The Israeli media has been the main source of news about the conflict in the West Bank and Gaza for nearly three decades, largely because of its coverage of the 1967 Six-Day War.
But the media has also been a powerful political instrument in Israel, with news outlets like The Jerusalem Report and Yedioth Ahronoth regularly calling the Israeli military occupation of the West Wall and the Gaza Strip “the occupation of Jerusalem.”
In a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Israeli political analyst Daniel Halper pointed to the media’s “polarisation” as one of the reasons for the country’s current political and economic crisis.
“The media is very divided, it is very polarized.
And this is why it makes it difficult for Israel to make any decisions,” Halper said.
“There is no way that this administration can come out with a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians and not be criticised for it.”
The latest example of the media turning a blind eye to Israel’s crimes in the occupied territories comes as Israel seeks to cement its dominance in the media.
Following the announcement of the US$1.9 billion deal with Israeli-based media company Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG), which aims to bring a new era of Israeli media to the US market, Al Jazeera’s Mireille Fenech wrote that the US government had not done enough to address the “deeply rooted Israeli lobby” in the US media.
“This has a direct impact on how people consume the news and how their perceptions of events are shaped,” Fenecl said.
The article quoted former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who had criticised US President Barack Obama for failing to push for a new Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, as saying that the media was “an instrument of Israeli power”.
“We know that the Israeli lobby, the Israeli government, controls the US press and the US Congress,” he said.
Al Jazeera understands that the SBG deal was negotiated by Sinclair, which also operates the Israeli state-owned Channel 10 and other Israeli media outlets.
But Feneck noted that “it is hard to know what Sinclair’s role in the deal was, what the impact of the deal on Israel is.”
“Sinclair did not comment on the specifics of the agreement.
The deal was announced in the White House briefing room after the president had signed it into law.
So we are left wondering what exactly Sinclair has in mind with the deal.”
The SBG agreement is expected to bring an end to what has been a two-year-long stalemate between the Israelis and Palestinians over the status of the occupied West Bank.
The conflict has also affected the US election, which has been largely dominated by the Israeli-led boycott of the Israeli elections.
The US Congress passed a resolution on December 11 demanding that Israel end its “occupation” of the Gaza strip, the West Jerusalem enclave that is occupied by Israel, and end its policy of denying Palestinians their rights to return to their homes.
But Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said that “no deal will bring an immediate end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.”
He added that the Americans “should never be treated like puppets”.
Israel’s media also faces criticism for its treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza and West Bank, as well as the treatment of Israeli citizens held in detention.
Al-Jazeera has been criticised by human rights groups for the way it has reported on Israeli security forces’ detention of Palestinians, and for its coverage and commentary on the war.
“It’s no secret that the Palestinian Authority, the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority and other extremist groups in Gaza use the media as a platform to recruit young Palestinians to join their ranks,” Fanech wrote.
“So it is no surprise that the Israel government, in its attempt to keep the public ignorant about the war, is turning to the mainstream media as its main source for information about the situation in the Palestinian territories and its ongoing blockade.”
Al Jazeera contacted Sinclair and the White Houses office of Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, but received no response by the time of publication.
The New York Times’ coverage of Israel and the Palestinian conflict was criticised by the group as “biased and incomplete” and “anti-Semitic”.
Al Jazeera also contacted a spokesperson for Sinclair, who said that the company “has no connection with the Israeli Ministry of Information.”
Al-Araby Al-Awsat, an Egyptian newspaper that has been critical of Israel, said that Al Jazeera was “stumbling on a scandal that could damage Israel’s reputation” and that “the Israeli media’s focus on Israel’s role as a colonial power has not led to a deeper understanding of the conflict”.
“This is the main problem with Al- Jazeera’s coverage of events in the Middle East: it has been based on biased and incomplete reporting,” the group said in a statement.
“Instead of a critical examination of Israel as a settler state, Al-Arabiyya’s journalists have chosen to focus on