Two Worlds: US and Arab TV on Gaza

Watching Gaza on Arab and American TV is like watching two different worlds. For Arab channels, Gaza is breaking news all the time. Every Israeli air raid is covered live; blood and carnage flow into Arab households 24 hours per day. But on American TV, Gaza is usually a 2-3 minute news package often competing for air time with celebrity and gossip news. This week for example MSNBC anchors were consumed with photographs of Sarah Palin’s grandchildren and the allegedly scandalous life of her son-in-law. Other “big stories” include the children of actor Ben Affleck and President Elect Barrack Obama.

While Arab channels covered the bloodbath at UN schools that were hit by Israeli fire,

MSNBC looked into the lunch menus of Obama’s children:

Arab channels reported over 100 killed yesterday. One wonders how the American coverage would have differed if the death toll was Israeli.

What if 100 Israelis were killed yesterday. Would the story compete for air time with children’s lunch menus?

For the most part, American networks have so far devoted limited resources to covering Gaza. Many have just two reporters covering the story from the Israeli side. Israel has banned Western reporters from entering Gaza.

But Arab news channels have direct access to the conflict zone, with reporters often Gazans themselves, experiencing the air strikes first hand. And rather than a couple of reporters, Arab channels have a network of bureaus and correspondents across the region. See this live shot from Al Jazeera:

Arab TV has also covered the reaction to Gaza from across the Arab world, a part of the story that is often under reported by American correspondents based largely in Israel. And while Americans see a war between Israel and Palestinians, Arab audiences are constantly reminded of the role of the US taxpayer–helping provide the Apache helicopters and F16 fighter jets doing much of the shooting.

For more on the differences between Arab and American media’s approach to Gaza, see my latest piece “In the US, Gaza is a different war” on Al Jazeera’s web page.

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