Navigating Truth: Media Literacy in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Photo by Emad El Byed on Unsplash

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Global data is slated to reach 180 zettabytes in the next year (a zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes). More information than ever is available at our fingertips, yet most of us are not confident in our ability to recognize false information online.

Between a contentious presidential election and military action in Ukraine and Gaza, Americans face difficult issues that require informed decisions. Given the surge of news and social media posts since the October 7 attacks, the ongoing situation between Israel and Palestine exhibits how crucial media literacy is in forming informed opinions about complex and sensitive global issues.

Escalating tensions, displacement of Palestinian families and images of destruction and violence have dominated headlines worldwide. However, the way these events are reported can vary dramatically depending on the source, highlighting the need for critical media consumption.

Understanding Misinformation and Media Bias

At Comprise, our clients do what we call “the hard stuff.” The stories are often technical and complicated — sometimes even controversial. Because of this, our messaging must be crystal clear to avoid even unintended errors, not to mention intentional misinformation.

Unfortunately, our media ecosystem — for business news or even critical world events — is riddled with deliberately false content intended to mislead, supercharged by the use of generative artificial intelligence. As the conflict escalates and technology advances, media literacy skills are critical to help all of us find reliable information and sources and counter harmful misinformation and disinformation.

Misinformation, the spread of false or inaccurate information, has become rampant on social media platforms like X and TikTok. In the context of Israel-Palestine, misinformation can manifest as out-of-context videos, manipulated images or false claims about events on the ground. Given their sensitive nature, these pieces of misinformation can spread rapidly, shaping public perception before fact-checkers can intervene.

Many people share misinformation unknowingly and often with good intentions. But some research suggests that people also knowingly share disinformation to damage “the other side,” earn likes and shares or further their political agenda.

People tend to accept information unquestioningly when it reinforces some existing belief or attitude, even when presented with contradicting proof. Understanding and recognizing that we all have biases is important in the information age.  

Media bias, for example, refers to the prejudice of journalists and news producers in selecting events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. This bias can be subtle, such as the choice of words used to describe events, or more overt — like the omission of certain perspectives or facts.

Both misinformation and media bias can significantly influence public opinion, shaping foreign policy decisions, affecting diplomatic relations and even inciting violence. In the context of Israel-Palestine, biased reporting and misinformation can deepen divisions, fuel misunderstandings and hinder the pursuit of peace.

The Challenge of Finding the Truth

Finding the truth amidst conflicting narratives is like trying to respond to a house fire when given three different addresses:

  1. One from an Israeli source.
  2. One from a Palestinian source.
  3. The actual location of the fire.

This scenario mirrors the challenge of understanding events in Gaza. For instance, consider a confrontation between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters. Israeli sources might describe it as a necessary defensive measure against violent rioters. Palestinian sources might portray it as a brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrators. The truth often lies somewhere in between, but discerning it requires careful analysis and seeking out multiple sources.

Establishing a unified factual basis remains difficult, which is precisely why the Israel-Palestine situation remains so challenging to resolve. Without agreement on basic facts, finding common ground to operate and draw resolutions from becomes nearly impossible.

Tips for Avoiding Misinformation and Boosting Media Literacy

Navigating the complex information landscape surrounding Israel and Palestine demands careful consideration of these strategies for enhancing your media literacy and safeguarding against misinformation:

  • Analyze the context: The Israel-Palestine situation has deep historical roots. Familiarize yourself with the region’s history to better interpret current events.
  • Consider diverse, credible news sources: Don’t rely on a single perspective or your social media bubble. Consult a variety of reputable international news outlets, as well as local Israeli and Palestinian sources.
  • Check for bias — and be aware of your own: Recognize that every source has some level of bias, including your own. Be mindful of how your personal beliefs might influence your interpretation of events.
  • Seek primary sources and verify facts: Whenever possible, seek out original documents, official statements and verifiable data. Be wary of claims that aren’t backed by evidence.
  • Beware of emotional appeals and sensationalism: While the situation in Israel-Palestine is undoubtedly emotional, be cautious of reporting that seems designed to provoke an emotional response rather than inform.
  • Ask questions: Who created/paid for the news? What techniques are used to attract my attention and why? How might someone else understand this message differently? Why is this message being sent? Who might benefit from this message? Who might be harmed by it? Understanding more about who created a piece of information — their knowledge base, intent for creation and biases, etc. — can help improve your media literacy skills.

One effective strategy is to compare how different sources report the same event. For example, the displacement of Palestinian families from Rafah due to the Israeli military’s planned offensive has been portrayed in various ways. Some sources describe the situation as a necessary security operation to combat Hamas, while others frame it as a humanitarian crisis with potential for mass civilian casualties or as a violation of international law.

Examining multiple perspectives empowers discerning media consumers to begin piecing together a more comprehensive understanding of the situation, including the military rationale, the humanitarian implications and the legal and ethical considerations at play.

Remember: Information isn’t true simply because it aligns with your existing beliefs. In fact, critically examining information that confirms your preconceptions is especially important. This practice, known as avoiding confirmation bias, helps develop a nuanced understanding of complex issues like the Israel-Palestine situation.

Embracing an Informed and Open Mindset

Media literacy is not just an academic exercise — it’s a vital skill in today’s information-saturated world. The Israel-Palestine situation, with its long history and competing narratives, serves as a powerful example of why we need to approach news and information with a critical eye.

By understanding the context, seeking diverse sources, checking for bias, verifying facts, being wary of sensationalism, and asking critical questions, we can work toward a more accurate understanding of complex global issues. Avoiding misinformation and boosting media literacy skills allows us to operate from — and reach conclusions based on — a consistent, unified set of facts.

As we navigate the often murky waters of information surrounding Israel and Palestine, communicators and media consumers must approach the issue with open and critical minds to meaningfully contribute to discussions about this complex and consequential situation.

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