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August 24, 2017

Vox: Israeli-Arab Conflict One of World's "Most Violent" Disputes

2014 conflicts.jpgAccording to Vox, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is one of the "most violent" in the world.

Vox gained notoriety when it reported that Israel limits traffic on the bridge connecting the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In fact, Israel doesn't limit traffic on the bridge because the bridge doesn't exist.

In this week's story about Palestinian infighting, journalist Shira Rubin writes that the battle between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas "has major stakes for one of the world’s longest-running, and most violent, political disputes."

Is that a fair characterization? A recent Reuters overview shows that, even during the he bloodiest year of Arab-Israeli fighting in decades, 2014, the number of casualties in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank paled in comparison to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, South Sudan, Pakistan, Sudan, Ukraine, Somalia, Central African Republic, and Libya. The 2014 Gaza conflict accounted for about 2,000 of 100,000 battle-related deaths worldwide that year. (The graphic along the left margin, by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), shows the fatalities from Arab-Israeli fighting in the context of 2014's conflicts worldwide.)

And again, 2014 was an an outlier. A year earlier, in 2013, fewer than 50 people were killed in Israeli-Palestinian fighting, less than 0.1 percent of the 70,000 killed in the rest of the world's conflicts. In 2015, there were roughly 150 killed as a result of violence in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and 100,000 fatalities from conflict worldwide. You can check out PRIO's graphic of 2016's most deadly conflicts on page three of this document. Can Vox find Israel on the chart?

No. Because, in fact, the Arab-Israeli conflict is can hardly be described as one of the world's most violent disputes. So does Vox do so? It seems to be a case of the media believing its own obsession. There's some circular logic involved, which looks something like this:

"Why does the Arab-Israeli conflict get so much media coverage?"
Because it’s one of the world’s deadliest conflicts!
"But how do we know it’s one of the worlds deadliest conflicts?"
Well, look how much media coverage it gets!

In reality, there's a glaring disproportion in coverage and prominence of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Western media, a phenomenon documented by, among others, Virgil Hawkins in his book Stealth Conflicts: How the World's Worst Violence is Ignored. The media's Israel-obsession is likely to cultivate a mistaken understanding of the world and its violence in the minds of those who read the news. And, it seems, in the minds of those who write the news, too.

Posted by at August 24, 2017 02:27 PM

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