israel is running the US and has done so with paid-for immunity for decades. See bl a James Bamford in “Pretext for War”
    (Part II) and his more recent “Spy/Fail”.

    And so we are left with the pro=Israel show on “antisemitism” which is code for all opposition to anything Israel does.

  9. Charley
    May 7, 2024 at 09:23

    “We” have imposed huge sanctions on Russia and its assets for invading Ukraine and killing its civilians in large numbers.
    Now is the time to do the same thing with Israel for invading Gaza and killing its civilians in large numbers.

  10. Steve
    May 7, 2024 at 09:17

    Hilarious: “Part of the answer is old-school racism. Ukrainians look like us, as some reporters let slip, and therefore deserve our solidarity. Palestinians, it seems, do not.” Neither do a lot of Israelis …

  11. Patrick Powers
    May 7, 2024 at 09:15

    The media don’t give a shit about Gaza other than to celebrate murder. They’ve been successful in achieving this goal so it’s hardly a failure.

  12. Johnny Reed
    May 7, 2024 at 08:53

    Amazing how a piece can start off wrong in the second word of the headline. “Media” is a corporate owned enterprise. Media’s job is to increase corporate profits. The bosses of course like media to pay for itself, but they all understand that it has roles in generating profits beyond their own income statements. Media is a machine designed to make money for its corporate owners.

    There is no ‘media’ that could have failed Gaza. Media is an abstraction, and really more of a myth and a legend than anything real. There is this myth, spun by ‘newspapers’ years ago about the ‘role of the media’, but it was all BS from Yellow Press Journalists trying to justify their own self-importance. Generations of BS from for-profit businesses who wanted to self-promote themselves and who found along the way that their claims to ‘rights’ were profitable to themselves.

    There is no ‘media’. There are corporation who want to tell you how to think, and otherwise make money flow from you to them. But there is no ‘media’, thus ‘media’ could not fail Gaza. People have failed Gaza. Humanity has failed Gaza. But don’t blame it on a myth.

    • Valerie
      May 7, 2024 at 15:19

      If only we could all grasp that reality.

    • michael888
      May 9, 2024 at 07:26

      The capture of MSM by the Establishment and federal government was made possible by the consolidation of 80 media 50 or so years ago to six (interchangeable) owners today (largely due to Clinton’s Telecommunications Act of 1996) and most recently by the “modernization” (elimination) of the anti-propaganda Smith Mundt Act in 2013 and the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016. Legacy MSM has become State Media, the mouthpiece of the federal government, specifically for the Official Narratives of the State Dept/ CIA. The same corporations that get huge grants and contracts from the federal government pay for State Media salaries (probably would be unconstitutional if the federal government paid directly. But as Bezos and WaPo showed, there’s lots of federal money if you “behave”).

      Regulatory capture by Pharma and the MIC and just about every major industry, along with State Media, has made the US what it is today.

  13. JonT
    May 7, 2024 at 04:12

    The interview with David Mencer is fascinating. We can only dream of such incisive questioning on the BBC. Imagine this on the news or Question Time.

    • Valerie
      May 7, 2024 at 15:40

      Here’s the full interview:


  14. Drew Hunkins
    May 6, 2024 at 23:56

    Mainstream media journalists, editors, talking heads, talk show hosts, news anchors, etc., would not be in the positions they’re in if they genuinely held moral and ethical values that went against the constant bloodletting of empire, Zionism, and ruling class prerogatives.

    The people in positions of power and influence in the establishment mass media are basically automatons in a certain sense. They probably haven’t held a real conviction that’s even barely somewhat radical since grade school.

    Remember, it’s these same purveyors of mainstream distortions and manipulations who’ve presided over a recent Zionist genocide, a decimation of the country’s heartland industrial base over the past 40 years that’s left in its wake an out-of-control drug abuse problem and miserable under-employment, and an extremely dangerous Russophobia that’s putting us closer to a possible World War 3.

  15. Michael G
    May 6, 2024 at 23:03

    Speaking of failures of the media.

    Aaron Mate’ recently wrote a great article about the lead-in to Russia’s Special Military Operation. The first time I have been able to understand The 2014 Maidan Coup completely. And the cause behind Russia’s Special Military Operation.

    “What 10 Years of U.S. Meddling in Ukraine Have Wrought (Spoiler Alert: Not Democracy”

    This Author characterizes it as an invasion out of context.

    • Neil
      May 7, 2024 at 10:18


      And thanks for posting the link.

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